Saturday, September 29, 2007

Test day

Today was the big day; The Law School Admissions Test. I don't feel particularly good about it. It was intense. And when I finally returned home from my day in the exam room, I was thoroughly exhausted.
Immediately after the test, I bopped on down to the Hilo Farmers' Market for some sustenance; namely, two musubis and a Thai noodle bento. There are no picnic tables at the Hilo Market, so I perched my okole atop a very low, rock wall facing the bayfront sidewalk. There, I munched, sipped lilikoi-aide and watched people as they strolled by. It occurred to me then that there are lots of people on earth (or at least strolling through downtown Hilo) who have very ugly feet. I must say that there are times when a stroll through Hilo Town makes Venice Beach in California seem like a bastion of normalcy. I saw one chubby young tattooed woman in a spaghetti strapped sundress wearing Uggs. Uggs are tall, fur-lined snow boots worn mostly as apres ski apparel. But there she was. Granted, the weather was a little drizzly. But it was about 82 degrees. Her feet had to be sweltering.
At one point I saw a haole couple approaching. The woman was wearing a full-length house dress, circa 1890, with ruffles around the high neck and long sleeves. It was plaid. She also sported a white bonnet that looked more like it belonged on a matron from Little House on the Prairie than here. Her bearded husband wore a beige smock with a round collar and long hem. It hung down over white trousers. He wore white tennies with velcro closures. But he had removed the Velcro straps that stretch across the arch, leaving a wide space through which you could see his white socks. Just my luck, they chose to sit down beside me.
"It's hard to believe he's gone," said the woman to the man. I made the mistake of looking up. She and I made eye contact. She told me they had frequented a booth at the market and had befriended the man who sold produce there. They had just learned that he recently had a massive heart attack and died.
"We just saw him. How he's gone," she said.
I briefly related my similar experience with my coffee guy down the highway.
I continued to eat and they continued to chat with one another. When I got up, I said, "Sorry about your friend." She replied, "Sorry about yours." They were nice. They sounded like normal people. And yet, there were those outfits. Yes, they were definitely outfits.
Prior to parking my derriere, I had strolled along that very sidewalk. At one point along the way, a baby bottle made a thud and rolled in front of me. I bent to pick it up and return it to the baby to which it belonged. She was adorable, sitting in a stroller beside her mom. The young Hawaiian mom looked at me and grinned, saying, "Tanks!" Mom was cute too, except for the unsettling fact that her two front teeth were completes rotted out. Only black stubs remained.
After finishing my lunch, I walked around the corner looking for a rubbish can in which to drop my napkins and empty cup. Just before I found one, it began to pour. The can lid, and my hands, were wet. So as I grabbed it, it slipped and flipped onto the sidewalk. "Shoot," I said, out loud to no one, scrambling to reach for it to put it back on the can. I heard a man chuckle. I looked up and there he was, standing on the sidewalk smiling. He was an older, Japanese gentleman, wearing a crisp tan shirt and looking quite distinguished with silver hair. "Slippery huh?" he said.
"Yep," I replied. He made me smile. We both held our hands up to the sky to acknowledge the rain.
Back to the LSAT. I was the oldest test taker by at least 20 years. Still, I enjoyed talking story with the youngsters outside the testing room before the test and during the break. They were witty, smart and full of ambition, weighing options, pursuing dreams and planning their futures. I found that inspiring. After all, I'm not dead yet. I still have a future. Why not dream? If my score comes back as pathetically low as I suspect it will, I may just take the test again in February. I won't know for three weeks. Meanwhile, I'll practice my ukulele and pick up extra shifts at the winery. And tonight, I'll finish this glass of wine and hit the hay.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All work and no play make the days fly by

I've been picking up shifts at the winery this week. One of my co-workers was, as they say, "let go." I actually feel pretty bad about it. I liked this co-worker, although it was clear that she had an awful lot going on in her life that was stressing her out, along with some health issues. With luck, she'll get well, resolve her issues and land on her feet. I really do hope so. Like I said, I like her.
