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!