Saturday, December 18, 2010

This has been a radical year

This has been a radical year for me. I seriously can’t believe what has transpired. But then it is actually a personal thing and how is this even remotely of interest to you .Well, if you’re a friend and have enjoyed any contribution on my part to your life, then maybe. I don’t know how it could be any more significant than that. But then also, sometimes we learn things from complete strangers.

You know it’s funny, those that have learned valuable knowledge tend to be reluctant in sharing it. It could be because they see the acquisition in terms of the process itself which can never be discounted. It reminds me of the number of instant millionaires and how they totally squandered it and ended up in more debt than they were to begin with. Knowledge is like that.

The thing that occurred and brought completeness to my life was not money but understanding what I wanted and living it. Here I am.

Butch Rovansek, my high school surfing buddy reminded me of it. He said, ‘We used to all talk about never growing up and just living on the beach and surfing for the rest of our lives. You’re the only one who has done it.’

Wow! So I am a beach bum!

I want to paint. I want to write stories and I want to surf. So, this is my life. I wake in the morning and make coffee, wash my face and pour cream into my cup so that I can pour the strongest first part of the brewing coffee into my cup. I go ‘on line’ and browse around –e-mail, facebook, nytimes- the columnist, the cartoons and somewhere something will spark an idea of a story. But in the background of all of this is the sound of waves washing in on the beach about 200 feet away and this may alter my morning pattern completely.

But if it has, I can pretty much scrap the second part of my love of life which is painting in water colors and I will do this after breakfast because I have learned that when I start painting it is a total absorption and I literally can suddenly realize that I need to turn on the lights and why am I starving?

And all of this occurs now because of Natalia and living with her and enjoying her relentless encouragement to write, to paint and to go surfing with her. And besides, a year ago I was living in the Bay area of SF and the water was freezing, we had to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to the beach, which we did twice a week and then back again in some of the most congested traffic you can imagine.

Now all I hear are the waves, our neighbors cockatiel and the gentle flutter of the palm fronds in the trade winds. I can tell by the sound of the waves exactly what my day is going to be like as I open my eyes each morning.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas who is of the Christian faith. I wish each of you who are of all the other wonderful religions Peace and Happiness, contentment and each of you a wonderful fulfilling happy New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Crystal Palace

This is a story about the Crystal Palace. It is as true of a story as one can guess to be true having been handed down, so to speak, from one generation to the next until at least one Russian referred to it by note.

….A long time ago in Feudal Europe there was a very good King who was kind and caring for all of his constituents. It was a happy time and laughter was abundant. Smiles and well wishes and good will seemed to resonate from the King to the farmer, the merchant, the baker. It was a very happy place.

The King met and married a princess of equal nature, as she was also gentle and loving. A great day arrived when the King and now Queen announced at the city square the soon to be born first child of their union.

In this wonderful environment, the arts flourished. Music could be heard everywhere, the trades were of exceptional quality. In particular the trade of crystal making was renowned and there soon sprang the idea of a crystal palace.

It wasn’t long till their existed a palace of exquisite beauty and this was the home of the King, his new wife, the Queen and their soon to be born first child, but really it was more than just that. It was the pride of it’s people.

The day was eagerly anticipated and as the time for the birth came nearer there was growing excitement, for the peasantry’s well being of this or any Kingdom, clearly revolved around the stable legacy of the Kingship. It was all that was known then.

As the King and Queen were of such good nature and so happy, they would socialize and take walks among the populace. This was by comparison to other Kingdoms in the vicinity unusual. Most often the Royalty of any house kept to themselves. The King and Queen were always met with deep respect and bows most graciously were courtesly rendered upon their chance meetings.

Finally the day arrived and squire made an announcement that the Queen was in labor. It was not long till the entire kingdom was aware of this anticipated moment and an eagerness of anxious people everywhere waited for the announcement of the child. The hours went by and this was attributed to the normal length of first born children to a mother. Then more hours passed and a growing concern began to surface on the emotions of all. More hours and more. That day passed and the night and then the next morning. Almost if not all of the entire kingdom gathered at the main square just outside the Crystal Palace’s gate in solemn reverence waiting for any news. The day went by. At around mid afternoon more closer to late afternoon the Palace Squire came out and unrolled the scroll and read aloud: “ His Highness regrets to inform you that Her Highness the Queen has deceased giving birth to the Prince. His Highness would like you to say prayers for the Queen and for the new Prince.”

The assembled peoples were shocked. They knew something must have gone wrong but this? They stood there and could not move away. So many questions. So few answers. So many tears! And it started to rain!

A memorial took place with a great proceeding. It was of very somber affair. Everyone was in mourning and remained that way for what seemed a long time. Where there was laughter and cheers of good will, now there was a quiet of reflective mood.

Then one day the sound of an infants cry could be heard in the still of the morning and everyone was reminded of the last gift of the Queen, their heir air apparent, the new Prince and slowly but surely the mood shift of sober changed and once again the streets were more noisy and chatter of voices. The Good will returned. But then everyone was anxious about the King. He had not been seen. The period of mourning was expected but that had gone by and by and by. Of the populace, those who had relatives or acquaintances in the castle made inquiries about the King, his state of being. Even among these, there was scarce information. All that could be counted on for sure was that the King was in deep sorrow and remained so. The Kings brother, who was older than the King but who had stepped down in favor of his younger brother to be King – yes this was very unusual, but none the less it is what had occurred – became active in managing the affairs of the Kingdom at the Kings bequest and this provided some normalcy in the realm. But just barely so.

