Brief Relief

Aloha!
Regarding my last post about the VOG (volcanic organic gas), and that we’d had unrelenting VOG for 43 days, I wanted to give you an update. Shauna wrote to ask if I had asthma before moving to Hawaii. The answer is no. I’ve written about this in the past, but I really did move to Maui for the “clean” air. So I was shocked to find out that Hawaii has a high incidence of asthma, and particularly the children are at risk. You can check it out at http://www.CDC.gov/asthma/stateprofiles/asthma. An estimated 36,738 children have asthma in Hawaii. Child lifetime asthma prevalence in Hawaii is 18.6%, compared with the 38 participating states rates of 13.3%.

There have also been questions about whether Hawaii is a good place for those with allergies. See also: http://www.allergyclimates.com/2006/06/03/Denver-Hawaii.

I’ve sat in my chiropractor’s office, and listened to parents bringing their children in for adjustments, saying, “I pulled the children out of school today because of the VOG, and they’re doing so poorly, I brought them in for an adjustment.” Many Hawaii schools have open windows and no air conditioning. I spoke with the man who owns Air Filters Hawaii, and he was hired to go to the Big Island and fit the schools over there with air filteration systems for the VOG. I think Maui should be next.

The thing with the VOG is that it’s so in insidious. Most places on the island, you don’t even know it’s there. We can go to downtown Kahului (where the airport is),and not see the VOG at, all because we are IN it. We can go down to Kihei, or to Wailea, on the south part of the island, and it’s the same way. But we come up the mountain and have a view of the valley, and bingo! there it is, hanging over Maui like a gauzy blanket. The shorthand at our house now revolves around the VOG. The question, “Is it thick?” means, is it time to close up all the windows?

I am on the email notification list for the island’s HC&S sugarcane company. This year during our 45 day VOG seige, they would send an email that said they were going to burn in the morning between 4:00am and 6:30am, and then a few hours later another email notification would come, saying “burning suspended due to weather.” They’re not saying due to VOG, but that’s what it means. They canceled the burning so many times I lost track, and the upside to the VOG siege was they were not burning cane. So it’s a choice between VOG and cane-smoke, I guess.

We had a three day VOG reprieve, so we went to the beach. I was so happy to be out of the house I cannot even tell you! However, now I’m thinking I need to do a blog post about “what not to do at the beach.” There was the guy who stood directly in front of me and chain smoked the whole time. Then the guy next to me smoking a cigar. Honestly, people, you can’t do this in your own backyards?

So today the wind is directly out of the south, and the VOG is moving back in. All of our windows are closed, and I am so weary of it, and wonder how long it will last this time. At one point I worked in a law office here on the island, with a large group of women. On voggy days, you could just see the effects all across the office… People with itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and the inability to concentrate. People would think they were coming down with the flu (with the achiness), but it would just be the VOG.

So there’s your report from Paradise today.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the follow button on the homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Jumping the Shark

**Spoiler Alert** If you haven’t yet watched the season premiere of Mad Men and intend to do so, wait to read this. The premiere had 3.4 million viewers. Mad Men swept the best drama category at the Primetime Emmy Awards four
four years running.

Aloha!

Last night’s season premiere of Mad Men opened in Hawaii, so of course it had my full attention. Thanks to Elvis movies (and Bing Crosby’s before him), Hawaii tourism was treated to a perfect storm in the late 1960’s of tourists arriving by droves in ships and planes to spend their hard-earned vacation dollars, and often, to get out of the cold of a mainland winter.

In this season’s opener, Don Draper and wife Megan do just that, as they are in Hawaii checking out a hotel property (Marriott) on Oahu as a possible new client for the ad agency.  Back in New York, Don presents his ad campaign to the guys from Marriott.

(So, I am wondering if you agree with Don’s take on Hawaii….?)

DON: I’ve just come back…and there’s a feeling that’s stayed with me…

MARRIOTT GUY: I’ve been there in the winter–its quite a shock coming back.

DON: Well put, but that could be any vacation. This was very, very different. I think we’re not selling a geographic location–we’re selling an experience. It’s not just a different place–YOU are different. You’d think there’d be an unsettling feeling about something so drastically different, but there’s something else…you don’t miss anything. You’re not homesick.

It puts you in this…state. The air and the water are all the same temperature as your body. It’s sensory. The music, the fragrance, the breeze and the blue…Hawaiian legend has it that the soul can go in and out of the body, but that it usually leaves from a leeward point. (Don shows a sketch of a suit coat, tie, and an abandoned pair of shoes, with bare footprints leading away.) The copy reads:

Hawaii…the jumping-off point.