It's been good working, especially since it's been raining almost constantly all week. Yesterday, we had two young men visiting from Switzerland. Today, we had two young women. When I met the latter, I told them of the former.
"We just had two gentlemen from your country visiting us yesterday," I commented to the women.
"We know," said one of them. "We just met them last night."
So two pairs of people, both from Switzerland, just met one another for the first time in Hawaii. Yes, it's a tiny, tiny world.
The ukulele lessons are coming along. Lesson number three had us strumming some more complicated chord progressions. We're still just strumming. No fancy finger picking yet. It's tough enough just to remember where to put the fingers on my left hand to strum with the right, let alone get jiggy wit' da fingers on the right. Baby steps are fine.
Today, my co-worker Josh and I were waxing nostalgic about double-doubles with fries and vanilla shakes at In-and-Out Burger. He grew up in California, so was raised on double-doubles. He actually speaks of something called a 4 x 4 animal style. It's not on the menu. Only local regulars know to order it. A 4 x 4 is apparently the equivalent of a double double-double. In other words, it's a double-double, stacked on top of a double-double. (For those unfamiliar with In-and-Out, a double-double has two patties with two slices of cheese.) The animal style portion of the order puts grilled onions on the 4 x 4. "It's a lot of meat," he says. Indeed. I also miss seeing the old In-and-Out Burger bumper stickers that people, where people would cut out the 'B' and the 'r', leaving "In-and-Out urge." Clever, eh?
It's funny how you miss the little things about a place most; the things you took totally for granted when you lived there. I could never live in the frantic craziness of L.A. again, but I do miss the food. Especially the fast food. Josh and I reminisced about the culinary delights of In-and-Out, Original Tommy's, El Pollo Loco and Del Taco today. It sparked my memory of Bob's Hamburgers, the first burger chain in my old home town of Salem. Back then, it was a chain with only two links. One Bob's was near my house. Another was located on the complete other side of town. Bob's had special sauce. Yummy. It was really just ketchup and mayo mixed together with tiny bits of pickles. Still, it was perfect. They started out in the 60s as Bob's 19 cent Hamburgers. Their sign had a big neon circle around the 19 cents. Then, in the 70s, they finally caved and raised their prices. They became Bob's 29 cent Hamburgers. after that, 39 cents. Finally, they got wise and removed the price sign altogether and just called themselves Bob's. McDonald's moved in across the street when I was in high school. Bob's survived for years after that, despite the competition. They had a loyal following. Bob's burgers were better. Now, they're gone. Mom tells me they closed the doors at Bob's a few years ago. I loved Bob's.
Ah, but here, we have Nori's Saimin and Snacks. We also have the musubi lady who makes sesame chicken and smoked salmon musubis at the Hilo Farmers' Market. I love them too. Not as much as Bob's or In-and-Out, but they're close and completely unique to the island. Less cholesterol, but more sodium. Hey, sometimes life requires trade-offs.
Saturday is my big LSAT test day. It's a long one: a little over three hours. After, I may go pick up one of those musubis and head to the beach for a little while. Maybe I'll eat two.
Crawford's medicine arrived from Florida this week. So far, she's tolerating it well. With any luck, it will slow the progression of her degenerative disease. It could even put her in remission and stop it for awhile. That would be great, although that happens only rarely. I just want her to have as much function in her back legs for as long as she can. If she gets worse, I will begin shopping for a wheeled doggie cart for her. There are several companies that make them, believe it or not. The good news is that she feels no pain and is as happy and loving as ever.
Tomorrow's another day at the wine factory.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Strummin' along

Tuesday night was ukulele lesson night! Woo-hoo! Am I a party animal or what? It really is pretty fun. The instructor, Wes Awana, is teaching us all the basic vamps. Those are three-chord intros common in Hawaiian music. We then apply them to songs. It's all I can do to make the chord changes at the proper time, let alone try to read the lyrics (which are mostly in Hawaiian) and sing along. It's a good challenge. The lessons are taught at the Old Japanese Schoolhouse in Volcano.
