Friday 5: No intersection

Set theory was one of my best events in Math League when I was in high school. You probably didn’t know this.

  1. When did you last read a physical issue of a magazine?

I subscribe to the reincarnation of CREEM magazine, but I admit I’ve allowed issues to pile up. Part of my job is writing for the physical magazine my employer publishes quarterly, and of course I also edit that before we go to print, and then read the hard copy, but I feel like this shouldn’t count. As a member of the National Puzzlers League, I receive the monthly newsletter, which contains news and a crazy number of word puzzles, but is that a newsletter or a magazine?

I also help edit the state university’s alumni magazine, and I write a crossword puzzle for it. I read it many times before it’s in print, and then usually when we get the hard copies. We put this to bed a few weeks ago and it’s not yet in print, so I can’t count it even if I can count it.

Does a literary journal count? I read a few pages from one the other night. It happens to be the issue in which I published a poem last year, but I was not reading my own work. I think this counts. So yeah. Bamboo Ridge issue #124, late last week.

2. If someone were going through your wardrobe, which item or items would give the person a good idea of your age?

I still have every one of my class shirts from intermediate and high school, and they all say some version of Class of ’87 on them. Dead giveaway. Also a counterfeit Members Only jacket and a tee that says, “Shall we play a game?”

3. What is your favorite song released in 2024?

This week marked the year’s halfway point, so I’ve been thinking about this in preparation to make a couple of lists. My choice three months ago (the quarter-year mark) was “Life’s a Fucking Miracle” by James. Yes, the James who had something of a hit album in 1993 with Laid. They put out a new album this year called Yummy, and it’s pretty dang terrific. This is probably still my number one, but some good runners up are “Houdini” and “Illusion” by Dua Lipa (pop), “Hot City” by Bonnie McKee (also pop but a different kind), “He Came Down” by T Bone Burnett (Americana), “Picked First” by Sasha Alex Sloan (psycho-folk singer-songwriter), something from the Taylor Swift album and something from the Billie Eilish album and maybe something from the Sheryl Crow album.

I just tried to embed the James video here, and it turns out because the video is age-restricted (there isn’t even anything in the video; it’s just the sung lyrics I suppose), I can’t embed it here. So I’m embedding the radio edit, which I just discovered exists. Please, as you listen, replace in your ears the word “shocking” with the word “fucking,” which makes it a much better song, or look up the song yourself on YouTube or in whatever streaming audio service you use. It’s just a fantastic song.

4. What non-food item did you last put in a zippered plastic bag?

When I’m reading a physical book, I usually carry it around in a zippered plastic bag. So this photo from yesterday morning answers the question. You can see the corner of the bag on the left.

5. You may know that in Japan there are cafes where you can play with bunnies, cats, hedgehogs, reptiles, owls, and many other kinds of animals. Assuming one hundred percent good faith, which would mean the animals’ safety and mental health are completely assured and the animals are rescues, making it unsafe for them to be released back into the wild, which animal cafe (whether it exists now or not) would you most like to spend time in?

We don’t have fireflies in Hawaii, and while I’ve spent a few evenings in places where they exist, I rather miss them. I’d like to sit in an open-air type space where fireflies just buzz all around, while I sip coffee and enjoy them, perhaps in the company of a bookish middle-aged woman with a thing for writers.

The Arctic Light

Before I attack a couple of Friday 5s, a little update in bullet form because my brain’s a little fluffy this afternoon and I’ll excuse myself much more easily when my prose is terrible if I’m just making a list.

