A Daughter of ALS

Something I wrote many years ago.

I was seven. The blue patchwork quilt covered my dad as he lay in bed in our suburban San Francisco home. Dad pushed his pillow under his head. His blue eyes looked into mine. “I’m sick,” he said. “Really sick.”

“Like the Hong Kong Flu?” I asked. It was 1971 and in my seven-year-old mind, the Hong Kong flu was the worst imaginable type of sickness. I assumed Dad would stay in bed a few days then return to normal. No one told me he was going to die.

We visited our grandparents later that week.  While the grown-ups talked in the living room, my sister and I were told to play in my mom’s old bedroom. We played with Mom’s old dolls and pulled my grandma’s coats and sweaters out of the closet to try on.

An hour later, Mom told us to clean up. It was time to leave. When we reached the front door, my grandparents were waiting for us. My grandpa hugged me, held my face, kissed both of my cheeks and for the first time I remember, he told me he loved me.

Bridget and I walked to the Pontiac parked in the driveway. Mom ran ahead of us, opened the front door and told us to get in. I looked behind me to find Dad lying across the back seat.

Grandma rushed out the front door with a pillow and placed it under Dad’s head.

“I’ll get this back to you soon, Mildred,” he said.

“You don’t worry about that, Bill. You just take care of yourself.”

Dad lay motionless. Normally my sister and I fought over who was hogging more space in the backseat. That day we squished together in the front seat of the Pontiac and said nothing.

As we pulled out of the driveway, a deep frown crossed Grandma’s forehead. I watched her wave like a robot while we drove away. At seven years old, I knew something was wrong.

We drove home in silence. This was the day my grandparents were told their son-in-law had a fatal disease, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Over the next few years, I watched my dad get weaker. His fingers quivered; his arms shook unless they hung limply at his sides.  I had assumed he was tired, but people behaved differently. Neighbors dropped by bringing food. Adults spoke in whispers. Suspense filled the air and I held my muscles taut, waiting for whatever bad thing was out there to happen.

My parents started to disappear for days at a time when I was nine. Mom dropped us off at my aunt and uncle’s house, saying she and Dad were going on vacation. In reality, they visited the Mayo Clinic, Good Samaritan Hospital, clinics in southern California and Mexico, in search of a cure for the always-terminal ALS.

Before getting sick, Dad would carry my sister and me to bed each night. “Fireman’s carry, Daddy!” we’d shout. My six-foot four-inch father would throw us over each shoulder, carry us down the hallway and plop us both into bed. He’d tuck us in, tell us a story, usually about two little girls who were sisters, and kiss us goodnight.

After my father’s diagnosis, my parents decided it was best to give their daughters as normal a life as possible. Bridget and I knew Dad was sick, but we didn’t know he was going to die. No one told us what ALS was. All we knew was that Dad was getting weaker, thinner, and couldn’t do things anymore on his own. No one talked to us about death or the dying process.

I remember an evening in 1973. I was nine years old and playing softball with the neighborhood kids and their dads on our street in Los Altos. The mailbox, fire hydrant, and chalk-filled squares were the bases. My friend’s dad picked up the bat, swung hard and sent the ball flying down the street. Kids cheered and jumped trying to get the ball to the catcher and force an out. From left field, I stood with my mitt in hand and saw my dad awkwardly shuffle out our front door toward our makeshift softball field.  Since he now spent most of his time on the sofa or in bed, I hadn’t expected him to play.

He stood at home plate, the bat hanging in front of him and with both hands, tried to swing, but the bat only rose two feet off the ground. The ball flew above the bat.  I watched my dad, barely able to lift the bat, try again.  Not understanding my father was terminally ill; I was embarrassed, thinking he was just bad at sports. I couldn’t understand why the other fathers let him walk to first base and spoke encouraging words to him.

For a long time, I looked back at those instances, ashamed for thinking only of myself. It took many years to understand that I was a kid, a kid who didn’t know her father was dying and what that meant. I had spent the previous two years watching adults speak in whispers around me. It wasn’t the kind of environment where I felt secure enough to ask questions and at nine, I still didn’t understand that death was coming. I wouldn’t have known what questions to ask anyway.

