Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Isn't it strange?

In my former life, I'd gotten completely used to being evaluated by others. Praised, criticized, whatever. "You've got such a good voice." "That show was fun/stupid/incredibly embarrassing." "You suck." Comments from the people I worked with or for, and in the world of tv and radio, comments from total strangers, too. Being a workaholic was definitely linked to getting words of appreciation. In fact, in my case, I think that was the driving force.
"We couldn't have done it without you."
"You really made this work."
I give them a goofy smile and pant like a dog (inside) waiting for more pats on the head.

But now, no matter what I do, there's really no one around me to offer any kind of comment and I realize how sometimes it makes me Very Insecure. I guess that's why I've grown to love tending living things. If you do a good job, it shows: the trees are happy and bear nice fruit; the aphids have split and the roses look awesome. It's even better than somebody's opinion because you know, without a doubt, it's true. Nature never lies.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Longboard…

…lies silently in our room. It came from our friend, N., yesterday. He came by to take us surfing at Diamond Head.

N. is a copywriter/translator/surfer/motorcycle rider whom we've known from our days making motorcycle videos. Big Dog loves to work with N.

"We've got radar love, baby!" he explained to our bike rider during our Alabama shoot when they were getting ready to do the bike-to-car shots. "I don't have to say anything, because by the time I've said it, it's too late. He knows telepathically when to speed up, slow down, come closer to the camera, move away. I know I can't ask that of you, but I need you to at least trust me, even if it feels like I'm dangerously close."

N. also used to live in Tokyo. After he got married and had a child, they moved to Los Angeles, then to Hawaii. I envied his life. He's go surfing, usually at North Shore, in the early morning, get home for breakfast, do some writing, then go back out for more surfing, usually at Diamond Head, in the afternoon. But in some role reversal, he's now working most of the time, while I am mostly goofing off.

"You haven't changed at all!" Big Dog and I said in amazement when we saw him yesterday for the first time in more than 4 and a half years.
"Ah, it's all on the inside." He gave us a wry smile. "I still look like the same old N., but now I'm Corporate N."
"Well, of all the people who are or could be timeshare salesmen, I always thought you'd make a fantastic one. You are so genuine. You love these islands and the lifestyle and your sincerity and enthusiasm is really infectious."

Yes, surfer/slacker N is now selling timeshares. But he's good at his job, gets loads of benefits and he's happy.

"I don't know. I've never worked very hard at anything all my life, unlike you guys. One day, I just thought, what am I doing? Now I'm working hard but enjoying it!"

It was good to see, too, that in Hawaii, you can work hard and still not have to give up the things you enjoy. For N., surfing, riding, and, now, flying. Oh, and being a proud, doting dad. His daughter Shaula who was a 16 year old high school girl who loved metal bands when I last saw her, is now 20 and has a rocketing modeling career. I can't wait to see her.

Kids grow up so quickly. But us old farts, well, we stay childish forever. After some sunset surfing, we had a Keystone Kops moment trying to get N.'s longboard into the tiny elevator. It fit. Barely. Diagonally. As luck would have it, 2 other people got into the elevator at the same time. We had to squeeze under the board. Oh, why don't I have a camera when these things happen?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Any consonants?

"These guys should trade some of their vowels for consonants with the Thai," said Big Dog. Like a typical English speaker, he has trouble with too many vowels. That's one of the reasons why I had an anglicized version of my name while I was growing up in LA. My real name has too many vowels for most Americans.

One time, we were driving to a friend's house, I, the trusty navigator, armed with a city map. Big Dog never slows down for me, so it was some miracle, I was able to navigate our way through streets named Ho'ohonua, Ho'onui, Ho'ohiki, Ho'okano, Ho'ohiamoe, Ho'olehua, Ho'omalimali -- well you get the picture -- to our destination.

"Get them some consonants!"

Which is probably the REAL reason why we moved from our tiny box of a room on Niu St. to a larger place on Seaside. NOT the fact that the "kitchenette" was a shelf in the tiny studio with a microwave and hot plate. NOT the fact that there was no phone. NOT the fact that the ceiling was so low even I could almost touch it.

It's a funky condo building with some construction going on in the parking lot. The wallpaper is lifting up in many places, the furniture is cheap and tacky, the particle board that makes the bathroom shelves is crumbling…but it's not costing us an arm and a leg. Maybe just an arm.

There's a bit of a security issue in Waikiki and every condo has multiple locks. Ours has a locked gate, then a locked entry, then a locked elevator (uh-huh) and then a double-locked door. But we couldn't figure out how our gate/entry/elevator key (which looks like an oversized dog tag) worked. An elderly resident had to show us.

There are lots of elderly people in Waikiki. Retirees living in the jungle of condos, vacationing grey haired couples. In these beach towns, whether it's Waikiki or Puerto Vallarta or Koh Samui, there are tons of old single guys but you rarely see old single women. Why's that? And another mystery: for some reason, a lot of women over a certain age seem to want to dress like teenagers when they get over here. Some dress like what they (thought they) looked like in their teens. Others dress like their granddaughters. And then there are a lot of skinny Japanese women. Some look very good, others not so much, but they all look like they need a workout regimen. The ones who don't, the ones who look fit and unafraid of muscle mass, look like locals.

