Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday traditions

Christmastime in Hawaii! People have snapped up the sashimi-grade tuna and poke like mad, like usual. There's a shortage this year, which has put a damper on tradition. The fishery has been closed on big eye tuna to long liners. People will be stuck with less traditional fare this year like marlin or ham or turkey or tofurkey.
Besides tuna, there's also the annual holiday run on bamboo. It is Japanese custom to create a tiered, bamboo vase for the new year. Bamboo brings luck and prosperity. I'm surrounded by it, or at least I drive through a thicket of it nearly every day. So far, the luck and prosperity have been slow in coming. That said, it's Christmas and people are want to believe. So they ravage local bamboo forest, whacking it with gusto along the road's edge. Nobody cares much. It grows back quickly.
Mochi pounding is another New Year's ritual. Rice is pulverized in giant mortar bowls into fine flour. This is accomplished with great effort and the weighty assistance of heavy logs. It looks like a workout. Mochi flour makes tasty candy and cakes, chewy, springy and sweet.

Sweets. Ah, my teeth are aching. Love Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year.

Mele Kalikimaka! Hou'oli makahiki hou!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A dash of irony

A friend of mine went to the unemployment office in Hilo Friday morning to file her claim. It seems everyone's out of work these days. I have three friends here with whom I actually hang out on occasion, and of the four of us, three are on the skids. Of course, that could be a testament to the company I keep. Considering that I'm one of the three, however, it could also be a testament to the company they keep. Anyway, when she arrived, she found the office closed. That's right. The unemployment office has been furloughed on Fridays.

There is a great ad in the Help Wanted section of the Hilo Tribune-Herald this week for a Goat Herder. There was also one looking for fruit packers and another from a diner seeking dishwashers. There's the omnipresent local search for an astronomer with a PhD in Astrophysics and at least 10 years experience in black hole research. There's always that, what with all those big, bad-ass telescopes on our mountain. Otherwise, the pickings, as they say, are exiguous. (Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.) So to my mind, Goat Herder is the best opportunity out there. Ah, but here's the rub; you must have experience to qualify. When I read that, my mind was cast into shallow rumination (as it often is), to conjure an image of highly skilled yet unemployed goat herders by the score. They were scattered about the island, sitting, standing, whittling, humming Irish folk tunes, ready and waiting for their big break. I snapped out of my daydream and thought, "Shit. I knew I should have taken that goat herding elective in high school instead of Typing and Spanish. What a maroon! Que lastima!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surf's up!

It was a slow day at the tutor's desk. Shopping was a drag. The highlight of my town trip today was a bumper sticker that read:

Militant Agnostic:
I'm not sure and neither are you

It's funny, in a heady, heretical sort of way, right?

Then later, walking on campus, I spotted a young woman, so brave in her political incorrectness, sporting a t-shirt that said, Fearless Haole. Fearless Hawaiian and Hawaiian Pride are emblazoned on windshields and chests and biceps everywhere you look. There are Fearless Filipinos and Fearless Potagees. Never have I seen a Fearless Haole. I thought about getting a Fearless Norwegian-Irish-German-Scots Irish-Native American-poi dog-whatevah decal, but couldn't see where that might fit. No, the back of my pants is not an option. That would require removal of my Wide Load sign and endanger everyone.

The Eddie went today. That's the Eddie Aikau Invitational big wave surfing competition. Eddie was a renowned big wave rider and the first lifeguard at Waimea Bay on O'ahu's famous North Shore. He pulled dozens of surfers safely from the thunderous torrent over the years, heading into the giant breakers when no one else would go.

In 1978, Eddie volunteered as a crew member on the Hokule'a crew. Hokule'a was (and is) a voyaging canoe, a full scale replica fashioned after the canoes sailed by the first Hawaiians across the vast expanse of ocean from Polynesia 2000 years ago. The late seventies mark the start of The Hawaiian Renaissance, the birth of a resurgence among Hawaiians' and others in awareness and appreciation of Hawaiian culture. Almost home, the Hokule'a '78 sprung a leak. It capsized 12 miles off the coast of Moloka'i. Eddie swam toward shore for help. The crew was rescued by the Coast Guard, but Eddie perished. He was never seen again.

Today, the slogan Eddie would go graces bumpers, shirts, mugs. Over the years, several variations on the phrase have emerged. During the June Jones/Colt Brennan era of UH football, Eddie would throw came to represent the team's pass-oriented offense. In another manifestation, those who support the notion of a surfer being pulled out by a WaveRunner to catch giant waves rather than swimming to them, espouse, "Eddie would tow." Purists in the surf community aren't keen on this one. They think towing is cheating and are confident that Eddie would not tow. Here are some of my own adaptations: To get him to kick the football, Lucy might tell Charlie Brown, "Eddie would toe." Wondering whether or not to move into that home near the nuclear power plant? Hey, Eddie would glow. Maybe you want to sneak onto a freighter and travel the world on the cheap. Sure. Eddie would stow. Know a pensive rooster? Tell him, "Eddie would crow." Tempted to drive 65 in a school zone? Eddie would slow. Venturing out to the lawn, I've been known to say to nobody in particular, "Eddie would mow." In its most traditional sense, the mantra is used as encouragement, whenever someone faces a scary, risky or challenging proposition in life. No guts? Feeling apprehensive? Unsure? Seriously. Eddie would go.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

You can't make this stuff up!

Check out this story. Really, just click on the link. I know you'll marvel at what you read. What does Forrest Gump say? Stupid is as stupid does? Next time I find myself lying on the road in the middle of a dark night with my head on the white shoulder line, I hope no good Samaritan calls the cops to help me out. This happened within walking distance of my house. You've heard the expression 'brain drain?' I think the intellectual contents of this rainforest sink we call Glenwood has long been circling.

This morning we had a bit of a scare. Our neighbor John took a tumble into the bushes right across from the end of our driveway. John wears a leg brace and has only one functioning arm, so he could not get up. My dog Doc barked ferociously, sounding the panic alarm. He knows John and watches for him to deliver our paper every morning. Touser, the neighbor's crazy terrier, yapped too. Good dogs! Who knows how long John may have languished there in the thicket before someone came along and noticed him. Ron went out to check on all the fuss and spotted John in the weeds. Poor John. Ron got him to his feet, then beckoned for me to join him. He needed a translator. John's pretty tough to understand. John insisted he was fine, but I walked with him to make sure he made it home. Our neighbor Leonard knows John well. He says John is prone to falling and that the tumbles have become more frequent in recent months. John refuses to use his cane. I can't say that I blame him, what with only one good arm. He struggles mightily when it rains, trying to retrieve the paper while he maintains grasp of his umbrella. He insists on walking - it's that or stay cooped up inside the house all day - so we'll all just have to keep a close watch over him.

Today's beautiful sunshine was ruined by vog, which came and went all day long, creating a noticeable haze, a sulfuric stink and that tell tale, funky fuzziness you feel on your tongue. Yes, you can taste vog. It has flavor and texture. Blech!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mellow T-day

What a nice, low-key Thanksgiving. It didn't rain and while the sun was not blazing, it felt nice to dry off. We've enjoyed some cooler weather of late. Around here, that's an overall dip of about five degrees across the low-high graph. It's enough to have silenced the coquis. All's quiet now in the mauka (toward the mountain) rainforest, except for the geckos and a few winged insects that make buzzy noises. I didn't mind the coquis so much, since we had so few of them. The few will not likely become millions up here, as it has at lower elevations on the island. Of course, there is that whole global warming phenomenon to consider.