From ages nine to eleven, I learned to keep quiet.  When I finally asked, “What’s wrong with Dad?” the only answer I received was, “He’s sick.”

One night when I asked Mom why she was fixing Dad a special dinner, she turned from the stove to face my eight-year-old sister, who was sitting at the kitchen table. Mom grabbed pennies from Bridget’s hand. Bridget had once choked on a penny as a toddler. Mom angrily said, “Give those to me” as she unfolded Bridget’s fingers and released the coins.  I watched my sister squeeze her fingers to her palm and yell, “Why? I’m not doing anything.” Somehow, I knew Mom was upset with my questions about Dad and why he needed a special dinner. All I knew was that I had made my parents upset. I didn’t know fear had gripped our household.

I learned to pretend that everything was normal, even though it wasn’t. I accepted their lack of explanations and moved on with my childhood.

My mother now says that hiding the fact our father was going to die and pretending we could have a normal childhood seemed like the right thing at the time.

As the disease progressed in his body, my father’s muscles weakened and, due to atrophy, started to die. He already couldn’t use much of his hands or arms. As the muscles in his tongue grew weaker, his speech suffered. He lost weight, especially in his legs. My father, a former high school football player and Army Sergeant, was emaciated. At 6’4”, he weighed 120 pounds.

Because he was no longer able to button buttons, buckle belts, or tie shoes, I helped my dad get dressed in the mornings.  One morning when I was eleven, I was buttoning my father’s shirt. He watched me dress him as his arms hung limply at his sides.  He looked down at me and said, “You have to take care of your mom and sister now. I can’t do it anymore.”

I stepped back from my father, stared into the carpet and knew right then that my childhood was over. I nodded and obediently walked to his closet, bent down to pick up a pair of shoes, and when I stood up I felt not only the weight of the shoes, but also the huge responsibility I now had of taking care of my mom and sister.

My father watched the disease ravage his body. I watched the disease ravage his mind. His frustrations of not being able to do what other thirty-eight year old men did made him angry. He kicked the dog when she was in his path. I watched as he slapped my nine-year-old sister from across the kitchen table for saying she thought peas were gross and wouldn’t eat them. In response, I gathered the dishes and left the uncertainty of the dinner table for the relative safety of the sink on the other side of the kitchen.  I figured he wouldn’t get mad at me if I were doing something a good daughter would do, like cleaning dishes. While standing at the sink, I’d stare out the window and watch the kids ride their bikes on the street. I wished I could get on my bike and ride away.

Mom had no idea about my promise to Dad. She had spent all her time focused on taking care of Dad and finding him the right medical professionals.

I overheard Mom talking to her mother one day. “The doctor says not to leave any washcloths near Bill, because ALS patients often try to suffocate themselves by stuffing washcloths in their mouths.” I tried to imagine wanting to die by putting a cloth in my mouth and stopping my breath. It seemed impossible. It was the first time I figured my father was so sick that he could choose to end his life via washcloth suffocation. What kind of illness was this?

Over the next two years, Dad’s anger consumed him. When anger gave way to depression, Dad spent all his time in bed or on the sofa and not a part of our lives. My mom took over. She became both mom and dad for her daughters.

Previously, Dad had been the one to play with us, but now mom, still making sure we did our homework and ate balanced meals, took over that role. She was our Girl Scout Troop leader. She took us to Hawaiian Hula lessons, football games in Berkeley, and origami class. She made sure we spent time with neighbors, friends and their families. My friend’s dad and brothers would take our Girl Scout troop camping. They taught me how to pitch a tent, build a campfire and cook over it, where to find water, and how to plan for inclement weather. I loved spending time at my friends’ houses. When their parents fussed over my well-being, I felt safe and loved.

My father’s parents had died when I was very young, but he had a brother and sister who lived nearby. During the years Dad was still at home, but sick, I had waited for his siblings to arrive at the house with food and books and offers to take us away for the weekend, but they never did.

They spoke to my dad, but never to Bridget and me. They helped him, but not us. Somehow, I took that to mean I must have done something really awful. Why hadn’t they ever come to check on me? Mom and Dad spent time away from home, visiting doctors and clinics, while I cooked for my sister and helped her with her homework.

