Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just Sayin'

   I had a job interview for a marketing specialist position on Monday, with a follow-up assignment sent via email to provide a graphic and a writing sample on Tuesday. This second step seemed like a positive thing to me, like a second interview. So there I am, Tuesday afternoon, feeling pretty good about the interview and the samples I sent that morning. The Doctor Dog and I are cruising up the road for an afternoon walk, feeling light of foot and generally good, when we hear a familiar sound. There's no mistaking the distinct bumble of my neighbor's Anthurium-red BMW with the black rag top and miscreant muffler. It closes in on us fast, prompting us to step aside and into the grass along the non-shoulder of our one-lane road. Her window is down when she reaches us.
   "You didn't play tennis Monday, did you?" she asks. It's a weird question, since I play with her.
   "Nope. Had a job interview."
   "Oh yeah? Where?"
   "At a local credit union. Marketing Specialist."
   "Well, they had you come in because you're female. They have to interview all the woman who seem qualified to check them out in person, because you could be local but just married to someone with a haole-sounding name. What they're hoping for, you know, is someone well-connected on the island, with plenty of cousins and aunties and uncles and old friends."
   "Well, they spoke to me in person, then gave me a second assignment this morning, which I don't think they'd do if they weren't at least a little interested after the first meeting."
   "Maybe. I'm just saying you're probably not what they're looking for. That's how it is here."
   "Well, see ya."
   "See ya." And off she bumbled.
   Speeding neighbor's buzz-kill aside, I did my best with the interview. I was honest and sincere about my capabilities and experience. I had some good ideas that I think they genuinely liked. You get what you give. I may not be so well connected, but I think I've got a chance.

   It finally stopped raining Friday, so Ron set out to mow the lawn. The ground is saturated, so rather than looking nicer, it's as though kids on ATVs snuck in during the night for a quick spin in the mud, leaving tracks across the green.
   While he mowed, I ran errands. Errands are excruciating in Hilo. You can never get everything you need at one place and the traffic generally stinks. All the while I was thinking about that job, and what the neighbor said, and mentally reinforcing my belief that the interviewers were very nice and professional, that they are considering me, maybe among other strong candidates, but that I do, in fact, have a shot. When I arrived home, Ron had tipped the front wheels of the tractor into a hole. There are drop offs all over the property, and it's hard to detect their exact location until you fall over the edge. He found one, then spun the back wheels in the muck. Stuck. It happens. I've done it, too.

   So here's the scenario: I drive the Trooper to within a few feet of the tractor. He hooks it to the Deere with a heavy chain. But instead of just climbing straight into the yellow seat and shouting, "OK" or "hit it," he makes a special point of walking to the window where I sit behind the wheel of the truck, locked and loaded, ready to roll.
   "Go slow," he says.
   "Really? Shucks. I was planning to floor it."
   "I'm just sayin'."
   "For the fifteenth time." How fast does he think I can go, anyway, with the truck in low gear on soupy ground through a coffee grove?
   "Well, just go slow, OK." He climbs onto the tractor. "Ready," he yells. Finally. I apply the most miniscule amount of pressure to the pedal as is humanly possible, pressing oh-so-gingerly with my toes. The tires ease around about a quarter turn. The chain tugs tight.
   "Slower!" He shouts. I take my foot off the pedal. The Trooper stops. I cannot go slower and actually go.
   "Do you want to drive the truck and let me sit in the tractor?"I ask.
   "No, just go SLOW." Now I really want to floor it, but instead, he manages to sit still for a nanosecond while I ease the tractor out. All is well until I get the truck back into the driveway.
   "What's wrong?" he asks.
   "It doesn't want to shift out of four wheel drive." I'm working the stick, but it won't budge.
   "Why did you use the shifter? Why didn't you just push the TOD (traction on demand) button?"
   "Because I wanted the lowest gear possible. TOD is four wheel drive in high gear. The tractor's heavy. It's not like I was planning to drive 55 miles per hour in a blizzard. You wanted me to go slow, remember?"
   "Get out. Let me do it," he says. After ten minutes of him grunting and jerking the knob, he acknowledges that yes, it is stuck. "If you'd just pushed TOD. This button? Right here?" He presses it on and off several times for emphasis. "Everything would be fine."
If you hadn't driven the tractor into a hole everything would be fine, too. 
   "Right," I say.
   "Why won't it budge?" he asks, rhetorically, not expecting an answer. I give him one anyway.
   "Maybe because it just sits here in the rainforest rotting day after day and something's rusted in there."
   He gives me a look. "Maybe if I get it moving," he says, and takes off down the driveway.
   "That should work," I say, because that's what I would have done next. It did.
   The next day,we take another trip to town for Diesel and beer and such, all the stuff we used up or forgot to put on the list the day before. We pick up everything at Cost-U-Less except eggs and JujiFruits. The chewy candy is a must-buy on Ron's list, never mind that it is made mostly of high-fructose corn syrup, something we scrutinize labels for when shopping for everything else. They require a special stop at Walgreens because the only other place that carries them is Walmart, which is enormous and crowded and unpleasant, so we only go there if we have no other choice, and we might have purchased the eggs at Cost-U-Less, too, but Ron wants to get them at KTA where they're two cents cheaper or something. At KTA he runs in and I stay in the car, because it feels silly to me for two people to go into a store, then stand in line to checkout for one measly dozen eggs. There's a location at the edge of the parking lot there where kids wash cars to raise money for their teams or youth groups or gangs or whatever, and it's near where we always park, and I watch them for a few minutes through the dirty windshield, thinking I should wash the car and the algae-festooned Trooper when I get home. Ron returns to find me snoozing, seat reclined, nice tradewind breeze floating through the open window. He gets in, hands me the bag and we head homeward. I close my eyes again and doze.
   "Time for a nappy?" he asks.
   "Time for a nappy."

