Uncle

I give. I concede. I submit. I’m tapping out.

Yes, I’m using journaling software. I have installed some WordPress journals for some friends recently and we’ve been running it on the Village Idiots for some time, and I have to say I’m hooked. It’s just too easy. Too flexible. And too easy.

What really did it for me is the fact that my computers at home are growing increasingly moody, making too much typing really repellant lately, and I like the idea of being able to post new stuff from any Net-enabled computer. Plus, I would like to be a theme-master and offer some of my ideas to the journaling public, and I need a good place to practice. Also, I’m turning into quite the RSS devotee.

More later. Gotta go tweak some.

Braising

I uploaded yesterday’s entry somewhere just past nine-thirty in the evening, or perhaps closer to ten. I felt pretty good about having gotten those thoughts down, and fairly pleased with how it came out. Something nagged at me, though, and I wondered for a while what the point was anymore of posting anything in this space. I knew why I’d written that stuff–the same reason I write any of this stuff–but I wondered (again) what the point was to putting it up here. In the long run, I wondered, while I knew I was creating something, was I making up a purpose, as I do every three days now when I return DVDs to the rental store?

I don’t expect to resolve this conflict anytime soon. For now it’s enough to be a participant in something that I have always found meaningful. There’s poetry in everyone’s everyday living, and reading these online journals for the past several years has given the Internet (screw you, Wired; it’s a proper noun whether you like it or not) someting truly meaningful for me beyond Yahoo! Literati and the frame-by-frame deconstruction of Fargo.

Within the hour, I got email from two former students. One said hey I’m back let’s get that cup of coffee we’ve been talking about and the other gave me an update and words to encourage me–I don’t think she’d even seen last night’s entry when she sent me the email. The attempts at connection were huge for me, since I’ve been feeling slightly disconnected, and the truth is that I’ve missed these people’s being part of my life.

Then Albert, whose online journal is one of the most poetic, implausible things I ever read, wrote this morning, “Don’t feel like writing. Read Mitchell Dwyer instead.”

All this is normally very nice all by itself, but it happens that this was a day where these three encouragements were probably what kept me from losing it today, because in between the emails from the two former students was another email telling me that one of my high school classmates died last week. I’m not really ready to write about that yet. Of course, she was on my mind all day long, and I teared up more than a couple of times. She was thirty-five. She was my friend. The obituaries say she died of undetermined causes.

I’ve got a lot to sort through.

That would appear to be the reason that I’m up at four in the morning, but appearances can be deceiving. The truth is that I have something in the slow-cooker that needs attending. I slept for four hours (or so) while the slow-cooker did its thing, but then I had to get up and add ingredients and I’ve got to let it go on high for about ninety minutes before dropping it down to low and leaving it alone for another few hours. Slow-cookers are awesome, but sometimes they’re a pain in the butt, too.

I’ve had Mario Van Peebles’s brilliant Baadasssss! playing as I’ve written this and made trips to the kitchen. Great movie. I can’t believe Van Peebles didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his acting in this film. I have always appreciated the importance of the Blaxpoitation genre even when I haven’t gotten it. I know I’m not the target audience. I got this picture, though, about Melvin Van Peebles’s struggle to make his movie, Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song, which didn’t just give birth to the Blaxpoitation film; it slammed the door (or at least put a few holes in it) on ridiculous portrayals of minorities in American cinema. There’s a really interesting, brief collage of snippets of movies where Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks are mere cartoons surrounded by the real characters. Melvin was going for something real, or at least real from a certain audience’s point of view, and it just blew up.

One of the really interesting things is that Melvin basically invented, out of sheer desperation, certain film-making and marketing techniques that are still in use today, including the use of the movie soundtrack as a three-minute radio advertisement for the movie.

I wish I were as creative, devoted, and cutting-edge as guys like Melvin Van Peebles, but I know that’s just not in me. I wish George were my favorite Beetle, too, but I have to confess that it’s Paul. I wish I aspired to writing subversive novels for teens, but what I really want is to win a Newbery.

At Ease

Would that “at ease” could be a description of my overwrought soul, but that does seem like a bit too much to ask, does it not? I think of it more as a command I have repeated to myself several times this week. School let out the Wednesday before last. Conferences were Thursday and Friday. Graduation was Saturday. I had a grad party to attend. Monday was a holiday, but I spent the morning hours working in my classroom, the lunch hours with the Bible study psychos (we put the finishing touches on II Corinthians and had lunch at Dixie’s), and the late afternoon hours back at school. Tuesday and Wednesday were meeting days (not regular faculty meetings; I’m on this group called the Professional Development Committee). Thursday and Friday I finished cleaning the room and putting stuff in file-folders.

That last is a job that’s never really finished, but I find myself surprisingly close to being disgustingly organized. Right now, everything is in a folder. I have three sets of folders I had to title “file these later,” because there were so many items that needed sub-sorting. Today, I took care of one of these gigantic folders, neatly splitting it up and putting every little thing in its own special place. I know that for a lot of people this kind of thing is easy and doesn’t take much time, but for me it’s agony and very, very slow. I need to take frequent breaks.

The thing is, though, that none of this is stuff that must be done now. Yet I find myself waking up at five in the morning, getting on an early bus, and stressing out (a little) about getting to school. I suppose I’m winding down a little, because every day beginning last Tuesday, I’ve managed to get to school a little bit later and leave a little bit earlier. Still, the thought of spending the day away from school stresses me out. I’m not ready to downshift, for a change. That never happens, except when I can’t possibly allow myself to downshift, as when I’ve taught summer school.

For the past two summers, I’ve taught summer school, which begins just two weeks after the end of the regular year (actually, the past two years it’s been just one week after), and have had to work like crazy just to get ready for that–last year, I was at Kinko’s until past one in the morning getting my school-planners bound and didn’t get home until past two, two nights before the beginning of summer school. Then I was at school until almost ten in the evening the following night, just making sure everything was just right.

Little tangent here: I know we all have jobs that require us to work hard, and a lot of people have jobs that require them to work really hard to get ready to work really hard, but I wonder how many other jobs are like mine, where so, so, so, so very, very, very, very much depends on what happens on one particular day–in my case, on the first day. That first day of school is critical; I have seen the preparation for it drive teachers to tears, including me (and I’m not stretching things here–I have seen teachers sobbing because they have known they couldn’t possibly get things exactly as they’ve wanted them in the waning hours before the first day of school). That night I was at Kinko’s until much too late; I was there past the final bus that could have taken me close to my house. I was a little short on cash, so I had to walk as close to home as I reasonably could so that a cab wouldn’t cost me all I had, and I was carrying what must have been thirty pounds of spiral-bound paper, some in my backpack but most in huge plastic bags that dug painfully into my hands. It was demoralizing, so I stopped for a late dinner at Makiki Zippy’s (okay–if you’re familiar with King Street, imagine walking from University Avenue to Piikoi Street after one in the morning, carrying all this stuff, feeling utterly alone in the world) and then got a cab home.

Little tangent off the original tangent: Yes, I am stubbornly independent, but not that much so. My usual peeps were either out of town or their cars were in the shop, believe it or not. I have a couple of emergency peeps who I know will help me with whatever if I just ask, but I didn’t feel this situation called for calling in the cavalry. I was miserable, but not that miserable.

