Monday, August 30, 2004


Lauren may well be the most interesting Chicago relative I did not get to know. Well, she has an interesting job, anyway.

Technically Lauren is not related to me. She is my cousins' cousin, the daughter of my Auntie Nancy's sister. So we are related only through marriage.

Lauren, who graduated from college with a degree in psychology, works in a mental institution.

The evening I happened to chat with her, she'd just gotten off from the mental institution, where she spent the day chasing down a Filipino woman who insisted on running down the hallway naked. Every time someone put her clothes back on, she'd systematically strip and run. This apparently, had something to do with the fact that she'd watched her children die back in the Philippines.

Lauren, who is 24, must also ward off sexual advances from seedy psychiatrists who are twice her age.

And to top it off, one long-time patient told her she was getting fat.

Sunday, August 29, 2004


I have a compulsion of idealizing where I am not.

The last time I was home, in Hilo, it was such a nice experience that I can't shake the desire to be back.

I gossiped a bit with my parents, ate dinner, lounged around the couch traded a few words with my brother.

My dad even complimented us kids.

"Maybe I don't tell you this often enough," he said. "But I really am proud of you two. You're good kids."

Of course, this came after I finished gossiping about my best friend's sister, who at age 20, is pregnant out of wedlock to a guy she met six months before. This friend's father was so pissed when he found out he yelled at the sister AND the boyfriend: "You guys aren't even going to be together in two years! The best thing you can do is get rid of it! If you keep it, it will never be allowed in this house!"

He had a few choice names to call his daughter as well. Fortunately, his wife calmed him down and the family is now resigned to the new arrival, a boy. The sister has no plans on getting married. However, she wants the child to have the boyfriend's last name, further disappointing her family which lacks any sons to carry on the family name.

So then, this is the context within which my father looked at his son, who had not knocked anyone up, and his daughter who was not knocked up, and took a moment to appreciate how lucky he was.


Yesterday, I got a terrible hair cut. Horrible. The bangs are all choppy and to add more "dimension" she cut the hair on the top of my head choppish too. But the sides are long and layered. I feel like a Lesbian with a bad hair cut. I didn't like the hair cut from the moment I saw it shaping up in the mirror and things only got worse when my hair dresser responded to my concerns with exasperation.

"I thought we were on the same page, Karen. It looks cute."

"I don't like how the sides just hang straight down, like a helmet. It looks weird."

"No. What do you mean?"

"Can't we make it shorter? Just layer it more and make it shorter?"

"No, you don't want me to make it shorter. I can't put the hair back you know, once it's gone it's gone. I know that if I cut it shorter you'll still hate it and then what can I do? At least this way you'll still have the length."

"But you cut it shorter before and I liked it."

"Karen." Sigh. "I don't know what to do. Have I ever led you astray before?"


"Well then. Just trust me."

"Fine." Sigh.

"Look, how's this then? If you don't like it when I'm done you don't have to pay me for it. You can pay me later if you like it."

"No, no I'm not sayng---"

Things got worse after I pretended to resign myself to the haircut, telling myself that it wouldn't be so bad and no matter how bad it was it was just a haircut and would grow out.

My hair dresser finished, snorted and said, "My GOD. Your hair looks so much BETTER now. Thank GOD you came in."

"Yeah, yeah, you're right," I muttered, only half convinced.

She must have heard the hesitation in my voice and this caused her to launch into a lecture.

"Do you blow dry your hair?"

"Uh...sometimes...uh, not really."


"Yeah, not really."

"Well how do you dry your hair then?"

"I just towel dry it."

"Do you use product in your hair?"

"Not really. Well I did a little, then I ran out."

Sigh. "Well, Karen. You can't just towel dry your hair and not do anything and expect it to get that nice, textured layered look. You HAVE to put product in it."

Then she went back to snipping layers.

"There. I put more layers. Now it should look layered even if you don't blow dry it."

"OK. You were right. It looks cute."

At this point, I just wanted her to shut up.

And the worse was yet to come since Chris was picking me up. Bad hair cuts make me cranky and when I'm cranky I'd rather sulk alone. I think we've been over this. Chris' reaction was nice and polite with veiled alarm because bangs make me look even younger and we're already self-conscious about the age thing.