Six months were suddenly past and then a year. That year became two, then three! Then the Prince was suddenly out and about but never with the King. He remained a recluse to all but his closest court attendants and of course his brother.

Joy, none the less sprung from the people, seeing the new Prince and his seemingly good health.

With the Prince a new King someday and thus continuance of this realm. It was as vital as the very heartbeat of any living thing.

And the years rolled by, the Prince more in the public eye, growing each year and becoming a young lad then a young man but the King remained in seclusion much of the time. The only time that he was out was now for an occasional ride on his horse through the woods but even this was an act with no engagement, usually very early in the morning or at the dusk of some day.

As the Prince became a young man and being the only young man, the heir apparent to the Kingdom, great attention and tribute was being lavishly bestowed upon him and then it became a concern by some notable wise people that this could be a problem. Sure enough, stories now came out about the prince’s desires and likenesses for wine, women and song, then smoking, which was such a rare thing, and some reckless abandonment of any values. Great parties and drunken brawls and a practice not know here but heard from a far, orgies became common!

The Prince seemed to have no regard for peoples thoughts. The King was not available having redrawn almost completely into a life of recluse, even having traveled to the mountains and been away for some time. The King’s brother had no control over the Prince now in his early 20’s and his ways continued in this vein of great lavish parties with far off strange people now having access to the castle freely and then suddenly the taxation system that had been in place for such a long time that no one could remember anything different, changed and increased. At first it was not a burden and everyone bore the weight with no complaint. A frown perhaps but more out of the uncertainty of, ‘why the change?’

And then it increased again! And it became clear that the growing lavish banquets that went on for days and days where the cost of this increase in levied tax and the realm with it’s peoples almost overnight became solemn.

The Crystal Palace a renowned and magnificent beauty with pride and luster adorned was suddenly not a concern and those who took great pride in the honor of her care suddenly found their position one of concern. Not the Palace. Where before there was great care and loving devotion to its maintenance, now was just a chore.

The Prince was taking on weight at a great pace. His breath was foul from the smoke and ‘what was it???. Some knew but were not adverse to say. Many women from far away now could be heard in all rooms of the castle. The Prince’s drunken laughter then the primary sound in realm. Day in day out.

The King returned and in his state of depression of which he seemed never to have recovered, barely noticed the fallen state of his realm and seemed not to even venture out on his rides which he at least did before.

And the realm fell into a place of disrespect. Places that were restaurants now had lounges and pubs and smoking tobacco which was introduced by the Prince was coming into common use.

The Kingdom that was a place of beauty signified by the Crystal Palace was now unkempt and gloomy. What was a shiny penny was now a dirty coin.

The Prince was now obese. Death came suddenly, he being barely 30! The King followed. The Kings brother was, being older than the King, and having not any wish to be King, his aptitude being less than capable found the task of this servitude more than he could bear. His death a year later left the gates open for other seekers of wealth and beauty to come calling upon this fallen realm and soon the crystal palace became what it is today a distant memory of some folk tales with knowledge for the inquisitive minds of those who would learn from it.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Once upon a time there was a magic secret place hidden by a mountain range. This mountain range was not like any other place you could find or even dream about, in all the world. The mountain range was called the Koolaus and the secret place protected by the Koolaus was called Kailua.

Nestled into this beautiful place grew Keiki kanes and wahines of all colors and shapes.

They played here in the waves and fields of Kailua venturing out only when necessary and always relieved by the gentle cool trades that was perfect when they returned home.

There is a gentleness and calm that is this memory each time I recall it.

Perhaps you hold in your heart, as many do, ‘It’s a wonderful Life’. Do you know that it was produced in 1946-47, the year many of us were born.

I look at the world and many of the things that go on and about all over and I sometimes wonder what this world would be if it were not for you and me and this secret magical place where we all grew up. Have we touched others with our aloha? Have we been an allayer and any comfort to others?

How would we know if the world would be any different had there not been this place called Kailua?

All we have to do in look inside and into the eyes of each other. Aloha

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sputnik- 1957

Three young boys are laying in the back yard of Bob's house, the middle house between Peter's and Johnny's houses. It is a special moment. Peter and Johnny are 11 years old and Bob is 10.

It is early evening of October 1957 and the sun has already set. Now the cascading darkness of night is illuminating the stars of which the three boys, laying on their backs are looking up and are very ready to be the first to announce, 'There it is! There is Sputnik!'

So, as they lay there, knowing that the time for its orbit pass must be soon, Johnny yells out, 'There it is!' He points and says, 'Look! Right next to those three stars! It is moving! See it!!!! It is moving to the north-east! See!'

We see it! We see it. We watch as it passes across the evening sky.

Suddenly Bob yells out! 'I am going to Russia!'

Peter laughs out loud! Johnny laughs! "You can not go to Russia! They are the enemy! They are communist!"

Bob: 'I am going to Russia!


