Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I’ve frozen my feet and butt off on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena staking out a viewing location on the street for the Rose Parade the next morning. And, sloshed through a flooded public restroom to use the urinal (something quite tragic and funny about THAT one).
I’ve watched fireworks on the Las Vegas strip, both out in the freezing night amidst a drunken mob of partying cretins, and from the warmth of a hotel room where I could watch it on live local Las Vegas television.
I’ve played fireworks from our front porch in Hilo, lighting the firecracker packets for Dad so he could toss them out into the front yard and make mini-craters for the kids to use as toy soldier foxholes the next day.
I’ve also lit a couple of 10,000-firecracker strings with the “bomb” at the top in our driveway, then used a power leaf broom to pick up two or three huge cartons of red paper when our $100 fireworks investment had exploded in an atomic-bomb cloud of smoke and ashes.
I’ve rolled hundreds of maki sushi in one day … totaling thousands over the course of the 30+ years that passed since I returned to Hawaii (but that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself).
I’ve had champagne, cold duck sparkling wine, beer, mochi, hot ozoni soup, huge prime ribs, lots of noodles, tons of sushi, and every imaginable sort of food put before me on the table.
But all of those pale in the memory of New Year’s Eve 1999, when Honolulu welcomed in the year 2000. It was the year of Y-2K, the year that all of the world’s computers were going to crash due to a software design flaw. It was the year everybody panicked and some even fled to the hills.
One of my clients was the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which manages hospitals on Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai. They had a Y-2K prevention plan, and as their public relations consultant, I was present at their computer headquarters at Leahi Hospital.
At a couple of minutes before midnight, they pressed a button and turned off all of the system’s computers. We then repaired to the roof of the hospital, emerging into what could easily pass as the Apocalypse … the battle of the century … the middle of a war zone. The Vietnam Tet Offensive would have paled in comparison. The "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad would have paled in comparison.
It looked like every aerial rocket, every firecracker, every sparkler, every fire fountain, every ounce of gunpowder in the world was being lit at that moment. East, west, north, south and all points in between – no matter what direction you turned, as far as you could see, it looked like the island was on fire.
The spectacle took my breath away! Not only the sight, but the noxious pall of smoke that rose up steadily from ground level all the way up 50 feet onto the roof where we stood, our legs trembling at the experience. At about 12:10, it started to abate, and we decided to get back into the air-conditioned building so we could breathe again.
The IT guy turned the computers back on, everything worked, and we entered the new millennium (a year early).
And THAT was my most memorable New Year’s Eve.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
“Affordable Casket & Mortuary” was visible from the freeway. Apparently others have noticed it too because there have been complaints that Affordable Casket & Moanalua Mortuary is not being respectful of the dead.
Wait a minute. You mean to say that a business that advertises its name is guilty of being disrespectful?
I did a little more research and found that what people had complained about were their full-page newspaper ad and a brightly lit window display (since removed) that showed a mannequin sitting at a desk with a row of caskets behind him.
The owner says the response has been more positive than negative.
Personally, I don’t agree with the complainants. But … ask me if I care. Go ahead, ask me.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The lights went out in Honolulu and the whole island of Oahu around 6:30 p.m. and stayed off all through the night. They’re still not sure what caused the outage (are they ever?), but they suspect an electrical storm on the Leeward coast.
We’ve been through this before, so we turned on the wind-up radio and learned that the entire island was dark. Fortunately, I’d just gotten out of the shower so I didn’t have to conserve hot water like the rest of the family. We broke out the flashlights and battery lamps and I repaired to the bedroom where I cracked open a book for the first time in a long time (usually I just read on airplanes).
Reaffirmations: It’s difficult to do crossword puzzles with a wind-up flashlight, and reading in the rather dim and flickering spotlight the flashlight produces is hard on the eyes.
Around 10 p.m., I just gave up, turned off the flashlight and went to sleep. It’s amazing how much I missed my TV and DVD player.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
But then, my wife’s family’s business intruded. They run a Japanese okazuya (delicatessen) and spent both Christmas and New Year’s Eves catering sushi for sale.
My efforts to instill the Christmas spirit were consistently dashed by tired people coming home and just plopping down in chairs, exhausted from hours of back-breaking work. So, eventually, I gave up the decorating and playing of Christmas songs. In time, they had me there with them, rolling maki sushi. That's when I learned how to grumble and become a grumpy man.