But honestly, he said, it looks cute.

Then he shut up.

Which is all you can do really. Just as when someone asks you if they're fat, when someone doesn't like their haircut and just had an argument with the stylist, there's no proper response. You can't tell them they look cute, because they hate the cut, but if you tell them it looks awful they're liable to burst into tears and tear your eyeballs out.

Friday, August 27, 2004


I have been waiting for this day a long, long time.

A day off. A day with no real plans. A day by myself.

Company policy

I returned from vacation to find a four-page memo from the publisher instructing all employees that they are not to eat at their desks, smoke in front of the building, pile notebooks or newspapers under their desks, leave food in the company refrigerator for longer than a day, or drink anything at their desks that has not been poured into the company-issued spill-proof container.

Oh, shit. Here we go again, I thought, and began tidying up my work space.

I was in the middle of cleaning my desk when Brian walked in with a can of diet Pepsi he almost immediately spilled all over his shirt front and carpet.

After he finished cleaning up I showed him the memo. "Did you see this?"

He started laughing.

Apparantly, the publisher had issued the memo on the 6th, before I'd even gone on vacation. He had sealed it in a manila envelope and left it on Brian's desk. But somehow it ended up on the floor where Brian didn't discover it until he and the designers were chowing down on Costco Pizza.

The publisher happened to walk by as they were stuffing their faces and Brian, gregracious as ever exclaimed, "Hey man! Come have a slice!"

It wasn't until the publisher left that Brian opened the envelope and read the memo.

Oh shit.

But the moment passed and Brian continues to eat at his desk. Just the other day I saw him munching on a muffin.

"It's not a meal," he said. "It's a snack. That memo didn't say anything about snacks."

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Mmmm, mmmm

At dinner one evening, Madeline spent half an hour peeling the crust off her dinner roll. She refused to eat the lasagna.

"Here let me help you," Elise said, reaching over to snatch Madeline's roll.

We adults watched her rip off a piece of bread and dunk it gleefully in her cup of water. "Mmm, mmmm!" She swallowed the soggy piece. "That was so good. You should try some Madeline."

"No," Madeline replied.

So Elise tore off another piece and dunked it in her water again. She held the dripping bread in her palm and poked it with her free hand. "It's as soft as a lamb's wool," she said, and gobbled it down happily.


I got back on Thursday. On Friday I drove to Kona. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. Saturday and drove with Chris to the Hapuna Prince Beach Hotel to attend his sister's sunrise wedding. It's 4:34 p.m. Saturday now and despite a nap, I am still tired.

Friday, August 20, 2004

'Like stuffing peanut butter down a straw'

What follows is something I overheard from a woman on a cell phone at the airport. She is apparantly moving out of her house.

"Hello, Jim? It's me. I finally got everything all settled and I'm at the airport. You know, Jim I've been so stressed out lately and taking it out on Jim. Yesterday I was just so upset with him and he knew it. How was he with you? I hope he wasn't upset at you because I was really not nice to him and I hope he didn't take it out on you.

"He left me with the task of taking care of all the animals. That was not fun, Jim. Getting those cats in the cages was like stuffing peanut butter down a straw, Jim. Imagine that you're stuffing peanut butter down a straw. That's what it was like.

"But we finally got everything done. The key is on the back porch under the pumpkin and between those two yellow trays you know?

"Yeah, Jim knew I was upset with him. This whole weekend I hardly said a word to him. You know how he is. Everything is work, work, work. He has to take care of the family, make sure the family is OK, that's what he always says. But on Friday you know what he said to me? He said, 'Sheesh maybe I should have just taken the weekend off and helped you finish up.' And you know what I said to him, Jim? I was so mad I said, 'Well, Jim, that wouldn't be like you at all would it?'"

"Oh, I was so upset with him that...there's this thing the Indians do...and I'm part Indian, did you know that? ...where they scrape the person's body with the back of an oyster shell and dump salt all over them. Well I didn't do that to Jim but I sure wanted to.