We spent much of the late morning and early afternoon indoors cooking, or at least I did, so it might as well have rained, though I'm not complaining that it didn't. No way. What took hours to cook was devoured in a flash, a fury of forkfuls stuffing our pie holes. We have some leftovers, sure, and pie too, with whipped cream for tonight, but really, Ron and I put a respectable dent in the bulk of the victuals. Good eaters. That's what we are. Grandma Steinberger, rest her "Can I fix you something to eat?" soul would be proud.

I hope the day was a pleasant one for all of you out there. A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paradise for the moment

Right now, it's not raining. The early morning was glorious. I zipped up hill to the Volcano Farmers' Market, which has become a hangout of sorts for me on Sundays. The air was cool enough to justify my long pants and sleeves, like early autumn in the Great Pacific Northwest. The place was packed. It's always busy, but today was especially so, a hive pulsing with busy bee activity. The sticky bun lady ran out of sticky buns by 7:30. I arrived at 7:35, so had to settle for cherry turnovers. Not a bad concession.

I'm suppose to be writing. I have two vague story prompts rattling around inside my head, ideas that are products of my memory and life. I want to write these stories. I do. I'm also scared to death of both of them. I'm a big chicken. There's a reason I don't write non-fiction. It takes cojones and, truth be told, I ain't got any. Never did. I'll ski the headwall at Crested Butte, but truthful writing, even in the form of fiction (and I do mean real fiction, not the formulaic, genre kind), takes real courage. I keep repeating the mantra, It's fiction. It's fiction. It's fiction... Then, Grow a pair. Grow a pair. Grow a pair. I want to believe that, by the time I finish with these stories, change the names of the guilty and innocent alike, embellish and make some stuff up, well, eventually they will be. Fiction, that is. And interesting enough for someone other than my college mentor to read through to the end. It's time to buck up, grow and pair and write.

You know how I said that at the moment it was not raining? Well that was moments ago, an eternity in the rainforest. That was then and this is now and the clouds are threatening. Still, it was a lovely morning. It cheered me up. Back at the market, the lady who makes green papaya soup smiled at me. I made the jam guy and his customer laugh. The vegetable woman grinned and blushed when I wished her Happy Thanksgiving. The hand-made tortilla dude clapped when I grabbed a dozen. The photographer showed me her new line of customer embroidered kitchen towels.
"I just thought of it and made a few and now they're selling," she said. She's got a keen eye and a golden touch. The coffee lady was comically frazzled enough by her long line of patrons that, rather than try to remember who she owed change and how much, just pointed and said, "Go ahead and take what's coming to you out of the chicken." It was a ceramic chicken; a cookie jar. She uses it as a cash drawer. I'm guessing she may come up a little short today, but she too was in a fine mood and probably won't mind. The sun was shining, the atmosphere sweet. The moss and the trees and the ferns and the people seemed giddy for the chance to kick off their rubber boots, shake off their drips, drop their umbrellas, lower their hoods, ditch their snorkels and come up for air. Yes, I'm in a swell mood, so much so that I think I'll zip back up the hill and spend some time at the gym. Wait a minute. I've got work to do. It's fiction, it's fiction, it's fiction... grow a pair, grow a pair, grow a pair... Maybe another cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Island exploration is our forte

The fun just keeps coming here with mom on the rock. On Sunday, we shopped for swim suits. A Phillips screw driver hammered into my ear would have been more enjoyable. Once I'd exhausted all the likely contenders (none of which I purchased), we moved on to jog bras. Much easier. There were a few alternative styles I'd never tried before and, having taken up residence in the fitting room and feeling quite cozy in there, I opted to try them on. Mom ferried them to me from the rack. She passed one through the door that looked a little small. Idiot that I am, I tugged it on anyway, trusting that she'd chosen the right size, never thinking to check it before donning the dud. Jeepers! I thought I was going to need the jaws of life to get the thing off. Some serious jumping was required to gather enough momentum to break free. Anyone who's ever tried to remove a really sweaty one knows what I mean. Just then, she arrived at the door with several more.
"Here," she said. "These are the water kind."
"The water kind?" I was perplexed. I'm a jog bra junkie. I had never heard of the water kind.
"I guess the kind you can swim in," she said.
I grabbed the bundle. They were all the same color; sea green. The dangling tags shouted, "Aqua," in bold print.
"What are you laughing about?" I heard her say from outside.
"I'll tell you when I come out," I said. Aqua the color, not the function. Don't you just love my mom?

Yesterday, we meandered through the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens at beautiful Onomea Bay. It seems every business is cutting costs these days, and this place was no exception. They used to provide complimentary insect repellent at the trail head. Now, you have to buy a bug-off towelette in the gift shop for $1.50. Being the frugalistas, a.k.a. cheapskates that we are, we opted to forgo protection. Big mistake. That's just a life lesson for you kids out there. Always use protection. It's a buggy world. Ankle welts aside, it was still a nice stroll on a lovely day. The foliage was lush, colorful, grand. Think Jurassic Park without dinosaurs. We also enjoyed some ono grinds on the lanai at What's Shakin,' a little smoothie and sandwich place along the scenic loop.

Mom and I were chatting about a friend with a successful business as we drove the highway home. This was the night before, on the way home from Kona.
"Sounds like she's found her forte," Mom said. She pronounced it fort, like Fort Carson or, "Let's build a fort." So I asked, "Isn't it fortay?" And she said she knew an English instructor, from England no less, who told her that everyone pronounces it wrong and that it is in fact proper to say fort.
"If everyone pronounces something wrong," I asked, "does that not, by default, make it right?" Devil's advocate. That's my forte. She sensed logic in my question, but insisted that no, if an English professor from England pronounces it fort, then fort it must be.

Today, she bought us a new microwave! Wow! Ron's been managing her money, so now she has more than we do. We've lived well enough without one for some time now, so it will feel like fine luxury to warm my tepid coffee in the morning, to nuke my soup, to zap some spuds. It has a browning feature, too. Awesome! Crispy is good.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Island Road Trip

Mom and I busted up the highway today. We cruised to Tom the Baker's to eat malasadas the size of Volkswagen's, then yonder on to Hawi and Kapa'au. There, we hung with the spirit of King Kamehameha and looked at some pretty Pololu Valley scenery. Lunch was nice at Bamboo. We caught a fantastic, Rose Festival rival of a parade along Ali'i Drive in Kailua-Kona. That's a wee exaggeration. It was a modest, fun, community affair. No roses. But there were kids on trikes, Knights of Columbus wearing fuzzy hats and school children dressed as pirates. It's Kona Coffee Festival week here on the west side, so they're celebrating the bean. It's actually a seed, from a fruit. They're celebrating none-the-less. Curry at Thai Rin was yummy. So were the Haagen-Dazs bars we grabbed at the gift store and are now digesting, tired, warm and happy, in our free upgraded, ocean-front room. It's been a hoot of day. Stellar.

Mom's watching a movie on TV right now. She says it stars Penelope Cruz. She pronounces it Pen-a-lope, like jackalope. I do a double take, then begin to laugh. "I guess I was picturing her name written in my head," she says. Indeed. Then I tell her about how Ron pronounces Sean Connery's name Seen Connelly. Nobody knows why, least of all me. We agree that Pen-a-lope Cruz and Seen Connelly should star in a movie together.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good boy, good time

My BFF Lisa ( Best Fairbanks Friend) challenged me in a recent email to use the word horticulture in a sentence. How's this:

You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her appreciate it.

Lisa also mentioned someone famous named Dorothy Parker. Famous to most people that is, but not to me, literary dilettante that I am. So I looked her up and now vow (brown cow) to read her stuff. She sounds funny, like someone I'd have liked to jaw with over a latte. Too bad she's already punted the pail as they say. Well, that's how I say it.

