Monday, January 29, 2007

Radio is home!

Yay! Radio found his person. As it turned out, the number on his collar was not a license number at all. Instead, it was a phone number. Are we boneheads or what. I called left a message, then headed to the shelter. While I was checking Radio in and being promised that they would do everything they could to find his owner or find him a home, his owner came to get him. He seemed like a pretty nice guy and said he'd been looking for him for days. Radio looked like he'd been out longer than that, but he was a big beat up. The guy does use him for hunting, but said he did not tangle with a pig. It was a pack of wild dogs! They roam the forest in the area. They also injured another of his dogs. Sheesh! What a place. Anywho, he seemed OK and Radio (I think the guy said his real name was Tapi) seemed glad to see him and comfortable getting right into his truck. Good luck, Radio.
The truth is, I could never work at the Humane Society. I simply do not have the emotional fortitude for that. While I was there, a woman with her very sick cat came in to have it euthanized. She was crying. It was all I could do not cry, too. Shoots. I was having trouble saying goodbye to Radio, who was only at our house for two days and whom I tried my best not to get to attached. I am a total whimp.
I have considered volunteering at the local no-kill shelter, Rainbow Friends. They need help walking dogs, petting kitties and scooping poop, among other chores. I think I could do that a couple of hours every week.
the weather was spectacular today. We had strong Kona winds. Those are winds from the West, the opposite of Trade winds. Sometimes, Kona winds result in vog. Not today. I guess when the wind blows hard enough, in either direction, it clears the air.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Radio ga ga, Radio goo goo

Meet Radio. He's an emaciated hunting dog we found wandering out of the woods yesterday on our walk with the poochies. We call him radio because he had a humongous collar on that had some sort of radio tracking device on it. The poor little guy looks like he's been on his own for awhile. He's pretty starved with quite a few cuts and abrasions and what seem to be very stiff and sore legs. It's not uncommon here for hunting dogs to get lost and disoriented, only to wander out of the forest weeks later. He's very sweet and trusting, so we've decided he probably wasn't abused. He's just been lost for a long time. So we'll contact the humane society tomorrow and take him in to see if he has a microchip. We've also been told that owners can be tracked by the number on the radio collar. He looks like he could have ringworm and who knows what else, so we've been advised not to allow him in to have too much contact with our brood. So we made up a comfy bed for him on the front lanai. We've been feeding him small meals and biscuits every 3-4 hours so we don't overwhelm his digestive system all at once. I've also doctored the little oozing cut under his eye with some antiseptic. H also has some abrasions on his legs and his feet. He's a very good patient; much better than my spoiled pups. They all look pretty chubby next to him. Poor guy.
We actually called a local no-kill shelter near hear called Rainbow Friends Sanctuary. They told us they have a waiting list of 75 dogs! That's 75 people out there who have found dogs and want to place them at the shelter. That's of course in addition to the hundreds or even thousands the humane society gets at three shelters on this island every year. Unbelievable. There's a cultural resistance here to spaying and neutering pets. They're slowly breaking that trend, but it's still the norm in many parts of the island and a tough nut to crack.
Radio here is what they call a poi dog here in hawaii. That's a mixed breed. But here, there are many dogs with very short hair like his. He could be pit bull/lab mix. I have to say, I have never seen such homely, goofy looking dogs as in Hawaii. Not that Radio's homely. In fact, I think he's kinda cute. I'm trying not to get too attached since the goal is to get him back to his own home. This dog is completely untrained, but he's so mellow and gentle he's been pretty easy to handle. We've now had him here for more than 24 hours and he has not barked or whined once! We put this harness on him after we took off the bulky radio collar just so we could walk him around on leash and not lose him. It's way too big 'cause he's so skinny.
By the way, the Hawaiian word for dog is ilio.
A hui hou! Aloha!
We're hopeful we can reunite Radio with his person or people soon.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Two scoop rice, mac salad