And ever since, I do not enjoy the Christmas season, no matter how much I try. This past day before Christmas, I hauled my buns over to the deli once again to help them roll sushi. In recent years, I limit myself to rolling about a fourth of whatever is ordered – this year I rolled 65 rolls of maki sushi.
At least they don’t work on New Year’s Eve any more. That was the back-breaker. But that’s another story. Maybe I’ll tell you about it next week.
Monday, December 22, 2008
For Hawaii, this means the Hawaii Winter Baseball league will shut down, as its three-year contract with MLB will not be renewed. The decision was made at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas.
This is the second time HWB has shut down. It operated from 1993 through 1997, then went on hiatus until 2006 when it kick-started once again. Twenty-three major league clubs participated, along with half (6) of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, and Lotte of the Korea Baseball Organization.
I enjoyed going to the Sunday game at the University of Hawaii at Manoa stadium with my son, munching on roasted peanuts and washing it down with Diet Pepsi. I used to bring half of the bag home to share with my wife. We’re going to miss that, all of us.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
We went out to breakfast and when we were done, she said she needed to drop by a vendor’s place in Waikiki to pick up some fresh fruit for the platter she was making for a holiday gathering we’re attending tonight.
And then, she needed to drop by a tenant’s apartment to give him some Japanese mochi.
I grumbled, of course, because after all, I am the husband and I’m lazy and I wanted to get home quickly so I could watch NFL football on TV. I told her that was going to take an hour to do.
Now, you need to understand that my wife has absolutely no concept of time and how long it takes to do things: “Nah, 15 minutes at the most.” I bet her a dollar that it would take at least an hour. She took me up on the bet.
It took 1 hour and 10 minutes. I’m a dollar richer.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I just shook my head. If I could hear him say that, others could as well, any time he answered his phone with that greeting.
How little effort it would take for an unscrupulous person within earshot to take down that information, do a reverse phone number look-up, find out Joe’s address, and cause all kinds of havoc with his identity.
Some people are so stupid, aren’t they?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Peace on Earth, good will toward men! (Hmmmm, “men” seems kinda sexist and gender-specific.)
Peace on Earth, good will toward all mankind! (Yikes! Same problem.)
Peace on Earth, good will toward men and women! (Wait, “women” has the word “men” in it.)
Peace on Earth, good will toward humans! (Rats, “humans” also has the word “man” in it.)
Peace on Earth, good will toward all persons! (Oh my lord, “persons” has the word “son” in it.)
Peace on Earth, good will toward gentlemen and madams! (No good … “madam” has an “Adam” in it.)
Peace on Earth, good will toward all homo sapiens! (Yeah ... I think that’s it!)
Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward All Homo Sapiens!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The best part about it? It’s only $3.99 for a bottle that the manufacturer calls, "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."
Yep, you read that right … flame-broiled meat. The newly announced scent is a product of Burger King. According to their promotions department, "Flame by BK captures the essence of that love and gives it to you. Behold ... now you can set the mood for whatever you're in the mood for."
Oh lawdie me! Now I’m in the mood for a Whopper!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Most of the players came from United Kingdom (England, Scotland, the Channel Islands), but participants also came from Canada, Germany and the United States. They were bonded not only by the passion for the sport of curling, but also for their competition garb – Santa outfits!
I thought that was pretty cool.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
And then … I woke up. But it wasn’t a dream. No, it was the sound of aerial fireworks exploding in air, heralding the start of the Honolulu Marathon at 5 o’clock this morning.
Something like 23,000 runners (46,000 feet, 460,000 toes) began pounding the pavement at the start of the race near Waikiki. I didn’t hear those, thank heavens!
I suddenly realized that once again, I missed running in the marathon. Oh well, there’s always next year. Yeah, right!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
My interest in the game stems from the fact that my former insurance agent (and still my friend) Al Barry played in that game as an offensive lineman for the New York Giants.
What a pleasure it was tonight to watch the ESPN documentary of the game, and to see Al as one of the guest commentators on the program. The guy is now 77, but he looks as young as he did many years ago when he and his wife Phyllis visited with us in Hawaii.
He’s written a book, The Unknown Lineman / The Lighter Side of the NFL. I’m going to have to read it, for sure. It’ll be available after Jan. 1, 2009 at www.authorhouse.com. However, if you google it, you’ll see it’s currently available at Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.
