Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hana - What?

Kupuna playing Hanafuda

"I should not talk so much about myself, if there were anybody else whom I knew as well." Thoreau

"There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad." Dali

Japanese plantation workers in Hawaii
(note the Samurai sword)

“I love everything that's old, - old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine”
Oliver Goldsmith

When we moved to Kona on the Big Island (Hawaii) back in the 1980's it was a very different place than it is today. The old folks still remembered Territorial days, and many of them had grown up on, and/or worked the sugar plantations. Obituaries in the daily paper routinely listed places of birth as Japan or China, perhaps Hamakua Plantation, or a tiny Hawaiian fishing village that was only a fading place name that fewer and fewer Kupuna (seniors)remembered.

The local beach park on Ali`i Drive south of town wasn't a place reserved for tourists - excuse me - "Visitors." Kona still belonged largely to the "local" people. Many of us still lived high up on the hillsides and used 4 wheel vehicles daily. It was still common to have "catchment" water systems for home use. Large, wooden tanks beside our "shacks" saved the carefully channeled rain that drummed on our corrugated tin roofs. We washed with it, many drank it. Outhouses like ours, da Lua, or "pit," were common also. The little girls dancing hula every afternoon at the beach park with their kumu (teacher) did not work for the tourism board, they were simply doing what little girls still do after school here in Hawaii. It was just as normal to snorkel daily among friendly Honu "Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles" and colorful reef fish.

We noticed the old timers playing an animated card game. Pretty flowered cards, smaller and thicker than western playing cards, were "THWACKED" down on the picnic table to the delight of all. They reminded me of the domino players I had encountered in Jamaica. "It's called Hanafuda," the old ladies told me. The game was played throughout the "Japanese Camps" of the plantations. I got to witness the last of that generation still playing the game. Yes, it was still a common sight back then to see the seniors playing. Decks were available at Longs Drugs in Kailua Town (they didn't call it Kailua-Kona yet).

I haven't thought about Hanafuda in a really long time. It is one of those flavors that grows fainter as the world becomes smaller and Hawaii more like other places. A local yoga sensei, 71 year old Helen Nakano of Oahu, is trying to preserve Hanafuda in the islands by teaching the game to 1,000 local Keiki (children) by the end of the year.

Variations of Hanafuda are still played in Japan and Korea. The 12 suits stand for the 12 months and are "faced" by flowers, birds, and animals emblematic of those months in Japan.

Around 100 years ago in Japan a company was started to produce Hanafuda cards. And the company is still producing Hanafuda decks to this day, although they are better known for the more modern amusements that they provide worldwide. The company's name: NINTENDO!
A L O H A! Cloudia

Monday, March 30, 2009

MTM: Queen's Hospital

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo F. Buscaglia

“How many desolate creatures on the earth have learnt the simple dues of fellowship and social comfort, in a hospital.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Original Queen's Hospital

Queen Emma & Kamehameha IV 1859

“I remember when I used to sit on hospital beds and hold people’s hands, people used to be shocked because they’d never seen this before. To me it was quite normal.”
Princess Diana

In the 19th Century, introduced illnesses and diseases were decimating the Native Hawaiian population of these islands. Though Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV were sovereigns of ALL of Hawaii's residents, including American, European, and Asian subjects of the Kingdom, they felt a special Kuleana (responsibility) to preserve their own people to whom they were bound by an ancient genealogy. The two monarchs did not disdain to humble themselves, visiting private homes all over O`ahu to solicit funds for a modern hospital at the foot of Punchbowl Crater.

2009 is the 150th Anniversary (1859) of the founding of The Queen’s Hospital (today: The Queen's Medical Center). The only hospital in the nation with a royal pedigree, Queen's serves all of Hawaii and the Pacific. Once can scarcely read Honolulu history, or literature that is set here (From Here to Eternity, House of Many Gods, Molokai, Honolulu) without "visiting" this hospital that is such a major part of our community.

Trippler Army Medical Center, Kuakini (Formerly the Japanese Hospital) Kapiolani Women's & Children, Shriner's, Kaiser Moanalua, and The Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, are local hospitals that also serve us with great distinction; but to enter Queen's is to enter the fabric of Honolulu in a unique way. You're likely to notice a Kupuna ( senior citizen) softly playing a ukulele in the lobby. A portrait of the Queen herself, along with distinctive Polynesian & historic art is on display in this cutting edge modern facility.

