Surfer Van

Driving home from the beach, we stopped at a stop light. A VW van pulled up behind us with a young (20ish) surfer girl behind the wheel. I was telling Mark how nice it was to see the casual surfer still in existence in a van driving home from the beach, when a guy on a motorcycle pulled up next to the van and told the girl, “I don’t want to scare you, but your car’s on fire.”

She jumped out of her van. I turned the car around the corner. We pulled over. Mark ran to the intersection to see if she was okay and then to direct traffic. I pulled out my phone and realized by the time I reached a local dispatcher on my (415) area code phone, the car could explode.

Instead, I started to run towards the intersection. Why? Because the Fire Station was RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET!!

A guy on a scooter had already driven up the grass to the front of the station. Fire fighters ran across the street, pulling on their gear.

Two lessons for me.
One: If I’m going to have a car fire, do it across the street from a fire station.
Two: Time to get a local phone number.

(In the photo, the van is around the corner to the left and the fire station is on the right.)

A Cat and Fish

In Ireland, there’s a stone that sits just to the side of the geographic center of the island. It is believed the Goddess Eriu, Eire, or Erin, was buried under this stone. The Irish call it the Cat Stone, because it looks like a cat.

I was reminded of this stone while walking through the Bishop Museum here on Oahu. On the first floor of the main hall sits a stone with a face. I swear it was staring at me. Really. It has eyes and a mouth and leans forward slightly. Since I was in a museum, I didn’t take photos. If you Google, “Kaneikokala” you’ll find the stone.

Early in the 1900’s, a native Hawaiian continually had dreams of this stone whereby it was telling him he wanted out of the cold. This man followed his dream. Buried under dirt and grass and lying in water, was the stone, recognized as a fish god.

The Bishop Museum took charge of the stone and anchored the fish god into the floor with cement. When renovating the museum in 2006, they tried to remove the stone and place him outside in a more revered spot. After digging and digging through cement, the stone wouldn’t move. Finally, they left the fish god in the main exhibit hall, where he now stares at the entrance, safe and warm.

A Sacred Place

Have you ever stepped into a space and knew it was sacred?

Our friends from San Francisco were here on vacation. We took them on a drive around the island to show them the sights outside of Waikiki. Our morning started with an unexpected place where friends gathered. At this gathering place, our San Francisco friends ran into old friends of theirs who used to live in the city by the bay. This group filled us with hope for the new day and sent us on our way.

We planned to drive straight to the North Shore so our SF friends could see the famous surfing beaches. We stopped along the way which detoured us from the main road we had been on.

I’ve known these friends for seven years. I don’t know everything about them and their beliefs, but I do know we believe in the same thing. Miracles. We believe in miracles because we’ve seen them.

Our detour took us to a section of the island I remembered from before. Sitting in the car, I said to Mark, “We’re near the temple aren’t we?”

When he affirmed, I asked our friends if they wanted to see the Valley of the Temples.

One of them had heard about it from someone and work. He remarked how he’d never get near the Valley because he had no car during his stay in Waikiki. We have mutual friends who tell us all the time, “there are no coincidences.”

Excitedly, we turned into the valley.

We explained how each cemetery section was divided among all the religions of the island. The drive up the valley is serene, with rolling slopes of grass and flowers marking graves on each side. A cross on the left, a yin/yang symbol and a tiger on stained glass up ahead, a statue of the Virgin Mary on the right.

We passed a large family of at least three generations, sitting under a canopy eating and talking near their ancestor’s grave.

The road led us to the Shinto section with elaborate black headstones where we made the final turn to the parking area.

Halfway across the footbridge, my friend gasped. I took her arm as we crossed to the other side. “Oh, wow!” I heard them both exclaim when they saw the temple.

The Byodo-In is a non-denomination Buddhist temple which welcomes people of all faiths. Built without nails, it’s an impressive reddish-orange building which sits at the foot of the stunning cliffs of the Ko’olau mountains. The shadows kept changing the look of the entire setting as the sun shined, then disappeared, and reappeared to create new shadows minutes later.

