I Had This Dream Last Night

I was in college. I went over to the off-campus dorm where R was living, but it was a little early, so I hung out on the porch, waiting for the ladies inside to get up and start having breakfast. I saw this can of Diet Pepsi in the porch fridge, so I helped myself to it, popping the top and peeling back the tab. It didn’t occur to me that the pop-top was the old, ring-and-tongue pop-top and therefore protecting the contents of a very old can of soda. I took two swallows and almost threw up. What was this old can of soda doing in the fridge?

There was some stirring inside, so I knocked on the door and was let in by one of the ladies. Everyone there knew me, so it wasn’t weird that I’d come by for breakfast.

Actually, I’d come to bring breakfast for R. I had created in my kitchen a kind of blended granola breakfast — homemade granola put in a blender, then placed into a mug with cold milk. It was delicious, and I knew R would like it. So I had this plastic zippered bag filled with my special granola, I used the dorm kitchen’s blender, and prepared two mugs of the breakfast and took them into the dining room. There was a very large, round table there, with ten to twelve girls sitting about it in various stages of wakefulness. R seemed not to notice my presence, or she was ignoring me. I put my two mugs on the table in front of me and started eating from one.

One of R’s housemates asked me what was in the mug, so I showed her, and she was really interested in it. “May I try some?” she asked. I pointed to the mug I’d intended for R. This other girl just loved it. In fact, she loved it a bit too much — I mean, it was good, but it wasn’t that good. She kept complimenting my skills and creativity, and asked if I could show her how to make it. I was still trying to get R’s attention, but when the girl sitting next to me (a very pretty woman with wavy black hair and thin fingers) touched my hand and asked if I’d make her another mug, I suddenly found myself distracted.

We went into the kitchen, where I showed her how I blended the granola in the blender, and then took chairs in the kitchen and enjoyed the rest of our breakfast in there.

Then I woke up.

Good thing, too, because I think this dream might have turned into one of those dreams had I not been awakened by a loud noise outside. As it was, I was pretty dang turned on, partially in love with this girl who I’m sure is not someone I know in real life.

So, these things have been stressing me out a lately: work (which I get ready for every morning now with too much Diet Pepsi because I’ve been up too late worrying about school), school, R, my love life, and money. Money is the only thing not represented in this dream. I don’t think there’s any kind of meaning on this dream; rather, I think my brain was just sorting through it all, and this is how it turned out.

I told my English students about it, because we were about to talk about food and how it is a symbol in literature of communion at many levels, including the sexual level and the religious level, and when I mentioned going into the kitchen, I said, “So I led her into the kitchen, where we — ” and then I was interrupted by a couple of my students who completed my thoughts: “Where you made granola: Lots of granola!” and “You really showed her how to make granola, huh?” I thought it was pretty cool that they’re the ones who led the lesson from a weird dream right into food as symbolism.

I love teaching literature!

I also really liked this dream; I liked that this girl was giving me some attention, but I wished R had at least said hi.


Too tired to write anything, so here are a few pictures.

Three photos of the lovely Aisha Tyler.
I’m still stuck on Julia Stiles.
Dr. Kathlyn Cooney, the Egyptologist in charge of the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Getty in Los Angeles. She is seriously hot.
Last night, I recorded my highest Literati score ever,
breaking 400 for the first time.
If you haven’t heard Sarah Chang play the violin, you really must. Heartbreaking.

Pencils. Books. Teachers’ Dirty Looks.

There sure is a lot of cleavage here.

It’s the first night of classes for me, and I’m here a little bit early, thanks to the ever-generous Mom, who continues to let me use her wheels. My Wednesday class is on the downtown campus, just off Fort Street Mall, and I’m having a decent (just decent) bi bim bap from one of the Korean places on the Mall. There’s a third-party-run student center here, in the old Blaisdell Hotel. I’m eating, I’m having a cold Diet Pepsi, I’m gearing myself up.