  • I’m going through a wee bit of ickiness these days, which I will explain in the coming weeks. I’m not depressed — I hear the call of the abyss many times each day but I only allow myself the briefest glances in its direction. I’ve learned to redirect in moments like this, as tempting as it is to dive in and plummet. It has worked so far. My therapist (yes, I have one now) and my psychiatrist (I have one of them too) both say this is a good strategy. I’m rather pleased I came up with it on my own, before I met either of them. I’m somewhat annoyed it took me so long to figure it out. I’m baffled that such a thing works.
  • However, I’m pretty sad about one major thing and perhaps a few smaller things. Sadness doesn’t worry me, but it’s been intense this weekend.
  • The major thing is I’m going through a breakup. I was seeing someone most of last year. We shall know her in this space as Gin Blossom. Or at least for now — I should really look that phrase up to see if it meant something before it was the name of a great alt-pop band in the mid-90s. It ended right after the new year and I’ve been mostly okay, but this weekend it got worse for reasons I’ll probably get into, if only to help me sort it out. I mean, that’s what this space is for. You thought it was for the audience?
  • I’m writing this in a physical space very, very familiar to me, yet not really visited in the past five years. Hamilton Library, on the campus at UH Manoa. The nonprofit I work for, who used to be based here on this campus, moved to offices near Ala Moana in February 2019. I’ve still come by, because I love libraries and because I’ve continued to borrow things here (one of the perks of my employemnet), but I haven’t worked here. I have several favored spots. Right now I’m in one of my most productive locations, completely alone while much of the rest of the study spaces are rather busy. It’s finals time, you know.
  • Listening to Marika Takeuchi’s soothing neoclassical and new wave piano excellence while I write. I needed something mellow and intelligent. Not an album in order, as I usually listen, but “Top songs” or whatever Apple Music calls it, just a very long list of songs played a lot by other fans, I guess.
  • I’ll be writing and working in this space a lot more, beginning pretty soon. The foundation moves back on campus. We were supposed to move in the day after tomorrow, but this is not happening, so now most of us are in work-from-home mode until things get straightened out, which I suspect will be in a week. I was on the fence about leaving the old space, which was in a great area. I am no longer on the fence. We’ve been talking about this move for so long and we’ve been actively getting ready for it for so long that I just want the whole thing to be over. I did not forget how great it is to work on a university campus; however, I feel myself clicking into place with a comfort I find affirming and encouraging.
  • I’m stopping at the fish market to pick up stuff for dinner. I make dinner for the parents on Saturdays, and I realize now I probably won’t have time to finish my Friday 5s before I have to go. I’ll do what I can, though, and finish this evening from home.

From April 19: Gemini from here.

  1. What movie do you think everyone should see?
    I think I have several answers to this question. I surprised myself by not having a ready answer, the way I do for the books version of this question. The film I think everyone should see because it’s (a) about as close to perfect as a movie has ever come and (b) perhaps the most canonical film in the canon, is Casablanca, which is also my favorite film.

    Somebody somewhere asked what book every president of the United States should read, and my answer was Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston if an autobiography is preferred or Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata if a novel is preferred. They are both about the Japanese internment in WWII in America, and I am not saying this one issue is more important than any of the other super super important issues every American should be aware of, but Americans are less likely to have a meaningful understanding of what happened, and we just can’t allow this kind of treatment of our fellow citizens ever to happen again.

    So I feel I need to come up with a film with that kind of approach: something everyone should see because it makes them more (fill in the blank). Something beautiful or important or meaningful we would all benefit from experiencing if everyone else were also to experience it. This leads me to something with cosmic or spiritual meaning, but maybe I haven’t seen the film that does this for me, at least directly. I can think of many, many films that do it a bit more artistically. Many people thinking about this suggest Babette’s Feast, a wonderful example. However, reserving the right to change my mind when I think of something much better on my drive home in a moment, I’m going with Groundhog Day.
  2. What song describes your overall mood or outlook on life right now?
    The song in my headphones right now is called “The Arctic Light” by Marika Takeuchi, and in this moment it really sums it up well. Melancholy but hopeful, while being aware of all the non-melancholy, beautiful things around me.
  3. What’s the most memorable food you’ve eaten while traveling?
    I don’t even remember what we had, but when I stopped at Stanford to visit R in her senior year there, we took the BART into the city and wandered around until we found an Italian restaurant. Our college years were so crazy for us, individually and as two friends who would later be in love (one of us was already in love, but we shall not revisit this today), and as she was about to close this four-year chapter of her life and come (maybe?) home and I was still trying to figure out how to make college work, we had a meal that made me think it was all going to be okay, that we were still the friends we’d been in high school. We went back the next night to eat there again, only this time I ordered what she’d had, and she ordered what I’d had. It felt for years after like the most important meal I’d ever had.

    The other is Molokai hot bread. That’s what they call it there. I didn’t know what it was either when I asked all the teens I was working with for a week one summer what their favorite food was and almost all of them said hot bread. There’s a bakery there, Kanemitsu Bakery. After 10:00 in the evening, you could walk down a back alley, knock on this old wooden door, and wait for one of the bakers to stick his head out and say, “Yeah?” as if he had no idea what you were there for. There was one thing to order: a round loaf of bread, right out of the oven. You could order it with some combination of butter, sugar and cinnamon, jelly, and cream cheese. Years later they added other varieties, but I have always had the strawberry jelly and cream cheese and let me tell you: there has never been a more perfect food on this planet. It’s the Casablanca of food.
  4. When were you most recently disappointed by the closing of a store or restaurant?
    My lovely non-Hawaii friends are not going to understand this, but a crack seed shop opened near the office right at the start of the lockdown, and it’s closing at the end of the month to go strictly online. It was a block from the office, which is no longer my office, and a terrific combination of new, inventive candies appealing to today’s sweet tooths and throwback nostalgic snacks only people in Hawaii of a certain age would appreciate. I was pleased to discover it for all my coworkers who also became regulars, and we went for one last visit last week, and a few of us had stamp cards to redeem for free Icees. I will still order from them when they are only online, but dang will I miss going into that store.
  5. How have you been sleeping lately?
    Mostly terribly. I wake up an hour before my alarm no matter when I set it and I can’t get back to sleep. My weekends, where I usually catch up on sleep when I need to, have been busy with Camp NaNoWriMo stuff. I have been. undisciplined in putting myself to bed. It’s been just ridiculous for a few weeks.