I find I meet the coolest people when I'm out and about. The girl who sits next to me in class has an old koa wood Kamaka ukulele. Kamaka is a premier name in ukes. I know this because I aspire to become a good enough player to justify buying myself a Kamaka one day. The girl's dad gave it to her when she was six years old. She never learned to play. In fact, she never touched the thing. So, he took it back when he moved to the mainland. When he heard she was finally going to take lessons, he sent it back to her. She's now in her 20s. It's a beauty; dark, shiny and grainy with a soft, plinky sound. After the first lesson, she decided to go to the local music store to buy an electronic tuner, since she didn't feel she had the ear to tune the uke with a pitch pipe. While there, she saw a Kamaka, the same size as hers, made of koa, selling for $600! "I couldn't believe it," she said. I commented that that's why I had been drooling over her instrument when she showed it to me the first week.
Later, I learned that she would be taking it with her on her next work assignment. Turns out, she is a merchant marine, third mate. She takes jobs on ships for extended periods of time. Her last gig was a tanker. Her next is a government research vessel destined for the Persian Gulf. See? Interesting people.
I have some great examples I've heard lately of our government at work, both on the national and state level. You remember the story I told of the hairdresser who was shut down because she did not have a business license that she did not know she needed? Well here's another doozy. There's a couple who run a trail riding business on state forest land on the other side of the island. They've been taking tourists on horseback tours over the same trails for 18 years. The state has known about their operation all along. Just last week, the state issued a cease and desist order to them, saying they need a permit to operate on state land. They were not told when they started the business that they needed a permit, nor were they ever told over the course of 18 years. Now, they're pau; out of business until they can secure a permit.
Then, there's the case of the Superferry. It's currently the biggest story in the news here. The state gave the Superferry owners the green light to operate, complete with modifications to the ports where they'll dock the ships. So they built this multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art, high-speed catamaran designed to carry cars and people between islands. Now, environmentalists are protesting up the wazzoo because no Environmental Impact Statement was completed and filed with the EPA. Actually, to be fair, the environmentalists have been vocal about this from the beginning. They are concerned about the spread of invasive species between islands and the possible danger the high speed ferries pose to whales. These are legitimate concerns, to be sure. But lots of other boats pass between islands every day carrying goods, people and probably invasive species. Anyway, the courts agreed with the environmentalists, saying the state should have required the EIS to be complete before the Superferry set sail. So now, after hiring 300 people and spending bajillions on the boats, (one is here and another is being constructed on the mainland) they're dead in the water. The state legislature may now decide whether they should allow the Superferry to operate while completing the EIS. If they can't, the Superferry guys will take their fancy ferry elsewhere.
One thing's for sure. Starting and running a business in Hawaii, big or small, is not for sissies.
Then there's the story of the Navy sailor with whom my mom struck up conversation in Honolulu. He told her he was from Michigan. (I know. I thought it was weird that the U.S. Navy has sailors based in Michigan, too. Guess they're keeping close tabs on those shifty Canadians across the lake.) His commanding officer had flown him, along with three of his comrades, to Hawaii as chauffeurs for the officer and some dignitaries he wanted to impress during a multi-day conference. My mom asked the young sailor the same questions I asked after she told me this much of the story. "Couldn't he find any sailors in Hawaii to drive him around? Why would he fly them all that way?"
The answer the young sailor gave her was, "Because he can." The sailor said he thought it was a waste too, but was hopeful he would get in some snorkeling time before having to return to the mid-west. Couldn't blame the guy for that.
So there you have it folks. Examples of bureaucracy run amok and your tax dollars at work. Yes, you may sigh now.
Crawford got a haircut this weekend. Too cute, huh?
