Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let it rain

There's a saying, issued forth by civil defense here on Hawaii Island whenever flash flood warnings are issued: Turn around, don't drown.  They've been warning of this for days. It's finally here.
It's a funny thing about rain, especially for those who live in the Southwest, that is, there's never enough of it, except when there's too much of it. For what it's worth, it's raining here too, messing up vacations, overrunning sewer systems in Honolulu just like it does in L.A.  As the toads frolic, I send you this Christmas poem.

Let it Rain
(Sung to the tune of Let it Snow)

Oh the weather outside is raining,
and this glass of wine I’m draining,
the tourists are mad, you bet,
they’re all wet, they’re all wet, they’re all wet...

Oh the sky looks like it’s melting,
as the rain, the roof is pelting,
the trickling stream's a-rush,
think I’ll just sit inside on my tush...

When I finally venture out,
don’t you know, I’m gonna get soaked,
so much water is pouring down,
toads in the driveway just croaked...

In the oven a pie is baking,
and another sip I’m taking,
so I'll sing with this foggy brain,
let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!

(This is why I don't write poetry.)

A hui hou. Malama pono. Aloha!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Roller derby, sirens and rackets

Yesterday morning, as the dirty oil from my car was being drained and replaced with fresh, I walked the mile or so from Goodyear on Kilauea Ave., to Island Naturals, where they have brown rice salmon musubis that aren't all that tasty but are filling and healthy for the price. Midway along my route, near Cafe 100, the tsunami warning sirens revved, then blared.  Had there been an earthquake somewhere around the Pacific Rim? I strained to recall, then remembered that they test the sirens on the first of every month. I'd thought they were limited to the big, yellow towers along the shoreline, but as I walked Kilauea, no towers in sight, the wale literally felt as though it was right over my head. I looked up to see, if that makes any sense, like you can see sound, and realized there were visually discrete speakers mounted on every other power pole along my route.  The blasting lasted for close to 10 minutes, which seemed excessive for a drill, and when it finally died down, it was as if I'd just walked out of a Van Halen concern, my ears cloudy, the traffic noise muted.

Life's been rough for our girl Lucy. As if going blind, being diagnosed FIV positive and a growing cancerous tumor the diameter of a dime on her tiny nose weren't enough, Tuesday night she came up lame, her back left leg tender and sore. The diagnosis: sprained knee. The vet prescribed some kitty pain medication for her, which should also help her sore nose.  Poor baby! We do love our Lucy.

Last Saturday night, my neighbor Kathy talked me into some unusual fun. The Afook Chinen Auditorium was packed with roller derby fans, there to see a classic matchup between the Fairies and the Scaries. Kathy informed me as we entered the rowdy place that we would be rooting for the Scaries.

"Good," I said, "because there's no such thing as Fairies."
"Never mind," I said.

As we entered, an usher explained that the front row, "the suicide seats" as they are known, are to be taken at your own risk.
"Or, I guess, if you're in a wheelchair," Kathy said, pointing to the opposite side of the floor. Sure enough, that's where they'd park three in a row.
"I guess they figure if you're in a wheelchair, you won't be able to feel it if a skater slams into you," I said.
"That's awful!" she said, laughing.

We opted for a seats up high, where we could see the action from a safe distance.

The affair was akin to WWF wrestling, but instead of burly, sweaty men, the main attractions were scantily-clad young women skating and bumping, sprawling and brawling. The teams had hardcore fans, cheerleaders (men wearing tutus with letters spelling out F-A-I-R-I-E-S painted on their bare chests), banners emblazoned with Go Scaries and the like.  We lasted until midway through the second period, then snuck out to beat the crowd and headed to Sombat's for dinner.

Yesterday afternoon, I dusted off the tennis racket and joined this same Kathy, and another neighbor, also named Kathy, for some tennis. We played for two hours, with only one mishap, which seemed terrible at the moment, but turned out OK. Barney,  Kathy #2's brother, went for a low backhand on a ball that had just whizzed passed his partner, Kathy #1.  Kathy #1 had spun and ducked to avoid the ball, and was facing the back of the court just as he swung, a full sweeping backhand.  The ball hit her, point blank off his racket, smack in the temple. Her glasses took the brunt of the impact, the frames bent, but her eye was spared. Whew!

Today, I'm sore for having not played tennis in years now, especially my right gripping hand and forearm.  My antique tennis shoes, which have been sitting on a shelf outside by the doorway, or in a closet, or in the back of the car, chose midway through our rally to biodegrade in earnest, the midsole on one shoe blown out, the heel flapping like a floundering flounder. Bummer. And they're only 15 years old, too.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday in the hood

Hope you've all gotten your flu and ammonia shots this season. That's how someone describe their vaccinations to me the other day.  My own, well educated husband used the word, "upsurp" just yesterday, as in, "The upstart could upsurp the reigning power."

"Upsurp is not a word," I said.
"What is it then?" he asked.
"Usurp. The word is usurp."
"Oh, well, whatever," he said.

You say pneumonia and I'll say ammonia. You say upsurp and I'll say usurp. Pneumonia, ammonia, upsurp, usurp. Let's call the whole thing off! 

It was nice just long enough this morning for us to borrow the neighbor's ultra-long ladder and send our  fearless neighbor up to clear out the grass and leaves clogging the gutters. Young Joe trod the roof like a pro, with the balance of an athlete and the belief in immortality and desperation to earn $20 only an 18 year-old possesses. What a nice kid.  

When visiting our neighbor, Leonard, we discovered the ladder being used as a table, ends resting on blocks, plywood planks laid across. 

"We had a garage sale yesterday," Leonard said as he unloaded the ladder of its burden to display what was left, the stuff nobody would buy for fifty cents. 
"How clueless are we?" I said. "We live right across the street and we didn't even know."
"That's OK," he said. "We know you guys are hermits."
"Hey, look at this?" Ron said, pointing to a suitcase with a price marking of a dollar. "We need one of these. It looks like a pretty good one."
"You don't want that," said Leonard, "It's OK, but not suitable for travel."
"A suitcase that's OK, but not suitable for travel? That's hilarious!" I said.  As we schlepped the ladder home, me carrying the front and Ron the tail, I was still giggling about it.        
"That's like saying, 'Sure, it's a great hammer. I just wouldn't pound anything with it if I were you. Or, that's a fine pan, the tool of a gourmet, for sure, so long as you don't cook anything in it." I had him laughing by the time we got home. Sometimes, the fact that little things like this amuse me so much is a friggin' blessed miracle.

Too bad we can't upsurp the raining power.  Ah, whatever. The toads like it.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, November 01, 2010

As promised, a flash in the pancake pan

Here's the link to my flash fiction story, entitled, The Lemming Sisters.  Happy reading!


Oh, and if you like this and want to support this funny little humor ezine, check out their merchandise. The t-shirts are cute!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pineapple peace

Today was pineapple pickin' day. Ron wanted a photo of me with the fruit, in front of some other fruit, to tout his pineapple growing prowess. Never mind that we've harvested maybe 4 pineapples in the five years we've been here. "You can't grow pineapples in Glenwood," says our neighbor Leonard. Whatever Leonard says we can't grow, Ron sets out to prove him wrong. This, I must admit, is our best pineapple yet, twice as big as any we've whacked before and twice as sweet. I attribute this to the unusual amount of sunshine we've had with this year's drought and to uncharacteristic patience, waiting, waiting, waiting, until the thing was actually ripe before picking it, something we've rushed with our previous harvests. For those who may not know, the pineapple belongs to the bromeliad family. Riveting, huh?

That's a lemon tree behind me.

