Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nice guy at the falls

Mom and I kicked around Hilo Town Monday. We spent time at the Farmers' Market, bought matching Crocs, then cruised on up to Rainbow Falls, which is right in town. It's a beautiful spot. There, we met a man named Alvin. He described himself as "82 years young" and was more fit than most 4o year olds I know. Alvin told us he was third generation American, with ancestors from Japan. My mom told him she was third generation American too, with ancestors in Norway. We chatted with Alvin awhile. Then, we told him we were headed to boiling pots and asked if he knew where it was. He said, "Follow me," then jumped into his green, '57 Chevy to lead the way. When we arrived at the parking lot, my mom laughed at the name of the place. While it is commonly known as Boiling Pots (so names because when the water's raging it looks like it's boiling), it's real name is Pe'epe'e Falls. My mom pointed, then pronounced, "Pee Pee Falls! I love that!" I burst her bubble when I said, "I'm pretty sure it's pronounced Pay'ay pay'ay."
"I like Pee Pee better," she said.
Fair enough. I guess I do too.
When we arrived, Alvin presented us with a white pineapple he had grown in his home garden. "Very sweet," he said. Indeed. That describes both the pineapple and Alvin.
When we walked to view the falls and the pools, Alvin ventured away, only to return with a huge bag of avocados. He had picked them from a tree there in the park.
"It's OK. I asked. The park officials told me as long as I pick for my own consumption, it's legal. Hey, I pay my taxes!"
Again, fair enough. Alvin is a WWII vet. As far as I'm concerned, he can pick all the avocados in public parks he wants. He explained that he's known about that tree for a long time and always likes to pick the avocados as soon as possible, before anyone else discovers them.
We had a lovely chat with Alvin. He showed us pictures of his other two classic cars (another Chevy and a '63 Corvette) and a photo of a friend whose brother had been a pilot on the American Airlines plane that was flown into the World Trade Center. He showed his sorrow over the loss for his friend. He shared his secrets for clean living. It was a true pleasure to talk story with Alvin. He is a generous, kind man with a subtle grin that made me smile. There really still are nice people in the world.
Today, I was back at the wine factory. My first customers were Japanese and spoke little English. We taught each other a few words. I learned that hachi means honey and do itashi-mashi-te means you're welcome. I knew a few words, already, like konichiwa (hello), amai (sweet), durai (dry), oishi (delicious), arrigato (thank you) and sayonara (goodbye). They loved it. They had learned aloha and mahalo. We had a fun time together. This group liked me, so they made a point of making sure I saw them toss their change into the tip jar. They bowed and smiled. It was a great way to start my day. Arrigato!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Waikiki or bust

Mom is here! Yay! We spent three fun days on another rock, where she says it's kinda like Disneyland with palm trees. Actually, I think Disneyland has palm trees, but they're probably fake. Still, Disneyland can be a hoot. We visited the Arizona Memorial, Bishop Museum and Waikiki Aquarium. We also ate lots of really good food, listened to good music and even spent a little time in the water and on the beach. We managed to get lost pretty much daily at our own hotel, which was really, really big. There were penguins and turtles and flamingos and other animals one would not expect to see in Hawaii. They all live at the hotel. We saw hula dancers, a fire dancer and lots of wealthy tourists. We fit right in. Really. We did.
As you can see from this photo, we had a nice ocean view. This was not planned, but it was appreciated.
We had a Vietnamese cab driver named Mike, a self-described "boat person" who came here when he was 16 with his cousin. He basically told us his whole life's story in a total of about an hour and 20 minutes. That would be 40 minutes from the airport to the hotel and 40 minutes from the hotel to the airport three days later. If you ever need a discount on a cab ride in Waikiki, just call Mike. He's your man. That's right. Just ask for a Vietnamese cab driver named Mike. I'm sure there's only one.
All in all, it was a great time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Party wit' da coworkers

Friday night was my first social gathering with the winery crew. They are a pretty fun lot. Not everyone was there, but many were. We were toasting La'akea, the guy who has worked there the longest of any but who is leaving next week to attend school full time. He's a very smart guy with a great sense of humor and probably the chattiest man I've ever met. He actually makes me seem quiet and reserved. I'm sure he will do well with school. He's a born academic.

Saturday it continued to rain, so we vegged. Today, the sun came out and the wind whipped up, helping to dry things out. The strong breeze also kept the poochies cool. We didn't need the fans; just a few open windows. Ron and I alternated mowing sections of the lawn. I went to town to pick up $100 worth of overpriced groceries.