As his illness took more and more of his body, but left his mind intact, Dad’s anger from dying of ALS destroyed his family. He blamed his wife and his daughters for not being there enough for him. Bridget and I, still being children, didn’t know how to help and no matter what Mom did, it wasn’t enough. Dad wanted to stop dying, but no one had a cure.

After years of being mother and father to two daughters and wife to a depressed, angry, terminally ill husband, my mother filed for divorce.  She realized she could give her daughters at least one parent who could be present for them, rather than subjecting us to a father who blamed us for everything and a mother who couldn’t humanly do enough for her dying husband.

Dad moved to a nearby condo, working with doctors, nurses and physical therapists. Left with only one parent, Bridget and I developed a relationship where, even though we fought constantly, we knew we only had each other to count on. No one else knew what it was like to have a father dying of a wasting-away disease. I didn’t mind taking care of my sister. It was a promise I intended to keep.

For my own protection, I chose to stop speaking to my father when I was 15. He had threatened to kidnap me. He had told me if I didn’t do what he wanted, that I wasn’t his daughter anymore. Eight years of dying and wasting away had turned my father’s mind to a place where he couldn’t leave his rage behind. He wasn’t my Dad anymore.

I realize now that being trapped in a body that wastes away, leaving your mind intact is a cruelty no human should endure. My father lived twelve years watching his body disappear, leaving his mind in a shell. I did see photos and finally had a few phone conversations with him. (He heard my voice, I heard him make grunting sounds.)

I had updates through those last years.

“Your dad can’t swallow.”

“He can’t blink.”

“He’s down to 98 pounds.”

“This is it, his lungs are giving out.”

The lungs were it. Dad died of suffocation in December 1983, a case history at the time, living longer than anyone else with ALS. The norm is 2-5 years. He endured 12.

I grew up believing I was on my own, that there was no help, that I was responsible for others, and that people always left. I lived each day in a state of panic, waiting for the next horrible thing to happen.

When I meet someone now who is losing her father to ALS, I wish her many things. As awful as it sounds, I wish her enough time to say goodbye and feel the love between father and daughter, but not so long as for ALS to dump its ugly anger upon her.

I want her to know it’s is not her fault her dad is leaving. I want her father’s family to show up and pay attention to her; ask her questions. I didn’t know about dying as a kid. I knew something horribly wrong was happening and I came to my own erroneous conclusions.  I wish those same aunts, uncles and grandparents will continue to be a part of the daughter’s life, letting her know she is loved and that sometimes, bad things happen but she doesn’t have to be alone.

 

Friends, Food and Fireworks

July 5, 2001

Lake Tahoe

Tahoe City had the big fireworks show for the tourists on Independence Day. Those who lived deep on the West Shore cities of Lake Tahoe (Tahoma, Meeks Bay, Rubicon. Homewood) stayed on the West Shore as much as possible over the holiday. The traffic was too much for trying to get anywhere.

But on the 5th, a fireworks show happened off the Homewood marina, paid for by contributions of those who lived there.

Early afternoon, I had taken Petie, Louis’ beagle, for a walk while Louis was mixing Grateful Dead CD’s inside. When Petie and I returned, I said, “It’s such a beautiful day, we should get out.”

Louis stepped away from his music, “We should take the boat out to watch the fireworks.” We called a few friends who all said, “yes” to a cruise on the lake.

Later, while we were packing up towels and an ice chest, I thought about a guy Louis had recently met. “What about Lewis? I said.

“Last time I saw him he said, ‘See you soon,’ but I haven’t heard from him.”

“Maybe he’s waiting for you to call him.” Louis thought for a moment. “You’re absolutely right,” he said as he picked up the phone to call Lewis.

We all met at Obexer’s Marina at 5:00. Louis and another friend were untying the cruiser that comfortably held six from it’s buoy to pick us up on the dock. Lewis arrived with bags of food. We loaded onto the boat and took her out to the middle of the lake.

Lewis retrieved his food and placed it in the middle of the boat for all to share. Chips and a bean salsa. I dove right in. “This is really good.” I said with my mouth still full of the bean and tomato goodness. “Of course it is. I made it. “ Lewis laughed.