Here's the big news.  A far-from-literary cyber-rag has written to say, "We love your story," a piece of flash fiction called, The Lemming Sisters. I'm a sucker for compliments, of course, especially when it comes to writing, so I'm way more thrilled by this than I should be. The publication is called Hobo Pancakes, an online humor magazine based in San Francisco. Some of the stuff they publish is funny, though some is crass, tasteless, juvenile potty humor, which, I'll admit, I also find funny more often than not. November 1st marks their third, quarterly edition. With time, increased exposure and better material, (like my story), Hobo Pancakes will improve and become the humor site to which it aspires.  My contribution is a fluff piece (and I do mean that literally) with furry rodent as protagonist.  It's silly, sure, but also, if I don't say so myself, well written, a bona fide piece of serious, talking lemming literature.  So stay tuned.  I'll publish a link on Facebook Monday when it hits the Web.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Crazy normal

My husband pads down the hallway in his slippers, thumps muffled by the soft soles of his L.L. Beans. He arrives at the lanai, where I sit with my coffee and laptop, working (checking emails and Facebook). He's got the paper in his hands and a grin on his face.
"Guess who just filed for bankruptcy?" he asks. Maybe it's Donald Trump again, or one of those famous TV investment advisor like Jim Cramer or Dave Ramsey or Suze Ormand. Maybe it's Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell. It could be one of those greedy bankers or mortgage brokers responsible for the real estate bubble and subsequent economic collapse, maybe an AIG, Countrywide or Haliburton executive, or maybe it's Dick Cheney, somebody who either knows better or deserves it, someone big, rich and in the spotlight. I'm intrigued.
"I don't know. Who?" I ask.
"Toni Braxton," he says. A few seconds pass. I don't know what to say.
"How would I ever guess that?" I ask. "Seriously, how would I ever conjure the image of Toni Braxton from that question?"
"I don't know," he says. I am stunned to complete silence. I shake my head. Blink.
"Why do I care if Toni Braxton declared bankruptcy?"
"I don't know. I don't even know who she is," he says. He-e-e-e-lp me!

The pigs are back. Of course, like an old fashioned love song, they're never really gone. A few nights ago, sitting on the same lanai at 7 p.m., a shotgun blasted out through the darkness. I jumped. Ron came running. "What the..." Dogs barked. cats ran for cover, except for Abby, who looked at me with a half squint expression from his chair as if to ask, "Is that something? I'll be worried if you are." The gunfire around this neighborhood makes me think sometimes I've actually moved to Gangland, U.S.A. and the state of Hawaii has hired Hollywood set designers to make us believe otherwise.

On Tuesday, we found two baby coffee trees unearthed, holes dug with such neatness and precision you'd think they used a shovel, seedlings lying traumatized but otherwise unharmed on their sides. Pigs aren't normally so considerate, more often opting to trample and snap everything in their path. Their piggy tracks were everywhere, so there was no denying the culprits. It was the one little patch of new planting without a fence. We had taken a chance with that, we knew, and the gamble cost us. We replanted and placed wiring at the base of each tree, our best, quickest way to deter the detestable omnivores. Ron is now on regular PP (Pig Patrol) every morning and evening. Meanwhile I stand, or rather sit guard from lanai.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swimming with no fishes

The weather's been pinch-me beautiful lately, so yesterday I made plans to take a swim, never mind the tidal surge my entrance into the waters of Hilo Bay might create around the Pacific Rim. After a productive shift tutoring at the Hawaii Community College Learning Center, a visit to Abundant Life Health Food on the bayfront for an organic cane sugar soda and a sprouting, sprouted with sprouts, multi-grain bagel -- which isn't a bagel at all despite what they call it on the label, but more of a donut-shaped doorstop -- felt well deserved after a morning's work. At the entryway to the store, a woman, 60s maybe, sat with a cardboard sign that said, "NEED FOOD." A young man came through the doorway just then and handed her a beverage and a sandwich. I watched as she settled onto the sidewalk with her gift, then went inside.
My own frugal purchase in hand, I returned to my car to find an elderly man standing inches from my back bumper. He announced that he had run out of gas and would like to, "earn" enough money to buy a gallon to get home. Thin as a Kenyan marathoner but frail and pasty, his polyester pants and an equally flammable shirt gave him a look that suggested he'd fallen from a jet liner by accident, a charter filled with pentecostal ministers en-route to a convention maybe, in the 1970s. He spritzed my back window with Windex, then rubbed and squeaked it clean with a rag. I handed him two bucks, thanked him, wished him luck. Out on the highway, I approached the first signal and half expected to see a Mexican man selling bags of oranges or bouquets of flowers at the intersection. Then I'd have thought I was the one who had fallen from a plane and landed smack onto the pavement, L.A., 1986.

Nourished, quenched and beach park bound, my swim suit, snorkel gear and I jiggled with the the rumble of the engine and our anticipation of a cool plunge in the blue Pacific. The plan was to hit Leilewi or Richardson, two local beach parks with great lagoons, but they were both packed, with no place to park but the street. That's the way it is every sunny day in Hilo, even if it's a Tuesday. So I settled on Onekahakaha. It only looks hard to pronounce. Break it apart -- Ownay...kaha...kaha. Put it back together. Say it fast. Easy. It's known as a keiki (kids') park because of its shallow, sandy-bottomed swimming hole, and there were, as always, toddlers with their mom's splashing about, but also a fair number of beefy, tough girls with tattoos and a healthy smattering of elders, drawn, no doubt, by the placid water and the horseshoe pits. Apparently, it's the keiki/tita/kupuna park, the latter group to which I must reluctantly admit affiliation.

I plodded across the pahoehoe, tossed my reef shoes onto the lava, donned flippers, mask and breathing tube and pushed in against the incoming tide. Hilo beach parks are not known as great snorkeling spots, but I brought the gear anyway, more for the benefit it presents when swimming than for spying sea life. Even so, I was surprised to see not a single fish. There were rocks overgrown with kelp that looked like wiggling Shrek ears, and an odd, white, worm-like creature writhing within reach on the bottom. Plenty of leaves floated on the surface, plus one sandwich bag, which I snagged and stuffed into my pocket. Yes, pocket. With my gams, and to avoid chafing, I always wear surf shorts, which conveniently have pockets, tank suit very much. A few sand crabs darted hither and yon, but no fish. Onekahakaha was relinquished to the use and abuse of humans decades ago, as were all the beach parks along this stretch, the shallowest areas long trampled and made inhospitable to coral. No coral, no fish. This shoreline was once covered with homes, but two tsunamis, 1947 and 1960, prompted government officials to rethink the wisdom of redevelopment. There are still houses along the road that will be swept away when the next big wave strikes. A few newer houses on the makai side (toward the sea), built upon thick, concrete pillars 15 feet off the ground, stand in stubborn defiance as they face Chile and San Francisco, as if to say, "Bring it on." As tall and stalwart as these structures look, however, my money is on the ocean.
Even without fish, the water felt perfect, the sun warm and bright. Just beyond the barrier rocks, the surf pounded. Spray caught by the breeze and blown into the air created a salty, fragrant haze. There was a high surf warning along north shores of all the islands yesterday, but some of that swell made its way to the east side, too. It's not every day you can see curling, six-foot waves breaking in Hilo Bay.

