Thursday, August 22, 2013

Failure in Teaching Peace

I admit that I'm tired. Being the social director is exhausting. Did you ever watch 'Love Boat?' In college, my roommate and I used to watch it while we got ready to go out for the night. It was a stupid show, but that didn't matter. Love always prevailed and that seemed like a good enough message for going out on a Saturday night.

If you watched the show, do you recall the cruise director in the show, Julie McCoy? That's what I thought. She was not memorable. She came and went during every episode , seldom doing more than chatting, never slowing down, never having a real part in the play. Notice on the web page link that it says that 'this character biography is empty.' Yeah, you got it. It's a metaphor for my role this summer - social director, biography empty.

Nick is at that age for which friends are the be-all and end-all of his day. We might have taken him to Hawaii, but when people ask about his summer, he talks about his friends.

That is, in fact, as it should be.


Nick doesn't like calling, texting, emailing, or otherwise planning outings with his friends. Is that one of the differences between a boy and a girl, the phone? Or is it just a variation between children?

So, I am left either demanding that Nick make a phone call for a planned event or making the call myself. Nick procrastinates and his summer plans were punctuated with days for which he wanted to do something specific with someone specific yet he'd failed to notify them of this fact.

It was feast or famine. Some mornings, my heart broke for him as we discovered that this friend or that one had already made other plans and he was stuck at home with me yet again. 'Well, duh,' I wanted to say, but didn't. If a kid waits until 11:37 am to make a call, people are likely to have made plans for the day. But I didn't say as much. And I let him sit in it for a bit when it did happen, yet, we usually came up with someone who hadn't planned anything either. Sometimes we had to run through a few names first. Heartbreaking somehow, though I'm convinced that Nick has plenty of good friends.

Then, frequently, he'd have more offers to hang out than he could keep up with. It's not like he sat around all summer, wilting in the heat. He was busy, often too busy.

I need to get better at letting go. If he's at home and he's alone, it isn't the end of the world unless he stays plugged into the television for too long. I find that my sense of self recovers when I get a chance to be alone, especially when the television is off. I'm convinced that the television interferes with that quiet sense of rejuvenation a person gets on a day spent alone. Oh, a little television isn't bad, but it generally isn't good company. So, I need to work to let Nick make his own plans, to let him procrastinate that call and feel the effects, to tell him to turn off the television so his mind can chill.

With a trip every few weeks this summer, I never did get that time to chill.

Do you remember running through the sprinkler?

Lying in the grass on a hot day either looking at the clouds or at clover?

Did you climb high into a tree and sit there looking down on the world?

Did you dig a pit, a tiger trap, maybe and stare at an unearthed worm, wriggling in the unfamiliar air?

Did you examine bugs and birds and moles?

That's what this summer has been missing. We didn't even spend much time at the lake, just hanging out and swimming all day. Yet, it wasn't my job to decide the what of the day, just to help with the personnel involved.

Oh, some days I sat on my back deck and looked up into the trees, but usually, when I did that, Nick was glued to the television, fighting back when I told him to turn it off, never coming out to daydream the way I did.

Oh, there is pushing back from a boy who is almost thirteen. I gave up trying to get him to read a book. We fought over the stupid television, over simple chores, over cleaning up one's own messes. He did not achieve that lovely stretch of time that happens when you have your feet in the kiddie pool and your head in the clouds. He seemed to like it that way.

I, on the other hand, did not. I look forward to not having to rush, to settling in for a long and winding walk, to looking at an empty morning with a list of what to do, need-to's and want-to's in my own time. I look forward to reading a whole book, to watching a whole movie, to losing myself in cleaning my kitchen while an audio book drones on. I look forward to silence.

For Nick, I would have wish more silence this summer, for more time to contemplate the details of a blade of grass or to float in the water in an inner tube, watching the sun reflect into his eyes, for time to pick blueberries while listening to other people chatter on in the distance.

How do you teach peace?

