- What’s an issue you wish more people knew about?
Most educated people have some understanding about the Japanese American relocation camps in World War II, but history is about people, and I wish more of my educated friends would take time to hear the stories of the people who were put there. At the very least, I’d appreciate a cursory reading of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar or Cynthia Kadohata’s Weedflower.
- When were you last outraged about something?
I’m old now, and one of the symptoms of my old age is that I’m a lot more even-keeled than I once was. Outrage is almost incomprehensible to me now. I think the closest I’ve gotten was the gridlock in Congress a few years ago.
- When you were a kid, what was the first news story to make an impression on you?
I was in fifth grade when the hostages were taken in the American embassy in Tehran. That was the first story I followed on a day-to-day basis. I learned a lot about the way the world works that year, most of it unpleasant.
- What’s getting far too much media attention lately?
Probably the presidential election. It’s too early.
- What’s a consumer product you’d recommend to others?
I picked up a cold last weekend and have been locked up in my cave all week. This tea, which I picked up at the Korean market in my neighborhood a few months ago, has been heavenly. It’s honey-ginger tea, which is made easily enough from its scratch ingredients, but I like this jarred variety quite a bit. A few teaspoons of the stuff in the jar and a large mug of very hot water, and I’m kind of comfy for at least twenty minutes.
I am no fan of melons, honeydew or any other. However, I was at a hotpot restaurant with friends last year and watermelon juice was on the menu, and it was one of the tastiest, most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had. I’ve since made it at home. So I am rethinking my feelings about watermelon, which I still don’t really like. Yeah, I know that doesn’t make any since since watermelon juice is basically pureed watermelon with a little bit of sugar and maybe some lime juice.
Very clean since I just washed my feet, but slightly sore because I went for a very long (like, four hours in duration) walk this evening. Now that I’m mostly working in a cafe close to home, I don’t get a lot of walking done in the normal course of the day, as I used to when I worked in a Chinatown office. Now I have to take myself on actual walks.
When my friend Arjay took a semester off while we were in college, I borrowed his moped. If you’ve never ridden a moped, you should give it a try. It’s unbelievable fun. And you’d think that it would stop being so after you got used to it, but it never did. Later, when I first got out of college and couldn’t afford a car, I bought a used moped and drove that for about a year. I would often just go for rides, especially late at night and early-early in the morning, because it was a fun way to get fresh air and get some thinking done. I know why motorcyclists love their wheels so much, and I have wanted to own a motorcycle ever since my moped experience in college.
I do a lot of swimming in the ocean, and of course there are sharks out there and down there, but I never think about them, so they don’t really frighten me. What really frightens me are box jellyfish, which invade Oahu’s south shores every month, ten days after the full moon. I keep an eye on the calendar so I know when jellyfish days are, but sometimes I forget, and once you get it into your head that you don’t know whether the day you’re in the water is a jellyfish day or not, all the fun is taken from the experience, and you’re kind of in a hurry to get out. The lifeguards put out warning signs, but I’m usually in the water hours before the lifeguards are on duty. *shudder*
If it’s on the menu, I get pretty excited about a good Cobb salad. Those hard-boiled eggs! Yum. However, few dining experiences rival a good Caesar Salad, prepared at your table, by someone who knows what he or she is doing. Oh my goodness. I have a good Caesear Salad story to tell about when I was at UH-Hilo, but I’m saving that for another time, so I’ll just say now that R is the pickiest eater I know, and she doesn’t like dressed salads. Since you normally have to have two orders for a table-made Caesar, in all the years we dined out together, I never got to order it, and it’s one of the very few complaints I ever had about her particular eating preferences. I still don’t think I’ve ever had one while on a date. That might be a good goal for next year.
Friday 5: La La La La La La La
What’s your favorite song about a specific city?
I live in one of those places it’s almost impossible not to write about, whether you are a novelist, a journalist, a musician, or a poet. Mark Twain did it. Robert Louis Stevenson did it. Heck, Cameron Crowe recently did it. And if you want to know why my favorite of them all is Olomana’s “Ku‘u Home o Kahalu‘u,” just click to see this on YouTube and read the comments section. Just about every comment is something along the lines of, “I’m sitting here in [name of some place outside Hawaii], tears in my eyes as I remember home.” Runner up: “Waialua Sky” by the Fabulous Krush.
What’s your favorite song about a real, historical figure?
Without settling on one, it’s almost surely a song about Jesus, but I feel that may be cheating a little. So how about “James Dean” by the Eagles? You know what would be funny? If I said Ringo Starr’s “Liverpool 8,” which is of course a song about himself.
What are your favorite song and favorite group (or solo artist) from the classic Motown era?
