Sunday, December 28, 2008

The moral of the story is, don't ever, ever travel with me

I am the queen of the travel fuck-up.  If it can go wrong in the course of air travel, I have experienced it.  Massive delays, flight cancellations, missed flights because of gate changes that went unannounced, lost luggage, emergency landings because of equipment failures, you name it.

But I have never experienced anything quite as ridiculous as what caused me to arrive in Denver 12 hours later than I was supposed to.

My flight on Friday night was to leave at 11 pm.  So Jason was going to take me to the airport at around 9-ish, and we recruited a neighbor to come and sit with Zeke, who would have been asleep at that time.  We're sitting around watching the news or something at around 7 when all of a sudden the power went out.  

No biggie.  We were experiencing some weird weather, lightening and such, so power flickers happen.  

About half an hour later, the lights flickered on, but only at about half power.  

"That was probably someone trying to fix the transformer and getting fried," Jason observed.

Then the lights went out for good.  All over the island.

Perhaps you heard about it.  Seeing as how it made the national news and all.

We went outside, where the neighbors were all congregating.

"I bet your flight's cancelled.  Last time this happened, it shut the airport down," said Kyle, one of our neighbors who has the tendency to be the voice of doom.

We turned on the radio, which was broadcasting emergency information.  All grocery stores and convenience stores were closed.  Waikiki was in total gridlock and people were fighting in the street.  Everyone wondered how Obama was doing and whether he had power.

"It's going all Lord of the Flies pretty fast,"  I observed.

Another neighbor walked up and told me that he had heard that the airport was still open and that flights to the mainland were leaving from gates 14, 15, 24, 25 and 28.

"Did you happen to hear whether United flight 42 is still taking off?"  I asked, only half joking.

"Nope, they didn't mention that," he grinned.

After much back and forth, we decided to just go to the airport and try it out.  If in the meantime an announcement was made that flights were cancelled, then we would just turn around.

So Kyle stayed with Zeke and Jason and I left for the airport.  

When we got there, there was some hustle and bustle, though most of the airport was dark.  Jason dropped me off at the United terminal and I got in line.

The line didn't move.  Looking inside, you could see that agents were doing the agricultural check (you can't take plants in or out of the island) and security screenings by hand.  It looked totally chaotic. 

I kept checking the monitors for information, all of which listed my flight as still taking off, still on time.  A couple of other people in line did the same.  We all got friendly.

Finally, at about 10:25, a lady came out and announced that all United flights out had been cancelled.  She was a fellow passenger, and was making the announcement because the United agent inside refused to come out and tell anyone in the long line, which snaked around the building, what was happening.  He told the lady that he figured that if people wanted to find out what was going on, they would eventually make it inside.

Everyone started clamoring around the lone agent inside at the desk.  I called United on my phone, learned that the flight would be taking off at 10:15 the next morning, and called Jason to come and get me.  

A number of people have asked me if I was all pissed off and irate.  The truth is, no.  The one thing about constantly experiencing travel problems is that it's made me very Zen.  

At least I had a bed to sleep in, unlike the poor bastards who had to sleep on the floor of the United check-in area, which, like the rest of the airport, has a roof over it, but is otherwise outside.  

And I'm in Denver, safe and sound now.  I had 7 hours on a plane during which I didn't have to deal with a squirmy toddler.  The flight was largely empty, so I had an entire row to myself to lie down and read an excellent book from cover to cover.  Kathleen picked me up at the airport and we stayed up 'til late shooting the shit and drinking champagne.  

So really, it's all good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

The Shaka Santa display at the Honolulu City Hall

Let me start by saying that I'm not Christian. I'm Jewish. I don't celebrate Christmas, and until I married a man who is (nominally) Anglican -- though he claims to be a Jew by virtue of being married to me -- I never had a Christmas tree or any of the other trappings of Christmas. When I was growing up, Christmas was a day to go out for Chinese food and go to the movies, or do something cool like go into DC when there was no traffic and everyone else was home celebrating and walk around the empty monuments and memorials on the Mall.

