Thursday, November 29, 2018

Telling Stories I(He) Don't Remember

A bookshelf of stories from a friend's house.
I am sure that many of us have sat around the holiday table and told a story from our childhood or youth only to be interrupted by a sibling or aunt or cousin or old school chum telling us a substantial variation of how things really happened. Are we lying, are they lying, do we just see things differently, or are our memories plastic and undependable?

I guess the more we like to tell a good story of an event from our life we tend to embellish or maybe just exaggerate a little because we have told the story so many times before and we want it to have a better edge?  If we do that enough, then the story may change substantially in our own mind.  But what if the story is not that old?  What about omissions to the story?

We had been invited to lunch recently.  This was by a couple I had never met and they lived about 40 minutes from our house.  When I asked Hubby why and what was going on his response was that "I  had met the man at the community pool the last time I went up to swim(!).  He found we had so much in common that we were invited to lunch."

We get to the house, which has a lovely spreading view of a river, and when the door is open a lovely, very thin, lady with dark Spanish eyes and bold dangly earrings welcomes us in.  The home is warm and inviting and there are nice smells coming from the range.  We introduce ourselves and I meet the husband who is of average looks, average build, and above average intelligence.  We learn over a glass of Spanish rose that she is from Columbia and this is a second marriage for both of them.  (They met via computer.)  We, of course, do not get into what tragedies brought about the dissolution of both marriages.  He is retired Navy and she has worked on nutrition programs for USAID in her past.

Another couple arrives in leather jackets and pants via a very expensive looking motorcycle that can carry home the groceries if needed.  The man is a retired Navy pilot and the wife is currently working in intelligence data for defense, both in their late 50's or early 60's.  

I finally ask as we sit down to eat why the retired Navy pilot had been so brave as to invite to lunch someone he just met at a community pool?  His wife is laughing because she agrees with me.  This is when I get the other version of the story.

He begins with:

"Well, at first I was not too sure about J.  As I was leaning against the wall of the pool he walked up to me and asked if I had an extra swimsuit because he had forgotten to pack his.  I didn't.  Then after my swim, I saw him working out in the gym and we headed to the showers together and got talking.  We found we had a lot in common."

I think I can safely say that most of us found this story a bit jaw-dropping.  I am not as surprised as you are that my husband asked if the man had an extra suit.  My husband is an only child and the most honest and trusting person even at his old age.  (My daughter was shocked when I told her the story.)  The fact that my husband left out this important point shows somewhat how we skew stories.

Now for another story.  I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast (which can be heard here) that explains how stories by honest and intelligent people can be so strange or contradicting. Listen to Episode 3 and Episode 4 from season 3 for the background on this storytelling thing.  Malcolm Gladwell has a compelling voice and really good episodes....go ahead and listen...40 minutes long and 37 minutes long...I will wait.

Then my next post will be the story my husband and I tell about how we met and a revisionist ( more boring) version.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankfulness As Promised

This list was made without forethought for order or importance. Just a thankfulness list off the top of my head in a stream of consciousness thinking.  I am thankful for:

  1. As a student I used to savor the few minutes I might have each day for pleasure reading, and now I have the luxury of reading close to fifty books a year.
  2. I can usually stay in my pajamas until noon if I want. Actually, on some days I can stay in my pajamas all day.
  3. I can afford good coffee.
  4. I love taking photographs and I can make time to do what I love.
  5. I have a husband who puts up with my lack of patience.
  6. While I make every effort to look good, I am thankful that it no longer bothers me how old I now look.
  7. I have had the opportunity to meet so many interesting people around the world in my long life.
  8. My health is stable these days.
  9. My husband's health is stable these days.
  10. I have grown close to my trees and birds and they tolerate me.
  11. I can have clean sheets as often as I am willing to change the bedding.
  12. Science
  13. Chocolate
  14. The wisdom of good leaders.
  15. My children in my life when they have time.
  16. I am thankful for blog readers and even more so for commenters.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

It Is What It Is

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States and like many holidays, is being viewed with less rosy eyes by its citizens.  Some see it as a time when Colonists and Native Americans came together to share the bounty of the season.  Others see it as a glorification of a false time where Europeans were at the beginning of erasing an indigenous people.