Gotta go practice my vamps. A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Too many people in paradise

There are days here when I feel like I'm really growing to love this place. The greenery is lovely. The people are friendly. The food is good. The tradewinds refreshing and sweet. Then there are days when all I really want to do is go home. Today was one of the latter. I went to the University campus to scope out the classroom where my LSAT exam will be held. According to my instructions, I'm to go to Building K, room 122. Seemed easy enough. I checked it out on a map beforehand. There it was, Building K. Piece of cake. Not so. When I got there, I found that all the buildings look pretty much the same there. I also noticed the conspicuous absence of any signs outside or on the side of any buildings. Hmmmm...... I finally asked. A nice professor-type pointed and told me, "Go to that plain, gray building just down those steps. There's no way you could know that," she smiled. Yes, at least people are friendly. When I found the building, I came immediately upon room 121. Great. Room 122 should be right next door, right? Nope. It was at the complete other end of the building. Room 122 was at the opposite end of a totally different hallway. It was nowhere near room 121. So that's how things started. I did find it, so my reconnaissance trip was fruitful.
I later ventured into Hilo Town to pick up a few groceries. I'm finding lately that whatever I am looking for at whatever store I choose to shop is usually out of stock. If it's on sale, you've got to get to it within the first few minutes the doors of the establishment are opened the first sale day or you are SOL. It's also a curious phenomenon that no single store seems to have everything I'm looking for on a given trip. So I either spend my day driving from store to store (not my style), or I compromise and pick up something close or similar, if not the exact item I'd hoped to find. KTA and Safeway have the best bread, but Sack and Save (aka Pick-Your-Nose; please refer to a previous post for an explanation here) has the best poke and deli stuff. KTA carries the most locally grown produce. The farmers' markets are really better for that, however. In fact, they are better for bread and even eggs, too, but they are only open one or two days per week, depending on the market. Safeway has the widest variety of organics. Pick-Your-Nose is often the least crowded and is therefore easier to get in and get out. They also have the cheapest beer. So what's a shopper to do? I know what I'm experiencing here is true in many American cities. It's just that I got used to tiny Gunnison, where there are two pretty good stores, just blocks away from each other, that have most everything you need. Whatever they didn't have, I learned to live without. Without additional choices, I just got comfortable with buying what they had to offer, no worry-no stress. The offerings were actually quite respectable, despite the lack of grocery competition. Prices were high, but no higher overall than the Wal-Mart Superstore in Montrose, 70 miles away. And certainly not higher than here. Then there's the traffic and crowds. Traffic was non-existent in Gunnison. The stores could be busy between about 4 and 6 p.m. and were especially hoppin' on certain days during hunting season, but you could always find a slower time to shop. Here, it seems that the stores are always packed. The parking lots are jammed. Not to mention the fact that I have to drive a half an hour each way for the privilege of hobnobbing with the hordes.
Part of the problem here is the rapid pace of growth. The local paper reported just this week that Puna is the fastest growing area of the state and is also one of the 20 fastest growing communities in the U.S. So the stores are having a tough time keeping up with demand as shoppers wipe their shelves clean. It takes weeks for re-ordered stock to arrive from across the ocean.
Then there's pet care. The Vet clinic I go to is very good. They too, however, are always packed to the gills with patients. There are way too few Vets here for the number of pets and owners. They can treat all common illnesses and perform all basic procedures. Beyond that, however, their capabilities are limited. Such things as MRI, CT or ultrasound scans for pets don't exist here. In many states on the mainland, there are specialty clinics where a human can take her furry companion to see specialists, like doggie oncologists, ophthalmologists and orthopedists, for more those thorough diagnostics, arthroscopic surgery, etc. There are no such services available in Hawaii, 0n any island. My Crawford may have a slowly progressing degenerative neurological disease. But there are no definitive tests that my Vet can perform to confirm that. I'd fly her to Honolulu for an MRI, but there isn't one there. Not for dogs, anyway. So, rather than diagnose her definitively, we can only rule out other possible causes of her symptoms. So maybe my worry over Crawford has my nerves a bit frayed today, which made me a little less easy going than usual about the shopping situation in town. I know. I'm a spoiled American brat living in a Banana Republic disguised as the 50th state.