On the 6th of September, my Russian friend is remodeling Peter's kitchen. The cabinets! The stove! The Micorwave, hood, vent and installing a granite top counter.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Punchbowl National Cemetery
Honolulu Hawaii

As I am sitting here in my childhood friend’s apartment on the 20th floor of this Wilder Ave. apartment I look out the window directly at Punchbowl.

About 2 hours ago I rode up there on my bike. I went first to Bill Humphrey grave site and then to the memorial for service personnel missing in action to see the inscription for Bob Fabricus. Bob’s body was never recovered having plunged into the night ocean.

These two men, both Marine Pilots were the husbands of my only two older sisters Pat and Jeannie.

Both of these two men were heroes of my childhood. If you would know anything about them they would join the legions of American heroes that hopefully you hold in your heart already.

As some of you may not be familiar with Punchbowl National Cemetery I encourage you to Google it on ‘images’ to look around. There is a section of the Cemetery dedicated to the fallen soldiers of various campaigns.

After I paid my respects to Bill and Bob I went up to this section. At the crest of this beautiful memorial is a tribute to....
“In Memory. United States of America military Personnel captured by the Japanese in March 1942, worked on the the Siam-Burma “Death’ Railway as prisoners of war, and 133 died due to malnutrition, tropical disease, starvation, medical neglect and other causes.”

My father’s best friend, ‘Hutch’, B.M. Hutchinson’s name is inscribed upon this memorial. His two sons are coming here to Hawaii this summer to lay to rest his ashes at Hanalei Bay on Kauai. They asked me to come with them on this occasion. I will.

I knew there was a reason for moving back here. This is just one.

I really can not begin to share with you the importance of a visit to Punchbowl in Honolulu but I must at least try. Go up this path to this memorial. There are tributes laid along this path by peoples of the world. Read them. I encourage you to do this. I beg you to do this. Not for me. Not for you. It is for you to pass on as a touchstone of grace to your children.

Bill Humphrey passed away when I was 10. Bob Fabricus passed away when I was 12. I served our country in Viet Nam as a Navy Sailor assigned to Cam Ranh Station in Viet Nam. That was my last assignment before being discharged. Honorable Discharge. I would never begin to write this without that notation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chicken Skin to da max!

This is dedicated to Ray Tyson my life long friend, surfing buddy and….

The following account took place on Maui in the Fall of 1965. Ray Tyson and I from Kailua High School upon graduating went to Mauna Olu College in upper Paia, Maui, Hawaii.

It was an easy choice for me. “They have a college on Maui?!!!. Honolua Bay, world class surfing spot, Maui? Gee, let me think about this….”

Ray and I were room mates at Baldwin Dormitory. I had a car. A brand new Kahmann Ghia.

So one of the first weekends there we decide to ‘Go to Hana’. Yeah!

Ray and I and three other girls leave bright and early after breakfast and take off to Hana, around the backside of Hana, Kaupo and back up through Ulupalakua and complete our return to Mauna Olu.

I had been on Maui several times before. I had surfed Honolua Bay enough to make a decision that, Yes!, Mauna Olu would be my choice for my scholastic pursuits. What is that anyway, scholastic???

For Ray and the three girls, Judy, Linda and – not sure, this was the first time for them to be on Maui.

For anyone in Hawaii, Maui is a special place and in particular, to go to Hana is a must!
This was no exception.

On the back side of Hana passing through Kipahulu where the Seven Pools –Why??? Seven? There are 16 that I have counted!!! – you have a breath taking view of the Big Isle and then Kaupo Gap where the crater opens up into Haleakala. On the makai (Ocean side) you have Kaupo Point and the Hui O Aloha Church.

This is where ‘Chicken Skin to the Max’ takes place.

Hui O Aloha Church, Kaupo. For those of you who are not familiar with Hawaiian, I will try to accurately convey the meanings of Hawaiian. First, disclaimer: I ain’t Hawaiian!

Hui is actually not Hawaiian. It is borrowed from Chinese. Hui is ‘group’. ‘O’ is like ‘of’ and ‘Aloha’ is technically ‘the breath of God through me to you.’

Hui O Aloha means: Group of ‘OOmmm!’

So anyway we are driving along slowly as the road and view is like WoWoWoW!

We of course turn off the road and go down to the Hui O Aloha Church and Point. We walk in and Ray standing in the entrance of the Church starts crying!

Now I will tell you why.

The week or two before this at Mauna Olu College there is this radio program on Maui of which our religious studies class is participating. If any of you are old enough, do you remember the ‘God is Dead’ articles that were prominent ‘Life’ magazine, ‘Time’, Newsweek?

This was the fall of 1965. Of all things, Ray and I are in this religious studies class and somehow are in this debate for our class and it is like being aired on the local Maui radio program. Ray is debating for, ‘God is Dead!’ I may not know what scholastic means, but having experienced first hand a tidal wave, Kilauea Iki volcano and a night in the desert at the age of 4, am debating against the idea that ‘God is (I ain’t even gonna say it!).

So standing there in the church, the three girls and I are like, Whoa! What’s happening to Ray?