Okay I did have time to finish one 5 but not two. I’ll take it. Will come back and edit typos and dumb phrasing later. Here’s some stock video someone put behind the Marika Takeuchi song, which I was pleased to discover has been covered on YouTube by maybe 20 musicians. I had no idea this song was so popular. I’m pleased to see it is.

Last of 2022

My silence in this space was only intentional the first several months. I’ve meant to get back to it for nearly half a year now but certain logistics have made it less convenient than it used to be, believe it or not. I didn’t think anything could be less convenient than my old setup, but while the technical aspects of getting this space updated are much much better, some practical aspects need figuring out.

A brief rundown on the rest of the year before I hit the Friday 5.

  • I moved. Got the word from the landlord he needed the space to take care of a sister in hospice care. So after 24 years in that space, I knew this was a sign it was time to come back to the parents’ home in Waimalu, which I finally did at the very end of March. I didn’t write about it then because I was a bit stressed-out and I didn’t want to share details with people before it was done. It’s how I am with the big things in life.
  • I still write for the non-profit and had a good year — good enough to get probably the best evaluation I’ve had in my five years. Yay, five years. It’s the magic number in the foundation because it’s when the free parking kicks in. Free parking in this town is like getting a raise. I still love my work and I think I’m getting better at it.
  • I lost nearly 20 pounds between Thanksgiving last year and July this year, and then I put almost. all of it back. Very annoying, but when I finally stepped on a scale again last week for the first time since July, I was semi-relieved to see I was exactly where I was a year ago. I mean exactly. And if I dropped all that weight last year, I can do it again this year, and hopefully keep going. Stick around for my resolutions, which I’ll write in this space probably tomorrow.
  • I was Municipal co-Liaison again for NaNoWriMo, for the second year. This year we returned to in-person events, which is a big deal. I met some new people and got to see some long-timers for the first time in ages. It wasn’t nearly the fantastic blowout I would like to see, but it was a very good transition, I think. I have big plans for next year. Oh yeah, and I hit 50,000 words for the month on a new project I’m pretty excited about.
  • The writing partner and I haven’t met as often as we planned, but we’re still meeting and still writing. This is an important relationship for me for many reasons, not the last of which. is it keeps me thinking about my writing and my dreams of writing, which I am not quite ready to give up on.
  • I saw two movies in theaters. Dio: Dreamers Never Die, a documentary about Ronnie James Dio, and Clerks III, the Kevin Smith movie. I think I’m ready to make movies in the cinema a regular thing again, as long as I go on like weeknights for the late show or matinees when everyone else is at work.
  • I didn’t do as much reading this year as last because of the move, which took forever! Moving sucks, I tell you. It’s one of the worst things. But I did read parts of several books I’ll get back to in 2023 I swear, and did read a few things in their entirety. The second, third, and fourth book in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet, the sequels to A Wrinkle in Time, which were of course rereads. I really enjoyed Tae Keller’s Jennifer Chan is Not Alone . Keller is that Punahou grad who won the Newbery a couple of years ago. Ginger Park’s The Hundred Choices Department Store was a nice discovery. And I finally — finally! — finished John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, one of those English major books I’ve tried to read many times since my undergrad days. I’m quite sure there’s more but that’s what I remember right now.
  • Jessica died three weeks ago as I was getting off the freeway at Kinau Street. I don’t have to tell you if you’re from Honolulu that’s a terrible place for a car to break down, but things worked out about as well as they could have, and I laid her to rest after four years of super super super fun driving. The night before last I drove my new car home, a red Kia Soul named Bellatrix. My first new car. You need a ride anywhere or want to borrow some wheels for something? I’m your guy. So far I love this little thing, which is actually not that little. I can’t believe how roomy it is inside.
  • I am strongly considering doing FAWM in February. It will be my first time since 2007 or so.
  • Beginning in early August and lasting through the beginning of November, I went through some really, really rough depression. Somehow I stayed out of the abyss through the worst of the pandemic, but wow. These three months or so were rough as heck. Worse even than what I went through when Crush Girl first friendzoned me three years ago, and that was pretty bad. I will definitely write more about this later, but a couple of things I did on my own made me think I can, with some professional help, confront this thing finally and do something about it. One of my new year’s resolutions, already shared with some close friends and my supervisor at work, is to speak to my doctor about what I believe are undiagnosed depression and ADHD. I’m ready to figure a few things out.
  • I have a secret I’m practically exploding with that’s actually helped me out of most of the depression. I’m not in the clear yet, but I can see the sun again most days and when the chasm has opened up I haven’t let myself dive in. The secret is helping. I promise I’ll share it when the time is right, but if you’re reading this I know you care enough about me that you’ll be pretty happy for me when I do share it!
  • I caught COVID in July and again the week of Thanksgiving. After these years of being super careful I came down with the things twice. And somehow my parents, my new cohabitants, managed to escape it. Whew.
  • I think my favorite thing I watched this year, besides the Harry Potter films which I am rewatching this week (I’m on Order of the Phoenix, which I will watch part of tonight)), was this series called Sprung on Amazon’s free, commercial-supported platform Freevee. Or Freevie. I’m too lazy to look it up. Anyway go see it. Each 30-minute episode is 26 minutes of stupid and 4 minutes of incredible sweetness. I’m fervently wishing for a second season. Other rewatches this year were Silicon Valley in its entirety and The Queen’s Gambit for like the sixth time. I am still slowly working my way through Downton Abbey and a few other things.