On a positive note (and I mean that literally), it's time to practice my vamps on the ukulele. Vamps are three chord progressions used as intros to songs. Practice, practice, practice....
a hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Aroma therapy?

Last week when my mom was visiting, I took her to the gym. I plopped her on the treadmill and made her sweat. While we were there, we encountered a tall, blonde haole girl, slender, cute, young and very stinky. Whew! This attractive young woman was rank. Mom noticed her first. She very subtly waved her hand in front of her nose and made a pee-eeew face when the girl wasn't looking. Then it was my turn. Yikes! Just being on the machine next to her made my eyes water. It was enough to take your breath away. Or at least enough to make you want to hold your breath. It must have something to do with her diet. Maybe she eats curried Limburger with garlic and anchovies on a regular basis or something. I've been in lots of gyms in my day, and ridden plenty of public busses, too. This girl is the hands-down winner for stinkiest human I've ever encountered. She wins for sharpest, most pungent, and the coveting title of worst stench EVER. She made giving a ride to One-Lung-Smelly-guy seem like picking a bouquet of gardenias. Ron and I dubbed him this after each of us had given him a ride or two. He was our neighbor and a really nice, friendly fellow. He was just a little hygienically challenged. His house, it turns out, had no back wall. (I'm guessing he had no shower, either.) It was a tiny shack with three walls; a blue tarp hung in place of the fourth. One-lung-smelly-guy had some health problems (like a missing lung, for example) and passed away. If you've been reading this blog regularly, you know that's been a bit of a trend for us since we moved to Hawaii. We are beginning to feel jinxed and are a little afraid to befriend or do business with new people here. The real estate agent who helped us find our house has died. Our neighborhood coffee guy died, too. Then there was One-Lung. They've all departed since meeting us. Sheesh!
So anywho, this ramble was sparked because Stinky girl was back at the gym today. I gave her a wide berth and she left within just a few minutes of my arrival so I guess you could say it's my lucky day.
Tomorrow night I begin ukulele lessons. I'm excited. I was relieved to learn that the other students who have signed up for the class are all adults. I had a vision of myself struggling to strum alongside a group of six-year-olds. One of the little keiki would lean over and show me where to put my big fat fingers. "Dere you go, auntie!" he'd say.
Mom had a bit of a delay returning home. Our illustrious leader, George W., made an overnight fuel stop in Hawaii on his way back from Iraq via Australia on Saturday. His timing couldn't have been worse. His arrival forced her flight from Hilo to Honolulu to circle for some time.
So instead of having a leisurely, one hour layover, she had to rush. This is not an easy thing to do for a woman with two artificial hips, a creaky knee and pins in her feet. She may have more metal in her than the bionic woman, but cannot run like her. She cannot run at all. Mom was lucky enough to find a nice, young airport employee to help her find her connecting flight gate and lead her there. Luckily, it was close. She was the last to board the plane to Portland.
The Portland flight, along with a few others bound for the mainland at that time, waited as long as they could to allow delayed passengers a little more time to make their connections. So the flight arrived late to Portland. Because of this, she missed the shuttle she had hoped to catch and had to wait over an hour for the next one. She said she got home to Salem at about 1 a.m. That's a long day. Thanks, Mr. President, for delaying my mom. As if I needed one more reason not to like you.
It's 4:26 p.m. and the Monday night football game just ended. Weird, huh?
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Lazy day, mom's departure, floss flicks

Mom flew the coop today. I think she had fun here at the hovel. She saw the local sights, did dishes and laundry and was darn good company. I love it when mom visits. Here she is on the lanai of our hotel room at Waikiki. Out of respect for the fact that she now abstains from drinking, I too spent the last 16 days on the wagon. You'd think I'd have lost a little weight doing that, but no-o-o-o-o-o-o. So tonight, I cracked open a bottle of dry rose from Spain, chilled to perfection. Very nice.