   Halfway home, he blurts, "Where are the eggs?"
   I point to the floorboard between my feet. "Right here." I sit up, awake now, straighten the seat-back and turn on the radio.
   "That's annoying," he says and turns it off. I recline again and close my eyes, but can't sleep. Moments later, the wipers click on. Whap, whap, whap...
We pull into the driveway and squeak open our respective doors to exit the car.
   "Don't step on the eggs," he says.
   "Damn. I was going to stomp on them and smash them all to gooey bits."
   "I'm just sayin'."
   "Why do you think I don't know that stepping on the eggs we just bought would be a bad idea?"
   "Well, you can be forgetful sometimes."
   "I have never, in 52 years of life on this earth, ever stepped on a single egg, let alone a dozen of them."
   "They're right by your feet. I'm just sayin'."

   Now, there's no denying I can be forgetful. I've been known to leave my shopping list behind, or to misplace my purse or glasses or keys. Once, while traveling, I forgot to account for a change in time zones, neglected to reset my watch, didn't think to look at one of the hundreds of clocks hanging in the terminal, hung out for too long in the Hudson's Bookstore and missed my connecting flight. But I have never forgotten to not step on the eggs. It's like saying, "Don't run down any pedestrians on your way to town today." Gosh. OK. Glad you said something. I might have bowling-pinned a dozen of 'em before I remembered that.

   Alright, so I've been a little testy these past couple of days. Maybe a little more than a little. I can be a smidge sarcastic when I feel patronized, and am especially sensitive to that if I'm feeling a little more than a little testy.

Testy is as testy does. You get what you give.

Just sayin'.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Return to Fraggle Rock

Some people collect Hummels. Others like stamps, or coins or those commemorative spoons from places they visit around the world. For me, it's college degrees. The next one will have to wait a few years, however, since I am fresh out of cash. Time to go earn some.

The mission, which I have no choice but to accept, is to find a job. This, I believe, will prove more challenging than earning any degree. The competition is keen. The pickings, slim. I've applied on the island for positions ranging from Seasonal Cookie Dipper to Marketing Specialist, and if that goat herder opening appears again the paper, I'll go for that, too. I like goats. 

I'm happy to be home for now with my husband and dog and adorable kitties, and yet, more often than not, my head is elsewhere. To be specific, it's in Colorado, or Alaska. "There is no hope for the satisfied man." So states the motto of The Denver Post. If this applies to middle-aged women, too, then I am about as friggin' hopeful as you can get.