Here we interact with so many ethnicity's and life stories: Micronesians suffering the lasting effects of nuclear testing, neighbor islanders wary of the big city, tourists from every nation who find themselves unexpectedly and deeply ill, so very far from home - all find solace and Aloha here at Queens. Mostly it is the local staff, from physicians, nurses, skilled technicians to maintenance and office workers, who keep the graciousness alive.

While pondering this week's My Town Monday post I realized that it was a no brainer. I have spent lots of time at the hospital recently visiting my Dad. This place with it's precision, history and warmth has become dear to my heart. I hope this brief post has touched yours today!
You can read more about the Royal couple here: http://www.huapala.org/U/Ua_Nani_O_Nuuanu.html
A L O H A! Cloudia

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just Another Dawn

Diamond Head: Another Dawn

“Yesterday is but a dream, tomorrow but a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day. Such is the salutation to the dawn.”
Sanskrit Proverb

Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) Note the surfboard for rescues!

"The pillar of the world is hope.

African Proverb

Treasure the love you have received above all. It will survive long after your gold and good health have vanished.
Og Mandino

This morning, walking on the beach, I set up for my 7,000th shot of diamond Head. "How many pictures of her do I need?" I wondered. But immediately I realized how every season, time of day, and quality of light paints even the most familiar things in infinite and wondrous permutations.

I already have enough pictures of Diamond Head? One might as well say: "I already have a picture of my mother. Why would I want to take another?"

A L O H A! Cloudia

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Neighbor Island Nene

Click on photos to enlarge! Far away from Honolulu. Rural Big Island

“We artists! We moon-struck and God-struck ones! We death-silent, untiring wanderers on heights which we do not see as heights, but as our plains, as our places of safety!”
Friedrich Nietzsche

A world of worlds on a green leaf

A wanderer is man from his birth. / He was born in a ship / On the breast of the river of Time.”
Matthew Arnold

The gentle Nene Goose mates for life

“The family is one of nature's masterpieces.”
George Santayana

The winds of the world can blow you off course, especially if you soar far beyond your local skies.

To see your fledgling nest from the top of the highest tree reveals other, undreamed, unexpected vistas of possibility.

At first there is only excitement. Excitement and (to be honest) fear. But the excitement, or the wanderlust, or disgust with your surroundings, goads you higher. The sun is intoxicating, the winds of early Spring beguile like new playmates.

Discomfort is part of the game. Unaccustomed food and voices feed your days. But each moment un-moored bursts with presence. Even boredom is romantic as you explore the streets of a new town before it's morning begins.

You land beside still waters. Children, lovers, madmen, and the aged share a few moments and their crusts of bread with you in the long afternoon light. You sleep with your dreaming head buried in oil slicked feathers, and wake each day to the first day of life in the Garden. But something clicks, the temperature, or temper tantrum of a fellow wanderer. And the sky, always the sky, renews its imprecations as you fly to embrace new winds. Forward always forward. Calling, always calling.

Sometimes answered.

At last, a most heroic flight. With fleets of feathered navigators - far far from accustomed climes, at the end's reach of endurance, above an endless water sky.

First a feeling, then a smell, a change in the vast empyrean. Till low clouds sing the joy: Land! A verdant mountain rises from that endless sea of purgatory. Land! You remember. You once had feet and still wings beside a rock instead of unconstant clouds. Remember?

It wasn't just a dream!

Water and water bugs. Ferns and bracken. No fox, no snake, no lightning. And maybe just because you're finally tired, after crossing the greatest crossing of them all, nudged by upper level jets and the lack of landing for mile upon night, and day upon mile. . . at last you stretch your neck content. Your tail end waggles in satisfaction as you feed. We few are the far fliers. We are the very best!

And after many ages pass, you forget that any other place, any other life ever existed. You are a distinct species: The Nene Goose, State Bird of Hawaii.

We now understand that this emblem of Hawaii, genetically distinct from any other bird, was once an immigrant, a malihini.

It was once a Canada Goose. A visitor off course who stayed, who changed.

Like me.

A L O H A! Cloudia

Friday, March 27, 2009

Aloha Friday!!

Click on photos to enlarge!

Remember when I was little, and you took me to the beach?