It isn't easy, is it?

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Risk of Helping

So what do you do when you're in the shower, your boy is expecting the neighbor kid to come over any minute, and he comes into the bathroom to tell you that there's a stranger knocking at the door, a guy he doesn't know who's wearing a ball cap backward on his head?

First off, I got out of the shower. Then Nick told me that the guy talked to him through the window, telling him he is out of gas and wants to buy some. Crap! I don't want my boy talking to people who show up at our door.

Then, I slowed things down. Nick said that the guy was leaving. I wasn't sure if this was good or bad. I wouldn't get a chance to scope him out, but was not willing to look out the window until I was fully clothed. I told Nick to call the neighbor kid and tell him not to come just yet. The doorbell rang. It was the neighbor kid. Then, there were other reasons I wanted to get dressed quickly.

The stranger had come to his house too, he said. I called Mike on the phone. If someone really was in trouble, I wanted to help. Mike said I should go look along the road in case it was real.

I wanted to go outside armed. I got my pepper spray from my purse. I locked the dog and the boys into the house and looked around. I didn't see anyone in the yard. When I got to the road, there was an old Ford truck pulled off the road by the neighbor's recycle bin. My grandpa had that kind of truck. There were two people sitting in the truck. I walked along the road, got the mail from my box and tried to see what type of people they were. I saw the hat, reversed on the passenger's head. Their windows were open.

I approached the truck with my hand on my pepper spray in my pocket. They didn't see me. I tried yelling over the highway noise.

"I heard you ran out of gas," I yelled.

"Whaa, waa, whaa, whaa, wa," the driver said out the window.

"I can't hear what you're saying," I said. "Do you need some gas?" Both guys looked at me and nodded. The driver got out of the car. He had a short haircut and no tattoos. There was a blank look on his face, not stupid, just not apparently planning anything.

"I called a buddy and he's coming," he said where I could hear him.

"I couldn't come to the door when you rang. I have some gas if that would help get you going." I tried not to emphasize that I wanted them to get going.

"That would be great," he said and proceeded to follow me back to the house. I kept my hand on my pepper spray in my pocket. I felt as though I should have walked along the highway. The inner path between the neighbor's house and ours felt too private. I thought of that too late, walking through a screen of trees to the path. The man hung back to let me go first. I really wanted to keep him in front of me, not behind me. I kept turning around to see his face. He still had that blank look on his face.

Then, he sort of held back when I went along side the garage to open the door, another tight spot. I couldn't keep my hand on the pepper spray while I unlocked the door. He pretended to look at the sliding door's mechanism. He didn't come into the garage with me. I wondered if he'd look at the value of the tools in Mike's garage.

"This is normal gas, I think, and that's stuff is a different color."

"For the weed whacker?"

"I think so. Let me call my husband." Crap! Now he knows that my husband isn't home.

"Hi hon, the big container with the broken spout is the one, right?"

"Right," Mike said.

"Okay, I'll talk to you later. Bye!" I told Mike.

"Do you want me to leave my driver's license with you?" the man asked.

"No, for this old thing with a couple of gallons of gas in it?" I asked. I was starting to relax. People don't usually offer their driver's licenses if they're going to kill you.

He walked down the driveway with the gas can in his hand.

Boy, it's hard to know if it's safe to help people, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Who Doesn't Like a Slide Show?

I'm still too tired. How about an adventure in photos? I'll warn you that I'm not known as a photographer, especially with my iPhone. Here they are anyway:


Doesn't it look like they're floating out there in space? The fog gave everything a quiet, mysterious element.






The spray skirt is very flattering, no?