Albert has written several times about how exciting the first week of school at UH-Manoa is, and now that I’m not really one of them, I can see what he means. I’m a student at this school, but I am not really part of their world, and the people-watching takes on a different tone now. For one thing, now that I’m thirty-six, enjoying the view moves from normal interest in the female form to near-complete lechery – something I don’t like to think too much about while I’m enjoying the view. And that’s really what it is, too: Just a viewing. It’s not especially desirous, since I have no real desire to make the acquaintance of any of these young women and I don’t really want to have or to hold. I just appreciate the looking. I should join Albert one day. We wouldn’t even be competing for the same looks.

I am absolutely certain there wasn’t this much cleavage around when I was a freshman.

Ooh. The Cosby Show on the big-screen television in the student center. Some things are exactly as they were when I was a freshman.

One decision I had to make was about what to wear. On the one hand, it’s a college course and so I expect to be able to dress casually; on the other, it’s a professional course, and I’m already in the field, so perhaps I need to project (at least on the first night) a certain professionalism. I considered going somewhere in between, with cut-off Dockers, fresh athletic socks, my new black Vans, and a collared shirt with the tails out, but ultimately I decided on what I was already wearing at work, which is the same thing but with un-cut-off Dockers. If I appear overdressed, I am sure I won’t be the only one, since I know I’m not the only one who’ll be coming straight from work.

I think the woman who works in the Korean restaurant where I got the bi bim bap wants me. I saw her Saturday when I registered for classes and stopped in for a Diet Pepsi, and there was something about the way she said, “Four o’clock” when I asked her what time she was closing that told me she was giving me more than just the information. Then, when she handed me my change this evening, I reached out for the change and as she dropped the bills and coins into my palm with one hand, she held my hand with her other. Who does that? It was kinda tingly.

Tonight’s course is in adolescent psychology, a subject I’m not especially interested in, but as I may have written before, I’m more interested in it now that I’ve taught several years. However, it is going to be my approach while working on this degree to open myself wide open and enter every classroom saying, “Today, I’m going to get as much out of this experience as I can.” Yes, I mostly just want the letters M, E, and d after my name, but while I’m earning them, I may as well learn a few things and have a good attitude about it, too.

Especially when the textbook for this course cost me ninety-five bucks.

I mean my dad. Cost my dad ninety-five bucks.

Raise a Glass to the Old Blue and . . . Something.

It’s one in the afternoon Saturday afternoon. There’s a huge football game in less than half an hour, but that’s my former university’s team, and anyone who knows me knows how loyal I am.

I may have been a Rainbow in the late eighties and early nineties, and then a Vulcan for two years in the mid-nineties, but I’m a Sea Warrior now, and now my blood runs blue and, well, whatever my new school’s other colors are.

Registration was a breeze, but the cute woman who’d been so helpful to the lady who’d registered ahead of me wasn’t nearly as helpful to me; I had to interrogate her about getting books, student identification, and a statement on the balance of my tuition.

I think she was fighting off the mutual animal magnetism or something by acting as if I wasn’t really there. I know she wanted me because when she heard that I teach at ASSETS, she asked me if I knew so-and-so who supposedly taught at my school a few years ago. Uh-huh. I’ve played that game. I invented it.

However, my mission is school, and I would not be steered away from it. I registered for two classes, one that meets at the Hawaii Loa campus and one that meets downtown. I picked up a student I.D. I purchased two hundred bucks’ worth of textbooks, including some adolescent psych text that was ninety-four dollars. Of course, I added to that a one-subject spiral notebook sporting the name of my new school and a black HPU t-shirt.

Registration day has always been one of the most exciting things about being a student. I know I’m a grad student, and I know I’m thirty-six years old, and I know I’m just a part-timer, but I’m still feeling the rush. It’s time to get busy.

You can’t see it now, but I’ve got my game-face on.

Actually, as most of my friends know, I’ve never been the kind of student who puts an extreme amount of effort into my schooling. I get As, but I shoot for Bs. Sure, I almost always do the assigned reading, but that’s more because I want to participate in class discussion than because I want good grades. It’s not so much the eye of the tiger I’ve got on my game-face as the beak of the mynah.

The school year has been a series of frantic sprints from one class to the next, interspersed with inordinate amounts of Yahoo! Literati and Age of Mythology. I get home from the crazy days at school and ‘though I’m exhausted, I don’t put myself to bed until I’ve first had a couple of hours of mindless decompression. I keep forgetting how therapeutic journaling is, even if it’s just to jot down the events of the day when that day’s events are identical to the previous day’s.