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." Albert Einstein

Distant Diamond Head

"Anything done out of fear, is a prayer to the devil."


Yes, these men are working half-submerged!

"Are you still colonizing life, or have you gone 'native' yet?"


Before there were casual Fridays, there was "Aloha Friday" here in Hawaii.

The world famous "Aloha Shirt" was initially developed in Honolulu during the Thirties. First, colorful Japanese yukata fabrics were used. Then tropical prints were imported from Tahiti and Samoa. Traditional Hawaiian tapa cloth patterns, and Javanese batiks became popular too.

Ellery Chun, a local alumnus of Mr. Obama's school, Punahou and of Yale University (1931) changed the name of his family's King Street dry goods store from Chun Kam Chow's to King-Smith Clothiers. He arguably developed the concept there, and many consider him to be the father of the aloha shirt. Other local companies such as Gump's Department Store, and Watamull's East India Store, soon commissioned Hawaii artists like Elsie Das to create floral textiles emblazoned with local foliage, surfers and hula dancers. Mr. Chun's sister, Ethel, hand painted her own motifs that were then reproduced on cotton or silk in Japan. Today those vintage "silkies" are worth quite a lot of money!

Other classic-era Aloha Shirts were marketed by Branfleet, Kamehameha, and Royal Hawaiian. But only Mr. Chun had the foresight to trademark the term "Aloha Wear."

In 1947 the City of Honolulu began encouraging locals to wear Hawaiian shirts to work during the Summer months. Soon enough, Fridays year round became "Aloha Friday"s. Ultimately the shirts became ubiquitous, no matter the day of the week. Today in Honolulu's downtown business district few of the men one see's on the streets are wearing suits and ties. The only major exceptions seem to be attorneys and court workers who, nonetheless manage to look "local" in some indefinable way. It's easy to spot a "foreign" businessman in town for a meeting. The conservative grey suit is a dead giveaway!

Of course, the subdued patterns favored by local businessmen for office wear are a far cry from the loud shirts that a visitor to the islands might buy. Companies like Manuheali`i, Tori Richard, and Reyn Spooner are major producers of the finer sort of Aloha Shirt. Couples walking the sidewalk in matching Aloha Wear might as well wear a sign reading: "Tourist." But that's OK. Our whole economy is based on the visitor industry! So wear what you like, and have a wonderful day.

As the song says: "It's Aloha Friday - no work till Monday." See you at Da Beach! Mahalos to Alan Brennert, author of Honolulu, for his research on the topic.
A L O H A! Cloudia

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Choose Your Path

Click on photos to enlarge! Empty beach - Full sky

"The opposite of prosperity is not extinction."

Ian Parker

Undisturbed Morning, Waikiki

"Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

Blooming Aloe & Fuel

“When all's said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it's not so much which road you take, as how you take it.”
Charles de Lint

While learning to ride a motorcycle, I was taught the importance of focus. "Where you look - is where you will go." When an obstruction or pothole appears in the road, the eye is drawn to it. But instead of fixing on it, the experienced rider looks at the road ahead, glancing along the clear path around.

Too often, we focus our energy & attentions on that which troubles or displeases us. The rule of attention attracts to us more of the same; We encounter about what we expect to.

In fact we are often oblivious to easy solutions, as we beat our heads bloody on the wall beside an unlocked door. . .

A L O H A! Cloudia

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Banana Fana Bo Bana

Click on photos to enlarge! Reflected Glory

The Lehua blossom unfolds when the rains tread on it."
Hawaiian Proverb

Another View

"I want to die in my sleep like my friend.... Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car."
Wil Shriner


"We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends."
Pierre Corneille

Today I was feeling a bit sad.

I was sad about my father's declining health.

Strangely my feelings felt somehow "clean."

A calmness prevailed.

No shaking my fist at fate,

or at God.

No "What if" or "Why not."

Just smelted acceptance; and gratitude.

Gratitude that I got to spend time with him late in life,

Gratitude, and apprehension
that indefinite time, and pain remain to him.

And I realized something then.

I finally understood:

When trauma and disaster are overcome

a space is cleared

for appropriate grief

in it's proper season.

But what remains is luminous

and oh so beautiful!