For me, resorts feel too sterile and phony but Waikiki has a kind of trashy/kitschy quality I like. A low-rent drag queen aspect (no wonder all my gay friends love it!) When you go to a tourist stop in Japan, there are dozens of souvenir shops selling the tackiest of souvenirs. Shells stacked up to look like a fisherman, or a "kappa" water sprite. Brightly colored key rings with your name and the destination. Pens that reveal nude women when you tilt them. The kind of souvenir you wished your friend hadn't wasted money on for you. There's plenty of that here. I guess Waikiki IS a Japanese tourist town!

Ah, I must get a multi-colored sugary drink loaded with tiny paper umbrellas. And no consonants.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Aloha! (Honolulu, Hawaii)

I'm back on Mu!
Since I was a little girl, I felt a strong connection to these islands. Maybe it was all that trans-Pacific movement as our family shuffled between California and Tokyo again and again. Maybe I am just a sucker for tiki torches. For someone who has never lived here, I sure do have a lot of memories associated with this place. I don't know how many people reading this remember the days when there weren't any non-stop flights between the West Coast and Asia. In the early days, I remember how we had a stopover not only in Hawaii, but on Wake Island! Who the hell goes to Wake now? (Actually, I would LOVE to!)

Memories of when I was the only child, staying in a Very Posh Hotel on JAL's tab (don't remember the details but our flight got canceled and we had to stay an extra day)…of when our family finally moved back to Japan and my brother's luggage went missing so we had to buy a whole lot of clothes for him (on JAL's tab again! LOL)…of being here with a guy I was dating at the time and staying with his ex-girlfriend (who was very cool, but how uncool was the whole thing!)…(The ex-girlfriend was in the Navy, training dolphins on the Kaneohe base. We played with the dolphins but she never was able to tell me the exact nature of the military training. It was probably not too far from my imagination.)… Memories of meeting Kealakekua Bob, a haole indigent who was sort of key to my life today…to the more recent one of bringing family here with us…

It's hard to shake the backpacker mode, even in Honolulu. You can take a city bus from the airport and it only costs $2. You can get a $40/night room (and if you are a single person traveling, there are cheap hostels here, too.) We had booked a cheapo-zeepo condo (the cheapest one we could find!) and spent the last couple of days in LA packing things like food and toilet paper into our backpacks. Big Dog remembered toilet paper being really expensive on the islands. Of course, we get here and find out otherwise, but too late now! At least it weighs next to nothing.

Because of all the extra stuff we were bringing (we even considered our fold-up bikes, but when United told us there would be an $80 surcharge for oversized baggage, we nixed that idea) we couldn't take the city bus and had to call a shuttle. Thanks to that move, we got to meet Frances. She was the driver of our shuttle and while we were stuck in the afternoon rush hour traffic, we talked up a storm. She's a mother of five and a former meth addict (more on the ice problem later) who works 2 jobs and still finds energy for volunteer work (drug counseling, polls, community service work!) An amazing woman. I felt our Hawaii stay was off to an auspicious start.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I remember I was on the Big Island in Hawaii on Election Day 2000. The Infamous Presidential Election. We were staying in a funky guesthouse south of Kona and all the guests were huddled in the living room watching TV. I think it was Fox TV, actually, and they announced that George W had won. But he hadn't really. Not at that time, anyway. ("Or any other time!" some might add.)

In 2004, we were in Mexico, being congratulated or consoled (depending on the person) by snowbird Canadians. All of our Mexican friends were anti-Bush so talk of the US Presidential Election Results was an opportunity for me to learn all sorts of (Mexican) Spanish swear words. I shall not repeat them here, however.

Since the last entry, it was a week of wrap-up at the Ranch. Getting stuff put away, finalizing the New Well, mopping up here and there, socializing with the other Ranch Residents. I think we have a nice group out there now. A State Park Ranger/Certified Sawyer (that's someone who cuts trees), an Adventurer/Jewelry Maker, a Health Food Store Manager, a Caregiver/Horse Lady & her Student/Athlete/Horse Girl daughter, a Winter Resort Planner/Handyman (yesssss!) and a Surfer/Artist. Plus 3 chickens, 4 dogs, 2 cats, 2 horses and a lot of wild things. Our own little commune!

It's funny because I'd dreamed of this "back to nature" lifestyle since I was in my teens! Big Dog laughs at me playing Farmer John. Just before we left the Ranch, I was drying bunches of grapes, turning them into raisins and BD rolled his eyes at me.

"Too much circa 1967 for you?" I asked.
"No, it's too much circa 1929 Depression Era," he replied.
Ah. I see. This was after I canned a few jars of homemade crabapple jelly (wonderful haunting scents -- a good alternative to cranberry jelly) and plum sauce.

All too soon we had to leave. Had to. That's a funny word. We didn't really HAVE to, but Big Dog is on his Endless Summer Quest, and the end of Daylight Saving Time was it for him.

"It gets too dark, too soon," he was complaining during our last few days on the Ranch. The weather was too perfect -- no marine layer to fog our mornings, warm (almost hot!) days. The problem was that there wasn't ENOUGH of it. Dusk set in way too early and that was pushing Big Dog out of California. I think I would have enjoyed a few more weeks, though.

Anyway, our bags are packed, our boarding passes are printed, our ride to the airport is booked and we are ready to go….to Hawaii tomorrow.