Sunday, August 30, 2009


There are two things about growing up in Hawaii and becoming a water activist that will no doubt have a profound impact on you for the rest of your life as regards to the ocean, if you happen to go someplace else. One is the warmth of the water. Nice clean warm water. It will spoil you for anything else in the world. The other thing which is much less subtle is…

I had started surfing in Hawaii when I was like 9 or 10. We had moved to Hawaii when I was 6 and my sister BJ was 13 or 14. It must have been when she was 17 when we went to Waikiki to take surfing lessons. We lived over on the windward side of Oahu in Kailua and nobody was surfing there. Nobody that I recall seeing. I spent a lot of time on the beach as a kid growing up. I don’t remember anybody surfing shorebreak. This was back in the late 50’s.

So, my sister and I went into Waikiki and took some surfing lessons. Yes, that’s right, the Waikiki Beachboys. You know it’s funny. I, and I assume, most people can remember some days in our past like we were there now. While others, huh? This was one of those days. Paddling out on this giant board on my knees and trying to turn the board around with my legs like egg beaters on both sides of the board. Looking at the beachboy man and seeing him looking out to sea. Him talking to me and saying, after we sat there for a while, ‘Okay, here comes one. When I say start paddling, you start paddling.’ Then the moment arrived. He said, ‘Okay, start paddling!’ Me there on my knees, pulling the water through my hands. Stroking. Stroking. Stroking, just like he had told me to do on the beach. Suddenly there was some kind of magic. The board was going by itself. The Beachboy saying, ‘Okay, you caught it. Stand up!’ I stood up. Just like he had taught me too. One foot in front of the other. I was riding. Wow! This is too cool. ‘Wow! This is too cool!’
Yep, I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

I don’t recall my sister ever going out again, but I was hooked. It wasn’t long until I was begging my parents for a surfboard. ‘I’ll mow the lawn three times a week!’ ‘I’ll even keep my room clean!’ ‘I’ll wash your car every week!’ They relented.

I and my friends were surfers. Maybe we were the first kids to start surfing shorebreak in Kailua. This was like 58, 59. My first surfboard was a Hobie balsa wood with a cool laminated single fin.

My first place to surf other than Hawaii was the year I graduated from High School, Puerto Rico, 1965. Some local kids there my age were just beginning. We went to a place called Rincon and another right in front of San Juan. The water and conditions in Puerto Rico were almost identical to Hawaii. Nice and warm.

In 1975 I moved to Samoa, Western Samoa. My wife, brand new son and I lived right outside Apia which is a story in itself –Chief Tupu. Oui!

We had just moved to Samoa and of course I had my surfboard. The very first weekend I was out surfing. Now we are going to get to the other thing. The other thing about growing up in Hawaii, other than the nice clean warm water.

Samoa, like Hawaii and Puerto Rico, had very nice warm water. But there was something else that I was going to discover.

On the South coast of Upolu as the road crosses over the island you can travel along the road and take a side road down to a place that was then called ‘Hideaway Inn’. It must have changed its name because I don’t find it now.

Anyways, I drive down this local road and come out onto the beach head. There is a reef that runs from the beach out to the surf line about a quarter of a mile out. Nice clean waves breaking into a channel. I study it for a while and decide to paddle out. From the beach the waves looked like four feet. As I got out, they were about 6 feet. I watched and took off on some easy waves on the shoulder before paddling into the deeper waves with more exciting and longer rides.

So there I am, sitting on my board in the afternoon about a quarter of a mile from the beach with this big extended reef in front of me. Perfectly clear water. The sun light playing under the clouds along the mountain ridge. Beautiful! I surfed and surfed. Then something changed. Something that I sure wish I had been paying more attention to, had I had experience with this sort of thing.

I catch a wave and as I end the ride I notice that there is a rather strong current going out over the reef from the shore line. I am watching this current and realize that there is a tide change and the tide has already dropped more than a foot or two or more. I am looking in and on this extended reef all along the coast; the current is like pouring off the reef. It is already so strong that I am not sure if I will be able to paddle against it to get all the way to the shore.

To give you an accurate description, I am sitting just at the end of the surf break that has a channel going in toward the coast. The water in the channel and on the reef is pouring off the quarter mile or so deep reef all along this coast. It is like looking at a river flowing down stream. But his ‘river’ and its current are as long as the island is long. I also noticed that the surf break I was now surfing was so shallow that to try to catch a wave and go in over the reef was impossible because the reef was now exposed as the waves came in. My only chance to get in was to paddle in through the channel. And this was where the current was the strongest. I went for it. I started paddling and trying to pace myself.

As I was trying to do this it was dawning on me that I wasn’t going anywhere, I saw a little island on the edge of the reef about three hundred or so yards away. It was not that I had not seen it before, but now I was looking for some help. I decided that this was my only course. So I paddled down to it and went in with a wave up to the rocky and coral shore of this tiny little island as it was sitting there on the edge of this extended reef. It was now in the later part of the afternoon. How long was I going to have to wait till the tide changed? Probably another 3 or 4 hours? Probably. Oh Good! Just how I wanted to spend one of my first nights in Samoa!

In Hawaii the tide changes are I think like two feet to two feet and a few inches at most. In Samoa the tide changes were like 6 feet. Six feet of water pouring off a quarter of a mile of coastal reef into the depths. Depths like deep blue! I had just ‘discovered’ the ‘other thing’ about growing up in Hawaii – very moderate tide changes.

There I was as the late afternoon became evening which then became night. Sitting with my surfboard on this little rocky coral islet a quarter of a mile from the coast. Planning how I was going to mark a course of paddling in, in the darkness of night when there was some water to paddle in over this reef as it was still emptying itself of its outgoing tide.
Great! Great, Great, Great!

I made a decision in the fading light to paddle back outside the reef to the channel and then go back in through the channel. I had come out that way and I made all the mental calculations about how far to paddle. I could make out land marks on the mountain ridge and as night fell, there were lights from the Hideaway Inn that I could use to navigate in through the channel.

I made myself as comfortable as possible and set up my surfboard on driftwood where I could lay down and rest for my night time paddle back down the coast outside the breakers which were still about 6 feet.

Later that night I figured that the tide was finally coming in as the water level was suddenly splashing on me where I had set my surfboard. It was a clear night and the stars were as bright as I had ever seen. I waited for a set of waves to come in and then I launched my surfboard off the islet and paddled hard out to make sure I was not going to get caught my the next set of waves.

This really sucked. So dark that you could just make out the outline of things against the night sky. In Samoa of all places. Listening to the waves and seeing the white water from the breakers, trying to judge by sound and this limited vision just how far I was outside the breakers. This really sucked. I had so much adrenaline flowing through my body that I can still feel it’s effect as I write this now. Shoot it is 2009 and that was in 1975.

Paddling down the coast and trying to line myself up with the mountain ridge, the sound of the waves inside of me, the two or three lights from the Hideaway and then ‘bump’! Shit! What was that? I had hit a drift wood. ‘God, please let me get in! I can’t handle this! What do you want me to do? I’ll do anything. Juz please let me make it to the beach! God, please...'

I was like a tape recorder playing this looped message to our creator all the way down the coast and in through the channel. I made it to the beach. I walked through the coconuts and palm frones to my pick up. Took out my wax in my pocket to get my key which was stuck in it. I opened the car and the lights came on. I stuck the key in the ignition and turned it to accessories. The radio clock came on: 10;18PM. This was another moment in time that has stuck to me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Night In The Desert Alone at age 4!

We are not alone.

Before we moved to Hawaii, living in Albuquerque and my grandmother living in Hatch, New Mexico, we had several occasions to visit her. Hatch, New Mexico is a small little town in southern New Mexcio almost directly south of Albuquerque. Albuquerque being almost in the middle of the state. Pat, my oldest sister has fond memories of spending summers at Grandmother Palmers Hotel. She said it was like living in Mayberry. On these family visits we would drive down for a long weekend to stay with her. Perhaps the Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, or Thanksgiving. From Albuquerque it would be about a 4 hour drive. Of course now with the interstate I-25, just a little over 2 and a half hours. But back around 1952 is was 4 hours at best.

It was on one of these long weekends that we took off as soon as my Dad drove into the drive way after work. We were all ready to go. We loaded up the car with our personal effects and a meal to eat on the road.

Of course some where along the way having eating and drank these refreshments we had brought, it was necessary to, you know, make a nature call. Back in those days, the route to Hatch was a two lane State Highway. So, in the darkness of night we would pull off the road where it was convenient to do so, jump out, do our business, everybody jumping back in and taking off again.

Everybody that is except me.


A dark moonless night in the desert. My family car tail lights fading away, fading away, fading away, fainter, fainter and finally gone,


I should explain how this was possible to have happened. I certainly paid more attention to situations like this from ‘that night’, forward as I ‘thank God’ grew up. You see, Pat was very much like a second Mom to me. As a child and Pat being 11 years older, when I was like 4 or 5, she was 15 or 16. Already grown up. I would just as likely hold Pat’s hand as I would Mom’s hand when we went anywhere.

So, in a situation like this, I might have been in the back seat with Pat and BJ when we stopped and then gotten into the front seat with Mom and Dad when we left, had I done so. Yes, I certainly paid more attention to these little situations from that night forward.

A dark moonless night in the dessert of New Mexico, 1952.

It was quiet, now. The engine of our car had also faded into this peaceful quiet. The sky stars were my only light. My only companions where my surroundings and the heavens above me. The clarity is what I remember so clearly. Some time before this on an occasion that I can not place, my father on his knee, in our front yard in Albuquerque, pointing out in the night sky, the big dipper and the north star, the little dipper, Orion, Aries, the seven sisters, and the Milky way. Now they were above me in such perfect clarity against a backdrop of heaven and endlessness. Now on this occasion I had them for myself and they me. It was as if I had risen up and swam through the sky. It was as if I had found my place among them.

The time and space passed…

Not obviously being in the car, I am told first hand from Pat, Jeannie and in a certain way that can only be told by a mother, her head hung down, slowly shaking it back and forth, in recollection, who has had such an experience as this, as a Mother, the following account. At some point along the way my mother suddenly responded to an inner thought. She, sitting in the front seat, in the quiet darkness, rolling along the highway, next to my Dad casually says to Pat in the back seat, “Is Bob asleep? He has been quiet for a while.”

