Monday, April 30, 2007

Sore joints and caugh syrup wine

I've definitely got a nuckle-oma. Yep. I do. Let me explain. Some time ago, a dear friend of mine was complaining of some soreness in her thumb. The joint was stiff and had been troubling her. We jokingly decided it must be cancer and dubbed it her "thumbanoma." My thumbs are fine (for now) but the first two joints on my index and middle finger, right hand, are acting up. They're stiff and sore and a little inflamed. Nuckle-oma.
Friday, I started studying for the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). Why, you ask? I guess my answer to that is, "Why not? I'm not dead yet." It's just an experiment really. If I study (or, more accurately practice) for the test and score miserably, then I'll know I'm not, nor was I probably ever law school material. If I score respectably, I'll apply just for giggles. If I get accepted, I might just go. Why not. I'm not dead yet. And the jobs in my field aren't exactly plentiful here.
Ron continues to cut down waiwi (strawberry guava) trees like their an invasive species or something. Wait a minute... this just in... they are an invasive species. We've also planted a few more coffee trees and repaired a leaky pipe that leads into the house from the tank. All in a weekend's work.
Meanwhile, business at the winery is booming. I've been added on an additional day to the schedule. I also received my first performance review. I received all "4s and 5s" on a scale of 1-5 (so I guess that's excellent and outstanding). I also got a $.50 per hour raise. Yay!
Meanwhile, some of the wine isn't tasting so good these days. Every batch of the fruit blends tends to be a little different from the last. Friday evening, a co-worker decided to should check out the guava and reported that it reminded him of Robitussin. "Don't get me wrong," he said. "Robitussin's not that bad." I suppose that's true if all your drinking is a tablespoon full. But an entire glass with dinner? I don't think so. No matter. The stuff flies out the door by the case. Meanwhile, the new batch of blush, which is made with half jaboticaba (a tropical berry) is much improved over the last batch. Generally, the wines, for what they are, are quite good. I have been opting out of our pau hana happy hours after work lately, just because I'm finding that drinking the wines there is tarnishing my enjoyment of lovely, rich, fruity, dry reds at home.
That's about all for now. Abner just jumped up on the desk and is demanding attention. Must administer petties now.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Homesick

Ron loves this place. That's ironic really, since we really never go anywhere or do anything. We eat out ever-so-occasionally. We never go to the beach. We never go hiking, even though we have a national park 12 miles from our house. We hang out here, in the rain, day after day. So I guess when he says he loves it here, he means literally here. This very spot. We take trips to town to make exciting purchases like a new tarp for the car port or a pressure washer to blast mold and algae off the driveway. Yesterday, we had to fix a leak under the kitchen sink, so we ventured all the way to Ace in Kea'au for pipes, tools and other assorted parts. Tools are a big need for us here. They have all been what Alton Brown of Food Network fame would call unitaskers. On this trip, we bought a tool designed to unscrew the place that goes over the big washer at the base of the sink. When we first moved here, we bought a wrench designed exclusively for removing the filter on our water pump. That's all it does. I will say, it beats banging on the edge of the filter canister with a hammer and a stick, which is what the previous owner used.
Yesterday I set a personal speed record on the treadmill. I ran the first four miles in 45 minutes. I made it five in just 56 minutes, 28 seconds. I'll probably never do that again. But it was satisfying. They've added a a couple of leg machines at the gym. That's exciting. Hmmmm... I think I need something better to do.
I've been spending a lot of time online, looking at real estate. Not in Hawaii, mind you, but everywhere else. I think I'm homesick for the mountains. I also think all this rain is having a detrimental effect on my psyche. Ron says we should be glad we have so much water, what with the rest of the world experiencing perpetual drought. I'm not sure if he loves it here as much as he claims, or just loves the romantic idea of living in Hawaii. I know he loves telling people on the phone how great it is here. He rarely elaborates on the weather. Just mentions the temperature and lets them conjure up images of white sandy beaches, swaying palms, azure skies with white puffy clouds. I never hear him use words like "mud" or "mold."
One disappointing thing is how many people are moving here. I guess I'm one of them, so I really shouldn't complain. But I will anyway. The Puna district is experiencing the fastest growth in the islands, because it's where you can still find reasonably priced land and homes. So the traffic is getting worse by the day.
I've decided I will give this place another couple of years and if we both truly love it by then, we'll stay. Right now, for me at least, the jury's still out.
Cheery blog entry, yeah?
A hui hou. Aloha.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Red tape

Before I begin, I'd like to express my sincere condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the Virginia Tech students. May their spirits live on in the hearts of those who loved them.