I usually see it as a day where I can make a long list of thankfulness and eat a big plate of caloric food.

I was reading one of the bloggers who wrote that she used to get "pity-invitations" on Thanksgiving after her husband passed, but she no longer gets invited on this holiday.  She usually eats alone.

Hubby and I will be doing nothing on that day. That is what I wrote. We will not be cooking turkey. We will not be traveling to a house where turkey is being cooked. We will not eat out at a restaurant where turkey is on the buffet.  I think I have some chicken thighs thawing in the fridge or if we get energetic and it is not too cold, we will harvest a few oysters.

Every other Thanksgiving our children go to their respective in-laws hours away and celebrate and this year is the other Thanksgiving.  Like many in America, they will be traveling well into the night tonight.

Hubby and I have often gone to a local Irish pub/restaurant which serves the best buffet Thanksgiving, but this year we did not get our reservations in on time!  So, we will be doing nothing special.  Maybe I will post my thankfulness list...?  Certainly, I will eat.  

I am hoping that those of you who celebrate will have good food and good conversation and some spiritual uplifting.  For all the rest of you, stay safe.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Other Hawaiians

Some of these animals are not native and even invasive and others were once endangered but are now fairly common due to federal regulations.  There are many, many exotic birds in Hawaii that have been introduced and if I were birding on this trip I would have gone looking for them.  But I only photographed those I stumbled across in my rush to keep up with the younger adults.  All the animals were interesting.

Everyone is an art critic...found when I went for the plasticware at a lunch counter.

Gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) native to Madagascar.  So lovely!

Perhaps a shama?

An immature shorebird of some kind or a dove?

A common Brazilian Cardinal

Asian Mongoose introduced to get rid of the rats in the sugar plantations and now a nuisance.

Monk Seal, once rarely seen on Oahu.  The small Hawaiian (French Frigate Shoals area) island that recently was washed away after the hurricane was home to over 90% of these!

Feral cats fed by misled people (unless they also are wise enough  to catch and sterilize.)

Green Turtles sunning and protected from disturbance by these guys.
Nene (Branta sandvicensis) that used to be endangered and is now everywhere!

I had fun and left out the goats which I had posted in a prior blog and my photos of the wild pigs were pretty blurry.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Other Side of the Vacation

I may have mentioned that there is racial and cultural prejudice in Aloha land. I saw it slightly when I lived there as a grad student decades ago. I was poor and young and probably missed most of it because of that and because most of my time was studying or working, not beaching or shopping. But native Hawaiians like our American Indians got bypassed in much of the money and development arena of Hawaii. Today they have a much stronger voice in halting development if they think a burial area has been disturbed.  They do have an island (generous of the white man) set aside for blood Hawaiians.

There is also poverty like anywhere else.  The authorities attempt to control the beaches from squatters and homeless, but it is an ongoing battle. Hawaii does provide shelters through churches and public venues, but like the rest of the world, there are more homeless as poverty grows. The public parks closed down for a while in an effort to move homeless elsewhere, although they claimed it was for maintenance. It does seem there are fewer homeless veterans. The State is considering establishing "safe zones" where homeless can set up and be free of being forced to move elsewhere. According to one article, the islands have over 7,000 homeless people, the highest per capita in the US and most of these on Oahu.  'Lack of affordable housing, an epidemic in the use of synthetic drugs, insufficient support for the mentally and physically ill, prisoners discharged without any safety net and people coming to Hawaii with misconceptions about opportunities and then running out of money." are the reasons for the increase in homelessness.  Still, it appears that tolerance for the homeless has lessened overall.

My kids exploring a banyan tree in downtown Honolulu.

When we walked around the tree and looked up...!
The ingeniousness of sleeping and making a home in a banyan tree must mean some marketable skills!