Don't get me wrong. I think Christmas lights and Christmas trees are lovely, and when I lived in Atlanta, I had my own Christmas tradition of eating Christmas dinner with Kathleen and her family, but in my own house, I lit my Hannukah menorah and said my Hannukah blessings.

Let me also say that I'm not trying to piss anybody off with this post. I know that many of my readers on the mainland are freezing their bollocks off in unbelievably shitty weather, and I'm not trying to rub it in when I say that Christmas in the tropics just doesn't feel right.

It doesn't feel like Christmas. Even though it's not my holiday, I always liked driving through my old neighborhood and seeing all of the pretty lights up on the trees and bushes, knowing that everyone was snuggling up with sweaters and cups of cocoa by the living room fire.* The Christmas season felt distinct because of the change in the seasons and the discernible onset of winter, even in Atlanta's relatively temperate climate.

In my neighborhood here, you see some half-hearted attempts to put up lights on the front of the garage or around a palm tree or two, but it doesn't work for me. The big blow-up snowman on my neighbor's roof just looks weird when it's 83 degrees out. And because it's pretty much always 83 degrees out, nothing about this time of year feels any different from any other time of year.

So in addition to all of the other positive things about moving to Colorado, it'll be nice to be able to experience the Christmas season and have it feel like Christmas. I'm finding it odd that I feel this way, but there it is.
__________________________
*Of course, being Australian, Jason has never experienced a white/cold Christmas (our first Christmas in Atlanta after getting married he went home to visit relatives), so this feels very normal to him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Togetherness

I read about the study last week finding that watching romantic comedies is bad for your ability to have good romantic relationships (elevated expectations, unreasonable notions about the roles of the sexes, etc.), and then DCup wisely posited that it's all Hugh Grant's fault on her relationship blog, and I got to thinking.

I understand the results of that study, because until I got married (and quite frankly, sometimes I'm not quite sure how I got here) I always felt like the odd man out in not having a strong desire to get married. Before Jason, I'd had boyfriends, and I loved them, but I usually wasn't all that happy being with them. Sometimes it was because we just weren't compatible, but often it was that too much togetherness gets on my nerves. You spend enough time with someone, and that little quirk that you thought was so cute becomes that grating habit that makes you want to stick hot pokers in your eyes. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

My mother used to laugh at me for saying this, but I very firmly believed that the ideal relationship, whether a marriage or some other arrangement, would be with someone that lived across the street, or maybe around the corner. So they were close enough that we could spend time together when we wanted to, but we still had our own places to go back to when we wanted time alone. And importantly, the alone time would be the default position. In other words, you got to be by yourself unless you sought out the other person's company.

And the truth is, I'm happily married, but I still think I was right. I love Jason, but particularly now that we're both unemployed and home all the time, all of this togetherness is driving me a bit nuts. Especially because Jason is a "togetherness" kind of guy.

He wants to do everything together. With him, it's all joint trips to the grocery store, to run errands, to pick up and drop off Zeke, to give Zeke a bath, to go for a surf or for a ride, or exercise (we're doing P90X together right now). I, on the other hand, would much rather do these things on my own, only inviting Jason along if I decided I wanted the company. Going to the grocery store is not a two-person job, in my opinion. If he wants to take Zeke to school, I'd just as soon not go -- why sit in traffic?

The problem for me is that I really need time to myself. Time to read, or surf the internet, or just go through the daily activities of life without anyone else's running commentary. And when I don't get that, I get really grumpy.

Like this past weekend. Every once in a while, I get to a point where just being around my husband is annoying. And that's how I was feeling much of Saturday. It took everything I had not to snap or be mean, because God knows I was feeling mean. And I was wishing that I had the ability to live out my pre-marriage fantasy of having separate (but close) living quarters if I had to put up with being married to someone.