The classes have been good; my desperate planning all summer seems to be paying off, so far. I’ve established a new organizational system for my algebra classes and so far it’s working really well. The yearbook class is sorta hit-or-miss, but once we get rolling on our tasks, it’s going to pretty much direct itself. I have a very motivated staff who’s getting along well. The freshman computer class could almost teach itself, since this is now the millionth time I’m teaching it. I’d say my most improved course is the literary analysis class. Last year was my first year teaching it, and it was fun, but it was all over the place with not very much focus. This year, I’m centering the first semester on Heroes and Villains (it’s going to be a blast – we’ll hit on the traditional hero, the tragic hero, the reluctant hero, the anti-hero, the accidental hero, and any other hero I can think of) and then in the second semester on Love and Loss. I’m teaching Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream next semester. How much more awesome could English class get than that?

Something else I’ve always wanted to assign for reading is Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War, a short novel written for sixth-graders that I think every high-schooler should read, especially every older high-schooler. It’s a great story about how the pushcart peddlers declare war against the truck-drivers, and is at once a wonderful look at these charming characters who sell merchandise from these pushcarts and at the same time a study of the progression of war. It comes complete with a “massacre,” a propaganda war, a setback for the good guys, letters to the newspaper, and behind-doors meetings of both sides’ leadership.

It fits in nicely with my theme this semester. But then I guess I could reasonably assign anything with a theme like that.

I had dinner last week with several classmates, some of whom I haven’t seen since college. Danny, Alan, and Derek I’ve seen a few times, since we have been to a few concerts together, but Chris was visiting from the mainland and it’d been thirteen years since I’ve seen him, and Mark, who was my best friend in seventh grade, I hadn’t seen since the late eighties. It was good. I was too talkative, but that’s really how those guys remember me anyway, so I’m sure they weren’t surprised.

The Village Idiots met at Penny’s for our first try at podcasting. I was mildly surprised that they were so willing to give it a go. We had fun, though, and it sounds like we’re going to continue this project at least for a while. I’m convinced that my friends’ personalities are so interesting that it almost doesn’t matter what they talk about – it’s going to be at least mildly interesting. The other idiots weren’t convinced of that, so we actually did a dry run with the microphones off; unfortunately, we sacrificed a little bit of spontaneity for that, but at least everyone loosened up a little. I’m hoping we’ll get together this weekend for another go.

I really appreciate the comments people have left in response to my Welcome to the D-List entry. I had lunch with R last Sunday after church and told her that I had been angrier with her that week than I’d been in years, and we talked about it, but not really. Then, she emailed me and then we talked on the phone, and it turns out that I had a million theories about why she wasn’t calling me and but none of them was right, because the real reason she wasn’t calling me was because I’d mentioned once how painful it was that whenever I called her, I could hear Mr. HBA’s voice in the background (the guy never stops talking, I tell you). She’d been so busy and spending so much of the rest of her time with Mr. HBA that she had trouble finding a moment to call me when she wasn’t with him.

I wasn’t counting on the reason for her not calling me being something nice. It’s true, unfortunately, that at least for now, I’d rather not talk to her on the phone at all than talk to her and have to hear his voice in the background. It’s stupid and I wish it weren’t so, but there it is. I’m miserable without her company, but I’m more miserable with his.

I was forced to ask myself if my distaste for him has anything to do with the fact that he’s going out with her, and as honestly as I can look at it, I have to say that it doesn’t. If she were going out with someone I admire or respect, like Ross or George or Tony, I’d be pretty darn fine with it. I don’t think any of those guys is right for her, but her going out with any of them would not cause me to like them less. I don’t mind losing to guys like them because they’re nicer than me. They’re smarter than me. They have greater faith. Two of them are better teachers. If she is not going to be with me, I want her to be with someone like that. How can I complain about losing to people like that?

If this relationship of hers lasts a while, I’ll get over it, but if it lasts a while, then this beginning period is just a small amount of time, and I think I’m entitled to my adjustment period if that’s what I need. And boy, do I need it.