On the way home, a visit to Wal-Mart, my least favorite place, did what it always does; it makes me feel thin, less frumpy, classy even, never mind my wet, uncombed hair and wrinkled t-shirt. This feeling is always fleeting, of course, for the simple fact that I am there, perusing the aisles for deals like everybody else. My very presence in the store belies all the snobbery and rhetorical self-aggrandizing. The truth is, I am, no more, no less, and whether I like it or not, one of the Wal-Mart minions. So much for the healthy, sprouted, sprouting sprouts and the organic cane sugar soda. They sell cheap cheese doodles and Diet Pepsi at the big box. Thin? Less frumpy? Classy? Right.

Malama pono. A hui hou. Aloha.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cats, Cajuns and coffee

The coffee trees, dolloped with white flower clusters that look like snow from a distance, are showing promise for a fruitful winter. We've learned this week that a voracious beetle called the coffee berry borer has invaded our islands, one that drills into the cherry to feed, then further into the seed, or bean as it's known, to lay its slimy little eggs. These are not the same beetles previously featured in this blog. Rather, they are tiny, the size of a sesame seed, and much more destructive. These bitty beasts are a scourge, accounting for crop losses of 20 percent worldwide, and should never have become a problem in isolated Hawaii but for the state's stupid policy of allowing imported, green coffee beans. They're almost impossible to eradicate, since the larvae develop inside the bean. Who knows how many of these we've all brewed up in our Mr. Coffees over the years. Hawaii allows other plant importation too, and with lax inspection, we've acquired fire ants and coqui frogs in recent years. I've often wondered why they inspect our suitcases for agricultural products when we leave the islands, but not when we travel toward them. Luckily, no beetles have infected our coffee. We don't process other farmers' harvest (or even out own, yet) and we are nowhere near any other coffee growers, so we should be safe. That's not to say any of a dozen other menaces might not strike our orchard, but for now, our trees are healthy. Our biggest nemesis is fungus. This is the rainforest, after all. We might have enough coffee this year to harvest and process. I'm hoping for at least a potful of my own, medium-roast brew.

Last night, my friend and neighbor Kathy and I went to see the Red Stick Ramblers at the University of Hawaii Hilo Performing Arts Center. They were great, providing us with a dose of culture not of these islands. This band is authentic Louisiana, true to its Cajun-French roots, of the bayou, of the south. Check 'em out.

I had a job interview at The Palace Theater last week. Four members of the board asking about my experience with multi-tasking. I broke into a sweat during our discussion, not for nerves, but for the humidity and heat in Hilo, and thereby inside the old, un-air-conditioned building. They were a friendly, easy group, very nice, though they seemed more interested in my writing than my office skills, so it's hard to say how the interview went.

Last spring, our Lucy, the cranky calico, had laser surgery to remove cancerous lesions from her nose. The surgery gave her a cute little Janet Jackson pinch, which she has worn well. Her nose was much improved for several months, but now, the cancer is back, in the form of a tumor inside her nostril. It's inoperable locally, though the vet says we might fly her to Honolulu or Maui or the mainland for a CT scan, radiation and/or surgery. Lucy, however, is elderly, blind and FIV positive, so the vet also warns that doing this could stress her out, exacerbate her other conditions and possibly spark new maladies. She also tells us it would cost a few thousand dollars. So, we will do our best by Lucy, here, at home, continue to spoil her as we always have, and give her the best life possible for as long as possible.

Speaking of Lucy, the queen is on her perch, awaiting her dinner.

A hui hou. Malama pono. Aloha.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Hoppsy keeps on hoppin' along

Our Hopps is slowing down these days. She's grown finicky about her regular food in recent months and won't even take a doggy biscuit, so we've resorted to indulging her by lacing her kibble with goodies, like chicken or salmon. She still tries to sneak the kitty food any chance she gets. Last night, we played catch for a few minutes in the living room, something we haven't done in weeks. She can still catch the ball out of the air if I toss it well. She loves that. We travel her speed wherever we go. It takes half an hour to walk four driveways down the road, stopping at every tree, fern, bush and rock, sniffing, sniffing, sniffing. Doc goes along too, and he is quite patient with our plodding strolls. I sneak him out for long, faster walks when she's napping. The past two days she's perked up, with more energy than she's had in a few weeks. I even found a dirty sock in the middle of the living room floor this afternoon. That was a heartening sign. We've been finding socks in places we don't remember leaving them -- the hallway, the bathroom, the living room, the lanai, one here and one there -- for years. It's common in our house for one of us to come upon one and ask, "What's this doing here?" and the other of us to answer, "I don't know. You'll have to ask Hoppsy." I've caught her many time nosing through the pile of clothes I leave on the floor when I'm in the shower. (She thinks I'm not looking, but I can hear her come in, so I peak around the curtain.) She pushes all the other clothes aside until she finds a sock, picks it up, then trots away with it in her mouth. I find it in Ron's office or in the kitchen. She sometimes goes through the laundry basket, or picks up socks we've left by the side of the bed. She seems to like my socks best, though Ron's socks will do in a pinch. She's 15 years old with Cushing's Disease, a tumor on her pituitary that causes it to signal her adrenal glands to produce wanton amounts of cortisol, a.k.a adrenaline. It makes her pant and pace and drink gobs of water. We give her medication to quell the negative symptoms of that, but the tumor is inoperable. It also effects her motor skills somewhat, and has causes seizures, so she gets medicine to prevent that, too. She has developed a funky hop (Hoppsy) when she walks, but overall has adapted well to her condition. We spend lots of time on tummy rubs and ear scratches, and she gets good treats. Hoppsy still can't resist goosing the kitties and likes to bury her chewy bones in the yard. She also torments Doc, saving her treats until he has finished his, then laying next to him to eat hers, taunting him until he starts to whimper. As long as she maintains her passion for orneriness, we know she's feeling OK.

I went to the library yesterday to check out a couple of books, one of which they had (a miracle) and the other available via inter-library loan (also a miracle) that will arrive in a few days. The plan was to check them out, spend an hour writing, pick up a few sundries in town and head home. My butt hit the chair in a quiet corner. I flipped open the laptop to a story I've been wrestling with for days, (as I do all my stories). When I looked up next, three hours had passed. Three focused, productive hours, with no potty break, no drink of water, no dog wanting to be let out or in, no cat jumping on my keyboard, no refrigerator beckoning, "Open me. Stare inside," no husband wanting to chat or ask me to help him with something that he promises will only take a second but takes two hours, no Facebook (I don't get Internet access at the library), no emails to answer, no phone calls. The library. What a great place!

A hui hou. Malama Pono. Aloha.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fruity booty

It was a long drive from Glenwood to the northern tip of the island -- three hours -- so for sustenance, we stopped at Baker Tom's for malasadas on the way. My pal Kathy and I were headed to Kapa'au for a hike, one we'd read about in the local newspaper. The couple who run Baker Tom's (not sure if the husband is actually Tom or not) are delightful, with enduring stamina. They're as old as radio, yet they're always on duty, ready to serve behind the counter, as they have for many years, frying, baking, brewing and smiling, there in Papaikou, gateway to the Hamakua Coast. The malasadas are enormous, cheap and delicious, the coffee OK, the tourists all happy to have discovered this place, buzzing with sugar and caffeine. They make a killer pumpkin cheesecake at Baker Tom's, too. It's always a pleasant stop.