Friday, December 12, 2008
(7/29/2008 Bid Number/Type: ITSF09000054/MQ SVC-Landscaping/Maint)
Clear brush, shrubs, plants, weeds from 22 acres of property at Laguna Honda Hospital, 375 Laguna Honda Blvd. Clearing must be performed by goats and supervised by goat herders who will stay on site with the goats to monitor cutting activity, moving fences and goats. This price to include all transportation, fencing, monitoring, herders, and all other charges pertaining to proper care and handling of these animals. The city to be held harmless for any loss of goats, theft or otherwise. (San Francisco's Office of Contract Administration)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This year I tried the “Ignore it and it might go away” ploy, not mentioning the words “Christmas tree” to anybody. Didn’t work. My brother-in-law Ron bought us a tree and dropped it off at our house the day before Thanksgiving. It sat there until this past weekend when I was forced to put it up or suffer the wife’s silent treatment.
It’s not that it was difficult; it’s just that it hurt to put up the tree. I mean, literally it hurt.
First, I lifted the tree out of the bucket of water. Water? No water. My other brother-in-law Howard didn’t replenish the water in the bucket. And we all know how those evergreens suck up water like nobody’s business. I can just see the tree a week before Christmas, turning brown before its time.
Next I had to snip some of the plastic thread netting around the base of the tree so it would go into the tree holder. Didn’t open it up enough. As I started to tighten one of the three bolts, Howard started on another. Unfortunately, the netting wound around his bolt.
My right thumb was aching (after all, I’d had trigger thumb surgery earlier in the year and it still hurts from time to time). Then, after tightening the second bolt, I had to remedy the fouled up third one, trying to free it from the netting with a pair of small scissors. Now my thumb REALLY hurt.
And my shoulder hurt too (after all, I’d gone to physical therapy to try and heal shoulder tendonitis this year). It really hurt. And my knees hurt ‘cause I was kneeling on the ground, bending forward to cut the netting and tighten the bolt.
When that was done, I had a hard time standing up as my legs had gone numb and weak from all that squatting. And they hurt too.
After making some final adjustments, I picked the tree up with my arms around it, and carried it into the house. The tree was a little too tall for the doorway so I tilted it back and took it in bottom first. I had to catch myself as I felt like I was going to fall backward. You know the leg stance that weight lifters take when they do the snatch? Like that. Now the small of my back was hurting too.
Okay, so I’m struggling into the house, unable to see where I’m going, when I whack my left toe on the base. I can’t put the tree down, I can’t hop around holding my toe (oh yeah, it hurt). So I shuffled to the designated spot and put the tree down.
Done at last, right? Nope. The wife had me lifting and moving it (no leverage) to position it just right. Finally, she was satisfied.
I stepped back, walked around the tree to look at my magnificent work, and noted that … the tree was crooked.
See what I mean? Just call me Grinchie.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The U.S. Naval Observatory’s Master Clock Facility in Washington DC will be adding a “leap second” to the clocks of the world. This will happen at 6:59:59 p.m. Eastern on New Year’s Eve. They do this every now and then, ever since 1972. So far, this will be the 24th leap second added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
There’s a big ol’ explanation about this but in simple terms, the clocks have to catch up with the Earth’s rotation.
So there’s that extra time you’ve been craving … what are YOU going to do with that extra second?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
This greatest of intersectional rivalries was first played in 1926, with the Irish winning 13-12. Three years later, they would play before the largest verified crowd in NCAA college football history – 112,912. Over the years, Notre Dame won 42 times, USC won 33 times (including the other weekend), and there were 5 ties.
The one and only USC-Notre Dame game I attended was a great one. My friend Earl Nitta (Hilo High School classmate) invited me to attend the game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. He told me to wear a white shirt, and loaned me another student’s ID card so I could get in at the student price.
The guy in the ID looked nowhere like me and I told Earl that. “Don’t worry,“ he said, “over here they can’t tell one of us from the other.” He was right, I zipped through the turnstile in a trice, excited that here I was, about to attend my first BIG college football game (the Honolulu Stadium only held 28,000; that day at the Coliseum, there were 108,000 people in the stands).
