Thursday, October 30, 2008

Breakfast at Denny's

This morning, I had the convenient opportunity to have breakfast at Denny's in Pearl City. On my business trips to the mainland, Denny’s was one of the first places I’d stop at for a meal when I got off the airplane on the West Coast. Usually the overnight red-eye flights from Hawaii get there at an ungodly hour and the only place I could find open was a Denny’s.

As for the one at Oahu's Pearlridge Center, I don't get out that way very often these days and haven't been there in years. I used to make a special effort when I was an avid baseball card collector to drive there during baseball season when they were giving out "Grand Slam" baseball cards if you got one of their Grand Slam breakfasts.

But that changed when I shut down my sports-card collecting avocation.

I got one of their specials today – the prime rib skillet. It sounded tantalizing, and their “beauty shot” made it look huge and inviting as well. But y'know, the trouble with hyperbole and beauty shots is that the actual product generally pales a little in comparison. This one didn't live up to the expectations.

That’s not to say that the meal was not good. In fact, it was pretty tasty. Except that my scrambled eggs were a bit overdone; I like them soft and creamy. Instead of the thick prime rib sticks that you see in the picture, I got cubes. The roasted peppers were intensely tasty, the scrambled eggs were piled up on hash browns. And, I also got three tortillas with salsa and sour cream. Most importantly, their coffee was almost as good as what I brew at home.

If I’m ever back out that way again, I may go back to Denny’s.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The ‘Fish Prints’ Restaurant

“Gyotaku” is a traditional form of fish printing originating in mid-19th Century Japan. Ink is applied to a fish, then rice paper is rubbed onto the fish. When the paper is removed, an impression of the fish remains on the paper.

“Gyotaku” is also the name of a popular Japanese restaurant in Hawaii that has won numerous food critics and customer awards for its food. Its walls are adorned with gyotaku art by Naoki Hayashi, who uses non-toxic acrylic paint and frames his print with koa wood.

I’ve known the owner, Thomas Jones, since the 1980s when he first came to town to manage the Waikiki restaurant Kyotaru, which had just purchased the Columbia Inn restaurants. Tom has an interesting story, rising from dishwasher for the Kyotaru enterprise in Japan to president of REI Food Service (owners of Gyotaku) to Hawaii’s Small Business Person of the Year in 2005.

I had lunch at the King Street location the other day, as I do every few weeks. My favorite order is the Gyotaku Lunch Box featuring assorted sushi, shrimp and vegetable tempura, shoyu chicken, salad and miso soup. Check it out:

If you live on Oahu and haven’t been to either their Pearl City or Honolulu or the new Niu Valley location, do yourself a favor and try it sometime.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

RCA Products Are On My S**t List

I don’t hold many grudges. But RCA is one company that I absolutely don’t patronize.

Back in the late ‘60s, when we were just starting out married life, the wife and I went to the discount chain White Front in Southern California and bought a 21-inch RCA black and white TV set, one of our first major purchases.

After a week or so, the trouble started – the picture would collapse into one little horizontal line in the middle of the screen. So I hauled the set down to the nearest RCA for its warranted repair. A couple of days later, they called me and said the set was fixed.

Yeah, right. Back home, I turned it on and in a few minutes, the picture collapsd again. The next day, back it went to the repair shop. A day later, they called, I picked it up, took it home, plugged it in and turned it on …You guessed it, big ol’ horizontal line again.

Repeat the entire exercise (back to repair shop, etc.) … and then repeat again. I quit. I wrote a seething letter to RCA, sending a copy to the White Front store.

Never heard back from RCA, but the White Front manager called a couple of days later, told me to bring the set back to the store, and he’d give me a replacement. I took him up on the offer, picking out a nice set with a comparable price. He told me to pick a different one, one that cost about 50% more than the original. Now THAT was customer service.

I went back to that White Front many times, even when we moved and going there was really out of our way.

Since that time, I’ve refused to buy Whirlpool appliances because Whirlpool was owned by RCA; I’ve told TV repairmen not to use the RCA tubes they were going to use; and I’ve gone out of my way to say “no” to RCA, no matter how inconvenient it became.