I had been there before with a group of friends and many, many tourists. But Sunday, it was calm and quiet. We made a donation at the large bell and rang it for luck. Then we approached the main building where the large statue of Buddha rests. I slipped off my shoes and with the very first step into the structure, my breath calmed, my shoulders relaxed and all thoughts of things other than the golden Buddha sitting lotus-style in front of me disappeared.

Each of us lit incense and stood quietly. Mark took my hand and we bowed our heads in reverence to the calming influence sitting above us.

More reason to feel hope in a sacred place.

It’s a Small, Small World

Mark’s aunt read my post about the Hawaii Book Festival and promptly e-mailed me afterward. She knows both Jodi Belknap (Belknap Publishing) and Jamie Ford (Author of Hotel on the Corner Of Bitter And Sweet)

Mark’s family is from Oahu and his aunt has lived here her whole life.

I guess Jamie Ford lived here in his advertising days. He and his wife came to visit “Auntie and Uncle” on their last vacation to Oahu.

Mark’s aunt knows Jodi and Buzz of Belknap Publishing through working together on some projects.

It’s such a small world.

(Reminder – “Mark” is not his real name.)

Tuesday, we played tourist and went to Waikiki. We sat at the Mai Tai Bar at The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and watched the sun set. There’s a doctor’s convention in town so we had to scramble to get a table. It was worth it to see the water and the sunset and to have someone bring us dinner and drinks.

Hawaii Book Festival

Desperate to find a writing partner and get back to a routine of writing, I attended the Hawaii Book and Music Festival at Honolulu Hale (City Hall) yesterday. A friend of mine from high school and college set up an e-introduction with his aunt of Belknap Publishing.

Set on the grass, under the trees that surround City Hall were the white booths of participants. I entered from a sidewalk path to find a Barnes and Noble booth. Sitting on the table at the corner of the booth were copies of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet . Since the author is a past participant of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a friend of a friend of mine from the year I attended, I took this as a good sign.

I walked past that booth to find the Hawaii Book Publishers table and met Jodi Belknap. She introduced me to everyone she knew who walked or stopped by her table. Mark had told me earlier that Hawaiians don’t want to interfere in someone’s life. In order to get help, I needed to ask for it. I actually said to one man, “I need help. I have to find writing partners and a writing group.” This man gave me the name of a friend to contact.

It seems romance writers and poets abound in Hawaii, but not so with memoirists. I’m following up with everyone and am grateful Jodi is willing to help me get my writing life settled in Hawaii.

Jodi also introduced me to a friend from the Bishop Museum, who works in the collections department. I told them about the photo of my dad and uncle on Ala Wai Canal in 1938 and how my grandpa was working on the Lurline (a Matson cruise ship) during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Maybe I’m supposed to dig around the Bishop Museum for more 1930-40’s artifacts. Are there Matson related photos and letters hidden there?

After visiting Belknap Publishing, I wandered the paths among the grass to the music stage and listened to happy Hawaiian sounds while cooling off under a tree. When I saw a stream of people walking into a dark tunnel, I wondered if I was missing a secret auditorium with guest speakers. No, it was the parking garage; underground and disguised as a green, grassy hill. You can see it in the photo. You’d never know cars were parked under the tranquil, grassy knoll where kids were playing.

Oahu has hidden collections in museums and underground parking garages. Now I need to find the underground memoir writers.

Later I’ll write about the statue at Bishop Museum found through dreams.

Cats, Coffee and Cuisine

I found my new coffee shop! It has a book exchange, a sitting area that’s comfy, good coffee, Wi-Fi and a mellow vibe that reminds me of San Francisco.

Since we moved here, I haven’t been working on my book. Back in the Bay Area, I had a writing partner with a regular place and time we’d meet. I had a writing group that met once a month. I was writing. I miss it and them.

Here, I haven’t any sort of routine; therefore, no writing. I’m not telling where this coffee shop is, because I plan to go there with my laptop and write. And drink coffee. And think of my writing partner back in Marin County and hope she’s writing too.

I also explored the Farmer’s Market and the amount of food there could feed half of Oahu. Mark and I wandered the rows looking at fresh Manoa lettuce, Waimanalo greens, tomatoes, squash, onions, pineapple, papaya and avocados. The baked section had every kind of bread imaginable; squaw, rye, chocolate cherry, garlic butter sourdough, and Hawaiian sweet bread, among stacks of others.