So it was a rather good, terrible, remarkable, year, which I have just done. I didn’t take you with me for most of it, but let’s see what 2023 brings. I have a feeling I’m about to have a lot of adventures these next 365 days.

Let’s do the last Friday 5 of the year.

1. Among people with whom you are not personally acquainted, who most made you laugh in 2022?
I ask this almost every year (in some place or another) and the answer is usually Tony Kornheiser, via his Tony Kornheiser Show podcast. The fricking pandemic, combined with his being a senior citizen and therefore very careful, has meant major changes to the program, mostly hosting from a home studio and cohosting with his son, rather than the rotating team of cohost friends, who are D.C. A-listers like a former Pentagon spokeswoman, two award-winning sportswriters, and an on-air CNN personality. The show is still pleasant and amusing but no longer can’t-miss listening for me. I still listen religiously, only not religiously like when I went to church in college. More like religiously like when I go to church now. So the answer is (as it has been these last couple of years) the producers and hosts of the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. It’s not just Le Batard and Stu; it’s the whole team, but especially Mike Schur, who you might know from The Office and Parks and Recreation. Man, the guy just cracks me up almost every time I hear him. He’s the best on Le Batard, but he’s alllllmost as good on the Pozcast with Joe Posnanski.

2. Among people with whom you are not personally acquainted, who most inspired you in 2022?
The people of Ukraine and the people of neighboring countries who opened their doors and said come in, my brothers and sisters. Man, I can’t sleep at night sometimes thinking about what’s going on in that part of the world. I actually had to stop consuming broadcast news and commentary for a while; it was all just too much. I still read the news in my usual places, but I didn’t watch any of it on TV or listen to any of it via podcast. I’m slowly bringing some of that back — mostly just the PBS NewsHour — but I’ll seldom listen to a whole broadcast and I do not go back and catch up on days I’ve missed as I used to. I have to say it’s made a big difference for my mental health.

3. What were your food discoveries in 2022?
Most recently, as in just this month, the Malaysian dish called laksa, a curry-brothed noodle dish I just adore. It’s also found in Singapore and Indonesia, and I think the place where I get it, in the Ala Moana food court, is Singaporean. I also had my first Cubano sandwich, which was freaking delicious and now that I have new wheels I am going to be scarfing a lot more during my lunch break on work days. I also documented on IG my discovery and experimentation with gai lan, a staple in Chinese restaurants apparently everywhere but in Hawaii. It’s Chinese broccoli: dark green and leafy with stems slightly woodier than asparagus. I thought it was delicious but I have only seen it on two menus in local restaurants. I had to find a shop in Chinatown for fresh gai lan so I could prepare it at home. I’m a big fan. I tried a few new hot sauces, too. Penny gave me a bottle of Truff red sauce for Christmas last year and I opened it in the early spring, and it is my new favorite. I didn’t think anything would unseat Tabasco from its throne, but this has. It’s unbelievable and delicious in everything I’ve tried it in or on. Melinda’s Original Habanero Xxxtra Hot was a clear runner-up, and you can just ignore all those Xes because it’s not that hot, but it has excellent flavor. So my new top 4 are Truff Red, Tabasco, Huy Fong Foods Sriracha, and Melinda’s Habanero Xxxtra Hot. A good year for hot sauce!

