On my way back to SFO, I stopped to visit Mark’s parents and to see a furry friend who’s getting on in years. I didn’t have much time. I needed to return the rental car and get to the airport.

Later, I walked through SFO to my departure gate and came across this exhibit from the show, Beach Blanket Babylon. If you haven’t seen it, go the next time you are in San Francisco. Big hats are an understatement in describing the show’s props.

During my visit, people asked if I missed California. I had to say, “Yes”. California is where my roots are. I’m a third generation Californian, it will always feel like home.

I told them, “Hawaii is beautiful, but I haven’t been there long enough to say it feels like home.”

I was in a state of limbo in regards to where home was. A five hour flight gave me time to realize “home” is a state of mind. My roots are in California, but home is where I feel welcome and safe. I landed in Honolulu where Mark greeted me with a lei, a hug and a kiss.

The following morning, the golden sunrise greeted me in the comfort of my home.

Tahoe Highlights

A few other highlights from my three days with my Community of Writers friends, include dinner at Plumpjack cafe where Johnny Moseley, the Olympic Skier, sat at the table near us and again at lunch on the deck at Sunnyside Restaurant.

The lake is stunning this year. The epic snowfall from last winter has created a full, healthy, deep “Tahoe Blue” lake. The Truckee River dam was opened three days before I arrived. Full water in the lake and the river created a summer water spectacle all over the area.

After saying goodbye to my writer friends, I ventured over to the North Shore and said hello to friends I’ve known since I lived there. These wonderful people let me stay with them for another three days. When I lived in San Francisco, these friends had a key to my place and were welcome anytime. I, too, have a key to their place. It’s like they are my Tahoe brother and sister.

I took a morning to have a cup of coffee by myself and enjoy the blue sky. A full schedule of visiting friends came after my coffee break. Nothing fills me up like spending time with friends, especially Tahoe friends. They are down-to-earth, friendly, “California casual” type of people.

The nights I stayed at my friends’ house, the sunset washed the blue sky with shades of pink. The last night, the full moon rose over the mountains to the east and reflected like scattered diamonds on the lake. Beautiful.

The California Native Returns

I made it to Lake Tahoe. Since I landed late at night into SFO, I checked into a hotel before attempting to drive up the mountain. From the airport cop, to the shuttle driver, to the woman who checked me in at the hotel, all of them spoke so quickly, I had to ask multiple times for them to repeat what they said. I couldn’t listen fast enough. All this “talking story” on Oahu the past few months made me an attentive and patient listener. Hawaiians take their time when speaking.

The next morning, I couldn’t wait to drive on Interstate 80 in four lanes and have the speedometer reach something higher than 50 MPH. After picking up my car at the rental center, I meditated while driving 65 on the freeway with other cars and watched open fields and sunflowers and almond trees whiz past me. I was reminded of when I was a kid.

California back then was mostly agricultural. We used to pick apricots in the lot next door to us. We’d drive as a family to a field nearby and pick cherries on land that is now Apple Computer headquarters. My great aunt and uncle lived next to Adobe Creek in Los Altos, where I grew up before we moved to Newport Beach. Many Sunday mornings my mom and dad would ride us on the back of their bicycles (without helmets) to the family house in Los Altos Hills. After riding down the long driveway and passing fruit trees along the way, we’d enter through the kitchen door at the back of the house where my great-aunt’s homemade hot cross buns sat on the counter waiting for us. My sister and I would sit at the table and pick up a bun to find it still warm. Then we’d walk into Adobe Creek and pick blackberries.

THAT is the California I remember.

So when I found myself on I-80 following this Chevy Truck, I really was transported to the California of the 70’s. It has the old black and gold license plate. I can’t believe this truck is still on the road. Hey, it’s for sale too!

Of course, I HAD to stop at Ikeda’s in Auburn. It’s a family owned restaurant/farm/fruit stand. I almost cried when I saw the half flat of organic, fresh picked strawberries for $8.29. A small clamshell of organic strawberries is sometimes $8.99 on Oahu and that’s after sitting on a ship for a week.

I picked up strawberries and peach muffins and continued to Squaw Valley where I was meeting members of the awesome group #9 from the 2007 Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Lake Tahoe has a distinctive smell, it’s of pine, but nowhere else have I smelled the pine trees like I have in Tahoe. When I arrived in the parking lot and stepped out of the car, I inhaled a big lung-full of Tahoe air. Ahhh! I love Tahoe. Have I mentioned I lived there for a few years? It’s a magical place.

And speaking of magic, the people who run the Squaw Valley Community of Writers manage to create magic year after year. Four years after attending the conference, my friends and I found each other in our rented condo. Happy to be together, we laughed and screamed and hugged. We’d come from as far as Vermont and Hawaii to meet up once again. We’ve reunited a few times before and it’s always great, like we’ve never been apart.