Funny bumper sticker of the day:

So many freaks,
So few circuses

So there I was, sitting at the salon getting a trim and some highlights, when three official looking men walked in. They identified themselves as inspectors from the State. After looking around then jotting lots of notes on pads attached to clipboards, they asked my stylist for her license. She has one, but did not have it posted or with her. It was at home. She had never bothered to bring it in because she was told by the salon owner that there was no hurry. Nobody had ever been in to ask for hers. The inspectors asked for my stylist's driver's license too. They also wanted to see her business license. She does not own the business. She just rents chair space from the owner. She did not know she needed a business license to do that. It had not been required in California, where she lived before moving here. Her co-worker was also asked to produce a business license. She has been cutting hair at this location for 13 years and has never seen an inspector before today. She too has a cosmetology license but no business license. Both assumed that they would be covered under the salon owner's business license. The two were informed that, before they can obtain their business licenses, they must obtain certification from the State Board of Health that their location has been inspected. Of course, it's not really their location. They just work there. But are directly paid by clients, not by the business owner. So I guess that's the catch.
Still, the stylists were not warned. Nor were they given a grace period during which to produce and/or obtain all the required certifications and licenses. Each received a ticket/fine of $500! They were also told that if an inspector comes by tomorrow or any subsequent day and finds them working behind their chairs, that fine will be doubled. They were told they can appeal the fine, but cannot continue cutting hair in the meantime. So, they are out of business and unemployed! Sheesh! A warning with a short grace period to produce all licenses seems like a little more business-friendly approach. Shoots, I think $50 would have been enough to get their attention and prompt them to get their documents in order. But $500 plus what amounts to an immediate cease and desist order? That's Hawaii for ya. Unless, of course, you have an uncle in the state inspector's office. I'm just glad she was able to finish my highlights. I hope she's back snipping and shading in two or three months when I'll need another trim. I did get everyone in the salon to laugh a little after the inspectors left. When I rose from the chair, I asked the stylist how much I owed here. She hesitated for just a moment, distracted a little by what had just happened. I interjected, "Let me guess. $500?"
It's been raining for four days straight. Fortunately, we got through most of the Merrie Monarch Festival with reasonably good weather. No more. We're in a strong trade-wind pattern, which means moisture-laden ocean clouds are being blown up against the mountains from the windward side, dumpling rain on us east slope residents.
We bought a tall ladder yesterday and today I picked up my kitchen paint. Next week, the project begins.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Aloha Don Ho

Hua li'i
I ka waina
Au hau'oli
I ka wa au inu

Hua 'li'i
Wau haawi hoihoi
A i'ini nui i ka wa au
Nana ia oe

Au kuuipo
I nu ho'omahalo ka'ua
I ko ka'ua aloha mau loa

These words may not seem immediately familiar. But you have heard them before. Loosely translated, they mean:
Tiny bubbles
In the wine
Make me feel happy
Make me feel fine

Tiny bubbles
Make me warm all over
With a feelin' that
I'm gonna love you till the end of time

I read today that Don Ho added them after being hoodwinked into singing the song, which had nothing to do with Hawaii. Ho had everything to do with Hawaii. Yet Tiny Bubbles, his least Hawaiian song, became his biggest hit. Don Ho was an entertainer known the world over. More importantly, however, through all his years of fame and fortune, he remained a local boy, true to his island roots. I actually remember Don Ho's television show way back in the 70s.
The great Don Ho has passed on and all Hawai'i mourns.Ho is beloved and revered here. He will be missed. (To learn more about this local legend, log onto his website: www.donho.com)

Today we made our way to the infamous Kahena Beach in lower Puna. (Sorry. I forgot to take the camera. What a maroon!)The beach is a beautiful, if tiny crescent of black sand where clothing is optional. As it turns out, Sunday is drumming day. Scores of free spirited, hippified locals (aka Punatics) make their way down a precarious, rocky trail to the beach. There, they dance freely to the rhythm of drums. Some wear clothing while they dance. Others don't. I couldn't help but notice a happy-go-lucky man in his 60s, pretty well built for his age, with no tan lines, swaying and spinning to the beat, as uninhibited as I am uptight. Another woman, a little younger but clearly in need of an underwire, was doing the same. In a way, I couldn't help but envy them. They, along with dozens of others were enjoying spontaneous movement encouraged by the drums. A few little keiki frolicked in the waves under close supervision of parents, or danced to the beat in that cute, bouncy way of toddlers. It was a Punatics festival, exuding peace, love and harmony among all who entered from the pali (cliff) above.
Yes, lower Puna makes Crested Butte, Berkeley and other bastions of liberalism seem like stodgy, conservative enclaves. Here lies the heart of the sovereignty movement among Hawaiians. Here too are many for whom "the man" or "the establishment" is the enemy. Oh there are a few individual conservatives who bravely insist on making their homes here, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered. There are also reputed to be many fugitives living in Puna. They come here to hide, to re-invent themselves and start over, to escape the wider world.
Overall, however, it is a place that has historically prided itself on a live-and-let-live culture. More and more, however, as middled-aged yuppy haoles move in, that free spirited lifestyle is being cramped. It's sad in a way, and yet, some of the changes are good. I guess change, good or bad, is inevitable everywhere in the world.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's festival time

What is it Doc? What is it boy? Is it a kitty? Is it a pig? A mongoose?

