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

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

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Aloha, Jamaica

On Men and Muumuus

On Men and Muumuus

Aloha!
Yesterday It was 92° Upcountry. Get out! It’s never that hot Upcountry. (That means it had to be like 109 in Lahaina). In heat like that I don’t even want to get dressed. I prefer nudity, but it seems to be against the law. So I was in First Hawaiian Bank Upcountry and saw a lady about 75 years old who was wearing a muumuu and a big hat. Pretty typical of older ladies in Hawaii. I’ve thought about it, and I actually look forward to the time when I get to wear wear a muumuu. They cover the flabby arms, big belly and spider veins that everyone gets as they get older… But the best part is they’re cool and loose. I was looking at her muumuu with envy on this 92° in the shade day.

Fast-forward four hours. I have been to the pharmacy, the library, and two grocery stores. I am standing in Costco and I see a hat out of the corner of my eye and glance up from the rosemary bread. There’s the same lady in her hat and muumuu. When you live on Maui you constantly hear “it’s a small island,” and that means everywhere you go you run into the same people. Even four hours and four stops later. Sometimes they’re even on the same track as you, and you see them at all four stops. This always makes me laugh… It’s a small island, but it’s not like it’s a small town in the middle of nowhere. Or is it? I once heard that an Island resort is nothing more than a provincial small town with thousands of tourists thrown in. That makes sense.

It also means you see the same people week after week as you run your errands. When I went to the library yesterday I had 22 books on hold. Seriously. At the counter I said apologetically, “I’ve had a few books come in'” and the librarian, a big, jovial Chinese lady said, “A FEW?!” She is used to this now and gives me a hard time. I’m a writer, I do research. In fact, after about the third time this happened she said, “Let me guess, you’re a writer.” Guilty as charged. Though I did hit a new personal best this month: I found out that when you have 27 books on hold in the system they cut you off on the library website (www.librarieshawaii.org) I was crushed! Hauling a stack of books home from the library is like Christmas for me, especially since they closed our Borders store. When I saw my doctor recently, she asked, as usual, what I was reading, because I always have a book with me . She said, “I miss Borders! I miss being able to browse by actually opening a book and paging through it.” It’s just not the same thing on Amazon, so we commiserated together.

Anyway, as we ended our day yesterday, Mike and I were talking about the unusual heat and I mentioned having seen the lady in the muumuu twice. (We were eating Mexican food at our favorite place: Fernando’s in the Kau-Kau marketplace. He commented that he’d also seen the guy at the next table in Costco. See what I mean? It’s a small island). Mike then said, “So why don’t you just wear a muumuu?”

It was loud in there. I was sure I hadn’t heard him right. “Did you say wear a muumuu? At my age?” (I’m thinking, isn’t that only for ladies over the age of 75? Isn’t that something only the workers at the hotels wear?) He said “Sure. Why not?”( Let’s not forget, this guy grew up in Hawaii.) But my head is reeling… You mean I can stop trying to find pants that fit my nonexistent bum? I can stop thinking about fashion or having any kind of style at all and just drift off to muumuu land? Men probably don’t understand this, because they are ALWAYS comfortable, but a muumuu is like a get out of jail free card. And then Mike shrugged and said, “I don’t know why you haven’t done it sooner.”

The earth tilted further on its axis. The man will never cease to amaze me. Muumuus are like the fanny pack of fashion… They mean, “I give up, I’m gonna just let it all hang out.” Right? If you’ve ever watched the new version of Hawaii 5-0, moving to Hawaii and all the confusion it entails is embodied in almost everything Dano says. He’s always a half step behind. And here I am, after 13 years, finding out I could’ve been wearing a muumuu all this time.

That’s me, late to the party. At least they are legal, unlike nudity. Unless, of course, I get arrested by the Fashion Police.

So tell me honestly, if you’re a woman would you wear a muumuu in Hawaii on a regular basis? And if you’re a guy, what do you think about women under the age of 75 in muumuus?

A hui hou! If you’d like to have this blog delivered to your inbox, please click the “Follow” button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

A Tourist’s Card

A Tourist’s Card

Aloha!

In the September issue of the Costco Connection under the Travel section, there is an article titled “Discovering the Dominican Republic.” The article states that upon landing in the Dominican Republic, visitors must purchase a (tourism tax) Tourist Card before clearing customs. The card costs US $10 per person and must be paid in cash.

The endless possibilities for corruption with so much cash notwithstanding, I find the concept intriguing. In my recent blog post “Time to Shape Up,” I discussed how the amenities available to tourists in Maui, such as the park systems and restrooms, are old and run down, including the Kahului airport. But the cry in Hawaii is always that there’s not enough money, no matter how many tourists come.

For those of you unfamiliar, the problem comes down to the General Fund in Hawaii. It’s basically a catchment system that all money is funneled into and out of. Problems arise when one particular entity needs money or has even raised money… but it must filter first through the General Fund, and often does not land where intended. The most recent example of this is the libraries system. The Friends of the Library were consistently raising money to benefit the library system, which was then placed in the General Fund and unavailable to the library system. See the problem? I am quite
pleased that this was recently revised, and any monies from benefits and/or
fundraisers for the library will stay within the library system, where it belongs.