Under our guide's directions, I ate a little bit of sea kelp. It was salty and rubbery. He also said that the kelp's floating bulbs were filled with carbon monoxide gas. Good to know.
Along the way, I saw three harbor porpoises, seven or so harbor seals with their pups on a rocky island, three bald eagles and their nest, cormorants, a kingfisher pair, the school of herring that swirled and flipped in the water, a great blue heron, gulls, purple sea stars (starfish), a sea snail, and a herpetologist. No orcas this time.
I met people from Wisconsin, Ethiopia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Florida, New York, and Illinois. The last one, the woman from Illinois who stared into the sunset with me, asked me if I were traveling alone.
I might have missed Nick and Mike, but no, I was never alone.
Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, August 16, 2013

Schlepping My Dry Bag

I made it onto the ferry!

I saved about $150 by staying in Anacortes last night. I was ten minutes from the ferry, but I was left with that feeling that I might miss the ferry this morning and lose my kayak trip. Still, I slept we'll and had plenty of time to get here. I even stopped at Starbucks for a pain-in-the-ass coffee, a sugar-free decaf, breve, half-chocolate, no whip, extra foam mocha. That's what happens when you live in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years. 

I wish my dry bag had either wheels or backpack straps. I'm getting sick of lugging it around. I'll lug it around for an hour and a half when I get to Friday Harbor too. 

I made it to Friday Harbor too. Lugging that damn dry bag around was a pain in the ass. Especially in the bookstore. I didn't bang into anything though. Plus, I refrained from buying anything since it might possibly get squished and wet. 

Nice bookstore. 

Thanks for listening, jb

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Roughing It

Well, I'm not camping with my Boy Scouts tonight, but am on my own adventure. Im really roughing it here. I tell you. 

I'm camping at Islands Inn in Anacortes. I didn't even have to set up a tent. 

I might have a campfire later, but I forgot the marshmallows for the s'mores. I have a good view from this site. 

My bear bag is ready for all those goodies that might attract a bear. 

Tonight, I'm not even lighting up the cook stove. My hot cocoa tastes a bit different than usual, a bit fruity. I feel so mellow, but camping will do that to you. 

This, I tell you, is roughing it, a cup of soup, bread from the griddle, and some gathered greens. 

Tomorrow, I'll leave this enchanted camp, catch the ferry to Friday Harbor, and I'll have my sea kayaking adventure, hopefully with orcas. I'll be sure to tell you of the perils there. Just now, I wish I could bring some of this funky cocoa with me on the boat tomorrow. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Launching My Own Adventure


Finally, Mike and Nick are off to have their Lake Ozette adventure. At about 4:00 pm yesterday afternoon, I started to get excited for them about their trip. It took long enough.

Boy, I can be a real pain in the ass. I don't mean to. I really don't. It was because I have all that paddling linked with loving Mike in my head. If you think about that, the angst over him taking this trip without me makes some sense.

We started to fall in love at work. I remember the first time I looked at him. I was looking at the back of his head. He had sat down at my desk, faced away from me in the cubicle. Have I ever told you this before? I probably have. I was dating someone else at the time, someone I believed I was in love with. My first thought when I saw the top of Mike's head was, "Now this is a really nice guy."

How did I know?

But truly, the real work of falling in love happened when Mike and I had paddles in our hands, in a canoe, in a raft, and in kayaks. I can count on one hand the trips he took without me.

The Gauley in West Virginia. Oh, that one hurt. My back went out and I didn't get to go. He told me it was an awesome trip. I never did get to paddle the Gauley. The Explorers even got the same river guide we'd had on the New river and also the Tygart. Brick. Oh, we loved Brick and he loved us. He wore a foam shark's fin on his helmet. He was a bear about safety, but he loved our enthusiasm for paddling and he loved history. When we weren't paddling our asses off, he had one story after another about the hills around us. Brick would be over sixty years old today. It's hard to think of the rivers in West Virginia without Brick on them. I cried that weekend, when Mike ran the Gauley with the Explorer Post and I couldn't go. I was afraid that if he went on that trip without me, he'd fall in love with someone else.

