Day Six: Shoot!

Nothing happened today. Or rather, I did nothing today. Or rather, I didn’t do the stuff I usually do, which means starting the day with yoga or power walking. It was late–the bird concerto had already ended–and I was feeling a little out of kilter. So I spent some time on the stretch pole, something that bring balance, centering and calm.

Yesterday had tired me out. Rochi’s work permit finally came last week and that meant we had to go to Social Security and get him a number. That all went well enough except that I handed over the documents and the man behind the glass said they already had his application. Very odd. He spent some time fiddling his keyboard and then wrote the number on a Post It. Perhaps the same fairies who guided my tax return through the Japanese postal system (long story) had followed us to Hawaii. At any rate, that was weird and those thing always leave me feeling a little discombobulated.

Then we finally made a decision about the generator but realized we couldn’t bring it home. The store people would help us load it, but even if the weight didn’t send Six to Honda heaven, we wouldn’t be able to get it out of the car when we got home. So we paid for it and left it at Will Call to be called for once our beefy neighbor gets back from Kona.

So I thought it might be wise to lay low today. I made a turkey and bacon sandwich for lunch and then the mail came. Lo and behold, Rochi’s social security card arrived along with a summons to immigration for the interview where we try to convince them we really have been married for 30 years. I’m not worried about that; we can annoy each other very convincingly, but it will mean a trip to Honolulu. We’d both rather sleep on a cactus than do that, but 1) it should be the last step in making Rochi legal and 2) it will be so very nice to come home again.

I booked our flights and found a decent looking Airbnb then walked down the street to feed our neighbor’s cat and now we’re settled into leftover chicken adobo with avocado sashimi along with salad and a bit of brie.

See? Nothing happened today, not a darned thing.

Day 5: Adventure

This seems like very good advice.

Early last year, I told a friend in Honolulu that we were looking at houses in Puna. He scoffed, saying,”That’s cowboy land. You don’t want to live there.” As things turned out, we did buy a house in Puna but nary a cowboy have we seen.

Little did I know that adventure was lurking just around the corner.

Rochi wanted some straw to mulch the tomatoes and had read about a place called Miranda Country Store, which we found in the business park along Route 11 between Hilo and Kea’au. In my head, a country store recalls bolts of gingham fabric and bags of beans and a big jar of licorice sticks on the counter. But it seemed that ‘business park’ means ‘bunch of warehouses’ and Miranda was as nondescript as the rest. They specialize in Feed, Fencing and Fertilizer, but also sell pet supplies and plastic bulls, not for riding but for roping practice, maybe for rodeos, too. Cool, huh?

When we entered the building, a strong smell tickled my nostrils, familiar but elusive. As my unconscious fiddled with that, I peered around a corner saw bales of hay and straw piled nearly to the ceiling. At times in my life, I have been quite intimate with those smells. I felt a wave of history wash over me in that odd, disconnected way memories pop up, totally out of context, and leave you bobbing somewhere between thrilled and exhausted.

Rochi told the fella in the saggy jeans and cowboy boots that he only needed a little straw, not a whole bale. The fella suggested that we come back after they’d unloaded a delivery and sweep up the bits that end up on the floor. “Just bring a trash bag and a broom and help yourself, but let us know you’re here so we don’t run you over with the forklift.”

The whole exchange was a delight, the smells, the memories, the easy familiarity, the common sense and the proof that there are cowboys out there. I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

Day 4: Generator

Today was a very nice day, or at least it started that way. I had nothing urgent on the docket so I got up slowly then spent an hour working out on the lanai. I had cottage cheese with nectarine for breakfast and then did a crossword puzzle, a clever one with a a clever theme that made me feel clever when I figured it out. There’s nothing quite like a dash of smugness before I’ve finished my coffee. After a bit of editing work, I did some online shopping, most of which was pleasurable, but I did spend over an hour fretting over generators.