The sun started to set, creating an orange Alpenglow behind the mountains. As the sky changed to pink, all six of us on the boat ooohed and ahhhed at the same time. The calm lake water perfectly reflected the pink sky. Pink was everywhere; across the open sky, passing the granite mountainside, and over the immense lake.

We tied up to the buoy as the sky turned dark and waited for the fireworks.

The first one shot off right over us.  We gasped as we saw the colors of the fireworks in the sky reflected on the water around our boat.

The weather was perfect. The lake conditions were perfect. We couldn’t have planned it better, yet it had come together in a few hours. Friends, food, and fireworks in beautiful alpine scenery.

As Louis and I drove back to his house in Meeks Bay, I said, “I loved the salsa Lewis made. No wonder he’s a chef.”

Louis stared at the road, lost in thought, then said, “I wonder if he’d want to cater a video shoot?”

As far as I know, Magic Louis and Chef Lewis are still friends today.

An Audience of Grief and Love

At dinner the other night, the topic of 9/11 came up. Here’s my story:

I’d headed to San Francisco prior to the next L&L Publishing video shoot. Louis had paid Johnny Thompson, magic mentor to Penn and Teller and Lance Burton, to shoot a video at Louis’ house, which doubled as L&L Publishing’s studio.  L&L made instructional DVDs for lay magicians, where famous magicians performed in front of an audience and then revealed the secrets of those tricks.

The day of the attacks, I was in my apartment in San Francisco. Louis was in his Lake Tahoe home. We watched TV together over the phone as the second plane flew into the building. We watched as people flew in the air to their deaths. We watched as the buildings came down and terror-stricken New Yorkers ran past the TV camera.

Wolf Blitzer announced all planes had been grounded.

I turned to face the blue sky out the window, trying to grasp reality. “I can’t believe this is real.”

“Come home, “Louis said. “Get back here where it’s safe.”

I wished I were already there, with him and his beagle, Petie, where I wouldn’t feel so alone and helpless. We’d been together for nine months. I had moved into Louis’ house a few months earlier, but had kept the city apartment.

Louis loved the remoteness of Lake Tahoe and the safety of his anonymous house on the side of the hill in Meeks Bay.

“What if the Golden Gate Bridge is blown up while I’m on it?”

I decided to stay in San Francisco until we knew what was happening across the country.

Back in Tahoe, we had tickets to see James Taylor in concert at the Reno Hilton the night of September 22. Eleven days after the 9/11 attack. We were numb after watching the images on TV for too many days. Life across the country was starting to resume, but nothing was back to normal.

Louis was lying on the bed watching TV. I was in the bathroom putting on makeup. “I don’t know how to behave tonight,” I said. “It’s a concert, but I don’t feel like singing or clapping.”

Louis agreed.

“All those people on TV are showing flyers of their loved ones. They haven’t accepted that they perished. How are we supposed to act happy when such a horrible thing has happened?” Louis turned off the TV, walked over to me and said, “It’s James Taylor. We listen to his music and try to forget for a few hours.”

We sat in row 11 of the concert area, outside the Hilton. When James Taylor stepped on stage, the audience clapped politely.  After a few songs James Taylor sat on a tall stool, his guitar on his knee, about to start another song, when a jet flew overhead.  He placed his right arm across the side of his guitar, looked into the sky and said nothing. No one spoke. Was everyone else wondering if it was a military jet from nearby Fallon NAS and if there was another attack happening, like I did?  Or was it was a regular flight from Reno-Tahoe airport just across the highway? Regular? I wondered. Would there be a regular flight ever again?

James Taylor continued playing his gentle songs. I had grown up with them. I knew them by heart; so had everyone in my generation, but tonight the songs had different meaning.

Fire and Rain – “thought I’d see you one more time again”…Is that what the loved ones of those who died in the attacks thought?

“I’m going to Carolina in my mind”… Because we needed to mentally retreat to a happy place? I didn’t want to go into my mind. It thought only of the dark grief of the past eleven days.

Something in the Way She Moves…”She’s been with me now quite a long, long time and I feel fine”… Who is ‘she’ and can she make us feel fine again?