Ray is standing there crying and staring at the wall above the podium. He is staring at the inscription written on the wall. The inscription is in Hawaiian. Ray, who does not know Hawaiian translates for us what it says: “If you seek me, you shall find me!”

If that wasn’t enough to knock us all over, the next thing that happened did. Suddenly, the inscription turned to English. The three girls and I just dropped! We fell into the pews and just sat there.

For all the years that I lived on Maui, 1975 -77, 1982 -99, I would frequent the Hui O Aloha church as often as I could. From about 1995 to 1999 I owned a Yamaha 850 (very cool) and used to go out almost weekly. It was my get away. I never went by the church without going in and …you know, reconnecting with Ray, and God.

Now, maybe I can prompt Ray to make a comment here:

In the mean time, Aloha! If you were Hawaiian you would say: Mahalo: (I receive the spirit (breath) of God through you to me!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Step 1. The Perfect Wave!

I have an idea. Maybe it is something that can grow into something worth while.
Imagine a perfect wave. Imagine a perfect wave in exact duplication. Again and Again. What would this mean to surfing? What would this mean to surf board design?

My father was an Oceanographic engineer. For credibility, he designed the reef runway extension at Honolulu Int’l airport. His tribar inventions are installed on each of the harbor jetties at Kahului, Maui, Nawiliwili, Kauai, and Hilo, Hawaii.

Internationally they are all over the world. Okinawa, Nigeria, Austrailia as well as some very noteworthy locations like Diablo Canyon, in California. In Ireland. They are everywhere.

I worked with my father on many of these projects as a part time assistance as well as full time helper.

Here is the thing: At the ‘Look laboratory of Oceanographic Engineering’ in Honolulu we had a model wave machine. Why not increase the size of this wave machine. I used to watch this machine generate these perfect waves. Granted they were model waves, but they were perfect.

We of course replicated the models to each of the harbors at the location of that particular project. But what if we built the perfect safe location and made the perfect wave. Again and again? Imagine surfboard designers with their teams of pro surfers competing not necessarily against each other, but against the perfect wave. And here is the clincher as far as I am concerned. This wave that they are competing against is exactly the same wave. Make it faster! Make it faster still! Which board, which surfer on which board is the best? It is a testing ‘ground’ for an endless developing process of fine tuning. And just in case you might overlook it – what do you think about FUN!

Got any ideas?

If you do, post them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Japanese Garden


Come in and rest and enjoy a moment of solitude!

You'll find a bench just around the bend, yes that's right, next to the water feature.

This was designed and built by Natalia Timoshkina, Architect. She received her Architect degree at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science. She is Russian. She also has a masters in Design and BA in Foreign Languages.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Perfect Authentic Japanese –Hawaiian style short grain Rice


1. A Big bowl. Big enough to hand wash the rice grains to get the starch off, as a sheen off.

2. Short grain rice.

3. Water.

4. Either: A pot to cook the rice with preferable (not necessary) glass lid, so to can see in, OR a rice Cooker.

That’s it. That’s all you need!


So, how much cooked rice would you like? For two people? Four people?

Let’s go for the four people because if you do this, you will enjoy it and eat it all.

Okay, for 4 people.


In the bowl pour 2 cups of raw rice.

Fill the bowl with COLD water till it covers all the rice. More water is fine. But you do not want to make a mess while washing it by hand.
Scoop the soaked raw rice up in your hands and wash it in your hands. Wash it till the water is murky white. Maybe 10 or so times. Pour this water SLOWLY out leaving the rice in the bowl.

You do not have to get all the water out. Most is okay. Refill the bowl with COLD water till it covers the raw rice. Okay, repeat – wash it in your hands till the water is murky. Again about 10 times. Pour this water out, leaving the rice in the bowl. Now pour COLD water over the rice. Lift up the bowl and slowly swirl the rice around. Is it still murky? If so, rewash a third time. If not, then slowly pour this water out to get as much of the water out as possible with out pouring the rice out.


In a cooking pot or the rice cooker, dump the raw washed rice using either a MEASURING cup of WARM OR HOT water to wash the rice from the bowl into the pot or using a spatula to get the rice from the bowl to the pot or rice cooker.

You will need in this pot or rice cooker 2 cups of WARM OR HOT water.

If you prefer just a little more ‘fluffy’ cooked rice, you can add one ¼ more cup of water. Never more! But it is absolutely not necessary for perfect authentic Japanese Hawaiian style short grain rice to add this extra 1/4 cup.

If you have the rice cooker, plug it in and turn it on. Wait 15 minutes after the ‘button’ clicks to let you know that it is done.

Okay: Cooking in Pot. Important! If you are going to cook the rice in a pot, you can not leave the kitchen. If you have to do something, anything out of the kitchen do it now.

So you have your pot of raw rice with the water in it. Turn on the heat to medium with the glass cover on. If you do not have a glass cover, leave it uncovered.


Why? There is a perfect balance while the rice grains are cooking. If you move it a round, you will disturb this balance and your will have hard and soft, uneven cooked rice –yuck! Go ahead, ask me how I know.

When the rice comes to a boil and then when the water has disappeared covering the rice and bubbles are coming from the rice, TURN IT OFF! IF IT IS UNCOVERED, COVER IT NOW AND LEAVE IT COVERED FOR 15 MINUTES. If it is already covered, leave it covered for 15 minutes.