This morning I made my way to town to see the allergy doctor. I actually have never seen the doctor himself. Instead, I see a nurse practitioner who works for him. She's actually great. She checked me out and apparently, all is well. After that, I took my empty stomach to a place called Koji's Bento Korner. It's a downtown Hilo classic, serving traditional plate-lunch fare. Every day offers a different special. Today's was the beef short rib/chow funn for $4.95. It's a combo of beef short ribs, chow funn (Chinese flat noodles with veggies and sauce) all on top of a humongous mound of steamed rice and a side of mac salad. I never eat the mac salad here. With noodles and rice, another starch seems unnecessary. Not to mention the fact that, while I do enjoy mac or potato salad on rare occasion, I prefer a little more mac and a lot less mayo than is the norm for recipes here. Local style is to smother the poor, hopelessly overcooked macaroni in mayonnaise here, making for a big, mushy blob on the plate. Still, I'd go back to Koji's, for sure. It's a bargain and the food's not bad, especially for the price. It was also a treat to walk across the street and sit under a coconut palm in the grass to enjoy my lunch.
The plate lunch or bento is a product of the plantation days. People often wonder, "What's with the two scoop rice and mac salad with everything?" My theory is that plantation workers, whose days were physically demanding, needed all those carbs just to keep going strong in the cane and pineapple fields. Rice was the primary staple food for the Chinese, then Japanese, then Korean workers who came here. The mac salad? I don't know about the origins of that tradition. One theory is that German and other European field bosses exposed the workers to potato salad. The workers then substituted cheaper macaroni for the potatoes.
Today was beautiful. It's been a solid month since we've had weather this nice. The ground is still very soggy, but I was able to mow most of the lawn, skipping the muddiest sections.
Tomorrow, for the first time, I may meet the owner of the winery. I'm told he has flown in from New York to check up on his little hobby.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Road trip to Na'alehu

Today, I had a great excuse to drive to Na'alehu. With my reporter hat on, pen and pad in hand, I went to interview the founders of the Naohulelua Garden. It's a collection of endangered endemic and indigenous plants, along with what are called canoe plants. The garden is less than two years old, but already displays a respectable sampling of now rare flora and fauna on this tiny plot of land. For those of you non-biology majors like me, indigenous plants are those native to a specific location. They may also be found elsewhere in the world. Endemic plants are those exclusive to one location. They are found nowhere else in the world. Here in Hawai'i, we not only have endemic plants found only in the islands, but some that are endemic to a particular island and some endemic to a particular patch of ground on a particular island. Anyway, these folks are doing their part to preserve endangered plant species. Canoe plants are those brought here by the first wave of Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands. They include coconuts, bananas, taro (kalo), breadfruit and noni. Another thing that's very cool about this parcel is that it is home to one of the oldest church ruins in the islands, built by the fathers and brothers of the Sacred Heart, which is Father Damien's order. In fact, it is believed that while Father Damien did not help build the church, he did perform services at Sacred Heart in 1868 before making his way to Moloka'i. It is also believed that there was once a Hawaiian village at this location prior to the building of the church. Logic would indicated, after all, that there would be no reason to build a church where there were no people nearby.
The church and plants are actually in Waiohino, just a stones throw from Na'alehu in the Ka'u district of the Big Island. Ka'u is still very rural with a long, proud heritage of marching to the beat of it's own drum. It is said that King Kamehameha united all the islands. In fact, he conquered them. The only area he did not officially defeat was Ka'u. The people of that district are quite proud of that fact, even today. Ka'u is also home to many veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. These are the legendary Japanese-American Soldiers who fought gallantly in Europe during WWII.
I ate lunch at the Hana Hou Cafe in Na'alehu. It's claim to fame is that it's the southernmost restaurant in the United States. While there, I met a nice guy named Steve who moved here from Seattle within two weeks of when we did last winter. I also encountered a goofy looking but still cute dog outside the door of the place. She was a sweet, friendly one, jumping up to greet me. I gave her a pet, only to discover that she smelled pretty awful. Whew! What a stinky mutt! Her owners came looking for her right about then to distract her from me. Thank goodness. I went across the street to the Punalu'u Bakery. It's the southernmost bakery in the U.S. It's right next door to the Na'alehu Ace Hardware. Yep. You guessed it. Southernmost hardware store in the U.S. And the Na'alehu Theater across the road? Southernmost.... Anyway, before buying my loaf, I was compelled to pop into the restroom first to wash away as much of the doggy stink as possible. I could still smell it on my shirt when I got home.
I took a slight detour down to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach to take a few photos. Check out this honu, napping peacefully.
On the way, I stopped at a roadside stand to buy some Ka'u coffee. There, I again ran into my new friend, Steve. (He's the guy on the right.) It was a lovely day in Ka'u; cool and pleasant but still nice enough for shorts. In January, no less. Ya gotta love that.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fish musubi made my day