Ahapua'a. It's a Hawaiian land division, usually a strip or wedge, stretching from mountain to sea. Hawaiians lived in villages within the ahapua'a, gatherers up high, farmers in the middle, canoe-makers and fisherman near the shore. Our destination was a place called I'ole Ahapua'a, an acreage in beautiful North Kohala. I'ole, as a quirky aside, means rat in Hawaiian. As the caretaker told us, the land was slated for development some 15 years ago, subdivided and ready to rip, when "The Campbell's Soup Guy" as she called him, a man who had earned his fortune on Chicken Noodle and Cream of Mushroom, stepped in to buy it all, then turned it over to a Buddhist-affiliated non-profit foundation to preserve for public use and education. The land was one of the first areas settled by Christian missionaries on The Big Island. Adjacent to the visitors center stand a dilapidated school house, home and cottage, circa 1840s. The land itself is an impressive parcel. There are three hikes, one, two and three miles each, the two longer ones not strolls like you'd expect, but pali and gulch treks through rainforest and across streams. Ours was the two mile jaunt. It led across a macadamia nut orchard, down, down, down into a gulch, across a stream three times, then back up, up, up through the thicket. We were pleased with ourselves for remembering to douse with a generous squirt of Deep Woods Off before we began. I walked away with only three bites on the tender, inside of my arm. I musta missed misting there.
Along the way, we scavenge some nuts, sour lilikoi (passion fruit) and a couple avocados. It was a great place to be on sunny day. After hiking, we ate a tasty lunch at a tiny place called Pico's Bistro in Kapa'au, then drove to the Pololu lookout, since Kathy had never been and since I never tire of that view (a photo of it is featured behind the title banner of this blog). Maui loomed to the northwest. We caught glimpses of the Valley Isle along highway 270 as we ventured home, Haleakala gigantic upon the shimmering sea. A wispy string of clouds stretched across her like a cotton-candy bra. So close was the mountain, it seemed you could swim, if you were Duke Kahanamoku accompanied by his aumakua (guardian) shark, or maybe the shark herself, or a dolphin, or a turtle when the sharks are napping or busy escorting Duke.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mechanical aptitude and a close call

I returned home from an obligatory shopping trip yesterday afternoon to find Ron's tired fingers bruised and bleeding in his near futile attempt to put the coil spring back into the plastic circle thingy (that's the technical term for it) on our busted lawn mower. The day before, I had pulled the cord to start the motor and it ripped completely away. So yesterday we disassembled it, took a look and thought we could fix it. We always think we can fix stuff. Or at least Ron always thinks we can fix stuff. While it sat in pieces awaiting our attention, the coil spring, neatly tucked into the circle thingy, which is also the pully, leapt out, thwacked and clanged to the ground. The end that catches against a small, metal prong designed to keep it there had snapping off, freeing the spring from its confines. So when I arrived home, Ron had spent the better part of two hours trying to rewind it tight and cram it back in. Tough work with stubborn, thick, flat elastic metal that doesn't want to be rewound. The poor man's eyes had blurred. Half an hour later, however, he'd done it. Ta da! Ah, but now what? Which way to bend the end in the center of the coil to get it to again catch on the metal prong? The direction the pully would travel when tugged into action by the cord mattered. Which way would it turn?
"I think we should bend it this way," he said. I looked closely.
"Nope," I say. "This way. We bend it this way. I tried to explain why.
"I'm not seeing that," he said. This may sound like disagreement but I assure you, it was not. Over the years, Ron has learned and come to accept that I have a knack for these things. I see things, not dead people, but the way things work. I'm not always right, but I often am. So he agreed to try it my way and... Voila! We were feeling pretty smug as the engine roared to life, him for his tenacity and patience with getting the coil spring in place and me for my mechanical inclination.

Doc and I strode up the road on our walk today, happily cruising and sniffing (I was cruising, he was sniffing) when, from out of nowhere, an angry dog, teeth bared and dripping, ripped toward us. It circled snapping hard, trying to bite the backs of Doc's legs. I shouted and kicked at the offending beast.
"Here Laser. Laser!" A voice yelled. The owner. She was right there in her own driveway.
I launched a barrage of expletives. I can be profane when I'm pissed. Or scared. Or both.
You might expect, when a vicious animal charges after someone with full intent to rip flesh from bones, that the owner of said beast would be alarmed over such an incident, take some hasty action, feel remorse, maybe say something like, "Oh gee, I'm so sorry," as she holds the crazed canine back with all her might to keep it from attaching you. You might think that, but if you did, in this case, you'd be wrong. She just stood there.
"He's just a puppy," she said.
"Pretty mean for a puppy," I said. In my experience, puppies, like children, are not born mean. Dogs become mean when encouraged to be so, or after they have been antagonized and ill-treated by humans. This was a pit bull "puppy," maybe eight months old and close to 40 pounds of solid, angry muscle coming right at my larger, but much older, now-a-lover-not-a-fighter dog. The woman was young too, though not a kid and able-bodied. The dog was close enough to her that had she chosen to move her lazy ass with the slightest sense of urgency, she could have grabbed him by the collar and drug his snarling ass away. Instead, she just stood there and called to him. He ignored her. I lunged at him, shouted, kicked and finally spooked him back toward her, until finally she made a move to nab him and he ran the other direction, which allowed us to get far enough away that he stopped following.

Thankfully, the remainder of our walk was peaceful. Whew. I don't like that neighbor.

A hui hou. Malama pono. Aloha.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lumps, birds, dumb people and blog posts

My big boy (the four-legged, furry one, not the two-legged annoying one) had a recurrence of a bump on his face a day or two after I arrived home from Alaska. This weekend, it got huge, like a golf ball under his left eye, so I scurried him to the vet today. It's not a tumor, nor a tooth abscess, which is good news. Doctor thinks it's an infection, as white cell counts and t-cells are raging in the aspiration sample she took. Poor baby! This photo, taken just before we left home, shows him drunk on tranquilizers and ready to travel the 20 miles to Hilo. Now, as I type this, he's still pretty wasted and the lump has been shaved. Yikes! I hope the antibiotics work their magic soon.

There's someone in my neighborhood who I can't figure. This person leaves bread crumbs out for the birds every day, ON THE ROAD. They were there again today. Here's my dilemma. I can't decide whether this person is a kind, bird-loving soul who just also happens to be a complete idiot, or someone who hates birds. I'm inclined to believe the former, since I like to think the best of people and, in my experience, humans are more inclined to be stupid than malicious. Still, I don't really know...

The birds, I know, aren't so bright. They don't have the sense to get out of the way when a car is speeding toward them. Dumb birds, bread crumbs in the middle of the road and cars with careless drivers are not a happy mix.

I recently posted a writerly essay on 49 Writers, a blog dedicated to writing in general and Alaska writers in particular. I know I don't live in Alaska (except, corny as it sounds, in my heart), but I have a legitimate connection to the place. I spend lots of money there, for one thing. To find my essay, scroll down once you arrive at the site. There's also a fine post today by my classmate, Erin. If you are inclined to read such things, check it out.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, August 02, 2010


He was scrawny, ragged and soaked, a tiny, pathetic black and white kitten, hunched in the grass at the side of the road. My neighbor had called me a week earlier about a baby she'd seen hanging around her house. She was sure he'd been abandoned. I've only known this neighbor for a few months, but she's already got me pegged for a sucker. She called to ask, "If I can catch it, will you take it?" The moment I mentioned the kitten to Ron, I got the, NO MORE CATS speech. I ignored it, of course, and went to see anyway. No kitty. The neighbor called to ask if I could assume feeding duty for a few days while she was away. The food I left was eaten after the first night, but not the second, by which time I had still not seen the little orphan. The neighbor returned. No kitten. We figured he was a goner. Then yesterday morning, on my way home from the farmers' market, I spotted the adorable little wretch, a quarter mile down from the neighbor's place. I pulled over and approached. When I got close, he darted into the thicket. I heard him crying from the bushed, like he wanted help, but he wouldn't come out. I took the car home, then walked back to the spot. There he was again, at the road's edge. I bent and reached to lift him, but again, he bulleted into the ferns. I returned once more, this time with food. Score! He came out, famished. The skinny fellow rode my palm and continued to eat from the small paper plate I held in front of him as we trudged up the road, willing to suspend all distrust of me for a meal. Tucked into a cozy spare bedroom, dry and warm, his tummy full, he purred like a well-tuned engine. We cuddled. We fell in love. I knew if I couldn't find him a home within days, or maybe hours, I'd give up and keep him. I called my friend Janet, the first, best cat person I know. It just so happens that Janet recently lost one of her kitties, and she was excited about the prospect of being a new kitty mom again, rescuing a lost soul. I delivered him to her and her son Carson last night. They were surprised at how small he was, but delighted! Janet called today to assure me that our darling survivor has since pooped and peed. He continues to eat well. She too has fallen fast in love with him. Some might say he's the luckiest stray kitten in the islands. I say he's gotten the loving, happy, forever home he deserves. It's what they all deserve.