4. What were your music discoveries in 2022?
As usual, I listened to a lot of new (to me) bands. says I have listened to 810 unique artists in 2022 so far (there are still 3 hours left in 2022, and you never know). I’ve been aware of Sepultura since the days when they ruled the metal world in the early 90s, but never actively listened until this year when I finally gave their Roots album an attentive listen. Good stuff. You can see, now that we have 30 years of history to look back upon, how influential they were in the genre that became Nü Metal. Wet Leg, who is a darling of the critics (and all your friends who like cooler music than you), was also a nice discovery. Oh, and Pattern-Seeking Animals! It’s basically some of the guys in Spock’s Beard with some guys who used to contribute to Spock’s Beard or something, and it’s just lovely, wonderful, nerdy, proggy goodness. Most of my prog listening has been metal these days, but it’s very, very nice to get a good dose of creative prog rock to remind you of where your nerdy passions came from. Just excellent. Speaking of prog, I was using the radio function on Spotify one day for a progressive metal band I love, Soen, and this band Jadis came up and it was fantastic. I ordered the band’s live DVD album on Amazon and plan to watch it sometime this week.

5. Where will you be when the clock strikes midnight on January 1?
As I write this, it’s a quarter past 9 in the evening, December 31, and I’m on our lanai with my wireless headphones set to maximum noise cancellation (listening to Amanda Shires for now) as the illegal fireworks explode all around me. I don’t know if I’ll be here all the way through to midnight, but I’ll almost certainly be out here at midnight, which is where we usually situate ourselves when the new year’s fireworks — official and illegal — hit their peak. I hate fireworks but someone has to keep an eye on things in case something terrible happens. This is the first New Year’s Eve in ages and ages where I have not been intentionally alone. I usually, wherever I am, call my parents shortly after midnight to say happy new year, but in 2022 when I did it, they were both in bed asleep. Huh. So I’m expecting them to be asleep this year and I’ll be out here alone. Which as you know is just fine.

Come get me, 2023.

Friday 5: Obligatory

From here.

  1. In 2021, who made you laugh?
    Real laughter of the interpersonal communication sort was extremely difficult to come by in 2021, especially in the first ten months, before we were called back to the office and I had some kind of in-person human interaction on the reg. I have a couple of coworkers who frequently crack me up, including the woman whose cube is right behind mine. She’s from another country and also a lover of old films — she’s the only friend I can think of who also subscribes to the Criterion Channel — and we have similar fatalistic senses of humor. Most of my laughter this year came from podcasts, though, and the best for that was the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. Irreverent takes on sports and culture. Stupid and clever at the same time.
  2. What was a pleasant surprise?
    I don’t know how pleasant it was, but shortly after my second shot, I found myself in a lot of neighborhood bars. I kind of hate bars, but one thing I missed most during the lockdown (as I have written in this space multiple times) was hanging out in cafes and boba joints. Just somewhere to be, surrounded by people who didn’t know me and wouldn’t talk to me. The cafes here still aren’t open at night, so bars it was, and I rather enjoyed it, although I think I dropped too much money per visit. Once I can find a way to have a few drinks and maybe a bite without spending the equivalent of five lattes each time I go, I think I can make it a more regular thing. Of course, this is all off the list now until numbers begin to go back down.
  3. How have you grown?
    I’m pleased to find myself getting better at my work. I was rather unhappy with myself at work for most of the lockdown, but I’m finding better ways to handle the flow, and I’m finding myself more pleased with my time management.
  4. What do you forgive yourself for?
    I’m forgiving myself for not stressing about my body during the lockdown. I made good efforts to walk and to get in the ocean, but those were mostly for mental health; physical health benefits were secondary. Or sometimes physical health benefits were an excuse to make unwise decisions about what I put into my body. I’ve been seeing a doctor lately about correcting some of these actions.
  5. If you were to get a tattoo to represent the year, what would it be and where would you put it?
    The most depressing theme of these past two years has been a sense of lost time, like there is this hole in the timeline of my life where there should have been stuff. I started a local silent book club whose inaugural meetup in February 2020 turned out to be our last. The podcast I planned to launch depended on meeting people in public spaces, so that never got off the ground and I haven’t even taken the gear for a test run. I wanted to spend some time with new acquaintances. I hoped to travel a little. I miss concerts, movies in theaters, dining with friends. Meanwhile, my body and mind don’t I’m in stasis as the days rip slowly off the calendar. My life may be on hold, but the aging process certainly isn’t, and since I don’t have too many birthdays left, I’m feeling resentful more than anything else. I would get the tattoo on my shoulder, and it would be a hole to represent everything I’ve missed, to remind me of this gap in the continuum of my life that probably doesn’t have to be as significant as I’ve allowed.

Friday 5: Brainstorming

From here.