Which brings us to the concept of a Tourist Card. If Hawaii is consistently strapped for money, which it is, then why not institute something of this sort, which could pay for the infrastructures which the tourist’s use? For each time that a tourist checks into a nice hotel on Maui (and pays a hefty “Resort Fee” per day for the pleasure) they are also using the Maui roads, infrastructure, parks systems, and beaches. Not to mention the airport, which is badly in need of an upgrade.

As Mike and I discussed this at length, we came to realize the inherent problems with such a card: who would say where the money went, and how? Every politician would have their hand in the pot, unless some strict guidelines were in force. For instance: each island could get to keep the money that was collected from a tourist’s deplaning on that island only. The money would not go into the General Fund, but rather a Tourist Fund, per Island. Returning Hawaii residents would be exempt.  For each year’s money
collected, a pet project could be chosen: this year the roads, next year the
park restrooms, et cetera. And no one could claim that the system was unfair as far as monies collected, because the number of tourists arriving would equal thenumber of Tourist Card dollars staying on that particular island. Oahu mightcollect more money because of more tourists, but those tourists are also using the Oahu roads.

The Dominican Republic is able to monitor this because their tourists must pass through customs. In our discussion Mike and I realized the enormity of setting up such a system in Hawaii, especially where the collection point would be concerned. Collection would fall either to the airline for its passengers, or a deplaning station would have to be built and instituted, sort of a security line in reverse. Difficult yes, but not impossible, certainly.

So the question is this: as a tourist, would you be willing to pay a small fee, say $10, for a Tourist Card, if the money went strictly to amenities for tourism, or roads, on that island? And would you balk if you were to Island-hop and that $10 fee was applied to each island? What about if it was $10 at an origination point and only $2.00 if you island-hopped? Or what about $2.00 per island, period?

None of this too pricey for a honeymooning couple, perhaps, but for a family of four it could really add up. Unless the system included a way to notate the tourist’s origination point, and the tourist would not have to repay. Then we would have the neighbor Islands screaming because too many people had originated at Oahu and the dollars would not transfer (though that is changing somewhat in that the airline hubs are moving to outer islands.)

This is obviously just a rough idea. Please share your thoughts on whether or not you believe a Tourist Card could be a viable idea and whether you’d be willing to pay for one if the bugs were worked out.

And I’d like to hear any and all ideas you have in regard to same.

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Maui Weather Today: High of 85, Low of 71

Aloha, Jamaica

Have You Laughed Today?

Aloha!

Maui is a pretty loose place. I’m always amused when I’m out and about and notice how feral-like many Maui children are. They haven’t been groomed within inch of their lives, unlike the little mainland boy I saw at Ha’iilimaile General Store the other night. He was about six years old, pasty-skinned, like he never stepped outdoors. Blonde hair parted with military precision; slicked down. Wearing khaki shorts and a plaid button-down shirt, with gleaming white tennis shoes. He looked like someone sat on him a lot.

Then there are the Maui kids: their hair sticking up and out, like it hasn’t been brushed in a week. They wear bright, mismatched clothes, and are tanned and healthy- looking. Usually they sport some interesting choice of footwear, like zebra-print rubber boots with shorts. Surely to grow up to be iconoclasts, all. Another thing about Maui kids: they laugh a lot, and don’t seem to pitch fits like I hear the kids do when I’m on the mainland. It leads me to believe that mainland kids spend way too much time indoors, and Maui kids are pretty much allowed to run wild, so they’re just calmer by nature.

Hearing lots of laughter was one of the things I noticed most when I first moved to Maui. At the beach, in restaurants, standing on street corners. Locals are a raucous bunch. I was in an office building yesterday and all the female workers were just cackling loudly, maybe over some bawdy joke. No one sushed them or reminded them they were in a place of business. Maui children running wild grow up to be Maui office workers. And they laugh a lot. Even in bad times.

One of my favorite things about working at the hotel all those years was hearing the laughter from the Front Desk people. The Concierge desk sat further out in the lobby, so I wasn’t really part of the Front Desk. But I could still hear them tell stories, share what they had for dinner the night before, and always, there was laughter.

The other evening, after a long day, I stopped at IHOP in Kahului and put in a to-go order. I had about a fifteen minute wait (should have just eaten there) and while I waited, a local family came in. More and more of them, till they filled the waiting area with ten people, and more of their party was still to arrive. Watching them all together, laughing, telling stories in their melodic pidgin and cutting up, I had a twinge of loneliness–of missing my family on the mainland, the choice that all of us who move an ocean away must  live with.

It turns out this family had just come from a surprise engagment party. They had all gathered, knowing the young man was going to propose to The One. Except, she didn’t show up. She was always running late. They waited and waited. Finally, she arrived. In pidgin the groom-to-be now related, “While we was all dhere waiting, I got to tinking…instead of engagement ring, mebbe shouda got her one watch!” They all roared, and I couldn’t help joining in.