Just the other day, I had to buy a universal TV remote control to replace one I’d lost. The ones with the best features and prices at the store were made by RCA. I passed those up and got a Sony remote.

I don’t hold grudges … just one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken, an American Idol loser, has come out of the closet and professed his gayness (gaiety?). I meant to say something about this when it first made the news about a month ago and such a big deal was made of it.

What I wanted to say was … Who cares?

Ask ME if I care. Go ahead, ask me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Beautiful Red Hibiscus

One of my favorite flowers is the hibiscus. Although they grow well in Hawaii and can be found on almost every street and in many yards, they aren't really native to the islands. In fact, they can be found all over the world in temperate climes.

Over the past few years, I’ve taken a number of hibiscus pictures from plants in my back yard, the University of Hawaii, and other locations. Just the other day, as I was waiting for the wife in the back of the family business, I spotted this one.

I did have my camera with me, but unfortunately the battery had just died and that $400 piece of electronics was totally useless.

But I did have my cell phone and used that instead. Not bad. I was surprised at how good the picture turned out.

Sometimes I surprise myself!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pizza Omelet

I had a pizza omelet for breakfast this morning. Muy delicioso.

It’s not difficult to make. The first thing you need is leftover pizza. We had this (Pizza Hut leftover from last night). Then eggs, of course; I use one egg and one fake-egg (egg substitute) equivalent.

I scraped the goodies off the top of two refrigerator-cold pizza slices and nuked it in the microwave. Then, I made my omelet, gently nestling the resultant Italian gooey stuff into the middle of my scrambled eggs before folding it over onto my plate.

If I had some extra pizza sauce, I would have artistically dribbled some over the folded omelet.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Mystery: The Lonely Pottery Vase

After breakfast on Sunday, the wife and I took an invigorating walk at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, one of Honolulu’s better, yet lesser-known, attractions.

Built on a former municipal landfill, the park encompasses 30 acres or so of lush green grass, picnic pavilions, rolling knolls and meandering walkways.

The pedestrian promenade hugs the shoreline, affording a magnificent view of body surfers, sailboats, cargo ships leaving Honolulu Harbor, airliners heading west for Japan from Honolulu International Airport or turning east to the U.S. mainland, sea birds, stray cats, little black crabs and the peaceful Pacific Ocean.

And … a narrow-necked vase of fired pottery sitting there on the rocks.

As I sat in the cool shade of a rest station, I pondered its existence, wondering who put it there and for what purpose. Was there a religious or mystic significance to its purpose? Is it a memorial of a sort? How long has it been there? Do people move it from time to time?

I guess I’ll never know.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

They're Ba-a-a-ack!

The Pacific Golden Plovers have returned to Hawaii!

They make the continuous two-day flight from Alaska before winter settles in, escaping the frigid Arctic cold. They then gorge themselves on our plethora of insects and fatten themselves up for their long flight northward to their mating grounds in the late spring.

The little female pictured here arrived in our neighborhood about a week ago and has been grazing the lawns up and down the street. I'm not sure if it's the same one that comes every year, 'cause surely it can't be THAT old, although banded individuals have been known to return to the same area for 20 years or more.

The Hawaiians called the plover "Kolea," which means "one who takes and leaves."

It can take all the insects it wants from my lawn, and I will bid it a fond farewell when the time comes, then await its return next year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Treasure Light

I crawled into a cave one day and found a battered box,
It lay among the leaves and moss, fast bound with rusted locks.
The chest lay heavy on the ground, dug deep throughout the ages,
With stories saved within its strength, and deepness in its pages.

It budged so slightly at my pull, it moved a single inch,
I tugged with sinews in my back; I felt my muscles pinch,
I vowed to bring it to the light, discover what’s inside,
The rocky ledges difficult, I would not be denied.

Through strain and sweat and even hurt, I slowly reached the day,
Worked to break the frozen locks, to view without delay.
With mighty heave, the cover gave a groan as hinges creaked,
With beating heart and shaking hands, I bent forth for a peek.

Expecting gold and diamonds, I moaned my sad dismay,
For nothing such did greet my eyes, nothing would allay.
I rummaged in the empty box, found only dusty paper;
It may as well be broken glass, it may as well be vapor.