I do not think the woman in the photo below is necessarily homeless.  She may live in on of the houses across the road, but the photo shows how difficult it is to track tents and homeless in such a moderate climate.

Many Polynesians who are not homeless are still angry that their land has been taken from them.  They become politically active and let their arguments be known.

Taken at South Point, the southernmost tip of the United States.  The sign says "Kingdom of Hawaii is still here we never left."

We wanted to see the Captain Cook monument on the Big Island which is easily accessible by boat and not so accessible by hiking down a trail.  In case you missed your history Captain Cook was so loved by the Hawaiians, they killed him.  We naively thought we would hike the 1.8 miles each way to the sheltered cove.  Do not believe the tourist articles about this hike.  Parking is a nightmare just off the highway and room for only a half dozen cars.   The trail is NOT cleared but disappears for half a mile into 7 foot dense, tall grasses that cut the arms and legs.  Wild pigs hide and protect their young in these grasses and grunt if you come near, so make noise!  If you make it through the grasses and do not get attacked by wild pigs, you come onto open terrain and the rest of the hike is in the boiling hot sun.  Bring a few gallons of water!  Clearly, the locals could care less if you go to this monument.  We actually did not complete the hike as it just got way too hot and we were low on water!  We made it a mile and a half down and rested and headed back.  There was another family that had sent someone back up (all that way) for water!  People have been rescued from this hike.

This looks like a clear trail, but it disappears as you descend with those grasses on either side closing in over you.

I do not regret attempting the hike but opted out on another strenuous hike at the end of the trip as I had done it on my honeymoon.  ;-)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pictures in Black

I was hot- a- lot of the time in Hawaii! I do not know why it seemed that way to me because I came from the Mid-Atlantic at the end of our hot summer and this should not have been such a change. I do not remember Hawaii being that hot when I lived there. I remember hating the cold air-conditioned stores and looking forward to being outside. But maybe my blood was warmer then as I was decades younger.  It was also more humid.

The volcano had stopped its bleeding before we arrived. There was no place day or night to be able to see glowing molten lava flowing to the sea. Decades ago we had hiked at night across an old lava flow using stone cairns and a flashlight over a mile to guide our way over an older lava flow to see the glowing fire in the distance.  But this time Pele had spent her energies and anger and retreated once again into sleep letting her long black hair flow across the land as the only remaining evidence of her power and passion.  We drove up to Volcano National Park to get close to the steaming crater.

The Southern end of the island is streaked with ancient and newer lava flows in most places.  Rock that is smooth like a river (pahoehoe) or coarse (aa) like broken glass can be seen when driving down the roads.  The reminder that all is temporary on this island is ever present.

Later in the day we hiked across the uneven lava and through "tangatanga" which is a common name for an invasive close growing shrub (cannot find the link); we startled herds of wild goats; and we almost became lost a few times before we found one of the larger fields of open lava where Hawaiians had carved many petroglyphs.  While standing in the hot sun on the open black rock, the thought that someone spent hours rubbing away the lava to create a pictograph of their life or a prayer for their life is humbling.

The small "pukas" or holes are where umbilical cords of newborn children were placed as an offering for long life.

This is the old Hawaii, far from the maddening crowd, but not too far from a few maddening tourists.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

In Memoriam

Since Monday is Veterans Day in the United States, this post on the Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor Park seem appropriate a few days early.  It would be more appropriate for Memorial Day, but it is what it is since I just visited there.  We spent over 4 hours at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Park before the hunger for lunch forced us to walk out of the park to a nearby restaurant.  I had visited this site decades ago as a poor graduate student and was a bit overwhelmed at that time before it had become so instructive.  This was a time before the lengthy audio tour by Jamie Curtis which takes you around the outside grounds and before the Road to War Museum and the Attack Museum had been built. Both museums are extensive and well done if such tragedy of man against man can be "well done".  Some say the memorial is Oahu's biggest tourist destination with 1.5 million visitors a year.  You will not regret a visit.