Three summers ago, I didn’t teach summer school, but I was trying to get this job at ASSETS and interviewed at a few other places, too, just in case. That was a full-time job. And I did teach summer school the two summers before that.

So it’s been five summers in a row where I haven’t really had vacation, at least not right off. I don’t know how to downshift so suddenly and dramatically. It’s going to be a long summer if I can’t figure out how I’m going to do all the things I’ve decided I am going to do.

Pushing myself out the door and getting to school has been good, but as I said, I’m nearly done there. What I really need to do is work on my house stuff, and I can’t do that at school, which is too bad, because it’s much easier to get work done at school. It’s very difficult to get work done at home. I spent all weekend in self-imposed house-arrest, and except for taking out the trash, I didn’t do crap. I didn’t answer email. I didn’t write anything. I didn’t clean anything. I did eat. Too much. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t socialize. I didn’t make it to church. No, wait. I did socialize: I had the annual post-HBA-graduation dinner with the bananas at Dixie’s (that’s twice in a week). Still, I basically turned into a turnip.

Part of me was saying, all weekend, “Good! I need this,” and indeed, I believe I did. Saturday was the first Saturday in TEN WEEKS that I didn’t have something school-related to be at. So I believe I could be pardoned for spending two days in a row basically growing moss. I slept, I ate, I played Yahoo! Literati, I watched DVDs, I watched baseball, I did logic puzzles, I read books. It was pleasantly mind-mushing, even though at times I wondered if I was going to decompose.

Ha-ha. That’s funny. I was decomposing because I didn’t do any composing.

I crack myself up.

Another thing that has given me a pseudo-purpose has been returning DVDs. I have decided that although Diamond Head Video is my first love (Seriously! The foreign film section is a whole aisle of five-shelf bookcases, divided by region of the world and subdivided by country of origin! And $2.50 rentals for five days on non-new titles! And it’s open all day and all night!), Tower Video is going to meet my needs in the near future. $1.49 two-night rentals on older titles, plus it’s a lot more convenient. I have seen The Office‘s first two seasons, plus the first two seasons of Mr. Show. Do yourself a favor and see the former; do yourself another and skip the latter. Anyway, having to get DVDs back to Tower in time has at least given me errands to run and reasons to get out of the house. I lived Spring Break like that, spending entire days running one or two small errands each and just wandering, and I really liked it. Perhaps that’s the way I’ll go with this, except I have to spend more time at home doing the home-stuff.

I earned this. Perhaps more than any other summer off, I have earned this one.

In order to force myself to write something more tomorrow, a list of topics!

  • New Year’s Resolutions Update
  • People I have to send email responses to but have been too busy/stupid/lazy to do so
  • Conflict, Part 3
  • Love life, or Conflict Part 4
  • The Mayor’s crusade against frivolous spending
  • Why Bruce Springsteen is The Boss
  • Season One of Coupling (the original)
  • Hair
  • People I’ve lost touch with and wish I could contact (or, Googlebait)
  • Urban hiking
  • Side Street Inn
  • A good smoke
  • Boxers
  • Deion Sanders vs. Muhamaad Ali
  • Geek life
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pumpkin pie

That’s a lot. Perhaps a week’s worth, he said hopefully.

Conflict, Part 2

It would be inappropriate, I am quite sure, for me to list the grievances against my church’s pastor. However, I will say that most of them were silly and probably didn’t warrant a meeting of this sort; still, in total, there seemed to be some fairly good reason for concern. Not enough concern to necessitate a vote of confidence and a special meeting, and certainly not enough to have to put our pastor through the humiliation that he had to go through in front of the body, but, you know, it wasn’t nothing. I did not stick around for the vote, as non-members were asked to leave, but I heard the testimony and my feeling is that, as usual, most of this can be racked up to miscommunication. Explanations were credible on all sides, yet even so, there was really no reason to have this meeting. The deacons’ original recommendation not to bring anything forward to the congregation was correct.

There’s one thing that disturbed me at this meeting. The deacons agreed to keep everything in confidence, but they were invited to meet for prayer with a non-deacon, non-minister, and it sounded to me as if some of the stuff that was to remain in confidence was shared at these meetings. I don’t understand this at all.

I was mildly impressed with the third-party moderator, although he did not do a good job of keeping people on-topic and he needed to regulate the time-limits better. It seemed to me that a lot of people who brought testimony didn’t understand what the purpose of the meeting was, but then Valerie told me later that perhaps these people were saying that the meeting should really be about something else, and I hadn’t considered that. It is a good thought.

The pastor did a good job, when it was finally his turn, of answering the charges with reasonable explanations, sometimes asking for confirmation from members of the congregation–very credible members of the congregation, the kind I can’t imagine anyone questioning the integrity of. He was not there to issue a counter-attack; he was merely there to say, here are the charges, and here’s where I think there was a misunderstanding. It was the right approach.

Nobody here is without fault; indeed, I myself might have some responsibility, although I don’t honestly know what that would be. Still, it seems clear to me that the pastor is worthy of the confidence I’m sure the congregation overwhelmingly voiced when it came time to vote. I say “I’m sure” because I didn’t stick around for the ballot (I’m not a member) and haven’t spoken with anyone yet about how it turned out. I will be embarrassed if I’m wrong.

Nobody asked me, but if someone did, I’d say that the best way for the church to pick up and move on and heal the wounds is to get back to work. A group of people doing meaningful work together is going to bond better than at any kind of activity designed for the purposes of bonding. I say let’s do what we do, turn outward instead of inward.

I have one day of school left, then a couple of days for cleaning up and finalizing grades, and then two days of meetings, and then that’s it. Summer vacation, baby. And I’ve earned this one.

Sunday morning, I ate a papaya. It was a gift from a student. Okay, well, I didn’t eat the whole papaya. It only took two bites for me to reaffirm my distaste for the fruit. I could have eaten the whole thing–it wasn’t so gross that it made me retch, but it was not a pleasant experience. Too bad. Next on my list: kiwi and bananas. Blech!

Finally saw Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the only hole in my Kevin Smith repertoire. It was great! I must say that if you haven’t seen Smith’s other films or if you saw them and didn’t like them, you really must stay away from this film. On the other hand, if you have seen them and liked them, then you really must see it. KS is the man.

I know I’m behind, once again, on answering email. I’ll get to you all soon!

Off to bed.

Conflict, Part 1

It was a normal Sunday worship service, last Sunday. The music was slightly better than usual (smaller band and fewer backup singers, plus some good songs). The message was your typical Sunday message. The altar call brought one respondent, a woman who was recommitting. The pastor announced a called business meeting for the next Sunday, immediately following the service.

Then.

I’m hesitant to write about this, because I worry that nonbelievers will think this is the kind of thing that happens all the time. In fact, at any given time something like this is going on at some church in this state, just in my denomination. When you have a group of people who take their purpose for existing very seriously, you’re going to have differences of opinion. Most of the time, those differences work themselves out; the work at hand is more important than conflicting opinions about how it should be done, at least usually. Sometimes, though, one part of the group will be convinced that the essence of the work is being compromised, and when you’re dealing with conflict in essential, critical elements of the group’s purpose, ultimatums (ultimata?) are given, lines are drawn, and there’s usually some kind of showdown.