And there were the river guide trips after we'd moved to the Pacific Northwest. Those, I understood. Before Nick was born, before he was even a shadow in our imaginations, Mike was a river guide on weekends. We lived the lives of river rats back then. On Monday, he'd get a call about what river they were running, and on Saturday and Sunday, we'd get up early to get out to either the Sauk, the Suiattle, or my favorite, the Wenatchee. For the Methow river, we'd camp on Friday and Saturday nights and run the river twice.

Mike was a solid river guide. I was ballast. Yup, that was my official title. I'd make lunches, shuttle cars, inflate rafts, anything to mooch a trip on a river. I was asked to paddle about three-quarters of the time. The owner would put me into a raft full of teaspoon dippers, skinny bored girls with long painted fingernails, who couldn't pull their weight through Splenda. I may have mooched trips, but I always contributed whatever I could to make it fun, even for those skinny bored girls. I hated when I needed to stay behind. I never knew when that would be. It depended on the number of people in the rafts, their weight, and their willingness to paddle.

Rarely, my back was bothering me, and I'd stay home altogether. Those weekends were a complete blank. Did I watch television the whole time when Mike was off paddling and I was stuck at home? Probably. I might have read books too. The worst was the time Mike was helping with a training run on the Methow. He came home and told me how he'd seen a cougar one morning while he was in his tent. He said it was so close he could hear it breathing. I still have never seen a cougar in the wild.

Those training sessions were a higher level of whitewater rafting. I loved mooching trips then, but imagine getting into a boat with a newbie guide and finding out that he had no skills? Whew! I'm glad I lived through being in the raft with some of them. One guy, Harlan, talked and talked, which was entertaining, but he was the most dangerous. When he talked, he stopped looking downstream at the river contours. And he talked almost continuously. Sometimes I wonder if Harlan has lost anyone yet. I would have been that kind of river guide, had I taken the training. I knew I shouldn't train for that, but I was very good ballast.

I have a lot to tell you about those years, about other people's rafts wrapped around bridge pillars, about watching boats ahead of us flip in waves that loomed above the length of the raft, about being stuck in the heat of Washington's desert when I tried to mooch a trip and it didn't work out. The best of it was on the Wenatchee, where the waves were big and the water relatively safe. The worst of it was when I stayed home. I was crabby with Mike when I did and uncertain. What if he fell in love with someone else on the water?

Something has shifted with this trip. I'm not going to be left behind and we'll still love each other when we get back home. Today, I'm going to go back to bed for a bit, just to catch up on sleep, and then I'm going on my own adventure. I'm not entirely sure what it's going to be. I thought of inviting someone, but I think, at least this time, I want to be able to be quiet if I feel like it. I want to turn on a dime and do something different if I decide. I want to see what it feels like to have my own adventure. Last night, I told Mike I wanted to paddle in Finland someday. I've seen pictures of that place, the fjords. Whooo! It's stunning! I told Mike that sometime, when he was at camp with the Boy Scouts, or on a trip like this one, I was going to Finland to paddle there.

Maybe if I like it enough, Mike will decide he needs to see the place too.

These are going to be the days of taking my own adventures, of refusing to be left behind. I think I get that Nick will need to have his own space in Boy Scouts, trips when his mom isn't tagging along. The hard part is that Mike will be going with him and this nest will be seriously empty. When I kissed Nick goodbye this morning, he was worried he wouldn't have any fun. I said, "You bring your attitude with you, whatever you decide that will be. I'll text you pictures of my adventure if you text me pictures of yours."

I hope we all have a good time. We deserve it after all the shit I've put us through.

Thank you for listening, jb

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Preparing for Their Wonderful Canoe Trip

First of all, you need to know that I don't have time to be here with you right now. Whether you see that as a bad or a good thing is up to you. I'm just so busy getting ready for their wonderful canoe trip and I need a break. Can we spell 'passive aggressive?' Yes, I said their wonderful canoe trip.

