Wednesday, December 24, 2008


All of the Hawaii babies want to wish you a cuddly kitty Christmas and a furry, purry new year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Get your goat

We had a scare with our Hoppsy last night.  She was in obvious pain, so sore she could not lie down.  She would try, move her feet an inch in that direction, then stand back up.  She even yelped when I lightly rubbed her tummy.  Not good.  This seemed to be something more than just arthritis flaring up, so I called the emergency number for the vet.  He listened to my description of her symptoms.  I had already given her some doggy pain medicine, which he said was good.  He advised adding a sedative to relax her muscles even more.  I didn't have any prescription stuff left, so I gave her the herbal ones.  It's a product called Mellow-Out by Oxyfresh and is the only herbal calmer I've used that works.  It's not as effective as Valium of course, but combined with the Metacam it did the trick for the night and got her to stop shaking and lie down.  I was worried that it was something internal.  I think the vet was confident that she was not suffering from abdominal torsion, which is very serious.  I will still take her in to have her checked out, but I am relieved that she's feeling so much better this morning.  I got up to check on her in the middle of the night.  Couldn't sleep worried about her. Poor Hoppsy

The kittens are officially tweens.  They are growing tall and lanky but still have their kitten faces and playfulness.  Ron gets upset when they, as he says, "Go after Lucy."  They don't go after her.  They just want to give her a little sniff and play.  She is not interested in getting to know them and just wants to be left alone.  So we do our best to keep the youngsters out of Lucy's personal space.  Meanwhile, Mr. Sox seems to dig the tykes.  They are his groupies, hanging around the big guy like he's a rock star.  Abby has warmed to them too, in much the way an icicle warms to a tepid ray of sun.

Yesterday afternoon, Ron spotted shadowy figures from the lanai.  
"Hey!  Goats!  They're eating my coffee trees!"
We ran out to shew them away.  They live at the neighbors, but jumped one sagging fence and found a big hole in another.  So we patched up the hole and the neighbor tethered them.  
"Shoot da fuckas," the neighbor told Ron when he went to tell the guy about the goats.  "Deya not mine."  They belong to Anthony, the man who used to live there and who recently moved to Hilo. This guy is Anthony's son-in-law (Ron thinks) so I guess he's caring for them.  But he really isn't.  As it turned out, the goats preferred the pineapples Ron had planted in between several keiki trees.  There was no fruit on them.  Just tough, sinewy fronds splaying out from the stalks.  They toppled three and nibbled the tips.  Hey, there's no accounting for taste. 

Good news at the winery.  We will be closed for Christmas Day.  YAY!  As much as I would like to earn time-and-a-half for standing around, I'd rather be home.  I'd rather be in Colorado, but here will do.

I mustered up the gumption to enter a short story contest this week.  You can't win if you don't enter, right? 

Not much else is new.  I'm reading James Joyce.  He's a genius. His stories are classics.  So far though, I'm not feelin' it.  

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Which end (of this island) is up?

Today was slow at the winery.  Really slow.  Monday was slower.  In fact, while Monday was not the slowest day ever, it was the slowest recently.  So we find ourselves comparing all others to it.  
"Pretty slow today," I say as we closed up shop this afternoon.
"Not as slow as Monday," says Kathie.  
"True dat," I say.

Yesterday, we had a couple in from Oklahoma who had no idea where they were.
"Where are you two staying here on the island?" I ask.
"Hokowaila? Wokahola?..." husband tries.  "It's way at the south end of the island."
I pause to think.
"Waikaloa?" I ask.
"That's it!" he says.
"Um, that's the north end of the island."
"OK," he says.
Later, wife is ready to check out.  She has purchased a few souvenirs.  
"Would you like a map?" I ask.
"I'm not so good at reading maps," she says.
What I surprise, I think.
"It's free, " I say. "I like this one.  It's really easy to read."
"OK, thanks."
"How far is it back to our hotel?" husband asks.  You'd think he would know that, since he drove here from there.
"Two and a half hours if you drive straight through," I say.
"That far?"
"It's a pretty drive.  You'll enjoy it.  Thanks for coming to see us!"
How they found us, I'll never know.  They were probably shooting for Hawi and landed at the winery.  Hawi is about as far away as you can get from here without getting wet.

I like Hawi.  They have no vog.  We have vog.  I hate vog.  Hawi or Kapa'au. That's where I want to live, but I can't. We want land.  We need land.  Land is out of our price range in Hawi and Kapa'au.  Bummer.  We can only afford land in the vog.  Or maybe in Nebraska.  Actually, where I want to live is Colorado.

I put the finishing touches on my Christmas card/letter tonight and will print it this weekend.  It's always a project.  Last year I cheated by purchasing cards and slipping the letter in.  I do that about every other year.  This year I made the card.  I used iPages on my new Mac, which is a quirky little graphic design program I'm not sure I like.  Maybe it will grow on me if I tinker with it some more.

The babies are tucked into their cave for the evening.  I have a giant pen all decked out with cushy fleeces, a snuggle safe warmer, food, water and a litter box.  It's covered with towels and a wool army blanket under the shelter of the lanai.  They actually seem to like it in there.  The cat house keeps them safe at night.  Ron is watching "How it's Made" and I'm going to crawl under the covers with a good book.  Are we exciting, or what? 

A hui hou.  Aloha! 


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another day at the zoo

My neighbor John delivers my paper almost every morning.  He usually walks, but occasionally he drives his riding lawnmower.  Now that gas prices have gone down, he's driving more.  John's been known to drive the little Deere all over the neighborhood.  He suffered a stroke many years ago and walks with a metal brace on his right leg.  His right arm is out of commission and there's a decided droop to his smile.  Still, he gets around pretty well. It's nice that he brings the paper and we usually chat for a moment or two about the rain or his new fan belt or whatever.  Two days ago, he puttered up the driveway and presented me with both the Tribune-Herald and one of those enormous cans of Almond Roca.  Now, for most people, this would be a month's supply.  Maybe several months.  My grandmother could make such a large quantity last an entire year.  She savored one piece in several days, saving them to share with company.  I'm thinking this one will be empty by week's end.  I LOVE Almond Roca and while I admire my grandmother, I did not inherit her will power. Thanks John.  No really, thanks!

Now that I'm officially laid off from the winery, I'm working way more hours than I'd like and more than I did before the layoff.  They're desperate, though not enough to offer me a raise, never mind all the money they're saving now that two employees are gone.  It's a skeleton crew, for sure.  Good thing we're not busy.

The trade winds have died out lately, leaving us with bouts of thick and not-so-tasty vog.  I went to the gym today anyway.  It wasn't so bad indoors.

Pippy the pip squeak decided to climb me not once, but three times today, from ankle shoulder. I was not wearing long pants.  At first, I though he just needed some love.  So I cuddled him, scratched his head, rubbed his tummy, listened to him purr and put him down.  The second time, he seemed to confuse me for a tree.  Down he went, a little faster this time and with a cry of pain that scared Hopps, the dog.  The poor little fella (Pip, that is) looked bewildered.  By the third ascent, I realized he was interested in the open can of cat food there on the counter.  I had just fed the big kitties.  So I gave him a little morsel and he was happy.  It's hard to be mad at such a little guy, but man, did that ever hurt!  Each puncture caused a welt.  Blood oozed out and hardened into coagulated blobs atop each hive, like tiny, active volcanoes.  Pippy is an excellent climber.