Once you have cleared security ( no bags allowed), you see the Tree of Life standing tall across the plaza. This was a sculpture designed by architect Alfred Preis to symbolize rebirth, renewal and a reminder that we are all interconnected.  It is near the entrance to the tour area and museums and duplicated at the far end of the actual Arizona Memorial letting light into the inside.

We could not go into the Arizona Memorial as it is sinking and needs repair.  The USS Arizona Memorial is located in Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. "The USS Arizona is the final resting place for many of the 1,177 service members who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. The 184- foot-long (56-m) memorial spans the midportion of the sunken battleship. The memorial consists of three sections: the entry and assembly rooms; a central area designed for ceremonies and general observation; and the shrine room, where the names of those killed on the USS Arizona are engraved on the marble wall. The USS Arizona Memorial is only accessible by boat, which departs from the visitor center." 

"Originally built on a landfill designed to settle 18 inches, the museum and
the visitor center has settled 30 inches in some areas, far exceeding expectations. As a result, the lower level of the facility is nearing the water table. Repeated leveling projects to maintain the facility’s support structure has created cracks in the concrete. This deterioration has allowed moisture to permeate the concrete and sometimes reach the rebar. Engineers have assessed that the deterioration must be addressed and have given the current building a five to ten-year life expectancy. The building has settled more than expected and, as a result, some support columns are close to being over-extended. The National Park Service is dedicated to keeping the USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center open and to provide a safe environment for the public. However, future planning must be done to ensure the Pearl Harbor legacy is secure for future generations."

There is a fee to get in and you can reserve tickets online to ease the long lines that are sometimes there.  It was busy during our visit, but not super crowded, and I am thankful for that.  The Arizona is still leaking oil (black tears) from her hull and the men still lie in state at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.  You get to meet the survivors through video and reprints of news stories which makes it much more meaningful.  It is a very powerful tour.

Thank you to all who serve now and who have served in the past.  We will not forget.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

What Would You Do?

Pineapple flavored we did not buy any.

Today is Election Day and much of our County is shut down for voting. I hired a carpet cleaning company (for the first time in many years as I usually do it on my own) to come clean some area rugs and a few wall-to-wall carpets and they scheduled this day! I forgot to ask the two huge black men who came if they had found time to vote. I swear one was football build and about 6.5 feet tall with lovely dreadlocks falling onto this shoulders.  They could have moved all the furniture without a sigh. They had to be Blue voters!

Anyway, this post is not about them or about how the house smells a little like a dog caught in the rain right now.

I had not slept well last night worrying about not getting the furniture moved before they arrived. I should have played the helpless gray-haired lady, because they came a half hour late and I was exhausted. Once they left I ate a quick lunch and turned on fans in the rooms to help with the drying and retreated to my bedroom where the carpets were dry and soon I felt sleepy and had drifted into a deep restful sleep.

After a half hour, the phone rang and I put the pillow over my head and ignored it. Then ten minutes later the doorbell rang. I had not closed our gate and wondered if the carpet cleaners had forgotten something so I gave up on the nap.

I opened the door to find a thin white teenage boy standing near his bike in the driveway. When I ask if I could help him he explained he was looking for some type of work (like laying sod? he suggested) so that he could make some money. His explanation was that his mother told him to get some money to get some food for the house. He worked this into the conversation a couple of times.

I am an old fart but not a soft fart and for some reason I was leery of just handing him some money. I told him it was late fall and we had no yard work to do and all the wood for the rack had been split and filled, as it had.  I asked for his name and number and he handed my a torn piece of paper onto which he had written Clyde and a phone number.  When I asked where he lived he said it was down our main road and into another, etc. about a mile from here.

I told him I would ask my husband if he had any chores to be done and bid him adieu.  Maybe he was really looking for work for food.  We are always taking fresh produce to the food pantry, although there is nothing fresh this late in the fall.  I doubt we will have something for him...and I am not sure that I feel safe in helping him.

As an addendum he did pull out a small box with a heart-shaped necklace that he said his mother would let him sell for half price.  There was a sticker with $100 in the bottom  corner.