Has it been 15 minutes? If yes, then uncover the rice and slowly mix it, turning it with a rice paddle or wooden spoon.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Siargao Island, Philippines

The other night we walked along the beach path from our bungalow at the Jungle Reef Resort toward the pier that goes out into the lagoon and the surf spot, Cloud Nine.

It must have been late at night. I do not recall other people or seeing lights or TV’s illuminating some other dwellings.

Fire flies are here. We saw them up ahead just off of the path decorating a bush. They obviously liked this particular bush very much. It was a center for all their activity. And they were active. I had never seen so many fire flies in one location. A literal cloud of meandering decorative lights – floating around as they were, all around this one bush. We stood there for a moment watching them and then decided to move on in the direction of which we had set out toward – the pier by the surf spot going out into the lagoon.

A canopy of trees covers much of the land here as everywhere in the Pacific islands consisting primarily of Coconut trees. Here also were quite a few ironwoods. As the path of which we trod was at waters edge, we could look out and see the star covered sky. It was the starry night that we were going to the pier to observe unimpeded. To lie on the pier and look up.

The ocean’s play against the shore line was washing in and out, small pieces of coral and lava tumbling along. A light breeze fluttered the palm fronds. The distant waves broke on the reef far out in the bay.

The stars under a Pacific isle are something to behold. Some people who have grown up in large metro areas and maybe have gone out of these high population areas to glimpse the night sky would begin to appreciate such a viewing, but I would like to tempt you with what a night sky in a section of the world without pollution has to offer you.

I’ll let that moment wait for its owner. I truly wish this for you!

We would find on our stay here many and frequent occasions where the electricity failed. Some evening or another, reading, drinking chi – darkness. Your eyes would take a moment to adjust then you could take this suggestion to enjoy the night sky in its most pristine and glorious display.

All, the stars! Ohhhh, look a shooting star! Wow!

... a little addendum. While traveling all over the world, it was the starry nights that 'brought home' the fact that I was not back home, you know, like walking outside to take the rubbish out and glancing up at the night sky to see the constellations that you are familiar with. Looking directly above you at the 'Southern Cross' is a sight to behold! Rolling you head and 'just above the far horizon and seeing the big dipper, can have a profound effect on your psych. Wooooo! Where am I?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Nippon, a moment in time

After my classes for the day I would ride my bike down through the narrow alleys and lanes of Shindaiku, Hamanamachi to Dozumachi where Natalia managed ‘The Liffey’. An Irish Pub in the drinking and socializing district of Nagasaki. The main thoroughfares were lined with an endless conveyor of taxis. Natalia designed and built it for an ex pat, married to a Japanese living there. After she built it, he asked her if she would like to run it. Why not? Extra income. It became a popular hang out for foreign workers at Mitsubishi ship yard, English teachers and for Japanese who liked to socialize with foreigners if for no other reason than to keep up their English.

The routes that I could choice from could easily be one of many. All away from the commotion of traffic. So in the latter part of the evening, maybe in the rain, maybe under stars, generally around 10PM, I could glide on my bike like magic through the orient of ancient Nippon as an alien. Just sailing along.

Nippon, Unchanged from the past, I would sail along on wheels through the shopping arcades only accessible by foot, or as I was now, when they were closed for the evening, on my magically gliding machine. The only sound the clicking of the wheel bearings on my bike. An occasional swish swish swish of a broom or the spraying of water from a hose on tile or asphalt. All of which could be easily tuned out and there you were, alone. Gliding along looking out through your eyes upon something very special. A little noodle shop catering to the shop owners lite up here or there. Curtains hung across the entrances. Customers leaning over steaming bowls of noodles or rice. Otherwise, shops all closed. A night light on reflecting off of produce or rolled bolts of cloth stacked high but neatly arranged, cutlery, spices, hardware. A 100 yen shop. Etc. etc.

It would be generally a 20 minute trip but time faded to the back of my mind as I absorbed all this oriental life and smells. So different from all my previous life.

One route was along the Nakashima river way. A canal walled in with descending stone stair foot paths to the rivers edge. Carp swimming under an overhanging willow. Turtles occasionally popping their heads above the water. Ducks paddling by or as now maybe along the edge nesting for the night on some smooth stones, their heads tucked under their wings.

Another route was along the Shinto shrines set against the rising hill side at the valley edge, dark shadows folding into once carved wooden planks hung with braided ropes. One after the other.

There was one little detour that I generally took, up a slight incline on a narrow lane. Recessed off of the lane a step or two down, a narrow entrance into a shop with a low overhead threshold. I think it was a laundry shop. The proprietor would always be there either folding cloths or wrapping cloths. Sometimes standing by his washing machine waiting for it to finish its cycle. Sometimes he might be standing in the entrance, his slippered foot propped up on the entrance step and leaning out with a cigarette, enjoying the evening. A bow was acknowledged and returned even from a gaijin on a bike.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gua Musang

Something weird occurred in Gua Musang. Gua Musang, Malaysia. Weird for me, a western civilization born and raised person with some Hawaiian flavoring. Maybe for you too.