The groggy doggy Doctor dog and I made our way to the vet for a clean bill of health yesterday without too much trauma. I may now be deaf in my right ear from his high decibel whining, but otherwise we're fine. He's eleven years old now and needs an extra oomph to jump onto the bed these days, not to mention a ramp to get into the truck. He's also still a Satan-possessed psycho mutt, but otherwise sweet and sprightly as ever. Shoots. I need an extra oompth to jump onto the bed now, too. I do hate that they make us wait for so long every time we got to the clinic, even though we have an appointment and when there's no obvious emergency to preclude seeing us. It was a good half hour before we were escorted into an exam room and another 20 before the doctor strolled in. Good thing my boy was so heavily sedated. I might have done well to take one of his pills. Then I'd have been as patient a patient as he. Driving home might have been a bit sketchy....

This afternoon I celebrated my BHF (Best Hawaii Friend) Janet's 50th birthday at my other BHF Kathie's house, eating lasagna and giant wedges of red velvet cake, watching Elvis' GI Blues and drinking margaritas. I wish Janet could turn 50 every day. Janet's son, my BHTF (Best Hawaii Teenage Friend) Carson was there too, reminding us how much fun helium can be. Carson is a good sport, hanging out with three old... er, middle aged women like us. It was good fun!

We've had a few earthquakes of late. One last week registered 4.1 and woke me up. Another tiny temblor quivered day before yesterday. This morning the earth stood still, but we were treated to a fine combination of vog and rain. Ah paradise.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Furlough Fridays spark protests

It's a sad state of affairs in Hawaii. Here, in the birthplace of our president - a walking example of what a good education can do for you if you apply yourself - kids are being shortchanged big time. The teachers union has agreed and the legislature sanctioned something called furlough Fridays. Public schools in hawaii are now closed on Fridays and remain so for the next 12 weeks of school. It's unclear now whether the kids will attend the requisite number of days required for federal funding under No Child Left Behind. Many have asked why the teachers can't just take the pay cut they agreed to and still work those Fridays. That's what people who work for private industry are doing these days. (Those lucky enough to still be working anyway.) The teachers make an eloquent argument. You wouldn't ask a lawyer or doctor or accountant or other professional to work days for free, they say. We too are professionals, they argue, and should not be expected to do something for nothing. I agree that teachers are professionals. I also believe them to be a most underpaid and overworked lot, especially considered the importance of their charge. That said, there is one huge difference between teachers and other professionals. Doctors, lawyers and accountants are not paid by taxpayers, nor are their salaries negotiated by union representatives. Many do regular pro-bono work. There were so many options suggested to counter the furlough Friday idea that were not considered by either the teachers, their union reps, the school board or the legislators. Some charter schools, also public but allowed greater operational independence, have come up with cost cutting measures that precluded them from having to close one day a week. Needless to say, people are peeved and protests will continue outside the state capital every Friday. There are also two class-action lawsuits pending. How much will it cost the state to defend those? Sheesh. What a mess. Of course, you could pick an issue, any issue and make the same claim. What a mess.

Tomorrow I will sit in on an English composition class at the college. That should be a hoot. I never took that class. I'll probably go Thursday, too. The instructor is a favorite among students, so I know I'll learn something.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shoots and ladders

Yesterday, we borrowed a neighbor's expandable ladder and schlepped it across the road. I toted the front end - or at least walked in front, for who knew which end was really which - and Ron carried the back. We stretched and leaned it against the gutter. I ascended, the aluminum steps and rails stiff and unyielding under my feet and hands. I liked that. My pockets were stuffed with tools and my head with plans to take down the tilting antenna. It sagged at a precarious angle, ready to tumble. We decided it would be best to remove it before it fell and impaled someone. Like me, for example. Rusty, yes, but the bracket was still stronger than I or the screwdriver or wrench or hammer or whatever else I held in my wimpy little hands. I grunted. It was no use. "Shoots," as they say here in paradise. The bolts were fused with chunks rusted away, so I couldn't get a grip. We hoisted up the reciprocal saw fitted with a hack blade and I cut the thing into manageable pieces, eventually dislodging it from the tweaked and oxidized brackets. Ta da! What an amazing gadget! It sliced through the metal like buttah. I didn't fall and break my neck. (Been there, done that, don't recommend it.) The trickiest part was going back down the ladder. It's always easier to climb up. Ron was grateful. High places are not his favorite.

I had my eyes examined the other day. The good news is that I still don't need bifocals or reading glasses. The bad news is that, as my ophthalmologist says, "We lose the elasticity in our skin and our eyelids begin to droop as we age." Super. Just what I wanted to hear. Here's a news flash for ya, doc. It happens to other body parts, too.

Go Dodgers! Go Yankees so the Dodgers can kick your okole in the World Series! Go Broncos!

Did I mention that it's raining?

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Just unwrap and enjoy

One of the best things about shopping at Costco is the samples. At the end of almost every aisle, you'll find a cheerful, apron-clad, white-hatted person - usually a woman - doling out some goodie or other; a new juice in tiny paper cups, a slice of some new smoked ham on a cracker, a bite-sized hunk of granola bar. Sadly, it was one of those very offerings yesterday, there within those hallowed warehouse halls, that sparked a pang of internal angst regarding the level of laziness to which we as a species have fallen. One of the women had placed pieces of something from a box into small, wavy-edged cupcake papers. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the something was wedges of hard boiled egg! These were prepackaged hard boiled eggs. Eggs already hard boiled FOR YOU. Each one is individually wrapped inside the box. I'm still reeling.

It was good to get out of the rain for the day, eat a fresh malasada and some cheap-but-OK-for-the-price sushi. Other than the eggs and their impact on my sensibilities, it was a splendid island road trip.

Did I mention they are already boiled for you? What's next, instant Starbucks?

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Rain on the brain

October 1 marks the start of the wet season here in Hawaii. Oh goodie. Here in beautiful Glenwood, mud capital of the Pacific, we received 107.46 inches by month's end August. Stats for September aren't in yet, but today's deluges (there were several), should put us well on our way to a fat, 200-inch year. Did you know that algae can grow on car paint? Mold too. Our cars don't get dirty in the traditional sense here. They just grow creeping, slimy plant and animal life. Ferns sprout from the house gutters.

As I drove home from tutoring this afternoon, squinting through the water-logged windshield, I cranked the volume to hear the radio over the din of the fast, fwap fwap of the wiper blades. Some cheesy song played, lamenting the crooner's location somewhere on the cold, snowy mainland. She longed melodically for sunny Hawaii. I wanted to poke out the dial, to jab it with the point of my enormous, still dripping unbrella, but I was driving. To grasp the improvised javelin with both hands would have been tricky while hydroplaning, even for an excellent driver like me. So I turned the nasty thing off and mumbled some self-pacifying explitive under my breath. It's all enough to dampen the spirits of the cheeriest person, which I am. Ask anybody. I consoled myself with not one but two fat spam musubis with furikake from J. Hara store. Fresh, warm, tasty. It's Hawaiian comfort food with no ingredients that come from Hawaii. Rice, spam, nori. Sort of like lomi salmon. Technically the tomatoes and onions can be grown here, but the ancient Hawaiians didn't grow those, nor did they eat said fish. Yet it's a tradition offering, served at every luau. I defy even the most proficient angler to catch a salmon off the cliffs at South Point. In this warm water, that would be one sluggish buggah.