Ron and I had big plans for the day after dropping mom off at the airport. We were going to come home, mow the lawn, wash the cars, power wash the driveway of tractor mud and finish the driveway gates I started building several months ago. But by the time we got home from Hilo Town, it was raining. Pouring, actually. So, we took a three hour nap. Again, very nice. About the only ambitious activity we could muster was to replace a bad light fixture on the lanai. Oh, and I wiped the floss flicks off the mirror. It's a funny thing about floss flicks. On one hand, they are disgusting; bits of debris that have been launched from between teeth with enough gooeyness and velocity to stick to the mirror. Eeeeew! On the other hand, it seems to me that a mirror covered with floss flicks is a sign of exceptional oral hygiene. That's just an observation.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Scrabble for the brain cell challenged

Tonight, it was cutthroat scrabble at it's scrappiest! With mom here, it's more fun and interesting. When Ron and I play, it's also fun, but we somehow seem limited to words like "cat" and "zoo." Of course, zoo is used a lot, since nobody seems to be able to come up with any other 'z' words. Except, of course, those brainiac kids in the National Spelling Bee. I hate those kids. Tonights word of entertainment turned out to be smeet. After our match, we were scrambling to spell out names to call each other. I found "loon" and "dud." Mom found "smeet." As in, "It's not vegetables, it'smeet!" Or something like that.
On Tuesday, she tried to get away with ovu. She claimed it was singular for ovum. NOT! I do not have one ovu, nor do I have two.
Ron is usually the one with the creative spelling. He, however, had the audacity to challenge one of my words the other night. I had spelled out coven, as in, a coven of witches. It was not found in my Funk and Wagnalls, (circa 1922- or is that 1622? Actually, it's a modern one: 1977) but it is defined by Wikipedia which is, as everyone knows, the end all and be all of all knowledge in the universe. So there. And it's almost as fun to say as Funk and Wagnalls.
As you can see, we really need to get a life.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Getting out of the neighborhood with mom

I picked all these flowers in the yard. Not bad, eh?
It's been a nice week with mom here. Friday night, we went to see Hapa. They were, as always, fantastic. The warm up act, Keawe Trio, was also excellent. Skylark Rosetti, local famous DJ, was there to MC the event, which was a charity fundraiser for a local rural medical organization. Keawe Trio's lead singer had a very versatile voice, singing baritone cowboy songs and Hawaiian falsetto. He was also an accomplished guitarist.
Sunday, we attended Malama Punalu'u, a ho'oloule'a, or festival, held to raise awareness and help save the area around Punalu'u Black Sand Beach in Ka'u, near South Point. The fest was held in Na'alehu, one of my favorite little towns here on the island. Skylark was there again, along with Kahikina, a.k.a. Tommy Ching, another famous DJ. There was food, music and crafts, including an authentic sailing canoe on display. My old acquaintance Keoni, the canoe builder, was there. He also makes drums. I particularly appreciated the hand-woven lauhala hats with feather lei bands. Too cool. Too much kala. Someday, when my ship comes in or when I become a rich, high-powered lawyer or when I win the powerball (which I never play) or when I happen upon a suitcase in the woods that turns out to be full of money, I'll buy one.
Yesterday, we checked out the Imiloa Astronomy Center right here in Hilo. They have a planetarium with shows changing every couple of weeks. They also have great, interactive science and cultural stuff for kids and adults to help them learn about both. The Imiloa is unique because it combines culture with science. The planetarium show we saw illustrated how ancient Hawaiian mariners used the stars to guide them to their new land.
Today, mom and I went to Kea'au to eat some great bbq sandwiches, then down to Lava Tree state park for a pretty stroll through the rainforest. Tomorrow, we plan to take a drive up the Hamakua Coast to Honoka'a, another favorite small town.
I am now bummed that my favorite TV show of the summer - Kyle XY - is over until next year. This was the second summer. We were hooked from the first episode last year. As you can see, we live a simple life.
A hui hou. Aloha!