Well, if all goes well, I will see them off to go on their wonderful canoe trip tomorrow morning. Then, and only then, I'll be able to make the reservations for a whale-watching kayak trip for me. Mike didn't want me to pay for it and not be able to go for some reason or another, like a boy who gets sick at the last moment. I hope they don't book up before tomorrow morning.

Here's what I did so far:

made a double-batch of Hudson Bay Bread and then wrestled with it to get it out of the pan
made another batch of Hudson Bay Bread when I'm informed that the double-batch is not enough (I have to admit that their compliments worked on my ego.)
helped Nick pack his gear, twice because he failed the pack check the first time
bought all the Painted Hills Campfire Jerky that was available at the market
checked with the staff at the market to find out when the next delivery was going to be
cut a pants leg off an old pair of Mike's pants and tried to make a stuff bag out of it except it was two inches too short
attended all the meetings and training sessions for their wonderful canoe trip
made a big salad for the boy because it's the last healthy thing he's going to eat for the next four days

Here's what I still need to do:

help Nick pick out a sleeping pad from the shed
make sure there are no ants nesting in the sleeping pad from the shed
cut another pants leg off Mike's pants and try to make a stuff bag out of it for a volleyball net
wrestle with the Hudson Bay Bread to get it out of the pan
pick up holds at the library
sneak in before anyone else and buy all the Painted Hills Campfire Jerky at the market (Notice that even the website is sold out.)
scrape out most of the greens into the garbage from the boy's salad noting that the tasty accouterments that I added are gone
put together a decent meal for the guys for tonight since it's the last real food they're going to eat for the next four days
remind the boy, again, that he needs to cut down the cardboard boxes for recycling because he's going to be way too tired on Sunday night when he gets home from their wonderful canoe trip (This requires at least four reminders and a threat or two. I have a rule that if you leave garbage and dirty dishes lying around, you have to pay me 25 cents per item when it's been lying there too long. I've instituted a new rule that if you require me to remind you, or nag you, to do something and I've already done it three times, you have to pay me 25 cents for the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh reminders, each. Beyond that I've felt a stroke coming on and couldn't speak for fear of bursting the bulging veins in my forehead and neck. I tell you, if I don't have a stroke, I'm going to get rich. When I get enough quarters, I'm going to get a massage with my earnings.)

I'd better go. It's looking as though I might not get done. I really think I'll look forward to waving goodbye to them tomorrow morning at 5:30 am.

Thank you for listening, jb


Monday, August 12, 2013

Modern Mozart and a Question of Green in the Sky

Did you ever wonder what kind of music Mozart would be writing if he were alive today? Would he still have been a classical genius still or would he be building a marimba out of PVC pipes and playing that? I'm not sure if Mozart was a genius at building or just at playing the piano. Would he have played like Jackson Browne? Could he have picked up another instrument and been Stevie Ray Vaughn instead?

Oh, I just identified my age, didn't I?

Well, you knew I was an old fart anyway. Who cares if I confirm that?

Mike's watching the movie 'Pink Floyd - The Wall.' I never liked Pink Floyd. The existential angst always got to me with Pink Floyd. It didn't help that, when I was in college, I was reluctantly invited to a weekend of binge drinking and 'The Wall' played at top volume over and over and over on the stereo while I tried to get warm enough to sleep in an empty bathtub because that's where my hostess put me while gingerly holding out a thin blanket as she swayed and pointed with a bubblegum-pink painted fingernail. Good times, that bathtub night. Good times.

My life has improved quite a bit since then. George Herbert said that 'living well is the best revenge' back in the 1600s. There's a reason a line like that stays popular for so many years.

Despite the sad memory of Pink Floyd, I'm gratified at the view out my window at this hour. The huge trees are in black silhouette. By now, I can identify the Western Red cedar and the Douglas Fir by their shapes alone. The sky is somehow a blend of peach, yellow, and blue without actually being green in between. Just how does that work? I know the light travels further when it comes into the atmosphere at a tangent, giving the sky its orange, red, or peachy color. The blue is higher up where the light still has a straight short shot through to my eyes. Why isn't a section of the sky green when that color comes in between in the rainbow of frequencies? There should be green streaks, not near the horizon and not high in the sky. Why not?

