Saturday, January 21, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

Two off topics notes first:
1. So much for trying to meet my goal of at least one blog post per week. Will have to keep trying.
2. Frank -- no comments on the title of this post. I'm *serious*! I mean it!!

So there's that saying, can't teach an old dog new tricks. And after the last ten days spent in the Lake Tahoe area trying to learn how to snowboard, I'm on the verge of agreeing. But only on the verge...not totally convinced.

My dad taught me to ski when I was about seven. I'm pretty sure he lived in Massachusetts by then, and my sister and I would go to visit him on holidays and during the summer. That first year we went, my sister was off visiting a friend of hers in the area, so Dad and my brother, Jay, went off to the ski slopes. Jay took off to enjoy himself on the slopes, having been skiing many times before. And Dad patiently spent the time corralling me down the slopes, teaching me to snow-plow and then to turn, and finally to race down the run as fast as humanly possible. Being seven, with the kid-innate lack of fear of hurting myself, I picked it up pretty quickly, though I do remember a couple of fairly spectacular falls.

My sister joined us on the slopes the next year and was *disgusted* with me that I already knew what I was doing, and she was stuck on the bunny slope. She hasn't been back to ski since.

About six years ago, I really came to appreciate the skills my dad had instilled in me at such a young age. I went skiing for the first time in probably more than five years, and it was just like riding a bike...I pretty much remembered what I was doing. I mean, the first few runs down the mountain weren't exactly graceful, but I got to the bottom without severe bodily damage and once the rust was knocked off, really enjoyed myself. I've tried to go skiing at least once a year for the past while.

This year, though, I decided to try snowboarding. And I'm not sure why. My frie-bors (friends + neighbors, remember?), Molly and Billy have gone to Tahoe for the last three years, and over the summer, I kinda invited myself along with them. They snowboard, though, and offered to let me borrow their daughter's gear. It all fit, so I said, sure, why not? I'll try it.

I took a lesson the first day, from a very nice guy named Bill at Alpine Meadow (free lift tickets for active duty military). So glad I did. He set me up with my left foot forward. I took a couple of spills during that two hours, but felt like I was on my way to picking it up okay. Over the course of the next couple of days, I took more than a few spills...some of them so spectacular as to be named "yard sales." Ya know, like where my goggles, gloves, board and anything else that can come flying off, end up displayed across the slope like at a yard sale. Ugh, and don't be fooled...that shit *HURTS!!* I'm still not sitting down on a chair properly.

About day three, after ending up going down the hill right foot forward more often than not, Billy changed the bindings on my board so my right foot was forward. It was a little awkward the first run or two down the hill once he switched it, but it quickly became more comfortable. I took another lesson on day four from Phillip at Mt Rose (who I hope does join the CG when this season is over, because I think he'd make a wonderful addition to *any* crew. Smart, enthusiastic, a great teacher...all the things we need in our ranks.).  Again, it was useful and I picked up some good tips from him.

I think a couple of things may have made a difference in my comfort level with this new trick though. First, better conditions on the mountain would have meant easier falls and less ice...both of which completely intimidated me after the first day. Unfortunately, we scheduled our trip during Tahoe's worst snow season, like, maybe *ever!* We were on all man-made snow. It started snowing today...two days after we left. Mr Murphy, sir -- so *NOT* funny!

Second, the bindings should have been moved a bit further apart on my board. Both Bill and Phillip impressed upon me the importance of being low and flexible in the knees to make turns successfully (and without those intensely painful abrupt stops). Phillip pointed out that my feet were pretty close together on my board, which meant that I had to work harder to use the board's flexibility to turn and was less stable than if my feet were further apart. I kinda laughed at this a little, after thinking of how many times I reminded guys during crew law enforcement training (especially handcuffing) to have a deep, wide stance to ensure their stability. My favorite learning technique was to walk up alongside them if they were just bending over (instead of squatting with their knees), and gently shove their hip a little to knock them off balance. Made 'em cuss every time.

Third, crash pads. I can't overemphasize the importance of PPE enough. I was extremely grateful for my helmet and goggles. But I really should have gone the extra step, and gotten the crash pads for my backside. Would have saved a *lot* of pain and whining. Next year.

Which makes me wonder, am I seriously gonna try snowboarding again next year? or am I gonna wimp out and go back to skiing? And why? For godsakes, why? I suck at it, which means that there are a lot of crash landings that really hurt. Laughing at myself when my body doesn't respond like my brain says it should only goes so far to assuage the bruised ass, elbows, knees and yes, face...never mind my ego. So why, on god's green earth, would I try it again?