I'm applying for yet another job for which I am under-qualified. Actually, the last one had me over qualified. This one is pie-in-the-sky and it's on another island, but what the hecksters. It's only postage.

I've developed this weird, intermittent tapping sound in my right ear. I may have to turn the iPod down a smidge. It is pretty irritating.

Ron got smacked in the knee today by a stick flying out of the tractor as I was mowing. It left a pretty gnarly mark. Good thing he was wearing jeans. He moaned and writhed on the ground as though he'd been shot with a bazooka. Ah, but who am I to judge anyone else's reaction to pain. It did shoot out of the tractor like a bullet. We now know never to stand on the shoot side of the tractor when another is mowing, no matter how far away you think you are. It could just as easily have been a small stone. Worse, it could have been a dog turd. Splat. Peeee-eeeew! Still, it wouldn't have hurt so much as the stick.

It did make me worry a bit, what with today's front page article in the paper telling the story of a serious physician shortage on the island. It has actually reached what people are calling crisis stage. Most doctors who are here are taking no new patients and it doesn't look like there's a boatload of doctors waiting to disembark at the docks to start up practices here. Apparently, the high cost of living, office space, doing business and insurance is keeping them away from all the outer islands. So, we are all SOL. The story told of one young couple who just bought a house and are looking to start a family. They went to buy life insurance but were denied because they don't have a primary care physician. They've called every doctor listed in the yellow pages and were rejected, despite the fact that they are well insured. Literally, none of the doctors are taking new patients. So, I guess I'll be flying to O'ahu if I need to see a doctor other than my allergist.

I picked up a new camera chip at Long's today. The old chip died. At least, I think that's what's wrong. Hope it's that simple. With luck, I'll be able to post new pictures soon.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Flossie was a yawner

Flossie has flopped. That was the most boring hurricane ever. It's windier and rainier on a typical winter day. I was really hoping for some excitement. I wanted to see things fly around. I wanted to hear incessant, relentless, pounding rain. I wanted the electricity to go out so we could huddle around flashlights and listen to the radio by battery power. I wasn't looking for complete and utter destruction. Just a little action. Instead, Flossie fizzled.
The news media sent scores of reporters to cover the destruction. It reminded me of the "team coverage" they employ whenever it rains in L.A.:
"We just spotted three drops falling into a puddle here on Sepulveda. Over to you, Jane."
"Thanks, Bill. Here on La Cienega, the sidewalks are completely wet. People are actually slipping as they try to walk, which they never do here in L.A. Back to you in the studio, Colleen."
So the coverage to me was actually pretty comical. One interview was of a local fellow who lives at Punalu'u Black sand beach. He's a Hawaiian man whose family has lived at that spot for generations, so he knows something about the weather there. Punalu'u is located in Ka'u, the southernmost district of the island, where the hurricane was expected wreak the most havoc. That's why all the reporters were there. So there they were on TV, reporter and local guy, standing in the wind, waiting for the rain that never came. The reporter asks the man, "What do you think of this wind?" The man answers honestly, "It's always like this here." True dat. In fact, I've been to Punalu'u when the wind was blowing so hard the sand felt like it was exfoliating my shins as I walked the shore. It can be like that on any given day down there. It's windy in Ka'u like it's rainy here. The news also featured images of homes and storefronts all over Hilo boarded up with plywood. Shops were closed. Streets were deserted. Reporters stood there in the drizzle with nothing to say. It made me chuckle.
Now, Flossie's gone. Bye bye Flossie. Bye bye, plane. Bye bye. (Wait. I didn't mean it. Please don't kick me off the rock.)
As if the hurricane and the earthquake weren't enough to put this island into a tizzy, this afternoon we heard a tsunami advisory on the radio due to the earthquake in Peru. The advisory was lifted after a couple of hours, but it was all people were talking about in town.
Unrelated to any natural disasters, I recently learned a very important, if painful lesson that I would like to share with all my middle aged friends. Never look at yourself in the mirror with your glasses on. NEVER! (I suppose that applies to contacts, too.) Without the glasses, the face is a bit fuzzy, muted, kind of like being shot by a camera with gauze over the lens. But the glasses bring out every detail, every wrinkle, every line, every blotch and imperfection. Wait a minute.... I guess seeing one's aging face in its true light is a form of natural disaster. Do you think I could get FEMA to pay for Botox?
So the morning after my disconcerting discovery of a face in the mirror that looks not like mine, but more like a page from the Rand McNally Atlas (New Jersey, not Montana), I wake up to find a large, red zit on my cheek. Wrinkles and zits. In the words of the sage, wise and poetic lyricist Justin Timberlake, "Tell me is this fa-a-a-air?"
It's still raining, but that's pretty much par for the course around here. Tomorrow we have to put back all the stuff we put away in anticipation of the big winds. By put back, I mean re-scatter them around so we know where to find things. It's a good system of organized chaos around here. Putting things tidily against and under the house really messed us up. Funny huh? It messed us up by un-messing us up. Life is indeed a paradox. What are dox anyway and why would one need a pair of them? Hmmmmm.... Gotta remember to take my ginko tomorrow. It improves circulation to the brain, so they say. Whoever they are..... Ah, but that's a subject for another day.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Stormy weather