Pat: “He is not back here; I thought he was in the front seat with you.”

It is the one time in all my families’ collective experience that they simultaneously experienced a 180 degree turn. Screeching brakes. Jarring jolt first from back to front with the brakes, then from left, then suddenly right. Wham!

The time that had passed was a guess by all accounts. Each person, my Dad, my Mother, my sisters Pat and Jeannie to this day could not be sure. It ranged from 20 minutes, possibly, to 45 minutes, possibly. The conversation in the car was near hysterical, I am told. ‘What was the place that we had pulled out?’ ‘Do you remember any landmarks?’ ‘What! In the desert! It was dark!’ They of course wanted to get back as fast as possible but not so fast as to suddenly come upon me standing in the Highway and at a high speed run me over or so fast as to drive right past me. ‘What if another vehicle comes along and runs him over?’ ‘What of Lobos?’ ‘Or Mountain lions?’ ‘Or SNAKES, says Jeannie!?’

It was quiet suddenly, but the atmosphere was sheer panic! ‘What if he is hysterical?’ ‘Or wondered off into the dessert?’ ‘How would they ever find me?’ ‘Or who knows?’ It was sheer panic in the car.

Meanwhile out in the desert, it was, ‘who knows’ that won the night. We are not alone. ‘check!’

Later I became aware of a light on the horizon. It became slowly brighter and then it became two lights, then I heard the engine and it with the now visible two lights came brighter and more louder. Coming directly at me.

Suddenly the two now bright lights and loud engine came around and stopped suddenly near me. My father was the first to my side. Picking me up and looking at me. My mother and both sisters were crying. I was fine. What ever it was that ‘got me’, still has.

So, by the time I was 12 years old. I had crossed an ocean in the midst of a tumultuous winter storm; I had experienced a tsunami, first hand, an erupting volcano, first hand and a night alone in the desert. Well, I won’t tell you with how many hands.

Wow! What’s next?
Or should I say whoa.

Shortly after this trip to Hatch something very interesting occurred. Certain strange events were reported in Southern New Mexico. Visitors to earth from another world? What were they looking for?

‘He was about this tall. He was very friendly and…’

Grandmother Palmer sold her Hotel. My father built her a room at our house in Albuquerque. No more trips to Hatch.

Volcano at 11!

What else was something to know about nature was what happened the very next year. On the Big Island, Kilauea Iki erupted after being dormant for a period of time. A fountain spewing a thousand feet into the air was clearly visible and spectacular. It was all over the morning TV news as I left for school.

I arrived home from school and Mom told me that we were going to the Big Island to see the volcano. Just like that. Get ready. She had already packed my clothes for a two days stay. Cool.

Clarence Fuji, my Dad’ co worker’s, brother in law was the District Manager of the National Forest at Volcano National Park there.

Shee, what are the chances of that?

We, our family, Pat (who must have been home at the time), Jeannie, Mom, Dad and I, flew over to the Big Isle. Mr. Fuji meet us at the airport and we went to their home in Hilo. After dinner he led us in our rented car into the closed Park. Police had barricaded the entrance. Mr. Fuji in uniform led us through. We drove in along the creator road and got glimpses of the eruption through occasional breaks in the tree lined creator. We came around a curve in the road and behind the erupting volcano. As we got out of car the ground under us was moving. Like a slow sway. Wow! This raging inferno was very loud.

Standing on the asphalt road, slowly moving as we were, we walked maybe a hundred yards where the eruption was directly in front of us. Through the scorched branches of trees in the surrounding darkness was this spewing magma like a giant fountain. So huge! A continuous roar. Much like standing next to a jet engine. In front of us taking up our whole peripheral vision was a Volcano. The eruption was coming out of a fissure in the side of the huge Kilauea creator directly in front of us. It was spewing up and out a thousand feet into the air at a slight angle away from us. The heat was intense. No, it was not intense. It was INTENSE! There was no getting closer. We had to keep an eye out for occasional stray cinders. The road of which we stood upon was pocked with melted asphalt. We had to withdraw. It was way too intense.
The sky was like black in contrast to this raging inferno of yellowish white plume. The trees that remained were all leafless and silhouetted against this plasma.

For what ever time we stood there, maybe around an hour or so, we did so in awe. We would look at each other in the deafening noise and not say a word. As if we could above the noise. It was not just my family. Mr. Fuji understood perfectly.
Yes, that was also spectacular. When we got back to the Fuji’s home, we were surprised to discover our red sun burnt faces. Also that evening we had seen Madame Pele in the flowing river of the molten lava. Mr. Fuji took us back into the Park the next morning and we went back to the same place. It was just as much a raging inferno but the contrast in the day light from the previous night was not as dramatic. The night before was surreal.

That was pretty spectacular. Nature can do that too. ‘check!’

So, in my childhood I learned that nature rules. Not from text books, but from first hand experience. I do not know the dimension that differentiates the observed from the experienced. The sense perception is the same. But the gulf that separates experience from observation is ones personal faith and belief. So far in my life at this tender age I am firmly embedded in the belief of fire and water. They have my full devotion and absolute respect!

That was pretty spectacular. Nature can do that too. ‘check!’

Tsunami at 10

Chapter 3.
Growing up, Hawaiian style
One other part.

In 1957 there was a strong earthquake, 8.2, in the Aleutian Islands. A tidal wave alert would be issued by the National Defense. In 1957 they did not officially or unofficially, now that I think about it, call tidal waves, tsunamis. If you go to the Bishop Museum in Honolulu you will find a painting of an Hawaiian riding a tidal wave. Not a tsunami. Nope! There is no Japanese guy named Glen Murukami crouched down in one Kamakazii stance yelling ‘Banzaii’, riding a tsunami. Go see! Check it out. By the way, get plenty other cool stuff too.

My father was now Director of the Harbor Divisions with the Corps of Army Engineers, and also part of the National Defense Team. At around 2 to3AM he got a phone call which woke up the whole family. I don’t remember exactly what time it was. I was 10. It was in the middle of the night. And actually, the phone call did not wake me up. My Mom did. She did not wake me up unless it was important.


Excitement and then anxiety was suddenly a member of our household. The 1946 tidal wave in Hawaii generated in the same geographical area as this one, which had caused substantial damage in Hawaii and was of legendary proportions, was 7.4. This was 8.2! Whoa!
Our TV was on but it only showed the station channel number as it was ‘off’ hours. The radio was on to the official National Defense station but no announcement had been made. Coffee was percolating and slowly filling the air with its aroma and Mom and BJ were cooking some breakfast. My father was in the bedroom with the side table light on, sitting there with his back to the door talking on the phone and writing something on a pad of paper. Pat was (?). Where was Pat? I was walking around the house going from my bedroom to the kitchen, down the hall to look at Dad sitting on the bed with his back to me talking to someone and then back to the kitchen and then out on our lanai. It was dark. I was sleepy. I wanted to go back to sleep. Excitement and anxiety had not only moved in but had replaced sleep.
The TV suddenly came on very loud with the national anthem playing. I ran over to turn the volume down. BJ and my Mom stopped what ever they were doing in the kitchen and came to stand by me in the living room. Then the news room was on. It was a special alert announcement. ‘There is a tidal wave alert for the entire Hawaiian island chain. Expected time of arrival is shortly after 9AM. This is not a test. The National Defense System has issued a tidal wave alert for the entire Hawaii Islands. …’ The radio station was giving the same information. The same announcement. As we were standing there three abreast watching the TV newsroom person, we heard the first sirens going off outside. The sirens would continue at 15 minute intervals through this morning. Up to this point Excitement and anxiety had been relatively quiet. A growing nuisance visitor in the middle of the night, but at least quiet. Now Excitement and anxiety was looming like a replay of the Hindenburg blimp docking, and you knew what was going to happen next.
The family plan: Jeannie and I would be going with Dad. He was going to Lanakai Point to set up a recording station. We would be leaving the house at around 7AM. Until then we would pack our essential belongings. Mom would drive to… I don’t recall.

So, we packed all our photo albums, valuables, and two sets of cloths per person. We eat. We loaded Mom’s car and then we left in Dad’s.

At Lanakai Point, just a few blocks away, we drove up an access road behind the point and parked. We carried movie cameras, photo cameras and equipment to the point. We set the equipment up. We walked down to the beach and my Dad drove an orange and white pole into the sand at the waters edge next to the boat ramp with a sledge hammer. He and Jeannie measured off a 100’ back inland away from this first pole at waters edge and drove another pole into the sand. This second pole was just off the parking lot.

With these two poles set, Dad waded out into the water caring another pole, sledge hammer and the tape measure. He lined himself up with these two poles and drove the third pole into the sandy bottom, in line with the first two, at the same distance, 100’ from the first pole. He waded back in to shore and now we would wait. Or I would wait. Jeannie and my Dad were making lots of notes and recording time with photographs.

The morning was a beautiful clear day as usual. The sun was now rising into the blue sky. White fluffy clouds floating by in the trade wind ocean breeze. Yes, just like the post cards of Hawaii. It was a surreal day thinking back. I could have woken up this morning and had it not been a school day, walked down to David’s hale and who know what we would be doing by now. But now, it was entirely different. Now it would be entirely different and never the same. Nor I, really. I was 10 years old and going to get an education that one can never get in any school class room. I had front row, best seat in the house view. And check this out, my commentator was a world class Oceanographer Engineer, but I called him Dad.

As the 9AM hour approached, it did not take anyone with any brains to know that something ominous was taking place. As the expected time of arrival drew closer and closer, the water in the bay began receding out. I remember very clearly that the waters edge was at the boat ramp, just like normal when we arrived. Then it had begun slowly receding out. Where the boats would float off of their trailers at the bottom of the boat ramp, it was now silty sand. And it receded out and out. Just prior to the tidal waves arrival the bay from shore line to flat island had been drained. Little streams were draining out over the reef into the depths. The reef around flat island on both sides was becoming exposed. Twin islands off of Lanakai beach were connected to the shore line by land. Pools of water within the bay, where trapped fish were caught lay flipping around on their sides. They did not have to wait long.