The pastor, a man I respect a great deal, said that the purpose of the meeting was to take a vote on whether to keep him as pastor or to dismiss him.

Most of us, including me, already knew this announcement was coming. What I wasn’t expecting was one of the women in the congregation standing up and asking if members who could not be in attendance would be allowed to vote by proxy. It is established Southern Baptist protocol that proxy voting is not allowed, but it was brought up that we have short-term (two-week, three-week) missionaries in Japan and they’d be back by June 5. The woman suggested that they should at least be able to vote by proxy, or else the vote should be delayed until they returned.

The pastor said that he and his family have been going through this for three months, and if we were going to move on, we needed to do it as soon as possible. I thought the lady had a good point, especially since the missionaries aren’t people who are still members in name but aren’t working parts of the body (if proxy voting were allowed, votes could be manipulated this way); these were people who are normally with us every Sunday, but are currently away as our representatives and workers. Still, on any Sunday, there are people away from worship on Sunday who normally are there, and it would be impossible to have a vote with everyone in attendance. And as I say, proxy voting is just never going to work. There are people on the membership roll who haven’t been involved since before the current pastor was in place.

So I was feeling pretty good about how I felt, which is that the deacons’ committee, after hearing the accusations brought against the pastor and after being presented with the ultimatum thrown down by the associate pastor, did not recommend that any action against the pastor be taken. I’m not a huge fan of deacons in general (long story for another time) but these particular deacons are people I admire and respect and in this case I’m willing to trust their judgment without hearing the accusations.

But then someone stood up and restated the concern that those on missions should be allowed to vote. It’s someone else I admire and respect, and it’s someone who never stands up in front of an audience and voices her opinions. For her to do so at a time like this was shocking, and everyone knew it. She didn’t sit down, either, when the pastor repeated his position. She didn’t sit down when others in the congregation disregarded protocol and gave answers from their seats or when the worship leader (who shouldn’t have done this) spoke from his place on the stage, into a microphone. My friend didn’t give up the floor, though. She stood her ground and asked, “Isn’t there anyone else here who feels the way I feel?”

This is when people, about nine of them, got up and just left. I still puzzle over this–what were they saying?

My friend’s mom (the original speaker from the floor) stood up in support of her daughter. Nobody else did. I also do not know how to feel about this. I might have stood up myself, just in support of my friend, if I did not have a strong position either way. On the other hand, I’m not a member of the church and therefore don’t even have a say.

She sat down, eventually, as did her mother, and the service was brought to a close with an inappropriately joyous praise song.

This ugliness has made me feel very, very uncomfortable. It’s made me question my belief in the deacons and in the pastor, but then I found out from another friend that people have been calling her house, asking her family members if they were going to be at next Sunday’s meeting, and wanting to know how they were going to vote. This by itself is wrong, since this is a family who’s there every week and has been for three generations and is thus capable of making up its own mind; if the dissenters are confident that they are right, I truly feel that they should have faith in their fellow believers and in the spirit. This is not the kind of accord that should be wrangled by telephone in the week leading up to the vote. The cake-taker, though, is that these callers aren’t identifying themselves on the phone, and that’s not just wrong, it’s downright evil and it sickens me.

This is the kind of thing that splits churches. Whichever side doesn’t get its way is going to feel strongly enough to move. I hope that doesn’t happen. A strong leader, whether a lay-person or a minister, can keep the sides together and redirect, but I’m not sure that’s likely to happen here. The only thing I really see keeping the body intact is the fact that it’s a pretty devoted congregation and whichever side doesn’t get its way could adamantly refuse to let this kind of thing split what is still a good, healthy, working body.

I like this church, not because I feel especially loved there, or because I especially agree with its congregation or ministers (I ferociously disagree with the congregation about a great many things, about which I will write more later. Let’s just say, for now, that every single week, someone says something in front of the rest of the congregation along the lines of “We need your prayers if God’s work is going to be done.” Gr!). I like this church because it generally leaves room for disagreement and because it focuses mainly on what’s important–worship, education, outreach, and fellowship–without going too far in favor of any one or two of these elements. It’s a church that bears good fruit, and I hate seeing it go through this.

If this is disturbing to me, imagine what it’s doing to the Bridegroom.

Struggle

It’s getting worse.

I took my math team to the State Math Championship (the “Math Bowl”) out at BYU-H. My original team had been decimated when it became known that the Math Bowl was on the same day and at the same time as the school Athletics Banquet. The banquet’s a big deal–at some schools, athletes don’t get their letters if they don’t attend–and more importantly, it was an earlier commitment. Four of my six original team-members chose the banquet (the other two were also athletes, but they chose the Math Bowl). In the days leading up to the event, I managed to put together a good team (I mean that). It wasn’t the team I had in mind, but it was more than competent.

We met at the school at six in the morning, rode a bus to the Windward side, were delayed twenty minutes by a downed power-line, still arrived at the site an hour early, and did respectfully. I was congratulated by several coaches who knew that this was our first meet, and although we were near the bottom of the small-school standings, we did quite well and even beat a couple of the schools in the large-schools division.

I proctored the second half of the meet and stayed far away from my team’s table, so as to avoid any appearances of impropriety. This meant that I was a lot closer to the HBA table. The HBA team was made up of three seniors I remember from my last year teaching freshman English at HBA, and it was wonderful to watch them work.

You know, I love what I do, and I love teaching where I teach. Honestly. I consider myself very, very, very lucky. But I still miss my alma mater, and I feel very, very close to the students there. In a couple of weeks, those seniors are going to belong to the same club I belong to–graduates of HBA–and that means something to me. I know these kids, even if I don’t know them, because I am one of them.

That’s not just school pride, by the way. I love that school and it was my dream to teach there.
What I’m feeling lately is compounded by the fact that there’s this guy who teaches at HBA and who is now dating R. The dating thing is weird enough without this repeated reminder that this guy is also extremely privileged to be teaching at HBA and he doesn’t even realize it. Mostly what I hear from the guy is complaining about students, about colleagues, and about administrators.
I’m not silly enough to think that everyone who teaches is as convicted about it as I am, and I know that it’s dumb to think that everyone who teaches at HBA could love it as much as I do, but it just sucks to know that when this next class of students–the last class I taught–graduates in June, I will love a school that truly does not love me back and to know that this guy, this disgustingly fortunate guy, doesn’t appreciate how lucky he is. While I was making garlic fries in the Alumni Booth at the Fun Fair this year, he was in the dunking booth — the same dunking booth I sat in every year that I taught at HBA. He’s going on senior trips, he’s chaperoning proms, and he’s working with some of the state’s brightest students in an environment that strives to be a place that keeps its focus on God. At least he’s not an English teacher or a director of school plays; I think I’d have to kill myself if he were.

And now he’s dating R.

If it were George or Ross, I’d be fine. These are two guys as devoted to the school as I once was. My dedication pales in comparison to theirs, if borne fruit is any indication, and they are people I love and respect. They’re people I want to be like. It would make me happy to see them living the life I wish I had for my own.

This is not that same petty thing I have written about before. It’s something more meaningful, and there’s something in here I’m supposed to be getting. I don’t teach at HBA because of my own stupidity. I had the dream job, but I was obviously unworthy of it, as I let it get away. Whatever happened between me and R (and I still don’t really know what happened) was because of my own stupidity, too. I had her, but I was obviously unworthy of her.