This time we came to support two of our own – Sara J, Henry and Jessica O’Dwyer. Both of these ladies read from their published books to the 2011 participants, alumni and local folk who came to hear past participants read.

Sara’s book, LEARNING TO SWIM, came out in February. Sara was first of the alumni readers to address the group. She spoke to the audience about how her confidence was shattered the first time she attended the conference and how she went home and didn’t write for a year. The audience gasped. Sara then shared about her experience in 2007. When she said she’d found her writing family at the magical conference that year, I wasn’t the only one who, for one second, stopped breathing and felt tears in my eyes.

A few readers later and Jessica was reading from her memoir, MAMALITA. I’d heard Jessica share stories that aren’t in the book at her book launch last November. Even though I’d heard one of the stories before, it touched me again about how much struggle a mother will go through to adopt the child she loves.

At the end of the alumni speakers event, I turned to another of our 2007 group alumna and said with pride, “Our girls were great.”

Honolulu Hale

I came home from Lake Tahoe last night. I’ll write about my week later, but for now, let me tell you where I went today. The Mayor of Honolulu’s office. Yes, I met Mayor Carlisle. Not even five months here and I’ve been to a City Council meeting and I met the Mayor.

In order to protect the privacy of people involved, I’m not saying why I was able to attend City Hall today, other than it was for someone getting recognized.

The Mayor is a funny, easy-going man, who made a few jokes. His staff is excellent. They had every detail down. When we walked into the Mayor’s outer office to wait for the Mayor, they said, “Relax, help yourself to some coffee. It’s supposed to be fun here.” (He has a Keurig coffee maker.)

Oh, and everyone wears a lei….the person getting honored, the family and support people for the honoree, the council members and the Mayor. In between items on the agenda, the Council takes a short break and three musicians play during the interludes! I think it’s members of the Royal Hawaiian Band. It’s so nice to sit and listen to the soft sounds of Hawaii while the Council readies itself for the next agenda item.

The City Council Chambers in Honolulu Hale have gorgeous old painted ceilings and light fixtures. I’ve uploaded a photo of the ceiling, a chandelier, and the view from the mayor’s outer office.

Book Buying on Oahu

I’m heading to Lake Tahoe next week for the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. I attended a few years ago and two of the writers in our group published books last year. They are readers at the conference this year. Our small group is having a reunion to catch up and to support the new authors.

I wanted books for the five hour airplane rides.

On Oahu, there’s really only Barnes and Noble left for book buying. There are few bookstores that carry Hawaiiana and Hawaiian history and many used book stores, but these particular books I wanted are recently published. The one independent bookstore on the island is so disorganized that when I asked for a particular book, the woman looked it up on the computer and said, “We have two copies here somewhere.” And after 20 minutes of looking, both on the shelves and in the back room, she couldn’t find either copy.

So off to Barnes and Noble’s at Ala Moana Mall I went. The “New Arrivals” table had books on it I saw a year ago in San Francisco. They aren’t “New”. I searched the stacks of books and the rows of shelves, but not one of the three books I was looking for was anywhere to be found. The shelves were filled with books I’d already either read, or didn’t want to read. Titles that came out four years ago filled the shelves. Hawaii was way behind. I asked Customer Service for help. The man looked on his computer. “We don’t have those books. I can order it for you. It’ll take seven to ten days.”

“No,” I said, “I need them sooner than that.”

The man didn’t look up from his computer. “They must be small books if we don’t carry them.”

One is a New York Times bestseller. All are with major publishers.

I walked out of the store to head to my car. My thought was to drive to another city and another bookstore to find my books. Then I realized, I’m in Hawaii. There IS no other place to drive to.

The internet, you say. Order them yourself.

I’ve ordered books through Amazon and had them sent here. One took eight weeks to arrive. The other two took three weeks with extra shipping charges for a Hawaii address.

Speaking of shipping to Hawaii, I tried to order more checks off my bank’s website (A VERY BIG BANK). When I added my Hawaii address for delivery, the screen had red letters at the top that said, “We cannot deliver to Puerto Rico or outside the United States. Please enter a new address.”

I’m so far from San Francisco and a major City. I can’t drive long distances here. I miss the convenience of San Francisco. People know it’s part of the United States. Friends are there. The weather is hot and sticky here and……. I have Rock Fever.

I’d been warned about this.

It’s why I’m so excited to head to Lake Tahoe and see the beautiful lake. I think I’m going to take my rental car and drive…drive long distances with scenery that changes along the way. I miss California. And yet, I like it here. I do. I’m just not IN the community, yet. I have only a few friends and nothing is like it is on the Mainland. It’s major adjustment.

My cousins arrive tomorrow, and I think seeing family will help. Then, I’m off to see the Tahoe Blue lake with Tahoe bluebird skies. I’m packing now.

I must cure my Rock Fever.