A L O H A! Cloudia

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kimono Cuties

Click on photos t0 enlarge! "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."
Isaac Asimov
Honolulu in the 1850's

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable."
Madeleine L'Engle

Husband & Wife

"A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day."
Andre Maurois

Picture Brides en route to new lives in Hawaii

"Marriage. It's like a cultural hand-rail. It links folks to the past and guides them to the future."
Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Back "in the day," many Asian men came to Hawaii as contract laborers intending to return home with their savings at the end of the contract period. Lots of these single men decided to stay on in the Kingdom (later the Republic, then the Territory) and sent back to their home countries for wives. Some marriages were arranged by families; other wives were chosen by the men themselves from among "picture brides."

These pioneering Hawaii couples usually had their pictures professionally taken, and they sent copies back to family in "the old country." The men wore suits to betoken their successful adaptation to "the west." But they wanted to preserve their culture, and for their wives to remain traditional. Hence the genre of Kimono pictures. In the earliest times, the wife would wear her own best kimono. In later days, the photographer might own the clothing used in the "shoot."

Even today in Hawaii, especially on "Girl's Day" or Hina Matsuri in March, local children still dress in kimono to be photographed. A tradition that used to be specific to the local Japanese community is now enjoyed by girls and families from all walks of island life.

Hina Matsuri has its roots in an ancient Shinto spring-welcoming ritual celebrating the Earth's annual renewal. It is sometimes referred to as the "peach festival" ("momo no sekku") because the peach symbolizes softness, mildness, peacefulness, happiness and marriage.

The festival is also the time when Japanese families bring out a "hina ningyo," or "doll display." "Hina Matsuri," in fact, translates as "doll festival. The full hina ningyo can encompass up to seven tiers, topped by dolls representing an Emperor and Empress of the Heian Period (794-1192). The lower tiers display three ladies-in-waiting, court musicians, government officials, and footmen in imperial livery. The bottom one contains items of daily life such as carriages, dressers, plates and peach trees.

Less-than-wealthy families usually started their Hina Ningyo with the emperor and empress dolls, then added to the collection year by year. It was said that anticipating each year's new doll would cultivate patience, respect, diligence and responsibility in the family daughters. The hina ningyo was put on display about two weeks before Hina Matsuri, then taken down on that day. It was believed that leaving the display up beyond March 3 would cause the girl(s) to marry late.

In today's Hawaii, community organizations host events where girls are invited to be dressed up by professional kimono dressers, and to have their pictures taken. Girls who possess their own kimono are encouraged to wear them and take part in a parade.
A L O H A! Cloudia

Monday, March 23, 2009

MTM, Honolulu Living History

Moonlight Hawaii, Vintage Postcard

"Nothing had prepared me for Honolulu ... It is a typical western city ... It is the meeting place of East and West, the very new rubs shoulders with the immeasurably old. And if you have not found the romance you expected, you have come upon something singularly intriguing. All these strange people live close to each other, with different languages and different thoughts; they believe in different god and they have different values; two passions alone they share, love and hunger. And somehow as you watch them, you have an impression of extraordinary vitality" Somerset Maugham in 1921

Honolulu Harbor, T.H. (Territory of Hawaii)
Post Card
"The further I traveled through the town the better I liked it. Every step revealed a new contrast - disclosed something I was unaccustomed to. ... I saw cottages surrounded by ample yards, ... I saw luxurious banks and thickets of flowers, fresh as a meadow after a rain, and glowing with the richest dyes ...I saw huge-bodied, wide-spreading forest streets ... I saw cats - Tom cats, Mary Ann cats, long-tailed cats, bobtail cats. . .individual cats, groups of cats, platoons of cats, companies of cats, regiments of cats, armies of cats, multitudes. . . and all of them sleek, fat, lazy, and sound asleep ... I breathed the balmy fragrance of jessamine, oleander, and the Pride of India ... I moved in the midst of a summer calms as tranquil as dawn in the Garden of Eden ..."
Mark Twain on Honolulu

Today, a modern city surrounds Diamond Head

"Honolulu - it's got everything. Sand for the children, sun for the wife, sharks for the wife's mother." Ken Dodd

Reading a historical novel that bears the name of one's Home Town is an unusual experience. Well, Brennert's Honolulu is as good as I could have hoped for. This is what they call a "page turner," except that I'm enjoying it too much to hurry! There are wonderful sentences to linger over, and savory bits of Honolulu history that illuminate my hometown ever more deeply and richly.
This author also animates the thoughts and emotions of women characters so well that it is irresistible for me to identify with Jin, the heroine. Frankly, I see many parallels between her immigrant story and mine. The story of Honolulu is the story of those who came here from far away - beginning with the voyaging Hawaiians themselves.
Hawaii continues to lure many. Some she expels outright. She seems especially to test those who wash up here determined to stay sight unseen, especially those of us like Jin and myself with no "back" to go "back" to.