While traveling from the Perhentian Islands in the China Sea to Kuala Lumpur, first by ferry to the mainland, then by bus across this isthmus of land East to West, Nat and I stopped in this medium sized town, Gua Musang. There were no more buses this day to continue our journey.

We found a back packers guest house near the railroad station and checked in.

Nat took a shower and then me. The shower was at the end of the hall. While showering I listened to some racket outside which sounded like some sort of construction and subconsciously hoping that this would not go on into the evening. It had been a long day on the road. I was ready for a peaceful nights rest.

I finished my shower and went back to our room. I casually asked Nat if she had heard the noise outside and just then, a very loud noise, like someone throwing something metal against the outside wall of our room went bang! She looked at me and said, ‘Yes!’

After laughing and finishing dressing, out of curiosity I walked to the front of our guest house where I might see what was ‘going on’. I looked outside over the street. We were on the second floor. Across the street and just a few stores up, there was a raging fire! The Malaysians were scattering everywhere, carrying everything that could be salvaged.

I ran back to our room, yelling to Nat and she opening the door stood in the hall as I arrived. ‘There’s a fire! A huge fire! The buildings across the street are all on fire! Let’s get out of here!’

We both ran to the front to look out the windows. We instantly realized that we had to get out of here now. If that fire ‘jumped’, we would be in trouble. We ran to our room, shoved everything back into our back packs and ran down the hall, down the stairs and out onto the street now evacuated to the next block up the street. The heat was instant and intense as we came out of the doorway. We took off up the street away from the inferno. As we got to the next block we turned to look back.

We were standing in a crowd of Malaysians all watching quietly as this fire was exploding, crackling sending a huge giant billowing yellow and red flames that turned into thick black smoke and then as it reached about a thousand feet, turned into what would be seen as a rising thunderhead, a white billowing cloud high into the sky. Sheets of corrugated metal roofing where carried up into the fire fountain and at some point came out and were flying through the air like confetti. That was the sound we were hearing. The corrugated roofing crashing down.

The incredible ‘weird’, ‘eerie’ thing to me was that, not a person was screaming, yelling or shouting. No one was crying. Many of the people that we now stood in a throng with had to of been the occupiers of the stores and businesses that were now fueling this giant fire. Fire trucks were on the scene and still arriving, trying to control this blaze to this one block, spraying down the building fronts across the streets on all four sides.

After about an hour the fire had reduced the city block to a black pile of rubble. Not knowing what to do exactly, we went to another guest house but it was too expensive. We went back to our room and spent the night there. No electricity. Eerily quiet! Not sleeping, I walked to the front and looked out over this darkened scene, city lights at some distance a glow over this immediate vacuum of light. Silhouettes of fire patrol persons watching next to their trucks until dawn.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Octopus

On one of the more remote Mindanao islands of the Philippines there is a village by the sea. Far off the beaten track of civilization with very few visitors, island life in its purest form ebbs with the tides. The white coral sand beach lays contrast to the dark green palm leaves flickering in the breeze as a canopy over the land and this village. The village itself fragrant with plumeria and gardenia, swept clean with an ethnic standard, ‘Cleanliness in next to Godliness. Around this isle refreshed with this ocean breeze is an aqua blue green lagoon and jutting out here and there, as if to embrace the oceans depths, fingers of sand covered corals grown up and there now laid as an enduring embrace. Above all of this is a blue sky that is pure clean and clear. It is unlike any thing near a city. Once seen and looked at, you will always remember the difference.

A boy, brown skinned to almost dark chocolate, walks leisurely yet purposely from the village bare footed under the canopy of coconut trees along a wide sandy lane towards the ocean. The tide now is almost at its lowest. He is wearing a faded print swim shorts only. He is carrying in one hand what I call a Hawaiian sling. It is spear shaft of 6 feet held in a roughly warn wood cylinder to fit the palm. A hole runs through this wood cylinder of which the steel shaft fits. Rubber tubing attached to the cylinder fits in a nook at the back end of the spear shaft. An attached hinge at the front end of the wood cylinder acts as a stop to hold the spear in place. A simple instrument really, but quite effective.
The boy now strides down the embankment out from under the canopy of shaded green and at the shores edge in the deep white sand and into the low ankle deep water where he walks out toward the outer reef on one of these fingers of sand cover coral. A path he knows by heart.

After about 10 minutes he slows to a pace that allows him to walk with out sound through the water. Now he is looking, keen on every coral head and seaweed as he continues.
The fish that live here swim leisurely. They are not hunted by the boy. But they are always on the out look. Predators are never far away.
Finally he sees it as he was sure he would. The octopus. It is at some distance yet, but he can see its meticulous movement from one coral group to another. He can cut its’ exit to the lagoon if he can keep low enough. He moves in that direction. Bent over now to keep a low profile to the water the boy keeps an eye on the moving dark shadow as he covers the distance where he can cut off the escape. He is there now and he grows excited. It’s big. It will feed in abundance the whole family. The boy surveys the reef. The octopus is unaware of the boy as of yet. Once he spots the boy he will do everything to evade capture. The boy now waits, still keeping a low profile as the tide continues to wane watching minutely.