  1. If you owned a new professional sports team (pick any sport!), what would you name it, and what would be its team colors?
    I’d name my new NFL team the Honolulu Vampires. The colors would be black, black, and black with highlights of blood red.
  2. If you owned a new restaurant, what would you name it, and what kind of cuisine would it serve?
    I’d name it Flapjacks and it would be a breakfast spot similar to Cold Stone. You pick your batter, you pick your fillings, and the cutie behind the counter-length griddle makes your pancakes right in front of you. Build-your-own crepes and omelets also available and prepared in front of you.
  3. If you owned a little independent retail shop, what would you name it, and what would it sell?
    It would be fun to run a little book shop specializing in mysteries. I’d call it something like Clues or a Cozy Bookstore.
  4. If you launched a charity, what would be its cause?
    A nonprofit dedicated entirely to helping people pass their U.S. citizenship tests and gain citizenship. A lot of teaching, some counseling and advocacy, and some legal help.
  5. What kind of recreation is sorely lacking in your town?
    I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of the drive-in theater, perhaps somehow amped up a level, maybe with food trucks or neighboring restaurants delivering to your vehicle. Also, racquetball is super difficult to play in this town unless you have access to a military base or membership in a club. It kind of sucks because racquetball is so much fun.

Friday 5: Are you prepositioning me?

Work has been a bit frenzied lately. It usually calms down for me in December — when I was first hired in December five years ago, they told me not to come in until the second week of January because there just wasn’t much for me to do yet.

If the last few Decembers have been less than frantic, I’ll just say I kind of earned them because in order to get year-end stuff out, my busy time is September into November. Those stories take time to write, and getting them approved by all stakeholders often takes even more time.

But I’ve picked up a new responsibility: sending out bulk emails on behalf of some of UH’s units. We are tenacious protectors of our data, as we must be. We collect money from a lot of people, and our records are freaking sensitive as heck. We also keep alumni data. So when the department of ______ wants to send out a bulk email to its donors or alumni, it does it through our foundation.

I’m not in charge of any of it, but we lost one of our people who used to do it, summer 2020 on the day I still think of as Black Tuesday. So responsibilities have shifted, and they continue to shift as people move into and out of positions.

I’d been bugging my boss for years to let me learn Mailchimp so I could help out with that stuff once in a while. Also because learning new stuff is critical to keeping me interested in my work. I finally got the okay when someone needed to pick up the mailouts for a few units.

The end of the calendar year is pretty busy for a task like this. I’m handling the smallest number of these and they still take up an enormous chunk of my time and energy. They’re not supposed to, but I’m still new to this task, so I’m still in the steeper part of the learning curve.

I’ve complained to my boss that I haven’t lately had any time for goofing off during my workday. I have to do my NYT crosswords at home before bed, rather than during breaks at my desk. I was being playful when I said it, but I was also being serious.

Not complaining about the work or the workload, actually. Just trying to keep it going without letting myself get fully immersed beyond a reasonable week’s hours. ‘Though I could certainly let myself without worrying too much. It would never be as self-destructive as when I was teaching.

It’s 2:33 in the morning and I’m still up because this last two weeks I crash as soon as I get home, for two to three hours, and then I’m up too late getting non-work things done. It’s a very unhealthy thing I do every so often and I find the cycle super difficult to break. I was going to reset last weekend, but I got a request to put together a proposal on Saturday afternoon and spent Sunday evening — late Sunday evening — doing it. Because end-of-year stuff. We’re a charity, and people want to get their donations in by the end of December.

Soooooooooooooooo I might as well do a Friday 5.

From here.

  1. When did you recently do something on the sly?
    I stayed late in the office to get a few things done Tuesday night. Was about to lock up (everyone else had gone home) when I remembered Wednesday is when I hoped to put my office Christmas gift out: eight tins of assorted teas from Harney and Sons. I wasn’t exactly sneaking around to do it, but I like to leave that stuff when nobody’s seeing me. Santa-like. I printed an obnoxiously punny message on some Christmas-printed cardstock and set it up nicely in the break room where we keep the tea stuff.
  2. Which of your plans for the coming week is still up in the air?
    I have to mail Christmas gifts to people I won’t see in person, and I still have two unchecked items on my list. Gotta pick something up then pack stuff to mail. I’m hoping to get the shopping done Saturday evening and mail it all out early Monday morning.
  3. What’s happening across the street?
    I live across the street from the faculty housing of a certain Hawaii private K-12 school, and since they’re about to begin Christmas break, it’s been super quiet over there. I think some of my neighbors are from off-island, so during breaks they go away. Just a suspicion; I don’t actually know any of them. Between semesters, there’s often some turnover there too, although less in December than in July.
  4. What have you heard recently through the grapevine?
    As I have said many times, I try to run away from gossip. If I consume any gossip at all, it’s usually about football or baseball, but that’s not gossip. In baseball’s winter months, it’s hot stove. A different creature entirely. Which player is thinking of signing with which team, that kind of stuff. And the hot stove league is quiet these days because the stupid Major Leagues are in lockout pending some kind of new collective bargaining agreement.
  5. What kinds of videos on YouTube are likeliest to send you down the rabbit hole?
    I don’t like looking at video on my phone, and I’ve never really liked it on my computer. I’m kind of old that way. I like computers and phones for reading and interacting. I don’t like them for sucking in video content. However, when I do get drawn in (or when I let myself willingly be pulled under), there are three common culprits. I like compilations of Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets segments. I find them hilarious and have watched some of them several times. I also like concert videos of bands I like. Most of the musicians I really want to see in concert never make it out here, so if there’s good live video of them, I’ll occasionally lose a few hours. Related: the third culprit is a series by Loudwire, a metal blog, called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction? in which the host interviews metal musicians, reading them stuff Wikipedia says about them. The musicians then confirm or correct the info. It’s just this chill vibe with musicians I admire the heck out of, and there are few things I find more interesting than artists talking about their art.