Life here is very hard, until one day you wake up and realize how much this place has become a part of you (and vice versa); how much you love Honolulu Town and her people, and that you could never live anywhere else for the rest of your life. You passed the purification, been humbled, been hanai-ed (adopted) become "local."

It was very difficult to pull myself away from the story this morning, but as my day would take me into the Historic core of my town, I was (in a real sense) still in it's setting. Walking today on streets named in the novel, I saw and knew not just what was so pungent before my eyes, but my own taxi memories of nights long ago, things vanished, and landmarks that remain. Now, thanks to Brennert, the people and places of even older times are all around me too.

There's no other place exactly like this place, my hometown: Honolulu!
A L O H A! Cloudia

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Ramble

Click on photos to enlarge! Maureen's Street

Look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror
Byrd Baggett

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. There is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau

Saint Patrick's Day Band

“Hey mister music, sure sounds good to me. I can't refuse it, what to be got to be”
Bob Marley

The weather here should be classified as a drug. Sun, sky, sea, and smiles are intoxicating.

I'm going out to play now. Hope you are too. Happy Springtime & ALOHA! Cloudia

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Brennert a Class Act

Click on photos to enlarge!"The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself."
Rita Mae Brown

A Very Competent Workman
(He is making the "Shaka" gesture that is a friendly greeting among Hawaii people - NOT a gang sign!)

"Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it."
Henry David Thoreau

Alan Brennert: Author & Gentleman

“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.”
George Bernard Shaw

Throughout classic Asian cultures, a person was not considered completely cultivated, truly civilized, if they could not write a passable poem. Additionally, it was the height of barbarity & rudeness to receive one and NOT reply. By these lights, many otherwise well-regarded modern folks are barbarians. How many of us have sent a manuscript, CD, or weblink to someone we might reasonably expect an acknowledgement from, and then heard. . . Nothing. . . ?

Then there are recognized artists, or writers, who remain humble even while enjoying best seller(s), the laurels, and the rewards that success brings. They feel, perhaps, a responsibility to their muse & a mission to carry the torch with some purpose greater than their egos. They remain alert to the struggling beginner for whom a kind word is like winning a prestigious award. No need to lie, a mere friendly acknowledgement will satisfy the hobbyist, feed and fire up the true & lonely journeyman.

A while back I blogged a review of Alan Brennert's Molokai a novel that haunts me still with it's successful alchemy of research, skill, & magic. You can look at the review here:

Well, out of the blue, Mr. Brennert was kind enough to send me a friendly e-mail graciously thanking me for the review! His book is already HUGE, and he's on to the next one. He didn't have to do that. He wrote that my little Hawaii novel, Aloha Where You Like Go? and this blog, looked "interesting" and invited me to meet him here in Honolulu during the promotional tour of his latest: Honolulu.

Last Saturday was rainy, and wet in more ways than one (see previous post Water Week). Consumed by my domestic excitement I had forgotten the long awaited rendezvous. At 20 minutes till the book signing, the light went on! I jumped into clothes (all black matches - no thinking) and even found a parking spot. (quite a condensed sentence eh?).

Mr. Brennert's latest, is the story of a young Korean "Picture Bride" who came to these islands in the early 20th century to marry. Many mainlanders cannot discern a Chinese from a Japanese person. Living in Hawaii, I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting and befriending the above, plus Korean-Americans, and thus becoming aware of this great culture even before TV's LOST, or Hyundai.