There was hand-churned butter, hand-made preserves and soaps. It was endless.

In the cooked food aisles we found Puerto Rican, Asian, Soul, Mexican, Southern, fish, steak and Mediterranean food. All the smells blended together. It was heavenly!

A van of Japanese tourists unloaded in the parking lot. They wandered the rows of the Farmer’s Market with professional looking video cameras and sound devices.
It put any Bay Area Farmer’s Market to shame. (Well, except one in San Francisco.)
Anyway, we loaded up our bags and I’ve had three meals off the purchases I made.


Then this afternoon, I stopped by a deli on the other side of town. Guess what they had? Brussel Sprouts for $3.50 a pound, already cooked! Three dollars and forty-nine cents at the store and I prep, cook and clean, or $3.50 already done for me.
I’ll be visiting them again soon, plus, they have a resident cat who lets you pet her.
Cat time and Brussel Sprouts – my kind of place.

Where Are The Brussel Sprouts?

A trip to the grocery store is usually routine. We were eating out a lot due to not being settled in our place, but now we shop at our local Foodland; a great supermarket and walking distance to our place.

My first inclination I’d have to adjust was when I couldn’t find decent potatoes anywhere. What would my Irish grandmother say to a meal without potatoes? I’d have to find something else instead. Not rice. I’m sick of rice. What do the Hawaiians use for their starch? Yes, you remember now, that gooey stuff they serve at luaus.


I can have Poi English muffins. Sigh.

I’m a huge vegetable fan and I love brussel sprouts. I’ve gone to the fields in Half Moon Bay before to pick freshly cut brussel sprouts off the ground after a harvest or I’d buy them at the local market in San Francisco for .99 a pound. I found them at Foodland. Look at that price! $3.49. I may have to forgo a steak to eat brussel sprouts. (I can hear my vegan friends cheering now.) And what is that funny looking cucumber thing? I better learn to cook with it.

Then I saw the green onions. They’re huge! I placed a green pepper on them for comparison. Pineapples are still locally grown and sold here.

Finally, I searched for guacamole and salsa. Let me just say that eggs are NOT an ingredient in guacamole and neither should it nor salsa be as runny as soup broth. Just before I left for the market a friend had e-mailed me information about her brother’s long-time friends from Berkeley who started a tortilla business in Hawaii. I found Sinaloa Tortillas at Foodland, curiously, also for $3.49. I asked my friend if the tortilla people could find us a place for Mexican food. She asked. Her brother e-mailed me a phone number. The tortillas are delicious!

I’m calling them tomorrow.

We left Foodland and found the cart sign on the post in the parking lot. Mahalo!

Kabajang Monday

The power went out yesterday at 4:30 PM. I was home alone. Mark was in town with the car. It was strange to watch out the windows as the sky grew darker and darker. Finally, the sky lit up with lightning. The thunder was so loud it shook our apartment building.

When I lived in Lake Tahoe my mom had given me a wind up radio. For some reason, that radio was one of the few things I shipped over to Hawaii. I wound up the radio and heard that most of Oahu was without power due to lightning hitting transformers. After informing us of the traffic problems, road closures, water spouts, power outages, and flooding, the DJ called it a “Kabajang Monday”. Then he said, “For those of you new to the islands, kabajang is what we call “crazy”.

Mark texted me a photo of two waterspouts off the coast from Honolulu Airport. They delayed all flights in and out of the airport. Locals say they’ve never seen a storm like this in Hawaii.

Lucky us?

Mark finally made it home through flooded Honolulu streets. We went to sleep after 1 AM. The lightning and wind and thunder were keeping us awake. We couldn’t help but watch out the windows. The storm became so furious I said, “No wonder Hawaiians believed in angry Gods.”

The pink in the sky in the photo is the lightning flashing behind the clouds on the other side of the mountains.

At this moment, the wind is howling and it’s pouring rain. Better get this posted before we lose power again.

The North Shore and Newport Beach Memories

We took a little drive to the North Shore yesterday. Our first stop was Kualoa Ranch, which used to be a sugar cane mill. There’s also a tour which covers areas used in movies and TV shows. We’ll save the tour for a time when friends or family are visiting.