Monday, July 26, 2010


I don't know how high we flew last night, but two hours after landing, I have yet to come all the way down. En-route from Anchorage to Seattle, I woke from fitful airplane sleep to peer out through the small, oval window. The moon, its face bold and woeful, shone full above the wing. Below, low clouds, like crusty frosting, were broken by splotches of black, and through these breaks in the sugary strata, a great river flowed. Upon its water, up and down its length, the moonlight played, dancing in white sparkles, like tiny bursts of fireworks. The horizon curved along the edge of the earth.

The word amazing is used with cavalier indifference these days, but this scene, this moment in time, was. Amazing.

If a city's airport is at all accurate in its reflection of the place it represents, then Seattle is a fine and funky place indeed, worn around the edges, hip in its strangeness, strange in its hipness. There are dozens of Starbucks, sure, but there is also the Seattle Taproom, in which I did not indulge at 5:30 a.m. for reasons other than the fact that it was closed. There's also Ivar's, where, no matter the time of day, breakfast, lunch or dinner, I always stop for a friendly, rich, piping hot bowl of chowder. I could learn to like a place like Seattle.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Home in Alaska

After banging out some words on pages this morning, I took a lovely walk with my classmate/writer-pal Charlotte around a nearby lake here on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. We talked about our projects, inhaled the fresh, clean Alaska air, exchanged exaltation's regarding the mentors we'd drawn, and enjoyed the many friendly dogs with their humans who shared our path. The walk was followed by a nap. I'm still recovering from the residency. This evening, I ventured to town for dinner. Hanging out in coffee shops alone is one thing, but eating solo in a fancy seafood joint can feel weird. So I took a book to read, though not just any book; I chose one to perpetuate an eccentric, adventurer-to-the-great-north-country image, to help me look the part. And since I don't have a Craig Childs adventurer-style beard, a book about fly fishing with pastel watercolor salmon swimming across the cover seemed like the next best thing. Opening Days, written by another writer-pal, Richard Chiappone, isn't about fly fishing at all. Oh sure, there is lots of casting and hooking and reeling and fly tying and so forth, but the fly fishing is incidental. Opening Days is a collection of essays, short fiction and poetry about conflict, desire and futility. It's hilarious, touching and so beautifully written I became engrossed in it to the point where my halibut turned cold and the waiter grew concerned about whether I would ever slip any money into that black vinyl folder on the table. I did pay the man, eventually, then walked out into the still bright night, passed a dollar to a pathetic fellow on the street, then rumbled back home on the bus.

Home. Tonight is my last here in the dorm. This place feels like home, as much as any place. I can't wait to come home to Alaska again next summer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rockin' writers

It's our last night at the residency, and the final shindig was as fun as ever. Last year, I noted that these same writers were terrible dancers. After tonight, however, I've changed my mind. This reversal is based on fervent observation, and the fact that my friend, writer-extraordinaire Samantha Davis, has threatened to pound me to within an inch of my life if I don't retract it. She's no wimp, this Sam. She lives in the woods of Southeast Alaska, teaches eighth grade, kills her own food and fells trees with her teeth. Or something like that. Anyway, at Sam's urging, and upon my own visual inspection and participation in this maniacal frenzy, I shall officially confirm, here in the annals of this venerable blog, that these writers are not terrible dancers. They are enthusiastic, creative, goofy, whimsical and entertaining dancers. They are Barishnikov's with ball-points, journaling Jackson's, Pavlovas with pens, authorial Astaires.

Furthermore, these writers are talented, driven wordsmiths. They are all brilliant, and I am smug for the opportunity to count myself among them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writers' on the storm

Anchorage was beautiful today, the kind of day that if you flew in for a layover and this is what you experienced, you'd sell all your stuff, pack up your critters and move here. Until this morning it had been cloudy, and misty off and on, which ain't bad either, but today was spectacular.

An hour-long session with the editor for Red Hen publishing this afternoon had me vacillating between hara-kiri and an overdose of barbiturates as the preferred method of suicide. How do you like these odds: They publish 20 manuscripts for every 5000 sent to them each year, and you've got to know someone connected to the editor, or one of their authors, or be referred by someone just to get them to read your work. It helps to drop names like parachutes over Normandy in your cover letter, lest interns dump your sweat and anguish onto the flaming slush pile. It made me re-think the merits of self-publishing; for a moment. Then I remembered universities and colleges won't hire you if you're not published the old fashioned way. What a racket.

Time for dinner.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Cali days

I'm in Encinitas, Leucadia to be exact, with my best Gail-friend, uh, Gail. We jogged today, four long, grueling miles, and I'll have you know that I kept up. Never mind that she practically had to walk on her hands to match my pace. Just prior to our workout, I'd gone upstairs at her tiny townhouse -- which is like, 900 square feet bigger than my "real house" (and much cleaner) -- to change into my sporting attire. I bounded down the stairs to meet her on the patio, where I found her watering her tomatoes.
"Ready?" She asked.
"Yep. Two bras. Set to jet," I hopped up and down, trying to act like a jock.
"Why two bras?" She asked.
"I don't like to bounce when I run." She burst out laughing. I mean really, she was rolling.
"Hey, I bounce," I said. She shook her head and walked into the house.
"I've put on 20 pounds over the years," I said. "Seriously, I bounce!" She just snickered. I swear, there's just no reasoning with some people.
So we jogged, then we went to In-and-Out Burger. I ran much farther and faster than I might have alone. It's nice to have somebody to do stuff with. Not that Ron and I don't do stuff. We sit on the couch and make ooh and aah sounds watching Paula Deen drop mounds of butter from an ice cream scoop onto a rib eye steak. We play Scrabble sometimes and he kicks my butt, but in a way we are kicking my butt together, since I am, by virtue of my Scrabble ineptitude, complicit in my own butt kicking. We marvel at the cuteness of our pets. It's all good, to be sure, but there's really no substitute for a good friend who will jog or hike or even just walk with you and then take you to In-and-Out Burger.

This evening, we nibbled on calamari and falafels at a funky place called Roxy, drank fine beer, listened to an amazing Jazz guitarist, returned to Gail's pad, drank fine port and watched a movie. I'm feeling pretty citified right now. Sophisticated. Chic even. Tomorrow, I'm told, we're going to watching pigs race at the county fair. It's just what I came to the big city to do. Like I never see any pigs. Seriously, Gail-friend.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happenings in the hale

I have neglected this blog for too long. Ron was on fire tonight with what we like to call Ronspeak, or sometimes Ronisms here at hale Todd-Neiderpruem. I think that's what's inspired me to get back to it. Between Ron and my mom, I am never at a loss for curiosities of language.