The early chapters of Honolulu have already "hooked" me, and taught me things I never understood about the "Yobo" culture, food, history & language. When the action moves to Hawaii I'll need to retreat to a locked room to gorge on this story. Do not disturb. The man has skills and heart - the unbeatable literary combination! He mentioned during the reading, that he chose a Korean protagonist partly because the wonderful independent film Picture Bride had already addressed the story from the better-known Japanese perspective. Smart move. Picture Bride is a masterpiece that says more about the real Hawaii than a dozen history books! I strongly suggest that you see it. AFTER reading Honolulu that is ;-)

Alan was friendly, and humbly happy to exchange signed books. Easily wearing the generosity of "the great" he elevated me to his rarefied empyrean, and we talked simply as fellow writers. I personally know how exhausting (if exhilarating) it is to address even a sympathetic audience about one's passion. And this was the last stop of the tour for a very sniffly and sore-throated author!

Nevertheless, he took time to talk story with me about his career (TV writing, genre fiction) about the process of researching and producing a novel, and about his love of Hawaii. "The next book," he said, "won't be set in the islands. Don't want to be typecast." Cloudia (relieved): "That's my pigeon-hole!"

So check out Honolulu. And thank you for entering the Comfort Spiral! Stop by any time; The A l o h a here is always as fresh as two-finger poi! Cloudia

Friday, March 20, 2009

Swim, Boy, Swim!

Click on photos to enlarge! "Acquire inner peace and a multitude will find their salvation near you."
Catherine de Hueck Doherty

1923 Ford touring car
"If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music... and of aviation."
Tom Stoppard

"The only competition worthy a wise man is with himself”
Anna Jameson

All of nature is animate; Lovers

“The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult.”
Madame Marie du Deffand

Maui Realtor Mike Spalding is in his early sixties but his version of "taking it easy" might not match yours exactly. A few nights ago the long distance swimmer, and recent inductee into the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame, set out to retrace the crossing by Kamehameha's flotilla of war canoes of the 30 mile wide Alenuihaha Channel from the Big Island to Maui.

All was proceeding "swimmingly." Spalding was in the zone beloved of distance athletes and the crossing looked good. Then something in the wine dark sea scratched his chest. He realized that the light from his accompanying kayak had attracted a swarm of cuttlefish. A moment later, a 1 inch by 3 inch bite was taken out of his leg, probably by a cookie cutter shark feeding on the cuttlefish. No word on if the little shark spit out the human flesh and said "Phooey." Mike called the kayak over and scrambled aboard, filling it with fresh blood.

Cookie Cutters grow to only about 2o inches long, but they possess a serrated row of sharp teeth suggesting the eponymous baking tool. They take a bite and SPIN. Ouch!

Maui boy intends to complete the swim at a future date. No quote from da shark. As for me? Look for me under a ridiculously big straw hat FAR up the beach. . . A L O H A! Cloudia

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Water Week

Click on photos to enlarge!Work boats wrestle barge off my stern.

"A sailor afloat is a prisoner in danger of drowning."

Dr. Johnson

Barge in place, ready to make NOISE!

“You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there”
Edwin Louis Cole

Crane tops the masts.

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it”
Lao Tzu

For those of us who live afloat, water is a potential adversary that must always be regarded with respect, like cooking fire. Bringing it aboard in the sheep's clothing of plumbing, inviting it inside the hull, is a folly that only domestic comfort could demand and be granted.

Rust, too, never sleeps nor ever awaits an invitation. Under the tutelage of water and rust, my past week has been something not entirely unlike imprisonment, giving me an appreciation for the lives and contributions of galley slaves throughout the ages.

As many of you know, there has been major harbor construction all around me for weeks now. Cranes and compressors to the front of me, heavy equipment to my rear, powerboats scant feet off of my stern as they wrestle the work barge (above) near enough to send vibrations racing through water, hull, and finally into my nervous system. And it has been rather nervous of late as you might guess!

So I was delighted to escape with a gal pal for a few quiet hours of palliative acquisition (shopping) today-a-week-ago. It was upon my return aboard that this saga really begins; the incessant jack hammer & diesel assault had only been softening me up for the main event. . .

Know that feeling of returning home wishing only for a cup of tea? Well I soon forgot my cuppa when I noticed the diminutive lake growing in my engine room!

The mechanical castanets of doom outside mocked me with their inescapable chattering as I switched on the savior pump. With so much noise, I couldn't discern the potentially home-saving hum of the pump. Then slowly, too slowly, the lake began to recede.

The lake had formed while I was away and all shore-water coming aboard turned "off." This meant that wily water had wormed it's way through quarter inch steel and tons of cement. The real question? When might the full "gush" finish the job?