Why is Pago Pago pronounced Pango Pango? Why don't we change the English spelling of the place to reflect the native pronunciation? These things eat at me. Why is Worchester pronounced Werster? Bejing was once Peking, right? Should we not spell Phuket (Thailand) differently when using standard Arabic lettering? Fookette, maybe? Nah. I like misprouncing that one.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will work for eggs

Speed bumps. You know them, those jolting bars of raised blacktop placed across roadways or in parking lots to control drivers' speed. Today, I traveled a long, lonely road to my pal Steve's farm. He wants me to write some copy for his new website. I've been buying his jams and jellies for a couple of years now. Anyway, I couldn't help but noticing the placards warning motorists along the way of those sharp rises in the pavement. Diamond shaped and yellow, they look like yield signs but say, "speed hump." That's what they call them here. Speed humps. What an image. There are some in things in life that should not be rushed and humping is one of them.

Steve has tiny dogs that dart around in front of the car as you pull in through his gate. I stopped, of course, for fear of hitting them, and the gate closed on my car door. It's a thrash and bash mobile, so no harm was done. He waved me in, shouting, "Don't worry. They're fast. They'll get out of the way. We've already flattened all the dumb ones." Steve's a humorous guy.

He gave me a dozen eggs today just for driving out to chat with him. We'll be discussing further compensation later - a chicken, more jam, other sundry and intriguing herbs the likes of which I have not sampled in 30 years. Hey, it's Hawaii. There may even be some cash in the deal. Meanwhile, I couldn't help but feeling a bit like a 19th century country doctor.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Vog and silliness

The tradewinds are dead, dead, dead this morning and the vog, like Old Man River, just keeps on rollin' alo-o-o-ong. Our zucchini leaves will be fried before noon. Cilantro? Fugettaboutit! It's history. Lettuce? No chance.

On Saturday night, Ron was watching something on the History channel while I was, as always, parked on the couch, legs crossed Indian style as we used to say (though I'm sure that's no longer PC) with my laptop, believe it or not, on my lap. The announcer made a reference to Casanova. Ron rose from his spot and headed to the kitchen to get himself a beer. This was an anomaly, since that's typically my job. He stopped en route, right in front of me, and stuck his gut out as far as he could, swaying his back just a bit for added effect. I looked up.
"What do you think? Could I be a Casanova?" he asked, a goofy grin plastered just below the mustache.
"Maybe a casserole," I said. Yeah, it was hilarious. You know you've fired off a good one when the person you've just insulted doubles over with laughter, choking on his words while responding, "Hey, you should talk. That's not very nice."

Sunday morning we were back on the same couch reading the paper when he flicked on a football game.
"Check out number 67," I said. "Oh, and number 79."
"What about 'em?" he asked.
"Not exactly svelte," I said. His eyes lifted from the paper.
"Yeah, now those are some casseroles," he said.
"Good one," I said.

It's all about timing.

Gotta go indoors. It's a beautiful sunny day outside, but the air is toxic. No more blogging on the lanai today. (hack, cough, wheeze, gag) Ah paradise!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, September 18, 2009

What was that?

We were on our way to town the other day - we needed beer and wanted papayas - listening to that venerable radio news source, NPR. They're professional. They're knowledgeable. Master journalists. The two anchors talked about the exploits of a firm owned by Blackwater, the company doing work in Iraq. I'll admit I tuned out for a moment, mentally that is, my mind somewhere far away. As I stared through the window, the woman's voice faded, to become vague and distant, obscured by the whir of passing trucks with over-sized mud tires. Then, a single word wrangled my attention away from the buzz of traffic, the passing foliage, the dashboard squeaks.
"Did she just say, 'subsiderary?'" I asked.
"Yes, I think she did," Ron said.
"Un-f#$@%^ believable," I said. I didn't say that out loud of course, because that would be crude and classless, but I thought it. OK maybe I said it. The male voice followed, using the same word, but pronouncing it properly. "Subsidiary." He stretched it out, for her benefit as well as ours, enunciating with unnatural crispness. "Sub-SID-ee-air-y."
"Thank you," I said to the radio.

Ron listens to blathering noggins on cable financial news channels all morning, five days a week. It's his job, he tells me. Gotta keep up with the latest business news, he insists. The other day I walked past his office and caught a statement, admittedly out of context, that made me pause. A man's voice said, "In any case, that's a really very rare trend." Hmmmm.... Ignoring the really and very (adverbs that are really very much overused for lack of substance in the words surrounding them), I focused on rare trend. Now, if something's a trend, then it's not rare, is it? And if something's rare, it's not a trend. So which is it? If you're deciding whether or not to buy a stock, it matters. Sheesh!

If I never again hear the expression, "Wrap my head around it," it will be a happy miracle. I can't help but envision someone's cranium bent and draped like the clocks in a Salvador Dali painting.

"It was just so complicated, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it."
"Even the politicians who wrote it are having trouble wrapping their heads around the proposed policy."


It's a mad world, I tell ya, a cliche riddled, pronunciation mutilating, mad mad mad mad world.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A tutor, or a four door?

When I told Ron I would become a writing tutor, he said that was impossible, since I'm not English. (I have so rubbed off on this guy.) Together, students and I hammer home thesis statements and smooth paragraph transitions. We identify possessives and the need for those pesky apostrophes that go with them. We ensure proper tense and article usage, fix sentence fragments and run-ons; you get the picture. It's satisfying to see the lights come on when they recognize the errors themselves and craft fine sentences right before my eyes.

There is, however, a dark side to the tutoring trade, a sordid element, a seedy underbelly. On Thursday afternoon, a girl approached the desk while I was working with another student. She waved a paper in front of me, interrupting our session. I recognized the form. Some lower level English course instructors require that students review each assignment with a tutor. The tutor checks off each element reviewed, then initials the sheet.

"Sign this please," she said.

"If you'll just wait a few more minutes, we're almost finished here and I'll be able to work with you," I said. "You can put your name there, on the sign in list." I pointed.

"I don't want to wait. Just sign," she said, fanning the page. I felt the breeze.

"Nope," I said. "Can't do it." She huffed away, indignant. I looked at the girl beside me, a more honorable student, who shrugged and smiled. I returned both gestures, then sat back in my chair, the proud, tutor-warrior. That's right. It's me and Steve McGarrett, a.k.a. Jack Lord, thwarting the evil doers that would snag the moral fiber of Hawaii. Book 'em, Danno! (Feel free to play the Hawaii Five-O theme song in your own head as you continue to read this blog. Oh, and picture those hunky canoe paddlers too, if you like.)

We attended an intimate shindig tonight to celebrate a friend's husband's birthday. Burgers, dogs, some killer blueberry cheesecake, enough alcohol to supply the seventh fleet on leave and excellent company all made for a pleasant evening. The party was held at a cabin at Kilauea Military Camp. The happy couple rents one every year for the occasion. It was a swell dwelling with three bedrooms, a fireplace, full kitchen and some comfy couches. Nice digs. Nicer than my house. A room at Motel 6 is nicer than my house. Not to knock Motel 6. I wonder... do they still have Magic Fingers? You put a quarter into a slot in a gray box mounted on the nightstand and the bed begins to vibrate at about a 4.2 on the richter scale. Anybody remember those?

It's not raining tonight and the sky is clear. You can see the southern cross and the north star from my backyard.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A typical day

I am standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes when I hear Ron get up from his nap.  