One friend said it's "bc u r n explorer. duh. u have to keep pushing urself; each day try to improve. hard work n determination. (song lyrics...)" (obviously we were texting). Not sure how true that is.

Maybe it's peer pressure. Snowboarders *look* cool. If I snowboard, that means I'm cool too.

Maybe it's 'cause I'm cheap. Free loaned snowboarding gear (even if I don't know how to use it) is better than rented skis.

Maybe, like most things, it's a combination of all those things. Does it count as a commitment to "lifelong learning?"

By the by, and regardless of all the falls, I had a *great!!* time hanging out with Molly and Billy, and Eddie and Lucas, and Jan, Hana, Avis and Dawn. What an awesome group of people to get to hang out with!

Monday, January 9, 2012

But I Don't *Wanna* Go

No, I’m not talking about going to the dentist or to school, but yes, I am whining like a five-year-old. I don’t *wanna* leave Hawaii [emphatic foot stomp!]!

Somehow, though, an entire month has flown by, and my departure looms ahead, just tomorrow. I’ve been trying really hard not to think about leaving. The couple times I’ve slipped, I’ve found myself tearing up and can only stop from breaking out in sobs by telling myself that I will NOT ruin what time I have left here being sad about leaving.

I’ve gone away before. This time is different, though. For the first time in the almost ten years that I’ve been on-again, off-again living in Hawaii, I don’t know when I’m coming back. I don’t have any trip scheduled on the horizon, tantalizing me with comforting trade winds and crystal clear water, good friends and a warm welcome home. I know I’ll be back…I just don’t know when, or where I’ll stay.

My house is going up for rent, hopefully to wonderful people who will enjoy the special beauty of this place. But I won’t be able to stay here like I normally would. My gracious neighbors and friends have generously offered the hospitality of their own homes for my future visits, nearly threatening me with bodily harm if I dare to stay in a hotel or vacation rental. 

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to get stationed back out here. When are the NSCs planned to get homeported in Honolulu? (yes, I know the realistic answer to that...not soon enough) Am I willing to forego an afloat tour just to be stationed back here? (yes, I know the realistic answer to that too...probably not; but maybe, if an afloat career is no longer a viable option, then yes, abso-freakin-lutely!) So I know I'm making my own choices, but knowing that doesn't make the choices any easier.

I think I handled this whole month pretty well though, really through no conscious planning or intuitive understanding of the situation on my part…better to be lucky than good, sometimes. I took my time with packing stuff up, never really stressing or wearing myself out on any one day to get stuff done. Yes, there were a few days where chores delayed my departure for the beach, but it usually rained those afternoons anyway. I could have waited another coupla days to put the big furniture I was leaving behind on Craigslist. But I had no way of knowing that it would only take 15 minutes for people to snap up two couches and two full-sized mattress sets. I should have looked for the title to the car when I first got here, rather than waiting so long that my sister had to spend $45 (!!!) to overnight it to me so I could take it to the DMV to get Mom’s name off to simplify the sale. And the yard free-for-all (instead of a yard sale) was a fabulous way to share memories of Mom with the neighborhood and friends (and get rid of a bunch of *stuff* that was still useful…to someone *else!*).

But on the whole, I had plenty of time to soak my lazy bones in sun-drenched sand and salt water, to meet new friends (even a really great guy who I wish I could have hung out with more…should have called him before Christmas instead of waiting for the day before New Year’s Eve, Silly Girl), to eat wonderful food – omg, the poke at B’s Bar & Grinds…*insane!*, to run and workout on a regular basis, and to share time with friends and neighbors without feeling like I was imposing on them or being left out of any of the fun.

And it’s not like the fun is completely over, either. I’m headed to Lake Tahoe for a week of skiing and snow-boarding (if it every starts to snow there!) with Molly and Billy, frie-bors (friends + neighbors?) from the 'hood. And then to my sister’s for a few days. And then to my Dad’s, meeting my sister there for Dad’s 70th birthday. The party will go on.

But tonight, I’ll go to Haleiwa Joe’s for Aloha Hour, to eat and drink and be merry one last night with the neighbors and friends that I’ve come to love dearly over the past five years before I head to the airport tomorrow. And in the morning, I’ll take the handful of dried leis left by well-loved guests down to Kaiaka Beach Park, and toss them into the ocean. I hope they, each and every one of them, find their return way to shore, so they can guide my path quickly back to this place that feels more like home than anywhere else I’ve been.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year, version 2012

Well, another year down and gone.