After another song or so, James Taylor spoke of his daughter, Sally, a musician who had been traveling in Arizona with her band when the attacks happened. She had driven to Reno and was with him that night. He brought her on stage and there was something so right about father and daughter being together during this time, that I sighed, releasing some of the fear I had held in my stomach since 9/11.  They sang together and looked into each other’s eyes. Even from row 11, I could see love between them – the real, human emotion that kept us a part of the living.

A few verses into the next song and Sally started sobbing. She tried to keep singing, but we heard sobs of grief through the microphone. Her dad kept playing and with fatherly love, he held her gaze until the song was over. She cried throughout the rest of the song. When it ended, he enveloped her in a protective hug.  We could see her shaking shoulders from her heavy sobbing into her dad’s chest. Tears rolled down my face. Louis wiped his eyes. Everyone around us was crying.

Sally had allowed us to feel again. She was with us and gave us permission to break from the numbness that had settled over us for weeks after 9/11. She showed us her humanness and relieved us from trying to keep it together. We had been through an unspeakable tragedy as a country. Human lives were lost, fear had been instilled in us and we were afraid of living again.  Sally had cried her way into our hearts and she and her father had shown us how to find our soul.

No video shoot of a famous magician could have happened at that time, even if Johnny Thompson had arrived in Tahoe. No one was in a state to be amazed by distraction and deception. No magic could have made us feel better. We needed love, not illusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting on Flossie

I returned home early from a trip to California to prepare for Tropical Storm Flossie. The stores were crowded this morning, but no lines out the door, no empty shelves. A 3.5 earthquake happened while inside the grocery store, but no one noticed it.

We’re hunkering in now. And waiting. Some passing rain. Sun. Clouds. Repeat.

Storm clouds gathering.

Mayor Caldwell (of Honolulu) has requested that everyone get off the roads by early evening tonight. I may cook or clean or write. But I’ll probably be on Twitter or Facebook unless the power goes out.

Update: Just received word that Oahu residents are asked to conserve water. A shower first, then I’ll conserve.

I’ll be tweeting @sfcyn.

 

Yearning and Appreciation

Yesterday my Facebook feed had stunning photos of fall colors from my friends around the country. Beautiful reds, oranges and yellows lined my computer screen, until I came to my friends from Lake Tahoe. The colors abruptly stopped and I faced whites and browns. Snow. Inches of snow already piled up on decks and chairs and tree limbs in Tahoe.

I had so missed the season changes a few weeks ago. I craved a big city where I could walk down a street with coffee in hand, browse through bookstores, and maybe throw a scarf around my neck to keep warm.

Hello, Seattle. We took a journey to the Emerald City two weeks ago. After arriving at our hotel at 11:00PM the first night, we slept until 8:30 our time. Which meant we wandered into Pike’s Place Market and asked for breakfast at noon Seattle time.

After breakfast, we walked the market and found a bookstore, an independent bookstore, whose owner said, “As long as there are books, I will be here.” I purchased a few books I had wanted, but couldn’t find on O’ahu.

A colorful corner of Seattle

We then found small cafes and coffee shops scattered around the neighborhood. In one, Mark said, “ If it rains tomorrow, we can stay in here, read books and drink coffee all day. “ My idea of a perfect day.

Space Needle on a sunny Seattle day.

It didn’t rain and since we didn’t have a car, we took public transportation (which is very good) to the Space Needle. We ate at the revolving Sky City restaurant. My favorite part was when I saw a note and a pen sitting in the windowsill that remains fixed, while the tables revolved. A kid had written:

My name is Alex.

Yours is______________.

I wrote, “Cynthia. Nice to meet you.” I placed the note back in the window frame and watched it circle away from us. Soon, another note appeared. This one asked where we came from. People from Texas, Oklahoma, California and Utah signed the note.

As a former teacher, I love this kind of interaction with kids.

Saturday, we went to the USC-UW football game. We caught the USC marching band as they entered the stadium. The “V” sign was everywhere for a minute or two, then they disappeared into a tunnel to their seats.  During the game, we wondered if Pete Carroll was sitting in the stadium somewhere, watching his former assistant coach on the field.

