Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pele's still fumin'

The vog was brutal up at the winery today. I've been home for nearly an hour and still I can feel the sulfur coating my throat. Nasty! I'm pretty sure it was the reason business was relatively slow throughout the afternoon. We never got the late day rush that we usually endure.
Cary, the winery's number cruncher, occasionally buys us food. Today, we were treated to breakfast burritos from the golf course just up the road. Their usually decent; loaded with eggs, cheese and Portuguese sausage. Not so good for arterial health, but tasty. They also come accompanied by some garlic laden salsa that, while delicious, is not so great for the breath of folks working in close contact with the public. Today, there was not only garlic, but FIRE. The salsa was so hot, it was painful. My poor coworker, Mandy, was the first to eat her burrito. She did what we all usually do. She slathered on the salsa. Yowza! Thankfully, because of Mandy's sacrifice, I was able to enjoy mine by adding only tiny dabs of the stuff to my burrito. Still, I did experience a bit of the burn. I'm still fighting the effects of the garlic.
Every day I meet visitors who think they want to move here. It happened again today. They love it here. They believe they belong here. Of course, they're staying at a resort and eating out every day. They have decent paying jobs at home to help them pay for that. They don't know that if they move here, they'll most likely have to give up that lucrative employment and settle for one that pays much less. Then, they'll realize they have to live in a place where the cost of living is significantly higher. Less money, more expensive. It's a frustrating combination. Still, they have stars in their eyes. So the Puna district, the only affordable place left in the state, continues to see the malihini come in droves.
The lava is encroaching on the Royal Gardens subdivision and has burned some abandoned structures. Lava can be inconvenient that way.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vog day afternoon

I love the smell of sulfur dioxide in the morning. Shoots, cuz. Da kine vog get plenny pilau. Stinky! Actually, it doesn't smell so bad as it tastes. Once you get it in your mouth, it seems to last all day even after the vog lifts. The gift that keeps on giving! The vog was so bad today that the Park Service closed the crater rim drive inside the park due to volumes of sulfur four times the amount deemed "safe" to breath.
Today, I became a brochure photographer. By mid afternoon, the vog lifted and the sunshine was beautiful. So I shot some photos of wine bottles provocatively posed (OK they were really just propped up) on a giant piece of drift wood on the winery grounds. They were complimented by flowers at their bases. The images came out pretty good (or is that pretty well?) if I don't say so myself. I still wouldn't go so far as to characterize myself as a real photographer. I'm just someone who sometimes gets lucky with a shot.
And speaking of good shots, I was amazed this morning that we shot a satellite out of orbit today with pinpoint accuracy. We did this from a boat in the middle of the ocean. The satellite was traveling at four times the speed of sound. The boat was no doubt bobbing with the waves. The earth was spinning. With all that, we calculated the perfect trajectory and nailed that sucka dead center. I say "we" as though I had something to do with it. It's much the same as the fan in the football stands who high fives his buddy and shouts, "We're number one" when a player for the team he supports scores a touchdown. The fan, of course, had no more to do with the touchdown than I had to do with the satellite bullseye. Clearly, it's the collective "we" to whom I and the fan refer. In my case,"we" are Americans, gunfunnit. Not bad for the country rated 29th in the world recently in math skills among high school students. I guess we've still got it, despite what we hear about ourselves on the news every day.

