Sunday, March 25, 2007


All week, it's been news about Iraq. Four years now since the US invasion and still no end in sight. It's ironic that now we have all this technology to bring sounds and pictures of battles in far off lands into our living rooms, bed rooms and desk tops, and yet we feel more distant.

Thinking about the stupidity of the human race was really starting to depress me, but today, we took Mom to Kapiolani Park at the Diamond Head side of Waikiki where they were having the Folk Life Festival. As we walked deeper into the park, towards the little outdoor stage, beautiful slack key guitar sounds drifted my way and if it were a cartoon, you would have seen the music like smoke fingers, wrapping themselves around me, pulling me towards the source.

It was Makana. We had heard about him from a woman we met at the bus stop on our way back from seeing the DogFather off at the airport.

"He was playing at this club called Indigo and he was just amazing," she told us. "I couldn't believe they weren't charging a cover."

I couldn't believe they were doing these performances free at the Kapiolani Park, either! I've always loved slack key guitar, but today, Makana's lovely, peaceful, mellow sounds were a salve for my soul. Who could stay angry? Depressed? Who would want to kill anyone after hearing this? I pictured air lifting a troop of singing/playing Makanas onto a battle zone, the music mesmerizing the soldiers who would fling down their weapons and start hugging each other.

The odd thing was that the Park was not swamped with people because Waikiki certainly has been, with spring breakers from the mainland and Asia. Guess the mainlanders were all out there on the beach (I have never seen so many beginner surfers in the water at one time!) and the Asians were all shopping.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"No Leis for Me"

My mother arrived in Honolulu, early Sunday morning. I had invited her over because we were stuck with a 2-bedroom condo for the month and the DogFather was only going to be here for two weeks.

"I'll think about it," she said when I called to ask if she might want to come. It wasn't a "Sure! That sounds great!" or "No, I've got other things I need to do this month" but a noncommittal "I'll think about it."

I know what she was thinking. After all, she is my mother. She was thinking "Gee, I've already been to Hawaii and things have changed so much since I was there in the 60's I don't know if I want to go back, plus I won't be able to go to my weekly physical therapy sessions and I'll have to eat boring Western style meals and what about flying alone? And what if something happens to me physically? I'm not young and genki anymore…but it'll be so noisy here after the Pupster gets out of kindergarten for spring break, and most of all, what if I don't go and something happens to Bad Dog and I never see her again?"

Our family always thinks of these kinds of What Ifs. Scars from the untimely death (when is death ever timely?!) of my father more than 30 years ago.

After a couple of nagging emails, she finally told me that she was going to accept my invitation and come to Hawaii.

It was the first time she was traveling overseas by herself and I knew she was a little anxious about going through immigration and customs by herself, not to mention getting to the airport, checking in, finding the gate and putting up with the flight. "I better get to the airport early," I thought. "Better for me to wait than for her to show up and have no one there. Maybe I'll buy a pretty lei for her so I can give her the traditional Hawaiian welcome." I spent days pricing leis at various shops around town. (Best variety, prices, quality in Chinatown, for sure!) In the end, however, I wound up not having any time before Sunday and I went to the airport without a lei.

I got there about 15 minutes after the scheduled arrival of my mother's flight, but she was already there! Waiting outside the baggage claim area, looking none too happy.

"I've been waiting 40 minutes!" she complained.
"40 minutes? When did your flight arrive?"
"Okay, maybe not 40. But 30, for sure."
I knew then that it was probably closer to 15.
"I thought you'd be here to greet me when I walked out."
"I'm so sorry you had to wait!" I didn't mention the missing lei.

Well, today, we were strolling through Chinatown, after a very yummy dim sum lunch, past a florist with beautiful leis hanging in glass cases. The cheapest ones were $1.

"Aren't they pretty?" I asked my mother.
"Those leis. And they're so cheap!"
"You think?"
"Yeah. Other places sell them for $5 and up. I was going to get one for you, when you arrived."
"That's stupid. $5-6? They're just a bunch of dead flowers on a string. I'm glad you didn't waste your money like that."

That's my Mom. Ever the unromantic realist.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I can't believe it's already been 4 years since the start of the war in Iraq. That's longer than World War 2! But how do we get out of there? It seems like no matter what, the damage is already done.

Big Dog loves to tell people how the Americans are fighting on borrowed money.
"We have none! Nothing but debts! And we're constantly borrowing more from places like China and Japan. That's why I hold the Chinese and Japanese as responsible for the continuation of the war as I do the US Government. If you guys (meaning us Japanese) would stop lending money to the US, maybe that would get everyone to pull out of Iraq sooner."

Well, I no longer live in Japan so I no longer pay Japanese taxes, thus I am feeling less responsible, but in truth, it's everyone's responsibility, isn't it. If you're not out there voicing your opposition, if you're not out there trying to do something about it, you are working for the war effort. Being silent is just as evil as being a full-on supporter. Didn't we learn that through Nazi Germany? Silence will only drag us further into the darkness.