Here's a little ti plant landscaping project I did several weeks ago. So far, I'm ecstatic that none of the plants I stuck in the ground have died. I whacked these out of an overgrown jungle area on the property. That's what's both cool and frustrating about this place. You can just cut stuff, stick it in the ground and it will grow. That makes it difficult to really get rid of overgrowth if you really want to. If you leave it lying there after you cut it or pull it out, it will grow back. Another frustrating thing is that since I planted these three weeks ago, it's been raining nearly non-stop.
I saw a hilarious bumper sticker today: "Fat people are hard to kidnap." Indeed.
Today I had my first interview for a story I've been assigned by the Journal. Tomorrow is interview number two. This should be fun. One of the things I love most about being a journalist is meeting lots of interesting people who do interesting things. Today, I spoke with the woman in charge of putting on Hilo's annual Chinese New Year Festival. Ironically, she's not Chinese. Tomorrow, I'll talk to a man who saves old plantation homes by disassembling them, then re-assembling as authentically as possible in a new location.
There really have sprung up some lovely art galleries in downtown Hilo. Today, I wandered into the Arthur Johnson Gallery, where Arthur himself was there to greet me. That usually isn't the case, as it's a co-op of seven different local artists who alternate days working the gallery. That's what Arthur told me. His work, and the work of his cohorts, is beautiful, with plenty of rich, vibrant colors reflecting those found here on the island. I also walking into another shop I had been meaning to explore. It's called Katmandu. I somehow expected some sort of high-end Asian furniture store. Instead, it's full of Buddhas. Lots and lots of Buddhas. Big Buddhas, small Buddhas, reclining Buddhas. There were, however, no fat Buddhas. Only trim, fit Buddhas. (Watch out for the kidnappers, Buddha!) They also had some nice rugs and cabinets with colorful murals. The cabinets and all other furniture, were designed to house the Buddhas. It's a Buddha place. They should call it that.
I stopped to pick up a few items at the Farmers' Market and realized I was a little hungry. So I wandered over to the vendor who sell ready to eat foods. She peddles a variety of bentos, sweet breads, banana bread and musubi. Musubi is best described as a brick of rice with a strip of seaweed holding some form of meat to the top. It resembles a giant piece of sushi. It's kind of a local version of a sandwich. Usually the meat that comes with musubi is spam. Sometimes, it's a local, red-dyed, salt-laden hot dog. She sells those, but also offers pork musubis. I've had those. Their pretty good. Today, she had smoked salmon! Ono! I bought one, scarfed it down, then went back for two more! Hey, it's health food. Omega 3s, baby!
I also stopped by to visit my favorite fruit and vegetable vendor, Emily. She always throws extra stuff into my bag. Today she dropped in a handful of rambutans. They are crazy looking fruits; red and hairy, a little bigger than a walnut. Inside, however, is a sweet, gelatinous pulp covering a seed. Very tasty.
As delicious as my musubis were, I felt myself smelling not faintly of fish oil after I was finished. So I stopped into the Hilo Crack Seed and Snacks shop to pick up some tic tacs. I've purchased crack seed there before, along with dried mango. Crack seed is an acquired taste. It is dried plums, called Li Hing Mui, both salty and sweet. Local kids grow up eating it; it's a favorite treat. I actually like it, but not nearly so much as I enjoy salmon musubi.
Today, as I drove past the Poke to Your Taste truck, I noticed he was also selling poi today. That's what's written on the white sheet of paper hanging right by the door. That truck is actually pretty good. His poke is fresh ahi and he lets you pick out your own seasoning. You can add sesame seeds, shoyu (soy sauce) limu(seaweed), hot pepper spicing... whatevahs. It's ono and pretty reasonably priced. Ahi poke was selling for $14.97 per pound at KTA yesterday. Yikes!
Tomorrow, I'm off to Waimea to get my teeth cleaned and to interview the recycled house guy. I think I'll leave a little early so I can stop at Tex on the way up for a Bavarian cream filled malasada. Then I'll have to run extra on the treadmill Friday.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Employed almost gainfully

Yay! I got a job! OK so I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've resumed a new, lucrative career path and can now reap my fortune here in the Sandwich Isles. Still, it's a job none-the-less. In fact, I've got two jobs. One is a fun little gig at the Volcano Winery. I pour wine tastings and help people buy stuff in the retail store. It's easy and fun and pays what you would expect from something easy and fun. The co-workers are all very nice with an interesting array of backgrounds. The wine is unique. Some of the offerings are actually good. The Symphony Dry is excellent!
I've also signed on as a freelancer for the Hawaii Island Journal, a local independent rag ala West Word or Willamette Week (without the Pulitzer - so far anyway). This one really does have great potential. I've been assigned a couple of stories already. I'm pretty excited to dive into that. Of course, the day I met with the editor was the same day I got the call from the winery and have been working there ever since. When it rains, it pours (and so do I), especially in the rainforest!
We finally got a little break in the weather yesterday. It was the first I've seen the sun in more than a week. It's still too soggy outside to do anything in the yard. That's OK. I'm too busy anyway! Yay!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stadium name and bowl game blues