Riddle me this, batman.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, August 10, 2013

People at the Faire

Oh man, it was fun and you wouldn't believe how tired I am. We went to the Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake today. There was jousting, battling, cannon firing, fencing, eating, arrow shooting, axe throwing, root beer guzzling, shopping, and camel riding. No, I did not ride a camel today. It would not have been pretty. I tell you though - I would have except that I had that honor years ago at the Bronx zoo.

It's a toss up whether my favorite part was the people watching or getting Nick and his friend thrown in jail for thievery. I can't tell you how fun it was to rat them out. Nick even got put into the stockades. The funny thing is that the charge was stealing lunch and after analyzing it in the car on the way home, I was the one who stole a french fry from one and an onion ring from the other. They'd been innocent all along. Nick didn't like it as much as I thought he would. He didn't like getting into trouble even though it was made-up trouble.

The people watching was amazing too. There was a Rottweiler/boxer mix dog wearing a pink tutu, babies with faerie wings, and people dressed as queens and warriors. As far as I'm concerned, it was too hot to be wearing too many layers, let along a dress made of tapestry fabric underlaid with petticoats and corsets. I wore a simple skirt, a blouse, a vest, sandals, and a parasol. I love my parasol the best. I bought it last year for $10 and have been doodling on it. I drew a pattern onto it when it was closed and continued that pattern on it when it was open. This year, it has a couple of holes in the paper between the stays. It may be a cheap paper parasol, but I love it, especially since it was quite pleasant under it with the breeze today. Some ladies were in heavy brocade to the ground with tight corsets and expensive hats. I would love to ask many of them of the story of getting decked out in such glory. Those outfits didn't happen overnight. I'd guarantee that many of pieces were hand made, even the leather.

There were guys in leather armor, wenches with pushed-up cleavage, Scottish men in kilts, oh the kilts, princesses, squires, and peasants. There was even a ninja warrior. Mike and I were dressed as peasants. He looks great in those clothes. I hoped to look cute, but the laces on my vest didn't seem to pull together as tightly as they did last year. Nick looked more like a warrior with his bracers and peace-tied sword. His friend looked like a squire in a tunic that he'd made and a chain mail belt that he borrowed from Nick. When I inherited a dagger that had gotten too heavy in the heat, I looked much more interesting. I like to imagine I looked just a little bit dangerous. My favorite person this year was a guy dressed completely in black leather with weapons on his belt and even a tankard. He looked very serious though, so I only stole a quick photo of him as he walked away.

And the dog in the tutu was very cute too.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Challenge of Being Upgraded

We've been back home for three days now. Was Hawaii a dream?

In a way. Now, I can say I've seen a sea turtle, two of them. I've been to forty-nine states and only need to visit Louisiana to round out all fifty. Will I need to go to Puerty Rico too? Do colonies count?

I can say now that I've kayaked in Hawaii, though three hours noodling around in waves and looking at turtles in a bay barely counts. At this point, I've paddled in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Maine, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, Alaska, Washington, and now Hawaii. Some of it has been in a kayak, some in whitewater rafts, and most of it was in a canoe. I would have liked to paddle a traditional Hawaiian canoe, but the kayaks were fun. I really liked getting the thing into the surf, but I could see coral near the surface and seriously didn't want to fall out of the boat and get pounded up against it. It may be like riding a motorcycle. A good suit of armor would help in case of an accident. Still, the guides weren't exactly ready for us to spend more than a few minutes in the waves. I was headed to the next point, thinking that was our next destination, when one of them gathered me up like a wayward duckling to go back into the bay where we started. Oops!