We've decided to forgo the Christmas tree this year.  The babies are a bit too active and would be uncontrollable around dangling ornaments.  We'll keep the decorations to a minimum and bring 'em all out next year, when we're all grown up.  Well, when they're grown up.  I don't plan to do that.  Nope.  Not ever.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Bye bye sweet Crawford, so loyal and brave, always keeping a watchful eye on mommy.  Bossy, cheerful, following along, no need for a leash, bringing us all home.  May heaven be filled with all the treats you could want, prairie dogs to chase, cows to round up and petties from grandpa.  He'll take you for rides in his truck.  Here on earth, my heart is broken.  I love and miss you.  You'll always be my girl. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Early bird

Now, if you are the type of person who could just abandon three faces like this, please log off of my blog. How can you not love them? These three are such a joy.  They cheer me up when I'm feelin' low, you know?

We will enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner a day early for two reasons.  One is because I will be working tomorrow.  The second is so that Crawford can enjoy turkey for a few days.  She's struggling.  Not in pain, but beginning to show signs of additional complications.  She's almost completely incontinent, and while she can't really hold stuff in anymore, she has trouble pushing it out, too.  She has had two seizures this week and is beginning to stumble just occasionally with her front legs.  Her back legs are long gone.  I can tell she's frustrated.  She's telling me she's ready.  Actually, she's been telling me for some time, but I have selfishly wanted to keep her here with me.  She's my girl.  So we've arbitrarily chosen Saturday for her to leave us, to go hang out with grandpa (my dad), to keep him company until I get there.  He loved all his furry grand kids, but Crawford was his favorite.  Over the next few days, she gets turkey, ice cream... I'll probably share some pumkin pie with her tonight.  Yes, with whipped cream. The past few days she's been treated to steak, salmon, mahi mahi (fish is her favorite) hamburger and all manner of crackers and cookies.  Treats do make her happy.  Her face lights up and she snaps the goodies our of your hand like a shark clamping onto a chubby diver.  

So, I gotta go mash some taters.  Friday's suppose to be my last day at work, yet I've already been asked to work three days in December.  Still, the plan, beginning next week, is to settle into a writer's routine.  The mornings will be devoted to dog walks and word-smithing.  I'll take a break to work out somehow - some days the gym, others the pool - then back to the keyboard.  Lose 20 lbs and write the great American short story (or two).  How hard could that be?

Hope you all have a delicious, festive, gut-busting Thanksgiving, filled with laughter and hugs from loved ones.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Drama, trauma and I'm the kitties mama

High drama at the winery.  I ran into a coworker today who told me the other tasting room employee placed on temporary layoff (besides me) was given the permanent heave ho over the weekend.  She wasn't taking the layoff well and despite numerous attempts to convince her it was temporary and in no way a reflection on her performance, she freaked.  Initially, she seemed to understand the circumstances.  As time went on, her discontent erupted into loud and inappropriate comments  - sometimes in front of customers - taking her frustration out on a fellow employee, a manager, the world.  Wow.  She's young and I suspect she's never been through tough times before.  Personally, my layoff was not the least bit unsettling since I volunteered.  Others need the work.  I don't.  I've got writing and other stuff to do and will not starve or miss a mortgage payment if I don't work for a couple of months.  Lucky me.

I had lunch Saturday with two good friends from California on Saturday.  Andy and Flora were on island and on vacation, so I met them in Waimea for a lovely chat over some so-so barbecue.  The coleslaw was good, but it was the company that made my day.  

My beloved Crawford has taken a turn for the worse this past couple of weeks.  She suffered two seizures last week.  That's tough to watch.  Fine since then, but she often looks sad to me, defeated.  So we've started giving her extra treats. Tonight, scrambled eggs and grated cheese mixed in with her kibble.  Hamburger, steak, chicken, fish.  She loves fish.  So Saturday night she gobbled several chunks of Alaskan cod.  The next few weeks, she'll get lots of extras.  We're watching her closely.  Selfishly, I'd like to keep her around forever.  She's my girl.  But her quality of life is more important than my wish to snuggle with her every day.  Yesterday, we enjoyed a couple of hours out in the grass, sniffing whatever blew our way via fresh trade winds.  That perked her up a bit.

Meanwhile, the babies are ever entertaining and growing fast.  I wish I could keep them small forever.  I know every parent says that....

A hui hou.  Aloha.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fur-balls rule, humans drool

Harley Davidson Todd-Niederpruem (front), his brother Pip (Squeak-middle) and sister Winnie (back) all love their canine big sister Hopps.  Hoppsy loves them too. They look a little like her.  I think she thinks they're puppies.  She's a good mommy.

Ah, but they grow up so fast. (Sniff)

Missed my ukulele lesson tonight because I had to pick Ron up at the airport, coming from an abandoned root canal in Honolulu.  Turned out he didn't need one.  That's the good news. The bad is that he sprained his toe a few days ago, so had to hobble around, negotiating airports, hotel, etc.  Hopps has this bad habit of getting up as you try to step over her. That's how he injured it.  Last night and today I think he just drank beer and hung out in his room or the pool.  Of course, I'm the nimrod who scheduled his flight and could have had him back soon enough for me to make the lesson, but I forgot about it when confirming.  I'll just have to practice extra to catch up.  It is the intermediate class, so no slacking.

Last night, Doc slept in the bed with me.  Mr. Sox too, of course.  So I wasn't cold.  Not that I would be here.  I miss snuggling under a thick down comforter on a cold night.  Sounds weird, huh?  I suppose a few days of that would have me cured of that nostalgia.  Six months of that might wear thin.  

My doctor doubled the dosage of my asthma meds and already I'm breathing easier.  It's amazing what a little oxygen can do to lift the spirits, ya know?

A hui hou.  Aloha! 


Friday, November 07, 2008

General goofiness

I was driving home from an abbreviated shift at work last night when I turned on the radio and heard Bob Dylan singing Everybody Must Get Stoned.  I was reminded of a placard I once saw at a Dairy Queen in Colorado that read, Everybody Must Get Coned.  So it occurred to me, there navigating through the misty darkness, that with a slight modification, this could be a great slogan for a number if different businesses.  Here's my list.

Telecommunications company: Everybody must get phoned.

Cutlery shop and knife sharpening services: Everybody must get honed.

Credit Union: Everybody must get loaned.

Brothel: Everybody must get moaned.

Winery: Everybody must get Rhoned.

Fitness Center: Everybody must get toned.

Local planning commission: Everybody must get zoned.

Bio-research company: Everybody must get cloned.

Doggy daycare: Everybody must get boned.

Manufacturer of modern, unmanned spy planes: Everybody must get droned.

Reader of corny mottoes and slogans listed on a cheesy blog (that would be you): Everybody must get groaned.

I've been lead to believe that there will be cutbacks in hours and shifts at the winery.  That's a bummer for most employees but works fine for me right now.  So I've volunteered to work less or to take a few months off completely so that someone who really needs the job to pay the bills can keep it.  No official word yet, but the hints are strong.

It's warm and a little humid but better than it's been the past few days because the trades are back to make us all feel a little more comfy.

I left the back door open between the lanai and the house and the babies have decided to go an an indoor expedition.  I think their checking out every nook and cranny.  That's OK.  I know they're pretty safe in their.  Hopps is keeping close tabs on them.

A hui hou.  Aloha!