Am I the only one who thinks the college football bowl game scenario has become a bit of a laughing stock? Sure, we still have the classics - the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Gator Bowl - but over the years there have sprouted a number of corporate-sponsored games with silly, commercial names like the Tostitos Bowl, Fritos Bowl, Doritos Bowl, the Campbell's Soup Bowl.... OK most of those aren't really bowl games. But Tostitos Bowl is real and the others might as well be. After all, there really is a Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Alamo Bowl (and not, it's not named after that historic place in San Antonio where Davy Crockett and his brave band of Americans battled Santa Ana's army), the GMAC Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the MCP Computers Bowl, the Papa John's Pizza Bowl, the Outback Steakhouse Bowl.... To steal from John Stossel, "Give me a break!" Yes, I ask you, what parent wouldn't be proud to see a son play in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl? This bowl game silliness goes right along with the corporate sponsorship of professional sports stadiums. Some of them still carry the names of companies that have gone out of business. It's sad really. Venerable sports venues with storied names have been corrupted beyond recognition. Candlestick Park in San Fransisco became 3Com Stadium. Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego became Qualcomm Stadium. Boston Garden became the Fleet Center. Meadowlands Arena became Continental Airlines Arena. Mile High Stadium became Investco Field at Mile High. How ridiculous is that? Who's ever going to say that, "Hey honey. Let's take the kids to see the Broncos at Investco Field at Mile High?" Not gonna happen. Even the Great Western Forum, which was names for a bank, sounded kinda OK compared to it's replacement, The Staples Center. Corporate ego. Ya gotta love it.

The rain forest is wet this weekend. Squishy, ishy wet. There's standing water everywhere. Where the water's not standing, it's running, or dripping, or trickling. I have given up on trying to keep the mud out of the house. A thorough cleaning will just have to wait until things dry out a tad.
I painted the ceiling in the guest nook today. It's drying as we speak. Tomorrow is wall primer day. The wall primer must be applied separately from the white ceiling paint because the primer is not white. The paint guy put a speck of red in it to make it pink so that my top coat will cover it more easily.
I am babysitting my neighbors dog this weekend. I've mentioned her before. Her name is Nori, a 12 year old shepherd mix. She's adorable. I'd have her stay here, but her mom is not 100% sure how she might behave around the cats. So, to maintain domestic harmony here, I'm visiting Nori several times a day at her home. She lives in a funky, unpermitted house, with cool Ohia pole beams, a vintage 1930s style sink with a molded spot to put the dish drainer and a big loft. the ceiling must be 20 feet high in that place? It's pretty old and the neighbor, Nori's mom, is slowly but surely nursing it back to it's former glory. She's got her work cut out for her. The place has loads of character and the grounds are beautiful. Nori's mom went to visit family on Maui. So I'm pampering the little pooch as much as possible while she awaits mom's return.
A new podcast may soon be in the works. A few more technical glitches to overcome and I'm there.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Rain, a little sadness and some indoor projects

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone..... not! Psych! We've had it in every form over the past few days. At times, drizzle. Other times, it's a downpour. In between, it's just plain old, garden variety (or should I say garden drowning) rain.
Of course, there's no such thing as garden variety rain in Hawaii. At least not as far as the Hawaiian language is concerned. The word for rain is ua, but that's just the simple translation. There are really many, many words and phrases used to describe rain here. They include not just the rain itself - like driving rain, chilly rain, slanting rain - but what time of day it's raining, where it's raining, in what district, in the mountains, the valley or the shore, in the city or the country.

We've had some bad luck with some of our newly-made island acquaintances. To be truthful, they are the ones with the bad luck. One of our first contacts here, our real estate agent, told me to be sure to call her when we finally moved in so we could get together for lunch. Her name was Sharon. When I finally called, she sounded genuinely glad to hear from me and would love to go to lunch in a week or two. She wasn't feeling well at the time. She had been diagnosed with cancer and was struggling with the ill effects of chemotherapy. She said she'd call when she was feeling better. Those few weeks went by. Then a few more. Then one day, while perusing the obituaries, I spotted her name. What a nice lady. I didn't know her well, but I might have, had we had a little more time. Bummer.
Then this week we learned that another acquaintance, our coffee guy, owner of Kiluea Coffee Company, died over the Christmas weekend! We just saw him a couple of weeks ago. His name was Cary. He was a guy hard not to like right from our first meeting. Cary was friendly and jovial with a great sense of humor and great passion for his work and his family. He was constantly bragging on his wife or his dad or his daughter. He seemed perfectly healthy when we saw him last. Cary was only 52 years old. We still don't know what happened to him. The ladies at the post office were stunned and saddened to hear the news. They knew him pretty well, since he came in almost every day. "What a nice guy," they said. Double bummer!

I've begun my first indoor home improvement project. I've decided to start small. Very small. So I'm painting the very small guest bedroom. Once painted, I'll hang some shelves and hook up a small TV to the cable so guests can fall asleep to their favorite infomercials. Right now that room, like the rest of the house, is all white. Time to jazz it up a bit.
The new hard drive is in and functioning well. I am proud to say I installed it myself. I even partitioned it to organized data a little more efficiently. Am I becoming a total geek, or what?
A hui hou. Aloha!