On the horizon very suddenly came a series of waves each a little higher than the wave in front. From our elevated rise on the point we could see a whole set of waves approaching. They were coming fast. They were coming fast enough that even with the on shore trade winds, the waves as they mounted the coastal shelf, feathered and sprayed off the top. They were coming in much faster than the trade winds were blowing.

The first filled the bay to almost normal shore line. But before it could reach the shore line the second flooded past and over the first wave then up the shore line and up shore line a little. The third swamped the shore line and went over into the parking lot and the forth and fifth flooded the parking lot and flowed into the Kaelepulu stream and streets off of Kalaheo. The beach front homes though not knocked off their foundations were flooded. The Beamer home on stilts was in trouble. The concrete wall that separated Foodland and their property set perpendicular to the on coming surge made for an abrupt barrier of which the water just rose up and back washed. I saw their whole house just shift. My heart dropped.

In Kailua it was the only house that was damaged. The waves just flooded and flowed around the beach front homes. The concrete wall barrier had stopped the flow.

For me, seeing this Tidal wave or as they are now called Tsunami, ‘Yes Glen, you may still have your day!’, was an experience of a life time. Standing there on Lanakai point, just above Kailua Beach Park, a place that I had grown up and literally spent so much of my leisure time, my boy hood play time with my best friend and then in this one mid morning day watching and seeing this water receding out of the bay. To say it was eerie or spokey was not nearly as much as to say it was also shocking. I know it happened. I watched it happen. It all took place in a time frame that was progressive and measured. I was a spectator to an awesome event that altered a lot of peoples lives with all the detailed information shared with me by my Father’s first hand knowledge.

Some months later my Dad read from a report on the Earthquake that had generated this tidal wave. Had the fault shift been opposite to this one, the tidal wave would have been substantially larger and more powerful than it was. Consequently because it was in the opposite direction, the Aleutian chain of islands received a massive wave. Not Hawaii as had occurred in the 1946 earthquake.

Well that is something to know about nature. ‘check!’

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


A most original un-expected , un-paid for remedy for a previously un-controlled annoyance was a 'bonus' while having an otherwise delightful vacation. Permanently!

Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Siam View Resort at Arugam Bay.

We came here to surf at some of the best surfing spots in a 15 mile area in the world, other than the north shore of Oahu which is saturated with surfers.

Fred and Somlak were and remain two of the greatest host and hostess anywhere. I hold neither of them responsible for what happened. It is after all like, or similar to, ‘an act of nature’.

The area of Arugam Bay is surrounded by a National Park with wild life as big as elephants and as small as little green frogs.

It was the frogs that we were introduced to first. We had arrived in the afternoon after a long day of road travel across Sri Lanka from Colombo. We unpacked and went to the restaurant for dinner. A full moon rose and we walked along the beach with the waves lapping the shore line. We returned to our bungalow and flipped on the light switch. There on the white walls of our bungalow where two of the cutest little green frogs like glued. ‘Oh look! How cute! Oh, Wow’ ,we said: ‘Roomies!’

We brushed our teeth and jumped into bed. We glanced at our roomies on the walls. We puffed up our pillows and read by our nightstand light. It wasn’t long till ‘plop!’ We looked and one green froggy had snatched a dinner in mid air and then landed on the floor. Gulp! He hopped back on to the wall and walked up to a midway position as before. Wow, they can jump good! That ought to keep the bug population down.

As for me, these cute little guys were similar in nature to geckos in Hawaii which were regarded as ‘good luck’ to have as they inhabited the upper section of homes in Hawaii removing mosquitoes, one by one.

We fell asleep and when we awoke the next morning our roomies had vanished. Where to?

We surfed, relaxed, read, putted around and surfed again. In the evening after dinner, each evening as we came back to our bungalow, there on our walls were our roomies.
And each morning as we woke, they were gone. We even looked for them as they might be hiding behind furniture. Under furniture. But we could not locate them. Oh well!

That night we went to sleep. ‘Plop!’ But this plop of the landing cute little green froggie was right in my mouth!!! Yuck!!!
Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!
Kapooie!!!! Pewww!!!
Nat removes the pillow from over her head and says: ‘What’s wrong!’
‘Never mind. Go back to sleep!’
‘What happened?’
‘Okay, One of the froggies landed in my mouth!’
Laughter! Prolonged ridiculing laughter! Continuous laughter!
‘All Right already!
‘Well, it serves you right!’
‘Disturbing my sleep with your snoring!’

We went back to sleep. We were going surfing early the next morning at the break of day. And as we awoke, turned on the lights we discovered the day time living place of our roomies. They went into the toilet and swam through it to – ‘THE OTHER SIDE!’

She has never complained about my snoring since!
I do not sleep with my mouth open EVER!!!
I have been permanently cured of this annoying habit.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Art and Magic of Making People feel Good!

Gordie and Ana Benko, Pacifica, CA

Gordie is an ol surfing buddy of mine from Kailua. We graduated from Kailua Shore Break and High School too!

What would you say if I told you that if you made a person feel good about them self you would experience this same wonderful feeling for as long as they did?
And every time you saw that person this act would renew itself in happiness.
But if you ever share this with another soul, other than the one who was the benefactor, your act is vanished from goodness forever as for the benefit to you.

Don’t get me wrong. The goodness the person feels will last for their memory, and memory can transcend all worlds, but you will not share in this goodness. You have polluted it with pride.

It is only because I have been fortunate enough to have had this opportunity several times that I can waste this story on you. But before I begin, I must inform you that now that you are aware of other situations where I have been able to do this, they are vanished from goodness forever too. The benefit I might have enjoyed is now gone too. Pride and vainglory is dreadful.

It’s okay. I feel good enough about myself, I have lots of pride and vainglory, that I think I can repeat this again. Please God that I may! But I must learn humility. Focus on the happiness.

What is the Art of Making People feel Good?
An example:
This past weekend I was participating at a Surf Contest, 10th Annual Kahuna Kupuna Surf Contest in Pacifica, CA as a Co sponsor. Pau Pilau Biological Wetsuit Cleaner. An old surfing buddy of mine, Gordie Benko was a contestant. We had reconnected here after many moons separated.

Gordie won the Masters Division Short board and Long board (60 to 65 years old). It was actually quite impressive. His competition was not ‘lay down, unfunky’. From Santa Barbara California to Newport Oregon surfers came. A very strong contingent from Santa Cruz.
Any way, he made it to the finals (Hurrah!) and at the Dinner Awards Ceremony he and another guy were standing after 3rd place had been announced. His mouth opened as he saw the other guy step forward to receive the 2nd place lei and trophy.
It happened like repeat in the Short board (60 – 65) division. He was stunned. The separation in points was minuscule, but he won!

The Act:
I called Gordie up today (the next day) and he answered. I said, ‘This is Air Traffic Control calling Gordie Benko. Do you read?”
His laughter resounds. How long it will resound is for him. I have given it up to share with you in this proud moment.

Now that you might think that I think... Forget it.

If you think what I think…(I want to put a smile on your face).

The Magic is a growing network of invisible happiness that holds the world together in harmony. The tragedy is hatred that explodes these fibers into oblivion. The path you choose is the world you will live in here and here after.

Gee, what good thing can I think of for you? This is the focus.

And if you have read this far, now is the gift.

This is the gift of a thousand lives lived as a Buddha, as a Moses, as the Friend Muhammad, as the son Jesus as one with God. Or if you so wish, as the heart strings of smiles.

Each act of goodness by intent in this life is as your wings to fly in the next world. Without acts of kindness you lay like a lump of coal for the furnace but are never relieved of this knowing which you now know and are.

But if you focus on acts of kindness even only by intent, you will acquire those heavenly wings and heart strings of smiles and the fabric of love will be reflected in the namesake of your very being.

You will be happy and at peace forever and you will attract and perpetuate love, peace and happiness.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The three Brave (?) Boys and the Elephants

The whole time we were at the Siam View Resort in Eastern Province of Sri Lanka at Arugam Bay, with Fred and Somlak, two of the nicest host and hostess you could have, we noticed that the occupancy was not 100 percent surfers. Which you might expect at a place were there where numerous surf spots that were very good.

No. the occupancy we about 70 percent surfers and 29 percent people that were there to see the wildlife at the National Park. The other 1 percent was Peter the local drunk obnoxious scum who flashed unsuspecting tourist as he was dressed modestly with a towel only- always. Hello Peter! Hope you are fortunate to learn of this. Maybe you can clean up your act. The National Park had elephants, jaguars, wild boar, alligators, monkeys, peacocks, bears, etc. Each evening at dusk you would become aware of the friends at the resort as they prepared to leave on special viewing tours at favorite watering holes where you could see the wildlife emerge from the jungle.

As the surf was very good when we were there we surfed every day. We got up early and left for a favorite spot then came back, showered, ate, read, napped but didn’t venture out into the National park.

One surf spot was located where we drove through the National park and we did see elephants grazing occasionally. As they were grazing along the road we looked but did not linger. We were in a tuk tuk and they were wild, not zoo animals. As we also went by rivers and had to hike a ways to another spot along a river we were told to watch out for alligators as they had in fact been known to eat people.

Any way, one evening we were sitting around at the resort and we thought, why not? Let’s go see what’s all the fuss about with all these elephants and wild life. So, we asked Upali our driver to take us out to have a look see. He said that it was actually an iffy thing as you never know were they will come to. One night you might see them, the next night at the same place maybe not. We drove out in his tuk tuk and he suddenly braked. ‘Look’, he said. We looked, we didn’t see! ‘Where?’
Upali: ‘There by the jungle, the three elephants.’
‘Ohhhh’ , we said. Seeing now that, yes there were three elephants among the trees and only because he saw, did we see.
We got out and walked toward them. We were at some distance from them but in a really good position to watch them unobstructed and not bother them. The fact of the matter was that we were at a calculated distance that if they became annoyed with our presence for any reason, who knows, certainly not a guy from Hawaii or a girl from metro Russia, we would be able to get in the tuk tuk and begone before we could become part of the dirt.
As we watched them they were walking along the stream bed toward a small village maybe 150 yards away. In the village three boys took notice and immediately charged out yelling and picking up sticks and beating them on logs or the earth. The elephants ignored them. The boys drew closer and also now started throwing stones in the direction of the elephants. But not hitting them. We asked Upali why were they doing this. He told us that the elephants do occasionally enter villages and knock over small trees to eat fruit or graze on their gardens.