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Growing and mowing

Don't name them.  Don't name them.  Don't name them..... Well, I'd bet that Harley, Winnie and Pip have nearly double in size since they arrived here at what is most likely their new home.  The big cats still aren't thrilled about them being here, but their becoming more patient with every encounter.  Of course, the tikes are still kept in their playpen when not being supervised by me.  They get braver by the day.  By the minute, really.  In fact, they are fearless.  I admire that in them.  They just go for the glory.  I would love to keep them all indoors, but my house is just too small for that.  With the exception of other cats occasionally wandering through the yard, it's pretty safe outside here.  The dogs help keep that foreigners to a minimum too, since they know the difference between their kitties and an alien visitor and bark enough the scare the pants off of any intruders.  My big cats never go to the road (except Mr. Sox) so no cars.  There are no predators like coyotes or eagles or lions or tigers or bears to snap them up.  Right now, though, the rats are bigger than they are, so we'll keep them close.

Ukulele lessons will resume a week from Tuesday.  The Volcano Arts Center is finally offering an intermediate class.  Yay!  So, I'd better dust off the old Oscar Schmidt and start plunkin'.
Aloha, oe, you stink like poi... 

Today, we will mow the rest of the back 40.  OK, the rest of the back four.  Or two.  It's plenty for me.  If I ever own more acreage than this, it will be of the wild variety, to be looked at and admired, not maintained.  It's been about a month, so we're a little overgrown.  Oh, those of you lamenting winter, remember, it's a nice break from lawn maintenance.  

Last Friday the owner of the winery was on island and called a mandatory managers' meeting.  I was hoping to hear the implementation of some fantastical changes, some creative cost cutting measures or some kind of over-the-top promotion to rev things up.  Well, we do have promotion in play, but it's not exciting and no drama came out of the meeting.  Shoots.  All the drama happens when he's gone.  I was ready for a shake up, you know? Instead, it's just the same old same old.

Our tasting room manager dressed up as a sort of demonic sugar plum ferry for Halloween.  It was pretty cute.  She even had wings.  I was a paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy, so my costume was an aloha shirt and a cowboy hat.  Pretty inventive, huh?

Time to take the Doctor Dog and Hoppsy Dahli Lama Doodlerama for a walk.  

A hui hou.  Aloha!


Monday, October 27, 2008

Living in a pet hospital

It was a rough weekend.  My beloved Lucy developed acute blindness.  The vet was a bit perplexed Friday.  He prescribed an anti-inflammatory and antibiotics with the hope that her condition is caused either by an infection or pressure on her optic nerve.  We have an appointment Thursday with the clinic's new resident cat specialist to follow up.  Poor baby.  I must say though, it's amazing how well she gets around.  She has long been an outdoor cat, very independent, so keeping her cooped up inside in near impossible.  She came with the house, after all and lived outside her entire life before we came along.  She doesn't stray too far away and knows the turf better than we do, at ground level, so after one excruciating night trying to keep her in, we let her go.  She was gone for a few hours, then came home.  Lucy can still jump up onto the countertop where she eats, though she does give it a little extra umph and flies a little higher than needed.  It seems to be her way of making sure she hits the mark. It's raining now, so she's perched on the back of the couch as I type this.  I can tell she's frustrated and a little extra cranky.  Of course, she's been known to be grumpy even when she's perfectly healthy.  That's what we love about her.  Spunk.  You never know if she'll purr when you pet her or smack you hard enough to draw blood.  She's a calico kitty, through and through.  I hear purring right now, so I guess this is a moment of contentment.

Crawford had a seizure Friday evening.  After discovering Lucy's diminished vision, was a bit distraught and forgot to give her a night-night treat.  We think her seizures are the result of Hypoglycemia, so it's important to keep her blood sugar levels from dipping too low.   She's fine now, but those are never fun and they take a toll.

Doc the doctor dog tweaked his leg the other day and was in some pain over the weekend.  Rest and his arthritis medication have got him feeling better.  We stuck to a short walk this morning.

The bright spot is the kittens.  Even with all this, it's hard to stay miserable watching baby fur-balls play.  They make me smile.

It's raining and my asthma has improved somewhat, so I'm on the mend.  Congestion is still a problem, although with all the animal issues lately, I'm finding it to be a perk.  I can't smell the kittens' litter box and the experience of cleaning up Crawford when she makes a doody has become scent-free.  

I whipped out a story this morning, inspired by a trip to the market yesterday.  Is it any good? Don't know.

We're off to the hardware store for a yellow jacket trap.  We are inundated with them. So annoying.

A hui hou.  Aloha.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Breathing easier with healthy kitties

I took the munchkins, aka kittens to their first veterinary appointment today.  There, I learned that we have two boys and a girl. My assumption that the little shy one was female turned out to be bunk.  She is a he.  So I can't call her Pippi as in Pippi Longstocking, so I'll call him Pip as in Pip Sqeak.  Pip Squeak Todd-Niederpruem.  What do you think of that?  

They are also younger than I guessed, six-eight weeks according to the vet.  They got poked, prodded and fondled today, most of which they tolerated well (though that fecal test makes me squirm just to watch).  Anyway, they are healthy, with the small one on the skinny side but otherwise OK.  To give you an idea of their sizes, the biggest weighed in at 1.6 lbs.  Next, #2, tipped the scales at 1.3 lbs.  The bitty Pipster barely registered at half a pound! None of them would have made it at the local humane society.  Any cats admitted there under two pounds are immediately axed.  Did I mention that before?  Now, how humane is that?  How could I rescue them, only to have them offed by the cat police?

The doctor gave me some serious meds yesterday to smash my asthma symptoms and get me functioning again.  They are so potent that I can only take them for three days without swelling up like a balloon, hallucinating and growing a pair, if you know what I mean.  They're working, but I can feel the hair sprouting from my chest as I type this.  I haven't coughed in over an hour,which has been oh, so nice.  Maybe becoming a baritone is a small price to pay for a little air.

Ron picked all the ripe coffee cherry he could find today.  That's what you see in his hands above.  The gooey fruit part surrounding the bean/seed is actually sweet.  The skin is bitter. We'll probably plant these. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Feline groovy

They are growing!  On Monday, it will be one week since I brought the little kitties home.  They have since taken over the lanai.  My neighbor was kind enough to loan me a giant pen/crate she wasn't using.  Since it is suitable for a Saint Bernard, it give the little guys room for a little resting spot, food and water, litter box and a few logs I've put in their for them to climb.  I take them out several times a day to romp all across the deck, wrestling and pretending that I'm their favorite tree.  I'm still looking for a good home or homes.  I won't give them away to just anyone.  It has to be someone I trust to care for them as well as I will, and if I don't say so myself, I set a pretty high standard.  Anyway, at night, they go back into Doc's crate, which has solid sides so is much warmer.  If it gets really cold out, I'll bring the crate inside.  But this is Hawaii, so I think their fine right where they are.  I place an item called a Snuggle Safe under a fleece, then drape the front of the crate with a thick towel. They are snug as bugs in a rug all night long.  The Suggle Safe looks like a fat, pink Frisbee.  You put it in the microwave for six minutes and it gets hot.  It stays warm for nine or ten hours.  Of course, it must be covered with something.  The cats loved it in Gunnison.  I don't know what possessed me to bring it here, but I did.  Kismet, I guess.  The litter box fits in their night crate, too.  They all use it now.  I am such a good teacher.  Nah.  They just figured it out on their own.  Kitties do that.  The big kitties still aren't too happy about the youngsters being here and now completely avoid the lanai except to come in the house.  Still, they do wander by the little guys and give wary glances as they pass.  Mr. Sox still comes in to wake me up every morning about two hours earlier than I want him too.  Lucy has taken to sleeping on Ron's chair in his office.  She did that last winter for several months.  Abby sneaks in and wiggles himself between us at around 10:30 or 11 most nights and stays for a couple of hours before Ron's own wiggling irritates him enough to leave. 