MARRIOTT: What happened to him?

DON: He got off the plane, took a deep breath, shed his skin and–jumped off.

MARRIOTT (considers this): I think people might think that he died.

DON: Maybe he did, and he went to heaven. Maybe that’s what this feels like.

Okay…so what did you think? Many people seem to feel that being in Hawaii is like dying and going to heaven (albeit without the existential overtones that Don Draper brought to this scene.) When I worked as a concierge and saw hundreds of tourists a month, they would all get the same moony look on their faces in describing coming to Hawaii, or being back in Hawaii.

What do you think that “state” of being is, that Don descibes? Do you think, as he said, that you are different in Hawaii?

Oh, and as far as the title of this post, “Jumping the Shark”…that refers to a Hollywood term (created by Jon Heim) that describes the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins to decline in quality that is beyond recovery, which is usually a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of gimmick in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

The phrase “jump the shark” comes from a scene in the fifth season premiere of the TV series Happy Days (Sept. 20, 1977) in which the central characters visit Los Angeles and a water-skiing Fonzie (Henry Winkler) answers a challenge by wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, and jumps over a confined shark. It is commonly believed that the show began a creative decline as the writers ran out of ideas and Happy Days became a caricature of itself (Wikipedia, Jumping the Shark.)

To me, Mad Men just jumped the shark when Don ended up in bed, yet again, with a woman who was not his wife. Seems to me that Matthew Weiner had himself a boring episode (who IS Sandy, the girl with the violin? And why should we care?) so gave it a jolt at the end to wake us all up after two hours of saying “huh?”

Even paradise couldn’t resuscitate this snooze fest for me. So did you see it? What did you think?

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Because Suze Orman Said So

Aloha!

Many of you have written to me saying you’re planning to move to Maui this June… must be something in the air. And of course the price of Paradise always enters the conversation when people plan to move here.

I never had facts and figures to back up how much more expensive Paradise is, until now. In the recent Oprah Magazine a woman wrote to financial guru Suze Orman to talk about budgeting, and she is living in Hawaii. Suze wrote back to question the wisdom of living in a place that is 55% higher than the mainland for necessities like gas, groceries, and utilities.

So there you have it. Paradise is 55% higher because Suze Orman said so. Now we can all quit wondering.

I spent this winter in northern California, taking care of my mother’s estate after she passed away. There were three people living in the house. And California was having the coldest winter anyone could remember for ages, which meant I was running the furnace all the time.

The  utility bill in California (for three people) was $310 per month cheaper than my house in Maui (for four people), with no furnace running.

And then there are the groceries. In California, I fairly skip down the grocery aisles, tossing things into my cart with abandon. Everything is about one third, to half the price, as Maui. It’s all relative, whatever you are used to. I’m sure the people in California don’t think their groceries are cheap.

The price of paradise is steep. The difference is, I did not get to wake up to blinding sunshine every single day in California like I do in Maui.

It really is all relative…

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the homepage.


Aloha, Jamaica

Aloha, Again

Aloha!

Yes, yes, I know, it’s been a while. Those of you who read this blog know that my mother passed away in December. And I’ve been a little busy. If anyone ever offers to make you the Executor of an estate and you’re thinking of it as an honor, word of advice: run screaming in the other direction. But I was given no choice, so there you have it.

Being the Executor of an estate (estate? puh-leeze) is a thankless, mind-numbing exercise in futility, and you spend months chasing your tail. To top it off, my parents were pack-rats (they had twelve of everything) and it’s up to the Executor (that would be me) to clear all of that flotsam (unimportant misc. material) and jetsam (material cast overboard in times of distress to lighten the load) out of the house, so it can be sold. The stuff and the house.

And let me tell you, there were times while I was there when I walked out to their over-stuffed garage and wanted to pick up one of the (twelve) hammers on the work bench and smack myself in the face with it. Because that would have been an excellent diversion from the two-foot pile of paperwork waiting for me inside the house:

IMG_1874

This was from just one drawer, in one of the four desks in my mom’s house.

Currently I am back on Maui because, well, because I actually have a life apart from being the Executor of an estate…however, being one leaves you no time for your own life. I had to get out of California while the getting was good, just to get my own taxes done this year. THEN I get to go back and file my mom’s taxes, and the estate’s taxes. And sell the house. Party-time!