"And my kids are no help. They're so lazy. I would have been lucky if they even threw out a blanket for me to lay down on before I went to sleep.

"I started giving away the aquarium equipment to these other kids because I just wanted to get rid of some stuff. But they were lazier than my own kids! I had to keep pushing them and prodding them to get them to take the stuff. It's like, c'mon guys, I'm giving you $200 worth of aquarium stuff you could at least pick up the pace."

"Yeah, I heard it was pretty messy in there. Jim went out and bought a vacuum cleaner. That should have been my first hint of how bad it was if my husband went out and bought a vacuum cleaner.

"What? Oh, I'm sure we had a vacuum cleaner in there somewhere but you know how he is. He probably never used the vacuum cleaner in his life. How would he know where it is?"

Warning: Cute kid stories

Elise and Madeline are three years old. They are the daughters of my cousins Ingrid and Melissa respectively. The two of them are the best of friends when they're not fighting over toys or over who gets to be what character when they're having a tea party.


What are these two up to?

Elise is the loud mouth, sharp as a tack and a little bit bossy. She's not afraid to speak her mind. I asked her how she liked being a big sister (Lindsey is about six months old now).

"Oh I like it," she said. "Sometimes when my mom is real busy I have to hold Lindsey and bounce her up and down like this so she stops crying when my mommy is busy or on the phone."

"Wow, Elise," I replied. "You're a really good big sister. When I was two and my baby brother was born I was jealous of him and climbed into his playpen and tried to sit on him."

"Well, you were only two," she said. "Your parents should have waited until you were three to have another baby."


Madeline and Elise head for the basement

At the foot of the staircase in my Auntie Nancy and Uncle Glenn's house is a huge wind chime that emits a deep, resonating gong when you hit it.

When Madeline woke up from her nap, she scurried down the stairs and banged at the wind chimes. "Elise!" she cried. "Elise! Come downstairs so you can play with me!"

From upstairs came Elise's voice, "OK Madeline. In a minute."

"Elise! I want to play with you!"

"You come up here and play with me then."


"OK!" And up Madeline scurried.

Score! Madeline finds the toys

So where was I?

My cousin Erin in Chicago got hitched Aug. 12 so Grandma, Uncle Alan and I took a trip to attend and visit the city.

This wasn't as simple as it sounds because Grandma hasn't been the same since suffering a stroke three years ago. She can't walk very well on her own. So Uncle and I had to negotiate narrow airplane aisles, dirty public bathrooms and non-ADA compliant hotel rooms.

Much amusing antics resulted but for now here are some cute pictures of my cutie cousins in Chicago:



Me & Lindsey

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Bye bye

I'm on vacation starting tomorrow. Not sure whether I will update this or not while I'm gone, but I'm excited 'cause I get to leave the state.

I'll miss Chris. Just now I started punching (playfully) at his shoulder so he grabbed my wrist and kissed my fist. Ha ha.

See you later.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


I think you are the same and I will pass through you eventually.

Perhaps you just take longer to digest me.

Small kid time

This I remember about Hilo.
There is always rain.
Shari, Ashley and I hunch in front of my house in bathing suits and shorts, plastic buckets stacked at our feet. We are chanting, “Stop the rain, stop the rain, stop the rain.” We feel like Indians invoking an ancient ritual.
It rains in sheets, a low, steady roar and you can smell it on the asphalt.
The weeds in my yard thrive on the constant showers. The rain flushes out the poison my dad had sprayed the day before and the weeds grow taller, stronger, more resiliant.
Eventually, the rain slows to a drizzle.
The three of us stand up, hopeful and excited.
My dad is settled on the couch, watching TV, chowing down on cold scrambled eggs, rice and bacon.
“It stopped raining,” I tell him.
“It’s going to start again,” he replies without looking up.
“Yeah but...”
“We can go another day,” he says.
“But we’re going to get wet anyway --”
“No.” He stops eating to fix his gaze on me. The meaning is unmistakable.
I stomp out of the room but he calls me back, his voice sharp.
“What?” I snap.
“Watch yourself,” he says, gaze still unshakable.
I swallow my rage and leave quietly this time.
Ashley and Shari are waiting by the screen door with expectant faces.
“He said no,” I say.
“How come?”
I shrug.
“Is he mad?”
Again, I shrug.
“Your dad is a grouch,” Shari says.
“No shit. Will your parents take us?”
Ashley snorts. “No way. They won’t want to get off their lazy asses.”
“I don’t want to talk to my dad anyway,” Shari adds. “He’s getting on my nerves.”
We wander back to our buckets and sit there in sulky silence, watching the rain drip from the roof.

