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!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Piglets without Poohs

Ode to Wild Wilburs

Four youngster piggies came into our yard
We saw them coming close and we tried real hard

To shoo them all away before they did their deed
But they toppled coffee trees with tremendous speed

With broom in hand, Ron ran, yelled and swung
We couldn't bear to shoot them, they were so young

They may have been piglets, but their noses dug well
enough to do damage, I'm writing here to tell

When the pigs get bigger, all bets are off
The oinkers will be braver, at us they will scoff 

So instead of just a broom, a .22's sting
Or a giant metal trap might be just the thing

Poor poor piggies, they're just trying to eat
Everybody wants them, to smoke their meat

A bounty's on their head, they're always on the run
When one yard gets to dicey, they find another one

Yes, the pigs returned with a vengeance tonight. They did topple one tree and were getting set to do what they do when we spotted them in the twilight.  Scat! Cute little buggahs.  Not for long, though. Da kine gonna grow biggah, fo'real!

I'm reading my textbooks for school and learning what a woefully poor fiction writer I am.  The beauty, however, is that I'm starting at the bottom, so the learning curve should be steep.  

$11.88 cents in recycling today!!  Oh, but it cost $75 to fill up the truck.  Cat food was on sale! The price of water at the reverse osmosis spigot rose from $1 for five gallons to $1.25.  Clearly, it was a mixed day when it came to financing my errands. 

I learned about leaf miners in Alaska.  My roommate Lisa showed me a leaf there as evidence of the destructive little critters.  They're like the pigs of the insect world.  Today, as I transplanted my tomatoes from small pots to larger ones, I spotted the tell-tale signs of leaf miner damage. That's what you see in the photo above.  I felt pretty damn smart, I must say.

Apparently, leaf miners live in both Alaska and Hawaii.  They've gone global!

These red leafed ti plants were some I planted as mere sticks, cut from a thick growth of them behind the water tank a year ago. 

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Nature viewing Hawaiian style

Ah wildlife.  Soaring eagles.  Majestic elk.  Oh wait.  That's the mainland.  This is Hawaii.  So the most prevalent wildlife here is.... Pigs!  Yes, here they are, baby swines - swinettes if you will - scampering through our back 40.  OK, it's our back four.  What's a zero or two among friends?  

This little piggy eats worms by toppling over freshly planted coffee seedlings.  

This little piggy gobbles strawberry guavas and poops the seeds wherever he goes to spread the invasive trees.  

This little piggy roots up the forest, creating holes that fill with water, breading mosquitoes that carry diseases to kill the native bird population. 

The thing is, the little piggies really are cute.  They are only trying to survive, after all, just like we are. We brought them here, then released them.  They survived, then thrived and multiplied.  We declared them a nuisance.  How fair is that? Are humans stupid, or what?

Today we made a quick trip to town for some light shopping and lunch.  We hit one of our favorite local spots: Nori's Saimin and Snacks.  We've learned a new trick at Nori's.  Rather than ordering two separate bowls at $6.95 each, request one mondo-giant saimin, then split it.  It's way cheaper than two separate orders and we actually get more.  Enough, in fact, to bring home for dinner.  Four meals for $10.36, including tax.  Beat that!

Yesterday, we spotted our neighbor Anthony across the fence and gave him a giant cucumber.  I think I mentioned in an earlier blog that we had oodles o' cukes. He loves our home grown produce.  His kids especially love zucchini.  It's a good thing for us.  When we have zucchini, we have lots, just like the cucumbers.  As he accepted our gift yesterday he said, "My wife loves these.  She asked me the other day, 'Are you bugging them?'  I said to her, 'No, no!"  We all got a good laugh out of that.  Anthony is a great neighbor.  He is now nurturing some string beans of his own.  Yesterday, he told me he now has full custody of his two grandsons.  One is in Kindergarten, the other in fourth grade.  His two grown 20-something sons recently moved back in with him too.   Sheesh!  The poor guy needs all the zucchinis we can grow for him!

Last night we watched Vantage Point, a movie about a terrorist plot to kidnap the president of the United States.  It shows the events as they transpire from several different - you guesses it - vantage points.  What a good flick!  Very exciting!  With each viewpoint, the complexity and intelligence of the plot - along with some unintended twists - grows progressively.  It's a definite thumbs up from yours truly.  This afternoon I caught some Charlie Chaplin.  The man was true genius.  He's hilariously funny but also politically and socially savvy. Who needs sound, anyway?  Not Chaplin.  

Friday, August 01, 2008

Silly musings

We cracked open Ron's birthday present today and christened it with a batch of chicken wings.  It's a fancy shmancy deep fryer with temperature control and a metal basket.  Uptown!  Lucy is now enjoying the box.  Here she is, relaxing.  It's really her house.  We just live here.

Today I totally mistook two Kona residents for Punatics.  I could have sworn they were Punatics. I even asked them, "So, are you two visiting from Pahoa?"  Shoots, cuz.  They looked like 'em. They dressed like 'em.  They smelled like 'em.  It just goes to show you, you can't judge a book by its cover.  It also goes to show you there are pockets of Punatic-like folk all over Hawaii Island.  With the possible exception of Waikaloa, a.k.a Haole-wood.  

Here in Hawaii, it's not uncommon to hear cute little ditties on the radio singing about local foods.  There's a very popular song called Fish and Poi, with a chorus that goes like this:

I like fish and poi
I'm a big boy
lomi salmon, pipikaula
and a large lilikoi

For the record, pipikaula is Hawaiian beef jerky and lilikoi in this context refers to a passion fruit drink.  Anyway, it's clever and cute here.  There's another song that extols the virtues of a certain roasted bird:

Huli huli chicken,
I love my huli huli chicken...

Again, a very popular song.  Now, if these sorts of songs were to be sung by mainstream, white-bread middle Americans about their favorite foods, I just don't think they would fly.  I mean, would you listen the following lyrics?

I like pot roast and spuds,
I'm a cool stud,
dinner rolls with butter 
don't forget the suds....

It doesn't really work, does it?   Or how 'bout if we literally translate the second tune?  Huli huli in Hawaiian means simply to turn.  It's:

Rotisserie chicken, I love my rotisserie chicken......

See?  It's no good, no matter how spectacular the melody.  Of course Jimmy Buffett pulled it off with Cheeseburger in Paradise.  

These are the ponderings that keep me up at night.
I'm pretty sure I need some sleep.

A hui hou.  Aloha!