I know that I am back on Maui, because that very first morning, a friendly little German cockroach decided to share my cup of tea with me:IMG_1819

Some things never change.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

3rd Shark Attack in 3 Weeks

Third Shark Attack in Three Weeks

Aloha!
We are three for three here on Maui. Three shark attacks in three weeks. It’s beginning to feel like we’re living in a small town on the eastern seaboard and Jaws is on the loose. There was also a fourth attack off Kauai.

For the first time in 12 years, I have asked Mike to stay out of the water. Usually I’m glad to see him go surfing. It’s kind of like sending him off to church; he comes back with a big smile and attitude adjustment. But this is worrisome, we’ve never seen this kind of shark activity, and Mike, who has lived here his whole life, says he’s never heard of this many shark attacks this close together. The news reports say it may have something to do with an increase in the turtle population, the shark’s favorite food.

30-year old Marc Riglos was participating in the 2012 Maui Roi Roundup, an invasive species spearfishing tournament. He said the shark took a bite of his ankle then tugged it from side to side. “I thought I was going to die out there. (It) was crazy,” he said. With the help of his dive partner he was able to get back into shore, but they were 300 yards out and it took 25 minutes.

Riglos says he hopes that doctors can save his foot. On KHON 2 news last night, they showed him in his hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center. His right ankle is stitched the entire way around. Riglos said his foot was literally hanging by a tendon.

A marine biologist interviewed on KHON said that the best way to fight off a shark is to get your fingers into the shark’s eyesockets or gills and tug hard, and they’ll back off. Um, easier said than done while their jaws are wide open and headed straight for you. When Mike worked as a professional diver, he said that the divers would stay in a circle and if a shark approached they would take the respirators out of their mouths and scream at the shark, and that worked, too.

Seems to me you don’t need a degree from Harvard to figure out you should maybe just stay out of the water right now.

If you have ever seen the “Shermans Lagoon” comic strip, it is a microcosm of marine life and they all have human characteristics. The big, dumb shark Sherman, his wife and son, the crab and the turtle all talk and comment on what’s going on up top. They stake out Unsuspecting Vacationers floating on the surface and decide which ones will taste best for dinner. It sounds morbid, but it’s quite funny.

Given that, I began to wonder if the sharks have just been watching too much television down there… Too many paid political advertisements. They got so frustrated, they just had to take a big BITE out of someone.

At least today that will all be over! And if the shark activity calms down… Well, what can I say. I was right.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Be Safe

Be Safe

Aloha!
To all of my readers on the East Coast, I send out a heartfelt wish for your safety and a swift return to normalcy. I hope you are not without power. Be safe!

To those who have opened up a discussion about the tsunami warning in Hawaii, I offer the following thoughts. One reader, TC, happened to be on Maui during the tsunami warning and asked if the level of panic observed is normal here.

When you live on Maui for a while, the enormity of being a spec in the middle of the ocean grows. It feels a bit like being a flea on an elephant. We are the farthest from any landmass of any Archipelago. (Not just Hawaii, but Maui.) For those who have lived through dock strikes, or a hurricane, or a tsunami, it becomes readily apparent how dependent we are on the outside world for absolutely everything, from toilet paper to rice, to bottled water.

A fire alone can shut down the whole west part of the island. I’ve seen it happen. There is no getting in or out, because there is only one road in, and they now close down the northern route so it will not become clogged with people and cut off emergency vehicle access. More than once I had to get a hotel room and sleep on the west side when I couldn’t get home from work, due to a disaster.

People are very attuned to this when authorities say a tsunami is coming. They immediately picture no electricity, no food, no ships getting in with supplies for God knows how long. The thing about a tsunami is that there is essentially no warning. An hour or two maybe, and then it’s a call to evacuate. Tsunamis travel at 500 mph plus-the same speed as a jet. There is little response time, no planning ahead.

Mike was a fireman on Oahu for 12 years and amazingly, spent less time fighting fires than he he did rescuing people from the ocean, and on occasion, from big waves washing over people’s houses. That’s just what the North Shore is like in the winter time. He says the level of panic of people fleeing during a tsunami warning also has to do with responsibility. Responsible people realize that if they don’t act, they are jeopardizing the life of someone else (such as Mike) who must then come in and rescue them.

One disconcerting fact that came out during the news reports on television for this tsunami warning: there are no buoys between Hawaii and the mainland. None. So when the earthquake struck Canada and reverberated out, they had nothing to look at to check the rising tide between us and them. So we had to prepare for the worst.