Now I get to watch this guy do that job and date that girl.

I hate my life.

Meanwhile, there’s really very little wrong with my own life, outside of all that emptiness I mentioned last time. I honestly have not a single thing to complain about, and yet that’s all I seem to do.

So this is what I think. I could move on. I’m prepared to do it. I’m just convinced that I want to. If all that’s at stake is my happiness, the argument for moving on is just not compelling enough. Our loving people has nothing to do with our own happiness. We love people because we just do, and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that it’s true. If I decide that what I want is security, or someone to keep me company, or someone with whom to have a family, then yeah, I’ll move. I’m just thinking that those aren’t reasons enough for me to end this misery I feel every day.

“A new command I give unto you,” He says. “Love one another as I have loved you.” As I have loved you. We’re talking about unselfish, unquestioned love. That’s what it’s supposed to be. People will read this and call me a pathetic loser. They’ll say that, like Forrest Gump, I’m letting someone destroy me. I say what I’m going through is nothing. Forrest was right. Oprah’s wrong. You don’t move on; you just keep loving.

And maybe you run across the country three times and grow a ridiculous beard.

I just thought of this, but Tom Hanks inspired my last disgusting beard when, as R was going through the beginning stages of her relationship with G, I saw Castaway and took my inspiration to survive from Hanks’s character. He’s doing the same thing now with Forrest Gump, although I don’t feel the need to grow a beard this time.

Anyway, this is how I feel about seventy-five percent of the time. The rest of the time, I think, screw this. I’m calling _______ and asking her for a date.

I think ________ would go out with me, too. I think we could be good together. I just wonder if I am now, to someone other than R, damaged goods. I’m carrying baggage like you wouldn’t believe, and I don’t see how someone as well-grounded, well-adapted, and solidly faithful as _______ could be permanently interested in the likes of me.

It’s almost. Summer. Vacation.

Power to the People

[note: this is being uploaded to WP without its accompanying images on 3-6-10. i can’t find the jpgs but i will eventually and add them later]

Friday. Reid, Penny, Grace, and I went to Don’s house, where we met Don, Tracy, Sean, Sandra, Byron, Todd, and Darren for an informal discussion of the elections. It was Reid’s idea, and he worked pretty hard to pull it off. He also worked really hard to keep it informational and not persuasive, but that part didn’t go quite as well.
First, we ate. My contribution was an eighteen-dollar platter of sushi from Kozo Sushi in Windward City, and it was quite popular–there was nothing left by the time we went home. I love when that happens. Sean brought a case of oysters from Tamashiro Market (an HBA family!) and threw ’em on the grill. As everyone knows, I hate seafood, but I am making 2005 the year I revisit all the foods I think I don’t like, so I figured I’d get a head start. The disgusting bivalves were grilled in their shells until they popped (or until they seemed about ready). Sean then pried them open and poured some sauce in the shell (shoyu, lemon, tabasco), also separating the oyster from its shell. I watched Penny do it first because I’m a wuss, then I slurped the “juice”, picked up the oyster between pinched fingers, and plopped it into my mouth.
It wasn’t bad, but heavens, it wasn’t good. So I ate three more just to be sure.
Verdict: I’m unsure. The second and third oysters were almost enjoyable, but that last one was pretty bad–it just tasted really oystery and I knew after putting it down that I was done for the night. I have decided, though, that oysters are something that, if offered to me, I will accept. I think I’ll try them a different way, too. At fifteen bucks for thirty oysters, the price is pretty good for something popular to bring to parties, too, so that’s another consideration. A sushi platter is cool. A case of oysters is WAY cool.
Funny re-told story of the night (when you are friends with the same guys for this many years, you have a million stories you tell repeatedly): When the guys were on Kauai for a basketball trip during high school, Darren ate some raw oysters and later that night was in really bad shape. Between trips to the bathroom, he shook Marc awake, saying, “Marc, I really don’t feel good. I think I’m really sick.” Marc said, “You’ll be fine in the morning. Just go back to bed.”
When Marc awoke the next morning, Darren was in the hospital.
It’s only funny now, of course, that Darren’s okay. Darren says he was sure that night that he was going to die–he says he actually prayed that God would just take him away and end the suffering. Pretty funny stuff. I asked if the experience took him off raw oysters and he said no way.
Two people that night weren’t even registered to vote. Did our attempts to make the election less confusing make anyone more likely to vote intelligently? I don’t believe so. I think we need to work even harder next time to be as objective as possible and to keep our opinions to a bare minimum. Reid and Penny and Grace and I are overloaded with opinions and reasons for our opinions, but people don’t need to hear them all; they just need to get a gist of why we think the way we think. Reid came on a bit strong, and I say this only because I know that if he hadn’t been there, I’d have been the one coming on strong, and people who are averse to political discussions don’t like being blown away like that.
The thing is, after a few minutes of talking about the Presidential election, I asked the room if everyone there had already made up his or her mind about how he or she was voting (everyone had), and then I asked if it was likely anyone was going to hear anything that was going to change anyone’s mind, and everyone felt pretty sure that there wasn’t. So I think we should have moved on from there. I knew nothing I said was going to convince anyone to vote for the Libertarian candidates, so I said a very short thing about really considering the possibility that third-party candidates are not necessarily nuts, and that was about it. Reid launched into a twelve-page thesis, really, about how messed up the Bush administration was and how they blew it in Iraq. He really came on strong.
It was an unfortunate way to end what had been a pretty positive evening. I think what we did was good; I think next time we do it, it will be better.
With a little more organization, we can really put together something objective, informative, and non-threatening, and perhaps do a few of these for our different groups of friends–I think my HBA-teacher friends would enjoy it, too–and perhaps make it easier for people to step confidently into the voting booths on election day.
The highlight of the evening was still the oysters, though.

Saturday I woke up early, took a bus to Honolulu Hale, and voted.
But first, the bus ride.
These newer buses are really narrow, so it’s kinda difficult to move past people. This means that when someone is reluctant to move to the rear of the bus when there are passengers standing in the aisle, it’s easier just to stay where you are. A huge guy got on shortly after me, looking over my head (and the heads of the passengers ahead of me) at the back-section of the bus. “Look at all that room back there,” he said. We all politely ignored him. “Hey, move back, you idiots. Look at all that room!” he then said. Obediently, the little ladies shuffled to the rear of the bus, some of them taking seats, leaving enough room for me and the big guy to get past the back exit.
I said, as politely as I could, “Why do you find it necessary to call people idiots?”
“‘Cause that’s what they are,” he said, defiantly.
I said, “How do you know that? You don’t know these people. Maybe someone has a sore foot, or maybe someone was getting off at the next stop. Calling people idiots doesn’t seem like the nicest way to get along on the bus.”
“Well, it worked, didn’t it? I got what I wanted and that’s all that matters. If I don’t call them idiots, they don’t move.”
“How do you know that?” I asked. “I mean, you didn’t even try being nice first.”
“All these local people, they’re all timid and shy and polite, and that makes things impossible for the rest of us. Rather than move back, they just stand there.”
“What makes you think I’m local?”
“You look local, and you didn’t move back. Haoles, we move back, we take what we want.”
“I’m haole,” I said. “My last name’s Dwyer and my family’s from New York.”
“I don’t really care where you’re from. All you locals insist that I’m a haole no matter how long I’ve been here, so I can insist you’re local.”
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Anywhere but here! Anywhere but here! I been here twenty-five years!”
“Then you’re more local than most of these people you called idiots,” I said. “A lot of them have probably moved here much more recently than that.” It’s true. “So, my point is that wherever these people are from or however long they’ve been here, they all seem like nice people, and maybe you should try to be a little nicer.”
“Look. I got what I wanted, so why should I?”
“What if, even after calling us idiots, we still hadn’t moved? Would you have then shoved these old ladies to the rear?”
“No, I would shove you,” he said.
I started to ask him what the difference was between calling people idiots and shoving them, if the only consideration he had was whether or not his actions would get him what he wanted, but a bunch of people got off the bus and a seat opened up and he took it, moving right past a very little, very old lady to get it. I seriously considered moving over there and continuing my interrogation, especially in light of his being a seat-grabber, but decided that that would be confrontational, and all I really wanted was this guy’s story.
So then I voted. And here’s how:

As you can see, Ralph Nader was not on the ballot in Hawaii. Doesn’t matter, because I was voting Libertarian all the way on this one. People have asked me if I’m not concerned that the race is dead-even in Hawaii, and that my vote my contribute to President Bush being re-elected.
To them, I say this: My vote is not a throw-away. It is not wasted. I don’t like the President, and that’s why I’m not voting for him. I don’t like John Kerry, and that’s why I am not voting for him. My vote is too precious and too hard-earned for me to waste it on the lesser of two evils. That’s not what all those brave people died for, you know? They voted so that I could exercise my choice the way I wanted, not the way I disliked the least. If the Democrats want my vote, they’re going to have to put someone on the ballot I can vote for in good conscience. Put Dennis Kucinich on the ballot. Put Hillary Rodham Clinton on the ballot.
Neither is my vote a “message” vote. A lot of people think I vote Libertarian to express my disgust with both of the major parties, but the truth is that I and lots of people who vote Republican or Democratic are also libertarians (small L). How many Americans are for the legal, medical use of marijuana? That was a libertarian ideal a decade before either of the major parties would consider it. No, my vote is not a “message,” because I would honestly rather have that screwball Michael Badnarik in the White House than any of the other candidates. Honestly.
One other thing. It is entirely likely that a Libertarian candidate will never win election to the Presidency in this country, and I’m fine with that. But without regular representation on the ballots from the far right and the far left, the only messages that will be kept alive will be positions in the middle. You can’t have a middle without extremes on both ends. Hell, someone has to keep these ideals alive and in the public consciences. Women weren’t given the right to vote the first time someone thought of it–it was only won after years of so-called nut-cases keeping the issue alive. If all I do with my Libertarian vote is keep the Libertarians on the general ballot, that’s quite a contribution.

I actually like Neil Abercrombie, for the most part. I like Ed Case (Hawaii’s other Congressman), too, and I approve of the way they’ve used their votes and of the way they’ve represented Hawaii. I’ll be honest here and say that if these races were closer, I’d vote Democratic in both elections. However, both candidates are a lock, so in representing my ideals, I voted Libertarian here, too. The Libertarian candidate for the House is a porn-star, which is a little odd, but she’s quite articulate and she seems intelligent, and the main plank in her platform is the conviction that the government needs to stay out of our lives, and that we should be free to live them the way we please. That’s my candidate.

My representative in the state House is Dennis Arakaki, a man I admire and support wholeheartedly. Of course a candidate who successfully represents Kalihi his going to have to be strong on human services, and this guy is. I don’t think the people of Kalihi understand how much they benefit from having a guy like him in office, but they keep re-electing him, so maybe they do. I taught his daughter, too, which is also a plus in his favor.

I said two years ago that I was going to launch a project that would keep an eye on the Board of Education and I swore that when the elections came around again, I’d be a more informed voter and I’d make it easy for others to be informed voters, too. I still plan to do that, but what I have in mind is slightly beyond my web-authoring abilities right now, so I’m postponing it for another two years. It will happen, though.
None of the candidates I voted for in the primary made it to the General ballot, meaning that the people who won are administrators and businessmen, not educators. I consider this a huge mistake. Lei Ahu Isa claims to be an educator, but she’s also a psycho, so there is just no way she’s going to win my vote. She was a state senator for several years, though, so she’s certain to win election here. Cec Heftel is another who’s guaranteed to make it. Thus, I voted against them both.

I am against the OHA elections being open to non-Hawaiians, so I abstained yet again. Next time, I’m going to ask Haunani Apoliona whom she’s voting for, then I’m going to vote the same way.

The toughest vote of them all. My candidate, Lillian Hong, didn’t make it to the General, despite a respectable fourth-place finish in the primary. The candidates did very little to distinguish themselves during the campaign; here are the things I considered:

  1. The one important issue the candidates disagree on is forced lease-hold conversion. This means that Mufi Hanneman is against the city’s having the power to force a land-owner to sell his or her land to the occupants of the condo on his or her property. Duke Bainum is for it. In most cases, this affects huge landowners such as Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, but it sometimes affects people who’ve owned land their grandmothers worked very, very hard to purchase and manage and maintain. The rights of property are among the most sacred in a capitalistic country such as ours, and I believe they must remain so. Forcing a land-owner to sell to his or her tenants sucks the big one.
  2. Hanneman has a record of sleazy politicking.
  3. Hanneman is an Iolani grad. I can vote for an Iolani woman, but not an Iolani guy. Hey, I didn’t say my considerations were all meaningful. I just called them considerations.
  4. Both candidates have attractive, nice wives, but Bainum’s wife is cuter. She’s quite a babe, in fact.
  5. I have heard from several people something that I have always thought: Hanneman seems slimey. I was willing to dismiss this until I heard people at Don’s house Friday night say the same thing, with no prompting from anyone else.

So there you have it. Merry Christmas, Duke.

I don’t know as much about these initiatives as I should, and I always say that when it comes to messing with the constitution, if there’s any doubt, vote no.
There’s a lot more here than what’s on the ballot. Basically, if this thing passes (and it will), it becomes easier to convict a sex-offender for a class-A felony (maximum twenty years, no parole). An alleged victim won’t have to identify specific dates during which sexual assault took place; the jury will only have to agree that three or more assaults took place without being proven-to that three specific incidents took place. I am not insensitive to victims of sexual assault, but this makes it too easy to put someone away–someone who might be innocent–for a long time. I’d rather let a guilty man go free than put an innocent man in jail.

This is the Constitutional amendment I had the most conflict about. Stuff that’s public record should be easily accessed by anyone who wants the info, and putting the info on the Internet is a way to make it very, very easy. However, I need to get a better idea of how the legislature plans to do this before I say to go ahead and change the constitution. If the state supreme court ruled it unconstitutional, I don’t know if changing the constitution is the right solution to a problem like this.

I’m going with Penny and the lawyers on this one, mostly on faith. There are already a lot of safeguards in place that protect attorney-client and physician-client privilege. This amendment is a response to one specific case that the supreme court threw out and I don’t know, again, that this is the appropriate response.