Did I mention I try to be gluten-free? Inside CenturyLink stadium there’s a gluten free food stand. I doubt I’ll ever see one at Aloha stadium.

Our last day in Seattle, a friend picked us up and drove us far into the state. Through the eastside neighborhoods, we drove until we reached the country. We stopped at Snoqualmie Falls, where we admired the view through a veil of steady rain.

Colors of fall in the Washington country

We drove and drove through trees and grasses of beautiful fall colors. I was getting my fill of autumn. We drove all the way to Alaska. Okay, not really, we drove to Roslyn, which was the setting for the TV show, Northern Exposure.

Roslyn,Washington where the TV show Northern Exposure was set. It was supposed to be a town in Alaska.
Cicely, Alaska, the town in the show Northern Exposure.

After dinner at a seafood restaurant along the Seattle waterfront, we returned to our hotel where I reflected on the sights I had so missed.

Fall colors

Evergreen trees

Coats and scarves

Clouds and fog

Farmland with streams and rivers

Coffee shops and bookstores in every neighborhood.

The USC football team, band and fans.

Yes, I had yearned for the mainland sights, but when we sat in our seats on our flight to Honolulu, I couldn’t wait to get home. Home to warm weather, friendly people, a slower pace, the beach, and THE COFFEE. I had spent five days in the coffee capital of the U. S. and I missed Hawaiian coffee.

I wanted to go home and wondered why I had been so anxious to leave it. Was I one of those people who always looked forward to the next thing and missed what was in front of them? In this case, I think I was. My friends had taught me the importance of being present and somehow I had forgotten to appreciate the moments. Seattle was fun to visit. I took in as much of the experience as I could, but I vowed not to miss the everyday of my life.

I don’t want to leave here anytime soon.  Nothing on the mainland beats a Hawaiian morning on the beach wearing shorts and a t-shirt and drinking local coffee.

Appreciating the moment.

 

 

 

 

Big City Fix

Last night at writers group we talked about southern California in the 60’s – huaraches, surfboards, sunshine, the Beach Boys. It seemed it was always summer in southern California back then.

It’s summer on Oahu now, hot and humid, with crowded beaches, warm water, and shave ice. Surfers, with surfboards under arms, run across streets to catch ocean waves. Sometimes they carry their boards while riding bicycles, a talent I will never achieve.  Tourists walk the streets with red, blistered skin. Air-conditioned stores fill with patrons seeking refuge from the hot, muggy afternoons. The summer solstice sun last night glared into our eyes as we drove into Kaimuki for our writers group.

I sit here at a small coffee shop in Honolulu in a tank top and shorts, continually scooting  my chair out of the sun, and I’m missing The City. THE City. San Francisco. Summer in San Francisco was a wool coat with hat and scarf; bitter cold wind, eye-level fog, foghorns and coffee. I think of the heater in my old 1930’s-built apartment coming on at all hours and of time spent in bookstores. I would go to a coffee shop for something to eat and take a coffee to walk around with, mostly because I’m a coffee addict, but also because it kept my hand warm.

I miss the literary scene. There’s City Lights in North Beach and independent bookstores in every neighborhood. I miss Book Passage in Marin County with their endless calendar of classes, conferences, readings, etc. I miss how I’d meet a writer at any coffee shop or bookstore.

My friend Eric Sasson is reading from his book next month at Why There Are Words in Sausalito. I used to attend regularly when I lived there, usually with a writer friend or two. I can’t find anything like Why There Are Words on Oahu.

I’m also thinking of Washington D.C.  A recent transplant told me it’s a foody scene in D.C. now. I remember when the Borders bookstore in Arlington, Virginia opened. It had a coffee shop and evening music, a novel idea at the time. People flocked to it. Now D.C. has new restaurants along with bookstores. (Please tell me great bookstores are still there.)

And why do I have thoughts of New York? Never have I yearned for New York. Last time I was there was before Rudy Giuliani was mayor.

I need a city fix.

I don’t know if this qualifies as Island Fever, I’m not craving miles and miles of open land. I’m just missing big city vitality.

