USC Football Amnesia

Football season started without me. I’m a USC alumna and for the past few years, I planned game watching parties for the USC Alumni Club in the North Bay Area. Each season, Mark and I would fly down to a game or two at the Coliseum in Los Angeles and, of course, attend the game when USC played Cal or Stanford. But this year, football season snuck up on me. The weather is in the high 80’s, there’s very little tradewind breeze blowing, there are no changing of the leaves to autumn colors….how am I supposed to know it’s football season?

Last Saturday, I had plans to meet a friend at 10:00. At 8:55 AM I was reading the morning news and drinking coffee. Mark turned on the TV to find the USC-Minnesota game. I had completely forgotten about the game. I checked in on Facebook and found post after post from USC friends. Many friends attached photos from the Coliseum, the tailgates, a photo of Traveler (the horse).

There was no planning for a game watching party here in our apartment. No wearing USC shirts and hats. No cardinal and gold pom-poms to be seen.

I watched the opening drive of the game, then left to meet my friend. When I reached home and checked my cell phone, there was a text from the gang at our North Bay game watching party, saying they missed us.

With tropical weather and geography outside our door, I forget about Mainland rituals and traditions. But USC is important to me. It’s a great school that does great things and I want to be with my Trojan Family during football season. It’s what binds us together. So, this Saturday I will be with the USC Alumni Club of Hawaii, watching the game at Jimmy Buffet’s in Waikiki. Join us. I’ll be the one in the USC shirt.

Fight On!

Update: Hawaii Five-0 has their Season 2 premiere on the beach in Waikiki this Saturday. I don’t know the time yet. What do I do if they schedule it during the USC game? Such are the awesome choices when living on Oahu.

The Garden Isle

It’s a swampy day on Oahu. I raised the shades on our living room windows around 7:30 this morning and found water (or extreme condensation) on the inside of our window sills. Eighty-four percent humidity creates water puddles on the INSIDE of our apartment.

After turning on the air-conditioning, I sat down to a smooth, rich cup of Kauai coffee, purchased at the Kauai Coffee Company last weekend. Mark and I journeyed to the Garden Isle, where one of his friends, born and raised on Kauai, gave us a “local boy” tour.

Kauai lives up to its name. It’s green, lush, open and relaxed. I’m not one to sleep easily unless I’m in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable bed. I fell asleep on a lounge chair at the Marriott pool late Saturday afternoon. But let me back up to the beginning.

Mark and I flew from HNL to Lihue on Friday, a 20 minute flight. We stayed at the Marriott. I highly recommend it. It’s an easy shuttle ride down a back road through the Marriott golf course to the hotel.

Twenty minutes later we were having drinks and appetizers at Duke’s, watching the NCL cruise ship leave the harbor, bound for Honolulu. We waved goodbye and made dinner reservations for the following night.

Saturday morning, Mark’s friend picked us up and took us to breakfast at Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company in Kalaheo, his hometown. The Paniolo (cowboy) breakfast of eggs and bacon and hash browns filled me up for our sightseeing.

We drove to Poipu to see the Spouting Horn. Most tourists know the Spouting Horn is a blowhole where waves come through an opening in the lava and “spout” water high into the sky. But they don’t know that the blowhole used to be much larger. Back in the days of sugar cane fields that reached from mountain to sea, the owner of the Poipu sugar plantation was upset that the blowhole spouted sea water 1/2 mile inland and covered his sugar crops. “So my uncle and the plantation foreman came here and cut the blowhole in half,” said our “local boy”.

Hanapepe is a small town where Lappert’s ice cream started. No ice cream for us, we went straight to the swinging bridge over the Hanapepe River. Yes, river. Kauai is the only island in the state to have rivers.

The swinging bridge was used by sugar plantation children to cross the river and climb a trail up the adjacent hill to reach the schoolhouse. The bridge is still used although I’m sure there’s another school somewhere. Near the bridge we saw two gravestones, one etched in Hawaiian from the year 1910.

Others might recognize Hanapepe as the setting for the mini-series, The Thorn Birds, although we didn’t.

Much of Kauai is homesteaded; lands were passed down through families over generations. We saw areas which I won’t write about because I want to preserve the old way of almost communal-style living. Families have goods from their lands that they won’t sell, they will only give away to friends or trade for other goods.

I came away with a new appreciation of giving to the land and each other, in order for the land to give to us and as a way of helping our own communities. I wish we had more of that kind of living all over.

The weather was spectacular both Friday and Saturday, with noticeably less humidity than here on Oahu. We took advantage of the weather to attend the Kauai County Fair. We sat under the tent to watch the keiki talent show and eat a plate lunch. The garden section was my favorite. Tropical flowers filled the area with bright colors and fragrant air. It’s a small fair, compared to most others I’ve been to, but with the standard exhibits; two or three rides, high school booster booths, and community and state organizations. We didn’t make it to the livestock area.