Friday 5: The work of the child

From here.

  1. What musical instruments have you played?
    I took several years of piano lessons in elementary school, and taught myself harmonica in high school. Then mostly taught myself guitar in college. Those are the main ones. I’ve goofed around with ukulele and planned to buy one during the lockdown but I got distracted by other things. I have a doumbek Ross gave me when he didn’t want it anymore, but it’s doesn’t have great tone so I never play it. Planning to use it, though, if I ever record any of these silly songs I’ve written.
  2. When do you play with your food?
    Man, I can’t remember when I’ve done this. I play around in the kitchen all the time, messing with or creating recipes, but that’s not really what the phrase means. Oh, sometimes when I’m eating goldfish crackers, I like to make little stories with them moving around on the table, taking photos to illustrate little sequences. I kind of consider this writing, though, but in the context of snacking it certainly is playing. Sometimes I close my eyes when I’m eating M&Ms or Skittles and try to guess what color candy I’ve popped into my mouth.
  3. What’s your favorite stage play?
    I’m very fond of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I also really like Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Death of a Salesman. The Music Man may be my favorite, though, which is weird because I don’t love musicals. I’ve also directed three high-school plays, so they are closest to my heart. A little comic murder mystery called If It’s Monday, This Must Be Murder! Also Once Upon a Mattress and this wonderful musical called The Emperor’s New Clothes with music by Allan Jay Freedman (who, I just now discovered, died this week) and lyrics by Oscar-winner Paul Francis Webster.
  4. What games do you play on your phone?
    I’ve been playing Words with Friends since the moment I got my first iPhone. I’m also into this word game called Ruzzle, and as I’ve mentioned in this space, I got back into Tsum Tsum during the lockdown, after a few years away. These are the current games, but I do try not to get stagnant, trying new games every few months to see if anything else is sticky.
  5. When did you recently play it by ear?
    It’s pretty much the way I live my life, when I’m not in the classroom, and even sometimes when I am. These days I eat lunch out every day at work, and most of the time, I just walk around until something strikes me. Now that I’m trying to avoid empty carbs, it takes longer, or I just end up in the same few spots for a good salad. Yesterday I walked in a different direction and found myself at Ja Gal Chi, a Korean spot in the neighborhood I haven’t been to since right before the lockdown, when Ali moved away. It made me a little sad since she’s not talking to me anymore and I miss her. The tofu soup was great, though.

Friday 5: Everything but Yul Brynner

From here.

  1. How have you recently kept yourself in check?
    Uggggh. I’ve been seeing my doctor for a few issues lately. It began with a routine checkup, which led to some blood work, some encouraging numbers and some discouraging numbers, some more blood work, some mostly encouraging numbers (ruling out some bad stuff, whew), and some calm advice for adjusting the bad numbers, most of which involves my intake of two things I’m rather fond of: caffeine and carbs. So for the past two and a half weeks (excluding yesterday) I’ve really been good about checking my craving for caffeine. I’ve mentioned in this space a few times that I’ve never had a problem going cold turkey on caffeine — no withdrawal or DTs or anything — but it does make me quite happy when I consume it. Alas. I’ve also replaced most carby sides with greens. I love me some broccoli, arugula, and kale, but they do not please me quite the way noodles, rolls, or RICE do. I’m half Japanese. We are practically religious about rice. But you know. My doctor says for the most part we are fine-tuning, and that’s the kind of encouragement I need. Life’s a pain but I’d like to stick around for as long as I possibly can. There are too many things on the Cheesecake Factory* menu I haven’t tried yet.
  2. What’s the closest thing to a castle you’ve been in?
    Structure-wise, there probably isn’t anything remotely like a castle in my experience, having spent my whole life either in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or on the West Coast of the United States. But this lovely island state used to be an island nation, and it had an elected, constitutional monarchy, and the monarchy resided in a palace, which I have visited more times than I honestly cared to, most times chaperoning ninth-graders on field trips. Iolani Palace is a huge part of our history here and while it’s no castle, I imagine castles as the abodes of royalty, as are palaces. It’s a lovely building with a lovely history, and if you visit Hawaii you really should check it out.