I'm feeling a little better today. Last night we had some friends over for the first night of Hannukah, and it was lovely. And this morning we did our workout together and took Zeke to school and all was well. But I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't happy when Jason informed me that his friend David had called and that he was going mountain biking with him.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We can't seem to get off the topic

Last night we were lying in bed watching The Incredible Hulk (the good one with Edward Norton, not the shitty one with Eric Bana that Ang Lee directed) on DVD. It wasn't my first choice, but Jason is a really good sport when some obscure documentary arrives that I put on the Netflix list 6 months ago and then promptly forgot about. I didn't really get the ending, but it wasn't bad. It's got an impressive cast, in any event.

So at one point in the movie, the Hulk turns back into Edward Norton in this dramatic scene in which you see him lying on his side, naked. The POV* is from the ceiling, so you're looking down at him. And he looks all vulnerable and the lighting has a chiaroscuro effect and it's all very artistic and dramatic.

I turn to Jason and ask, "How come in movies or artsy pictures, when you see a guy naked from the side, you never see his balls hanging down?"

"You forget who you live with, baby. Not everyone is like me or Zeke."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess not."


_____
*POV = "point of view." I speak movie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A history lesson, or, reason 8,492 that I love my mother

I decided to try again with the shopping thing. I put on regular clothes, a bra that works under non-exercise attire, and put a pair of dressy work heels (the one pair I kept) in a little bag to take with me, in aid of the trying-on process. I had a cup of coffee and a protein shake. I was going to head straight to Honolulu, where I could hit the Nordstrom/Macy's/Neiman's trifecta from one parking spot, but then remembered there's another mall on the way that has a Macy's. Why waste gas, right?*

As I drove, I made my (at least) daily phone call to my mother.

"I'm heading back out to the mall."

"I didn't want to say 'I told you so' on your blog."

"It's OK, Mom. You were right."

We talked about shopping a little bit and then moved on to her favorite topic.

"How's Zeke?"

"He's fine. Going through a bit of a cranky phase in which he gets pissed off about something and throws a temper tantrum, but I think it's pre-language frustration over an inability to communicate his needs and wants."

"That's probably accurate. Just be patient with him."

"Oh, I am. I don't get mad, I just ignore it."

"Good call."

"My bigger concern is trying to get him to eat decent food. I've been killing myself trying to figure out a way to get him to take in some green vegetables, but he just spits them out. I've covered them with cheese, paired them with potatoes, tried slathering them with ketchup, nothing works."

Peals of laughter emanate from the phone.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, honey, you're so conscientious. I love you. I don't think I'll remind you of how you ate as a child."

"I know, I was very picky."

"But I didn't bug you about it because you ate enough to sustain yourself, you were happy and healthy, so if you were a little picky, I wasn't going to make a big deal of it."

"I know. I don't worry about his health, though it doesn't seem like a good idea to subsist on cheese slices and Chef Boyardee mini raviolis."

"Remember, honey, the Mongols survived for hundreds of years on nothing but fermented mare's milk and horse meat. He'll be fine."

"You're right, you're right, I know you're right."


I wonder where I can find some fermented mare's milk.

________________________________
*As it turns out, the Macy's doesn't sell suits. Nobody in Hawaii wears suits. There were some random suit separates on the sales racks at Ann Taylor, but nothing that really worked. So fuck it. I'll go shopping in Denver.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I feel like it's something of a personal failing, really

To watch chick flicks or reality TV or to read comic strips like "Cathy" (which I don't, by the way), one would come away with the impression that women and shopping go together like bacon and eggs. In this world that is played out for us in the media and elsewhere, women get together with their friends and meet for coffee and then cheerfully peruse designer handbags and browse racks and racks of blouses and jeans and skirts and accessories, while complaining good-naturedly about their husbands and their busy lives. It's all very fulfilling -- a way to charge your batteries, if you will.

I can say in all honesty that I have never felt that way. In fact, the older I get, the more I absolutely despise shopping to the point that the thought of it makes me tense.

But right now, it cannot be avoided.

I have job interviews in two weeks, one with a fairly buttoned-up firm where the lawyers all wear suits (they didn't get the society-wide memo that we're all going business casual). And I don't have a fucking thing to wear.