"What do you want for dinner tonight?"  He asks.  This is the first and most important question we address most days.
"I don't know.  Anything," I say.  This is my customary answer.  (It's our version of, What do you want to do?  I don't know.  What do you want to do?)  
"We can have that masala sauce we bought the other day with some chicken and stir-fry vegetables," he says.
"We have stir fry vegetables?" I confirm. 
"Yep.  I bought some," he says.  
"Sounds good to me," I say.  "Are you getting up?" I ask, dishes rumbling in the sink.
"No. I just had to pee," he says.  (Are you riveted yet?  I swear to Pele, this is how boring we really are.)
"OK. Have a nice nappy," I say.  That's what we call it.  A nappy.  I resume with the dishes. Left to my own, inner mental devices, it's not long before I've conjured up a song, inspired by carrots and snow peas and shitake mushrooms.  "Stir fry, don't bother me, stir fry, don't bother me...." Of course, I think it's hilarious and genius.  I am well entertained by myself.  (Only-child syndrome persists well into the AARP years.)  I croon away, the same refrain, over and over, chorus only, because I don't remember the verses to Shoe Fly - that's the model for this ditty - so I can't make up alternative words for those parts. 
The next thing I know, Ron is standing at the end of the hallway, leaning against the wall, arms crossed, staring at me. 
"Are you listening to yourself?"  He says.
"Why would I do that?" I say.  He turns to head for bed and I realize my singing might be too loud for him to sleep (it's a small house).  I take it down a notch, almost whispering, "Stir fry, don't bother me..."  Then I hear him chuckle.  He can't stop.  Within moments, it becomes one of those run away laughs, the kind that leave you gasping for breath afterward.  

Later that afternoon, as he putters around the kitchen to make himself some lunch,  I hear singing.  "Stir fry, don't bother me..."  It's catchy.

A hui hou.  Aloha.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Plight in Puna

Adventure!  That's what my buddy Kathie and I had today.  We traveled to Kaimu, to The Kalapana Cafe.  It may well be the best burger you can get on this island.  The end of the road was quiet.  There were a few monks with shaved heads milling about in loud, yellow and orange robes. One girl in a bikini advertised the perils of mis-stepping on the lava when so clad, a nice strawberry on her thigh and a bleeding knee.  A few tourists, a local or two.  A dog curled up in the corner by our table.  We disturbed her nap when we sat down, so she sauntered over to another, unoccupied corner.  Papayas were ripening on the trees that grew out of the gravel adjacent to the place.  Coconut palms, noni and mango trees lined the parking lot. Kalapana Cafe may be the only burger joint in the world with outdoor seating and fresh orchids to accent each table.  We ate a satisfying, all-American lunch, then meandered out onto the pahoehoe ourselves, not wearing bikinis, thankful for red cinder dusting the trail, marking the easiest path to the shore.  The wind blew our hair back.

"Dudette?  How high is your forhead?"
"I don't know.  How high is yours?"

It was a beautiful, stiff tradewind day, clear enough to see all the way up the slope to Pu'u o'o, the source of the current flow of lava to the sea.

We hiked back, slid onto the leather seats of Kathie's Lexus and headed home.
"Hey," she asked as we traveled along Highway 130 en-route to her house.  "Have you ever been to the steam caves?"
"You mean the steam vents?  The one's at Volcanoes National Park?" I asked.
"No, they're caves, right along here somewhere."
"Cool.  Nope.  I've never seen those."
"Look for the scenic point sign.  We'll have a little adventure."
We spotted the sign and the pullout.  "It's down here," she said as we approached the edge of the road. We began our descent off the side of the highway along a narrow, easy-to-miss path through the brush.  It was overgrown and rocky.  We bush-wacked some, and it wasn't long before we happened upon a fork in the trail.  Following Yogi's advice, we took it.  The fork, that is.  Then we took several more.  "I have no idea where we are," Kathie said.  Ah, but it's an island.  Big as it is, how lost can you get?  Winding, twisting, stepping with care, the thorns of invasive berry bushes scratched our shins and imbedded their spines into my shirt.  Lava cinders crunched underfoot.  It was fun!  We searched, but found no caves.   A few piles of rock, stained with white and yellow sulfur, were all that remained.  At one time the piles were caves with benches to sit on; natural saunas steaming with geothermal warmth.  It was unclear if the caves had colapsed naturally or had been taken down on purpose.  We wound our way, knowing only that to get back to the car we must walk uphill.  The highway appeared, and while we hadn't found the caverns, we'd had a jaunt. Kathie grabbed for her keys as they dangled from a hook on her day pack.  

"Uh oh," she said, fumbling through them. 
"Uh oh what?" I said.
"My key.  To the car.  It's gone."
Now, my friend Kathie has a wad of keys that would be the envy of any self-respecting maintenance man.  There were at least a dozen of all shapes and sizes, jingling like sleigh bells from two carabiners.  I'm sure she had no idea what some of them opened.  The only one missing was the one we knew we needed.

"Well, maybe you just lost it when you grabbed them," I said.  "Maybe it just fell right here on the road or near the car."  We walked along, scanning the ground.  No key. Looking for it along the route we'd just trudged would have been like trying to find a contact lens on Mount Whitney in a blizzard.  In the dark.  Oh, and did I mention that there's no cell phone service in parts of lower Puna?  We were stuck.

So, we stuck out our thumbs.  Two cars passed before a third pulled over.  It was a woman we recognized from the shore where we'd hiked earlier across the lava.  She recognized us too.   Her name was Candace, a Sociology Professor from Chicago.  She listened to our story and was kind enough to take us to the cross street nearest Kathie's house.  We walked from there to retrieve her extra key, pet her adorable dogs and to cool off with a beer.   The two of us began to ponder who we might call to give us a ride back to her car.  Ron was in town, shopping, unaware of our plight and not carrying a cell phone.  Ray, her husband, works atop Mauna Kea, the great mountain, far, far away. 

"I need to get more friends here," she said.
"Me too," I said.   

After several calls came up short, she connected with her pal Tiffany, who it just so happened was in Kea'au, not 15 minutes away.  "Sure," Tiffany said.  "No problem."  

Once safely delivered to the Lexus, we traveled to Pahoa to treat our savior to a thank-you margarita.  All was well and again right with the world.

The funniest thing about this story was how stressed and sorry Kathie was, though I still got her to laugh about it all, while I remained un-phased and without worry.  She had been the one to lose the key, but it could have been me.  In fact, it should have been me.  It's just the sort of think that would happen to me.  It was an outright pleasure to accompany someone else in such a predicament, acting as sidekick to her hour of oops instead of being the star of my own.  Kathie, I'll lose keys and hitch across the island with you any day.   It was a blast!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Word goulash

Ah blissful ignorance!  A year ago, I had no problem launching into a new project, typing away for hours on end, tiny springs in my fingers, a story teller telling a story, welling with confidence.  No misgivings.  No reticence.  I was good and I knew it.  I had been accepted to a program, goll-dernit and my mother and friends had been telling me I was awesome for half a century.  Now, I know better.  I have been trained to recognize crap when I read it, and when I write it.  I can still spend hours piling words onto a page, only to see them for what they are; a rambling, aimless heap of dung.  There's no story in this effort and there may never be.  It's words, sentences, paragraphs, lying around haphazard, like Jenga blocks after somebody gets cocky and pulls too hard, or too slow, and the tower crumbles.  Some of the sentences are good, no doubt, but it will take Herculean effort and no small amount of luck to assemble and re-write it all into something readable.  

So today, I walk away from the pile.  I will leave it, jumbled on the page, to stew like rhetorical chowder. Fresh eyes will take a peek at it later in the week, but no sooner.  Meanwhile, I shall plunk out an unrelated essay discussing someone else's story, a real writer, someone who knew what the hell he was doing, or at least who made it look that way.  Ah, but before that, there are dishes to wash.  No story there, either.  Just a mound of bowls and plates and pans and cups.  