Hurricane Flossie is on its way. It is predicted to just skirt the island, missing us by about 100 miles or so, bringing some wind, lots of rain and fraying nerves. There's something comical to me about a hurricane named Flossie. I'm having trouble taking her seriously. It's like a Rotweiler named Fifi or a Bijon Frise called Fang. It just doesn't fit. "Whoopdee doo. We're going to be hammered by Flossie." It might make a great name for a cartoon character created to convince children of the merits of dental care. She'd be a female talking tooth with arms, legs and long eye lashes. But a Hurricane? Puleeeze..... If you want to scare me, give me an Ivan or an Andrew or even a Katrina. Not a Flossie.
Just in case Flossie is not whimpy, we are fully stocked with all the important supplies like water and pet food. We moved the loose items around under cover and my tea plants up against the house. Reports say we could see 50 mile per hour winds. That's not hurricane strength, but it's enough to blow stuff around. We used to get gusts that high in Gunnison every spring. It pruned huge branches from the giant cottonwoods and ripped cedar shingles off the house.
The BEST news about Flossie is that the management at the winery has decided we'll be closed tomorrow. YAY! It's the first time the winery has ever been closed. I was also told that, since it was my regular day to work, I would be paid. Yay again! I could use that $72 before taxes.
As if a hurricane were not enough, we had a nice little earthquake this evening. I think the approximate time was 7:38 p.m. and the magnitude was 5.3. The cats all skeedaddled. The dogs spun around in circles barking. It was over in about 15 seconds, tops. Rock and roll.
Crawford and I made the trek to Hilo today for her second shot of Adequan. The vet says it could help her to rebuild cartilage in her joints. I asked if she could give me a shot or two also. I pointed to my knee, but she just laughed. I wasn't kidding. Anyway, it's non-steroidal and has no significant side effects, so we figure it's worth a try for my gimpy little girl. We're upping her Metacam dosage, making sure she takes her vitamins and glucosamine and I've added Sam-e for liver support to help her process her medications. See where that $72 will come in handy?
Yes, here in Hawaii nei we have it all: tsunamis, earthquakes, molten lava and hurricanes. I think our new tourist slogan really should be: Hawaii. It's not for whimps.
Oh yeah.... you can log onto the Hawaii Island Journal website now and find my story. Actually, I've made it easy. Just click HERE and you're there.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Don't blink or you'll miss me

I set a new land speed record on the treadmill today; four miles in 44 minutes! OK I guess that would actually be a conveyor belt speed record, since I wasn't technically running across land. Anyway, for you mathematically challenged out there, that's an 11 minute mile. Yes, I know that real runners trot along effortlessly at between six and eight miles per hour for many more miles than I do. I am painfully aware that what I do is not running, but jogging. Still, for me, an 11 minute mile is blindingly swift. I swear there were flames shooting out from the heals of my sneaks. Truthfully, I think that treadmill is in serious need of adjustment.
As a result of all that running, at whatever speed, my left Achilles tendon is sore, tight and a little inflamed tonight. See? inflamed! As in flames. I knew it! I was ON FIRE!
Poor little Crawford is suffering from rickety back legs and is in need of having her okole squeezed. In other words, it's time for the anal glands to be expunged. Now, I know I could learn to do that for her. Thanks, but no thanks. I'd rather pay a pro $20 or $30 or $50 or $100 to take care of that lovely little chore. I made her an appointment for a checkup and squirt on Friday.
I'm working on another writing assignment for the Hawaii Island Journal. It's relatively fluffy but fun. The addition clippings should help to shop any future stories around the local publications. It will be nice to have something published locally to send to editors. Most require new writers to prove themselves with a plethora of local bylines. I'd love to get a piece into Hana Hou, the magazine on Hawaiian Airlines. Hey. A girl can dream, right?
My story in the latest issue of HIJ should be available online by late next week. I'll add a link once it's up.
Gotta go rest up for yet another harrowing day tomorrow at ye ol' wine factory.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cup o' joe comin' right up