The octopus is hunting too and the boy with the lay of the area in front of him anticipates its direction. The boy repositions himself that now will assure his catch.
The tide now is low enough. Even the octopus senses it. The octopus is beginning to retreat to the lagoon, unknowingly coming directly towards the boy.
The boy jumps and splashes loudly. The octopus darts in an explosion of inky murk. He is running now to cross a gap. But the boy has already closed it off knowing it would be the instinctive reaction.
The octopus has no alternative. He must go shallower onto the reef and see if he can find a river let. He finds none. The boy is in hard pursuit pounding the water and sand covered reef in full pursuit. The octopus sees a large outgrowth of coral covered seaweed. It is his only salvation. He darts around and behind it pulling himself tight to its form. He listens. He looks. It is only ten feet wide. The boy is on the other side. Now it is quiet. The Octopus still with a firm hold on the coral moves off just enough to see the boy. The boy is coming around. The octopus darts towards the boy sprays his inky murk as he reverses around the coral. The boy fires his sling but to no avail. Now on this nearly dry reef condition the octopus must fly toward the lagoon. The boy is coming hard. It is the boy’s territory, the dry land. The octopus is swimming were he can and crawling across the sand and coral were he must. How far to the lagoon? It is there. He must make it. The octopus is now weaving through the coral covered seaweed and crawling over jagged coral out crops. How can he impede the boy’s progress? The boy has turned away and is now running along side and over taking him again. The octopus finds a river let and now can really run. He is flying toward the lagoon. The boy twenty paces to his right. The water is deepening finally. The octopus is nearly exhausted and the lagoon is still at some distance. Will the boy tire? He is still running strong and now he is closing the distance. Finally the lagoon!

Then the Octopus sees it. ‘Oh no! Maku! The shark!’ Open sandy bottom. No place to hide. No escape! The shark sees me. I am doomed! The shark is coming! The octopus leaps back and is at the boy’s feet. He looks up. The boy is looking down at him and then at the shark. The shark stops 10 feet away. It is too shallow for the shark to come any closer and the boy there is with spear. The shark won’t come into the shallows with the boy and spear. He is hovering, waiting. Moving back and forth. Teeth bared in striking position.
The boy is looking at the shark. He raises the spear slowly taking aim at the shark and fakes a throw. The shark is gone. It is suddenly very quiet.

Now the boy looks down at the octopus.

I am here boy. I am yours if you must. The boy stares down at the octopus. The octopus is looking at him. Neither of them is moving. Finally the boy moves his free hand and arm in some gesture, and turns and walks away not looking back.

The octopus looks at the boy moving away until he no longer can see him. He turns again to the open lagoon. He moves off to the coral reef and is gone.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Shaved Ice Machine

I like the unusual event. The unexpected thing to occur, don’t you?

In Paia on Maui for many years you would not find a shaved ice Machine. Maybe even today you might not. I have no idea about the situation today. I only know about the situation in the mid 60’s and early 70’s. I was going to college at Mauna Olu in upper Paia and dormed, if that’s a word, at the Men’s dorm near the college. I did my laundry in Paia town which was a one street road that tee’d into another road. You could pretty much cover the entire town walking in 30 minutes if you dilly dallied which is pretty much what you were left with while your cloths was either washing or drying. That is why I know that there was not a shaved ice machine in Paia. If I had seen one, I probably would have got one.

I know why there was not a shaved ice machine in Paia.

Shindaiku machi,
Nagasaki, Japan

Shindaiku machi is a shopping arcade.

Natalia and I lived on Nishiyama Street in Nagasaki, Japan for three years. We lived there as Natalia was getting her degree in Architecture. Natalia is Russian. The story of why a Russian is getting a degree in Architecture in Japan is another story.

The Shaved Ice Machine? Oh yes, Well, what? You think we just appeared one day in Japan? Like dropped out of the sky?

It was a desire of Natalia’s to study Architecture in Japan.

She knew that I would never have gone to Japan on my own. Growing up in Hawaii and having many Japanese friends and acquaintances, I had got the idea that it was not a good idea. Too expensive and you will never make any friends. So, when she asked me if we could go, I of course said, Of course!

Okay, so now you know how we got there. Yes, the Shaved Ice Machine. Okay.

To make a long story short, I saw it in the corner of a shop. The Shaved Ice Machine. Just kind of shoved into a corner. It looked like it was stored there. I saw it at a glance. I was riding my bike through Shindaiku Market place and whoa, what was that? A Shaved Ice Machine? I stopped. Turned around and yes, there it was. It is not that I have such an affection for shaved ice. But if you from a part of the world that has such a thing and everything here is different, a Shaved Ice machine would get your attention. As a kid I eat shaved ice at little league baseball games on Saturdays in Kailua Oahu. The 4th of July! That sort of thing.

I glanced around inside the shop. They sold teas. The Shaved Ice machine was obviously not in use. But it was covered in plastic which meant that it was just in storage.

Well, I didn’t think too much about it. Shindaiku was the place to shop for us. Convienant, cheap, good and friendly. As I went almost daily through Shindaiku to shop, I would see it there in the shop in the corner.