You see, when we left Atlanta, I knew I'd be working from home, and that even if I did have to look somewhat professional, a pair of black pants and a black blazer would suffice. So I went through my closets, containing upwards of 25 suits and dresses, and gave them away either to friends or to the Salvation Army. I kept one black pair of pants and one black blazer, neither of which fits me particularly well since having a baby.

Plus, Colorado is cold. The clothes I have are not suitable.

My mother generously offered to buy me a new interview suit. Knowing how I am about shopping (the poor woman has suffered when she wanted to take me shopping and everything she suggested for me was met with, "no, thanks, I don't need it," as I nervously scouted out the nearest exit), she advised me to go when I was well rested and in a good mood.

Today I went up to the local outlet mall go get an outfit for Zeke for his school's Christmas program. After I had picked up what I needed for him, I figured I'd look in some of the grown-up stores for a suit.

This was a mistake.

First of all, I had just come from teaching a Baby Boot Camp class, so I was wearing workout leggings, a heavy sports bra, and running shoes -- not exactly conducive to trying on silky blouses and pinstripe suits. Second of all, I was hungry and a little tired, and thus ill-suited to partake of an activity that I hate under the best of circumstances.

But, I was there, after all, so I figured I may as well take a look.

I went into the Banana Republic store. Nothing terribly suit-y. Lots of separates, but I wanted something conservative. The Saks outlet - nothing. The Michael Kors store - nothing.

The Anne Klein store had a couple of promising options, but on one the button on the jacket was too high and looked weird, and on the other the jacket looked good on the rack but horrible on my rack.

Nothing at Brooks Brothers. Nothing at Ralph Lauren. And the Barney's store made me want to slap everyone in there. All hipper and cooler than thou. Feh.

And of course, this particular outlet mall gets swarms of tourists, all of whom seemed to be prancing around in Ugg boots (paired with miniskirts or shorts) even though it's 83 degrees and sunny. This annoyed me to no end as well.

By the end of it, I was in a fair strop, as my husband likes to say. I was tense and grumpy -- in no shape to shop productively. So I went home.

What's wrong with me? Why am I incapable of enjoying this activity that others of my sex seem to view as a sacrament? i'm not ugly, as far as I can tell. Clothes look OK on me. I don't have body issues. But nonetheless, going to a mall gives me an anxiety attack.

And the worst of it is, I still need to buy a suit. Meaning I've got to fight the traffic and venture into Honolulu to go to Nordstrom or Macy's or Neiman's during the Christmas shopping season.

I have a stomach ache.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A lesson in appreciating what you've got

We've been in Hawaii for almost 2 years. There are things about it I've liked - the weather, the physical beauty, the ability to go to the beach 365 days a year - but mostly I've been wanting to leave. I hate being so isolated from the rest of the world, including what I obnoxiously think of as the "real" America (so very Sarah Palin of me). The expense and time it takes to travel anywhere (other than another Hawaiian island) is depressing. The public schools suck academically, and the local culture promotes an attitude of anti-intellectualism that drives me insane. The cost of living is astronomical. The provincialism and racism makes it hard to make friends. The traffic is horrendous all the time. There's no Target.

But -- and I've said this before -- it is a wonderful place to be unemployed, especially if you can put your kid in daycare. The past two months, Jason hasn't been working and I've been working only sporadically, so we've had lots of time to play.

We go surfing at least 3-4 times a week.

Our tans are fabulous.
(My tan is rockin'. Zeke's, not so much. I may be an unemployed bum, but I'm still a responsible parent with the sunscreen.)

We take naps in the afternoon before going to pick up Zeke at daycare. We've hosted visitors and had time to show them the island.

(With Andrea at Waimanalo Beach)

We've seen Kelly Slater, the best surfer in the world, win the Pipeline Masters surf competition, which is on every surfing fan's list of things to see before you die.


(A competitor takes a steep drop on a huge wave --
the face of that wave is probably 15 feet. Yoiks.)


Basically, it's been an extended vacation in paradise, which few people ever get in their lives.

But we know we have to leave soon, because we can't afford to stay. So I've been job hunting in Denver, and I've got two interviews there at the end of the month. The odds are pretty good that I'll get an offer from at least one of the firms, so the end of our run here is becoming more and more discernable.