Oh look. Another chance for me to say how much I just don’t like Diana Ross and/or the Supremes. Something about Ross’s voice just rubs me completely the wrong way. My favorite voice in all of the classic Motown era is Smokey Robinson’s, but my favorite musician of them all is Marvin Gaye. And my favorite song is “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by the Temptations.
What’s your favorite song by a musician (or band) you really dislike?
It’s got to be “Faith” by George Michael. That’s just a great song.
What’s your favorite song with the word “song” in its title?
The latest iTunes update wiped out about 80% of my library. The songs are still there in the media directory, but they’re not listed in the library, so I’m using that as an excuse to do something I’ve needed to do for a long time: go through the whole digital library, artist by artist and album by album and make sure things are indexed correctly, titled correctly, categorized correctly, and dated correctly. It’s long, slow, fantastically fun work (most of the time–I could do without taking the track numbers out of song titles one at a time; remember the early days of iTunes when we sometimes had to do that?), and I’m still on The Bird and the Bee, so with 24 letters of the alphabet left to re-add, I’m going to pick something from memory, and the winner is Extreme’s “Song for Love,” from the Extreme II: Pornograffiti album, one of my twenty favorite albums of all time. Nuno Bettencourt’s guitar solo beginning at around 3:13 is a thing of beauty, just a beautiful combination of tone, dexterity, melody, and feel. Oh, and Cherone’s vocal line in that section beginning at 4:20 is one of the highlights of the album. It’s something of a concept album, and this song is second-to-last, kind of bringing everything to a closing, positive, uplifting note, so in context the vocals that end this song are just about perfect. I know I’ve said this before, but Gary Cherone should have been the high point of Van Halen’s history. The band just forgot how to write good songs for that one album; if they’d worked it out, that would maybe have been the greatest American band ever, instead of the greatest American band ever being Van Halen with Sammy Hagar.
I’m listening to Katy Perry as I write this. I’ve never actively listened to her, ‘though I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard from her incidentally, like when she was on SNL and at this year’s Super Bowl. She’s no Taylor, but she’s still pretty good.
So I have a lot of stuff to write about. I’m going to start with a few recent things and hopefully work my way backward.First, work. For the past fourteen months, I’ve been writing web content for an executive search firm (I’ve been told we don’t like the term “headhunter”). It started with one or two articles per month, but by last January, we were up to one article a week, and since July, it’s been two articles per week on topics like team-building, management, business travel, and work-life balance. These topics are well outside my realm, and at first writing the articles was a real challenge, but I am getting more comfortable with the topics, even writing the occasional piece with no research, just using my own experience and observations and applying them to a business setting. My relationship with the search firm has been great, and we’ve been talking about my eventually working for them full time. In the meantime, they’ve asked me to manage their social media presence and to edit some existing content for a website revamp. I’m excited about the possibilities, even though I never really envisioned this kind of work for myself. It can be time-consuming, but I get to set my own hours and work from home. Now that I’ve experienced this kind of work (and that was a huge adjustment), I don’t know if I can go back to having a job where I have to be somewhere specific at specific times. My dream, of course, is to make my living on my writing (preferably as a novelist), and while this isn’t quite that, it’s a step in that direction.
Then another job fell into my lap. I was about to leave my job at the community college (more about that later) and got a call from the COO of a local civil engineering firm. He’d been told about me by a mutual acquaintance, and he said he’d been looking for someone with my skillset. I said I wasn’t looking for a new gig, but he encouraged me to come in for an informal meeting with him and the marketing head, just so I could see what they’re about. This is the middle of the second week of January.I went in, and I sort of fell in love with the place as soon as I got off the elevator. The entire fifth floor of a bank building in Honolulu’s Chinatown is the company’s headquarters, and the entire space is painted bright yellow and blue with swirls, dots, and cool words. Even the carpet is painted. There are potted plants, tiki torches, and feng shui water fountains all over, and while the other edges of the space are lined with glass-walled offices, the rest of the space is wide open, with not a single cubicle.
Most importantly, the people were super super super nice. The work was appealing (if also outside my realm), but it was the people (and their desire to work with me) that had me back two days later for a formal interview. This was Friday the 16th.On Monday the 19th, I was on the job. They said they really wanted me full time, but they were willing to meet me where I could meet them, with part-time hours plus health insurance. My official title is “publications coordinator” and my supervisor is the marketing head, who’s been really, really good to work with.