Today, there are various St. Patrick's Day events in and around Honolulu, but you'll find me at the Peace Rally.

Doves, symbol of peace, have a nice, comfy condo is this big banyan tree by the beach in Waikiki.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Stop and Sniff

"You're always sniffing things," Big Dog tells me.
I guess it's true. It's the dog in me.

A couple of years ago, when we were in Hawaii with my mother, I found a noni tree in a small but pretty garden near the Zoo. The garden was filled with dozens of different kinds of hibiscus, all with fanciful names, as well as native flora. I don't know if the noni is a native of these islands -- the picture on the bottles of Noni Juice I've seen in health food stores looks more Tahitian -- but I was excited to come across an actual noni tree and scoured the ground for any fruit that might have dropped.

Aha! There was a large, fist-sized specimen right there under the tree! I quickly picked it up and gave it a whiff. And immediately started coughing.

"Ack! Smell it!" I tried to hand the fruit over to Big Dog so he could share in the god-awful ammonia-like smell, but he is not a sniffer dog and refused.

Okay, sometimes I miss, but it hasn't stopped me from smelling everything I see and touch. I am forever sticking my nose in flowers and bushes, pressing my nose up against trees to smell their bark. Fortunately, the islands are filled with lots of sweet, fragrant things. Ginger, plumeria, little neon red flowers on bushes, large purple flowers on trees… What must this island have smelled like back when there were sandalwood groves? Mmmm…heavennnnnn.

The DogFather is still glued to the construction site/sight ("They're only using rebar. I don't see any big steel beams, like I-beams. And this is going up to what, 38 floors?") but we're able to pull him away for little walks in the afternoon and I am enjoying the slower pace. Like an unleashed dog, I stop and sniff, run back to the Boys, stop and sniff some more.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The DogFather (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Finally got to escape LA!
And we're back in Aloha-land, this time with the DogFather.

I love him dearly. He's nearly 90 but sharp as a tack, smart and witty and most of all, has lived nearly 90 years on this planet. 90 years of life! I've always been into older people. They are a window to the future. People talk about how kids are the future. They are, literally. But older people have been where I am about to go. There is no "been there, done that." In our youth-oriented culture, society sometimes forgets how much older people have to teach us, but it feels like I am learning new things from the DogFather every day.

In an earlier entry I wrote that we wanted to take the DogFather away from Lancaster. Well, we are doing that, albeit temporarily. But nothing is too straight forward when it comes to The DogFather.

"We're going to Mexico and want to take you with us. It'll be warm and peaceful. There'll be great fresh seafood. Plus there are tons of English speaking retirees to socialize with."
"It doesn't have to be Mexico, either. We can go anywhere! We've been talking about Cuba for a long time… Or we can go back to the Marianas if you think you can stand the long flight… Or back to Hawaii…"

The problem with the DogFather is that he never wants to put you out.
"I'm making breakfast. What do you want?"
"Whatever you guys are having."
"Do you want X or Y?"
"Either is alright with me."
Maybe he just doesn't want to be the one to decide anymore. Maybe he's had enough decision making in his life already.

It took us weeks to find out that he didn't really want to go to Mexico. And then because he didn't want to "make us" go to somewhere else just because he was coming along, I had to create some kind of other explanation for the change in destination.

"Well, looks like we're headed to Hawaii anyway. I may have a job in Tokyo and if that comes through, it'll be way more convenient to go from Honolulu than Mexico."

Since it was a last minute turnaround in plans, there weren't many choices in short-term condos. The one we are in is across the street from the massive construction going on at the Hilton. Our room is above a Very Busy Street, near a Very Busy Intersection. All you hear is traffic and construction noise. Not the peaceful vacation we had hoped for, really, but…

The DogFather is mesmerized by the construction.

"I've always been fascinated by cranes. You see them on top of buildings as they get built, but how do they get 'em up there? And how do they bring 'em down?"
We sit on our lanai and talk about the miracles of physics. There are two large cranes on this construction site. Imagine a pencil balanced on the tip of another pencil. That's what these cranes look like. So when there's a huge mixer of cement being lifted up, why doesn't the whole thing topple? We talk about the operator. Does he have to climb up to the top everyday?

"There he is! Coming down!" the DogFather shouts. It's late afternoon and we're enjoying our "happy hour" on our lanai. Long after the construction crew has deserted the site, the crane operator climbs down from his perch, 25 stories in the air. I wonder if he has to do this several times a day or if he only has to do it at the beginning and end of each day. Is there a porta-potty up there? Does he take his lunch? Is there a system for him to be "lifted" up?

What would have just been an ugly eyesore has turned into entertainment. Thanks to the DogFather.