It takes a lot to get the favourite husband to come home early. He loves what he does, and has a position of some responsibility. But water aboard is code for "get back here NOW!" And it worked.

Pumps should be automatic. I should be a best selling author. We don't always get what we want right away. Careful timing showed that I had two hours between manual pump outs. Not too bad: I could leave the boat for an hour, and sleep in two hour shifts. Husbands need their jobs and so get to sleep through - only fair. The first night was not too bad. A float switch was acquired and a repairman contacted.

With Miss Kitty, this computer, and everything we own aboard, I was ready to do what it takes. Lionesses always protect the cave. I only hoped that the suddenly puny-appearing pump would hold up and adhere to my 2 hour feeding schedule. Then the water speeded up.

Repairmen running true to form, Sunday rolled around without a resolution. Hubby stayed aboard to meet and greet (and pump) while I was paroled for about seven hours of socialization, secure in the knowledge that the problem would soon be solved. . .

The lack of sleep, and underlying tension (grab EVERYTHING and RUN!) finally broke over me like a trunami as I returned home to more repairman excuses and a 2o minute interval on the pumps. Electric back-up pump in place, and a timer at hand I settled in for an all-nighter. Two hours of sleep seemed so luxurious now!

I watched a fascinating documentary on TV about Henry Langois and the Cinematique. Virtually the first person to grasp the curatorial value of film, he set out to preserve these fragile documents of volitile nitrate stock. His story played a central role in the cultural upheavals of the Sixties, it seems, and I revelled in the footage of Parisian students rioting in grainy black and white footage. I read the English subtitles until it was time for the next pump-out.

Hubby found me twilight-dozing at 5am with the alarm ready to "beep" and kindly took over as I dozed a couple of hours before my trip to the home supply depot super store for another back-up pump, back flow limiters, and a crate of amphetamines.

When I returned home, the auto pump was finally auto pumping. That sucking sound you hear is the song of my freedom! The eminent emergency was now just a fun water feature. I always wanted to raise carp at home for fun and profit! Meanwhile, the harbor was still too churned up and opaque from rain to send a diver down. That would take another day to accomplish. . .

Yesterday, Tuesday, the diver found a suspicious spot below and plugged it with special boat-bottom magic sealer. The regular sucking noise of the pump slowed down like a patient returning from the brink of death and breathing normally again. . . And so we passed a second full night of blessed sleep.

Today we are drying out, I could even leave the boat all day if I wasn't so wasted. Drier weather has returned too, bringing back mesmerizingly blue Waikiki skies. The blessed, soothing Trade Winds have been filling back in all day. Paradise regained - for now. LOL!

So now you know why this blog missed posting on Tuesday. Hope you understand! And the construction? It's down to a dull roar today - but at least I'm free to leave. . . For now ;-)

A L O H A! Cloudia

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

House of Many Gods

Click on photos to enlarge! Wai'anae Valley, O'ahu

"Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Home Sweet Hale

“It is a well-known fact that we always recognize our homeland when we are about to lose it.”
Albert Camus

Tutu (Grandma)

“The hero draws inspiration from the virtue of his ancestors.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

After a torrid childhood love affair with fiction, I got too busy and too grown-up to read all that merely "made up stuff." For years I didn't have time for it. I went whoring after information, thirsted after facts. But now, with the world's systems roiling, our parents passing, and age inexplicably encroaching even upon ourselves, I find once again that I am deeply fed by stories. . .Human stories. . . Yours. . . and Mine. . .

Our lives, I believe, are lifted and dignified when we remember the struggles of those who came before with gratitude, and when we awaken to the wonder of our own parading moments. . .

In her well received novel, House of Many Gods, Kiana Davenport (author of Song of the Exile) demonstrates "that living is a sacred act." My Hawaii novel, Aloha Where You Like Go? is the story of one who journeys to the Islands, learning about life & herself, through this uniquely rich setting. But Ms. Davenport (of Native Hawaiian & Anglo-American descent) writes from the Na'au, the bowels of this 'Aina (sacred land) itself, where the deepest truths of the Hawaiian people and their gods reside. . .