I’m not doing anything for myself in not just moving forward, I know. But anyone who’s read the words in this space for a fair amount of time knows that (a) I like being miserable, and (b) I’m not willing to concede that the easy, sensible, practical, or healthiest decisions are right. I know this: I love her. I know this: Love sucks. Is loving someone else going to suck less?


It’s been a good two professional weeks, but I’m exhausted.

Finally got the Village Idiots podcast uploaded, so check it out here and let us know what you think.

I’ll be recording and uploading my own podcast sometime this weekend.

I’m registering for my grad classes tomorrow. My dad is terrific.

More tonight.

Prep School

Holy cow.

I am unbelievably tired. I usually forget that it takes a week or so to get back into teaching shape, but I remembered this year and I’m still toast. First of all, it always kinda stinks when your one prep period gets lost because of some modified schedule, and we had to have orientation assemblies today during first and second periods, and my prep is second. That hurts even more than usual this year, when I have FOUR daily preps.

When used as in that last sentence, a prep is a course you have to prepare for. When I say I have four daily preps, it means that every day, I have to be prepared for four different courses (literature, algebra II, yearbook production, and freshman computer). When used as in the sentence before, a prep is a period reserved for a teacher’s preparing for those daily preps. The worst prep period of all is last period, unless you’re a really disciplined teacher; it’s hard not to arrive at the last period and think of it as the end of the day, especially when you’re like me and are completely spent by that sixth period. I’m telling you, I leave it all on the field and have absolutely nothing left in the tank by that last period. When you’ve got classes full of ADD students, you’ve got to be the most interesting thing in the room, and that takes energy.

First-period prep is better than last-period, but not by much. When you’ve got first-period prep, you tend to blow everything off. “I don’t have to worry about this now, ’cause I can just take care of it during my first-period tomorrow,” you say, but you forget that it’s only one period and if you push too much stuff off until then, you never get enough done and then you’re running around at break and lunch trying to get things lined up for the classes that immediately follow.

Very popular are the prep periods immediately before and after lunch. It’s like a nice long break in the middle of the day. If you have to run an off-campus errand, you’ve got enough time to do so, or if you’re meeting with students at lunch, you can have your lunch in private during the period before or after. I don’t have wheels, so off-campus lunches or errands aren’t really a factor for me, but I still do enjoy that lunch-adjacent prep period.

For the past two years, I’ve had second-period prep, which for a practiced winger like me is great. It means that, worst-case-scneario, I just have to wing that first period every day, and then I can use that second period to prep for third and fourth periods and lunch time to prep for the fifth and sixth periods. This is not ideal, as lunch is best used as a break and not a prep, and I try to avoid falling into this pattern. Plus, the photocopiers are always busy at break and at lunch.

I lost that prep period today, though, so I was actually using our break and lunch periods to get things just right, which means I was running full-throttle all day long.

You really don’t know how exhausting this job is until you’ve done it. That’s not a complaint; it’s just something that routinely surprises me and something I don’t think most people outside the profession appreciate. I’m teaching in three classrooms this year, and the one class I teach twice (algebra II) is in different classes, so it’s almost like they’re two different preps. I have to write the daily instructions on the boards in two rooms, and make sure the materials are lined up and ready to go in two rooms. Running between classrooms also means that the five-minute passing time between periods is reserved for (first) gathering up the things from the class before and getting them out of the way for the teacher who’s using the space after, and then hustling to the next room so things can be ready to go when the next class walks in.

That’s another reason you don’t want to have to prep during break or lunch. When are you supposed to hit the bathroom if you’ve got to be in line at the copier? I heard from someone once that physical problems that are supposedly the result of not going to the bathroom when you should are more prevalent in teachers than any other profession. I believe it.

Welcome to the D-List

There’s this new show on Bravo called Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Griffin has made most of her fame as a standup comic, telling stories about her experiences with famous A-Listers. She played a similar role in a classic episode of Seinfeld and it’s fun to watch her new routines, since now everyone knows who she is and what she does. She has to maintain relationships with people like Oprah Winfrey, but if she doesn’t get nasty, her act loses its edge.

The show is one of those celebrity follow-arounds and isn’t as funny as her stand-up, but she’s got such charisma and wit that it’s tough not to be engaged. I count myself a fan.