We continued up to the town of Laie, where the Mormon-run Polynesian Cultural Center and BYU-Hawaii campus are. Since it was Sunday, everything was closed, even the public beach!

Off to Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, land of Kahuku corn. I’ll tell you about the vegetables here another time.

I had been to Turtle Bay briefly once before. Turtle Bay was originally Del Webb’s Kuilima resort. We ate lunch at their beachside restaurant where I discovered our waiter grew up in Laguna Beach. I went to high school in Newport Beach and back then the two towns were close. There was a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway that separated the two. At the edge of Newport Beach city limits and before entering Laguna Beach, there was only land with cars parked alongside the road where beach goers and surfers hiked down steep trails to secret coves and hidden beaches. Oh, and there was a shake shack that made awesome date shakes and on the other side, horses.

Now, that area is called Newport Coast, filled with mansions and set behind gates and the once-hidden Crystal Cove is a state park with a large parking lot and a shuttle to take you to the beach. As teenagers, we used to park alongside PCH; wearing flip-flops and carrying our beach chairs and towels, we’d run across the then two lane highway and find our way to the beach.

Our waiter went to Newport Elementary. I told him Newport Beach wasn’t anything like it was back then. It’s all about big houses and keeping up now. The California casual beach town is long gone.

We said goodbye to the waiter and wandered around the resort. We found ourselves in a hallway leading to the Sunset Room. A worker was cleaning and asked if we wanted to come in and look around. I asked if they had a wedding there earlier. He said it was a retirement party. When I mentioned the flower petals strewn across the floor, he said, “She worked here over 30 years. We like to send them off with a little blessing.”

We left the aptly named Sunset Room and walked towards the ocean we could see from inside. Surfers hugged the rocky point off the room and sat waiting for waves to ride into the bay on the left. The point off Turtle Bay is the northernmost point on the island of Oahu. Nothing between that point and Alaska. I looked for Sarah Palin in her living room.

Mark and I laugh at how the weatherman here calls the North Shore “the country”. Yet I missed a call on my cell phone from the poor reception. I felt my phone vibrate in my bag a few times. Finally, when we walked back to our car the phone rang again. It was my mom.

“Osama Bin Laden’s dead.”

She continued, “That’s all they’re saying. They don’t know any more.”

I told her we were in the country and hadn’t seen a TV in a few hours.
We continued driving around the north shore searching for radio reception of a news station. We picked up a Japanese language station and three baseball games. No word about Bin Laden and no cell phone reception either. We drove to the beach and saw a few military men just coming off the sand. I was tempted to ask them, but they didn’t seem to know the news.

In the meantime, we stopped at the beach towns of the North Shore. One in particular reminded me of Newport Beach in the 70’s. A mellow town with bicycles and neighbors all walking on the road alongside the beach. The residents are fighting the development of a high-end hotel there and I can see why. Once they let one in, the whole mindset and way of living in the town changes. Before they know it, there’s a Newport Coast and a Real Housewives series in the once-small town.

At the general market in Haleiwa, we heard people mention Bin Laden was dead, but we still didn’t know the details. It wasn’t until we reached the Dole Plantation that my phone started to ring and buzz with voice messages finally coming through from friends calling. We drove past Schofield Barracks Army Base on the way home, unaware they were now on elevated status.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m in another country here. No one seems to know the news of the U.S. or the world. Everyone goes on with their day, doing what they normally do without regard to the rest of the world.

We drove home and turned on the TV news; glued to it for the rest of the night.

My friends in New York and Washington D.C. seem so far away. Mark is loving the fact we can be so removed from the real world. “We’re never leaving,” he exclaimed earlier in the car.

I’m really wondering how long I can live without the real world. I’ve been such a news junkie and always kept up with public affairs. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. I’ve worked on Capitol Hill, in a barrio, attended literary events in San Francisco’s North Beach and belonged to groups that tried to change things for the better. Can I really drop all that to live on an island in the middle of the Pacific, away from a U.S. metropolis? Or do I remember how it was as a teenager, casually hanging out with friends in the harbor, on a boat, or at the beach and enjoy the simpler way?