It was also a dream to pretend we could afford the room where we stayed. See, they upgraded us to a nicer place and Mike said we were ruined forever. I liked the place, but I felt as though my clothes weren't quite up to par. I carefully painted my own nails instead of getting a mani/pedi. I wore dresses, hoping no one would know that I'd gotten one of them at Fred Meyer. Then, part way through the week, I realized I'd never be anyone but who I was and I stopped worrying about looking the part. Who was there to see anyway? It's not like the staff was visible unless you wanted to exchange your beach towels. I'm not really comfortable with that invisible staff thing either. Housekeeping barely showed their faces, though if I stowed a mug right-side up, they dutifully turned it back down every day. Yes, I admit, I was messing with them, just a little bit. I learned why they so carefully washed a pan I left in the sink, why they ran the dishwasher with just to things in it. There were ants, even in this carefully coiffed room. I found myself working harder at picking things up because housekeeping was going to move it if I didn't.

Plus, there were locked gates you needed the code to get through. Was that supposed to make me feel cool? It made me feel like an imposter. I didn't belong inside that gate any more than the people wandering around the bungalos. I kept wondering if the kids Nick played with in the private pool were upgraded like us or really paid twice as much as we had for their rooms. Oh, the mind games that they played with us. Even the beach chairs with umbrellas were for registered guests only, though it was a public beach.

So, now you know about the underbelly of going to a resort. It was lovely, but when I stopped worrying about being cool, I played harder in the pool, didn't worry much about how my hair looked, and I had a lot more fun. I cooked ordinary food in our room because we had kitchen enough to do it. Saved us some money too.

The one time we splurged on dinner, I ordered the 'Hawaiian butterfish,' thinking I'd try something I'd never had before. Near the end of the meal, the waiter admitted that it was actually black cod. I'd practically eaten fish sticks! What the hell? Mike had ordered Hawaiian orange chicken. He said that except for a hint of orange in the skin, it was ordinary roasted chicken, and a bit on the dry side at that. Sometimes I forget that there are whole industries created around the person who needs to be the great pretender.

In the end, I wore my Fred Meyer dress with pride. I walked on my hands in the private pool. I let Nick use the TV remote to turn on the televisions in the rooms across the way. And we ate spam!

Oh, here's a good one. The older Hawaiian cashier in the gift shop grinned when I told her we'd made spam, egg, and cheese sandwiches on Hawaiian bread. She was a down-to-earth type who translated the Hawaiian words on the grocery bag that I bought. Yes, I really liked this grocery bag, so I bought it. She nodded quietly when I said that 'ohana,' or 'family' was my favorite Hawaiian word.

And as for the rest, I won't forget the Austrailian man who told me about a local hero, Eddie Aikau with a glow in his eyes. He must have been a surfer. And there was the guy who told us he intended to roll in the mud on his day off when it was supposed to rain. He had looked so sophisticated when we started talking to him. I could tell he had a story to tell. Then, there was the guy in the drug store who's neck was the size of a tree trunk, actually thicker around than his head. This guy looked amazing - short, quite broad through the shoulders, skinny legs, and that neck! I wanted to run after him and ask him something just to hear him talk. And toward the end of the week, we'd gone to the big pool and in the hot tub, a great big Hawaiian guy started talking to me. He wanted to know what it was like living in the Pacific Northwest. He was the classic big Hawaiian guy, like Hawaiian royalty.

I think they even had a different culture regarding fat there. I could feel a subtle difference in the way people accepted differences in people's shapes, the Hawaiians anyway. The resort had its share of skinny tanned women with perfectly manicured toenails. Those women didn't talk to me much. No matter. I enjoyed talking to the people who would.

I really do like hanging out in the water, in the ocean, in a pool, I don't care which. But my favorite thing is to go places to look at people and talk to them. You know, Hawaii felt like a different country. There was a culture there that it would take a while to settle into, to understand, one that I was curious about. The food was different. The plants and animals were different, so very different. It turns out that the plumeria (also known as frangipani) and the hibiscus, flowers that Hawaii is so known for, were both brought there from somewhere else. Well, even the people were brought there from somewhere else. I'll bet the ants are native. And the little lizards that sunned themselves on the flagstones. Even the Polynesians have only been there for about sixteen hundred years.They came in canoes! And they brought dogs! I really like these people. Did you know that they also invented surfing? It was what royalty did.