One snag to life in paradise, I’ve discovered, is that we are offered the same prices as Mainlanders and shipping is still free with Amazon Prime, but if I order something large or heavy, I am asked to pay a ‘local delivery’ fee, which means the surcharge for flying the thing to the island. (Apparently ‘shipping’ has nothing to do with ships and ‘delivery’ has nothing to do with delivering.) I have found these fees to be upwards of 200% of the cost of the item. This is a little annoying but we live pretty squarely in the middle of nowhere and hurricane season approaches. If the power goes out, we could be stuck but good. Gone are the days of the family happily huddling over a Scrabble board eating beans from a can by candlelight. It is a scientific fact that the 21st century human will quickly turn into butterscotch pudding if deprived of electricity for too long, so I accepted that I should at least attempt to buy a generator.

Given my loathing of power tools, I would rather eat Spam with Gummy Bears while walking barefoot on Legos than buy a generator. On the other hand, the thought of a freezer full of rotting food brings back the memory of The Rotten Chicken https://mouseintokyo.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/rotten-chicken/ and we really don’t want to go there again. It took months to get that smell out of my nose.

I did my homework, learned how many watts it would take to keep the essentials running, which of the chugging monsters would produce enough power without shattering either my eardrums or my bank account. I started with Amazon but soon despaired of ‘local delivery’, so I ventured over to Home Depot only to run into the same roadblock. In desperation, I turned to Walmart but, alas, it was the same. So here I am, tired, a little grumpy, generatorless and with the smell of rotten chicken in my nose again.

Day 3: Tulle

In the costume shop at the University of Hawaii, I spent a couple of hours helping my friend Lee sew a gazillion yards of frou-frou onto a ballgown to be worn by a drag queen in a runway show in Honolulu.

I did this for several reasons. 1) I like Lee. 2) I like outrageous sewing projects. 3) Never in a month of blue moon Sundays would it have occurred to me that I would one day type that sentence, but I am overcome with delight and gratitude that I did.

Part of the process of packing up and leaving Tokyo was taking the time to see friends and say goodbye. We had an open house for work friends, a karaoke afternoon. I made dates for lunches and coffees and walks.

One of the nicest get-togethers was dinner with my twin sister Jay (we have the same birthday). Jay is a fascinating person, a lawyer who has trekked many of the world’s miles and soaked in many of its onsen, done volunteer work in Fukushima, taken pictures that could fill the walls of a museum and its corridors with fascinated visitors.

We chose a quiet restaurant and an early reservation, hoping for some peace, but as it turned out, waves of other diners came and went. The staff had to ask us to leave when the restaurant was closing. Jay has a way of asking questions and listening to responses that makes you feel like you are the most interesting person in the universe and every word that finds its way out of your mouth is important and worth remembering. We sat there for five hours and there was never a lag in the conversation. I felt a heavy pang of sadness when it had to end.

I miss my Tokyo people, the relationships built over months and years, but we’re making new friends here: the costumer, the yoga teacher, the earth mother, the Canadian, the cowboy poet, the Keepers of the Hens and Scrabble experts. They’re pretty great people, all unique and interesting in their own ways.

A really dumb rhyme I learned in Girl Scouts keeps running through my head.

Make new friends but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold

Maybe it’s not so dumb.

Day 2: Time

I woke up this morning and wondered what time it was, so I grabbed my phone off the nightstand, even though there was a clock right next to it, but to see it would have required me to turn my head and that seemed like too much trouble. I knew it was about 7:00 because of the light coming through the window. Also, the second movement of the morning birdsong concerto had begun, so I knew it was well past 6:30.

Getting used to living in this time zone has been harder than I expected. When I lived on the far side of the international date line, I was ahead of most of the world. If I forgot someone’s birthday Stateside, it didn’t matter because they were all a day behind me. But now I’m behind almost the entire world. Only American Samoa (where it’s the same time as the other Samoa but a day earlier–go figure) and Niue are behind me, but I don’t know anybody there so it doesn’t matter if I forget their birthdays.

When clients in Japan give me a deadline, I have to make sure that they’re talking about Tokyo time, not Hawaii time, because Tokyo is 19 hours ahead of us (or six hours ago tomorrow), so if my deadline is Monday at 9:00 a.m. Tokyo time, it’s 3:00 Sunday afternoon for me. And that’s weird. Who ever heard of a Sunday afternoon deadline?