So, I mentioned some time ago that since R came back from her trip with Mr. HBA, she had been strangely friendly, actually returning calls. She still wasn’t calling me to talk, and she certainly wasn’t calling out of any kind of interest in my life, but at least she was calling me to answer whatever question I’d left on her phone. A couple of times, she actually answered the phone when I called. That was bizarre.

That seems to have worn off. I called her a little more than a week ago to tell her about this mutual friend of ours who’s having a problem. I was basically telling her because I thought she’d want to know, and because I thought there was a small, small chance there might be something she could do for him. She called me back while I was in a meeting, saying in my voicemail that she was furious about this person’s problem. That . . . was suprising. I guess since she seems not to care much about me anymore, I assumed she doesn’t care much about anyone, but when I called her back, we had a really good conversation about what we might do for this friend.

I called her a couple of days later — last Saturday — to get an update from her about one of the things we talked about that might have something to do with this friend. Basically, it was, “Hey, let me know how things went yesterday with ______________.”

This is how pathetic I am. I thought she’d call me Sunday, and when she didn’t, I thought for sure it would be Monday. When it was clear she wasn’t calling Monday, I began to take a strange pleasure in knowing how unimportant my call was. I mean, I’d carry my phone everywhere, checking it all the time, just to prove to myself that she wasn’t going to call me. Then I tried to figure out how many days I could wait before calling her again to (a) ask her about how things went because I really want to know and (b) make her aware that I totally know where I’ve sunk to in her life.

I mean, this is someone who, just a few months ago, would at least call me to tell me she couldn’t talk. I’m not saying I expect her to call and say goodnight before she goes to bed, as she might have done a couple of years ago, but now I don’t even get a callback about something important five days later! You know, there’s just nothing to think about this except that either she’s sick or injured, or that she’s willfully hurting me. Does she so want me to get over her that she’s willing to just drop any pretense of friendship and force me to find someone else to talk to? Or is she just that certain that our friendship, which has withstood similar treatment in the past, will survive this? I think that if what she’s doing is for what she considers my own good, the least she could do is tell me.

I guess the other possibility is that she needs to focus on this relationship with Mr. HBA and our friendship gets in the way of that, but she could tell me that, too.

I’m depressed. I can live with the fact that she will never love me again the way she did, and as anyone who reads this knows, I’m struggling with figuring out what to do about that, but not being her friend anymore does not figure into that equation. That I cannot handle.

You know what I wonder? I wonder if she’s even thinking about me. Does she ever, ever, ever wonder what I’m up to, or what I’m doing, or how my new school year is going? Or are my occasional phone messages the only memory prompts reminding her that I’m still out here, still thinking about her? Does she just say, “Hm. Mitchell called again?” or does she say, “Oh, man. When am I going to find time to return this call? I’m so busy?”

When I get really, really miserable, as I am right now, I allow myself to think this: I wonder if they’re laughing at me. That loser. Can’t he take a hint? Why does he think he’s still any kind of part of our lives anymore?

And when I get really, really, really miserable, I wonder if my friends, too, are thinking that. Hey. Mr. HBA won. Mitchell lost. Why does he keep insisting on trying to be part of our lives? He doesn’t teach with us, he doesn’t hang out with us, and none of us returns his calls. He lost. Why doesn’t he just find someone else to bother?

Are they laughing at me, too? Or, worse, are they pitying me, that poor slob who’s up at four in the morning, miserable because of one lousy unanswered phone call that R probably doesn’t even remember getting?

You know, even if all that were going on, I could handle it if she’d just keep being my friend.

Then again, why would she want to be my friend? I dislike the most important person in her life and vocally disapprove of her relationship with him. Is my dislike for him causing her to dislike me? If so, the least she could do is tell me. I told her, after all.

“Up and At ‘Em, Atom Ant!”

For the first time in what must be months, I’m awake at 5:45 in the morning not because I haven’t yet put myself to bed, but because I’ve just awakened. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the corresponding evening switch in my schedule and now must go to work as tired as a Don Rickles joke. Lying my weary head down at a reasonable hour is always the most difficult part of the return to school and something I have too much difficulty developing the discipline to do.