This was the toughest one. On the one hand, you streamline the indictment process and you spare victims the stress of testifying repeatedly just to get to trial. Big pluses. On the other, if this thing doesn’t pass, you maintain the accused’s right to confront his or her accusor. As I’ve said, I believe that anything that makes it easier to throw an innocent man in jail is not good, and this seems to make it easier. Just being indicted of a major crime is harmful enough to an innocent person; thus, it should remain a burden on the state even to indict. Guess I gotta go with No.

This brings us to the City Charter issues, none of which I feel good about except the next one.
Civil Service positions are costly, and while I’m a huge fan of the Neighborhood Commission, maybe this should be a civil appointment position and not civil service. I don’t feel strongly enough either way, so I voted no.

This one makes good sense to me. I believe in the neighborhood boards in Honolulu, and a position such as this should be taken seriously by the city’s administration. Requiring some service on the neighborhood boards seems prudent.

Who’s going to do the appointing? How will the appointment process work? Too many questions.

I don’t know what the heck this means, so I voted no. What the heck is this all about, anyway?

After voting, I walked from Honolulu Hale to Kaiser Hospital, where I finally picked up my new glasses. They took about six hours to get used to, but now that I’ve worn ’em for a day, I really like them. I walked from the hospital down King Street to Pi`ikoi, and then down Pi`ikoi to that little tea-bar next to I Love Country Cafe. Free wi-fi and pretty good food. I did a little bit of work, set up my NaNoWriMo subdirectory in preparation for uploading my daily production, and played some Literati, then walked from there to Easy Music on Ke`eaumoku, near Beretania. I had to scope out some percussive instruments for a school project I’m working on.
Then, back down Ke`eaumoku to Kapiolani, where I was able to pick up a wi-fi signal and play a couple more games of Literati while waiting for the bus.
Grabbed a bus to Pearl City, where the NaNoWriMo kickoff was to take place. It was just me and Ryan, so we got caught up and chatted, which is always nice, and then Ryan took me to Pearl Kai, where I thought I’d look at percussive instruments at Music Mac. I had forgotten that Music Mac is in Pearl Ridge Center now, so I walked across the street and cruised the mall, both phases, for a few hours. Picked up some free wi-fi down the escalators near Longs and got some work done. I had a hamburger at Denny’s and then rode the bus back to Kalihi and got home at about 9:30.
It was a long, busy day. Felt good, though.
Skipped church Sunday. I might be sleeping all afternoon and evening and then getting up early to get my NaNo rolling.

quick, random opinion: 

Candy Corn is disgusting.

What Was in That Kiss?

Three unsolicited kisses I think about every so often:
1.
First grade, Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary. It’s the period right after lunch, and my class is watching Sesame Street on television. I’m in the front row, well-behaved as always, with my hands folded in my lap. Next to me is Becky. We have two Rebeccas, and while there is certainly nothing wrong with the one we call Rebecca, there is everything right about the one we call Becky. She has dark brown hair with streaks of light brown and ringlets that hang down past her shoulders (it’s always the hair, I tellya!), probably Caucasian but possibly Hapa. I don’t know how it starts, but we play this game where she inches closer and closer and tries to kiss me on the cheek, and I keep dodging her advances. She is determined, she whispers to me, to “get me.” Why I feel I have to pretend not to want being “gotten” is beyond me, even at that age, but I dutifully play my part and manage to get out of the way of each kiss aimed at my right cheek, each time letting her get a little closer before ducking or juking. When she finally gets me, it is a light, dry thing, a small, soft kiss, ever so fleeting and yet permanent. She says, “Ha! I gotcha!” I don’t know what to say, but words become unnecessary because my teacher, Mrs. Matsubara, says, “Becky and Mitchell, will you please stop playing kissy and watch the program?” This cracks everyone up of course, and we are laughed at for a few weeks, but oh boy. Totally worth it. If someone comes down from Heaven right now and tells young me that all the ridicule and alienation I’m going to experience for the next eleven years in school is because of this one moment, I will gladly accept it. I still close my eyes sometimes and remember the feel of that little kiss and wonder if that was what cemented my everlasting girl-craziness.
2.
Fifth or sixth grade, a luau at the Hale Koa hotel, out on the beach at Fort DeRussy. My family has visitors from the mainland or Japan, and our table is right at the foot of the stage. It’s time for Tahitian hula (always a good thing). On stage, in addition to the usual women dancing Tahitian-style, are some younger girls, around my age. They’re pretty cute. But then I suppose any woman whose legs and tummy you can see while she’s moving her hips is pretty cute. They do a few numbers, and then they do the thing where they come into the audience and pick people to get up on stage with them and give it a go. I don’t know it yet, but this evening is the first of many times when I will be one of the guys they pick. Actually, the girl takes my sister‘s hand and tries to coax her up on the stage, but my sister absolutely refuses to go! The girl says, “Come on!” in a frustrated kinda way. My sister is stubborn, though, and won’t budge. So the girl in the plastic-grass skirt takes my hand and although I do not want to go, I can’t let my family down and be a party-pooper. Seriously, that’s what I think. So we go up on stage and she shows me what to do, and I’ve got my butt pointed out at my family and my decision-maker pointed at the girl (how’s that for foreshadowing, the wanna-be author says years later) and I know I am messing it up, because I can’t dance, but I also know that the only thing that matters is enthusiasm so I shake it with everything I’ve got while my family just howls. My partner asks the girl next to us, “What’s your guy’s name?” while we’re moving to the music. The other girl says, “Dave. What’s yours?” “Mitcho,” she says, in that way local girls say my name. The song ends, the girl takes my hand, and I am led to the stairs backstage. My Tahitian dancer says, “Thank you, Mitcho,” and kisses me on the cheek. It’s a little moist, this kiss. Worth it. Totally worth it. That night, I have difficulty falling asleep and I wonder if she’s thinking of me too.
3.
Second-to-last year of college, Kilauea Military Camp. It’s our annual Baptist Student Union Mid-Winter Retreat, and the Manoa students have flown to the Big Island for the deal. I alternate all weekend between angry and euphoric, just because that’s what’s I’m always like in church-related settings. I admit, though, that a lot of the angry-young-man stuff is me just trying to stay in character, because in BSU, I’ve always been known that way. The truth is that I’m mellowing out, and that I’m learning that these are my people–I am becoming aware that I consistently choose to spend quality time with believers I disagree with rather than with non-believers I have everything else in common with. The angry-young-man thing gets me a lot of attention from the Christian girls I favor, anyway, so there’s also that (I’m sorta the James Dean of the evangelical conservative Christian scene, if you can imagine such a thing). It’s near the end of the retreat, and it has been a great retreat, and I haven’t had a mountaintop experience, but I do realize that I’m close to graduating and that I’ve grown up a lot, despite myself, in maturity and faith and social stature. We’re all just hanging out, the Hilo students and the Manoa students together, and two of the Hilo girls grab me, one on each arm, and demand a photo. I’ve been avoiding cameras all weekend, and they sorta plot to grab me and kiss me and capture it on film. Someone points the camera and I cringe, partly from the camera and partly from the kissing (seriously!), and the two girls, Jenny and Momi, each plant a long, wet kiss on one cheek. Beautiful. The women and the kisses. I believe I am melting into a puddle ont he floor. I am convinced that they are both secretly in love with me, but I am too cool to embarrass them about it.
Yes. I am an idiot.
A romantic idiot, though. And if I am an idiot for romance, well, I don’t think that’s so bad.

quick, random opinion: 
I don’t have much of a sweet-tooth, but three desserts I really like are dutch-apple pie, pumpkin pie, and tiramisu.