I did find a silver lining, though. Neither Japan nor Hawaii has daylight savings time, so at least the level of confusion is consistent all year. Most of my US people are East Coasters, so the time difference was either 12 or 13 hours, which was confusing enough. Hawaii opted out of DST because we’re so close to the equator that winter and summer are about the same, meaning we can loll around the pool all year. Japan doesn’t have DST because there is concern that its workaholic population will refuse to leave their offices until after sunset. Unfortunately, that means it is sometimes pitch dark by 4:00 in mid-winter. Around mid-January, people start to resemble moles.

This was me in 2016. †††

The six months it took to process the cats and pack up our Tokyo lives so we could move here seemed to drag by like concrete boots nailed to oversized snowshoes, but then suddenly we were here. I told myself I could have six months to get settled and sorted and structured. As of today, we’ve been here ten months and I still don’t have a clue what we’re doing, but I’m starting to feel that’s how it is meant to be. To be honest, I feel like we’re on the world’s longest vacation. To be even more honest, I don’t feel bad about that. At all.

Day 1: Fear

All my life, I have suffered from an irrational fear of lizards. Just a glimpse of one would leave me breathless and quaking and needing to pee. I don’t know why. I don’t remember any childhood lizard-related trauma, like seeing one staring up at me from a bowl of Raisin Bran or dropping onto my head while I played on a seesaw, but these things defy explanation. I also have a fear of long, painted fingernails. This one is not irrational. Read this if you dare. https://mouseintokyo.wordpress.com/?s=fingernails

So when I moved to Hawaii, I knew that I would have to deal with this. It was on my list:

  • Buy a car
  • Figure out how to drive it
  • Get homeowner’s insurance
  • Re-cover the ugly blue chair
  • Learn how to grow papayas
  • Eat a pink hot dog
  • Make peace with lizards

They are everywhere, were here long before I got here, will be here long after I’m gone. So unless I planned to arm myself with smelling salts or live in a bubble, I would have to cope. But I am nothing if not resilient. Each morning as I settled onto my mat for morning yoga, I would feel beady eyes fixed on me and have to force my heart to slow, my breathing to deepen. And it worked. Like so many of life’s little unpleasantries, I found a way to make peace with something I cannot change, should not even mess with. I have even come to see them as kinda cute, as long as they stay out of my Raisin Bran and off my seesaw. The cats have agreed to enforce this policy.

I have a feeling that the Tangerine Tinted Buffoon could learn from this experience.

The Benza

I had a lovely video chat with my dear friend Chris in Tokyo this week. If you have Amazon Prime, please check out The Benza, like it, comment, write a review, be supportive. It’s a collaboration, but Chris’ brainchild and he’s busted his tail to make the series happen and get it noticed, plus it’s very funny, both silly and smart. Bonus: If you look closely, you will see my name in the credits.

While we were talking, Chris asked me what a typical day is like here in paradise and I realized that there’s no such thing. My general rule is yoga and/or power walking on the lanai in the morning but after that Bob’s your uncle. So I have set myself a challenge to write something about some of the extraordinary things that happen here each day this week. Wish me luck!

Jammin’

Facebook reminds me that two years ago today, we went mulberry picking along the Tsurumi River under the brave leadership of the inestimable Rodger Sono.

Well, to be honest, Rochi went mulberry picking. I sat under a tree and rested, but when we got home, I made jam, some of the best jam I have ever tasted.

(Rodger later asked me if I’d taken the time to remove the stems. “Nah. Too much trouble. I just bunged the whole mess into the blender and it came out great.” Trade secret, that.)

Looking back through old Facebook entries trying to find that picture brought back a lot of memories, some nice and some not so nice. It’s funny how we can forget the things we don’t want to remember and focus on the good. At least, I hope that’s where 2017 left me. My PT in Tokyo, Dr. Joey, said he’d seen two types of cancer survivors. Some are bitter and angry and just waiting for recurrence. Others are like me: Let it go. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not everything is small stuff, but even the big stuff is only as big as you let it be, unless it’s a Mack truck about to run you over. That’s pretty big. But don’t waste your time worrying about Mack trucks either.