Opening these pages, we find ourselves among the very rocks and roots of the most Hawaiian of places, far from Honolulu city lights: Waianae Valley on O'ahu's Leeward Coast. This is a place and a way of life that few outsiders get to know beneath the hot, sunny surface. I had the privilege of conducting an after school group at Waianae High School for a few years and felt deeply touched to be even a small part of the lives of the children and families of "the coast." They taught me a lot. It is indeed a special place!

This story begins with all the commonplace cliches of the district: poverty, drugs, crime, the struggle for dignity, family dysfunction, and the cultural dislocation and dispossession of the Hawaiian people. But this is no political screed. Through dazzlingly arresting phrases & sentences, the author creates characters and scenes that come to life in your heart. Small kid times, extended families, homely joys, and keening rich pain, all coalesce into a whispering spell that draws a reader like an undertow of the mind. . . I really cared about Ana, and her family. Then a plot twist whisked me to a completely different setting; A land of moonlit birches, of unrelenting snow & cold. . . If you choose to read House of Many Gods, you will not be disappointed. Not only will you touch the ineffable (ah! literature!) but you will absorb a deeply soulful nourishment.

Oh! and you will absorb interesting "facts" and "information" in the truest way: through humanity and caring. Thanks for stopping by today.

A L O H A! Cloudia

Monday, March 16, 2009

MTM: In Bed With an Elephant

Click on photos to enlarge!Hawaiian Rainbows

"Don't buy the house. Buy the neighborhood,"
Russian Saying

Welcome to the HHV!

“Love thy neighbor--and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier.”
Mae West

Wedding pictures at the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon.

Hilton Rainbow Tower behind.

That is the world's tallest tile mural.

"Canada, in sharing a border with the USA" is like a mouse in bed with an elephant." Anonymous

Some people want to live adjacent to a college campus. I live next door to the 12th largest resort in the world. This "campus" boasts the largest number of rooms at any resort in the State of Hawaii with 3,543 total. Of these 2,860 are traditional hotel rooms, 639 are time share, and 44 (in the Diamond Head Rainbow Apartments) may be rented by the month.

Welcome to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa!

When Duke Kahanamoku grew up here, folks still knew the area as Kalia, an age-old Hawaiian fishing village. Further down the beach were primitive tourist accommodations like Gray's Cottages (where Earl DeBiggers spent a summer, and found his most famous character: Charley Chan in local newspaper reports of the exploits of Honolulu Police detective Chang Apana).

In the Fifties, the early TV detective show, Hawaiian Eye, was filmed here. Remember Cricket (Connie Stevens) singing to the tourists, and local taxi driver Ponci Ponce playing his ukulele at the curb? Robert Conrad was the young "heart throb" of the show. All of the kitchey tiki paraphernalia has long since been purged. Pity. Arthur Godfrey (forgotten today - but BIG back in the day) sometimes broadcast from here. "How ah ya? How ah ya? How ah ya?" he said, mixing the magic name, "Hawaii," with "How-are-you;" pretty clever to a young kid (me). He too played the ukulele, and my earliest memories of Hawaiian Music are from hearing guests perform on his radio broadcasts. When I moved here, certain strangely familiar Hawaiian Classics gave me an unearthly memory of "small kid times." Part of my soul was here all along...

In the sixties, industrialist mastermind, Henry Kaiser, owned the property and prevailed on Buckminster Fuller to build one of his geodesic domes here. I walked past it many many times as long lines of visitors waited outside to be seated within for the dinner show. Today, the fountain with the three hula dancers (photo above) replaces the dome and welcomes visitors to Waikiki...

President JFK visited, as have many, many world personalities. I remember Bill Clinton drawing enthusiastic crowds to the lagoon, and George Bush rushing past less enamored crowds in his motorcade as he retreated to a closed fund raiser inside - or was it Cheyney?

The HHV is a small city unto itself. Almost daily, I walk down her beach, through her lobby, past her art, admire her carp, and over-hear her guests speak languages from around the world. Popular with corporations and conventions, the grounds often host grand private "events" with entertainment by famous artists. One of the high points of my life was presenting a paper about my work with youth to the annual meeting here of the Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists in 2001. A pleasant memory to conjure as I "schlep" through dressed like a bum, and covered in sweat on a hot day. . .

So this is my neighborhood. From my scow, I mean 'boat' I can see the bright windows of world-class hotel suites. There's no place like home!

A L O H A! Coudia