And it's making me a bit sad. Living in the cold, having to go to an office and do actual work
every day (*shudder*), giving up all of this fun and relaxation -- it's going to be a shock to the system.

I know that Denver will be a great move for us. I will loooove being close to Kathleen, having Zeke grow up with his cousins, being a short plane ride away from everyone I love.

But the prospect of actually leaving has brought all of the things that have been great about life here into sharp focus. It puts a lump in my throat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, the tables, how they have turned...

This morning Jason and I dropped Zeke off at daycare and drove up to the North Shore to see the final rounds of the Pipeline Masters surf competition. Yes, we're those kinds of assholes. But it's Pipeline Masters! The Wimbledon of surfing!

So as we're driving up, I'm talking to a friend about our little episode at Tracks the other day and also about how Jason is having a bitch of a time getting the local electrician's union to recognize and give him credit for his credentials. He want to take his electrician's license, but his manager couldn't get his act together to certify Jason's hours in time, and then the union gave out bad information about the deadline for filing the application to take the exam, and then of course, there's the question of whether the union will even allow him to sit for the exam because he got his training in Australia instead of in Hawaii. No matter that the training in Australia is a million times harder than what Hawaii requires, or that half the guys Jason works with couldn't find their way out of a hatbox with a map.

My friend laments the crappy attitudes and racism we had to endure while surfing. I point out that racism is affecting Jason's job as well, and that there's a good chance that the electrical board overseeing the exam will be harsher on Jason's application because he's a haole.

My friend responded, "well, then maybe another good thing about going to Colorado is that at least there white people might have a chance to get ahead."

And that, my friends, is a sentence that I never thought I'd hear uttered.

It took me 10 minutes to stop giggling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Localism

Surfing is one of the most joyful sports I've ever done. There is something quite magical about being out in the water on a beautiful day, getting exercise as you paddle around, keeping an eye on the peaks approaching from the horizon, and finally being in the right position to catch the wave and ride it.* And it's a very zen experience, and one which focuses your mind utterly on the task at hand. When you're paddling for a wave, all you're thinking about is your paddle strokes and whether the wave has "caught" the board and popping up in the right place and angling the board to take it down the line and on and on.

Plus, if it's a decent size wave, i.e., as tall as I am, like the waves I was trying to catch yesterday, there's always the prospect of being out of position and having large, heavy waves crash on your head and hold you down, or being on the wave, only to have the nose of the board shoot down into the water, sending you tumbling while heavy waves crash on your head and hold you down. Surfing is fun, but there are many ways to get hurt, so you need to focus.

Which is why it sucks when localism rears it's ugly head.

Localism is the tendency of locals to be aggressively territorial about a particular wave or break. Most of the time, if you practice the rules of surf etiquette, i.e., yield the right of way to the person already on the wave, don't sit out waiting for a wave in a spot that will nose in on someone else also sitting nearby, etc., you'll be OK. Respect and the aloha spirit will win the day.

But sometimes not.

Last week a couple of huge swells came in from the north, creating massive waves on the North Shore (one day the waves were 30 feet at Sunset Beach) and smaller, ideal conditions on the west side of the island, which gets "wraparound" swell. So Jason and I headed out to a break on the west side called "Tracks" where we've had fun in the past.

We weren't the only ones with that idea. There were at least 75 people out in the water, all locals except for one lonely haole woman sitting out behind the waves. I was instantly intimidated, and vowed to myself to stay out of everybody's way, hang back, and only catch a wave if I was truly and indisputably the only one in position to catch it.

So I paddled out and sat behind the waves, watching where they were breaking and where people were positioning themselves to catch them, smiling at people when eye contact was made, and generally doing my damndest to avoid offending anyone. A couple of times I tried to go for a wave, but was out of position and didn't catch it.