A hui hou.  Aloha!  

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pimp my brain

Four miles in 45 minutes, 12 seconds today on the guinea pig wheel, aka the treadmill.  Woohoo!  My sneakers were like tiny rockets, flames blasting from their heels.  Smoke billowed up from the rubber conveyor.  Smokin'!  

As it turns out, I lost three pounds at the residency.  Makes me rethink my diet strategy.  Move over Jenny Craig.  Outa the way Weight Watchers.  No exercise, extreme sleep deprivation, college cafeteria food, tables sprinkled with mini-candy bars, occasional cookies, plenty of carrot cake and ample amounts of alcohol consumed well into the wee hours - that's the ticket. Follow that with a train ride and three days eating hunks of halibut as big as your head, wash them down with heavy ale and those pounds just melt away.  

As I read the job postings for English Composition and Creative Writing instructors at colleges across the country, I can't help notice one glaring element they all have in common; college teaching experience required.  I have teaching experience, but I don't think it will impress the interviewers of academia.   It's all the outdoor variety and has nothing to do with writing.  Unless you view carving turns on the corduroy as a type of artful script.  Powder 'S' anyone?   Man, I'm getting the itch to slide.  It's August.  There's an El Nino forming in the Pacific.  Could be an epic winter.  Anybody got any frequent flyer miles they can't use?  

I met with an English professor at UH Hilo Tuesday to discuss how I might pimp myself out to him as an assistant in his creative writing classes.  He was smart, cordial and supportive, but told me it's too late for this semester and referred me to four books on pedagogy to prep for teaching English Composition to students of diverse backgrounds, primarily, as he called them, dialectic speakers like many who attend the local schools.  OK den.  He suggested I assist with English Comp and actually enroll in his senior creative writing class.  Maybe.  I'm already paying bookoo kala to attend a masters program in Alaska, so the notion of paying for yet another class gives my wallet da kine chicken skin.  He's a widely published professor with vast teaching experience, not to mention an exalted reputation with his students.  No doubt, I'd learn gobs.  

Yesterday, I contacted the director of what's called The Learning Center at Hawaii Community College and offered my services as a writing tutor.  Bingo!  She was very enthusiastic about bringing me into the tutoring fold, signed me up for tutor orientation and promised to call next week to schedule a meeting.  Cool.  Tutoring might be a better, more practical place to start. 

So, things are looking up here on the rock.   I still want to go home, but it doesn't have to be tomorrow.

Hoppsy rolled on a dead rat this afternoon, so it was bath time for doggies tonight.  The walls are still wet with shake spray.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rooster Scare

Ron and I took a quick trip to town for out third fleecing of the week by Hilo grocers.  We were out of TP and diesel for the convertible (aka the tractor) and needed tofu for the stir fry he wants to make tonight, so we loaded the trash and the reusable shopping bags into the car and headed for town.  Stopping at the Glenwood transfer station to unload the trunk of rubbish (no trash service here, folks) we proceeded on to an otherwise uneventful if hot, muggy and wallet-emptying sojourn.  Our highlight came in the form of a woman, older than Delaware, walking at the speed of frozen syrup, out of the store and along the sidewalk as we walked in.  She was wearing an orange and yellow flowered smock, black and white checkered capris and a floppy hat that seemed to weigh her head down on one side, cocking it to the left.  She passed us and was just far enough to be out of earshot when Ron said,  "Now that's an outfit." He leaned toward me as he said it, talking out of the side of his mouth like a bad ventriloquist, while at the exact same time I mumbled, "Nice ensemble, auntie."  Then, of course, we proceeded to giggle all the way into that arctic blast you get when you enter a grocery store in Hilo in August.

The KTA was packed, as ever, and we dawdled, as always, this time over the plethora of noodles in the vast asian food aisle - soba, udon, somen, chow funn - reading countries of origin on cans of clams (I found one from the USA).  We checked out the chirashi bowls in the sushi cooler but deciding to pass and get just a tiny tub of tako poke to nibble on instead.  I do miss those days when we didn't have to pick and choose based on price. Twenty dollar square of toro tuna?  No problem.  Two thick, local, grass-fed rib eye steaks?  Sounds perfect.  Chunk of smoked salmon, wild caught from Alaska?  Great. Sixpack of Mehana?  Who cares if it's 12 bucks?  Throw it all in the basket.  Sadly, those days are gone.  I did opt to pay 35 cents more for the Hilo-made tofu.  Hey, a girl's gotta have some standards.  

When we returned home, the place was uncomfortably quiet.  
"Where's Charlie?" Ron asked.
"Hmmm," I said.  "He's usually right here."  Ron walked around the outside of the house.  I did the same, expanding my search to a broader patch of green.  I found a few scattered feathers and a dead rat covered with flies, but no chicken.  Ron went to the lanai and shook the food bin we keep there.
"The cats finally got him," said Ron.
"I don't think so," I said.  "I mean, they chase him, but they never get him."
"Oh I don't know.  They get close.  Alvin chased him all the way down the driveway yesterday and he didn't stop until I caught up to him and chased him off."  Alvin is our cat. Now, I know there's no way Ron, running head to head with Alvin or any other cat chasing a chicken, could ever catch up, but I let it slide.  Plus, I like the image, arms flailing, feathers flying. 
"Still," I said, "I just don't think, I mean, roosters are pretty good at defending themselves.  And he's pretty big."
"Well that's what I was worried about," he said, "that Alvin would be the one to get hurt."
"So, I think the cats got him."
"I don't know," I said.  I was in denial.
"I think he can protect himself from one cat," Ron said, "but two?  He doesn't stand a chance against two.  Or three."  I couldn't argue with that.
So the afternoon remained quiet, no breeze, no birds in the trees, no rooster.  I had this odd, melancholy feeling.   I missed that feathered, pea-brained idiot.  There was real sadness there as I pondered the prospect of his violent demise.  Ron went into the bedroom to take a nap and I did the same, on the couch where the fans blow almost hard enough to cool a woman of a particular age here in the tropics.  I dozed.  When I awoke, I felt no better.  I listened for a cockadoodle doo, a cluck cluck, something.  One of the cats sat in the window sill, batting a moth as it fluttered across the window, as if nothing otherwise had happened all day.  I rose to spot his two feline siblings torturing a tiny lizard on the living room rug.  They were smiling. 
"Jesus," I said, "you guys are relentless."  I went to check on Doc, the dog who, given a choice, would love nothing better than to burrow into a snowbank for his siesta.  I figured he had settled onto a cool spot on the driveway cement despite having two doggy beds and a rug out there.  I opened the door and there was Charlie, dear ol' Chuck, hangin' wit' his homeboy the Doctor Dog.  I can honestly say I've never felt so glad to see a stupid, pinheaded chicken.  I mean, have you ever noticed how much smaller their heads are than their bodies?
I went back inside, then out on the lanai.  I shook the canister, filled with assorted bread crumbs and cat food and seeds and stale crackers.  Charlie came running - sprinting - around the house and across the grass.  Yay!  That is some entertainment, watching a rooster run.  I rewarded his efforts with a big handful.  Then I went to wake Ron to tell him the good news.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Road trip

There's a tiny rash under my left nostril that's been bugging me for weeks now, so I traveled the coast to Honoka'a Town to see the doctor.  He gave it his best guess, shrugged, prescribed some ointment and sent me on my merry way.  I expected the journey to be rainy and it was, but only in short, bursts and squalls.  For the most part, it was nice.  No big surf in the ocean. No great gale force winds. It was just a day, and a descent one at that.  Felecia has fizzled and veered northward toward O'ahu and Maui.   