About two weeks ago I came down with a cold.  Ron caught it too and his was gone in three days.  Mine, as usual, lingered on and on, developing into an upper respiratory mess.  That's asthma for ya.  It's now aggravated worse than it's been in years.  Then I got the kitties, which doesn't help at all.  It's been raining and humid, so mold is probably growing in every nook and cranny of this place, inside and out, it's nasty spored floating through the air and into my lungs. Needless to say, I'm doing my part to keep several pharmaceutical companies in business these days.

I'm a little behind with my school work.  OK, I'm a lot behind.  Tomorrow, I've gotta buckle down and write, write, write.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feline fine

I saw them running around in the middle of the road and I was sure they'd get squished.  There were three of them on the street, with two hiding in the bamboo.  Only these three would approach to check me out.  The other two were skittish and ran deeper into the brush. I checked at Hirano Store to see if they belonged to an employee's family (their house is the closest to where I found them) and was told that they are not too happy with the cats they have, let alone a new batch.  One car stopped as I was gathering them up and the driver suggested they were probably dumped there.  A boy on a bike said he had seen them around the road the past few days.  Their mommy was nowhere to be seen.  Usually, if babies are meowing, she'll come out.  No mommy.  They look old enough to be weened.  So, I brought these three babies home.  I don't think I can handle all of them.  Three more kitties would be a challenge in our elderly critter household.  The big cats aren't too keen to have them here.  But here they are. I went back to look for the remaining two.  I spotted a can of food someone had left, which leads me to think that they were strays and someone has been feeding them.  I left them some food, too and will be back tomorrow to search.  I'm hoping to talk my neighbor into taking one, and maybe one or two can go to the winery.  We could use a couple of kitties up there.  They seem healthy and are playful and cuddly and adorable.  As you can probably tell, I'm already falling in love with them.
There was an accident on Highway 11 going south this afternoon, which had traffic backed up from Kea'au all the way to Hilo.  I  hung out at borders for an extra half hour after doing my shopping, then crept home.

The kitties are sleeping now.  

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Visitors foreign and domestic

Yesterday, I served four Texans and two Russians at my tasting bar.  Sounds like the beginning to a joke, doesn't it?  Well it kinda is.  The Russians were struggling to understand but they seemed to know English, at least a little, so I tried to make them feel more comfortable by asking about their trip to the islands.
"How long was your flight from Moscow to Hawaii?" I asked.
"October twenty-third," he said. 
Now, this, I thought, was so damn funny that it was all I could do not to burst with laughter.  But I didn't want the guy to feel any more uncomfortable than he already did, so I bit my tongue.  Literally.  Then the lady standing next to him, a Texan, turned to the man and said, "You should drink more.  It will make your English better."  She smiled and raised her glass toward him, as if to toast.  He raised his back and said, "No good English," and she looked back at me and said, "I'm lost on him.  Totally lost."  She smiled and made a swiping move with her hand over her head. 
Today, a whole family on vacation came in and when I asked them where they were visiting us from, I expected them to say Thailand.  Instead, they said, "Texas." They were a blast.  The eldest, the grandpa I think, insisted on showing me the photos in his camera of a winery he had visited near his home in Houston. When I asked his granddaughter (or maybe daughter) at the end of the bar if she would like to join in the tasting, she said, "I can't.  I have asthma."  Now, I have asthma too and I drink wine all the time.  So I thought it was comical when the young man who might have been her brother looked at me, leaned over the bar a little and whispered, "It has nothing to do with drinking wine you know. She just always says that."
"I use an inhaler," she added, as though it was a badge of honor.
I took their picture with three different cameras before they left.

I have this old box sitting on the lanai and have considered tossing it into the recycling several times, only to find Mr. Sox enjoying it's cozy environs.  What can I do?

The cold (as in virus, not temperature) is slowly making its way out of my system.  Now, it's just a rumbling, bronchial hack.

Tomorrow's another day.  A hui hou.  Aloha!  

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Down in the dumps

I'm sick.  My stories suck.  I am uninspired, sneezing, wheezing and coughing.  Ah but a nice Kendall Jackson Meritage '04 is making the world a better place right now.

This morning, I mustered the energy to take the poochies for a walk.  As it happened, my neighbor Kathy was out for a stroll too, so we walked together.  While en-route, a we caught sight of a neighbor pulling out of his driveway.  He had adopted a dog recently, so I waved and asked, "How's Buddy?"
He said Buddy had gone home to his original owners.  They had decided they could, in fact, care for him.  
"I'm all alone now," he said. Then he launched into his story: his wife left him with nothing more than a note, the gist o which was that the thrill was gone.  He went on and on about her, as though we were his two best friends in the world, even though we hardly know the guy.  I felt for him.  I really did.  No doubt there's another side to that story.  There always is. Anyway, when he finally finished venting and drove off, Kathy and I shared one of those comical moments when you look at each other and say without saying it, "Well alrighty then."

Yes, I had such a gooey, nasty cold yesterday that I called in sick.  I should be back to the wine shop grind tomorrow.  Ooh.  Can't wait.  Hope we have lots of tour vans pull in and flood us with swarms of cheapskates who take advantage of our free wine tasting, then leave without buying anything.  I especially hope they all neglect to leave a tip. That way, we can run around like idiots trying to help them all, working our asses off for squat.  Yeah, that's always fun. What a way to run a business.  The theory I hear is that some people is better than no people.  I disagree.  That's not true if the people are costing you money.  Ah but what do I know.  I'm just a mediocre writer with a business degree.

Is it just me or is Sarah Palin more than just a little scary?  Common, Sarah.  If you're in Kuwait, who's watching Russia?  Putin's a black belt, don'tcha know?  I wonder if he can swim?

Gotta go take a shower.  I feel way too much sarcasm oozing from my pores.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Cat on my lap

Picture this: It's mid-afternoon.  The sun is shining brightly.  I'm sitting at a plastic table on the lanai, my laptop open, writing.  I hear Ron in the kitchen.  He then goes into the living room and turns on the TV.  It's on for a few seconds when he says, "Wow, did you see that?"  Now, I'll admit it is a very small house.  But the lanai is not the living room.  So I say, "No, I'm not in there with you."
"I know but, I guess what I mean is that was amazing."  Then he tells me about it. I stop writing and indulge him his story.

Later: It's early evening, the light is thinning and I am back at it, there on the lanai.  Ron sticks his head through the sliding door while simultaneously cracking a can of beer.
"What are you doing?"
"Writing."  It seems obvious to me, but I answer anyway.
He then starts a conversation.  I say, "I guess I'm finished now," and close my laptop.  I probably sounded a little irritated, though not nearly so much so as he does when I bug him while he's working.  I don't do that too often, 'cause no can take 'da kine stink eye.  So I come into the house.  He's putting away some dishes (always a good thing) and I lighten up, engage and begin to tell him about the old dog Doc and I encountered on our walk, when he interrupts and says, "You know, I'm pretty busy here."  Alrighty then...

The United States Senate was certainly all over itself today with pats on the back, members congratulating each other on a job well done.  Where were they when the shit began hitting the fan months or even years ago?  Aren't they a regulatory body?  Aren't they suppose to pass laws that protect the masses from greedy, unscrupulous business people and their practices?  What will they do if the house rejects the plan again?  How do you un-pat yourself on the back?