This is from a series of short pieces I wrote about Hilo rain

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Jake's Day at the Beach

Now that Jake is used to riding in the truck he was excited when Chris and Karen said they would take him to a beach.

Jake is not a water dog. He grew up in Ka'u, surrounded by lava rock.

So when he got to the beach he immediately went exploring.

He found a tidepool with little hermit crabs.

He found a place where water gushed right out of the earth. It was more water than he had ever seen.

And since it was getting hot, he decided, what better way to cool down then to take a sip?

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Chris said.

But Jake ignored him. He kept on drinking until suddenly....he didn't feel so good and began throwing up.

So Chris and Karen took him home and gave him fresh water. Then he went to sleep and dreamed of a beach where all the water was fresh.

Stopping is good

Sometimes when I'm out on assignment I get to meet genuinely neat people.

Such was the case with Alan and Daren, taiko instructors for the Kona Hongwanji Mission. Daren and Alan seem to have a genuine enthusiasm for taiko. It's charming.

I met them on Wednesday. They said they would show me their o-daiko drum, a drum the Hongwanji has had for more than 50 years, so that I could take a picture for the paper. I figured this would take about five to ten minutes.

But Alan and Daren dragged out six shimi-daiko drums and the o-daiko drum. Then Mel, the president of the Kona Hongwanji Taiko Group arrived with his 6-year-old son. Then Emma, a haole girl and the group's best drummer, showed up.

They ended up putting on a little show for me, with recorded music in the background and all.

Then, against my better judgement, I allowed them to convince me to try my hand at the shimi-daiko.

I didn't do so well. When the song ended, I was charigned.

"I'm sorry," I told Daren. "I think I kind of suck at this."

"No, no, you did pretty good especially for a first try," Daren said.

I looked at him skeptically.

"I'll tell you what you did that was really good. Several times you noticed you were off rhythm and you stopped."

I burst out laughing. "So stopping is good?"

"Yeah, yeah. Stopping is good. A lot of people, they don't even know they're off rhythm they just keep going and going."

When I got home I told Chris this story and he laughed and laughed.

Yeah, stopping is good.


I have been having trouble with blogspot for the past two or three days. For some reason, it wouldn't let me log in. Every time I did it asked me to log in again. I don't know what the deal is.

And I noticed you now have to be a blogspot member to comment. This wasn't always so. That's too bad...

Anyway, I'm working on a sequel to "Jake's Adventure." Until then I'll try to post something entertaining.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Sad is a generic word, but that's how I feel

The Middle Earth Book Shoppe has been here for more than 30 years. The owner has 60 days to get out. The new landlord has doubled the rent and he can't afford to stay.

My friend Maile introduced me to the Middle Earth Book Shoppe when she got a job there last year.

It's no Border's and that's why I liked it. Borders is brightly lit with big signs marking each section but it never fails to overwhelm and confuse me.

Middle Earth is dimly lit and the carpet inside is old and flattened by thousands of feet wandering across it. The lighting is horrible and the shelves form mazes you could get lost in for hours. The books are in no particular order. I can't tell you how many times I've watched Maile, finger on lip, try to remember where it was she'd seen that book the customer was now asking for.

Every evening, before closing, Maile would vacuum the floor and shout, "We're closing now! Everybody out if you don't want to be locked in!" Every now and then a charigned customer would scramble out clutching a cache of books they want to purchase.

Customers have spent hundreds of dollars in a single visit at the Middle Earth Book Shoppe.

Chris said he bought a dictionary there that cost more than a $100. His mom has frequented the store since it opened more than 30 years ago.