Time went by. Japanese holidays went by. Seasons went by. Then one day as I went by this shop the Shaved Ice Machine was out in front of the shop. A young Japanese girl was washing and cleaning it. I immediately stopped and turned around and went back. The young Japanese girl stopped and bowed and said ‘Hello’. I said ‘Hello. And as our eyes where connected, I said, ‘Do you speak English?’. She smiled shyly and said, ‘A little,’
I said, ‘my name Robert, what is your name?’
‘My name is Emiko.’
‘Is this your shop, Emiko?’
Bowing, ‘Hai’.
“I am curious about this shaved ice machine. Is it yours?”
“It is my grandfathers. He bought it and brought it here from Hawaii.”
“Hawaii. I am from Hawaii. Where in Hawaii did he by it?”
“On Maui. He worked for many years on plantation near Paia on Maui. He bought it and brought it here. We use it to make shaved ice for Golden Week and during the swimming season.”
“Really. I lived in Paia and went to college there.”
“Oh, how interesting”, Emiko said. “Now you and the shaved ice machine are in Nagasaki, Japan.”
I laughed. “Yes!”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kadavu Fiji

Went over to Kadavu for about a month. Stayed at Matava Ecological Resort. Nice Leopard Shark.

Kadavu has a barrier reef that pretty much encompasses the isle. Certainly along the southern coast. There is diving here that is extraordinary clear. BUT!!!, be aware of the tides.

If you are not familiar with tides in area that have lagoons or barrier reefs you can easily get yourself into serious trouble. Read the story here: 'Scary'.

On the main island in Fiji, Viti Levu there is a resort called The Outrigger. A fairly popular place. Nice people. Locally owned, I believe. There is an extended reef in front of the property. Snorkelers BEWARE! The outgoing tide there is treacherous! There have been several deaths where unknowing tourist have been sucked into the crevasses only to be released hours later. How long can you hold your breath?

Living in Fiji

Our neighbors, Ruthie and her children.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Living in a Fijian Village


Living in Fiji. Fijian style.

Milika and Mesu.

Without a doubt one of the most treasured friendships in my life is Milika and Mesu of Fiji.

We met Milika at the Waidroka Bay Resort where she worked as a housekeeper. We had no intention of staying at the resort for more than a week. We were shopping around for a place to rent long term.

Milika sharing with us some places that we might wish to check out, one day suggested that maybe we would like to stay with her and her husband. Her daughter was presently living in Suva with an Auntie and she had a vacant room.

We thought about it and went over to her house to meet her husband Mesu. We stayed for a night and then the next and suddenly we were living with her and Mesu in a Fijian village. Ruthie and her daughter lived next door. At night some of the neighbors would come over and lay on the woven mats while watching the local TV programs. Most of the programs where Oz shows. We would hear other villagers making Kava some evenings. Kava, if you are not familiar is a root which when crushed and smashed produces an intoxicating beverage.

We continued watching a TV series that we had been watching in Oz prior to coming to Fiji. Over the months that we stayed with them we went fishing with them. We celebrated Milaka’s birthday. I baked her first birthday cake. She cried. It was lopsided a little but she loved it just the same. We would shop for our dinner and shared the cooking with them. We became family. We became Fijian villagers. We could take showers in the shower but the best wash was in the stream that ran along the village edge. The water temperature was a little cooler than the shower but it was much more refreshing. One time I was washing some clothes and one item got away from me. It was either try to catch it bare footed or get to the bank of the river, get my slippers on and chase it. I forget which I did. All I can remember is Natalia having such a good laugh at me in the process. We hung them on a line next to our home there. Milika and Mesu had a female dog that was friendly. This poor dog hated the rain. It rains a lot in Fiji. This poor dog would sniff the air and suddenly make a frown on her face that though you felt very sad that someone would be so upset with rain, you could only go off snickering. I mean, this dog would look up at the sky and her whole face would just go into this most pathetic, ‘Wooooo is me!’ expression. She would slumber off into the house and crawl under Milika and Mesu’s bed until the rain would stop. You know how a dog gets that sad face when it knows it’s gonna get a bath and this is the most terrible thing in the world? This dog had it down. You could not but just get sad for its sake. After you snickered for a while.

We would get up in the morning. Milika and I were generally the first ones up. Who ever was up first would make coffee. Milika and I would discuss such important things like who was going to cook dinner and if there was anything that should be cooked. She would go to work. Natalia and I would go either surfing or painting. Mesu did odd jobs.

Milika and Mesu did not have a refrig so the shopping was on day to day bases for our cooking.

One day Nat and I were in a town of some size and it had appliances. We discovered a stainless steel refrig for three hundred dollars. We bought it and it was delivered to their home the next day. Milika cried again.

This refrig that we bought them. Very interesting. It wasn’t a gift. Though it, of course was by our standards. It was something that was needed and could be purchased.

Of all the things that I might be able to share with you about this wonderful experience, I wish that I might be able to share with you what it is like to be able to live among a people whose culture is different than yours and something that you can do that is culturally intone. Wow, if I could share that with you, that would be great.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Just you is fine!

I'm crazy about the good people of this world. They are so wonderful! Can't we spread the fiber of a web like Charlotte's Web and have a wonderful life together. Why not? I love you! You by a thousand different names. You, that if I single you out, may feel like you have to be someone other than who you are. Just you, is fine. Very fine! Really!