There was a block party on the street for New Year's Eve. Uncle Francis, at the end of our street, and Uncle Jack conspired to put a pig in the imu in Francis' yard. They enlisted the help of the neighborhood boys and got the fire going early on Saturday morning. I wasn't awake for that part, so I didn't get any pictures. But I made sure I was on hand for when the pigs came out of the ground.
Uncovering the pit

Off came the coverings first. Then the banana leaves. Then the boys hoisted the pig in its chicken wire cage out onto a near-by table. It was still wrapped with banana and ti leaves, with some hot rocks in the belly cavity.

Ed and Jason and a one-handed Billy (he's got his wrist in a cast) helped with unearthing and prepping the goods. They slid the pig from the chicken wire mesh into a big metal tray. Francis' son added some salt, and then they pulled out all the bones, mostly by grabbing a bone in each hand and digging through the meat to free the other bones.

The meat all went into a new galvanized trash can and then up to Jack's lanai for the meal. Ka'amo'oloa pot lucks are amazing feasts! We have some great cooks on the block and half the fun (ok, well maybe a quarter of the fun...'cause there's *lots* of fun at these things) is finding out who brought what dish. Needless to say, I ate too much. I don't remember what everybody brought, but here are a few highlights:

Molly made an amazing Thai hot sauce for the pork. I think it had cilantro, chilis, garlic, fish sauce, lime, and maybe something else. But it was *hot* and so tasty!

Getting to the good stuff
Laura made scalloped potatoes, Gretchen brought a yummy salad. There were pasta dishes, and soba noodles, mashed potatoes, pies, cookies, chips and so many other goodies.

Ed's sister Jen made fresh Fijian awa. While awa is not the best tasting beverage, it's wonderfully mellow, and I enjoyed a few cups of it.

I made Estate Bread Pudding. Ok, really, I just took all the stuff from the fridge and the freezer that I didn't know what to do with, and stirred it all up. Raisins soaked in rum and a little triple sec, macadamia nuts, pecans, a few cashews, hotdog and hamburger buns left over from Mom's memorial bbq, a airplane size whiskey...all soaked in milk, eggs and butter. I used up so many odds and ends. And the best part was that the end product was even edible!
Dinner!

 The gathering wasn't just about the food though. Liam drew out a handball court on the street and the kids (mostly the grown-up kids!) played a few sets of doubles games. Then Jason and Liam went head-to-head in a death match. I don't remember who won :)

Shutting down the street for a game of handball
After the food was all eaten, or at least appetites were somewhat satiated, Laura busted out a case of poprocks. She gave out individual boxes to all the kids and they spent the next 15 minutes slamming the little balls of paper to the ground. It made a wonderful racket. And then the kids spent the next half hour wandering around, looking for the stray rocks that hadn't popped on the first round.

There were bike races, with Molly on a mini kid's bike, and Punky on a grown up bike; dance practice for the kids; and a continuous display of fireworks from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Uncle Jack and Uncle Francis -- masterminds of fun
 The awa took its toll on me, though, and I headed home (pathetically) early. That doesn't mean I got to sleep though...those neighborhood fireworks were loud enough that I knew almost to the second when the clock struck midnight. I opened up the bottom window above my bed, and was able to look out and see a pretty impressive show of starbursts and colorful rockets.

The feasting tables - Jay, his son, and Molly
I figured on a quiet New Year's Day and went for an early run. Then about mid-day a  friend texted me to see if I wanted to go out on his boat with him. My response: "A boat ride?!? What kind of sailor could I call myself if I turned down an offer like that?"

Auntie Tonya and Uncle Francis...love Francis' hat!!
I was a little surprised at how excited I was at the prospect of getting out on the water. I mean, I do this for a living, right? What's so special about going for a boat ride? But, BUT, I haven't been on a boat for more than a year and a half, and I guess the separation was more deeply felt than I realized. I was out of the house, headed for Hawaii Kai within about ten minutes.

Scott has a 20 foot, aluminum hulled boat pulled up by his condo in Hawaii Kai. We got the cooler in the boat and headed out. It was a beautiful day, kona winds, not much of a swell. I'd never spent much time in that area of the island and wonder why now, because it is so pretty.

We went out around China Walls and it got a little choppy. I brought a bag of pretzels with me, ya know, just in case I started feeling seasick. Scott kept asking me if I was feeling okay. I was feeling *great*! There was just enough of a chop to be a little bumpy and throw a little spray. We saw a couple of whales and a bunch of dolphins. When we headed back to calmer waters, I jumped it to look around at the coral and reef. It was an unexpected and delightful surprise to get to spend my New Year's Day out on the water.

So here's to a brand new year. May it bring you fullness, happiness and all the fun you can stand. If  it keeps going like it started, I think it's going to be a fantastic ride!