As the boys drew closer the bull elephant suddenly lifted his head and raised his trunk letting out a trumpet roar. The boys froze. The bull elephant looked at them and then went back to more interesting things on the ground. The boys resumed their tactics, beating sticks and throwing more stones. The elephants turned now and started to return to the jungle. The boys full of themselves became braver and taunted the elephants with louder gears and more gestures, now throwing their sticks and more sticks and stones by the elephants. The elephants entered the jungle. The boys went right up next to the jungle and stood and peered in.
Here at this point one might consider an appropriate axiom: Let well enough be! Let ‘s see.
One boy with a stone, throw it. Thunk! Roar! The boys jumped! The boys took off back toward the village discovering quickness that had eluded mankind previously. Puffs of dust rising into the air from each young foot left hanging there to be consumed by a much large puff of dust from a much larger movement: the bull elephant in full throttle pursuit.
The boys entered the village and vanished behind walls.
The bull elephant suddenly slammed all fours coming to a stop. A cloud of dirt and dust bellowing into the air. Lifting his head and raising his truck, he roared again. He stood there. Watching. Waiting. Daring. It became quiet. No movement. No sound. Still the elephant stood is ground.
After a moment which felt like forever, the elephant turned and slowly returned to his waiting female companions. Still no movement or sound in the village.
We looked at each other. Upali was the first to speak: ‘Well, let me assure you, you just saw something that I have never seen or heard about in my life.’

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Oh! Yakuza!

These two photos at the right: Top Wakimisaki, Yakuza Beach. Bottom: Miyazaki Public Beach. Which place would you like to surf at?

Neither Natalia nor I really knew anything about Japan before we moved there. Natalia had applied to a few universities that offered degrees in architecture. She was accepted at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Sciences.

I contacted an organization that I knew about that had facilities all over the world. They had a center in Nagasaki that needed a caretaker.

When we arrived in Nagasaki we met my contact person and she drove us to the Center.

Natalia and I surf. We looked up the local surfing spots and the closest one to us had an interesting notation: ‘Locals not friendly’. This was an English translation. We had come across such references in the past in surfing guides and had deduced that the spot was regarded by the locals as theirs. Don’t just go and barge in and act like you own the place. Respect the locals and be friendly. This had worked in the past for us and we had actually gotten along with surfers there.

So we went to Wakimisaki Beach in Nomozaki. It’s like 30 to 40 minutes south of Nagasaki. When we went there the first time the surf was flat. No swell. But you could see that the place had the potential to be a good surfing spot and other than the ‘locals’ condition, the reviews looked very favorable.

As we had arrived in Japan in the spring there was surfing on the East Coasts of the Japan islands. We drove there on the weekends to find hoards of surfers at every location. Surfing is Japan is very popular. We joined the crowds. Every surfing spot was over full of surfers. I had never seen so many surfers. At first light, the beaches were full of surfers paddling out. Oh well!

As spring became summer we saw on the Pacific Ocean wave website our first surf at Wakimisaki. Knowing that it would be totally crowded we arrived at the break of day and pulled into the beach parking lot to see really cool waves. But something was totally wrong with this picture. Nobody was out. Not even a car in the parking lot. We looked at each other and stood there together in the empty parking lot with these really cool waves breaking and wondered, ‘What?’ Are we in some kind of time warp? Are we still in Japan?

Neither Natalia nor I like to go surfing at a place that we have never been before without, you know, watching someone surf the place. You never know, there could be something about the place that is dangerous. We stood there and watched the waves. As we had been there before when it was flat, with no waves, we had seen it pretty clearly. After standing there and watching it, we said, let’s go check it out. So we did.

We were surfing and still nobody there. The waves were good.

A car of surfers arrive and they are standing next to their car and getting their surf boards. It is not long before they are out with us and they start talking to us in Japanese. I do not speak Japanese. Natalia does. She says that they do not want us here. I could tell that they were not happy. Anyway, we just sort of stay out of their way and catch waves that they could not.
Then it dawned on us, as we get a closer look at them, they are tattooed. They are Yakuza. The Japanese Mafia. Oh! That is what, ‘Locals not friendly means!’

So those days we just kind of hang around the surf spot and surf waves they could not. Another car or two arrives and they come out surfing. They are also Yakuza. They tell us to leave but we ignore them and act like we do not understand Japanese which is my case was true.

So here was an interesting situation. This was a Yakuza only Surfing spot and here were two gaijin surfers. One, a guy in his 50’s and the other a girl. These gaijin did not seem to know Japanese.

This swell lasted for a week and we went there and surfed like this with them telling us to leave in Japanese and us ignoring them and basically staying out of their way.

This whole summer was like this. 7 or 8 Yakuza surfers and two gaijins. They always told us to leave. We ignored them and stayed out of their way.

We occasionally would go to another surfing spot and again the situation was hopeless. Hundreds of surfers at every spot. What were we thinking? We would go back to Wakimisaki and surf some waves with the 5 to 8 Yakuza, get yelled at but at least have some waves. Far more waves than at any other place in Japan.

Every once and awhile another surfer or a couple of surfers would arrive and they would be told by the Yakuza to leave and they would. I asked Natalia what the Yakuza had told them. She said that it was interesting. The Yakuza would just tell them, ‘Excuse me, but you can not surf here. You must leave.’ The other surfers would look at them, occasionally one might say, ‘Please!’ and the Yakuza would say, ‘You should leave.’

The next summer was the same. The Yakuza would tell us to leave. We acted like we did not understand and kept out of their way and caught a few waves.

Then something happened that I would not have believed. It was summer and the schools were out. It was a stormy day and the waves were more suitable to body surf or surfing with a boogie board as the wind was on shore. The waves were about 4 to 6 feet. Natalia and I had fins and were sharing; taking turns with a boogie board. College students were there at Wakimisaki and they were wading and swimming. Suddenly a person from the beach was calling out to us, ‘Excuse me! Excuse me! Can you help my friend?’ Natalia and I looked over in the direction of which he was pointing and about 100 feet from us was a Japanese young guy. His head was bobbing just at waters level. We took off to him. He was just conscious. We got him on the boogie board and put the arm leash on his wrist. We let him recover a little and then Natalia told him that we were going to take him in through the breakers to the beach. He nodded that he understood. We got him in and his friends came to us and helped him up on the beach. He could not but barely stand. We guessed that he had been caught in the current running along the beach and got swept off of his feet. It happens all the time to unsuspecting people who are not familiar with the ocean.

Anyway, Natalia and I go sit on the beach and watch the guy recover.

But here is the thing that surprised me. Suddenly out of no where a couple of the Yakuza guys who had obviously seen this come over to us. They say, according to Natalia, that what we have done is something very honorable.

From that day forward, Robert and Natalia were surfing buddies with the Yakuza. They greeted us each time they saw us as we greeted them. We surfed with them. They just included us as part of them. In the mean time, other surfers would occasionally show up at Wakimisaki only to be told by the Yakuza, ‘You can not surf here. You should leave.’

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chief Tupu Fa’a Samoa

In 1975 I had an unexpected opportunity to move to and live in Samoa. As a child growing up in Hawaii, Samoa was like the most exotic place. My childhood friends and I would sometimes imagine what it would be like to live in Hawaii before the white man came. Much of Hawaii is still pristine nature and you can easily look into valleys and imagine how the Hawaiians lived. There were a lot of rivers that had remnant taro patches and many still exist. Once you hike into a valley and go around a curve all civilization falls away. You suddenly are hunting and exploring as a Hawaiian.

The thing was, in 1975 I was married to a girl from California and had a baby boy not yet one. Ryan celebrated, Samoan style, his first birthday in Apia on Upolu.

We were managing the Steve Percival trading Company in Apia as Steve moved to New Zealand to expand his trading company there.

Our residence was in Steve and Greta’s home above their office which we shared with his son Grant, a pilot for Polynesian Air. But we felt a little need for privacy as we got our bearings and decided to have a look around.

We were introduced to Chief Tupu who was then 82 years old. He had a large plantation just on the outskirts of Apia, maybe a 10 minute drive. His land as all land in all of Polynesia is, from ocean to the top of the mountain. A slice of land that may follow a natural ridge on one side and another ridge on the other side.

In the lower section of his estate he resided with his 8 wives. Each with their own Fale (House). Also on this property were other Fales for some of his children. One Fale was a Palonge House (White mans house). Traditional. One of his children had married a Kiwi and they had lived there for some years before moving to New Zealand. Now the house was vacant.

We visited for a while and then suddenly he says to me, Move in. I want you to stay here. Just like that.

So we did.

I would like to further describe his property to you. Just off the highway and along a road that ran along his property line, you come upon an open grass area with traditional fales, set comfortably here and there on a slightly rising incline toward the mountains. Patches of banana trees. Breadfruit trees. Coconut trees, Papaya, mango, and Plumeria, Hibiscus. But the thing that subtly worked its way into your feelings and thoughts was how nice and comfortably manicured it all was. Clean. Neat. And yet huge. No palm prones laying around. No fallen leaves or flowers or any clutter. Just clean and neat open spaces with the fales here and there and all the trees spaced out. As you took in all of this you could see that it actually was very well thought out.

So we moved into this Palonge house and lived on Chief Tupu’s property. After moving in the very first day we were acclimated to Samoan life style as evening settled. Just at dusk, Chief Tupus grand children gathered and walked around the property, singing as they went. Samoans sing while doing anything except playing rugby. We glanced out the screened windows to see them going systematically through the estate, lighting all the coconut hanging cups with coconut oil and wicks. All these hung from the eaves of the fales including ours. Intoxicating. Heavenly. The illumination of these flickering coconut perfumed lamps brought to a crescendo all of my childhood dreams of Polynesia.

