What is it Good For?

I wrote a really long treatise on the criticism I have taken lately for the way I look at women, but the only saved versions of it I can find are missing the last two-thirds of the essay. I do plan to reconstruct it, but I thought I’d give it a breather for a couple of weeks and come back to it. Perhaps I’ll be able to lose some of the edge that pretty much defines the entire piece when I read it aloud.

War. I have many swirling thoughts about what’s going on in Iraq, and I’ll confess that things just aren’t as clear to me as they were a year ago. While others seem to be swinging from Gung Ho to What the Hell?, I find myself moving from John Lennon to Woody on Cheers.

I consider myself a pacifist. Peace is something I have striven for over the past several years–peace of mind, peace of spirit, and peace of soul. I am convinced that the Evangelical Church has forgotten that Jesus was a man of peace; he was a man who preached and lived peace above all else except maybe love and forgiveness, and even in demonstrating love and forgiveness, he did so in as peaceful a way as any man who has ever walked the planet. I also don’t think there’s any debating how this is to translate to our own lives. He says, “A new command I give unto you: that you love one another as I have loved you.” As. I. Have loved. You.

This “as” could be read “in the same manner that” or it could be “because.” I think most Christians read it as the former, but in America, we believe that you have to stand up for yourself. This very nation’s existence is the result of men standing up and saying, “We will not take any more of this.” Believe me when I say that none of my pacifist leanings are meant to cheapen the sacrifices of any of the men who have fought or died in defense of this country. I’m not saying that our country needs to dissolve its military.

I am saying, however, that war is not something I can condone. The killing of other men seems to me a bizarre way to settle differences. I understand that something needs to be a last resort, and perhaps this is it. Yet we go to our last resort far, far too quickly, if you ask me. And far too cavalierly.

So it baffles me, this outrage among my fellow Americans over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by American security guards and military men. The pictures I’ve seen are appalling and outrageous, but are the actions depicted more appalling or outrageous than flying to another man’s country, taking aim at his forehead, and pulling a trigger? I don’t think so. My friend Valerie wrote me an email today that explains wonderfully how the humiliation of these men is worse than the acts of war done to their countrymen. She says that our soldiers go to war not as men fighting men, but as representatives of one country fighting representatives for an opposing side. When Joe shoots Ahmad in the desert, it’s one team member defeating another, when both players have agreed to meet in this arena. This is not the same as the humanizing, humiliating treatment these men–yes, men, not soldiers or insurgents–were subjected to in a building that flew the American flag.

Good point. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could settle this thing without killing or humiliating other people? This war does nothing to demonstrate our military might–rather, it does everything to demonstrate the weakness of our character and the inability of our elected leaders to solve problems in mature ways. We tell our children that there’s never a reason to hit other children in the schoolyard. How they are supposed to learn this lesson when every day we kill more human beings in the name of freedom and justice is beyond me, and I don’t consider myself an intellectual wuss.

And yet.

We’re supposed to pull out of here on June 30? How the heck are we going to do that? We pull out of there and leave the place as it is today, and we might as well have dropped them all on a desert island with a conch shell for making speeches and a pair of eyeglasses for starting fires. I don’t know what to think or what to do. I want our men and women home, and I want them safe, and I want us to leave the Iraqis to live the lives they want to live, but do they even know what they want? And if they don’t know what they want, how the heck do we know what they want?

Democracy–or at least, America’s version of it–is an odd thing. It gives power to the majority, but it entrusts its majority to look out for the minority. “Equal protection” is not the same thing as “majority rule,” and while we fail in many ways on this “equal protection” thing, I think we get it right most of the time. Where political liberals and conservatives differ is not in whether or not we need to look out for the poor and downtrodden, but in what the government’s role in doing so should be. Far-left-leaning and far-right-leaning folks paint their oppositions’ positions as alternately silly and unfeeling, but that’s not fair to either side. On the whole, we are a nation that cares about its citizens, voters and taxpayers or not.

However, we are a young nation. The system we have in place is basically new and strictly secular. How do we expect our democratic ideals to translate in this far-away land that is perhaps the birthplace of civilization? It seems that as soon as we relieve a country of one strong group’s oppressive rule, another group slides in and takes its place, citing divine right or something as its justification. If it’s not built into a people’s consciousness that those who are in power should look after those who are not in power, how do we instill it? We cannot simply say, “It works for us,” because in the eyes of so much of the rest of the world, it does not work for us. Left to our own liberties, we choose drugs, murder, sex, and waste. It’s worth it to me to allow this in the name of individual freedom, but I certainly understand people who think the opposite–that individual liberty should be sacrificed in order to protect us from our own foolish choices. I think we’d be happier and better off if we had less freedom.

I’m rambling here mostly to say that our version of democracy may not work in Iraq, and that the version that ends up working for it is likely to be something Americans don’t like. The President can say what he wants about anything being better than Saddam, but if he’s still around in a year or two, will he say the same thing when a new power is in place and its oppression of ethnic minorities teeters on the brink of genocide? Because that’s what I think might happen.

So I’m not sure we should just pack up the tents and load up the choppers and fly away home, despite my not wanting our men and women there in the first place. I’m not about regime-toppling; I am about peace-keeping. I dislike what we did, but maybe I think we need to stay there and keep peace.

There’s a new Michael Moore documentary called Farenheit 9/11 that played at Cannes this week. I don’t know much about it, but Roger Ebert’s review all by itself gives me much to think about. If what Ebert says Moore says is true, how do we believe anything–any single effing thing–that the President or his advisors say about what we’re doing in Iraq? The answer, I think, is that we don’t know what to believe, and that’s where I am now. I don’t know what or whom to believe, and when confusion sets in equally from all sides, I have to go with what I know is true, and thus I say war sucks, and let’s get everyone home until we know what the hell is going on.

I think.

I generally hate shows such as the one that was on last night, Motown 45, and avoid them like crazy, but I remember that twenty years ago (oh my gosh! how could that have been twenty years ago?), when I was eighth grade, and Motown celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, Michael Jackson whipped out the greatest moonwalk ever moonwalked, and the next day in school, everyone was talking about it. On the weird off-chance that something like that might happen again, and because I was too lazy to get up and turn the TV off (I don’t have a remote-controlled television), I watched it. It mostly sucked, but here are a few random thoughts that have been floating around since last night:

  • Smokey Robinson is the man. He can’t sing quite like he once could, but he still sings like Smokey, and that’s really good enough for me.
  • I have never been a Gladys Knight fan, but oh my goodness, she was the queen last night. She rocked. She was easily the best of the older Motown singers last night.
  • Kelly Rowland, from Destiny’s Child, is beautiful, and if you ask me, she’s way, way better than Diana Ross, whom she stood in for with the Supremes. I never could understand what everyone saw in Diana Ross. She and her Supremes are vastly overrated.
  • The Commodores are still the best-looking musical group in the world.


Here are my ten favorite TV shows of all time, not including MASH, which I’ve written about enough here.

  1. The Simpsons
  2. Can you believe that this show was considered dangerous just a few years ago? Every generation has its Bart Simpson, and I keep trying to convince people that it’s the job of every generation to come up with something shocking and offensive to the generation that came before. We look back on Elvis and laugh at ourselves. We look back at Bart and laugh at ourselves. “But the songs on the radio now have just gone too far!” even my liberal friends say, but they don’t get that that’s exactly what our parents said about Ozzy Osbourne, and what their parents said about Elvis, blue jeans, and guys with pierced ears. It doesn’t mean our society is in decline (which is not to say that it’s not in decline–this just doesn’t mean that). It only means that each generation improves on some things and degrades some things, and that’s how it should be.

  3. The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with David Letterman
  4. Nothing makes me laugh as much at one time or as often as this show. That, by itself, is enough.

  5. Saturday Night Live
  6. When it’s lame, there’s little on TV that’s lamer, but when it’s spot-on, there’s nothing edgier, more daring, and more socially significant than a great SNL sketch. Will Ferrell’s impression of James Lipton has replaced in people’s consciousnesses their own memory of James Lipton as he actually is (he’s from New Jersey–he doesn’t have anything remotely resembling the faux-European accent his SNL character has). Dana Carvey did the same thing with his George Bush Sr.

    My favorite SNL moment of alll time wasn’t even during a sketch. It was during one of Norm MacDonald’s “Weekend Update” segments, the Saturday after the O.J. Simpson verdict came down: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s official. Murder is now legal in the state of California!”

  7. Monday Night Football
  8. The games have been mostly lame lately, but in the eighties, it seemed that every game was thrilling and dramatic. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t yet jaded by the NFL and its ridiculous posturing and egos, but I loved just about every play of every game, no matter who was playing. The games with the Raiders, Chargers, and Steelers, though, were awesome. Howard Cosell’s Halftime Highlights was the most dramatic thing in the world.

  9. Cheers
  10. I jumped on this show at the very beginning, with episode 1. There was a time when networks would have some confidence in their shows and give them time to find their grooves and their audiences. Cheers was one of television’s least-watched shows, but it was also one of its most-praised, so NBC stuck with it, and a couple of years after it debuted, it was in the top ten, and now we all know why. This is the kind of thing that will never happen again.

  11. Get Smart
  12. My sister loved reruns of this show before I ever gave it a try, but soon we were howling together. We didn’t agree on a lot of shows (she really likes Leave it to Beaver, for example–a show I despise), but I’m sure we’d both list this in our top tens. Why the heck isn’t this on DVD yet?

  13. The Twilight Zone
  14. The kind of show that could never make it nowadays, as shows like Gun have proved. You need a regular cast and established setting, which The Twilight Zone didn’t have. Plus, you don’t really need great writing and acting, which The Twilight Zone most certainly did have. Favorite episode: “Time Enough at Last,” with Burgess Meredith.

  15. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  16. “This is an EX parrot!”

  17. The Muppet Show
  18. Clever, charming, witty, hilarious, and sweet, this was a mind-blowingly elaborate show with great sketches and awesome musical performances. Best musical number: Paul Simon and what seemed like the entire cast doing “Scarborough Fair,” with Miss Piggy singing the “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme” parts. Little-known trivia: Kermit had a crush on one of the other characters, and it wasn’t Miss Piggy! Check out who he always dances with in the “At the Dance” sketches.

  19. The Brady Bunch
  20. I admit it. I love The Brady Bunch. I know it’s stupid. I can’t help it.

    Bonus List: Shows I Loved That Weren’t (or haven’t been) On TV Long Enough to Make the List
    *(or were only good for a very short time before sucking)

    • 21 Jump Street
    • *Beverly Hills 90210
    • The Greatest American Hero
    • *The John Larroquette Show
    • *Ally McBeal
    • Anything but Love
    • Good Eats
    • Later with Bob Costas
    • Square Pegs

Each Another’s Audience Outside the Gilded Cage

13. Noises Off: Cool Play at Paliku Theater

A colleague of mine (and fellow HBA graduate), Amy Oshiro, is running the soundboard for this latest Ron-Bright-directed British comedy. A play within a play is what it is, which can be gimmicky. In fact, after the first act, I didn’t think anything could be done to save it. It was a sort of chaotic mess, with actors playing actors playing characters, but very little differentiation between the “actors” and the “characters.”

But then the curtain came up on the second act, and what the audience saw next was the very set the “actors” had been rehearsing in front of in the first act, only from behind. The audience was getting a backstage view of the backstage area of the set! It was very, very, very interesting. The actors played the “actors” backstage during a performance of the play within the play, then ran “onstage” to “perform.” I’m afraid maybe I’m not being clear, but if you think carefully about what I’m writing, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

The third act was again performed in front of the set, as the “actors” “perform” the play within the play on its closing night. What’s amazing about this play is the complicated and elaborate blocking. It was impossible–yes, impossible–to follow all the action, as actors ran onstage and offstage and got into fights and fell in love, all without uttering a word of dialogue in that second act. It was clearly a flexing of Ron Bright’s directorial muscle, not to mention a pretty entrusting step by the director of his audience.

Even cooler is that I got to see it for free. Amy had a few comps, and her mom (who teaches at HBA) asked V and me to go along. Thanks, Amy and Mary!

14. Poem

In my August 31 entry, I posted the initial draft of a poem I’d scribbled one evening at Barnes & Noble. I was really happy, because it’d been so long since I’d written anything, you know, well, not meaningful, because I’ve written lots of meaningful stuff, but poetic, I guess. I got an email the next day from Christine Hong, a former student and one of the best writers I’ve taught (‘though to be fair, I was never her English teacher). She gave me some really nice comments, but then I asked her what she really thought, asking very specific questions about my poem, and she gave me very, very good critique.

And then I put the poem aside. Just, you know, forgot about it, until a couple weeks ago, when I picked it back up. I had pretty much forgotten everything Christine had suggested, but I do know how to work my own poetry, so I got to work. It was work, by the way, in case you think these things just fall out of the sky, but it was good, joyful work. When I had it how I thought I wanted it, I dug up Christine’s email and wow. I either had the same thoughts, or her ideas absorbed themselves into my conscience and I adopted them as my own, because I mostly addressed everything she said. I decided against some of her advice, but that was only after serious consideration.

Anyway, the poem is here, if you’d like to see it. Please respect my ownership and don’t pass it around without my name on it. I’d like to submit it for publication in the fall and don’t need any copyright hassles.

15. Easter: “Hear the Bells Ringing, They’re Singing…”

Happy Easter. I know it’s late, but I really want to say that.

Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound, “He has risen?”
Over and over in a never-ending round:
He has risen, Hallelujah…Hallelujah…

‘Round and ‘Round

Well. The day after my birthday, I managed to get up in time for the bus ride. There are several different ways I could get to work, but the way that appealed to me most involved walking down my hill to School Street, catching the School-Middle-Street bus (#2) to the Kalihi Transit Center (you know, on Middle Street next to the Love’s Bakery), walking to Dillingham, and grabbing just about any bus that stops there. The ride on the #2 is shorter than ten minutes, while the ride from Dillingham down Nimitz to Valkenburgh is right around ten minutes, meaning I spend more time each morning walking to bus stops than I do riding buses.

I could begin the trip by taking the #2 in the opposite direction and then transfering downtown, but I absolutely abhor the thought of riding away from my destination, even if the actual travel time would be about the same.

The morning walks are wonderful. I am a total night owl, but I also love the early mornings (my ideal day would begin at about seven p.m. and end at about eleven a.m.). The air is fresh and clean, as is my brain, and I love the privacy I get, alone with my thoughts and with the pre-sunrise sky.

The bus rides are tolerable. I get motion-sickness like crazy if I read in a moving vehicle, but the rides are so short that I’m usually off the bus before I get really nauseous. I’ve been lazy lately and haven’t been fixing lunch before I go to bed, so I’ve picked up breakfast and lunch at the McDonald’s at the bottom of my hill. Definitely a habit I need to get out of, but I do need to eat something before the work day begins.

It’s about a seven-minute walk from Valkenburgh to my school. There are four baseball fields right near our school, and I take a straight line right through one of them in order to get to work. The grass is usually wet and frequently just-cut, so that by the time I get across it, the toes of my shoes are wet and covered with clippings. It is my favorite part of the day, lately, this two minutes of tromping across the dewey outfield. It is my two minutes of poetry. My two minutes of Thoreau, of Frost, of Dillard. It’s my two minutes every day of reminding myself that I love to be out-of-doors, that there is still something in me that is moved by the pleasure of the cold dew seeping through my leather Vans and cotton socks. When you teach all day in an air-conditioned, double-wide trailer, you need to be reminded of these things.

It was my intention to be on buses early enough to avoid running into my bus-riding students, but I’d say I run into them half the time. It’s not so bad; they’re usually not quite awake enough to be chatty.

Riding home has the disadvantage of not being early in the morning. I’m tired. I’m carrying the weight of mistakes I’ve made during the day, or tasks not completed when I hoped. There’s also the problem of that hill, that wonderful hill I walk down with such pleasure every morning. Walking up it, let me tellya, is not as pleasurable.

Riding home has the advantages, though, that come with not having to be anywhere at any certain time. This means I can be a little more adventurous in the afternoons. I can dawdle. I can explore. I can stop and have a sit-down dinner somewhere. I can run errands. I have, in nearly two weeks of riding the bus home, not taken the same route twice. One consideration every afternoon is whether or not I will try to take the Alewa Heights (#10) bus from somewhere in Kalihi to a stop on Houghtailing that will allow me to avoid walking up the steepest part of my hill. It’s still nearly a ten-minute walk from that stop to my driveway, all up-hill, but it’s a much nicer walk from that bus stop than from School Street.

The problem with the #10, however, is that it runs about once an hour. Waiting an hour, if I miss the one I’m hoping to catch, for a bus that takes me a distance I can walk in twenty to thirty minutes seems really stupid. So I have walked home from as far away as Dillingham.

I had dinner a few nights ago at what was once my second-least-favorite Zippy’s (the one at the corner of King and Mokauea) because I waited for the #10 at the stop on King, when the #10 stops on Mokauea, just around the corner. It’s a very convenient Zippy’s. I also, after JUST missing the #10 at the same stop, got to explore Queen’s Supermarket, a Korean store similar in ambition to the Palama Market, where I usually go for Korean stuff.

So while not having my car is undoubtedly an inconvenience, I am currently quite taken with the romance of it. Or maybe it’s not romance so much as novelty. I was a bus rider all through high school (it was a heavy price to pay for independence, but I paid it willingly) and for several months right after I graduated from college, and never have I enjoyed it even a little. I don’t know what the difference is.

I have enjoyed, too, the chance to read. My house is packed with books I’ve been meaning to read, and I am resolved to get rid of a significant portion of my collection this year. I loved the anticipation I felt when, the day I was going to finish that Tobias Wolff novel, I pulled two titles from the shelf for the purpose of selecting what would be my next read. World’s Fair, by E.L. Doctorow, was the easy winner over We Were The Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates. Ghosts-of-the-past Oprah’s-Book-Club stories don’t interest me as much as post-WWII American-angst stories, so while I still plan to read the Oates novel, I am happy to be taking my sweet time through the Doctorow book.
I know I’m not the only person who envies Albert’s way of life in some way, and for me it’s the time. Albert pretty much spends his time the way I would, were I to choose a similar path: reading, emailing, playing computer games, feeding kitties, and drinking beer in the park.

Reading. As much as his many exploits interest me in a wide-variety of ways, what I most look forward to when I read his journal is an update on what he’s reading.

Maybe that’s why I say “romance.” There are things about Albert’s life I would never, ever want to have to deal with on a daily basis, but I feel a small kinship with him most days.

This week’s Friday Five is another set of questions submitted by me!

  1. What does it say in the signature line of your emails?
    My personal emails contain two quotes:
    “O Love,
    that fires the sun,
    keep me burning.”
    Bruce Cockburn, “Lord of the Starfields”
    “Stupid is as stupid does.”
    Forrest Gump

    My professional emails contain a quote by Kahlil Gibran: “Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.”

  2. Did you have a senior quote in your high-school yearbook?
    “You lock the door and throw away the key; there’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.”
    Pink Floyd, “Brain Damage”
  3. If you had vanity plates on your car, what would they read?
    I like “WRITER,” but if that’s taken, I think “2BV-2B” would be cool, although that’s certainly way too esoteric. In symbolic logic, the V means “or” and the – means “not,” so the plate would read “to be or not to be.”
  4. Have you received any gifts with messages engraved upon them? What did the inscription say?
    Miss Koide, my GT teacher in elementary school, gave me a Cross pen with my name engraved in it when I graduated from sixth grade. Great gift.
  5. What would you like your epitaph to be?
    It would be nice, if when I die, I’ll have published something lasting, and my family would put a quote from my poetry or prose on my headstone. But barring that, I’d like my epitaph to say, “He loved his family.”

  6. quick, random opinion:
    Big Fish: not a must-see, but pretty good.

The Year of Thirty-Five

New Years. We went to Traci’s, as we always do. Last year, it was really just me, Traci, Valerie, and George, with Lynne and Ross dropping in for a few hours each. This year, it was me, Traci, Valerie, George, Artoo, Ross for a few hours, Dwight, and Nancy. I will confess to not looking as forward to this one as to celebrations past. First, I was slightly uncomfortable with Dwight and Nancy being there. When Dwight taught at HBA, he demonstrated very little interest in maintaining any kind of off-campus friendship with us. We would try to invite him and his wife Nancy to our various activities, but while they were two very, very nice people, they seemed to make it clear that they didn’t want to hang out with us.

So while I don’t like to admit it, I was slightly annoyed that they suddenly dropped back into our lives on short notice, calling George and wanting to get together. It’d been a year and a half since any of us had heard from Dwight (he and Nancy moved to Pennsylvania) and his just dropping back in like that, assuming a level of friendship that never really existed, miffed me. I know, I know: I’m begin petty again. I’m just a little frustrated about some of the weird group-dynamics stuff that’s been going on.

It ended up being much nicer than I expected to see Dwight and Nancy. It made me regret my initial feelings of resentment, but it also made me sad that we never really hung out when he lived here. Married people just live differently, I guess.

And maybe I’m imagining it, but we are losing Traci at an amazing rate. It makes sense, but I wasn’t ready for it, I guess. We are now the second-tier friends. Or, wait, no, I guess we’re still first-tier friends, but of course we become less important when the significant other enters the picture. Especially when the significant other has almost nothing in common with the rest of us. I still loved hanging at Traci’s, but I had the weirdest, most uncomfortable feeling that I wished Traci wasn’t there.

What’s happening to me? I am just not like this–with friend situations, I think I typically take the changes as they come and just deal. Perhaps this particular group of friends–Traci, George, Ross, and Valerie–means a lot more to me than groups of friends I’ve had in the past, and these dramatic changes bother me more than I’m used to.

We had a really nice time, although the usual games-playing (Artoo is not a games-player) was replaced with just hanging out and talking. Since were just sorta sitting around, we lost Valerie and George to sleep much earlier than we used to.

On the huge plus side, I got a chance to begin Tobias Wolff’s Old School, a novel given me by Anto, while the others played with fireworks. Very good novel, so far.

I turned thirty-five on Monday, the day I had to return to work from Christmas break. I would normally use one of my days of personal-leave on my birthday, but I just took a personal-day on the Tuesday of the last week before Christmas break began, and I hate the idea of using both of my personal-days in consecutive school-weeks.

Sunday, I woke up early and gathered my stuff and caught the bus to school. It was a practice run. Since I’ve decided not to fix the clutch in my car until maybe late February, I am now a pedestrian and bus-rider. It was a successful practice run. I got home at around two, took a nap, then went to Cathy’s (again, on the bus) to watch the Sugar Bowl. Then we picked Anto up at the airport and Cathy dropped me off at home.

Then I got everything ready. Clothes. Books. Backpack. Reading material in case a bus was late. The only thing I didn’t have was lunch. So I whipped up some of my killer beef stew (I’m serious–I love this stuff!), which cooks slowly in a low-temp oven for five hours. Then off to bed at a really disciplined hour.

But then I had to get up at two-thirty to take the stew out of the oven and set it on the table, so it could cool, and of course I had to eat a small bowl just to make sure it was good (oh, it was good, all right). Then Valerie called me (she knew I’d be up to get the stew taken care of) to say happy birthday and then I was back to sleep by three.

I set the alarm for five-thirty. I woke up at nearly seven.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I do not know whether the alarm-clock malfunctioned or I simply shut it off in my sleep, but I did know that there was no way in the world I was getting to school on time. I had to call Cathy to bail me out. She wasn’t going back to work until the next day, so she drove to my house. I dropped her off at home and then drove to school, getting there in plenty of time.

Not a great start to thirty-five, but then if you look at it a different way, it was a great start, because in my first real major problem of the year, I had a friend to help me out of my mess. I do love my friends.

Cathy, Valerie, and I went for dinner at Panda’s and then to Barnes and Noble to just hang out. It was the best hanging-out I’ve had in some time. We looked at some children’s books (did you know it’s the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Frog and Toad books?) and then sat down for some hot drinks and reading. I printed up my NaNoWriMo novel and Valerie had it spiral-bound. There are only three copies–one for me, one for Valerie, and one for Cathy. Valerie, because she knows better than anyone else what I’m trying to do with my writing and she’ll be merciless-but-loving in her critique. Cathy because she was actually with me during the writing of most of it.

We all got home by nine-thirty. It was a nice, mellow birthday and I don’t think there’s any way I’d rather have spent this one.

I did get up in time on Tuesday to make the bus ride, but more about riding the bus perhaps this weekend.

Tuesday was Valerie’s birthday. We were taken to dinner at Zia’s in Kaneohe. Ross, George, Traci, Amy, Cathy, Dawn (yay!), Lynne, and Anto treated us. Normally, Valerie and I have pretty expensive taste, especially for special days such as our birthdays, but we were a little worried that people might not come if we went somewhere more expensive. Zia’s is pretty-good food (though the reviewers don’t seem to think so), but the prices are wonderfully reasonable and the ambience for something like a birthday party is swell. At one point, near the end, I asked Valerie if she thought we’d have had a better time at Cafe Sistina (it’s our favorite restaurant) and she agreed that we wouldn’t. And each person’s share of our dinners was a dollar and fifty cents. For both our meals. It was an all-around success.

Speaking of my NaNovel, I finally uploaded the rest of the novel, so if you wanna read it, just click the link in the column
on the left. I’ll leave it up until the end of the month.

This week’s Friday Five isn’t up yet, so I’ll do last week’s.

What one thing are you most looking forward to:

  1. today?
    There are only a couple of hours left in today, so I’ll take the question to mean Friday. What I’m most looking forward to is getting home Friday afternoon and not having to be anywhere at any time until Sunday morning.
  2. over the next week?
    Pay day. No contest.
  3. this year?
    On a completely impersonal level, I’m really looking forward to the Summer Olympics and, of course, the baseball season. More meaningfully, I look forward to continuing the slow, steady improvement of my personal life. I am going to get my act together this year.
  4. over the next five years?
    I’ll be forty in five years. I look forward to two major events: the publication of my first novel and my wedding.
    Mrs. Dwyer, you have five years to find me! The clock is ticking!
  5. for the rest of your life?
    Wow. That’s quite a question. I guess what I’m most looking forward to is being a husband and father, although that’s not the most important thing. I can quite peacefully accept, if it comes to it, the realization that I will be neither father nor husband, while there are many other things that I absolutely can’t do without. Still, what I most want is the family.

    Fantasy answer: I look forward to the day I give my Newbery Medal acceptance speech in front of the American Library Association.

quick, random opinion:
Great band you’ve never heard of: Evergrey.

Excuse Me While I Get Petty

Strange Christmas season, this year. I’ve been busy and not-so-busy, all at the same time. I’ve been relaxed and anxious, also at the same time.

R has come home for Christmas. We have talked, at great length, about her broken engagement. It’s all very strange: I can’t really imagine what it must be like to have broken an engagement (even mutually, as is the case here), and the weirdness is added to by the fact that she actually moved away to find out that she’s not going to marry G. How in the world is this R’s life? I mean, I knew she was getting stir-crazy and restless, as she always does, but this? This is way too far outside the realm of imagination for me.

I knew, back in the early summer, when she told me that the program she had hoped to enroll in at Golden Gate had been discontinued and that she was instead going to be in the theological studies program, that something was very wrong. Now she goes back to San Francisco to finish the academic year, but then what?

I have struggled with knowing how to be a good friend here. Luckily (or some other adverb), it has never once been a temptation to say “I told you so.” I was worried about that before R came home, but it seems not to be on my mind, ever, when I’m talking to her.

So we have R back, at least for three weeks, but it looks like we’re losing Traci. She’s hanging out with Artoo, which I don’t have a problem with. He seems like a nice guy, and based on very limited interaction with him, that seems also to be the only thing he has in common with Traci. I mean being nice, not being a guy. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s all Traci needs is someone nice. If she were to tell me today that she’s going to marry him, I don’t think I’d have a problem with it (although that would be freakier than the sudden courtship and marriage of AJ and Larah).

But the other night, we checked out the Honolulu City Lights, something we did last Christmas. Traci had mentioned many times that she really wanted to do that again. By “that” I thought she meant the hanging out, the walking around, the hot cocoa on the steps of that building where you get your state i.d. It sounded like she wanted to make that a tradition or something. So we planned the thing. I called Traci to tell her what the plan was. She never called me back (very unlike her) and we didn’t learn until that day that she wasn’t going to be able to join us until later, when we assembled at Ross’s.

It was me, Ross, George, and R, none of whom particularly wanted to see the lights in the first place (although I must say that once we got started, I really enjoyed the displays on the lawn near the records building, and the wreaths were very nice this year). I really don’t know how to communicate the ubiquitous sense of Traci’s absence I felt. I think maybe it’s ridiculous to have felt that way–it’s not as if the four of us have never done stuff in Traci’s absence. But I guess that since we were doing it seemingly at Traci’s insistence, her not being there was just odd.

We got to Ross’s and were joined by AJ, Traci, and Artoo and had bread, brie, and a sun-dried-tomato-vinegar spread created by R. I do not know what was going on when Traci started making conversation, but for reasons I can’t figure out, everything she asked me (“How was your Christmas? What did you get your niece and nephew?”) sounded forced, superficial, and unnatural. This is someone I’ve had wonderful conversations with on countless nights for more than seven years (and that’s not counting when I was her eleventh- and twelfth-grade Sunday-School teacher) and on this evening, everything she said sounded like it was coming out of someone else.

I know I’m projecting a lot of this. I don’t handle shifts in group-dynamics very gracefully and never have. But Traci seemed to communicate with complete ease when she was talking to Artoo. That’s a good thing. I just wonder what it means.

The clutch went out on my car. The mechanic said maybe six or seven hundred bucks to fix it. Gotta think about this. I may become a bus-rider for a month or two while I figure out how to handle this situation. Urgh.

I saw Mona Lisa Smile last week and as much as I love Julia Roberts (and you know how much I love Julia Roberts!), all I gotta say is: pass. I saw Paycheck on Christmas Day and it was quite entertaining, if not very intelligent.

quick, random opinion:
I was wrong about the Dolphins, but I’m sticking with the Rams.

Breathe In. Breathe Out.

note: This entry was never really completed, and I never posted it until I went through old entries and reformatted them for the new location. I only post it here now because shortly after I ran the entry from the day before, I got an email from Liann, whose mother found the entry via Google and forwarded her the link, saying I’d hurt her with “Liann Ebesugawa ruined my day.” I quickly (and embarrassedly) explained what I meant, and forwarded her a copy of this never-published entry. I inconspicuously slide it in here now, so that others might not misunderstand what I said. I do plan to finish this some day.


I got to Ward Center slightly early–the stores didn’t open until ten, except for Borders, so I went to Mocha Java for breakfast. I read the paper as I happily munched my omelet.

Nearly finished, I glanced up from the paper, and from behind, saw a slender Japanese-local woman in white shorts waiting at the counter for a cup of coffee. I swear: the first thought that shot through my mind was, “Those look like Liann’s legs.”

I don’t know why I never take myself seriously on stuff like that, but instead of checking to see if it actually was Liann, I went back to the newspaper.

My first semester in Hilo, I took a 7:30 Tuesday-Thursday Brit Lit survey, a 9:00 Tuesday-Thursday Shakespeare course, a Monday-Wednesday-Friday geography survey, a 3:00 five-day-a-week Japanese language course, and a Monday-only 6:00 to 9:00 Chaucer course. Don’t laugh–that Chaucer course was the best thing I took in all my years of school.

The first night of that Chaucer course, I sat in the back row, two columns from the wall nearest the door. Sitting one row ahead of me and against the wall was, I decided that night, the most beautiful woman in Hilo. I don’t remember what she wore (okay, I remember she wore shorts), but I do remember what she was reading (this should tell you something about what really attracts me to a woman!): Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar.

I asked her, during the few minutes before the beginning of class, if it was assigned reading. She said no, she was reading it for herself. I asked her if she was Japanese. She said yeah, and asked if I, too, was Japanese.

Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I’m shy, remember? It was a lot for me to just go up to her and start talking. I was emboldened by the fact that she was reading (and that’s my turf!) a book I was very familiar with, of course, and I have never hesitated to talk to anyone about what he or she was reading.

That was about the extent of our first conversation. When Dr. David Miller called the roll, I paid very close attention, so I could remember her name.

And then: I never saw her again that semester! She dropped the course!

But we were both English majors and we both worked in the Writing Center, so I got to know her other ways. The day I had my orientation for the Writing Center and saw Liann in the same meeting was one of the best days. I went home. My roomie asked how it was. I said, “I’m working alongside the most beautiful woman in Hilo.”

“What’s her name?”

“Liann Ebesugawa.”

“Oh yeah. I know her. Hmmm. She is the most beautiful woman in Hilo.”

(to be completed…someday…)

quick, random opinion:
Next Monday night: Raiders 27, Packers 20

Bursting the Dam

I checked out Central Baptist again, where I’d been going on-and-off about six years ago. Cathy goes there now, and teaches a Sunday School class, and after hearing so much about it, I thought I’d give it a visit. No verdict yet.

Right after worship service, I drove to school and worked my butt off. I was uncharacteristically focused and really productive, finishing up a lot of stuff that I thought I’d gradually get done over the course of this upcoming school-week. After about four hours, I picked Cathy up and we went to Barnes and Noble (for me, it was fifth time in the past week) so Cathy could work on essays and I could do some lesson-planning. There was this guy straightening the magazine rack, and he was obviously good at what he was doing. I loved watching him do his work, and jotted down a few phrases and images that popped into my mind, and then the poem came.

It’s been years–YEARS!–since I’ve written any real poetry, and although I’ve felt a few things coming on over the past month or so (there’s one poem still incubating about “pedal fade” but I can’t settle it down), I haven’t been able to get anything down right. This came out like a flood, though, and I could barely write my lines down fast enough to keep up with what was going on in my brain.

Of course, it ended up being a poem about something different from what I started off with, and I am not displeased with the results. It’s definitely in rough-draft form right now (I tend to write way too verbosely and then pare my lines down and discard unneeded info, rather than start off spare and add stuff to it), but there’s enough good stuff there that I can tell it’s probably going to be a keeper. I hesitate to do this, but I’m going to post its current incarnation here, because I’m feeling that I need to share it with someone.

My fantasy baseball team won its first-round playoff game this week with relative ease (500+ points!), despite John Smoltz and Mark Mulder being out with injuries and I am now playing in the semis. This is the furthest I’ve made it into the season in ten years of playing this geeky game.

quick, random opinion:
Stadium Bowl-O-Drome is awesome.