Gotta go watch Lost. A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Yes, I know I've been a slacker. That's what happens to people in the tropics. The rainforest sucks the ambition right out of you.
It's looking sunny outside this morning. The tradewinds have died, however, so we may be in for some heavy vog this weekend. Apparently, Pele is in need of some industrial strength breath mints these days. Maybe those folks at Altoids could dump a 747 load of some seriously strong cinnamons onto the latest eruption point to squelch her sulfur dioxide-induced halitosis. No wonder her advances were always rebuffed and she was forced to turn men into stone or trees or whatevahs. That girl has some worrisome anger management issues, not to mention her brutally bad breath. (Now watch. She'll get pissy and take out my house. Some goddesses just can't take a joke.)
Business at the winery has picked up a bit. Thank goodness for those crazy Canooks! They're spending loonies and toonies like their going outa style. (Loonies and toonies are ones and twos in Canadian money.) Unfortunately, they can only take back two bottles each duty free and we cannot ship to Canada. United Airlines put a crimp in our britches this week when they announced that they will begin charging $25 for a second checked bag. Since the best, cheapest way to get wine home via airplane is to check a box of it as an extra piece of luggage, that does not bode well for us. If the other airlines follow suit, we're toast. (Rumor has it that American plans to charge $80. Zoinks!)
I've spent the last week putting together an application packet for the University of Alaska's Master of Fine Arts program in Creative writing. Sounds more fun than law school, doesn't it? I'll apply to Bennington College in Vermont, too. They require some slightly different stuff, so the process of putting their packet together begins today. While the prospect of traveling to Anchorage every summer for intensive study is intriguing, the program there is new. The program at Bennington is well established, held in high regard and flaunts an impressive faculty of published writers who hold all sorts of prestigious awards. So I'm leaning toward Bennington as my first choice. There's also a program at the University of Southern Maine that looks great, so I may apply there too, although the soonest I can expect to get into that program is January with a September application. There are other good programs; Antioch in L.A., Pacific University in Portland, etc. I've lived in those cities. Been there, done that. I want to go someplace new. These are all low-residency programs, so most of the work is done from wherever a writer lives, with intensive study sessions on campus twice each year.
Last week, while walking the dogs, I noticed two pheasants casually hanging out in the road. As we approached, I saw another large bird swoop down. In a fantastically frenzied flurry of pheasant feathers, the hawk tried, but failed to nab his breakfast. Unfortunately for him, both pheasants got away. Honestly, I was rooting for the hawk. This was a mature i'o. The photo I posted on this site awhile back was apparently a juvenile bird. This one was full grown with a white chest and charcoal black feathers. He flew back up to his perch above the road, which wasn't very high. I got a good look at him, and he at me. Too cool.
I have four days off from the winery; four days during which I do not have to explain what jaboticaba is why we don't put nuts in our macadamia nut honey wine. Yay!
A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Smelling good!

Ron swore he saw several pigs in the yard today. He said they were riding in an ark. Or maybe it was a canoe. I went for a walk with the poochies despite the rain. Actually, I did it to spite the rain. Like the rain cares. No need to give the dogs a bath this month. They got so soaked, they're now squeaky clean after a good drenching and a towel dry.

Not all wet dog smell is created equal. Each of mine has his or her own unique odor when dry. Each smells unique when wet, too. Fortunately for me, none of them are particularly funky. They all smell pretty good, wet or dry. Still, there's a bit of a damp-dog aura in the air right now. We'll fire up the wood stove in a little while, when it gets a little cooler, to add some smoldering guava smoke to the aroma mix. Then we'll cook dinner. It'll be a cacophony not of sound, but of smells.

There is no mist these days. No light drizzle. No spritzing. Just giant drops falling out of the sky in such great volume and with such velocity that we've pretty much maxed the volume out on the T.V. most nights just to hear what the characters are saying. Today's paper showed a picture of keiki riding the surf on their boogie boards. The "surf," however, was not in the ocean. The kids were riding on the torrent of water rushing down their neighborhood street. We've had 25 inches of rain since Feb. 1. At this rate, December's 47 inches will soon seem reasonable. We'll look back on January's 14 inches with great fondness; it will seem downright arid by comparison.

Now, I've actually seen it rain this hard many times in my life. I saw the water rise so fast in Denver once that, in the blink of an eye, intersections became impassible, the water instantly higher than the floorboards of 4x4s. That deluge dumped five inches of rain in a matter of minutes. It was exciting. But it ended just as quickly as it started. I've also experienced gloom and drizzle for days on end. I grew up in The Great Pacific Northwest after all and that's pretty much how winter goes there. As rainy as it seemed to me back in the day, my hometown averages only 45 inches per year. Shoots, brah. We're on track to get that much rain this week. Here in the islands, we get these funky, unstable air masses that do not pass through. Rather, they set up camp and make themselves comfortable. The clouds are constantly fed with moisture from the sea so they never seem to wring themselves dry. They just keep dumping their loads, day after day. Good thing this island is made mostly of porous lava rock. There's flooding, for sure, but it would be much worse virtually anywhere else.