The following facts are from this good website: http://ptwc.weather.gov/faq.php#6

1. How fast do tsunamis travel?
Tsunami wave speed is controlled by water depth. Where the ocean is over 6,000 meters (3.7 miles) deep, unnoticed tsunami waves can travel at the speed of a commercial jet plane, over 800 km per hour (500 miles per hour). Tsunamis travel much slower in shallower coastal waters where their wave heights begin to increase dramatically.

2. What does a tsunami look like when it reaches the shore?
As the leading edge of a tsunami wave approaches shore, it slows dramatically due to the shallower water. However, the trailing p art of the wave can still be moving rapidly in the deeper water. This results in a “piling up” of the tsunami energy, and the tsunami wave height grows. The wave looks and acts like giant river of water on top of the ocean that floods the shore.

3. Where and how often do tsunamis usually occur?
Major tsunamis occur about once per decade. Based on historical data, about 59% of the world’s tsunamis have occurred in the Pacific Ocean, 25% in the Mediterranean Sea, 12% in the Atlantic Ocean, and 4% in the Indian Ocean.

Stay safe, and treasure each day. If you are a reader on the East Coast, please let me know you’re okay!

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Fall for Maui

Fall for Maui

Aloha!

It doesn’t seem like there would be much change in seasons in Hawaii, and it’s very subtle, but it is there. Especially in Upcountry Maui. On the mainland I always enjoyed the change of seasons… Getting out all of the fall decorations, the Halloween decorations, the Thanksgiving decorations… And the places to buy them were of course, endless.

Not so on Maui. Stores such as Walmart or Kmart only bring so much in to the island per season, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if you go to Ben Franklin Crafts and see something you like, you’d better buy it now. You also learn to improvise with what nature provides on Maui. In the same way that I might have gathered Fall-colored leaves in California, here I gather Fall-colored shells to make my dining room table centerpiece:

Our mango tree in the backyard also provides a clue that fall is here on Maui. If you look closely in this photo you’ll see that we have older yellow leaves dropping, healthy older dark green leaves, light green brand-new leaves coming in, and to top it all off: it’s flowering with new fruit (that’s the brown  fuzzy-stuff).

Mango Tree on Maui

What this means is there’s never a good time to prune a tree in Hawaii. Our citrus tree in the front yard does the same thing. It’s a tree that’s been grafted with tangerines, tangelos, and oranges on the same tree. The tree has become enormous because there is constantly a cycle of new leaves and new fruit. When the heck do you prune, without losing fruit?

It’s also a season of harvest here. We have more apple bananas (the very sweet ones that taste more like a pear) than we know what to do with. This morning I grilled bananas on the griddle when I made the french toast. Every morning we have smoothies with two bananas in them. We hang the bunch from a rafter in the garage to keep the rats out of them:

And why yes, that IS a surfboard hanging there in the rafters too. Thanks for asking. And that second refrigerator in the background is not a “beer frig”, because in Maui almost all dry goods have to be refrigerated or use lose them to bugs. So that frig has flour, sugar, bread crumbs, bread, cornmeal, etc. in it. If you don’t refrigerate your bread, it can mold in a day or two.

The other bounty we can barely keep up with is the lilikois (also known as passion fruit). Here is a few days’ worth that have been gathered:

It doesn’t help to call my friends and ask if they’d like some fruit, because they have the same problem. So I’ve taken to hauling fruit to Kahului when I go down the hill, and giving it away. Yesterday a doctor got eight apple bananas in a brown bag. He is a fierce Korean guy who pretty much scares me spitless. I gave him the bananas and he lit up. As he was leaving the room he said “This will be my lunch” and I teased him and said, “Hey, I know you have children!” and he just laughed, because those kids weren’t getting any of those bananas. That’s the first time I’ve heard him laugh! Food, the universal language.

Here’s a recipe for Lilikoi Martinis. My thanks to Shel and Clay Simpson for turning us on to these intoxicating gems.

Lilikoi Martini

1 ounce (a shot-glass) of lilikoi juice

1 ounce of Vanilla Vodka (I’m a wuss and use half that amount)

Fill a glass with ice. Shake the above two ingredients together, add to glass, then top it off with ice-cold water.

I get creative and substitute out recipes that involve lemon juice, such as a Lemontini or Lemon Drop. So, to the above recipe I will also add a little St. Germain (YUM) and substitute club soda or seltzer water for the plain water.

Next time you get your hands on some lilikoi juice, enjoy a martini. You can possibly find the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley lilkoi puree in your gourmet grocer’s freezer section. And if anyone has figured out a fool-proof method for pruning the ever-flowering fruit trees in Hawaii, give a shout.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica