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!