I watched an old episode of Cheers last night. A guy asks Coach the classic question: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise? And Coach asks: If nobody is there to hear it, how do you know it fell?

Precisely. Why worry about something that doesn’t matter?

Yesterday I made jam again, my first since that day in 2017. This time it’s cranberry rhubarb, made with cranberries from a friend who had to empty out her freezer and fresh rhubarb from KTA supermarket, a rare treat I only found once in all my years in Tokyo. I jazzed it up with ginger and lemon zest and cardamom and cloves because it deserved no less.

I didn’t deserve to get cancer any more than I deserved to survive it, but I look at those two photos of jars of jam, different jars, different contents, different kitchen windows; so very different and yet so very much alike. And I look at me and the two years that passed between those two batches of jam and I wonder. Am I the same? Did the pain and strain and stress and damage make me a better person, a stronger person?

I really hope so.

Little Lessons

There were so many birds chirping in the garden today that I felt like I was in an aviary at a zoo, but not the one at the botanical gardens outside Hilo. That one only encloses a couple of sleepy looking parrots. While I’ve never once been threatened by a wild Hawaiian bird, the parrot enclosure was festooned with dire warnings of fingers being bitten off by foolish visitors proffering treats. So I steered clear of the parrots, not my favorite bird anyway. The rest of the gardens were grand and the wild birds provided enough of a chorus to keep us entertained.

We are in a particularly good mood today since what seemed like a medical crisis turned out to be manageable with a minimum of trauma and that’s always a good thing indeed. Which all goes to show you that things tend to work themselves out and will do so whether we worry about them or not. That’s a comforting thought but often easier in principle than practice. But the happy, twittering birds really help put things in perspective.

Lesson 1: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Lesson 2: Don’t take anyone else too seriously.

Lesson 3: Unripe soursop sauteed in coconut oil and spices makes the world a much better place.

Plate Lunch

One cannot survive on papayas and pineapple alone so we have been exploring food options. We’d both been jonesing for teishoku, the standard Japanese meal of rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables and a main dish, usually grilled fish or meat, maybe a small salad. There was a tiny place in our old neighborhood called Take (Bamboo) run by a husband/wife team. It was top class without being expensive. We miss it.

We had been advised that a fine way to feed oneself in this land of high prices and junk food is the plate lunch. In most cases, they take the form of some sort of meat, a scoop of macaroni salad and a scoop or two of rice, all for a reasonable price. Most restaurants offer them but we have found our comfort zone is best served by drive-ins. For one thing, they’re self-service so tipping is optional and tipping drives Rochi nuts. Also, large quantities of rice are always on tap, enough to fill his hollow Asian legs.

Our current favorite is Blane’s Drive Inn. For one thing, it’s on Waianuenue Avenue, which I am now proud to be able to both pronounce and spell. For another, it’s just down the street from the Hilo Public Library, one of the most comfortable I’ve ever seen, an oasis in the middle of…paradise. OK, that’s an oxymoron but it’s still a very nice library.

Blane’s has good sandwiches, burgers, bentos and of course, plate lunches, all at very reasonable prices. The seating is outdoors, covered and reasonably quiet. Rochi is always pleased with fried eggs and Portuguese sausage. The kalua (pulled) pork is bounteous. The grilled cheese is hot and crisp. (I dare you to find a grilled cheese sandwich in Tokyo.) The fries are first rate.

Just don’t expect too much. And don’t expect any vegetables–you don’t go to MacDonald’s and order filet Mignon. The last time we went there, I tried papaya chicken and discovered that you can’t cook papaya; it turns into flavorless globs of watery kindergarten paste. And the miso soup is awful–more watery kindergarten paste, and my teacher told me not to eat that.

So a plate lunch is filling, reasonably priced and pretty close to home cooking. It just isn’t teishoku. No matter how many times you look at a papaya and say ‘banana’, it will still be a papaya. So the lessons learned are 1) the very best food you can possibly have is the food you cook yourself but 2) don’t cook papaya, 3) if you accept things as they are without expectations, you can’t really be disappointed and 4) ice cream can clear away the memory of just about any culinary disaster.