It was great to be back on the tennis court this week with my ball-whacking, Punatic homies. 
"You weren't getting your degree in Alaska," said Kathy Hanson with a point and a wink. She's the instigator of our gang of four. Small and athletic, she's an especially smart player, formidable in many ways, with a wicked forehand down-the-line and great passion for winning. "You were at tennis camp." I did play well that day.
My good buddy Robert, who normally doesn't play on Wednesdays, made a special point to join us in honor of my return. He did so at great personal sacrifice --  riding the bus home afterward -- as his wife needed the car for errands. Robert has an infectious, boyish smile and looks much younger than his 49 years. Like Michael Jordan, he sticks his tongue out with concentration when he serves. Robert wears a UH Warriors visor over a black-on-white paisley bandana, and dark sunglasses. Long, cargo shorts hang to his knees. His look is nerdy, white-boy hip-hop, his shorts baggy since he's lost some weight. "I had to come see my girl," he grinned. Robert was nursing a sore ankle when I left for Alaska, but it's healed, and now he too is playing with greater confidence. His volleys were on fire that day.
"It feels like we're getting the band back together," I said to Barney after our match as we walked to our cars. Barney is Kathy's brother, an exceptional athlete and, at 58 years young, the best, most mobile player of us all. Our goal in playing against him is to hit the ball where he is not. Trouble is, he's everywhere. Barney plays rock-n-roll into the wee hours most weekends. He never trains. The first thing he does when we finish playing is grab a cigarette. Barney typically wears a headscarf to cover a bald spot on top, which, combined with a salty pony tail, makes him look especially cool. Between points, he practices a phantom base on his racket. His band is called Gin and Chronic. 
"It is a beautiful thing," he agreed and smiled, fingers tickling the imaginary fretboard of his grip.

Today, I will talk with a woman I once worked with at the winery who may have an opportunity for me to sell locally made jams at the Hilo Farmers' Market two days a week. That could be fun. Who doesn't love jam? I've sent out half-a-dozen resum├ęs and cover letters this week, too, the have-MFA, will-teach-for-beer-money kind.

Righ now, it's raining. Yesterday afternoon was delugenous. (That's a new word I just invented.) My neighbor and good friend Kathy McGonigle, our foremost local authority on rainfall amounts, said we got half an inch in an hour. The roar upon the roof was fierce. That sort of torrent is not uncommon here, but it is August and not the rainy season. So this was a little exciting. For my money, if it's going to rain every friggin' day, let it bloody rain. Hard. I want to see rain the likes of which would make Noah seem like an overreactive, whiney crybaby. Cats and dogs, lions and tigers and bears-- oh my! Rain like a vertical river. Bring-it-on!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Yes, I know. I've been remiss with the blog. Shoveling sawdust and vole poop will do that to a writer. It's been nearly two weeks since my arrival in Gunnison and I should be ready to go home. Instead, I don't want to leave. The house is clean, or clean enough. It meets our standards, anyway, which have plummeted in recent years to about the level of limbo bars for cockroaches. The plumbing works now -- mostly. The grass looks like a bad haircut. But it's still a way cool house, in a groovy town, and I want to stay.

My friend Brian said it best in quoting the theme from Cheers on my Facebook page recently: "You wanna go where everybody knows your name." Lots of people know me here, and I know lots of people, and we've been genuinely glad to see each other these past days, in coffee shops, at their houses for dinner, on the sidewalk, at the market or the hardware store. Everywhere I go. Everywhere. And the people I've encountered who I don't know? Well, they seem like nice folks, too.

As much as I love the house itself, selling it does not preclude returning here. There are plenty of places to rent or buy here and always will be. And if the infusion of cash gets me off the island a little more often, then it's worth it.

And then there's Alaska. I was there, too, just a few weeks ago. It's a wonder, that place, and I've come to love it, too. There's so much more of The Last Frontier to explore.

I really should return to Gunnison and to Alaska mid-winter. Maybe then the rainforest won't seem so bleak, the green not so boring and oppressive, the warm, humid air not so cloying and annoying. There's more coffee to pick now, and even some to sell, which is kinda cool (but also grueling), but I'm still languishing "in the bushes" as my neighbor Kathy refers to where we live. Everything feels better here, in Colorado, or in Alaska, where I can look out across the valleys to mountains beyond, not far beyond, mind you, but further than the choke trees crowding my house in Hawaii.

Johnny Cash is singing dirges as I sip warm lemon ginger tea at Mochas this evening. Stuffed with Garlic Mike's Pasta, my stomach's uncomfortable, but in a contented way, with Alfredo fetuccini and, ala Hannibal Lecter, a nice chianti. My butt's sore, for I stepped funny the other day, into a hole maybe, carrying a load of rubbish from a slash pile left by the renters, a pile too damp to burn. And my hearts aching some too, for having to leave this place.

Time to take an ibuprofen and hit the air mattress one last time. Tomorrow morning, I'll say goodbye to Gunnison, and to these guys. They've been good company, too, coming to the fence most afternoons to visit.

 A hui hou, guys. Aloha!