Here's the scene. Ron is in the kitchen, cooking.
"What are you making?" I ask.
"Balsamic rice," he says.
"What's that?"
"You know," he says, "that Indian rice."
Of course, he means basmati rice. I suggest this, and he gives me a look.

Later, Stephen Colbert interviews the playwrite David Mamet.

"That's the guy who wrote Glengarry Glen Close," Ron says.
"Glen Close the actress?" I ask. Again, he gives me a look.
"That's a good one," I say.

My census job is, as they say here in the islands, pau. I am relieved. The funniest story to come out of it is one relayed by a co-worker on our last day. It happened just after we'd finished training, her first day in the field. She'd gone to a house, pulled in the driveway and found the occupant home. He turned out to be a very nice man who gave her a complete interview. She thanked him, then returned to the car to complete the form.
"He stared at me through the window for the longest time," she said. Finally he came out
and asked, "What are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm just finishing up some paperwork," she said.
"Yes well, you're sitting in my car." She looked around her and, sure enough, she had gotten into his SUV instead of her own. To be fair, they were the same make, model and color.

We recently lost one of our kitties, and while I hold out hope that he will return, the prospect of that seems slimmer with each passing day. Alvin disappeared without a trace three weeks ago. We searched every cupboard, twice, every cranny and nook. We combed the neighborhood, scanned the roadside brush, asked neighbors. I've posted signs, put in a notice at the humane society, put an ad in the paper. Nothing. There's no sign of him. He's the only one, of all our kitties, who ever ventured down the driveway except for Mr. Sox, who has been trolling this 'hood since long before we arrived. Even he doesn't go far these days, now that we're here to rub his belly every night. I miss my Alvin.

Hopps has been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease. She'll undergo an ultrasound within the next few days to determine the type of Cushings, then we'll decide on treatment. Poor baby. She's got cortisol coursing through her system, causing her to pant, pace, drink buckets of water and, worst of all, have seizures. We've got the latter under control with phenobarbital, which also helps her sleep better at night. With luck, we'll get her on a course of medicine to help manage her symptoms and keep her happy and comfortable.

It's always something in our house.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Goose steppin' in the rain

I've said that the majority of people I encounter in my travels as an enumerator are friendly, kind and cooperative. It's still true. I've come to appreciate Home Depot in a whole new way. Go to Home Depot, buy a home (aka plastic storage shed), place it on a flat piece of ground and viola! Instant dwelling. Add a few poles and some plastic sheeting and you're stylin'. And the fact that someone lives in one is no reflection on the niceness or contentment of that person. In fact, some of the most rudimentary houses shelter some of the happiest people. That's the beauty of America. We are free to live as we choose.

That said, we all know that not everyone is nice. Today, a woman asked me if she had to answer, grilled me on why the information was needed, asked if I counted illegal aliens. Then, she had the temerity to say, "It feels like Nazi Germany, having someone come to your house like that." Really? Nazi Germany? Now, I do look pretty ominous, a 51 year old woman with frizzy hair wearing an orange Big Dogs shirt and purple sneakers, so I can see where she might have felt intimidated. And I'm sure she would know all about what it felt like to live in Nazi Germany, having been born in the 70s. Comments like that must infuriate people who know what Nazi German was like. They infuriate me, and I can't pretend to know. I'm getting pretty sick of people throwing labels around without the faintest concept of what they really mean.

That said, I'm happy now, home in the hovel, listening to the rain wash from the sky in great sheets, my SS cats and my Gestapo dogs all snoozing about the house, my husband with the German last name watching old movies in his office but telling me he's working. My beer is chilling and almost ready for me. I'm free, free, free to do any damn thing I please right now. Nazi Germany? Come on!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Enumerating is fun! OK, I'll admit I wouldn't want to do it long term, but mostly, it's cool. I drive to Hilo, attend my meeting, submit my time card and completed forms, stop at Good Earth for a muffin and coffee, then head into "the field" as they say to count people. Most people, I've finding, are nice, cooperative and not scary at all. A few are creepy and paranoid, but the majority are pleasant, polite and generally swell. The paycheck is also swell. Don't you just love economic stimulus?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New job

It feels like ages since I last posted to the annals of my blog. Or is that anals? I always get those mixed up. The big news is that I am now employed, if only temporarily, as a United States Census Worker. My official title is Enumerator. That's a fancy, government way of saying I count people. Of course, if someone is adamant about not being counted, so be it. Far be it for me to press the issue, especially if said person looks mean or is well armed. Most people want to be counted though, don't they? The training is complete, but our enumerator binders will not arrive until Wednesday, so that's when the real work begins.

Meanwhile, I've been fighting the tenacious, tail-end of a cold. Just when I think it's gone, I realize it'snot, which totally blows.

With just a few short weeks left in the school year, my tutoring position will end for the summer, to resume next fall. I look forward to that. I enjoy it more than I ever expected to, and find the diversity of students refreshing. Lots of people, it seems, are returning to school. Nothing like a long, deep recession to get people rethinking the merits of education.

It's been a slow, dull few weeks, so I'm fresh out of da kine stuffs to say. So, to quote the immortal Porky Pig, b-dia, b-dia, b-dia, th-th-that's all, folks!

A hui hou. aloha!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Cats on a wire

More high drama this weekend! This time, I mean that literally. Upwards of 15 feet high. on Saturday, Lucy, our blind calico, wandered out to the far, skinny end of a branch, the same branch upon which our fickle, traitor of a chicken is pictured in the very annals of this blog, a slanted koa adjacent to the lanai. Despite her disability, she insists on climbing it, usually en-route to the roof, where she curls up under the eves and naps. This time, however, she decided to explore the tree. The thin, whipping branch could barely hold her. Mr. Sox saw her there, instinctively knew she was vulnerable and scrambled up the tree to get in her face. He can be evil that way. When he got there, he took a swipe at her. She held fast, but he lost his footing and fell, catching himself at the last second. The old guy clung by his toenails, all four of them, upside down, holding tight with all four feet. Abner, our skinny, fit Colorado tabby, watched all this from a safe distance. There is no love lost between Abby and Mr. Sox. So when Abby saw his not-so-svelt nemesis dangling belly-up, he could not resist. The typically mellow but occasionally ornery Abby scampered up the tree to do some tormenting of his own. This put angry, posturing boys between Lucy and the fatter part of the branch. Somehow, Mr. Sox managed to right himself. He growled at Abner, who hissed back, while poor Lucy bounced in the wind. I grabbed a long pole. First, I nudged Abner, since he was closest to the trunk. Next came a gentle prod of Mr. Sox. Once the two bad boys were clear, a few shakes of the treat bag brought Lucy down.

Hoppsy had another tiny seizure Saturday, too. Between the two events, Ron's blood pressure was through the roof. He does worry about the kids.

This morning, the Volcano Farmers' Market was a mellow affair, not crowded as usual, with no line at the coffee urns and plenty of good pickin's left for the purchasin'. It was unclear whether this was because it's Easter, or because of the deluge. I met a man named George Barton who makes cool furniture out of waiawi, or strawberry guava, an invasive tree the government wants to eradicate with a beetle. Then, I trekked over to the KMC, where the draw of their Easter Buffet forced me to alternative parking and the smell of bacon wafting out from the cafeteria -- even more than the rain -- inspired me to rush indoors. Yes, it was raining. It's been raining for days. Torrential rain. Softer rain. Persistent rain. Rain, rain, rain.