Yesterday, we ventured out into the rain to pick up some stuffs and get gas. I went into the new Seven Eleven in Kurtistown just to check it out. I was impressed with how local it is. They are franchises, after all. I had heard that owners definitely cater to local tastes. Dey get da kine spam musubi an' giant sushi rolls l'dat. An' dey get taquitoes stuffed wit' potagee sausage an' egg. Whoa cuz! Goin' steal some da kine bidness from J. Hara Store right nex' doah. J. Hara is a venerable institution in the neighborhood, so it will survive. As local as the Seven Eleven might get, it'll never be as local as J. Hara.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wain wain go away, come again another day

Today Ron and I are having fun with a new adjective we've added to our vocabulary. It's not really a new adjective. It's just new to us. What is it, you ask? Why, it's dick wad! Here's how we've used it today:
Don't be such a dick wad.
Did you hear that guy on T.V. just a minute ago? What a dick wad.
That sounds like the dick wad version of that song.

With each use, we get a nice, hearty laugh. These are the types of things we do to amuse ourselves in the rain.

We also got a good laugh at the civil defense messages on the radio today. The man who delivers those has a slight, local-style Elmer Fudd thing going, so the announcements sound something like this:

Hawaii County Civil Defense has issued a fwash fwood warning to da fowwowing communities twoo-out east Hawaii..... incwuding Gwenwood..... pwease, do not twy to dwive twough aweas of wising water. Turn awoun', don't dwown... Dis has been a message fwom your Hawaii County Civil Defense....

OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Somehow, laughing at other people's shortcomings always makes us feel better about ourselves. Why is that?

It's still raining. My neighbor's rain gage measured nearly eight inches in the 24 hour period between Friday at 8 a.m. and This morning at the same time. By the time I talked to her at 10 this morning, we had already received two additional inches. When I asked how she and her yard and house were faring through the deluge she replied, "A river runs through it." To say it's been wet would be a bit of an understatement. There were torrents of water flowing everywhere we ventured today. We saw a fire truck parked along the street in front of a house just off the highway in Kea'au. The house sits in a bit of a hole and was surrounded by a newly formed lake, which was rising rapidly and nearing the top of the raised foundation. The fire department was there with a pump trying to drain the front yard.

We've got the woodstove cooking so hot tonight that I had to take a break from the living room and head back to the office to cool down.

A hui hou. Awoha!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Mosquito legs bug me

Bugs. Winter gives many people on the mainland a break from them. We have various bug seasons throughout the year here in the rainforest, but we never get a total reprieve. There is gnat season in the fall which corresponds to the waiwi guava trees bearing fruit. We have beetles, which swarm for several days following the gnats, then suddenly disappear. We always have spiders to take advantage of the gnats and the beetles. Then, there are the mutant mosquitoes; huge yet incredibly fragile buggahs that rarely bite. If you blow on them hard or spray them with a spritz of water, they whither and break apart. Mosquitoes on other parts of the island can be voracious. Be sure to carry your Deep Woods Off when you head into Waipio Valley, Lava Tree State Park or the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. If you're not protected, they'll eat you alive. By contrast, our mosquitoes don't do much of anything. Their primary proclivity is to venture into the house to die. I suck, sweep and wipe up mosquito legs by the thousands. Doing so is a daily chore. Sometimes the legs are attached to bodies. Often times not.
We also have the slowest house flies I've ever seen. Mr. Miyagi would have a field day with these guys. Even Daniel-san could have caught these winged irritants with chopsticks on his first try. I prefer to use a vacuum hose. They seem to have suicidal tendencies. I guess if I found out I was only going to live for 24 hours, I'd want to kill myself too. Their preferred locations are the window runners or between the screen and the glass. How they get there, I haven't a clue.
Even in winter, if we get a sunny day, flying critters hatch out. Tiny moths tickle your skin as they flutter and land on you while mowing the lawn. Yellow Jackets buzz into the house, then commit seppuku on the screens and fall onto the window sills. I guess we've been pretty lucky these past few days. When the rain comes out of the sky in sheets, there are fewer bugs. Fewer, but still plenty. And plenty of detached legs.
I heard some sad news today. Nori, my neighbor's adorably sweet dog, passed away. I babysat Nori several times. In these past few weeks, the only place Nori has wanted to go on her walks is up our driveway to visit her friends. Nori and my poochies would exchange friendly doggie pleasantries. They have become buddies over the weeks and months. Nori would then flop down in the driveway to rest while her mom and I chatted. Nori was nearly 14 years old. She's been struggling with her health for a few months now, showing signs of congestive heart failure. She went peacefully, in her own home with her human at her side. I know her mommy will miss her terribly. I'm going to miss her, too.
It's been exactly two years since I moved to Hawaii. Hard to believe. It feels like eight.
Nah! Just kidding. It only feels like seven!
A hui hou! Aloha!