The biggest drawback is that now I have somewhere I have to be at a certain time five days per week, which is not what I was looking for. But I need money for wheels, and this will help me get there. Plus, until I’m a full-time employee for the search firm, I don’t have a steady income from them, and I don’t have any security. If that ends up not working out, I have this to turn to, which I have to say wouldn’t be too bad.One option, which occurred to me early, was to take the full-time (pretty generous) salary from the engineers and do the search firm part time. I didn’t go this way for two reasons. First, I feel committed to the search firm, at least for the next six months. I said I’d be available for them and they’ve been nothing but nice to me. The second reason is something I couldn’t put my finger on until a conversation with the person who has the other part-time hours in my position. She’s also a writer (but much, much, much younger than me!), and she recently quit at the engineering firm to pursue other work plus her writing. While we shared with each other our hope for writing careers, I realized the other reason I’m not embracing the engineers full time is that it leads me further away from the dream. The search firm leads me closer. At this stage of my life, I’m kind of lucky (if you look at it this way) not to have a mortgage or family. I can handle a few years of poverty, if it comes to it, in pursuit of the dream. And while working for the search firm probably won’t mean poverty, in the long run I don’t think it will pay me what the engineers will pay me.
I’ll take the slightly lower pay if it means working at cafes, setting my hours, and having the flexibility to work on my own writing.
So that’s what I’m up to now, with a full time gig, a part time gig, and almost no time for other things in my life. Things should settle down once I finish training. I’ve been told I’d have a little more flexibility once I know the job, including working remotely once or maybe twice a week. That would be swell.
I still haven’t told the story of how I got from teaching to here, so I’ll do that sometime in the next whenever.
- What’s something in your life that’s on the fritz?
Ah man. My washer just went on the fritz last night. This is going to make things very difficult for me until I get some wheels. Ugh!
- What have you recently handled with kid gloves?
Almost any time I have to critique someone’s writing, if it’s not someone I know well, I have to be very gentle. Since that’s part of the new part-time gig, I do it every day. The people whose work I have to edit have been great, though, telling me they appreciate the way I suggest edits.
- On what task do you continue to plug away?
I recently reconvened the cleaning of the house, spending an hour or two every night, and the results have been dramatic and pleasing. I have a stairway that goes nowhere (my landlord lives upstairs, but we keep the door at the top of the stairs locked), which I’ve used as storage since I first moved here. I have cinderblock bookshelves going all the way up, an arrangement that works well and even looks good, but I’ve lately used the rest of the space just to throw things I want to deal with later. Going through that stuff and (mostly) throwing it all out has been like therapy. My idea is to get that whole area straightened out so I can open up the walk-in closet and go through the stuff I threw in there when I first moved here. Yeah. Then I can use that space for real storage, instead of just the holding area for the crap that I was eventually going to throw out anyway. Plugging away.
- This past week, what’s something you’ve sailed through?
The business articles have been remarkably smooth sailing. I did the prepping and outlining the nights before they were due, then spent just an hour or so the morning of the deadline, and it’s been smooth, quick, and pretty easy. Thank goodness. It doesn’t always work out that way.
- What have you had to hold your horses on, and what’s the reason?
My parents gave me enough money this Christmas to get myself a small TV. The one I’ve been watching, which I bought in 1994 when I was in college, is on its last legs. So I got a nice 32-inch LED at Costco a week after my birthday (three weeks ago) and it’s still in the box. Part of it has been that I’ve been so busy with the two jobs. The other part is that I don’t feel right setting it up until I get a certain portion of my house clean, which is another reason I’ve been plugging away at that task. I hoped to have it set up before the weekend, but that’s not going to happen, seeing as how the weekend is now upon us. Perhaps by Monday.
Ugh. Nearly three in the morning now. I need sleep. Next time: my latest obsessions, and some movie catchup.
I’m sitting in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in a space that once, in my glorious youth, housed one of the best standalone movie theaters in town. It was as close as you could get to all the good stuff in town without going into Waikiki, which most of us who live here generally try to avoid. When the big movies opened on this island, they opened in Waikiki or at one of the two nearby standalones, and this was the better (less storied) theater. Smaller, but not a zoo. I saw Back to the Future in the theater that used to be right where I’m having a glass of iced tea. I work here a lot lately, and my writing partner and I often meet here to go over our work (or just write), and it always makes me a little wistful.
My uncle is visiting for the week, and tonight is the big dinner with the whole family, which is basically my parents, my sister, her two kids, my uncle, and me. We used to be a huge family, but that’s changed with this current generation. Sorry, mom and dad.
My mom made reservations at a hotel restaurant. I generally like hotel restaurants, as overpriced as they usually are, and I’ve been to this one as a chaperone for a school event, and it’s right in the area where I’ve been spending my working hours lately, so that’s convenient. My parents offered to pick me up at home (I live between their house and the hotel) but I reminded them that I usually work in cafes now, so I’d just meet them there.