Turns out, this wasn't just bad luck on my part. It was a deliberate effort by the locals to block me off the waves. I discovered this in two ways. First, I finally, finally was in perfect position to catch a gorgeous wave, about 5 feet (or almost as big as me). I had it, I was on it, and I was about to pop up and ride it. When all of a sudden, this little shithead kid races around me and dropped in on me, i.e., cut in front of me on the wave so that I had to pull off to avoid hitting him. As I said, "heeeeey!" really loudly at him, he looked back at me and laughed. Fucker.

The next wave I tried to catch I was out of position and got pounded, so I decided to call it a day and head back to the beach. Jason stayed out to try to surf some more.

As he paddled around, he overheard about 4 guys talking to each other and conspiring to block his access to waves or drop in on him when he caught one. And that other lonely haole girl that was there? They were doing the same to her. So he finally gave up and we went home.

It was one of the most frustrating surfing experiences I've ever had, and the first one that left me so angry that I would wake up in the middle of the night stewing about it. And not stewing as in, oh, I should have said something or done something. There's nothing to say or do. I doubt anyone would have laid a hand on me if I had raised a stink, but they definitely would have gotten in my face and tried to scare me, and they definitely would have laid a hand on Jason, so it's not worth it to start something.

It's more stewing of the, surfing is supposed to be so much fun, there are waves enough for everyone, why can't people just practice this aloha spirit you hear tell about so much in Hawaii? Why the bullshit aggression? And for God's sake, there's enough going on in your head when you surf without having to worry about getting the shit kicked out of you because some aggro punk doesn't like the color of your skin.

Enough time has passed that I've calmed down about it, but that day, I was thinking that Hawaii would be really great without most of the Hawaiians. I know I sound like an asshole, but it's how this place makes you feel sometimes.


*Much of the pleasure for me is attributed to being out in the sun and warm water -- I don't get the guys who put on 7 mm wetsuits with booties and hoods to surf dark, angry looking waves in places like Iceland or wherever. Though my brother has to suit up to surf in New Hampshire, and I guess if it's all you've got, you do what you've got to do. But the pros who travel to places in northern Europe to surf in the freezing cold are nuts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Balls

About 45 minutes after Zeke was born, he was whisked away to the nursery to be cleaned up and weighed and whatever else they do to newborn babies. Having gone through 29 hours of labor, including 4 hours of pushing, I was, to be honest, happy to have some time to get some rest. Jason stayed with me for a little while in the room, but was antsy to see his boy, so he went down to the nursery.

A while later he came back, all excited.

"What's up?" I asked.

"He's got the biggest balls of any kid down there!" Jason said proudly.

"That's nice," I responded. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Not much has changed.

I don't mean that I go around comparing the size of my son's balls to those of his contemporaries. But from time to time, his balls, and balls in general, seem to occupy an inordinate amount of focus.

My good friend Andrea came to visit this past weekend. We had a wonderful time, relaxing, going to the beach, surfing, driving around the island. She's an incredibly easy guest -- smart, funny, fun to talk to, interesting, and unfazed by the bawdy conversation that seemed to predominate.

While we were at the beach this past Sunday, I let Zeke run around naked because, really, why not? And after playing and wearing himself out, he fell asleep in the sand in the perfect baby pose: head down, mouth open and drooling (and covered with sand), ass up in the air. Which meant that everyone around us who turned over on their towels found themselves face to face with a pair of low-hanging baby balls.

Andrea took this picture, and tried to just make it a cute baby butt shot, without all the spare elbow skin hanging down. But there was no way to avoid it. They were just .... there. We looked at this picture alot this weekend, and talked about it even more.

"I was really trying to keep them out of the picture," Andrea lamented. "I just couldn't get the right angle."

"He's an Armstrong, mate," Jason explained. "He's all stones."

I guess I should be proud?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three years ago today...


Hard to believe it's been three years. So much has happened, and is about to happen. The wedding feels like forever ago. But I know this: I love my husband as much as I ever did, and have more fun with him every day than I would have thought possible. Marriage can be tough and frustrating, but also full of joy and adventure. I am happy with my choice and look forward to the rest of our life together.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Saga Continues

Remember Next Door Neighbor? You know, the one who, from the day we moved in, started lecturing me about the trees in my yard? The one involved in the Great Plant Massacre, in which she called the police after Jason cut down a little bush in our yard?