Happy Easter, everyone!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good shite

There was high drama at the Volcano Farmers' Market yesterday morning. I was half way along the sidewalk between the covered skate park and the main Cooper Center building, en-route to the gravel parking lot where I'd wedged my car. I plodded along, my green, re-use bag in one hand, celery stocks and carrot tops sticking up over the top, my coffee in the other, styro-cup lifted and in mid-sip, walking and drinking, drinking and walking. I might have been humming. It was a nice day, perfect for multi-tasking. Suddenly, I heard a great thump and turned to see the aftermath of a spectacular crash. A woman had stubbed her sandaled toe and fallen - splat - face first onto the pavement. Her nose was gushing blood and a quail's egg had swollen beneath her right eyebrow. I dropped my bag and ran to help, as did a young man who had also been nearby and heard impact. I helped her sit up, then instructed him to go find some tissues or towels. Others gathered. I sent one to find the woman's husband. Another said there was a nurse on duty doing free blood pressure screenings, so I sent her to grab said medical professional and drag her back to the scene. Somehow, I had become the director of this mishap. Paper towels arrived, and I coached the woman to pinch them onto her nose. She'd hold it there for a moment, then peel back the sticky paper to sneak a peek at the blood, which looked way worse than it was because the paper towels were white, and because a little blood always looks worse than it is. "Keep the pressure on," I said, hoping that the flow would stop soon and that by not looking at it so much, she might be less freaked. The nurse arrived, checked her for concussion, then advised that her husband take her directly to the emergency room, just to makes sure her head injury wasn't serious. Whew! It was encouraging to see so many people stop to help, and so many more ask if we needed anything else. It seems there are oodles of nice people in Volcano Village.

It was a beautiful morning, so after than, I went to the park for a jog (not to be confused with a run). My route took me around the Kilauea Military Camp's outer loop, then uphill to Jagger Museum and back. It was a killer, especially that last pitch. Still, I thought, not bad for a pudgy woman who's just chiseled another year deeper into her second half-century.

This morning, en-route to my tutor's gig, I punched buttons on the radio as usual, trying to find a song I liked. It's not easy here. First I landed on, I like fish and poi, I'm a big boy.... Yuck. Then there was, If I was invisible... Yuck twice! (Sorry, Claymates.) Besides cheesy songs, I kept catching the ends of news reports on the nasty divorce of Frank McCourt. I thought, "Shite! Can they do that to a dead man? Why won't they let the poor lad rest in peace? He did die, didn't he?" Click. I love my huli huli chicken, baby! Gag! His ex-wife wants a million dollars a month. "Shite!" This time, I say it out loud. To other motorists, I must have looked like some crazy haole woman, talking to herself, hand slapping the wheel, swearing in an Irish accent to no one in the passenger seat. "I knew he sold a lot of books, but shite!" All day, I was thinking of THEE Frank McCourt, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Angela's Ashes. When I got home, I did a quick google search and learned that the news reports were referring to anOTHER Frank McCourt, a rich one who owns the L.A. Dodgers. I now realize the error of my geekish, if literarily influence ways. What a maroon!

I made a crock of chili last night. We're having leftovers again tonight. If I don't say so myself, that's some good shite. A crock o' shite!

A hui hou! Aloha!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Broken toes and such

It's been a rough week. Last weekend, Hoppsy had a seizure. She's since recovered and is feeling well, cruising along as if nothing happened. The doggie Valium comes in handy for that, too. Two days later, we found that Abner broke his toe. Most likely, her brother/homie/best buddy Doc, the 80 pound, clueless wonder pooch, stepped on him. Abners a ten-pound, slightly built tabby with tiny feet like his mother, so there you have it. He got a shot of anti-inflammatory at the vet and is doing much better now.

The weather's been beautiful in Hawaii, everywhere but here.

I drove to the university Monday to find bright orange cones blocking my entry into the parking lot.
"What's up?" I asked the security person at the gate.
"Spring break," she said. Duh! So I went to Seattle's Best at Borders (since Kope Kope is pau - sniff!). It was packed, probably because Kope Kope is pau. They have a killer orange spice latte. I hunkered down and wrote a goofy piece of flash fiction that I've entered in a small writing contest sponsored by Western State College's fledgling MFA in creative writing program. I'm hoping to win a gift certificate to Amazon. The story started out with 750 words and I pared it down to 360. That, in itself, may disqualify me, since the word limit for the contest is a paltry 250. I submitted it anyway. If nothing else, it was a good exercise in revision. I can also submit it elsewhere. It's just weird enough that someone might pick it up. To all my fellow Alaskan Fictionaires out there, a piece of flash fiction might keep us all from going over our three minute time limit at the student reading next year.

Speaking of flash fiction and in honor of brevity, I'll sign off now.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hard rain and rejection

Hoppsy has developed a fear rain. Not drizzle, but the cats and dogs, torrential kind. This is not a good thing for a dog who lives in a rainforest. She's always hated thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are most often accompanied by downpours, so now, she hates downpours by association. It's not so irrational when you think about it, from her perspective, through her ears. It makes perfect sense. So this afternoon, having run out of herbal calming capsules, we have resorted to half a doggie Valium, just to take the edge off. Poor baby.

I received another rejection note today. This one came via email. They're all so damn polite. We appreciate the opportunity to read your story. We have decided, however, that it does not suit our needs at this time. We wish you luck .... blah, blah blah. No you don't. You think I suck. If you really appreciated my story, you'd accept it. Well one day, someone will, someone huge, or at least someone reputable. They'll print one of my pieces. People will read it. They'll like it. It's all part of my diabolical plan to... dun, dun dunnnnnnnnn..... get published. Mwahahahahahaha!

While nobody wants to publish my stories, it seems the readership of this blog has gone global! I received a comment on my last post from Japan. Sadly, I could not read it, nor did I quite understand the translation, so I did not post it. I do encourage my Japanese reader to try again, if he or she is so moved do so.

I could have sworn I spotted Charlie, at the next driveway down the street, cavorting with that floozy of his. That's not really fair. For all I know, she's a nice girl, although from what I could hear through the windshield, she's a bit foul-mouthed. I could go on with hundreds of chicken puns, but I'll spare you all today. I've got writing to do. Real writing, not this fun blogging stuff.

A hui hou! Aloha!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Aloha Charlie?

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the disappearance of our rooster, Chuck. Last week, I caught him hanging out at the end of our driveway, cavorting with a cute little hotty of a brown hen from across the street. They did look like a happy couple. She must be something special for him to give up premium scratch, fresh fruit, bread, and other chicken-delectables, not to mention the fun of tormenting the cats. I asked Ron if he'd had the talk with Charlie. He shrugged. So I suspect we'll soon see the little brown hen with a trail of tiny, fluffy chicks in tow.

Kope Kope closed this week! It's my favorite coffee shop in town. Now, we're left with just two independent shops (that I know of), neither of which is great for hanging out to read or write or listen to live music. One is little more than a drive-through kiosk. The other is Bear's, downtown. It's funky but tiny, with tasty fruit-topped Belgian waffles. The coffee, last time I was there anyway, was lukewarm. I actually asked the waitress if she would zap in in the microwave for me. The parking sucks, so I almost never go there. Seattle's Best in Borders is OK. Starbucks is Starbucks. None match up with Kope Kope. My neighbor Leonard was playing jazz guitar on their little stage just last week while I tinkered with a story. Their chai lattes and homemade granola bars are awesome. Were awesome. Bummer.