But if I'd stayed in Hawaii, if I'd have found a life there, I would have needed to stay quite a while to understand the culture and I'd have to have moved out of the upgraded rooms to really understand the true nature of Hawaii. Maybe I'd have gotten a bungalo, learned more Hawaiian words. Maybe I'd have gotten a job as a cashier. Maybe I'd learn to surf on my days off.

I guess I'm glad I'm back home. It's not upgraded here.


Well, maybe a little bit of upgrading would be nice.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mongoose, Canoe Plants, and Water Rats

I saw a sea turtle! Two, actually, one on the beach and one in the water I have also eaten dragon fruit. I preferred seeing the turtles. The dragon fruit is best eaten with mango and pineapple, as it tastes like slightly musky sea water.
This morning's kayaking put me into a zone. I am happiest when I am on the water. There is no doubt about it. Plus, the guides were a familiar sort, cheerful, talkative, water rats, and I mean that only in the best way. I have a feeling that a water rat and a surfer are kin. These guys were a blend of the two.

The other thing that made me happy was to meet a bunch of people. They were from New York and Kentucky, the ones that I talked to. So far this week, I've met people from Louisiana, Connecticut, New York, Kentucky, Hawaii, and California. The woman from Kentucky liked to paint. The couple from New York were beautiful people who were against the cultural trend to make everything about youth and beauty.

Oh, I can go on. I wish I were more demure, but I really do like talking to people.

First, the guides took us out to a breaker. It was amazing, to face a wave, even a small one, and slap down on the other side. I wanted to play there. In the crashing water, I couldn't hear a thing. I thought we were headed across the bay to the next point, so I was up ahead, ready to take on the next curl when we got there, but one of the guides came and rounded me up. A wayward duckling. Even Nick kept with the group better than I did.

It turned out that we turned around and noodled around in the bay the whole time, but they said there were fifteen nesting pair of turtles on that beach. It didn't take them long to find one and I struggled to keep from bumping other people's boats out of the way so that I could see.

Finally, after almost a whole week in Hawaii, I saw a green turtle. It was breathtaking. Someone asked how old it was and the guide with the long curly blond hair said about fifty years.

These guys had so much to tell us, about the nesting habits of the turtles. They told us bout how the mongoose was brought here to eat rats, only mongoose don't eat rats. They eat snakes and there are no snakes on Hawaii. So what do these poor buggers eat? They told us about a couple of plants you could eat. One tasted of sea water. The other, the canoe plant, was good for your joints. I ate a flower. I didn't feel any effect on my joints. By afternoon, I would need the real deal, Ibuprofen. The Polynesians brought the canoe plant with them when they came. The guides told us how they brought only the strongest people on the trip, how they navigated by the stars, how they killed anyone who was not strong enough to go on, and how they carried all of their water on the voyage with them. Can you imagine paddling thousands of miles and not knowing where you were headed? True explorers.

Oh, I've got the stories all gummed up.

We saw a beached turtle. They snacked us up on pineapple, and walked us over to the WWII bunker where the soldiers first saw the Japanese planes that bombed Pearl Harbor, and then, we got back into the boats and they showed us how to paddle standing up. I had trouble getting up the way they said and ended up facing the back of my boat. I wasn't going to try to turn around and just paddled around that way. It was fun, but it took me a minute to find my sea legs. The trick is to bend your knees and use them as shock absorbers.

By the time we were done, my shoulders were sore and I felt high. Oh, I don't like a drug-induced high, I can tell you, but give me an endorphin rush on the water any day. I was. I was high. I could have noodled around in those boats all day. I didn't care if we didn't actually go anywhere.

Thank you for listening, jb