You would think that something so supremely in my power, something that would put an end to my endless self-loathing, would be something I’d be extra-motivated to do, but I have always been a night owl and just prefer those late-night hours. There should be schools that operate nocturnally; surely I’m not the only teacher who does better keeping vampire hours, and I’ll bet a lot of students are the same way.

Back. To the grind.

Two-shoes, two-shoes,
Goody-goody two-shoes:
Don’t drink, don’t smoke–
What do you do?
Don’t drink, don’t smoke–
What do you do?

Someone Really Does Want to Beat Me Up

Every so often, a friend will approach me and say, “Hey. I met someone who wants to beat you up.” It occurs to me that I should pause here and say that yesterday’s tale was made up (sort of), but this story is totally true. “I met someone who wants to beat you up,” says the person, and I say, “___________,” because I know exactly who he or she is talking about.

Near the end of 1994, I was just over a semester away from graduating from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. My primary social circle hung out at the headquarters of the campus ministry I was involved in, and we were raising money for missions trips to Samoa. We went with the old standby: a spaghetti dinner. It’s cheap, it’s filling, and it’s not difficult to do a decent job with.

We did things by the book, so although the campus ministry buiding had a kitchen, we took the show on the road and prepared the noodles and sauce in the only space we had ready access to that had a Department of Health food-prep license: a slaughterhouse a few miles away. One of our members was related to the owners of one of Hilo’s slaughterhouses, and we got permission to use it after hours.

I know. It’s freaky. We all tried not to think about what normally went on in that large room with huge stainless steel sinks and several floor-drains. We brought a few large propane stoves and cooked several large pots of spaghetti and sauce and I think we were done past midnight. We packed everything up and took it back to the student center. The next afternoon, we heated up the sauce, and poured it over the cool noodles and it wasn’t Mario Batali, but it wasn’t bad. I’d put myself in charge of the meat sauce and I think we did pretty well with it.

It was a very successful fundraiser, and there was quite a bit of leftover food, so those of us who’d worked hard to get it prepared and served sat down for a bit and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. I was at a long folding table with my roommate Dave, his future wife Tasha, my future short-term steamy fling Rosanne, and a few others. I don’t know how we got on the topic, but I was saying some unkind things about a former elected official on Oahu. He had been the Republican state-representative from Hawaii Kai (I guess that was a redundancy right there) when I was in high school, and his four kids all went to my school. I say my words were unkind, but the truth is that they were normal words by a political observer about a public figure who’d displeased me. This guy was also one of the people who brought a major campus-ministry organization (not the one I was in) to Hawaii from the mainland, once upon a time, long before I arrived in college. I bring this up to emphasize how public a figure this public figure was.

I suppose if I’d stopped there, just at critcism of the man’s politics and the organization he’d brought to Hawaii, there’d be no story to tell, but I didn’t stop there. I had a few opinions about the way he’d raised his kids, too. His eldest son was in the class after mine, his eldest daughter was in my sister’s class, two years after me, and there were another son and another daughter, whom I’d never really known because they were considerably younger than me.

Now, I want to say before I continue that I love that older son and older daughter. Especially the daughter. She was fine, and I didn’t normally think that about my sister’s girlfriends ’cause that was kinda gross. I’d had my differences with the son, but I genuinely liked him, and we’d worked together at the Boy Scout camp the summer before my senior year (yes, the camp I wrote about in last year’s NaNo), and had even spent one night praying together when we found out that two of his friends had died in a stupid, terrible car-crash in Aina Haina. Still, I had some problems with the way this former elected official had raised his kids. The son was probably going to be okay no matter what, but the daughter, my sister’s friend, had some problems, and I believe they were largely the result of ridiculously strict parenting. I won’t go into details here because if the person who wants to beat me up ever sees this, he’ll want to take me to that slaughterhouse in Hilo if I restate the stuff I said that night.

Okay. So Dave, Tasha, Rosanne, and I moved on to other topics. Our time together was running out, as Rosanne was only in Hilo on a semester’s exchange from CalState Hayward, and Dave and Tasha were both graduating in December, and we were spending as much time together as we could. Tasha’d been having problems with her mom, and had been staying at Rosanne’s apartment, and we all felt quite close to each other.