There were evenings there that under a clear moon full sky you felt as peaceful as any you could ever imagine.

My work required me to wake very early and pick up our Samoans at like 4:15 AM and drive them to our commercial accounts to clean. We would finish and I picked them up and brought them to our business.

I would go back to our house on Chief Tupus estate, take a shower eat breakfast which was still quiet early and take Gwen to our office. But as I was generally taking my shower, I would hear outside the grandchildren of Chief Tupu singing. I looked outside to see them moving through the estate and carrying baskets. When I got out of my shower Gwen would show me what they had been collecting. Every morning we had a basket of fruit and as I saw, looking around, similar baskets at each fale.

This was our life in Samoa at Chief Tupus estate with his 8 wives, 26 children and over 200 grandchildren. Talofa!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Growing up, Hawaiian Style, Chapter 2.

Chapter 2.
One part

After our lunch at the Hawaiian Villiage in Waikiki Dad drove us to a house that he had rented in the Makiki Heights area of Honolulu. This would be home until we could move into our new home in Kailua in a few months. It was a small rectangular house. Three bedrooms, single wall construction. One bathroom.

Really, just a very typical island home. Louvered glass windows throughout the house except for the living room which had two big fixed plate glass windows in the corner and louvered windows along the base board under these. Thin muslin white curtains pulled back and tied to metal hooks on the sides of the windows. All the louvered windows were open and screen covered. Wooden floors and area rugs. A rattan couch and two easy chairs. Cane fiber white ceilings with a fan. A resident gecko. Female, soon to be a mother of two – what do you call baby gecko’s? Silly me! Keiki gecko.

The now very distant snow covered Sandia Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Albuquerque was becoming a memory. The frost and dry winter earth was waiting for a spring still several months away.

But here, green grass needed to be mowed in the lawn. Green bushes along the front of the house under the picture window and on both sides needed to be trimmed. A colorful crocus hedge along the front sidewalk. A pod of banana trees outside of the kitchen window with a stalk of bananas in December.

Yes, this is a pretty good description of the house that we moved into. But for me it was all known ‘taken for granted’ understanding of the way things were, from the high dry dessert plains of Albuquerque, to as complete of a change as a young boy, having only experienced one condition of life and then put into another.

Do you know what an elephant leaf is? It is a plant with leaves the size of a blanket. Do you know what crocus is? It is a common hedge plant in Hawaii that produces leaves that are multi colored ranging from purple to yellow, reds, oranges, what ever depending on their mood? Have you seen a plumeria tree? It produces flowers like fruit in clusters. Little wonder the Hawaiians made leis with them. Have you seen how many plumeria there is when they bloom?

So, needless to say, as we were driving from the Hawaiian Village up to Makiki Heights in our car with the windows down in December I was experiencing just a little different climate than from Albuquerque. Not to mention the transition in getting here by ship.

We drove into our drive way and parked under a covered metal roof on six pipes attached to the concrete drive. There was a light drizzle falling. But the sun was shining. In Hawaii they have a special term for this. It is, of course, called, what else, liquid sunshine. The water was dripping from the eves of the roof and all the green foliage. My mother, sister and grandmother were all very tired and all they wanted to do was sleep. So we got them settled. Dad got our entire luggage into the house and then I went with my Dad to his office at Fort Shafter to meet his co workers and his boss, Mr. McDougall who was as white with balding red hair as my porter was black with white teeth. The man who my Dad shared his office with was Clarence Fuji. The Fuji’s would become close friends of our family. Over the course of years we spent every New Year ’s Eve at their home in Honolulu with very loud fireworks hung in the air off their balcony and eat sashimi. My ears would buzz all New Years day from these fireworks. Literally. The Fuji’s would come over to our house in Kailua for the 4th of July. After a late afternoon barbeque we would walk down to the beach, spread our blankets out on the sand, and watch the fireworks on flat island.

We moved into our new home on Kuukama street in Kailua, Oahu in June of the next year. My Mom and Dad had a bedroom at the back end of our house, my sisters would share the next when Pat arrived that summer and I had the front room. My grand mother stayed in a care facility in Honolulu. We had a big living room and Lanai, a patio covered and enclosed with screened in windows.

Our next door neighbors were the Wades on one side and the Sasaki’s on the other. In our back yard we had a puka in the hedge to go through to each of their back yards. Charles Wade would become the President of 1st Hawaiian Bank and Robert Sasaki would become the President of the Bank of Hawaii. The two largest banks in Hawaii and the Presidents of each of these two banks our neighbors.

Shee, what are the chances of that!

Lynn was Charles wife. Emily was Robert’s wife. Each of them had sons my age and Johnny, Peter and I became friends. Johnny Sasaki and Peter Wade. Johnny had two older brothers, Robert and Richard who, if I recall correctly were about the ages of my two older sisters. Peter had two younger sisters that were younger. Sally and Judy.

Had I not been a young boy in the innocents of youth, in reflection I can’t imagine acquiring the special understandings and learning’s that I acquired that would shape my life.

Being in Hawaii with a racially homogenized society was wonderful. For the most part. There where occasional incidents that were not wonderful. But the parts that were wonderful have been held here in my heart and mind, for the reasons that were important and the not so wonderful parts were wadded up and thrown into the rubbish.

One day of many seemingly endless days, and when I say endless days, I mean Hawaiian style endless days.Days of endless summer. Days like you literally have to stop and think, Oh, the plumerias are bloomings it’s summer. Oh, the Kona winds are blowing it must me fall winter. But literally you have to stop and think. Believe me, it is not like the mainland.

Anyway, I was over at Johnny’s house as I was at Peter’s and them at mine. The Sasaki house was oriental in style with a Japanese garden inside with a sky light over the garden. It was the first time that I had seen something like this. It was so peaceful, beautiful.

I had obviously shown some interest in what Emily was doing in the kitchen one day. She said to me, ‘I am cooking rice. Would you like to know the proper way to cook rice?’ Yes. She taught me the whole process. How to cook rice.

She had a big round wooden bowl. She told me to pour 4 even cups of rice into the bowl. Then under the faucet run cold water to cover the rice. I then was told to set the bowl on the counter and she showed me how to wash it by hand. I would scoop up the wet rice in both hands and slide one palm over the other washing it and pouring it back into the bowl. Repeating this until the bowl became milky white from the starch. Then gently pouring the rice water from the bowl into the sink. Gently. Not so fast as to allow the rice to run out with the starchy white water. Fill the bowl again to cover the rice. Wash it again. Pour out the milky starch water. Fill the bowl to cover the rice. Wash again. With bowl in the sink, run water into the bowl until it overflows. Gentle brushing the rice with your hand until the water is as clear as water is. Pour the water out completely. Now pour the rice from the wooden bowl into the cooking pot. She taught me to hold the wooden bowl of rice and pour the cups of water (5) into the wooden bowl with it tilted to allow the rice and water to pour into the cooking pot. She turning on the gas burner to high. After the water starting boiling we waited till it the visible water above the rice was gone and it was still bubbling. Turn it off. Let it simmer for at least 20 to 30 minutes before you turn it gently over. It is perfect rice.

You may think that this is funny or ridiculous. You may have just skipped over this. But for me it was something that I did not know about and my interest in everything was awake.

I think that when I stepped aboard the USS Barrett and the departure horns sounded, I woke up to life.

But here is the real thing for me. I was in a Japanese home being allowed to see first hand how they lived. I had been told many times from other adults that I was a fine young boy and very polite. Maybe Emily Sasaki thought that too. She was always friendly and kind to me.

I’ll tell you one thing though. I know how to cook rice and many Americans haven’t a clue. I also learned to eat with chop sticks at the Sasaki house, which would freak out my Mom when we went to a Chinese restaurant.

I do not know how long we had been in our new home before I started exploring. I am sure that it was not long. This is what I remember. Thinking back it must have been a Saturday or Sunday. Probably the first weekend in our new home. I think that it was because, BJ, Mom and I had gone down to the beach for a swim after we moved in. Dad was at work. Mom had said that I could come down to the beach.

One morning I woke up and walked down to the beach. It was early, the early morning light was just coming into my bed room. From our home on Kuukama in Kailua I could walk makai, toward the ocean, to the end of our street and turn right on Kalaheo, walk about two or three houses and then go into the Kailua Beach Park. There was a canopy of Iron wood trees spread around the park and coconut trees along the beach edge just before the white sandy beach.

I walked through the park this early Saturday morning to sit on the beach’s edge, sitting on some grass, my bare feet in the sand looking out at the ocean, flat island and the bay of Kailua. The mornings sun rise just coming out of the ocean. A light trade winds ocean breeze. The twin islands off of Lanaikai beach just around the point were picture framing the sunrise. Breathtaking, beautiful.

From behind me I heard and then turned to see a large group of Hawaiians talking as they were walking toward the beach behind a truck pulling a boat on a trailer through the park toward the boat ramp at the far end of the park. The boat was full of fishing net. I mean, over full. And there was like 30 Hawaiians of all ages. Mostly adults though. The net with its floats sat like a big pile in the middle of the boat. I sat there and watched them back down the ramp with the trailer and boat going into the water and then as the boat floated off of the trailer, three of them got into the boat. I heard the motor start and then they went out and down the beach slowly, coming toward me. The truck, now free of the boat, with the trailer in tow pulled back up the ramp and parked.

With the boat in the water the Hawaiians walked at shores edge toward me. The group divided. Half stayed by the ramp and half continued along the beach until they were directly in front of me. From were I was sitting, it was maybe one hundred to a hundred and fifty feet to them.

The boat came into the shallows as some of the Hawaiians in the group in front of me waded out in the water toward the boat. A guy in the bow of the boat throw a coaled rope to the people in the water. They grabbed it and walked back onto the beach. They formed a line and all held onto the rope. The boat then slowly went straight out into the bay and as it went, two Hawaiians in the boat standing, one on the bow, the other at the stern next to the steersman, lifted the net and put it into the water. The net was attached to the rope. They continued out and then started turning ever so slowly in an arc toward the boat ramp. They made a big arc. The people holding the rope on the beach were pulling hard to hold it. You could see the strain on the rope and they were leaning against the pull of the rope. The boat made a big slow arc out into the bay and then back into the beach next to the boat ramp and the other group of people. As the boat neared the beach by the boat ramp a couple of Hawaiians waded out into the water. Again the guy on the boat throw a rope to them and they caught it and pulled it as they wadded into the beach.