This week began the 40th annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo Town. The Merrie Monarch is the Olympics of Hula, the premier hula competition in all the world. Halau (hula schools) from throughout Hawaii and the US come to dance, along with groups from throughout Polynesia.
The event also celebrates the life of King David Kalakaua, who reigned from 1874-1891. While the king was a Christian, he was also a proud Hawaiian with a strong penchant for reviving Hawaiian cultural practices. Kalakaua insisted that hula be performed at his coronation. This may sound innocent enough. But at the time, hula had been condemned by the Christian missionaries, who had convinced Kalakaua's predecessors to ban what they deemed pagan rituals, and the lewd and lascivious gyrations of hula that were seen as an offense to God. Many Hawaiian cultural and religious practices, including hula, went underground, taking place only in the most secluded areas of the islands. With a single, simple request in 1874, King Kalakaua lifted the ban and sparked a resurgence of Hawaiian cultural practices. He was henceforth known as the Merrie Monarch. Fortunately, at the time of Kalakaua's reign, there were still practicioners around the islands - kumu (teachers) and kahuna (expert craftsmen and healers) -who knew and practiced the old ways and could teach those for whom the traditions had been lost.
Today, the Merrie Monarch Festival is a celebration of all things Hawaiian, especially the ancient art of storytelling through hula.

A co-worker at the winery who had been to the arts, crafts and food venue in town this morning, brought back some poi balls. After much joking about the balls (especially the fact that you could buy them on a stick at the fair) we each tried one. None of us could really say we like poi, but the poi balls were actually very tasty; fried crispy on the outside, sweet and chewy on the inside. If I head down there tomorrow, I'll pick up a few. The Merrie Monarch parade is Saturday. We went last year and it was a very colorful affair. My parade favorites were the representatives from different islands, dressed in bright dresses or paniolo (cowboy) garb, adorned with beautiful leis, trotting along the bayfront on horseback. Even the horses wear leis.

I read today that Hawaii is the state with the highest number of millionaires per capita. We also learned that a neighbor's house down the road has no back wall. It's just a tiny three-sided structure with a blue plastic tarp for a fourth. There's a water tank, but no plumbing. The man who lived there appears to be gone. No one's seen him in a few months. But he lived there for years. Ron and I both used to give him rides home on occasion when we'd see him walking with groceries. He said he'd lost his license and had also lost a lung, which explained why he walked so laboriously up the road. We'd drop him off at his driveway. We couldn't see the house through the jungle. Now all the tangle of foliage is being cleared and you can see the structure from the road. A neighbor told us the man had been busted for drugs and had served some time. He seemed like a nice enough guy to me. Drug troubles aside, it really is unconscionable to me that, in a land of so much wealth, there are individuals and families living in such substandard conditions. I've seen this in other parts of the island; families living in unpermitted plywood and tarp shacks with no running water or electricity. Seriously. Right here in the USA. Of course, while Hawaii may officially be the 50th state, in many ways it is not, and will never be, America. Still, poverty is prevalent throughout our nation. The rich are exponentially richer than they've ever been. Many of them got that way by colluding with fellow CEOs, sitting on each others' boards of directors, ripping off average investors, paying employees peanuts while approving exorbitant salaries for one another, regardless of performance. While some own multiple vacation mansions which sit empty 50 weeks a year, sucking up the world's resources and spewing greenhouse gases, others live in dilapidated hovels. Then there's the problem of complete homelessness in America. Working families, where both parents hold full time jobs, living in tents (albeit on the beach in Hawaii) because they can't save enough money to pay a deposit, plus first and last month's rent on an apartment. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think the system is a little bit broken and needs some fixin'. To quote the ever so eloquent Charles Barkley, "I may be wrong, but I doubt it."

Sheesh. How'd I go from Happy Merrie Monarch Fest to a reflection on the haves and have nots in America? What is it Doc? What is it boy? Am I crazy?
A hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Growing some good grinds

I am SUCH a SLACKER! Sheesh! No excuses. Just lazy.
Our veggie garden, as limited as it is right now, is going well. Here's a pepper I picked. Considering that bell peppers cost about $5 per pound at the supermarket here, it's a good choice to supplement the home food supply. We've also got cabbage and peas growing nicely.
Friday was Good Friday. Thank goodness that venerable institution known as the New York Stock Exchange is so old school. They were closed. So Ron had the day off. We ventured over to Kona for a Costco run, thinking we would find short lines and thin crowds. Wrong. Apparently, lots of people in Hawaii have Good Friday off. Go figure. Anyway, we chose sushi for our lunch and happened into a place called Kenichi Pacific. We learned it was actually a chain, serving a Hawaii roll, an Austin roll - names taken from locations where they have restaurants. The review: so-so. It was kinda OK though not the most authentic sushi. The place was also way overpriced. After spending $60 we both walked out of the joint pretty sure we'd be hungry again in a couple of hours.
Over the weekend we planted 13 more coffee trees. The planting went easily, since it was an area that Ron was actually able to till. We also tilled a patch to plant corn. That'll go in this week. Meanwhile, the tea cuttings are still alive in their tiny pots. That's a very good thing.
The weather's been tolerable. That too is a good thing. All in all, life's OK this week.
A hui hou. Aloha!