When I walked out of the tunnel, I was overwhelmed by the noise and the size of the crowd. I swear to God, I felt myself leaning forward and almost fell! I tell you, I was speechless. The crowd was magnificent! Tommy Trojan came riding out on Traveler, brandishing his sword! The USC band came marching out of the tunnel onto the field playing “Fight On,” the Irish band was in the stands playing the Notre Dame fight song, I had tears in my eyes, and I swear my knees were shaking.
THIS is what college football is all about.
Notre Dame was ranked #1 in the nation; they were undefeated and favored by 11 points. This was the legendary Ara Parseghian’s first year as their coach, and he had them at 9-0. John Huarte was the Irish quarterback, and he would end up winning the Heisman Trophy that year. His favorite target was Jack Snow, who went on to star for the Los Angeles Rams.
USC, coached by the legendary John McKay, was unranked, with a modest 6-3 record. But Trojan quarterback Craig Fertig overcame a 17-0 Notre Dame lead. Rod Sherman caught critical passes, Mike Garrett (he won the Heisman Trophy the following year) tore through the Irish line, and USC held strong against Notre Dame’s last-second desperation drive, winning 20-17.
Notre Dame’s national title hopes were crushed and they fell to #3 when the next ratings came out. The Trojans were optimistic that they would be in the Rose Bowl, but unfortunately, they didn’t make it that year.
Although I’ve been to other USC football games since, nothing will ever compare to my first big college football game experience in a big time venue between two storied big time universities, two future Heisman Trophy winners, and two marching bands playing the greatest fight songs in the world.
I've been a USC fan ever since, and I'm reminded of all this each year when USC plays Notre Dame. Tradition is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
And, I am forever indebted to Earl, God rest his soul.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The day has turned rather ugly lately, as retail merchants take advantage of the occasion, open their stores early and heavily discount their prices in the early hours. Consequently, huge mobs sometimes wait for the store to open, and rush the shelves crudely, rudely and maniacally when the doors open.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
Usually I don’t venture into retail territory until the week after Thanksgiving, ‘cause I value my bones, my flesh, and my life. However, I got caught up in the Black Friday mess twice ; both times were on the mainland.
The first was in 2003 when we spent Thanksgiving at my son’s new home in San Jose. Naive fools that we were, we decided to drive to the huge Gilroy Premium Outlets in the land of garlic. Big mistake! The freeways were packed, the parking lot was packed, the restaurants were packed, and the stores were overflowing with people.
I ended up driving the car around, dropping off family, picking them up when they were done, then driving them to another area.
The second time was this year. I’d learned my lesson about shopping on Black Friday, but being in Las Vegas, we unfortunately had to get from here to there and back again. We didn’t hit any shopping malls, deciding to wait until after the weekend.
But we did get caught up in traffic. Huge traffic! It took us 45 minutes to get from the north end of the Vegas Strip (Stratosphere) to Tropicana. The thing is, we HAD to take that route, as Interstate 15 was jammed and looked like a parking lot. We didn’t get a heck of a lot done that day.
Black Friday … bleah!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
USC Coach Pete Carroll arranged to have his team wear their cardinal home uniform for this game to recall the traditions of the past. Consequently, for the first time in 26 years, both USC and UCLA wore their home jerseys in the same game.
USC was assessed a time-out right after the opening kickoff for that (there's a rule against the visitor wearing their home colors), but UCLA immediately called a time-out of their own. What sportsmanship. It brought tears to my eyes.
This game always excites me more than any other, even when I’m just watching it on TV. What a great experience it was today to once again hear both schools' fight songs. Can you believe I actually sang the words to both USC’s “Fight On” and UCLA’s “Sons of Westwood” when their bands played them?
What an emotional game this always is. Such history, such tradition.
Friday, December 5, 2008
We’d passed through security as usual, and while walking to the gate, I detoured into the men’s room for a little bit of relief.
As I was leaving the restroom to rejoin my wife, I remembered that I had her driver’s license in my pocket and needed to give it back to her. (I usually hold on to everybody’s after the security check and return them when we reach the gate.)
Something was wrong. I found just hers in my pocket. So we scurried over to some seats so I could put everything down and conduct a pocket-by-pocket search. No luck. I looked through every compartment of my carry-on bag. Again, no luck. My driver’s license was nowhere to be found.
“Stay here, watch my bag, and wait for me. I’m going to retrace my steps from the beginning,” I told her, and headed back to the passenger screening area, scanning the ground every step of the way, even waiting for the same tram that brought us over from the main terminal so I could search where we were situated during the ride.