Sunday Paper

Responses to this morning’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin as I read the paper.
Duke Bainum leads Mufi by a soft seventeen percent in the Honolulu Mayoral race. This is surprising, but not-so-surprising. According to the article on the front page, voters’ support for either candidate is not strong and they may change their minds. It’s my opinion that when people are unsure like this, they go with a feeling, and when their choices are a Caucasian and a Pacific Islander, their gut-feelings are going to lead them to vote for the Caucasian, not out of any sense of ethnic superiority, but because Honolulu’s mayors have almost all been Caucasian and Duke Bainum fits, on that gut-feeling level, people’s understanding of what a Mayor should be.
Beyond that, though, I think people have more distrust of Mufi Hannemann more than of Duke Bainum. They say voters have short memories, but I know that people who are at least my age still remember the smear campaign against Cecil Heftel in the Congressional election when Dan Akaka was appointed to replace Spark Matsunaga in the Senate when Spark died in office. The allegations and publicity about Heftel’s smoking marijuana seem tame by today’s standards, but the campaign left an awful taste in the mouths of voters, and when it was revealed that the source of the mud was Hannemann’s campaign, it was all over for Mufi. In Hawaii, we value niceness. Mufi hasn’t earned back the trust of a lot of people, is what I think.
Increases in military flights from Guam have not been matched by increases in spending on inspecting the planes for the brown tree snake, meaning many planes are flying out of Guam without having been given an initial inspection there. This is not good. Have you seen video of this thing? It’s nasty. I don’t think it would devastate the ecosystem in Hawaii the way a lot of people claim, but it would be a big, expensive, serious problem to take control of, like the white-flies of the eighties and that green freshwater weed in Lake Wilson a couple of years ago. If one result of this President’s war in Iraq is the establishment of the brown tree snake in Hawaii, it will seal the deal for me: he’ll be the worst President in history.
Huge earthquakes in Japan. Again. And this just after the typhoon. I watched some of the footage on Japanese television with my mom yesterday, and she was really moved. I felt worse for my mom than for the people in Japan, which seems awful to me. I am certain that when stuff like this happens, my mom secretly sends money to relief agencies in Japan. I have no way of knowing this, but I just do.
This should be on the front page. Colin Powell is urging North Korea to get back to the table to discuss nuclear disarmament. I wonder if the Secretary of State is trying to get his last good, positive moves in before January, when it seems to be everyone’s bet that he’ll step down. He’s a good man in a bad job, working for a man who doesn’t seem to listen to him anymore. I hope he finds something more rewarding for his next gig.
Both local dailies are calling the Presidential election in Hawaii a dead-heat. Voters can say what they want, but I’ll be shocked (shocked!) if Hawaii doesn’t vote significantly Democratic on election day.
Besides, ten percent of the vote is undecided, and the undecideds vote against the incumbent, if the experts are to be believed.
The UH-Manoa football team beat San Jose State last night, 46 to 28. No big surprise, but it wouldn’t have been too surprising if Manoa had lost, either. Tim Chang is only 240 yards away from the career passing-record for college quarterbacks, and even if he has a bad game on Friday night at Boise State (the cream of the WAC crop), he’ll break the record on national television. That’s awesome. I’m not a huge fan of the run-and-shoot offense, but I like it a lot at the college level, especially for a team like Hawaii who needs to go in there with as much of an advantage as it can against teams that have all sorts of other advantages. There’s no reason Chang’s replacement at the position shouldn’t be able to break Chang’s record, either, if the team can find a decent freshman QB who’s about ready to start. I guess that’s the key thing–finding a freshman who can start.
The Red Sox beat the Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series. I watched the game with my dad yesterday. Good game. Good pitching, despite the high score. Good hitting, good managing, good baseball all-around. The defense wasn’t stellar, I guess, so there’s that. David Ortiz is a monster.
There’s an interesting little piece on the front page of the classifieds about job-search etiquette “for a wired world.” This should really be a feature article on the front page of the business section, I think. More people need to talk about this, and they need to talk about it more. There seem to be blurring lines and with the immediacy of communication today, people need to discuss accepted standards of behavior now, before they’re even out there looking for work. I especially like the first paragraph, which reminds job-hunters to use professional email addresses, and not stuff like “hotmama@hotmail.com” or “catlover@yahoo.com.” I’m working with my freshmen on an email project, and etiquette is a big, big part of my objectives.
We’re on Section D now, the opinions section. Or as I like to call it, the “Everyone’s an idiot except me” section. The newspaper’s endorsements for the Board of Education are printed today, and I disagree with most of them, but then not a single one of my candidates made it past the primaries in September. Look: I know it’s an administrative job, but if I have to choose for a position like this the administrator with no classroom time over the teacher with no administrative experience, I say you need to go with the teacher. If the teacher screws up, he or she can learn or be replaced, but if an administrator on the BOE is never going to gain classroom experience while on the job. And I’m telling you: you want teachers to be making the decisions. Teachers know better than anyone else what needs to be done–they might not all know how to execute these ideas, but they know what won’t work (usually). Vote for teachers. Failing that, vote for SCHOOL administrators, such as former principals. Don’t vote for businessmen, politicians, disgruntled parents, and home-schoolers!
Wow. The rest of the paper is pretty thin today, content-wise. There’s an elections insert, but I’ll look at that later–I just don’t want to deal yet with who I’m going to vote for, ‘though I do need to decide soon. Precinct workers need to vote absentee if they aren’t working in their own district.
This has nothing to do with the newspaper, but as I type this at the Kaneohe Starbucks, there’s a very cute haole girl sitting on the couch right next to me. She’s almost certainly a freshman or sophomore in college, based on the conversation she just had on her cell phone, so of course she’s way, way, way too young. But she’s very cute. I’ve been in a little bit of a haole phase lately.
quick, random opinion: 
Good Italian food in Aiea: Ricado’s in Pearl Kai.

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North Poll

It was Reid’s idea to work the polls on General Election day in September. He’d heard that nobody had volunteered to work the precinct at Sunset Beach, on Oahu’s famed North Shore, so he took it upon himself to get a crew together to to the work. I had done this work before, when I was living in Hilo, and the experience had been mostly–if not completely–positive. It was a good way to be involved in the process and to keep my mind occupied on election day, rather than to sit around waiting for the first returns.
There was training, and since I was going to be a Voter Assistance Official rather than a Precinct Officer, I’d have an extra training session and would be expected to know more. The training wasn’t difficult, but it was difficult to sit through, as I had to show up at the State Capitol building on a work night, and the trainers had a lot of ground to cover. I thought the most effective part of the training was the open-book test, because it gave me a chance to familiarize myself with the handbook and because I got to work through it at my own pace, rather than at the agonizingly slow pace of the trainer.
So on election day, Penny and Grace picked me up at about 4:30. We got out to Sunset Beach at about 5:30, where we met Reid, Don, Tracy, Larrilyn, and a woman named Carol who volunteered for one of the spaces we couldn’t fill. Our Precinct Chair was Adam.
Adam. Adam was clearly a veteran of these election days, but the guy clearly did not understand the importance of several critical election-day ideals, such as the confidentiality of the ballot! In Hawaii, voters pull a single ballot with non-partisan elections on one side (in the County of Honolulu, all city elections are non-partisan, including the Mayoral) and partisan primaries on the other. Each party’s primaries are listed in a colored box, and voters are instructed to vote in only one colored box. If they voted in more than one primary, when they stuck the ballot in the ballot-box, the machine displayed what the problem was. The Precinct Official assigned to the box is supposed to explain the problem to the voter, and then give the voter the option of voting again on a new ballot or submitting the ballot exactly as it was, understanding that the votes on the partisan side would not be counted.
Some voters chose to submit their ballots as they were. It is a voter’s prerogative to vote however he or she wants, you see, and it is not a precinct-worker’s position to tell him or her how he or she SHOULD vote. One voter voluntarily explained to me that she had promised candidates in different parties that she would vote for them, and even though her vote wasn’t going to count, she wanted to be able to keep her promise.
I can respect that. Another voter told me that it was really the non-partisan side he was interested in anyway, and that he’d worry about the other elections in the general election. That makes perfect sense to me, too.
Voters who decided to cast new ballots were given “spoiled ballot” envelopes and asked to fold their spoiled ballots up and seal the envelope. They were then taken back to the pollbook by the Voter Assistance Official and assigned new ballots.
There are several democratic ideals in play here, not the least of which is the guaranteed secrecy of the vote. Adam, though, assigned himself to watch the ballot box, and when a ballot was spoiled, he punched the eject button and, rather than giving the voter the option of turning the ballot in the way it was, grabbed the ballot, explained the problem, folded the ballot and stuck it in the envelope, and then handed the envelope to the voter, saying, “Lick this and give it to Mitchell. He’ll give you a new ballot.”
HE HANDLED THE BALLOT. He forced the voter to vote again. Once or twice, I heard him SHOW the voter where, on the ballot, the voter had messed up, saying, “You have to vote Democrat OR Republican.” Oh my gosh, I almost went ballistic. I ran over there and told Adam, right in front of the voter, that he couldn’t tell the voter to vote in ANY party’s primary. I told him, too, that he couldn’t handle the ballot, and he couldn’t force the voter to vote again. He ignored me.
There were a lot of things like this. He occasionally left his station at the ballot box without telling anyone, meaning that the ballot box was completely unattended and unsupervised for periods of time! I think I developed a rash just thinking about it. So I kept one eye on the box, leaving my own station in Reid’s capable hands while I tried to do Adam’s job and my job. It was frustrating.
Then, near the designated closing time, Adam starting bringing the signs in. From the road in front of the school and from the area in front of the cafeteria where the voting was held. He closed the front door at five minutes to closing.
I said, “Adam just closed the poll.”
Reid jumped up and ‘though he and I both had done a good job all day of keeping quiet when what we really wanted was to take charge because the leadership was so lousy, he ran over to Adam and said, “Adam! You CAN NOT close the poll yet! If someone comes right now, he or she has to be allowed to come in and vote!” Adam said nobody was coming, so Reid shouldn’t worry. Reid got pretty mad. Just then, someone came in through the exit doors and said, “Am I too late?” I ran over to her and said loudly, “No! No! Please come in and vote!” She was relieved. She’d run from her house to get to the precinct on time.
There were other things, but I guess they’re not that important now. What really mattered was that we participated in a great process, and it felt really good, and we knew we’d done a good job.
The number of spoiled ballots is certainly an issue, and it’s something that needs to be addressed somehow. The entire day, we only had two voters leave the precinct upset. One of them spoiled two ballots, and although we assured her that it was okay, she was clearly embarrassed. She was also in a hurry, so she left without casting her vote.
The ballot seemed clear enough to me, and the P.O.s did a pretty good job of explaining to voters that they could vote only in one primary. The problem was that too many people didn’t understand what the purpose of a primary election, and whose fault is that? I think there needs to be a publicity campaign in two years, in the weeks leading up to the primary, explaining how the primary ballot is going to look.
It felt good, too, to do good, meaningful work with friends. The thing that amped me the most was that we worked really well as a team. I don’t think any of us would like to work with the others every day, but for this one project, it totally helped that we were friends and knew how to communicate with each other and didn’t have to worry a lot about being polite or about insulting each other.
My friends are total bananas, but they’re good, smart, admirable, competent people and I love them. We HAVE to do this again in two years, with Reid as Precinct Chair and with me and Grace as V.A.O.s.

I swore when I was in high school that I would always be involved in theater in some way. Teaching drama at HBA and directing four plays there definitely counts, but it’s been four years since I last directed a play, and I’m thirty-five years old. So when I read that auditions for the next Lee Cataluna play were coming up, and that for once I fit the recruited demographic, I secretly planned to audition.
I am not a good actor. I can teach high schoolers something about acting, and I can direct actors in plays. I’m even pretty good with many of the other aspects of direction, as long as I don’t have to do anything fancy with lights and sound and set and costumes. And I can’t do makeup at all. But I know how to get a group of students from audition to performance and teach them something lasting and meaningful. However, I am no actor. I’m basically a two-note actor, and I know this.
What I figure is that you never know when the two notes I have as an actor are exactly the notes some director is looking for. When that opportunity comes along, I want to be there to grab it, because I do so love the theater, and I do love to perform.
I kept it a secret, so as not to jinx myself. I showed up at the theater on time (which, it turns out, is really thirty minutes to an hour early), filled out the application, and waited for things to get going.
And then Lynne walked in. Lynne, whom I’ve known since she was in seventh grade and I was a senior. Lynne, whose Sunday School teacher I was when she was in high school. Lynne, who became the drama teacher at HBA after me. So much for keeping this on the down-low. Lynne was the assistant director.
I shook it off. I stood in a circle with the others. I shoved my self-consciousness as far down as I could (which for me is never very far) and did what I could. I shouted the names of others in the circle. I did silly motions and made silly sounds. I did the leaping straddle that the HBA cheerleaders always thought was amazing (I learned it by watching David Lee Roth in Van Halen videos in the eighties). And then I did cold readings from the script.
Poorly. I did cold readings from the script, poorly. I knew it. But I also knew that everyone there had seen Lee Cataluna plays and was sorta auditioning as if they knew they were going to be in a Lee Cataluna play. I figured my only shot was to go the other way and play the characters some other way–some way that seemed real and thoughtful to me–not just funny. Actors can be funny, but if the script is good, actors don’t need to be funny. In fact, if the script is good, actors who play funny get in the way, not inhabiting the characters so much as play-acting, and when I directed plays, I hated it when my actors tried to be funny. Situations and dialogue are funny. Truth is funny. Realism is funny. The actor who can bring these things out without “playing” funny is the actor I want.
Unfortunately, either it wasn’t what the director, R. Kevin Doyle, whom I knew when we were both DJs at KTUH, wanted, or that actor just isn’t me.
I am undaunted, unperturbed, and undiscouraged, however, and will try again. Perhaps for the Darrell Lum play Kumu Kahua is holding auditions for. I know I am no good, but maybe no good will be good enough some day! I am quite pleased that I had the guts to get out there and audition for this one.
quick, random opinion: 
Frazz is a strangely nifty comic strip. I am slowly growing quite fond of it.

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