I don’t know if I could live on Kauai, it’s a little too small for me, but it sure is a place to visit and relax. Every single person we met was friendly, nice, helpful and easy-going. I can’t wait to nap on the pool lounge chair again.

Photos are of: Hanapepe bridge, Menehune Pond, Kauai Marriott, Lihue Sugar factory where sugar cane was loaded onto boats in Lihue harbor, view of valley on the way to Kalaheo.


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.

Where is Jenny from San Francisco?

Here’s a Facebook entry from a friend in San Francisco. He’s looking for a girl he met seven or eight years ago. The romantic in me hopes he finds her and all ends happily, but even if it doesn’t, I hope he hears from her. Here it is:

Jennie, it’s been about 7 or 8 years since we met in The Dubliner Bar on 24th Street in San Francisco. You had more than a passing resemblance to the actress Amy Brenneman. We hit it off, we had good laughs, good chemistry and calm moments at a time when we were both going through some stormy moments in our own personal lives–or, maybe that was just me. But circumstances then did prohibit us from getting to know each other better.

And I always thought I’d run into you again, and obviously I haven’t. Where are you, what are you doing? I’d love to say HELLO! one more time, even if only to say goodbye. Too much, perhaps, to offer to take you out on that date you asked me to ask you out on–and I couldn’t then as I was involved in a disaster, but committed in my own way to doing what was right at the time.

But the fact is that you lingered enough in my heart and mind for me to try to find you. A pity I never asked your full name, it simply never crossed my mind, and there is an infinity of Jennies, Jennys, Jennifers, Gennys and other spellings on Facebook and elsewhere online, profile photos are tiny, some are of flowers or logos and I just can’t see you– so this is my attempt to be seen by you and let you know that I did like you: A lot!

…And perhaps you are just a pleasant little daydream in this dreamer’s little world…

Whatever your status, single, married, in a relationship, whatever it is, hope you are happy and hope this makes its way somehow to your online network and perhaps you can say hi.

Derek from Ireland, still in San Francisco.

The Facebook page is titled, Jenny. (Or was it Jennie?) Where art thou?

Update: Derek found Jenny. Unfortunately, she is unavailable.


So Far Away

Last week I had three friends who suddenly had their worlds turned upside down. All involved being in the hospital with major health issues. Hawaii felt very far from friends and family. There wasn’t much I could do from 2,500 miles away. I wish I could have at least sat with them and held their hands, but phone calls, e-mails and prayer had to suffice.

I had an amazing 4th of July. We watched a parade, we went to Hickam Air Force Base to see Plain White T’s in concert and followed up with fireworks. The weather was perfect and I was feeling great.

Surprisingly, the 4th of July here was the most patriotic 4th I’ve seen since I lived in Washington D.C. in the early 90’s. Women and children donned in red, white and blue, and stars and stripes, shouted greetings of “Happy 4th Of July”. During the parade, people waved American flags. The color guards marched. The VFW, American Legion and Vets of the Korean War, Vietnam and one Pearl Harbor survivor all paraded. I haven’t seen Americans stand up, clap and cheer for Veterans in a long, long time. It never happened in San Francisco. But, then, there’s no Independence Day parade in San Francisco.

I felt American again, here in Hawaii. Then the phone calls and e-mails happened from my friends in California telling me about their, or their spouses injuries/illnesses. I imagined them stuck in industrial-looking hospital buildings, smelling those horrible hospital smells and watching machines and waiting for doctors, while I was looking out at steep green cliffs and rainbows, feeling warm tradewinds blow past me carrying the scent of tropical flowers.

So, here I sit in Hawaii, feeling like it’s another country and realizing how important my friends are. These three friends span my lifetime; one from nursery school, one from high school and another from college. They represent different times in my life, different experiences I had while growing up. They are important.

I think of friends and loved ones back on the mainland. SFO airport used to carry me to them within a few hours, or I could drive to them on a moment’s notice. Now I’m 2,500 miles away at closest.

But Hawaii has an airport. A big one, where American Airlines will fly me to Georgia this October so I can visit one of my best friends from high school and watch his sons play in their football games.
I’ll make time to see the people who are important to me and I will find time to visit those three friends I’ve been thinking about all week.

See y’all in October.

Random Places

I’m posting photos of a few places I’ve been this weekend.

Champion Malasada is apparently the original malasada, or so I’ve been told. Look at the breakfast! Who says Hawaii is expensive? I can get eggs and rice with Portuguese sausage for a deal!

The sunset is the view from Lanikai on Saturday night. We drove there before our dinner where the woman paid for everyone’s meal.

A rainbow over Manoa, and the view from the industrial section near Honolulu Airport.