The three guys on the boat throw an anchor off the boat near the boat ramp and then they dove into the water and swam to the beach. They joined the group on the beach. Both groups of Hawaiians, the one group directly in front of me and the other at the boat ramp started pulling in on the rope. From where I was sitting at the beach edge I could see them pulling the net in. What are they doing? This is interesting.
Suddenly I heard a boy in the crowd in front of me calling out: ‘Hey, Haole boy. Hey Haole boy, Come!’ I looked around. Was he talking to me? I looked around and saw no one. I called out to him: ‘Me!’, pointing my finger at myself. He said: ‘Yeah! Come! Help us pull the net in!’ I got up and kind of half ran and half walked down to them. The boy who had called me was about my age. He handed me the end of the rope and said, ‘Here, pull!’, and so I started pulling. We were in a line and we all pulled together. Huki! Huki! Huki! Huki?

We were making progress but slowly. As we pulled the rope and then net into the beach we and the other group by the boat ramp slowly came closer and closer together. Huki Huki Huki. It was hard work and I could see the adults really working hard to pull.

Then something very strange happened. Inside the net that we were pulling toward the beach, fish starting thrashing the surface of the water. And the more we pulled the net in and closed the distance between our group and the other group the more active the fish became. The net was coming in faster now and when we got it in where the men were standing about waist deep the water was just boiling with fish. Some of the fish were coming up on the sand. Some of the people had gone to the truck by the boat ramp and were bringing big metal wash tubs to where we were and now people were going into the water with the fish. Grabbing them and throwing them up and onto the beach. People were then picking them up and putting some into the buckets and lucky others back into the ocean. The water inside the net, as I said, was just boiling with fish.

It was crazy wild. The fish were going nuts. People were in the water with the fish bending over, grabbing the fish and throwing them up on the beach. Suddenly the net was on the beach and everyone was grabbing fish or pulling them out of the net and either throwing them into the buckets or back out into the bay. I just stood there and watched. I could hardly believe what I was looking at. I tried to pick up a yellow blue stripped pretty fish but it was impossible. I watched them grab the fish and throw them but it was useless. They were so slippery. And ouch! Sun of a gun! They had sharp needles.

Finally all of the fish were either in the metal buckets or back in the ocean. Many buckets were full or nearly full. Some of the people were going back to the boat. Others were carrying the buckets, one on each side and still others were doing something with the net. Checking for more fish, I guess. I stood and watched. The people who got the boat came in near the beach. The people with the net walked and wadded out to the boat and handed the rope and net to the people in the boat. They started in reverse to put the net back into the boat. The people carrying the buckets of fish walked through the park and were crossing the street. They went into the yard of the first house across the street. The people in the boat finished pulling the net back into the boat and then they took the boat to the boat ramp. Someone got into the truck, backed it down the ramp and then the boat was put back onto the trailer. The boat, trailer and truck went back up the ramp and drove to the same house across the street. Suddenly I heard the same voice that I had herd before. ‘Hey Haole Boy, Come!’ Haole? What is this: haole? So, I turned toward the voice and went.

I walked with the boy who had called me and we walked together to the house across the street. We went into the yard and in the yard the truck, trailer with boat was in the drive way. In the yard in front of the house were the buckets of fish, next to a big long table. People were taking the fish out of the buckets, washing them on a long steel table with a sprayer and then with knives, cleaning them and putting them into other big giant metal tubs with ice.

I followed the boy over to the where other children were sitting on both sides of the fishing net and sat down. We were pulling out the net from the boat and picking all the seaweed from it. It was like a conveyor belt being pulled from the boat between all of the children and then being stacked on a big tarp. Someone turned on the radio and we listened to Hawaiian music as we all sat there. Everyone doing something. Cleaning the fish. Cleaning the net. Cleaning the boat and trailer. Packing the fish in ice.

As I sat there the boy asked me, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Bob. What’s yours?’ ‘David’ Is this your home?’ ‘Yes, that’s my Mom, Father sisters, nodding his head toward them. These other people are my relatives. Uncles, Auntes, cousins, cousins, cousins. Where do you live?’ On Kuukama. The next street over.’ ‘Well, now you know were I live.’ I smelled smoke and saw a barbeque smoking. Someone asked someone else, ‘Hey sis, you get da rice cooking already?’ Someone: ‘Yeah’.
Then a big Hawaiian lady came over to me. The same one David had indicated was his Mom. She leaned over next to me looking at me smiling and said: ‘Were you live?’ David answered: ‘He lives over on Kuukama.’ The lady said to me: ‘Maybe you should go tell your Mom that you are here and that you are invited for lunch, if you want some of the fish you helped catch.’ ‘Okay’ Then she said to David: ‘David, go with him.’ We got up and left.

David was to become my childhood best friend. The Beamers were to become like a second home. Mrs. Beamer who was a kapuna – Hawaiian wise person had a Halau – Hawaiian dance troop. She and her two sisters taught hula on their lanai. David and I played on the beach on the weekends. He went to a Hawaiian only school, Kamehameha and got home after dark on week days. Sometimes we helped make hula skirts for the girls in Mrs. Beamers halau out of palm frowns or tea leaves. If we were doing something at the Beamers hale I remember lots of stories that Auntie, Mrs. Beamer’s sister would tell us. Stories about ancient Hawaii. Always very interesting. For a young haole boy I got my ears full. Sometimes laughs. Some times, only red in the face. And sometimes, Wow! ‘Hey Auntie, no kidding?’ Many years later, and in particular, while living in Samoa with High Chief Tupu who was then 86 years old with his 8 wives, 26 children and 208 grandchildren, these stories would resonate with me with an understanding that gave me chicken skin. The Kapuna’s of Samoa, 5 serving High Chief Tupu would elaborate. But that is to tell later. Just now I was still 6 years old and had just experienced my first hukilau.

One time David got this bright idea to make canoes out of corrugated sheet metal. The Beamers had decided to replace the roof of their lanai which had been covered by corrugated metal. ‘It’s too hot!’, said Mrs. Beamer. David and I found the best two sheets of corrugated metal and managed to bend and fold them length wise. We cut some two by fours, the length of the folds at each end and nailed the metal to the two by fours at both ends. We did this to both corrugated pieces so we could have two canoes. They had all this left over black tar from the new roof in a big bucket. We used it to fill in every puka or crack we could find in the canoes at both ends. We cut another two by four to use as a spreader piece to keep the canoe open in the middle were we could sit. Anyway we took these two pretty much identical corrugated canoes across the street from David’s hale to the beach. One and then the other. We picked up one and waded into the water. I held the canoe. David got in. I let go and David went over. We tried again. Same thing. We tried again. Same thing. Huli – flip over.

David says: ‘I got an idea. We make double canoe.’ ‘What?’ ‘We put the two canoes next to each other. We take two long two by fours and put them across from one canoe to and attached to the other.’ ‘What?’ He says: ‘I’ll show you.’

So, we go back to his house and we get two full length two by fours. Hammer saw and nails. We cut four short two by fours maybe eight inches long. We nail the short two by fours into each end of both canoes. We nail the long two by fours from one canoe to the other into the four short pieces we just put in. Now the two canoes are attached together side by side. A double canoe.

We get in the middle between the two canoes side by side behind the long two by four and lift and drag the double canoe into the water. We discover leaks.

We drag and pull the double canoe some how back on the beach. Together we lift the double canoe end to end and empty the water. David goes to get the bucket of tar. He also brings cloth rags. We put the tar in the places were we saw the water coming in. We put lots of tar and then David puts the rags over the tar in the cresses at both ends of both canoes. He packs them in. Looks good.
We again drag the double canoe back into the water. It floats. No leaks. Cool.

We get some strips of cut plywood from his house and these are our paddles. We get in and paddle around and then get brave enough to paddle to flat island. We make it. We get out. Rest. We look at Oahu from our island. The Koolau range. Flat island is now our island. We decide to go back to Oahu and get in and paddle back. We pull the double canoe back up and on to the beach.

We walk back to David’s hale. Auntie and Uncle Beamer who have just arrived, maybe shopping, by car get out and look at us and Auntie starts laughing. She is laughing and then Uncle starts laughing. They are laughing and laughing so hard they start to cry. Auntie is bending over with her hands on here knees. What? What? David and I look at each other and say, ‘What?’ Finally Auntie stops laughing long enough to say, ‘You two look like black bumble bees. What have you been doing?’ We look at each other. ‘Oh, it’s the tar.’ Uncle gets some rags, the gasoline can for their lawn mower and scrubs us clean. Clean that is except for our shorts and tee shirts. Shee, it still hurts were he scrubbed me. Nah uncle! Only joking! Nah, just get something in my eye!

Chapter 3.
Growing up, Hawaiian style
One other part.

A True Sailor

Red skies at night
Sailors delight
Red skies at morning
Sailors take warning!

On a blustery cold winter day we departed out of San Francisco Bay in the late afternoon with a brisk chilly damp wind coming directly at us from the ocean under a thick and darkening gray sky from the west.

Our “ship”, not “boat”, pushed away from the dock with a sudden very loud shrill blast of its horn, then another and again another. We began to slowly plow through the mud brown dirty-white capped Bay towards the Gate.

We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge in slow motion. What just a few hours earlier I had walked up to, crossed over on foot, looked around on and down from… now, I was looking up at as we passed under.

It is a vivid memory imprinted upon all my senses. The cold salty air filled my nostrils and gave me the shivers. The wind pushed me in gusts, desperately doing its best to rip me away from the ship’s railing of which I clung. This massive expanse of steel hung above us, rising from two concrete columns out of mud brown bay and into a grey blanket of low-hanging clouds rushing to shore. She linked two isthmuses of land; the City on the left and Marin on the right. The open body of water ahead of us seemed to have no end, dark and foreboding with no visible horizon or any sign of life. The City By The Bay, with her tall buildings rising and falling on knobby hills; lights of life caring on in all their windows. The green and darker green hills of Marin, sculptured by eons of driving wind and rain; seagulls circling around and above looking down and calling out what seemed to be farewell. The slapping, chopping and washing of the waves against our gray hull. Yes, all of this filled all of my senses and washed over me.