Yeah, her.

Well, in case you were wondering, she's still crazy.

The latest is that as far as we can tell, she's trying to destroy the plants on our side of the yard, all while falsely accusing us of trying to kill them. A couple of weeks ago, Jason caught her trying to coax her dog to pee on our bushes. Then one of the bushes in the little yard area between our houses mysteriously shriveled up and died within the span of a week, as if someone had poured bleach or gasoline on it.

Then other plants started looking all mangled, as if someone stepped on them.

Meanwhile, while we were away in DC for Thanksgiving, and thus physically incapable of doing her plants any harm (except maybe by telekenesis, a power that neither Jason nor I possess, as far as I know), she reported us to the community association manager, alleging that we were trying to sabotage her. She also bitched about us to neighbors, with whom we happen to be good friends.

Jason is furious, and makes a point of loudly disparaging her whenever we pass her house. I find the whole thing both baffling and slightly amusing. Honestly, who calls the police over...plants? Plants that, incidentally, aren't even hers. Technically, they belong to the condo association.

And moreover, who gives a fuck? I honestly don't care enough about this woman to go through the effort of messing with her plants. I've got enough shit going on in my life.

Plus, she's trying to sell her house. I don't like living next door to her. Ergo, it would be ridiculous of me to do anything that would jeopardize her ability to move away from here, and quickly.

Am I missing something? Is this how people behave? Are these the sagas that go on in other parts of the world? Who has time for this shit?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sometimes it's a good idea to just admire from the beach

(A surfer rides a 25 foot wave on the North Shore, December 2, 2008 -- photo taken by Bruce Asato for the Honolulu Advertiser)

There are huge swells coming from the north, so the surf on the North Shore of Oahu is firing. Like, over 25 feet in some spots. Around here, big swell is a big deal. People head up north just to look at the waves, and surfers take great pride in saying they rode huge waves. But in all of the hullabahoo, sometimes we forget how dangerous those waves can be.

One of the surf spots that Jason and I like to surf is a point on the North Shore that usually doesn't get huge when it's really big elsewhere on that side of the island. Something to do with the way the current wraps around a particular point, the deep channels nearby, whatever. So yesterday we figured we'd go up and check out the huge waves, and then maybe look at our favorite spot to see if we could handle going in.

When we got there, I took one look at the waves and knew it was more than I'd be able to handle. Usually the waves there are gentle peaks that crumble at the top rather than curl over in a heavy barrel. Also, they tend to break to the left, which is my preferred route, being a goofy-foot. But yesterday, they were breaking to the right, and were huge and heavy. There was also an obvious strong rip current that looked incredibly difficult to battle. Plus, the only waves that were really breaking with any consistency were way out off the back of the reef, and they were easily double-overhead or more, i.e., 12-15 feet. Way beyond my level.

(That's a huge wave called Avalanche breaking out in the distance. If you click on the picture, it'll blow up to a large image, and you should be able to see surfers towing in to the wave. It's about 20 feet high)

I told Jason I'd hang on the beach. He decided to paddle out and give it a shot.

The surf was so rough that it was difficult to see the surfers out in the water. So I tried walking around to the tip of the point to see if I could see Jason. I couldn't see him, so after about 15 minutes I made my way back to the beach to wait for Jason to come in. As I was walking back, I saw him standing on the shore, with half a board in his hand.

It took him at least 15 minutes of hard paddling to get out to the waves -- usually it takes about 3. Then before he could even catch a wave, he got caught inside a set of breaking waves, and got pounded. His board, which is a 10 foot epoxy longboard that floats like a barge, got pushed down into the water and started to crease. Jason was getting held down, and worried that his leash would snap, leaving him out in the crazy surf with nothing to hold onto, so he wrapped his arms around the board in a bear hug and just tried to hang on for dear life.

Another big wave broke over him, pushing him and the board down into the water again. He felt the board flex and then snap in two, and the top part of it shot away from him, scraping the hell out of his arm in the process. He managed to "ride" the back of the board back into shore. We later found the top of the board about 500 yards down the beach.