I sat back on my haunches, leafing through the words,
All my strength sapped from within; then suddenly I heard
A voice that whispered from my heart, it said to look some more,
Within myself, connect the box with something in my core.

I found the book, ‘twas hidden deep, its cover broken worn,
Its pages brown and fragile, its binding crumbled torn.
It opened of its own accord, a glow came from within,
A single phrase revealed itself – it made me stop and grin.

“I love you,” did it simply say; “I love you” said it there,
An ageless phrase that lovers speak, and deep emotions share.
A tear or two ran down my cheek, for now it all made sense,
Who needs the wealth to substitute? Who needs that recompense?

The treasure box is but our heart, the gem inside is love,
The gold is light that shines within, with softness of a dove.
But love does not come easily, it needs a focused tending,
For if we hold the other dear, rewards are never-ending.

(I wrote this one day in 2005 when I was in a reflective mood.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Play Ball! Batter Up!

The middle of fall is Major League Baseball playoff and World Series time. October means BASEBALL! In recent years, October in Hawaii has meant a chance to watch future baseball stars of the U.S. major league clubs and the various Japanese professional teams sharpen their skills in actual game situations.

Hawaii Winter Baseball (1993-97, 2006-08) is in the third year of its reincarnation after a nine year absence. During its 2006 “re-inaugural year,” I went to most of the Sunday games. Last year (2007), UH Manoa’s Les Murakami Stadium was undergoing renovations and all games were played at Hans L’Orange Park in Waipahu, which made it a little inconvenient, so I skipped going that year.

The “Class of 2006” has already made an impact on Major League Baseball. Rick Vanden Hurk (BeachBoys) is now a starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins. Joba Chamberlain (perhaps the most visible HWB recent alumnus) and Ian Kennedy (CaneFires) have pitched for the New York Yankees in starting roles. Joe Thatcher (Honu) made his big league debut with the San Diego Padres as a reliever and works out of the bullpen. Nate Schierholtz (BeachBoys) spent considerable time with the San Francisco Giants as an outfielder.

Winter league baseball is fun. You get to see a lot of young players, and recognize their names when they begin their Major League careers. And, it fills a baseball void in Hawaii, which hasn’t seen even semi-professional baseball since the Hawaii Islanders left in 1987.

I went to my first game of the season today. It was like old times again. It’s gonna be a couple-a months of fun Sundays, that’s for sure.

The Second Time Around

Can you believe it? I read The Collectors by David Baldacci twice. Last week on my flight back home from Las Vegas, I opened the book and started reading. Jeez, I thought as I turned the pages, this all sounds so familiar. I had a feeling I knew what was going to happen, but couldn't remember the details.

The last time I read a book was several months earlier on another airplane flight. I'm so into watching dvds at home during my evening spare time that I haven't read a book in ages except on airplane flights back home.

To say the least, this was strange. The book was brand new, purchased a few weeks ago in anticipation of this trip. But it was published in 2006, so I maybe I bought it then and read it while on a previous trip. I just didn't remember doing it, or remember any of the details. Scary.

This time, however, I really got into the book. Baldacci is one of the many authors I've read over the years. The Collectors is a follow-up to The Camel Club and reprises the principal characters -- the four members of the Camel Club. They investigate a murder in the Library of Congress. Meanwhile, a young lady masterminds a scam of a sleazy Atlantic City casino owner. The connection between the two plots becomes clear later in the book.

I'm relieved. At least now I remember what I read!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Never Strangers, Ever Friends

I just got back from Las Vegas where I met some wonderful people from a discussion board that I frequent. Three of the group I'd met previously, but two were new.

All are dear friends, which is a phenomenon of the Internet that only those who've experienced it can understand. We all post at this board, and after a while, we get to know each other almost better than we know our own families.

It's so interesting to try and envision what a person will look like, based only on a posting name and what they write. It's a little easier on this particular board because we mostly use photos of our face as our avatars. Still, a photo is a mere capture in time and doesn't exactly project a person's personality. What they write does to a degree, but there's nothing like talking face-to-face.

I'm glad I got into this computer thing; I've made a lot of new friends from far-flung places, and met so many great people in person over the years.