I received two more rejections from literary magazines last week, so have created a folder just for them. The nice thing about rejection letters is that it confirms receipt of the story on the other end. Otherwise, you really don't know where the manuscript has gone. It's just out there, floating, in either cyberspace or real space or languishing in some post office or at the bottom of some editors slush pile somewhere. It's better to know, one way or another, than to wait. Waiting feels like the theme song from Jeopardy playing in my head, over and over, for eternity. Du du du, du-du, du du du.... du du du du DU.... du-du-du-du-du....

The rain has returned to our neck of the rainforest. Drought over. Water tank full. Algae in full bloom on the driveway. Mold thriving. Kitties soaked with muddy paws.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Just some stuffs

Ron expressed concern today for our dog, Doc's sexual orientation.
"You mean, you think he's gay?" I said. "I've known that forever. A mother knows these things."
"It's just that he spends so much time with Charlie."
"So, you're not concerned that he's gay, but that he's trans-species?"
"Yeah! That's it," he said.
"And why does that bother you?" I said.
"It doesn't really. It's just a concern."
I told him not to worry, the dogs of a feather will always flock together...
And so went our conversation. Meanwhile, as I type this, Doc and Charlie are sharing some quality time together under the carport.

Winter Olympics!!!! Love 'em.

I've spent the past two days sending manuscripts to literary journals. I've been advised that the best way to approach the publishing challenge is to blanket the market. My blanket is a thin one, riddled with holes, more of a net really, a net with a super-loose weave. It would let whales and semi-trucks pass through. I've sent to The New Yorker (only because doing so is free, so what the heck) and of course Bob's Low-Falutin' Jernel. I have high hopes and low expectations that I'll get published somewhere. Look for me in Bob's.

These photos are from a hike I took with my friend Kathy last week, just north of Hilo along the Hamakua Coast. It wasn't a traditional hike with a clearly marked trail, but more of a scramble, followed by a stroll. First, we meandered along the rocky pali, then crossed a wide, grassy field to meander through a lovely neighborhood of large-acre estates. We finished our day with lunch at What's Shakin' on the Onomea Bay Scenic Loop.

The rain has returned. On the bright side, the vog is now blown away by tradewinds, so we're breathing easier.

A hui hou! Aloha!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rubbish and other stuffs

Who says chickens can't fly? Here's Chuck, a good 10 feet up. He flaps with furious abandon to heist himself that high. It's feathered flurry at it's finest.

Yesterday was an unplanned road trip. They had an opening at the dentist in Waimea, so I went to get the pearly whites scraped and polished. Afterward, I stopped for lunch at the Parker Ranch mall, a place called Las Casuelas. Their food is good, but the seating is in a collection of tables shared by all the vendors, like any food court. While the food was cooking, I went to stake out a table, sat and read my book while I waited. I looked up after a few minutes to see the woman who had taken my order waving to me that my meal was ready. Hmmm.... What to do? If I carry my book with me to keep it secure while retrieving my food, the table will be empty and someone might snag it. If I leave my book on the table, someone might snatch the book. Then it hit me. What was I thinking? This is America. Better, this is Hawaii. Nobody is going to steal a book. I left it to save my table, feeling so confident that I took the time to load up on condiments from the salsa. Sure enough, there was the book when I returned, open to the page I'd been reading. Perfect.
Costco is just another half hour from Waimea, so added the extra mileage to my jaunt to pick up some goodies. They sell plump game hens, bigger than traditional Cornish hens but smaller than your garden variety roaster or fryer. I picked up two. So there I am am in the checkout line, jawing with the friendly woman who's doing the requisite Costco thing, whereby she lifts stuff from the basket I was pushing into another basket. She lifts one of the frozen birds looks it over.
"Wow," she says. "These are big for Cornish game hens. You usually see those tiny ones."
"Yeah," I say. These are perfect for the spit."
"Do they taste like chicken?" She asks. I'm a bit flummoxed by her question. The man checking the items through at the register stops. I can see from the corner of my eye he's taken aback too and wondering what I'll say.
"They are chicken," I say. He bursts out laughing.
"They are?" She asks. I always thought they were something else. That's why I've never bought one.
"Yep," he says. "Hens."
"Well I thought they might be some kind of rooster or something," she says. Roosters are chickens too, of course, but I this slide.
"Usually people don't eat roosters. They aren't as good as the hens," I say instead, to which the young checker man nods his approval.
"But people eat tom turkeys," she says. "They always advertise them as 'young tom turkeys,' don't they?"
"I guess they do," I say, holding back on my desire to point out the obvious, that turkeys are not chickens.

We always wait to roast chicken until after Chuck has gone to bed for the evening.

While I was away yesterday, Ron had the fun of schlepping the trash. We take turns, but it's been me lately just because I'm the one who's always on my way somewhere, so he has not had the privilege since they implemented the new, restricted hours at the dumps. Here on Hawaii Island, we cart our rubbish in the trunks of our cars or truck beds or trailers or whatevahs to sites called transfer stations. There, giant bins have been positioned below ramps for our relative convenience. Transfer stations are positioned all around the island so no matter which way you're going, there's one on your way. It's always been reasonably convenient if not the most fun of chores. No more. They've cut the transfer station hours of operation by more than half, changing them several times within the first few weeks just to be sure,nobody could memorize the schedule. Now, they promise the hours are set. They did all this, they say, to save money. Small stations once open seven days a weeks are now down to three. The days alternate between stations, so while Glenwood is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Volcano is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Or something. Maybe that's reversed. Like I said, they've changed it more than once. It's hard to get a bead on a moving target. The hours on the days they are open are shorter, too. Most days, they don't open until 9 a.m., which is after most people arrive to work. They close at 4 p.m., long before people return home. You can go on your lunch break, of course, but that means leaving your garbage in the trunk of your hot car all morning. Not good. Now, twice as many people visit a single location on any given day. This provides not only the fun of dropping off your own trash, but the thrill of waiting in line to do so. When it's finally your turn, the bin is full past the brim with the overage of bags strewn everywhere. It's a huge, stinky mess. We're also seeing more bags of garbage left on the roadside. That always makes a nice impression on visitors to paradise. To prevent people from dropping rubbish off on days when the transfer stations are closed, the county has erected gates and posted guards to turn people away. They're nice gates, a few grand each to install, I'd guess. I'm sure they pay the guards, too. Then there's the extra cleanup required around the dump site. So it's unclear, not just to me but to other patrons of the transfer stations I see shaking their heads and grumbling in disgust, just how this is saving money.

On the bright side, I took a side trip down to Kapoho the other day, just a few minutes to shoot some pictures. Here they are. A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Life plodding along

Lucy had laser surgery on her cancerous schnoz last week. She's now sporting a pinched, Michael Jackson look, but it's healing nicely and with luck, no more soreness or bleeding. Poor baby girl! She was furious with me for awhile there and still a bit miffed for the antibiotics I squirt down her throat twice a day. Can't say that I blame her. I'd put sunscreen on her nose to protect it for her, but she'll just lick it off. I suppose it's fortunate then that it's so rarely sunny here. When it is, however, the sun is intense. That was our big trauma last week; a kitty nose job.

Our water supply is holding out, despite the lack of rain these past days. It's been dry, yet the vog has stayed away, so it's been a nice stretch. I can sit on the spider infested lanai to write without getting wet or asphyxiating from the toxic air. I've grown accustomed to the company of the arachnids. There's just no defeating them and I appreciate the fact that they are such diligent workers, undeterred in their web building. They do a fine job keeping the beetles and gnats and mosquitos at bay, even if they do insist on decorating the house like Halloween year round. Watching them spin webs is fascinating. Mostly, it's just nice to be able to be outside and breath, with or without the eight-legged gnarlies.

The Vikings are crushing the Cowboys right now. Go Bret!

A hui hou. Aloha!