Unforgotten memories of all this; even more so, I am sure. The previous total of all my meager first six years of life had been spent in the serene, dry, high desert of Albuquerque , New Mexico . It’s adobe low structures with ribbons of chimney smoke across a brown valley and was walled in on the East by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. What a contrast all of this seemed to me in 1953. Still, to this very day, it was as different as anyone can experience.

It seemed as if I was leaving all known civilization for an equally unknown one. This truly was my first day of being me and all around me was this new world straight ahead, out there somewhere, and it was now imprinting itself on each of my senses. Feeling, tasting, listening, and seeing for the first time in my life. A world of wonder had been magically blended with a child’s sense of apprehension resulting in a fair amount of reluctance.

I was traveling by ship to Hawaii with my mother, my thirteen year old sister, Bobbie Jean, and Grandmother Palmer on the USS Barrett. It was a Navy transport ship. My father was already in Hawaii at his new job with the Corps of Army Engineers, in Honolulu and we were on our way to join him.

My oldest sister, Pat, was seventeen and so much like a second Mom to me. Her absence on board was due to her staying behind in Albuquerque, just long enough to graduate from High School and attend her first year at the University of New Mexico before joining us. I would miss her on this trip, as well as later, as I first discovered and learned about Hawaii.

Hawaii, “an exotic island paradise”, or so I was told. I consumed every picture and every word about Hawaii in our Encyclopedia Britannica. It teased me with hula girls and pineapples, fragrant flowers and tall waterfalls, smoking red hot lava flows and a warm blue ocean with waves to play in under a perfect blue sky with the whitest fluffy cotton ball clouds anywhere.

I can still remember my sisters giggling with so much excitement, jumping around the living room when Mom and Dad, huge smiles beaming, sat us down and told us. ‘We have something very exciting to tell you. Dad has been transferred with a promotion to Hawaii ! Were moving to Hawaii!’ My sisters both, mouths agape, jumping off the couch and into the air, ‘ Hawaii! Hawaii! Hawaii!’ After bouncing around the living room with seemingly inexhaustible energy, they entertained me next by fighting with each other over the phone to call all their friends. ‘Guess where we are moving to? You’ll never guess. Hawaii . Really! …’

As a young boy with two older sisters, I might as well have been Cinderella when it came to getting a word in edge wise. I had become used to being ignored. In fact, once I had been left behind on a road trip to visit Grandma Palmer in Hatch, New Mexico . At night, alone in the desert, tail lights on my family’s car fading away, the engine sounding fainter and fainter until it was gone completely. But, that is another story and I am obviously still here, not having been devoured by hungry coyotes like I had imagined. Being ignored did not bother me. It just seemed to be the way it was with two older sisters. I will soon discover being ignored would also have its benefits.

Passing under The Golden Gate Bridge and even before clearing the last channel buoys our ship began to pitch and roll with the winter ocean swells. The Barrett was a converted navy transport ship with modest living accommodations for military families who were delivered to military assignments all over the world. Ship stabilizers for smooth sailing? You’ve got to be kidding.

It wasn’t long after we cleared the last channel buoy that we heard the chimes over the PA system call us to dinner. We ate at our assigned big round table with another family. There was a father and mother with their daughter who sat between her parents and who looked to be about ten. The room was abuzz with the chatter of a hundred voices. At one of the tables a man in a dark blue uniform stood up, and after getting everyone’s attention, introduced himself as our Captain. He informed us we were going to have a rough passing. All exterior decks were ‘Off- Limits’.
What is “off-limits”, I thought? ‘Mom, what is off-limits?’ ‘Shhh. Wait.’ I knew that any further inquires would lead to unpleasant results.
Everyone at our table talked about this, ‘off-limits’. Bobbie Jean, sitting next to me, finally told me, ‘off-limits means, you cannot go outside.’
Outside? Outside! Don’t worry, I thought to myself. The last time I looked we were ‘out to sea’.

Every passage to the outside decks had been secured with rope and signs posted, OFF-LIMITS. I’m not sure, but, this word ‘OFF-LIMITS’ which conveyed one meaning may have been my first word I recognized. I’m sure it wasn’t, in fact I know it wasn’t, but it had that kind of impact upon me. It must have been the yellow sign with large, capitalized black-block letters hung on thick rope baring all passage to the exterior decks on the ship.
After dinner, all of the passengers congregated in the main lounge, just aft and adjacent to the dining hall. The ship seemed to be full of families, all going to our one same destination, Hawaii . Every one of them seemed as excited as my two sisters, mother and father. With the now roped- off and secured exit doors posted with ‘OFF LIMITS’ signs to the outside decks, the families were now confined to this lobby. This big open room was the width of the ship. It was on the main level deck and it was lined with chrome framed couches and chairs. The brown vinyl covered cushions squeaked when you sat on them. The floor was covered in grey linoleum tiles. The walls were painted white and the ceiling grey, as was most of the ship.
The ship was now rolling pretty good and it had started to rain. The rain came in torrents and was pelting the exposed windows like B-B’s. My grandmother said she was tired, so my mother escorted her to our stateroom. I watched them, make their way, pressing against one wall of the hall as the ship leaned that way… and, then they’d do the same on the opposite wall as the ship leaned in that direction. Slowly, they made their way along the long hallway.
As Bobbie Jean and I stood there together taking all of this in, many of the kids soon found a way to enjoy this ‘OFF-LIMITS’ confinement. They created a mock roller coaster. Taking the cushions from the couches and chairs, and with each roll of the ship, embark on a quick ride from one side of the room to the other as the ship leaned one way and then the other. They’d all line up on cushions against one bulkhead, the heels of their tennis shoes holding them in place. When the pitch of the ship was high enough, they’d lift their feet and take off across the floor to the other side. It was a trans-pacific amusement park for them. It became a challenge to see who would be the first to cross back and forth without ever having their feet touch the floor.

All of the parents seemed to be oblivious to this carrying on. Even their loud laughter and sqills went ignored. BJ and I looked at each other as if to seek mutual endorsement for this otherwise disobedient act of disregard for the property of others. My sisters, mother and I shared a common, silent language when our eyes made contact.
I am not sure when I became aware of it, but, the lounge was becoming more sparse as the evening waned. Groups of families heading off down the two interior halls along the port and starboard sides of the ship. It seemed forever for my mom to return.
When she did come back, she told Bobbie Jean and I that grandmother was sick and had thrown up in the hallway on their way to our room. She, herself was not feeling well and was going back. I watched her make her way along the hall, again, pressing along one wall and then the other with every lean of the ship.

My focus on my mother was suddenly interrupted by a kid with a silly grin on her face. She sat there at our feet having slid into us from across the room. BJ said we should probably go, too.

The next morning I awoke and rolled over on my side in my upper bunk bed above Bobbie Jean. I looked across our stateroom into the bathroom where the light was on. I saw my mother on the floor holding onto the toilet for dear life. Bobbie Jean was also awake and sitting up in the bed just below mine. She held a trash can firmly between her legs. Grandmother Palmer was moaning. There was a knock on the door and Bobbie Jean looked up at me,
“Bob, can you answer the door?”
I found the ladder at the end of the bed, climbed down and walked over to the door. I opened it. A black man in a white shirt and white pants looked inside and asked,
‘Is everyone okay in here?’
From his position in the hall he could not see my Mother, sister and Grandmother. I looked at him.
‘I’m fine but I don’t think my family is’.
He looked at me and asked,
‘You’re not sick?’
‘ No.’
My Mom called out to me: ‘Bob, who is it?’
“The Porter” he answered, ‘I’m the Porter, ma’am. Can I help you?’
My mom struggled off the floor walked out to the middle of the room. Standing there she asked him if he could help us with the rubbish cans. He came in. I climbed back up the ladder to my bunk bed and sat. He told my mom to have a seat and he would take care of everything. My Mom sat down in our vinyl cushioned chair between the two bunk beds. He cleaned up, washed out the cans and put some clothes in a bag which he got from a drawer in the bathroom and told my mom that they would clean them and return them.
He then turned and looked at me, then at my Mother, sister and grandmother. He again looked at me. “Are you hungry, little man?’
“Yes, sir” I replied.
He asked my mom if he could take me to the dining room to eat. She said it would be a good idea. He then asked if she would you like him to bring back some rolls.
She said “Please, that would be good.”
He looked at me and said, ‘Come on, let’s get you some food’.
I climbed back down the ladder, got my clothes on and we walked, hand in hand, one wall to the next and back again, all the way down the hall, to the dining room.
The ship was really rolling now. In the lounge, as we walked through to the dining room, you could look out the windows on one side of the ship and see only grey and white ocean. Out of the other, you saw only grey sky. I discovered it was the white water in the ocean that gave you any sense of perception and movement forward. Otherwise, it looked all the same, grey.
It was raining something fierce and you could hear the water pelting exposed windows and doors, still secured with their “off-limits” signs. They now had placed ropes down each of the hallways. They’d been tied to the hand railings to the dining room entrance on both sides of the double doors, strung across the open lounge.
We opened one of the two big metal doors into the dining room with a clunk as the stainless steel bar handle folded in and walked in. The large dinner room was empty. Giant round tables with chairs around each of them were spread out across the entire room. Last night it had been filled with people. Now, it was nearly empty, all except for a few resilient passengers who sat around one table.

Ceiling recessed lights seemed to amplify the absence of anyone. A few porters stood next to each other along the walls wearing their white shirts and pants. They were all now looking at the porter and me as we walked in. The one table that was occupied had two men at it and the man who I recognized as the captain from last night.