Mark and I are planning a trip later this year to Seattle. Neither of us has ever been. We’re open to ideas of what to see or do. I like the artsy/literary/coffee shop scene. Mark likes historical places. We’ll walk neighborhoods and waterfronts.

But Seattle is months and months away. Anyone have a suggestion of how to get a big city fix in summertime Hawaii? Should I rent Sex And The City videos or do I get on a plane and go somewhere? Anyone have a city in mind I should check out?

 

A Picky Eater Tours Whole Foods

I’m a picky eater. Organic when I can. Grass Fed over mass-produced feed. Fresh, local produce. Gluten-free as much as possible.

Hooray to Whole Foods for opening their newest store in Hawaii. It’s in Kailua, on the Windward side of Oahu and today I toured the store before its grand opening on Wednesday.

Wow! The store is huge! There’s a section for everything, starting with wine, beer and pizza. They’re having Happy Hours with $2.00 beer. Get a draft and a slice and sit with your friends in the cushy green seats in the “Bar” area.

My favorite is the coffee and juice bar. Twelve different coffees served daily. I swear I heard our tour guide say, “Twelve.” I hope I wasn’t imagining it.

There’s a bakery section with organic bread baked daily. The baker also said my favorite words, “gluten-free.” But it won’t be baked fresh daily. The gluten-free foods will be in the refrigerated or freezer sections.

Next we went to the butcher section. See the pattern here – bartender, baker, butcher. Like an old time village, where you stopped at each proprietor for your food, except here, it’s all in one store.

They talked for a while about a color-coded system of defining the level of meats by how they were raised. The couple behind me and I both honed in on the beef coming from Maui. Not too far, when considering we are the metropolis most-removed from another city in the entire world. As in, we are far from everything here in the Pacific Ocean.

The fish section has a poke bar. Typical Hawaii.

Across the way we went to the bulk section. Not only do they have bulk nuts and seeds, but bulk liquids. I saw metal containers that looked like coffee urns marked with “Macadamia Nut Oil”, “Raw Blue Agave”, and “Amino Acids”.

Finally to the fresh produce. They purchase produce as local as possible, which isn’t difficult here. Hawaii has excellent papaya, mango, pineapple, corn, lettuce and greens. Oh, the list goes on….

Maui Pineapples on Sale

We walked around the outdoor, gated area to listen to music, and sample foods. The tea with sorbet was excellent. I tried both the Lychee and the Ginger Passion Fruit. Once Whole Foods is open for shopping, I’m buying some.

I can’t wait shop here. Thank you Whole Foods for opening up a much larger store and on the other side of the island.

Honolulu Year of the Dragon

View off Mauna Kea Street

Welcome to my new website. I’m still working on getting it just right….so bear with me.

Since I’ve last blogged, Chinese New Year celebrations happened all over Honolulu. Mark and I went to Chinatown for the parade and festival. I love the colors of Chinatown when it’s lit up and celebrating. Lion dancers snaked around the streets and alleys. I snapped a photo of a little girl (I mean, like four years old!) dressed in a lion dancer costume. She wagged her lion head and shook her body. She was already a pro!

We waited for dinner at Little Village and I’ve been craving their food ever since. I can’t wait to go back. It’s worth the wait in line.

She had fun prancing like a lion. She's a pro already!

The next weekend, I watched the performers at Ala Moana Shopping Center. First was a tandem lion dancer team that performed in the lion costume above the floor on small discs affixed to poles that perched from four to eight feet above the floor. The duo had to be coordinated and plant each foot at precisely the right spot and the right second. They were amazing.

Next, lion dancers paraded around each wing of the center, stopping at stores to receive the red “lei see” envelopes and bless the shops and their cash registers for the new year. They even rode the escalator at Nordstrom! I stood between the shoe and cosmetics departments, watching the lions bless my two favorite section of Nordstrom’s. I have great video of it and once I figure out how to load video here, I’ll post it.

New Year's dinner

Now, it’s on to Punxsatawney Phil who saw his shadow today. Six more weeks of winter, but I can’t tell from Oahu. It’s always in the 70’s or low 80’s here. Even in winter.

Happy Year of the Dragon!