Doing the Friday 5 this week, or as much as I can get in before I have to head over there.
- What’s a song that reminds you of your parents?
This one’s a challenge because my mother’s from Japan, and while she likes a lot of popular, older American songs, they tend to be of the Perry Como variety, while my father is fonder of the pre-British-Invasion stuff like the Four Seasons and the Fifth Dimension. So a song that reminds me of my mom is “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet” (You know the one: “What is a youth? Impetuous fire! What is a maid? Ice and desire…). A song that always reminds me of my dad is just about anything Fifth Dimension, especially “Age of Aquarius.” A song that reminds me of both is perhaps “Cupid,” a song I once had a lengthy argument with them about, while in the car on a late-night ride home. It was the number one song on pop radio in Hawaii at the time, and I expressed surprise when my dad hummed along with it when it came on the radio. My mom thought I was crazy for insisting it was a new song; I said this had to be a new version of some old song they knew, but they insisted that it was exactly the song they knew. They turned out to be right.
- What’s a song that makes you think of food?
“Eat It” by Weird Al comes to mind, but “That’s Amore” always makes me want to eat pizza.
- What’s a memorable song from a movie soundtrack?
Oh, man. There are so many. But one recent extremely memorable song is REO Speedwagon’s “Live Every Moment,” which plays over the closing credits of Grown Ups 2, which I have reviewed in this space and wasn’t a very good film at all. But it sounded to my ears like a classic REO rocker, and for some reason I’d never heard it! It’s on the same album as “One Lonely Night,” a song I hate. It’s an excellent, excellent choice for the closing credits, one that I think says something about Adam Sandler’s mindset in making the movie. I had a similar experience with Soul Asylum’s “Misery,” which plays over the closing credits of Clerks 2, another movie that’s not very good even though I love Kevin Smith. In fact, the choice of this song to play over those credits is genius, and it helps me see the film as something other than what I think most people see. I plan to write an essay on this someday, so enough on that for now.
- What was your favorite song from 2014?
I have a whole post dedicated to this topic coming up soon, but I’ll spoil the list and say “Invisible” by U2 is easily the best song of the year, but there are a couple of great songs off the new Foo Fighters album totally worth several spins.
- What are your favorite songs for when you’re behind the wheel?
If it’s a long drive, “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band. I’m also fond of “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, “Roll with the Changes” by REO Speedwagon, “Come Sail Away” by Styx, “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits, and almost anything by the Eagles.
Okay. It’s 5:14 and the reservation is for 5:30, so I’d better get going.
- You are awake at 2:30 in the morning on a work night (or school night). What is the most likely reason?
Well, thanks to increased work on job 2 (which is now job 1), I’m usually up at that hour because I’m working. I kind of set my own schedule, and I’m finding that I work best in the wee hours. If I’m not awake because of that, I’m probably awake because I’m old now and I have to get up and pee two or three times a night.
- Time Magazine says you are a candidate for 2014’s Person of the Year. What is the most likely reason?
For singlehandedly keeping the local Starbucks in business, for my dominance in Scramble with Friends, for smiling at dogs and strangers, and for always making sure the toilet seat is clean and dry in a cafe restroom for whoever uses it after me.
- Your hometown is naming a geographical or civil landmark after you, as in Mary’s Creek or David’s Corner. What is the most likely name of this spot?
Dwyer’s Hill is steep incline about forty yards in length, right in front of my house. I often walk up and down it for an hour or so, listening to podcasts late at night. I don’t have a treadmill and don’t really want one, so I use this hill the way I would use a treadmill if I had one.
- Your best friend from high school calls to ask a favor. What is the most likely nature of the favor?
He hasn’t spoken to me in a while; I pissed him off somehow and don’t really know what I did, but I don’t doubt that it was highly offensive. I’m hoping the favor would be to help him, perhaps with some editing for something important, like wedding vows or maybe a paper for some class he’s taking. But most likely it would be not to come to one of the class reunion events (my class always plans a whole weekend’s worth of get-togethers to make it worthwhile for those who come home from abroad), so he could come and see everyone without having to deal with me.
- Twenty-four hours from now, you’ve got a great smile on your face. What is the most likely reason for this smile?
That would be three in the morning Saturday night. I’m going to say it’s because I’m dreaming of the Raiders beating the Chiefs in a few hours, or maybe I’m dreaming of Julia Stiles buying me a cup of coffee so she can get to know me better.
I should really do the Friday 5 more often. Writing the questions every week isn’t super super super hard, but it is quite a task to try and keep the material fresh.