Tex Fine Foods provided lunch; kalua cabbage wrap, sweet potato chips and a malasada to bring home for dessert later on tonight.  Love Tex.  

The island seems quiet these days.  Maybe it's because the prospect of the now dwindled storm put a damper on things.  Maybe tourism is down a little more again this month.  Traffic was light along the highway.  Tex was not so busy.  Service was fast.

I had the radio tuned to a local radio station as I headed back through Hilo, en-route to the hovel.  They played a little John Cruz - nice - some Cecilio and Kapono - always fun.  I think I've mentioned this radio station as eclectic.  They feature many local artists, but also play rock, pop, country, old-timey - all sorts of stuff.  As I turned into the pharmacy parking lot in Kea'au, out of the speakers wafted Rocky Mountain High.  Rocky Mountain High!  What's up with that?  I just wanted to buy a 12 pack of regular Coors, rip open a package of elk jerky and cry.  As nice as this day was - even the part when I had the patch of skin directly under my nose examined at close range by a cute doctor with a tiny light was OK - eating ono kine grinds, driving the pretty coastline, I still want to go home.  

A hui hou.  Aloha.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Felecia en-route, she's a Hurricane to boot

I don't like hurricanes.  I don't like the threat of hurricanes.  I'm not keen on tropical storms, either.  That's what they say Felicia will be when it finally comes a knockin.'  Right now, however, she's classified as category four, which is no slight breeze.  Felecia is approaching from the southeast, which means it will hit our island first.  Now, if you look at a globe, you can see that the Hawaiian Islands, the most isolated archipelago on earth, is but a speck on the vast Pacific Ocean.  You'd think the odds of us being hit by a hurricane are roughly the same as someone winning the Powerball lottery.  The thing is, someone always eventually wins that lottery, even at a bajillion to one.  So too do hurricanes, given enough shots at it, eventually hit these islands.  The last big hit was Iniki, which nearly wiped Kauai off the planet We've had a few near misses since then.  There are no hurricanes in Colorado.  I'll take my chances with a nice blizzard or a crackling thunderstorm any day.  Hurricanes suck.  

Went to the gym today.  Wrote a ditty about it: The Peri-Menopausal Gym Rat's Rap

Yo to the gym, joggin' 'long the treadmill,
Keepin' it flat, not ready for a hill,
Crankin' up the tunes, Green Day through the buds,
Givin' up sweets and layin' off the suds,

Crunchin' flabby abs 'til they burn like toast,
Metab'lism slow like an uphill coast,
Bones turn to powder as estrogen wanes,
Crows feet deepening, tiny spider veins,

There's weight to bear and some vitamin D
in a bottle-ain't no sun shinin' down on me,
Need a kinda mantra, to keep me strong,
Or a silly ditty, like this here song.

OK so Kanye West has nothing to fear.  Yet!

I think I need a job.

A hui hou.  Alo-o-o-o-o-ohahahahahahaha!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Cluckin' Chuck

Charlie the chicken.  I've taken to calling him Chuck instead.  Charlie rhymes with Harley, which is one of the cat's names.  Chuck rhymes with cluck which is what roosters do.  They also crow.  Roosters crow at dawn, of course.  They belt it out whenever they hear other roosters crowing from however far away.  They crow if a car speeds by or a bird sings in a nearby tree of a bee buzzes overhead or for whatever the hell reason and whenever they jolly well feel like it.  Ron finds this endearing.  He has already told me at least a dozen times not to get too attached.
"They don't live very long, you know," he says.
"He's a rooster," I say. 
"I'm just sayin'," he says.  "I wouldn't get too attached."
"He has a tiny head and an enormous body by comparison and he poops on the driveway and crows all damn day," I say.
"He's a good boy," Ron says.  "He seems to like bananas."
"He's a chicken. He likes everything," I say.
"Well, just don't get too attached," he says.  "He is pretty, don't you think?"
"Yes," I say, "He is pretty. Annoying, but pretty."
"He's a good boy," he says.

This is what our life has come to.  

Chuck's crow sounds like the intro notes to the theme from Get Smart.  Er er errrrrrrr ER.... I think mold spores have invaded my psyche.

It's warm and sticky and we're headed to Hilo to brave the throngs of first-of-the-month-yay-it's-pay-day shoppers.  Only the heartiest will survive.

A hui hou.  Aloha!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sleepless in Glenwood

Home. I learned on the way from the airport yesterday that Ron has endeared himself to the new neighbor by firing off shotgun blasts.  His objective in making such a racket was not to kill anything (although if the neighbor insists on being pissy, that could change).  It was instead to scare off the pig family that has chosen a spot near our water tank to nest, or burrow, or whatever pigs do to set up house.  Apparently, new neighbor guy likes to sleep during the day. He told Ron that shooting to scare them would do no good.  He insisted, and we've heard this before, that you have to kill them to get rid of them. Well, they're gone, probably to someplace quieter.  We were told we couldn't grow zucchini here too, but that was hogwash, pun intended.  

Speaking of noise, we have a new critter, another interloper that Ron has named and feeds and calls, "good boy."  Charlie the chicken.  More specifically, Charlie the rooster.  He's pretty, but annoying.  His favorite crowing spot is directly under our bedroom window.  His preferred time is 6:00 a.m.  Charlie hangs out.  And crows.  He likes Doc and is not afraid of the cats.  Did I mention that we feed him?  I know it's a long shot, but I'm thinking this could be why he hangs out.  Why do roosters crow?  No, this is not the beginning of a joke.  It's a question.  Note to self: must google why roosters crow.  Should google be capitalized when used as a verb?  Note to self..... google when to capitalize google.  Maybe Charlie is the reason those pigs skeedaddled.  They couldn't sleep either.  Note to self: look up the spelling of skeedaddle.

A hui hou.  Aloha.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pining for the Fjords

No cookies were tossed this afternoon, by me or anyone else on board.  No turkey on sourdough with tomato, mayo, mustard and onion, either.  Star of the Northwest was spared, as was the plankton rich, puffin pocked sea. It's a miracle of modern medicine (bonine) and a testament to the tranquility of Reserection Bay.  The mellow ride held fast until we hit the open ocean, where the swell was met with a storm that rolled in.  I stayed on deck for most of the trip, pelted with cold rain and a brisk, chilly wind that helped keep the queasiness away.  Gail hung with me for shorter stretches, then went inside for beers and warmth.  Thank goodness I had on my Gorton's Fishstick-guy hat.  

We saw eagles, stellar sea lions (on the rock in the middle of this photo), mountain goats, dahl porpoise, jelly fish, pink salmon and puffins.  The Kenai Fjords are grand, beautiful steep faces, craggy, rugged, stubbled with evergreens from timberline to the sea.

Yesterday, we spent some time at the Alaska Sea Life Center here in Seward, up close and personal with the puffins and sea lions in their habitat displays.  It's a nice nature center, with informative kiosks.   

The train ride yesterday morning was relaxing and pleasant. A woman sitting in the seat ahead of us was from California.  We stopped to ogle a glacier. Our car was quiet.  She said, "That looks just like frozen water." It was impossible not to hear her, sitting so nearby, and my head nearly exploded from holding in laughter.   Gail nudged me with a "be nice" jab of the elbow.  A moment passed, then her husband replied, "Ya think?" We were freed, all of us, to burst into hysterics.  