He was pissed that his favorite board broke. He was bummed that he had to go through all of that tumult, and didn't even get to ride a wave. But mostly, he was happy to be alive.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I consider it something of a betrayal. Don't ask me why.


Most Americans' exposure to vegemite extends no further than having a vague recollection of that Men At Work song that was big sometime around when I was in 9th grade. We sang along to the "she just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich" line, thinking it sounded kind of funny, but having no idea what the hell a vegemite sandwich actually is.

To quote Inigo, "let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

Vegemite is a brown paste that is made from yeast extract. I'm not quite sure who first had the idea to spread it on bread or crackers, but it's huge in Australia, something of a cultural icon.

It is unquestionably an acquired taste, i.e., if you don't acquire it before you're old enough to know better, you will never, ever think it tastes good.

I first tasted vegemite when my mom and I took a trip to Australia back in 2001, while she was stationed in Papua New Guinea. With a "when in Rome" attitude, one morning I gamely spread it on my breakfast toast.

To say it tastes like salty toe-jam would be overly generous. (And don't ask me how I know what toe-jam tastes like. Some things you can just imagine, OK?)

But, notwithstanding my distaste for the stuff, I abhor people who feel the need to comment negatively on what other people eat. There's nothing ruder than when someone takes a bite of something they love, only to have someone else say, "Eeeeew! How can you put that in your mouth?? That's DISGUSTING!"

So, when I married an Aussie, I made a point of scouring the various grocery stores in Atlanta until I found one that sold vegemite, so that I could keep Jason supplied with the stuff of his homeland. When he was working on a job that required him to get up crazy early and leave the house by 5 a.m., I got up with him and while he was showering and dressing, made him coffee and vegemite toast to take in the car.

Jason has looked forward to the day when he could introduce Zeke to vegemite. I wrinkled my note at the thought of it, but couldn't voice any legitimate objections. It's perfectly healthy stuff, loaded with B vitamins. But still, in my mind, Zeke is American. Self-respecting Americans don't eat vegemite.

Until now.

This morning before school, I was making some cinnamon toast for Zeke's breakfast. Jason said, "I think I'll let him try some vegemite toast." So I cut the piece of toasted bread in half. Jason spread his side with butter and vegemite, and I spread my side with butter and cinnamon sugar.


Zeke chowed down on all of it, the little freak.

Monday, December 01, 2008

At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if he developed some bizarre flesh-eating disease

These are the times that try a mother's soul.

In the past week and a half, while dealing with the stress of traveling across the world for the holidays, and everything that that entails -- jet lag, being around lots and lots of unfamiliar people, dealing with cold for the first time in his young life -- my poor son has been afflicted with a veritable grand slam of baby maladies.

An ear infection. An inflamed, painful skin infection on his stomach. A bronchial virus. And the real kicker -- a horrible diaper rash that developed suddenly and spread like wildfire over his delicate loins, making every diaper change agonizingly painful and uncomfortable. The rash was exacerbated by persistent runny poops, undoubtedly brought on by insane doses of antibiotics to treat his infections, which also created, notwithstanding my efforts to spike his bottle with probiotics, the perfect conditions for the growth of yeast.

So everything is cleared up now, except that my little monkey is now battling an aggressive yeast infection that is now covering not only his penis, but all of the surrounding skin. He looks like he's got mange all over his balls.

I am not a nervous parent, as anyone who reads this blog understands. But having a sick baby, particularly where the hits just seem to keep coming, is getting me down. I feel like I did something wrong, or didn't take care of him properly, or was somehow negligent. Logically, I know that it's not my fault. As soon as there was a discernible problem, I took him to the doctor, including multiple visits to the emergency room when I couldn't get to my regular pediatrician in a timely manner. But he's so helpless, I feel responsible for every bad thing that happens to him.

Luckily, I can provide the one remedy that every giver of solicited or unsolicited advice has offered over the past number of days: get him to the beach, and get him naked.