We've got our first coffee blossom. Woohoo! It's on our largest tree, which looks as though it's ready to sprout more blossoms in coming days. We may actually have enough coffee by next year to brew and share a cup. Or maybe half a cup. Factoring in all the time, sweat and money we've put into the coffee trees to date, I estimate this cup will cost roughly $30,000. And you thought that Vanilla soy latte half-calf with a twist was pricey at Starbucks. But hey, this blossom? It's a start.
It was unbelievably busy at the winery today. This, despite reports that visits to the islands are way down from last years numbers. One third of the hotel rooms on the big island are empty. Still, of the people who are here, a bunch of them decided to buy wine today. Some were buying by the case. This, after my suggestion that we offer a 10% case discount. Lots of wineries do this and plenty of visitors ask about a discount. So once again, my business genius saves the day. It's amazing what people will buy if they think they're getting even the slightest deal.
We finally got our pipe fixed; the one the Ron and I Jerry Rigged to get us by. My friend Joe from the gym just happens to be a plumber. He came with his tools, parts and skills and repaired our cracked pipe lickity split. Joe is a mostly Hawaiian and a little bit Filipino man whose middle name is Finnegan. It reminded me of a young man I once worked with at a factory job I held one summer between school years. His name was Raul Murphy. He was, as you might guess, half Mexican, half Irish. But Joe is not Irish. He explained that he is named after a dear family friend. His son's middle name is Finnegan, too. He got a kick out of sharing this story with us. Ron really liked Joe.
He also likes Anthony, our neighbor. Anthony is also a Hawaiian man. He's a big guy with a strong local accent who speaks mostly pidgin. Ron doesn't always understand what Anthony is saying to him. Yet he can joke with Anthony. Anthony actually gets Ron's sarcastic sense of humor, which many people do not.
We're harvesting fresh lettuce, cilantro and basil from our garden lately, along with plenty of zucchini. Green beans are in the ground and we ate our first ear of corn tonight. It was tiny by tasty. "Greeeeeeeeen acres is the place to be.....faaaaaaaaarm livin' is the life for me......"
Sunday was the day to power wash the back lanai. I blasted the front side of the house last week. It's a very wet job. By the time I'm finished with a section of the house, I'm soaked through to my civvies. Or, as my dad called them, skivvies. Even with the water jetting with enough force to remove paint, the spider webs cling. It's really quite amazing. If someone could invent a paint that would not allow spider webs to stick, he/she would become a millionaire.
The power washer uses a ton of water, so we only use it when it's been raining regularly. That's pretty much always.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Is my Pulitzer in the mail?

This is Abner saying a-a-a-aloha! Actually, I was trying to tell him today how excited I am that I've finally gotten a story published here in Hawai'i nei, but he was a bit bored by my tale. Oh wait. I don't have a tale. I mean tail. I have a tale. He does, too. A tail, that is. Anyway, I am thrilled. It's technically my second story, but the first was a bit of a fluff piece previewing an event. This one is a full fledged feature. It will be available to read online in a couple of weeks. For some reason, the Hawaii Island Journal only puts an image of its cover on its website with access to current calendar and classified info, but only last issue's stories. The cover story is my story. You just can't read it yet online. You have to wait until the next issue comes out before you can read the story from the current issue. A'ole pilikia. No problem. I've picked up about a dozen hard copies to send to friends and family and to keep for clippings to use in future job applications. I'm now jazzed to write more. It's all about the by-line, baby. Ego, ego, ego. I don't need my name in lights; just in print.
Today, I noticed a pretty orchid blooming in the yard. It's one I transplanted from an overgrown pot to an old log. It bloomed, so that means it didn't die. It didn't die, so I don't have the brown thumb I thought I had. Or maybe I do and I'm just getting lucky. After all, things do tend to grow quite nicely here in the rain forest, with or without my help.
Tomorrow's another day at ye 'ol wine factory.
A hui hou. Aloha!