Tomorrow, we head for a short hike to Exit Glacier.  Then, it's back to Anchorage for the night, Seattle on Monday, Hilo Tuesday. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some things I've learned

I know that writers are lousy but enthusiastic dancers.  They are great huggers.  Some are good singers.  A few play guitars.  One, I hear, plays the oboe.  I play the ukulele.  Badly. Badly is an adverb and adverbs are for sissies.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  Writers.  They are adventurers and homebodies.  They are flirts and back-patters.  And huggers.  Did I mention that? It's true, especially at the end of a two week intensive residency.  They stand in awe of their colleagues' eloquence, wit, lyrical prowess and overall, kick ass wordsmithin.'  Writers are sensitive - especially poets.  They ache to tell stories. They tell them in verse. They tell them with prose.  It's what writers do. Besides dance badly, that is.  Shit.  Am I a sissy or what? Writers drink. Boy howdy can they drink.  Howdy!  Writers need encouragement.  We are fragile.  If you don't understand us, you'd do well to support us.  We do not need encouragement to drink, however, nor is prodding required to make us dance.

As humans, we are nothing without our stories.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Things go better with Joke

Last night, propped up, sleep deprived and feeling a little out of my element, I was about to bow out early from a party with my fellow writers here in the dorm.  It was fun, and I enjoyed chatting with individuals throughout the evening.  Truth be told however, I'm a little shy in certain situations.  Yeah, you read that right.  (Give me a break, all you knuckleheads who know me!)  Literary conversations with smart, well-read people slam home the fact that I should have spent less time watching Gilligan's Island re-runs or riding my bike or whacking fuzzy yellow balls or careening down mountainsides and more time as a thoughtful grown up with my schnoz poked into the pages of the classics.   

I was poised to muster a graceful exit, to rise from my seat and bid everyone goodnight, when someone told a joke.  A joke.  They might as well have started passing around the coke tray.  All the world's a stage for a joke junkie.  I stayed, of course.  And all that stuff about being shy? Never mind.

Friday, July 10, 2009


You wanna be where you can see, troubles are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.   (Theme from Cheers)

I was driving through the mountains today, gawking at the 14ers along highway 285, feeling fine, soaking in the scenery, pondering how I might figure a way back to this place.  The radio faded, so I hit 'seek.'  The numbers fluttered, then landed on the first notes of Man in the Mirror.  I started snapping my fingers, singing along.  Gonna make a change, for once in my life... I got to ... It's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference... and burst into tears.  Shit!

Did I mention that I had a lovely dinner with the Cress family at my/their house?  A steak as big as a tractor tire, but much tastier.  Of course, I've never eaten a tire, so I'm just assuming...

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Gloria Beim delivered the stellar news: I have no arthritis in my hip.  None.  Nada.  Zippola.  Did I mention this already?  I ran out of ginko a while ago and with the hormones fluctuating as they do these days, sometimes I forget.  Anyway, it's comforting, since my mother has two artificial ones, a titanium shoulder and pins in her fingers, all due to the disease.  Lindsay Wagner's got nothin' on my mom.  (For all you younsters' benefit, Lindsay played The Bionic Woman on TV, way back in the stone age. Now she sells mattresses through a gauze filter.)  So, all I have to say about the lack of joint trouble is, thanks Dad.  Instead, I have bursitis, with an excessively tight IT (iliotibial) band, probably due at least in part to the fact that one leg is longer than the other.  I'm not sure who to thank for that.  Anyway, a shot in the rump, some new orthotics and a bit of physical therapy and I'm on the road to recovery.  My literal pain in the ass is already fading. (We'll save talk of my figurative pain(s) in the ass for another blog entry.)

Gunnison was Gunnison, complete with people I know in restaurants and shops, walking along the street, at the gym, on the cot next to me in PT, talking on the radio, everywhere.  

 My friend Stephen invited me to attend a spoken word performance at the Gunnison Arts Center Wednesday night.  I started downtown from my digs at the Comfort Inn, but soon realized I'd forgotten my purse and wallet. Blast! How on earth was I to buy a beer?  I turned around and high-tailed it back up Main Street, figuring I could make it to my room, snag the bag and be back at the Arts Center is eight minutes flat.  Not so fast.  That's what the sheriff's deputy told me when he pulled me over.  Well, actually he said, "Slow down," which is the same thing.  Thank you Deputy Medina for letting me off with a warning.  I arrived just in time to catch the last of the milling and mixing prior to the performance.  It felt like old home week. Mark Todd was there, a guy so famous around these parts that people still ask me if I'm related to him.  George Sibley hung in the wings.  No, not the actor George Sibley. (Remember Babe?) This is the writer, teacher, philosopher George Sibley from Colorado.  I don't think anybody in Gunnison doesn't know George.  Mark read a couple of poems in his spirited way. The young poets were impressive, too.  Stephen did a fine job as MC.  Last night, it was dinner with my pal Delaney.  We vowed to make it our ritual to eat at the new Mexican restaurant every time I come to town.  There's always a new Mexican restaurant in Gunnison.  It was fun hangin' with all my homies in G-town.  To those of you I did not get the chance to see, I apologize and promise to connect next trip.  Yes, there will definitely be a next trip.

A thunder storm just ripped through here.  The sky rumbled and flashed, the heavens burst with a deluge.  Sheets of water defied the awning over my hotel room door and soaked the walkway.  That's what I love about Colorado.  It's exciting!  Don't like the weather?  Wait a few minutes.  And the rain?  No biggie.  It's here and gone in a few minutes.  The sun will come out tomorrow.  Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there'll be sun. 

I've included a little eye candy, a shot from Monarch Pass, for your viewing pleasure.

Aloha.  A hui howdy.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

In the air and on the road

As I sit here typing and refusing to pay for a wifi connection, I wonder if this kooky font will transfer via cut and past from my word processor to the blog. No matter. I’ll write it now in this whimsical way and hope for the best.

It was a fun packed, whirlwind weekend in L.A. La la la la la la..... I caught up with some old friends at a part Friday night, some I haven’t seen in way too long. Good food, chilly libations and lively conversation were had and enjoyed by all. There was a nice beach bike ride on a congested fourth of July.  It was so crowded, there were spots along the way where we had to walk our bikes, wedging through the throngs that had spread from party houses out over the path. My only mishap was a dribble of beer on my hand made my a staggering young delinquent shouting, “USA, USA!” Cops were everywhere - on foot, on bikes, on horses - as were revelers and weirdos. What’s not to like about L.A? Stretches of sand were completely covered by towels and shelters and bodies. The smell of salt and Coppertone and charcoal grills filled the air. Helicopters patrolled back and forth along the shore. Our friend Carol joined Janine, Lila and me for burgers back at the girls’ house and later a fireworks show in Woodland Hills. The next day we enjoyed some pool time, then headed to Staples Center where there was plenty of Michael Jackson hoopla. The funeral was today, of course. The early crowd waited patiently in line to sign a large, white board with a picture of Michael. We took it all in, experiencing a bit of history. I signed man’s autograph book upon request, giving my last, heartfelt sentiments for The King of Pop. There were people from all over the world. Janine chatted with a group from Poland.  

We found Trader Vic's for libations, then it was on to the Sparks game, LA's WNBA team.  The Sparks played well - for the first half.  They pretty much stunk up the place in the second. Still, we cheered and were treated to some great basketball. The ol’ timers dancing and the little kids jamming were a highlight that certainly beat the slutty cheerleaders featured in NBA games. 

Yesterday morning, I did my time in the dentist’s chair. Now, I’m off to the Mile High City, Queen City of the Plains, where John Elway is God and the air just a little thinner.  Then to sunny Gunny.  

Yay! The font works!  A hui hou.  Aloha!