In the middle of one of these conversations, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I put my fork down and turned.

“You got something you want to say to me?” said a guy I didn’t recognize.

“Um, no. I don’t think I know you.”

“Oh, I think you do.”

“Well, I think I don’t.”

“I’m ______________.”

Holy crap. It was the younger son of that former elected official I’d been bad-mouthing. What the heck was he doing in Hilo? And how did he expect me to know him? It made sense for him to know me, because he had been in seventh grade during my senior year, and, well, it was a small school and everyone knew me. I had a way of getting noticed.

“You wanna step outside?” he asked me.

Geez. Only if you’re staying inside, buddy, is what I wanted to say, but what I said instead was, “Look. I’m not going to fight you. I apologize if something I said upset you, and I certainly don’t blame you for being upset, but I can’t apologize for my feelings about your father. He was an elected official.”

“What about that stuff about my brother and sister?” he asked.

Yep. He had a good beef. I tried to calm the guy down, telling him that if I’d known he was in the room, I’d never have said any of the things I’d said, but that my opinions were based on stuff I didn’t think he could argue with. He actually conceded that point, saying he wasn’t particularly fond of his brother, but he added that I still shouldn’t have been talking about them.

We talked about it for quite some time. The friend he’d come to the dinner with (who, it turned out, was the guy who’d been my room-mate in my first semester in Hilo) spoke some calming words and the two of them left. Dave, Tasha, and Rosanne said they thought I’d done quite well, for someone who’d said some awful things about a man’s family while the man was in the room.

Anyway. That was nearly eleven years ago, and apparently, the guy hasn’t gotten over it. I still don’t blame the guy for being mad, but he seems to take every opportunity he gets to tell people he still wants to beat me up. This is how it usually happens: someone will meet the guy, and in the course of conversation will find out he went to HBA. So then they play the “do you know so-and-so” game, and my name always comes up because I never shut up about my alma mater, and then the guy tells whoever’s just met him that he wants to beat me up.

“I met someone this weekend who says he wants to beat you up,” I’ll hear the next Monday. I explain what happened all those years ago, and almost each time, my friend will say, “He’s right to be upset, but he should get over it already.”

He’s not. I must have said some really unkind things!

My Hero!

It wasn’t in the news for some reason, but someone died last month in an attempt to save my life. See, there was this guy out on the leeward side of the island who, according to sources, kept a pistol under the front seat of the Ford Explorer he drove every day from Waipahu to town and had been bragging to his friends that he was going to “take out” some person in Kalihi. Someone who claimed to have been watching him said that he was going to be driving down my street one morning very soon at about the time I normally walk to the bus stop.

The someone warned me, but I said that I wasn’t going to alter my morning routine just because someone might be out to get me. I acknowledged the threat, but decided that until my life was more directly threatened, I wasn’t going to be bothered. “Thanks for looking out for me,” I said, “but there are a lot of other people who need your attention.”

He didn’t listen. He asked a guy who worked for him, a young man about eighteen years old who planned to study to be an engineer if he could save up enough money for tuition, to stop the Ford Explorer guy from endangering me. So the other night, the young man took up a rifle and took a position right on the freeway, near the Waimalu off-ramp (perhaps ten miles away from my street), and when he spotted the Ford Explorer, he took aim and fired. He missed. The Explorer swerved, but that caused someone else to swerve, and the second vehicle ran right over the future engineer. He died immediately.

Wouldn’t you know? It turns out the Ford Explorer guy didn’t own a pistol. He wasn’t a very nice guy and not a very good driver, but there was no evidence that he’d ever even used a firearm. It turns out, too, that the guy who ordered the future engineer to stop the Ford Explorer guy from killing me had been planning to do something about the Ford Explorer guy for years, for reasons I still can’t figure out. And even though the Ford Explorer guy turned out not to have a gun, the guy who says he’s trying to save me still orders young men in his employ out to the freeway to prevent the Explorer guy from killing me in the future. Every day, at least one of these young men dies.

The would-be engineer’s friends and family say he’s a hero. They say he was protecting me.

I appreciate the sentiment, but you know, I just don’t see it that way.