Laughter: it’s good for the soul.

Thought for the day: Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some. —Robert Fulghum

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Aloha, Jamaica

Island Style

Aloha!

Are you a Hawaiian music fan?  There is so much to choose from , but two that I personally like are John Cruz http://www.johncruz.com/, particularly his song “Island Style”, which was a big hit, and of course Jake Shimabukura http://jakeshimabukuro.com/welcome/
the young ukulele virtuosa, who was a youtube sensation.

Speaking of music, there is an Internet email game going around. The idea is to name a song that’s so horrendous that it gets stuck in the recipient’s head. For instance, I would say “Muskrat Love”, and you would groan, because now that’s all you hear for the next hour. Then you’re supposed to tag me back with an equally bad selection. “Midnight at the Oasis” , for instance,sets my teeth on edge.  For many of us, the songs that get stuck in our heads came out before we were even born. But still we know them, possibly from  the dreaded Muzak, or from our parent’s collections.

When my dad was a kid in the 30s, his brother Jimmy bought the record “Frankie and Johnny.” (Cue music: Frankie and Johnnie were lovers…oh lordy how they could love…) Jimmy played it and played it and played it. One day my dad, who was five years younger than his brother and absolutely sick to death of Frankie and and her stupid, cheatin’ lover, took that record out across the road and sailed it into the field. Although his brother looked and looked, he couldn’t find it. Winter came and went, and the following spring my dad was out hiking in that field with his English setter. There, wet and mangled, lay,”Frankie and Johnny.” He never told his brother.

“Achy, Breaky, Heart” . “Seasons in the Sun”. Can you hear it?

Then there is Hawaiian music, an acquired taste for some.  I like much of it. I can even handle the high falsetto if it’s live, in person, and done well. Other people, not so much. A few years back I was at the Maui Writer’s Conference.( Don’t bother to Google it, it’s extinct now). Anyway, the line for the women’s restroom was a mile long, as all lines for women’s restrooms tend to be. I had probably been standing there for close to 10 minutes, and Hawaiian music was playing the whole time. I was enjoying it, as it echoed around the restroom and bounced off the walls.

A few feet ahead of me in line was a little Texan woman. She had the big hair, 2 inch nails, and little gold lame sandals. A Hawaiian falsetto song came on. All of a sudden she shuddered, covered her ears, and yelled in a southern drawl, “I just can’t take this horrible noise one more second!” and she bolted out of the bathroom, after waiting in line all that time. As the rest of us watched her go, there was a moment of silence, and then we all burst out laughing.

Seasons in the Sun. It’s a Small World After All.

Tag, you’re it.

Maui Weather Today: High 85, Low 71

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

The Facts of Life on Maui

The Facts of Life on Maui

Aloha!

I always say that owning a house on Maui is like owning the Golden gate Bridge. It’s a fact of life that when those workers get to one end of the bridge and have finished painting it, they turn around and start again at the other end. In Maui, that’s true of both the inside of the house, and the yard.
In California, I worked like a maniac and had a housekeeper. In retrospect I ask, What for? There was no dirt! Just a little dust, every two weeks, and of course the bathroom can always use a bit of attention. But in Maui, it’s really hot, so you open the windows. Then the wind starts blowing. The wind is full of the ubiquitous red dirt.  You know the house is going to get covered with dirt, but it’s too hot to close the windows. And it’s too expensive to run the air conditioning… so you leave the windows open.
Today I cleaned my office. Not organizing, mind you, just cleaning.  Every book I touch has a layer of red dirt on the top of it’s spine. The books feel gritty, as do the bookshelves. My desk, mouse, computer screen; all covered with red dirt.

Then under the bookshelves, in the corners, and along every windowsill is the gecko poop! Another fact of life: the geckos know they own the house, they just let you live there. There is no catching them because they have amazing suction cup feet. You chase them and they just run up to the ceiling, hang upside down, and cackle at you. Literally, they cackle. And continue to poop wherever they like. Then there is the array of other interesting creatures. My friend Shel wrote to me the other day and said she was vacuuming (we spend our lives chasing red dirt) and she heard a caaathunk. She said, “Now just try googling ‘how to remove mangled live centipede from beater bar of a vacuum cleaner.'”

You heard me.
A large chunk of the budget when we built our house was installing wood floors. I would not have put carpet in my house if someone paid me. The reason: I was in a client’s home, who had orange carpeting. Except that then she moved a dresser, and underneath, the carpeting was BLUE. The entire carpeting was so full of red dirt it had turned orange. Tile or carpeting it is!
I am a writer and I love books. I have books everywhere. If I had my way I would own the expensive old Barrister’s bookcases, because they have a glass door that you could pull down over the books to protect them. In Maui, that would help keep out the red dirt.
I know of women in Haiku who take every book off their bookshelves, turn on blower fans, open up all the books, and let the fans blow through to drive the humidity out of them. They do this multiple times throughout the year. Otherwise, they mold.
Just another day in Paradise!
Maui Weather Today: High 85, Low, 72
A hui hou. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, click the Follow button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!
Aloha, Jamaica