After a beautiful day, it's now pouring rain outside.  My darling Lucy just came in, soaked.  I dried her off and she is now curled up on my lap.  She is warm and soft (if a little damp) and has her head tucked under her paw.  So despite what we hear in the news, life is good.  

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Poked, prodded and pancaked in paradise

So you walk in and they greet you with soft, white spa robes and hot tea.  Nice.  Ah, but don't be fooled.  It's a ruse, done to lull you into thinking that the procedure you are about to endure will be pleasant.  It is not.  Once in the room, a petite, smiling but serious woman with cold hands manipulates your exposed breast into a vice and applies 25 pounds of pressure.  Now, 25 pounds may not sound like much, but trust me, it leaves a mark.  There's gotta be a better way.  

That was the morning's fun on Friday.  In the after noon, I was poked, prodded and probed elsewhere on (or should I say in) my person, which made for the perfect, shitty day.  This all happened in the lovely city of Honolulu.  Now, Waikiki is nice, with fancy shopping and swanky hotels.  But deviate from that strip one iota and you will witness the sordid underbelly of the service industry.  Hey, the regular people have to live somewhere.  For all it's azure blue ocean, balmy climate and swaying palms, much of Honolulu and environs is a dump.  Ah but what big, American city isn't?  It reminds me of L.A. in the 80s.

Still, I managed to enjoy my stay and to savor the overpriced meals.  I came home last night, completely out of money.  We'll be eating hot dogs and beans until payday.  Hey, any excuse to eat a good hot dog works for me.  The trouble comes in finding a decent hot dog here.  Maybe I could carve some spam into the shape of a frankfurter, slap it on a bun and serve it up with mustard and sauerkraut.  Hmmm... sauerkraut.  Might have to substitute kim chee....  Do you see my dilimma?  It's really not the same.

On my way to the clinic from the airport Friday morning, the cab driver asks me, "What exit should I take?"
I say, "I have no idea."
"Should I take McCully or Punahou?"
"This is your city," I say.  "I'm the visitor."
He says, "OK," then proceeds to guess wrong and has to backtrack, on my dime.  Oh well.  He was a pretty nice guy.  I tipped him two bucks anyway.  That should buy him a big package of squat in Honolulu.

Then, on the way back to the airport from the hotel, the driver asks me where I live.  When I say Hilo (because nobody knows where Glenwood or Volcano are) he says, "Hilo is boring." Then he tells me he lived there for a year.  I laugh and say, "That's just how I like it," and he laughs too.  He knew the way to the airport.  He got a little bigger tip, but not much, since my wallet was on the verge of empty.

I could have saved a bundle taking the bus instead of a cab to and from the airport, but it takes nearly two hours on the bus, as opposed to half an hour by car.  Long bus rides make me queazy.  If it's choice between parting with some cash or hurling, I chose the former. 

I ate dinner at an Indian food restaurant Friday night. The waiter was dark and handsome and made me wish for just a nano-moment that I was 25 years younger and single.  The friendly water glass guy was cute too, a college student from Pakistan.  Only in America would you find a Pakistani guy working happily at an Indian restaurant.  Detante lives.  OK, you might actually find that just about anywhere, since the two countries share a border.  For all I know, all the employees there were Pakastani.  Maybe it was really a Pakistani restaurant, but they called it Indian so as not to ruffle any closed-minded American sensibilities.  There was this tall guy in the kitchen.  He wore a turban, had a messy beard and walked with a long staff... Nah!  Bin Laden's not in Waikiki.  Don't be silly.  Anyway, the service was spot-on and the food was pretty good, too.  Mostly, I enjoyed two (count 'em, 2) Taj Mahal lagers, each served ice cold in it's own frosty glass.  It's the best beer in the world.  Must be the water in Bangalore.  Anyway, I deserved them after all that torture.

Now I'm home, sitting on the lanai, typing.  I love wifi.  I had planned to update this blog during my stay, but the Hilton charges $8/hour for an Internet connection and I could find no free wifi nearby.  Does anybody know why the word Internet is always capitalized?

It's hot and sunny today.  The dogs and cats are all sacked out in the coolest parts of the house. Ron is happy these days, feeling smug about his ability to share gardening tips with the neighbor and the fact that he has no money invested in the banking industry or mortgage-backed securities.  I am becoming bored with this place.  Sometimes, I just want to drive someplace new, see some new scenery.  But there's no place new to drive.  It may be the Big Island, but it's not that big. Wah, wah, wah. Nothing but foliage and lava, lava and foliage.  The foliage is green, even though autumn is upon is.  It will not turn yellow or orange or red.   I miss fall.   I like the way morning frost glistens on the grass.  I like seeing my own breath come out like steam rising from a cup of hot cocoa.  I like wearing sweaters.  Oh sure, there are some nice waterfalls here and some darn pretty beaches, but I live nowhere near those. The only people who get to live at the beach in Hawaii are the rich and the homeless.  Wah, wah, wah.  I'm beginning to think I'm just a perpetual malcontent.  Time for a little cheese with this whine.  Ah, but as the masthead on the Denver Post reads, "There is no hope for the satisfied (wo)man."  I can never remember to whom I should attribute that quote.  

A hui hou.  Aloha!


Monday, September 15, 2008

He got toe-jam football

The vog has cleared.  It has been replaced by rain.  At least the air is breathable again.  I spent the morning shopping for nothing too glamorous, getting a haircut, etc.  Hilo felt a bit like a sauna, all hot and steamy.  The girl who cut my hair tried to make me feel good about my frizz by telling me that curls like mine are the latest.  People are paying to have them put into their hair.  Now if only my high-waisted, big-thighed-woman jeans would come back in style, I'd be the  hippest cat on the island.  

Speaking of cats, my Lucy isn't feeling too well.  Poor little angel.  I gave her tuna tonight, just to get her to eat a little something.  Normally, she would wolf it down like there's no tomorrow.  At least she ate several bites.  That's more than she ate of her regular cat food.  At least she came in tonight and is now, as I type this, curled up on the couch. 

I've made an appointment to have a mammogram and other womanly examinations in Honolulu at the end of next week.  I'd do it all here, but what fun would that be?  I've got a coupon for $75 off at the Hilton Hawaiian Village at Waikiki and it expires on October 1, so I've got to use it before then.  And so, I will.  It will be nice to get off this rock and onto another one, even if the trip mandates that I get poked, prodded and squeezed in the bargain.  

The political races are heating up here in Hawaii, with new contenders for mayor and several council seats open to heated competition.  Our choices for Mayor include a guy who's been accused of sexual harassment and another funded by large corporations in the islands.  The harasser is now featured in radio ads, where he promises to eradicate the coqui frog.  Never mind that there are tens of thousands, maybe millions of the little buggahs here.  Of course, he served on the council during many of the years when the frog was taking over the island.  He might as well promise to stop the volcano while he's at it.  Fortunately, there are better choices.  

There's a big disadvantage to living in a warm climate, especially one where it rains a lot. People wear all manner of open toed footwear, and when it rains, they often tromp through the mud, so their toes get pretty grungy. Not mine, of course, but theirs, whomever "they" are. Those dirty toes are then on display in the grocery checkout line, at the gas station, everywhere.  I mean, when you're waiting in line, what else are you gonna look at? The National Enquirer?  The 400 pound woman behind you with the butterfly tattoo on her lower back and a basketful of spam and chips?  The bone-pierced eyebrows on the dreadlocked hippy who just strolled past?  No.  You are going to look down.  The view is better near the floor, or so you hope.  But there, attached to the hairy legs of half the people in line, you see black dirt imbedded into the callous cracks, nooks, crannies and toenails of slippah-clad feet.  What ever happened to bipedal hygiene?  It's the third world, I tell you; the third world.  And of course here, in the rainforest, where nobody curbs their dog (including yours truly, mind you) it's the turd world.  An absurd world.  Or, since we are often referred to as a melting pot here in Hawaii, a stirred world.  Certainly, with all the craziness today, it's an obscured, blurred, far from cured world.

It's time for me to take my ginkgo and make that appointment for a brain scan.

Gotta go.  I'm pooped!
A hui hou.  Aloha!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Breath deep, suck it in and choke

The tradewinds are gone and we are now besieged with..... VOG!  I hate vog!  Not that I have any right to complain.  It's been months since our last bout with the sulfur dioxide Nemesis.  Wait a minute.  Maybe I do have a right to complain.   When I was living in Gunnison, how many days of vog did we encounter?  Hmmmmm....let me think.... oh yeah.  That would be ZERO!  There was a little smoke during the summer of 2005 when the entire state of Colorado was burning and some of it blew our way, but that was different.  It was something you knew would GO AWAY!  Here, we don't know if this encounter with Pele's bad breath will last a day or a week or a month.  Further, we don't know if the volcano will continue to spew for another day, week, month or 20 years.  

Today, we drove to our new friend Andy's house to buy 2o more coffee trees.  Lately, the vog has been bad in Pahala Town, where Andy lives.  Today, however, the fine folks of Pahala got a reprieve, their air clean and clear.  That's 'cause all the vog is here, at our house.  We stopped for malasadas at P.T. (Pahala Town) Cafe.  They fill 'em with so much bavarian cream that it oozes like white lava out of the injection hole.  Well, not exactly white.  More like ecru or eggshell.  It's thick and sweet like pudding.  Onolicious!  
Crawford wiggled her way into a pile of poop we didn't catch in time tonight, so I had to plop her into the tub to hose her off.  Poor baby.  She hates that.  Ah but now she's clean, fresh and a little wet, which is keeping her cool on this muggy, voggy evening.

Just another day in paradise, with toxic air, sugary treats and poop.  It's hard not to envy my life, isn't it?

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Floats, politics, exercise and writing

Lately we've been on a root beer float kick.  I've also been wondering why I can't lose any weight. Coincidence?  Absolutely! One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.  And no, it's not diet root beer.

I considered using this blog to voice my concerns about Sarah Palin and John McCain, but I will resist except for  this short blurb.  For now, anyway.  I could go on and on about how disturbing it is that they are now soaring in the polls.  Sarah believes our involvement in Iraq is a holy war, that we should teach creationism in our public schools, that her pipe line is ordained by God and we should drill baby drill despite any effect it will have on God's green earth.  Then there's John McCain, a life-long Episcopalian who suddenly became a Baptist.  What the h-e-double toothpicks is wrong with Episcopalians?  I say, give me a man who has attended the same church for 20 years (Obama) and a good Catholic boy (Biden) any day.  And that's all I will say about that.  Except that I think it would do us well to elect a nice, benevolent Buddhist one of these days.  This, coming from someone who does not kill the spiders she finds in the house, but who captures and carries them outside so they can do their good works outside, where they belong.  (OK, sometimes I actually do suck 'em up with the vacuum cleaner.  I'll have to mention that next time I go to confession.)

Crawford and I just got back from a 15 minute walk.  It's really more of a workout for me, since I'm lifting her butt the whole way with the sling.  By the time we got back today, I was dripping sweat and my biceps muscles were screaming.  I guess that's a good thing, what with the root beer floats and all.  She, on the other hand, got to do lots of sniffing and even a few extra pee pees in strategic places.  It was a good romp for her.  I suspect she'll be very tired this afternoon and sleep well.

I have to go to work this afternoon.  Business was down more than 20 percent from last August, and I suspect it will be slow again today, although every once in awhile we still get slammed with tour vans.  The trouble lately is that people come in, taste the wine for free, buy a $4 magnet and  leave.  

Enough blogging for today.  I've got reading to do, stories to write, stories to get ripped apart by mentor professors, stories to proof, stories to edit and revise, stories to toss in the trash... Ah yes, the writer's life.  So glamorous.  So rewarding.  So lucrative.  If you're Danielle Steel or James Patterson.  If you're me?  It's all about calloused keyboard-weary fingers and striving to keep at least two brain cells focused enough to stay in the room long enough to complete a single paragraph, let alone a whole story.  Oh yeah, and instead of earning multimillion dollar book deals, I'm paying  - in the form of tuition - for tough love, administered with the hope that maybe, just maybe, I will generate a page or two that someone, somewhere might actually want to read.

Really though, after that little walk with Crawford, I'm ready for a nap.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Getting to the core of life's silliness

The other day, I walked into Ron's office and he noticed some blood on my arm.
"What happened there?" he asked.
"Oh, I guess I just scratched myself.  You know, they say your thin gets skinner as you get older."  That's exactly how I said it.  I noticed the slip as it came out.  "So I guess my thin is getting skinner, too."
He laughed.  "I heard the way you meant it, not how you said it.  I guess my brain switched the words back around."  

I bought a watermelon the other day.  It had been a long time since I'd had any and it made me think of my dad.  When I was a kid, I remember coming home from wherever I'd been and looking in the fridge to find a big, fat watermelon.  I'd remove the tin foil covering, anticipating a thick, juicy slice.  Instead, I would find the center of the carved out, as though some confused antarctic scientists had taken a core sample.  My dad had gutted the thing.  He'd taken the sweet heart, leaving the dregs and the rind behind.
 "Da-a-a-ad!" I would shout, then hear him laughing from the other room.  "You took the best part!"
"Well of course I did," he'd say.  He did it more than once.  He did it every time.  If you wanted a decent slice of watermelon in our house, you had to be first.  So when I bit into that sweet juiciness yesterday, and then again today, I thought of him and smiled.

We ran out of gas today.  Now we know that two propane tanks last us exactly 8 months.  Usually we call when one runs out.  Guess we spaced.  No cooking (except on the grill or in the toaster oven or microwave or rice cooker or electric egg poacher) and no mechanical clothes drying 'til Tuesday.  Oh my goodness, will we survive?  I say lets eat out!  Let's go to Ken's.  Sumo!

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Home grown goodness

Today, we made our way to Na'alehu town for the second annual Malama Punalu'u cultural festival.  There was some food, crafts and entertainment that included great local musicians and several accomplished hula halau, or hula schools.  We ate a pork burrito, shave ice(with coconut, root beer and mango syrup) and of course, poi balls.  We sat watching the performers from beach chairs under the hot Hawaiian sun.  Da Poi Balls are ono!  Deep fried blobs of poi.  Deep fry anything and it's good, right?
Yesterday, we made corn chowder from our own home grown corn and lemon meringue pie with lemons from our own tree.  That's not entirely true.  I don't have a mixer, so I had some trouble making the meringue.  It takes forever by hand and I lost patience.  So we had lemon not-meringue pie, or lemon pie sans meringue, ex-nay on the eringue-may.  It was still good. Very lemony.  Meringue doesn't really taste like anything anyway.  Certainly not nearly so flavorful as poi balls.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Party, key snatcher, naps and trees

Ron has a new word.  He heard it on CNBC Friday and decided to try it out on me today.  "Oh don't be so pejorative," he said.  "Here, can you help me with this pejorative project?" And, "I'm feeling a little pejorative.  Can you get me a beer?"  It became clear after he said it about a dozen times that he really didn't know what it meant.  So we looked it up.  It's not an everyday word in everyday America, after all.  Now we know.

Friday night we attended a very unique party, thrown by our neighbors, Cam and Elia.  I'm not too sure of the spelling of her name.  Cam is a biology professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo with a specialty in genetics.  They have two maniacal border collies that bark themselves into a frenzy whenever the poochies and I walk by.  Anyway, every year, Cam invites his graduate students to a bash to kick off the school year.  Neighbors and assorted friends are also invited.  That's where we came in.  The Volcano hippies, most of whom were past age 60 and whom the couple met at the farmers' market, were the only ones dancing, smoking pot and hanging out in the Quonset-style greenhouse.  There weren't many plants in there.  Instead, the greenhouse had been decorated with Christmas lights, a few chairs, a table, a boom box and some tapestries hanging from the metal framework.  The kids were all drinking beers or sodas, milling about the grounds but not straying too far from the food.  There were all sorts of interesting conversations going on.  Neighbor Rick brought his granddaughter Hoku, who is a freshman in high school.  She was the youngest person there.  They didn't stay long.  The sky was crystal clear Friday night.  That's rare in Glenwood, and it seemed like you could see every single one of the billions and billions in the universe.  It was really fun.  They had roasted a pig, mufflon sheep, turkey, ham and vegetables in an imu, or Hawaiian earthen oven.  Rocks are placed in a pit dug in the ground, then heated until they are glowing red.  The meat is wrapped in banana and ti leaves, placed on the hot rocks and buried with dirt, then left to steam all day.  There is no peaking allowed, as any entry into the imu will break the seal and release all the heat.  So patience is required.  The result is meat cooked to perfection, moist, smokey and onolicious!  
Before we ate, there was a blessing over the food, a traditional Hawaiian chant made by an accomplished chanter.  He was awesome.  The rise and fall of his voice was enough to send chills up your spine.  I got all kine chicken skin, l'dat.  
Yesterday, I was zonked.  Maybe it was from partying Friday night after a full day's work.  I had been on my feet most of eight hours, then remained vertical for several more at the shindig, strolling cam and Elia's farm, mingling.  So on Saturday, I got up at my usual 6 a.m., then lay down at 9:30 for a half hour nap.  Then at noon, I crashed out again for another two hours.  At four, I was out for the count for another hour, then went to bed by nine and slept through the night until 6 a.m. today.  I must say, I did feel better today.  I picked up some coffee and a couple of cookies at the farmers' market this morning, a little bummed that the sticky bun lady was absent.  Later, we cut down a couple of trees.  Ron operated the chainsaw and I tugged them with the tractor, encouraging them to fall where we wanted.  Mostly, they did.  We've had mishaps in the past, without using the tractor, like the time Ron insisted against my protests that a tree would fall fine and it instead took out my newly grafted and planted $20 avocado tree. There were no mishaps today, although the tractor canopy was spared by about an inch on one felling.

I went to the gym today.  After about an hour, two more people entered.  One left, leaving me there with another guy.  He left, too and, unbenounced to me, took my car keys.  When it came time for me to go, I couldn't find them anywhere.  I searched every inch of the gym twice, patted my pockets repeatedly, gazed in the window of my locked car in the hope I'd see them locked in. Nothing.  I was pacing the pavement between the gym and the car, still looking in the window on occasion to see if they had miraculously materialized on the seat, sure now that the guy had taken them but thinking I should go back inside once more to look around the gym before calling Ron for a ride, a call I knew he wouldn't get for hours because he was working outside and would not hear the phone ring or come in to check messages until nearly dark, when the key thief came trotting across the grass. I recognized his blue shirt, slippahs and bolo head.
"You took my keys!" I pointed at him and smiled.
"Sorry.  I got back to my room and realized, 'these aren't mine.'"  He was staying in one of the Kilauea Millitary Camp cabins.
"Good timing," I said, like I could have gone anywhere anytime soon.  "Thanks!"
Crisis averted.
Tonight, the Olympics are pau and the democratic convention begins.  Will the fun never end?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Clean teeth, short staffed, busy busy busy

They had shaved a small patch of hair from her front leg.  It's where the technicians had inserted her I.V. line.  My sweet Hoppsy had one tooth pulled Monday and the rest of them cleaned.  I hated leaving her there.  I tried to tell her I'd be right back.  It would just be a few hours.  She would be home again that afternoon.  But she didn't understand.  Worse, I dropped her off, but had to work that day so Ron picked her up.  That's always how it goes.  I'm the bad guy, he's the hero.  

The good news is that she came through her ordeal just fine and is loving the all-wet food she's been getting.  It's back to the crunchy stuff tomorrow.

We have lost yet another employee at the winery.  My friend Mandy is moving on.  Today is her last.  She's worked there for nearly five years and has recently scored a position at Macy's, hocking cosmetics.  It's the perfect job for her.  She's a girly girl who is always put together perfectly.  I will miss her.  She has been one of my favorite co-workers.  We always have a blast. Our staff is now reduced to a skeleton crew; a skeleton missing a few bones.  Applicants are coming out of the woodwork.  We've had people call and drop off resumes from as far away as Waimea and Kona.  You know the economy is bad when people are considering a drive of two hours for a job that pays peanuts.  We even got a call from O'ahu over the weekend.  I'm not sure how lucrative that would be, considering a round trip ticket is upwards of $160 bucks.  I'm sure we'll find someone good and fun.  I hope so.

Speaking of resumes, does everyone not know it's a good idea to have someone proofread the thing before you spread it around?  One woman listed a job she had held where screening bills for authenticity was a key component.  She wrote the word counterfeit as counter fit.  She also describe more then a certain amount of experience at something else she had done.  Another applicant touted his Inter Personal skills.  He wrote it as two words and capitalized it just like that.  I know I'm being a bit of a grammar snob and the job is not brain surgery.  I forgive the occasional typo.  But really, counter fit?

Today, I volunteered to help the ladies at the AAUW register voters in lower Puna.  It could be fun.  We'll set up at Malama Market, always a good vantage point for people watching.  Anyplace in lower Puna provides that.  I think I have a tie-die t-shirt.  I'll wear that to fit in.  No dreadlocks, though.  Can't do anything about that on short notice.

I'm just about ready to send my first packet of work to my mentor at the university.  I've written two stories and some other stuff: critiques, responses to readings, etc. I've got exactly one week to get it all together.  I'm on it!

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rock on

There are lots of rocks atom Mauna Kea, way up there at 13,796 feet.  There's also a lake very near the summit.  It's called Lake Waiau. (Pronounced wy-ow)  Ancient eruptions from summit cinder cones deposited fine particles that lay like a thin layer of cement in the bottom of a depression, making it leak-proof.  The depression filled first with with glacial ice melt.  Yes, believe it or not, there were glaciers on Mauna Kea 30,000 years ago.  Today, annual snow melt and rainfall keep the lake from going dry.
The only things that live in the lake are algae and bacteria, both of which have evolved to generate their own natural protection against solar radiation in order to survive the intensity of the sun's rays at this elevation.  The air is definitely thin up there.  I could feel it before we got out of our vehicles.  Here, you see the Keck telescopes, the twins as they are called, against the perfect blue sky.  When these and the earlier telescopes were built on Mauna Kea, many were ignorant of Mauna Kea's spiritual and cultural importance to the Hawaiian, including many Hawaiians themselves.   
Mauna Kea has historically been the most sacred  place in all the islands.  Now, with the resurgence of Hawaiian pride and culture, the native people have returned to Mauna Kea and fight to protect the mountain. Certainly, there is some bitterness over the overbuilding of their mountain top.  There are several telescopes owned by various nations and universities around the world dominating the landscape.  Ancient and more recent burial sites can be spotted all over the mountain.  To the Hawaiians, the telescopes on Mauna Kea are akin to building a strip mall atop Arlington National Cemetery.  Many Hawaiians are upset, to say the least.  Still, they come to the mountain, leaving their animosity and anger at the bottom.  They place offerings to Wai'au (yes, similar name to the lake itself), goddess protector of the lake, to Poliahu, the snow goddess, or to Mo'o'i'nanea, the water goddess. 
There is a heightened awareness regarding the spiritual and cultural significance of this place among non-Hawaiians.  The scientists are finally starting to get a clue that it's not cool to erect behemoths here without regard to the natural environment or to the cultural disruption it may cause. It's not a perfect situation and not all hard feelings are gone, but progress has been made, both sides are talking and there is hope for peaceful co-existence on the mountain top. Mauna Kea is, after all, considered the absolute best vantage point from which to study the heavens.  It is the highest peak in the Pacific.
I'm told it was once common practice for Hawaiians to take the piko (placenta or afterbirth) of their children and placing it into the lake. 
I traveled to Lake Waiau with a guide from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.  There were 12 of us in all, one guide, one intern and 10 hikers.  We walked very slowly the mile and a half round trip to the water's edge.  I felt light headed the entire time.  One woman began to show signs of acute altitude sickness, but she made it.  One out of 12.  That's damn good, considering the elevation.  We did stop on our way up the slope at the Mauna Kea Visitors' Center at 9,000 feet for about half an hour to help us adjust.  Still, we were all definitely feeling it.  It's really, really high. 
The weather could not have been better.  We had a spectacular view all the way to Pu'u O'o, where Kilauea continues to erupt.  If you look closely at the bottom photo, you can see what looks like smoke coming out of the ground toward the center.  That's Pu'u O'o.

 The worst part of the trip for me was not the altitude, but the twisty portion of Saddle road on the way back to Hilo.  I was in the back seat of a Chevy Tahoe.  I do hate riding in back seats.

Today, we ate nachos at Legends Bar and Grill in Kea'au.  They were good, though olives and jalapenos would make them excellent.  The hefeweizen I drank was the best part of this snack.

The rest of the day was spent right here, in front of this very screen, writing, editing, writing, editing.....

Ron picked our first home grown pineapple today. It's small and I have no idea how it will taste, but it looks pretty.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Olympics, blather and chocolate ants

OLYMPICS!  Yay!  I love the Olympics.  The opening ceremonies were spectacular and I have high hopes for a peaceful, competitive and entertaining games.  

Closer to home, Crawford got a hair cut the other day.  We trimmed her cute ears and snipped away her shaggy butt fur so as to avoid too many cling-ons.  This photo's a little blurry, but isn't she the cutest?  

The winery was slow and quiet until the last hour of the day today, when the whole world came in.  Many tasted, some purchased, but few tipped.  What's going on, people?  I teach visitors cool local phrases like okole maluna (bottoms up) and pau hana (happy hour 0r work is finished).  I make jokes about there being no macadamia nuts in the Macadamia Nut Honey Wine because the nuts make the wine too crunchy.  I share the knowledge that our Guava Wine makes the perfect accompaniment to Spam.  People laugh.  They think it's great.  I'm entertaining. I'm funny.  I'm informative.  I tell them the best places to eat in Volcano Village or Hilo.  I give them directions to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach or Hilo Coffee Mill or Kalapana to view the lava.  All this, and still no tips.  Americans are cheapskates in a recession, that's all I have to say. 

We had several boxes of gourmet chocolates infested with ants at the winery.  The ants ate very little (as opposed to the uncles; they're such pigs - yuk, yuk).  Still, we couldn't sell them for fear someone might encounter a dead insect inside a box.  So instead, we wrote them off as damaged goods and are eating them all ourselves.  How's that for a perk? They are guava and mac nut honey truffles.  Shoots.  The ants made such tiny little bite marks. Actually, I can't see them at all.  Besides, I thought chocolate covered ants were suppose to be a delicacy.  So, if you bite in and hear a little crunch, mo' bettah, yeah?  Protein.

Tomorrow, I hike to an alpine lake on Mauna Kea.  Should be cool.  Literally.  I expect it to be very chilly up there. I'm taking warm clothes. Got oxygen?

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A little cheese with that whine?

It's been so nice the last several days that I really have nothing to complain about.  Oh sure, I could probably find plenty to justify a good whine, but I just don't feel like it.  Tonight, Ron brought home some Coronas and after I poured mine into a frosty mug from the freezer, I noticed him trudging into the back yard.  So I shouted for him to please toss me a lime.  He picked one off the tree and underhanded the lovely, tangy green orb right up to me over the railing of the lanai.  Now that's livin'.  

Lately, I've taken to singing a little ditty from Uncle Albert (Paul McCartney) to Crawford whenever I take her for a walk in her sling.  She can't hear me, but I sing to her anyway.  Her back legs hang, so I have to be sure to keep them from dragging.  The other day there I was, singing, "Weedle weedle, little Crawford get around (get around), get your feet up off the ground, weedle weedle get around....
"What are you singing?"  Ron asked.  I repeated my tune,making sure to go high on the weedle weedle.  
"I always thought it was "Guido Guido little gypsy get around...." he said.
"Why would it be Guido Guido?" I asked. 
"Why would it be weedle weedle?" He countered.  He had a point.  So, with the magic of Google, I looked up the lyrics and voila! Now we sing, "Live a little, little Crawford get around (get around) get your feet up off the ground, little Crawford get around."  It's a happy tune, but I still like weedle weedle and sometimes I sing it that way 'cause it's more fun.

I finally drug my fat ass into the gym today after a too-long hiatus.  It was a beautiful day at the park, too, with the giant gas plume blowing away and over to Kona. This afternoon, I spent a short time in the grass with Crawford, she in the shade of the kukui nut tree and me in the sun on my tiny beach chair.  I also managed to read a chapter and three stories today.  Now, I've got a screamin' good idea for a story of my own.  At least, I've got part of an idea.  That's enough for me to dive in.  We'll see where it leads.

The neighbor's baby goat has been crying a lot today, which really bothers the Doctor Dog.  It distresses him to hear the baby. He doesn't flinch at the sound of another neighbor's cow mooing or even other dogs barking.  But the baby goat upsets him and he barks like he means it.  So I am forced to bring him in, where he cannot hear the baby.  Honestly, the baby goat's cries upset me a little too.  I think he wants his mommy.

Tonight, Ron discharged my shotgun in the general direction of the piggies in order to scare them silly and send them running.  BOOM!  It would have sent me running if fired in my general direction.  Yes, you read that right.  It's my shotgun.  I also own a Colt 357 magnum and a Ruger 357 magnum, two bad-ass pistols.  They belonged to my father, and now they belong to me.  Some day, I plan to actually shoot one of them at a firing range, just to see if I can remain standing. So, do ya feel lucky?  Do ya punk?

Gotta go.  I'm typing this on the lanai (love wireless!) and I think a bug just flew in my ear.  Ah the tropics...

A hui hou.  Aloha!