I reached security without finding the license, so I went to the office and asked if anybody had turned in a driver’s license. “Not today,” they replied. Then a nice, very sympathetic TSA officer came out, asked me which line I had gone through, and did a search of the area. No luck, no license. He gave me a card with the Lost and Found inquiry phone number and told me to call in a day or so, and if they found it soon, they’d announce it on the PA system.
So, I headed back to the gate, again scanning the ground and under the same seats on the tram. There were women sitting there, and they gave me the stink eye ‘cause they thought I was trying to look up their dresses; that is, until I explained what I was doing. I even went back into the men’s room and checked out the area I’d used. I got a few disgusted looks from the men who were using the urinals in the same area; guess they thought I was trying to sneak a peek.
When I got to our gate, I looked high and low for my wife. It was about 10 minutes to loading time and I thought she’d wandered off somewhere. Just as I was about to cross the line from mildly concerned to mildly panicky, she appeared.
And … she had the license with her. Hallelujah!
Her story: When I had headed back to security, she went to the “white courtesy phone” and asked the operator if anybody had found a driver’s license. The lady replied “No, but I’ll put an announcement on the PA system.” She did that, and of course I didn’t hear it because I was on the tram returning to our satellite terminal from the main terminal.
After a few minutes, the phone rang and the operator told to see a lady in a black hat in another concourse who had found the license. The other concourse was quite a healthy walk away, but with my heavy carryon bag in one hand, and her heavy carryon in the other, and her heavy coat and purse in yet another (wait, that’s three hands!), she trudge over to find the lady.
When she got there, she saw … FIVE women in black hats. So she began with the closest and asked each in turn if she was the one who found the license. No, no, no and no. Finally she approached the last one, spotting a white “card” in her hand. THAT was the right lady.
The woman said she had found the license on the tram, and was going to mail it back to me, but then she heard the PA announcement so she picked up the “white courtesy phone” and told them she had the license. My wife thanked her profusely and gave her a big ol’ hug.
I asked wifey if she had gotten the lady’s name and address, but she said she didn’t think of it and besides the lady’s plane had begun loading up its passengers. That was fine. So ... all those plans I had been making in head about how I was going to get the license replaced when I got home just slipped right out of my consciousness, to be cast aside and forgotten.
My wife done good. I think I’ll forgive her for the lost-earring incident. Whattaya think?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
On the flight over from Hawaii to Los Angeles, my wife lost an earring on the plane – not a real expensive earring, but one that she liked. It was right after we both came back from the visiting the water closet, and I had just fallen asleep (it was the red-eye flight, of course), dead tired.
I was rudely awakened by a sharp jostle and the panicky sound of “I lost my earring!” So being the dutiful husband, I sleepily helped her look for it, and then ended up standing in the aisle, holding onto two pillows and two blankets, her jacket, her purse, and her under-the-seat carryon in my arms, while she searched both our seats.
The fellow across the aisle woke up to the sight of my butt stuck in his face. “Sorry,” I muttered, as he craned his neck trying to see around me at the commotion.
A flight attendant came by to see what was happening, and soon was involved in the search. She ripped off the seats and felt between the cushions. The noise and her jostling of the seats in front of us woke up the occupants of that row and they peered back to see what was happening.
Okay, a break here to count those who were involved or interrupted: Me, my wife, the guy across the aisle, the two people in front of us, and the flight attendant – that’s 6.
The flight attendant reclined my wife’s seat, waking up the man behind her. He asked what was up, the flight attendant told him, and he got involved in the search (that’s 7 people now). He bent down to see if he could locate it under my wife’s seat from his side, and in the process, woke up HIS wife (that’s 8).
He said he could see something under my seat, so the attendant gave him her flashlight and he proudly proclaimed, “I see it!” The attendant got on the floor, reached under my seat, and retrieved the earring. She gave it to my wife, who was eternally grateful and thanked everybody, profusely apologizing to everyone around us for waking them up.
When we returned to our seats, she started to put her earrings back on. “Lemme see them,” I said. Thinking I just wanted to view the items that had called all the ruckus, she gave them to me. I put them in my pocket, and within minutes I fell back to sleep.
I’ll tell you about the back half of the “lost-and-found” bookends tomorrow. Right now, I’m going to take a nap. Recalling all this has made me sleepy.