Back then, she said, it was nothing but a tourist shop. She told Bob, the owner, that he should concentrate more on the local clientele and expand his offerings. Then she bought a Roget's Thesaurus from him.

"You know what this is for?" he sassed.

"Yes, I know what it's for," she retored. "I can even pronounce it."

That's how Bob is with his customers.

When I stopped by after a two month hiatus, the first thing he said to me was, "Maile was right. You have gained weight."

Bob and I had only met once before, and very briefly.

"I can't believe he told you that," Maile said. "I told him to be nice to you. I told him, that if he'd gotten you to stay at least 15 minutes longer you would have bought something. You can always be convinced to buy something."

Maile called me the first day of the closing sale and told me to come right away.

"I can't come now," I said. "I'm at work."

Maile said she had a bunch of books set aside for me, books that would otherwise be tossed.

"You know that's tantamount to blackmail," I told her. "You know I can't let you toss those books."

So me and Andrea went. The free books were piled in two grocery carts. The top layer contained dictionaries and thesauruses, the middle layer erotica and romance and the bottom layer Shakespeare.

Maile says I should write a story about the closing. It's the end of an era, she said, and speaks of the social and economic changes going on in Kona.

It's also a story about Bob, who's losing his life's work.

When I visited Bob tonight, I asked him if he would let someone from the paper interview him if we did decide to do a story.

"Only if it's you," he said.

Now I'll have to find out if he was serious.

Well of resentment

I don't know exactly how it happened but my parents have become monsters in my mind. This will sound strange because it's not like they're bad people really, and all of us are on speaking terms.

My dad once aspired to be an accountant but dropped out of community college when he realized his classmates weren't getting jobs. He became a fire fighter and worked his way up the rank (he got pretty high up) then retired at 47 and now sells equipment to the local fire and police stations.

My mom works for the utility company. She was a cashier at a grocery store when she met my dad. In her free time she plays Yahoo Games and does needlepoint.

My parents raised me well, I think. They raised me in a stable home, a home they own. They sent me to a fairly good public school and funded my college education. When I turned 12 or 13 they bought me an electronic word processor because they knew I liked to write. When I got to college, they bought me a laptop computer.

Now here I am. I have a job. A writing job. I haven't asked them, but I suspect my parents are satisfied by the outcome of my life thus far. College graduate with a professional job.

But I hate my job. I hate that I am still living in the place I was born and haven't really gotten to see or do much with my life. I hate that I have already reached the learning threshold at my job and peaked in less than five years.

Last night, Chris looked up from where he was mixing canned chicken and olives in a concoctioin he called "dinner" and said, "So you've never really rebelled against your parents, huh? How funny. We're so different like that. I never did anything my mom wanted me to do."

Chris, though, has his own motives for encouraging a rebellion. He thinks I should just move with him to the mainland where we can both find better jobs.

I on the other hand have avoided doing anything that would piss off my parents. That's not true. I've avoided doing things that would REALLY piss off my parents and neglected to tell them about the little fuck-ups along the way if I could get away with it. Not that there have been many really, all things considered.

Anyway, people who I have shared this internal struggle with all say the same thing: It's YOUR life, you might as well do what YOU want.

Which is difficult for me to swallow because I really think that so much of who I am has to do with family and history.

Then again, I had to cover a hearing on drug abuse yesterday and one of the treatment providers said the biggest problem he faces is convincing kids who grew up in families where drug use was the norm that they don't have to be like their relatives.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Jake's Big Adventure

This is Jake.

Jake doesn't like getting into the truck. Chris and Karen dragged him in anyway.

They went to Lapakahi State Park in North Kohala.

But Lapakahi State Park is a historical park and dogs aren't allowed on the beach. Poor Jake. He had to stay in the truck.

Then Chris, Karen and Jake went to Hawi Town in North Kohala. Poor Jake had to stay in the truck again, because Karen wanted to shop.

This time, though, Jake jumped out of the truck and ran up the road after Chris. Chris had to catch him and put him back in the truck. Again.

Finally, Chris, Karen and Jake went home. It was about time. Jake was tired.

The end