The three of them turned in their seats to see who had entered and now they, too, were staring at us, as we weaved around and through the tables toward them. There were no windows in the dining room to see out. As we came up to their table, the porter introduced me to the captain. He told the captain about the condition of my sister, mother and grandmother. They also talked about other passengers. As the porter talked, the captain pulled out from the table a chair next to him. He looked at me and gestured with his hand to have a seat. When the porter finished talking, the porter leaned over and spoke to me.
“Just wait here. Have your breakfast with the Captain here and I’ll come back in a while.’
I said: ‘Okay’.
The Porter went to a buffet table and then left.

I must have put my hands or arm on the table and was surprised to find out that it was soaking wet. The captain noticed my surprised look and said they always wet the table cloths so when the seas were this rough the dishes and glasses would not slide off the table. The table cloths, I noticed, were also clipped to the tables with metal pieces that fit on the edges to hold them secure.

He looked at me, smiled and told me I was a true sailor. The two other men who accompanied us at the table must have been true sailors too. We eat breakfast. The two men and the captain carried on in conversation as I quietly sat there, feet barely able to reach the floor.

The porter returned after some time and asked the captain if he could have a word with him in private. The captain excused himself, got up and went over to talk with the porter.

After a few minutes, the captain returned.
He looked down at me and said: ‘How would you like to go up to the bridge and learn something about being a sailor?” he asked.
‘Wow, really! I would like that very much! I guess I should ask my mom.’ I replied.
The captain beamed down at me, “The Porter’s already taken care of that. Your mother said it was up to you if you want to.’
‘Oh, yes!’ I cried out.

After breakfast, the captain took me up to the bridge. We walked forward in the ship along a narrow hallway, up a flight of stairs, through a gangway and a second flight of stairs. We came into a room that stretched across the width of the ship. This was a very bright room painted grey as you would imagine, but, in the natural light with large windows across the entire length.

As we stepped into this very bright room, someone called out loudly, ‘Attention! Captain on the Deck!’ It startled me. The Captain was quick to respond, ‘At ease, men'. This sailor here is Robert. He’ll be learning the skills of navigation from you. It appears he is the only one with sea legs on our ship.’
As I stood there, taking inventory of where I was, someone lifted me up and set me in a big high chair on a pedistol. Suddenly I was in the middle of the room with all these men in dark blue uniforms, again, looking at me. Well, at least one was smiling at me.

This was very interesting. I was now sitting in the captain’s chair and, as I sat there and looked around the room, this is what I saw. Inside the bridge were these sailors. One was steering the ship. Another was standing at the engine controls. There was an Officer with a similar uniform as the Captain wore. He was the one who had called out when we entered. Two other sailors were just looking out the windows. One on either side of the bridge, one port and the other starboard. They, I found out were ‘on watch’.

As I sat there looking around, the ship was leaning far one way and then moving back over and leaning in the opposite direction. Back and forth. But not fast. Slowly. Very slowly. And as the ship rolled back and forth, it would creak a lot. The creaks got louder and louder as the ship reached out and could go no further at the end of every lean. Then, the creaking would reverse itself as the ship mirrored this very same procedure in the opposite direction.

Looking out the Bridge windows was something I will never forget. I could see the front bow of the ship, sometimes. When I saw the bow, I also saw a valley of water. A valley so big the whole ship fit in it. Then, we would roll up and out of this deep, wide trench and everything would go white. White with torrential rain and the spray of an angry ocean spitting us right in the eye. You could not see past the glass windows no matter where you looked. The windows on the bridge went all the way across the breadth of the ship. The last windows on the sides going aft were made up of glass doors and again had signs posted on them that read, ”Off-Limits”.
I should point out these names I’ve bandied about were not names I knew before. All these new nautical terms were taught to me by the captain, the porter and the officers and crew of the ship. For example, the word ship. You’d never call a ship a boat.

My Mom asked me later if I was bored.
‘Are you kidding, mom?!’ I responded with a smile wide enough for her to share.
I was having the time of my life. I got to steer the ship. I learned about radar, radios, reading maps, compasses, speeds and bearings, two kinds of knots, sheee, I was a sailor.
“Two kinds of knots” she inquired?.
“Yeah, mom… you know, the kind of knot you tie and the knots with which you measure your nautical speed.”
So, for that day, and the next… and the next… and the next… this was my time on the ship. I would get up in the morning, look out the port-hole and see pretty much what I could see on the bridge, but, not nearly so clearly. I would get dressed and go to the dining room. I would eat my meals at the captain’s table. Anything I wanted I could eat. I ate French toast with butter and powdered sugar. I drank orange juice anytime I wanted. For lunch I ate a sandwich made with potato chips and I could have as much milk as I wanted from a dispensor. Every day it was a different sandwich. For dinner I ate steak, mashed potatoes, milk, and of course, ice cream.

After breakfast and lunch I was always up on the bridge assisting the captain and his crew. I learned all about the compass, the radar, the speeds of the ship, port and starboard, bow and aft, bulkhead, deck, how to tie a bowline knot and how to steer the ship. That was the coolest. The sailor would help me correct the degree. Our entire day was a constant recycling of complete white-outs with rain and water crashing into the windows with great valleys of grey water, rolling into them before rolling back out of them.

I remember one evening after dinner sitting on my bed and asking Bobbie Jean if she was still real excited about going to Hawaii. It was the only time on the trip that my sister, my mom and grandmother laughed. Otherwise, they spent the entire voyage just lying on their beds, all day, all night, sometimes moaning and sometimes throwing up. With all the wonderful food on board the ship, they only ate rolls and crackers the whole entire time ocean crossing.

After dinner, I would go with the porter to my cabin. We would check on them. My sister, my mom and grandmother each had their own buckets by their beds and we would make sure they were emptied and kept clean.

Our trip to Hawaii was only supposed to take five days, but, it took us nine. When we finally arrived in Hawaii , we docked into Honolulu Harbor . There was a band that played Hawaiian music for us as hula girls danced. Newspaper people took pictures and asked us about our trip. I got my picture taken and they put it on the front page of the Honolulu Advertiser. It was a really cool picture of the captain and me. But, before we could dock that day something really special happened.
The porter came to our cabin early that morning and knocked. I don’t remember who called me, maybe him through the door, but, I climbed down the ladder and opened the door. There stood the porter. He wore a big smile which showed off his gleaming white teeth. He said we were going to arrive at Honolulu today and we could already see the islands.

This was so exciting. I got dressed and ran all the way to the bridge. This was interesting because I could run down the hall without bouncing off either one of the walls. When I arrived on the bridge, I had to cup my hands around my eyes in order to look out into the early morning dawn. As I looked out, I saw the dark silhouette of a massive mountain sitting on the ocean still some distance away. I could see even from this distance that it was huge.

The ocean had changed. It was now relatively quiet. Quiet compared to before. Oh, there were still waves and white caps, but, they were now fairly small compared to before. The giant valleys were gone. The driving spray from the peaks of each wave was also gone.
I ran back to our stateroom as fast as my legs could carry me and told my mother, sister and grandmother what I had seen.

‘It was Hawaii !’, I told them. ‘A big giant mountain sitting on the ocean! You got to see it!’
They actually listened to me. They got up and got dressed, which seemed like an eternity, and finally we were off to the lounge. When we got there, someone had already removed the ropes and the ‘Off-limits” signs. The doors were open. We walked out onto the starboard deck and there ahead of us was the big mountain sitting on the ocean. Now, as we watched, we saw the sunrise; its light coming through breaks in the clouds and shinning on the mountain. It looked absolutely beautiful. A layer of clouds lay like the rim of a hat around the mountain tops, the morning sunlight reflecting the small patches on the eastern or windward side of the mountain.

As our ship continued along in the calming ocean, I suddenly smelled the fragrance of foliage coming wafting from the island. It was so fresh. Intoxicating. Almost sweet and wonderfully clean. After a week and a half of salt incrusted ocean spray, not to mention the unspeakable contents of far too many wastebaskets filled by my stateroom companions, this sudden change was so fresh and wonderful.

We traveled along the lee side of the island chain coming in under the Big Isle, then Maui Koolawe, Lana’i and Moloka’i and across the Moloka’i channel where the ship started rocking once again. Finally along the leeward track alongside Oahu where we slowed and were met by tug boats who escorted us gently into harbor.

Dad met us at the dock waving up at us with a big smile. He had flower and Li Hing Mui leis which he hung around our necks. More than enough hugs, I thought, but mom thought differently I guess. After the newspaper people took a picture of the captain and me, we got our luggage and went directly to Waikiki beach and the Hawaiian Village.

On the dock, as well as on the way in our car, my mother, sister and grandmother told my father how terrible our trip was… all the way to Waikiki . Terrible, terrible, terrible, they said. I looked at my Dad and winked. He told us the navy had called him at work and informed him we were okay, but, had been taken way of course by a severe winter storm and would be arriving late. A navy plane had been sent out daily to track us just to make sure we were okay. As it turned out, the ship’s radio antenna had broken off in the storm and the crew had fashioned a make-shift one which only had limited range. In the newspaper article, the captain said this voyage was his worst in over twenty-five years… anywhere.

When we arrived at the Hawaiian Village with its unusual curve shaped roof over an open entrance, we parked and walked through the lobby and out onto a large open patio around a pool next to the beach. Again, we sat around another round table, just like on the ship.. But this time, it was brightly painted, with an umbrella stuck in a hole in the middle. We sat there as a family for the first time in a long time. As I sipped from a bright red drink and stared out across the beach, I thought about how much I missed my sister, Pat.

The flower leis Dad had given us smelled so strong. I had never inhaled such sweetly perfumed flowers as these. Not even the roses in our garden back home were any match for either the white plumeria or delicate pikaki.

The waiter brought me a pineapple boat. It was a pineapple cut in half, length-wise, filled with cut up pieces of papaya, pineapple, mango, and topped with whip cream and a cherry. I can still close my eyes at night and see our waitress… she wore a flowered dress with a big red flower in her hair I soon learned was called an Hibiscus . Hawaiian music played as we sat around this table, on that big patio next to the beach, alongside the aqua-green and then blue, blue ocean. Palm trees nestled all around us, their leaves fluttering in the trade winds. The sky was painted the brightest of blues with fluffy dabs of perfectly placed white clouds. It was warm. It was warm and humid… but, wonderful.
My encyclopedia back home hadn’t lied to me. Hawaii was paradise.