Am I just a cynic?  What would you do?

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Experiment and a Hike

Changed a few settings to see if readers find it easier to comment. I do not know why Blogger prevented some from commenting, but that has happened to me on other blogs that I read. If this does not work, I am going to see if the browser used is the issue? I have used Google Chrome since the beginning, but will try Internet Explorer and Mozilla and maybe Bing next!! Anyway, below are photos of how I attempted to keep up with the younger ones on our two weeks in Hawaii.

Our AirBNB was close to Diamond Head, so that was the first workout we chose. It is a park with a 560-foot climb that can be done in 30 minutes if you are in shape and do not care what you see on the way up or down. The last 99 steps are straight up concrete stairs to a tunnel which lead you inside. While it is described as easy for children and golden agers, I paid my dues!! I think it was the heat and sun that were killers for me. There were also medium-sized groups of young Japanese tourists that insist on moving in sync both up and down the hill at a fairly good pace making passing hard on the narrow path. 

It costs $5 per car and $1 per person if you walk in. Parking can be tough if you arrive between the changing waves of people hiking. We only waited 5 minutes for space!

It is not so nicely paved the whole way.

Diamond Head is a volcanic crater first called Le'Ahi or Leahi for the "tuna fish brow." It was named Diamond Head by British Sailors who thought they discovered diamonds but instead found calcite crystals. It was a former volcano so we can forgive them. It was also used as a military lookout, Ft. Rutger, by the American Military. The DOD always gets the best spots first.

There are several places to stop for "vista photos" along the way.

Can you see the trail of people all the way from the left down below to the far right?

And of course, the views at the end are worth it.

It took me longer to go back down because I was stopping to take plant, vista, and bird photos since I no longer had to 'work it.'

And for some money, there is a reward at the end!!

Now, back to my experiment...feel free to test and leave a comment!!

Friday, November 02, 2018

The Vistas

There are places that you can travel to and you find your mind and heart working hard to grasp the essence of the place. It may seem crazy and crowded like Tokyo or filled with ancient ghosts like Italy or that make you question man's inhumanity like poorer places in Asia. One of the places where I have never felt I was a stranger was Hawaii. This may be due to having lived there for a year and passing through the islands many times during the years I live in the South Pacific and in Asia. But I think it is because the geography is generous to the mind and the people are generous to the heart. Yes, there is prejudice against the tourists, but you have to go deep into the bowels of Hawaii to find it.

The first day we adjusted easily to the sunshine falling during our normal night time and took the rental car around Oahu to familiar and popular places which we showed to my son and his wife. We probably bored them with tales of our youth having met there and getting graduate degrees there, but they were patient and willing to listen as they saw the jaw dropping scenery.

In the distance is the famous Diamond Head of movie and TV fame.

Then you turn to the other side of the vista.  That flat place in the middle distance of the photo above is the airport. Islands in the Pacific build their airports on coral reefs as there is little land for such a venture. Of course, now environmental issues prevent such careless construction.  Pearl Harbor is near there and to the right, but not clearly visible in this photo.  All of that precious air flowing over the ocean is so pure.  Take a deep breath.

In the photo above to the center is the distant Honolulu with the overused Waikiki Beach and the luxury hotels and the luxury shopping and the free regular evening hula show which we attended at sunset. It was not corny even though they had done it so many times before.

The next day we put the rental car in gear and headed half-way around the island for even more gorgeous vistas.

Above is the famous Hanauma Bay, a pocket beach, which has been loved to death and is now suffering the effects of that. I had one of my first dates there decades ago and it was just a small beach with about a dozen people sunning themselves and lots of lovely fish. Now there are parking lots, places to drive down and if you do not get there early enough you are turned away. Much of the coral is stressed or dead and that is so sad.

Ever-present to the North side of Oahu, behind the mountains were rain clouds that tried to make it over the scraggy tops clinging like foam. This was the beginning of the rainy season and there were heavy afternoon rains on that side of the island almost every day.