    Oh wait a minute. Castle Park. A water park (believe it or not) in Honolulu in the 80s and 90s. You entered through a large castle-like building, which was the very cool arcade where my friends and I wasted a lot of money before high school football games (the stadium was across the street). Game tokens there were called Coins of the Realm. It’s since long gone, filled in, and replaced by a K-Mart. Which has been since replaced by who knows what?
  3. What were the circumstances the last time you were hoarse?
    Wow. It’s been a very long time, I think. I was sick with a very bad cold about fifteen years ago, during which I went hoarse for a few days. I missed two weeks of teaching, and it was the time when I kind of ghosted Mochi Girl, something I’m not proud of. We were headed that way anyway; the long illness just hastened things. She wanted to offer me some comfort and care. I wanted to be left alone. At least we agreed on one thing: I was not worth her concern!
  4. What’s your favorite song by Queen?
    I hate to admit this these days because the song’s a bit problematic, but it’s probably still “Fat Bottomed Girls,” ‘though in recent years I feel “Somebody to Love” and “I Want to Break Free” inching their way past it.
  5. For what will you likely pay a king’s ransom in the near future?
    Well I’ve already gone a bit overboard on some Christmas gifts (I’m trying to get my shopping done before the first of December), and when I’m Christmas shopping, I make a supreme effort not to buy things for myself. Once I get the gifts paid for, I need a new refrigerator and I need some work on my car. I’m also ordering new glasses by the end of the year, and the last two pairs I bought were more than $400 each. I can’t imagine I’ll spend less this time around. That really does seem a bit much.

* I use this establishment’s menu as a metaphor. I’ve only dined there twice, and while I liked it quite a bit, it’s in a part of town I just don’t care to drive through. Plus the line is crazy.

Friday 5: November rain

So much to write about but no energy. It’s been a crazy first week of November, which is the first week of NaNoWriMo and the first week of working in the office with everyone at the nonprofit. We’re all a bit stressed in the transition.

Friday 5 instead.

When you buy tickets to a Guns N’ Roses show, you never know what you’re getting. So much depends on Axl’s mood. When he wants to do a good show, he does a great show, and when GNR played Honolulu three years ago he and the band clearly wanted to. They played nearly three and a half hours and it was just a really good performance from beginning to end. They looked like they were having a great time, too, for the last performance on this leg of their long tour.

They were very careful on stage about their future together. It sounded like Slash and Axl weren’t making promises, but they were feeling good about things, and they would see what happens. Yeah, they said all this after the last encore, which is a little weird for stage banter. They were clearly adrenalized from a great show in front of a most appreciative audience.

It was a pricy ticket, but I seriously doubt anyone thought he or she didn’t get his or her money’s worth. Even though the band didn’t play two songs I wanted to hear. Yeah, it’s possible for a band with only six studio albums, playing from only four of them, to leave some really good songs out of the set list!

  1. What unique behavior, attire, or ceremony element have you seen at a wedding?
    I’ve seen some appalling behavior, but I’m going to stay positive here and say I thought it was poetic and pretty cool when Tash and Dave took communion together, privately with their backs turned to the congregation, for their first act as a married couple. I also liked when Arjay taped Tara’s garter to a basketball (they met in a gym playing basketball) before tossing it over his shoulder like it was a no-look pass.
  2. Who’s your favorite piano player?
    So many to choose from, and although I have favorite players of just about every other rock band instrument, I don’t know if I have one for piano. Rick Wakeman (of Yes) is the first I think of, but I think I only like him in the context of Yes. Bruce Hornsby. Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater. There have been days when R was the easy answer. Sorry; I might have to come back to this one.
  3. When did rain notably ruin your plans?
    It does this all the time when I have plans to swim at the beach. I don’t mind swimming in the rain; I mind swimming after the rain. When the island is saturated or when the rain comes down too quickly for the ground to absorb it, it runs right into the sea, and you do not want to swim in that yuckiness. Very often I will go to bed early so I can have a sunrise swim, only to discover it has poured like demons all night long. It’s most disappointing.
  4. What is your going-to-bed ritual like?
    I actually have one, now that I’m of a certain age with certain conditions needing attention. Assuming I’ve locked up the house, done the dishes, and brushed my teeth by the time I’m ready to turn in, I put some ice and drinking water into a small water flask Grace gave me for Christmas, so if I wake up thirsty I have water right by my bed. It’s the only food or drink allowed in my bedroom, ever. Then I set timers for two prescription eyedrops, which I have to lie still for, for four minutes each with six minutes in between. Those times are actually longer than necessary, but I like to play it safe. Then I pour distilled water into my Darth Vader machine, strap it to my face, drop my sleeping mask over my eyes, and lie flat on my back, where on a good night I will stay for six to seven hours, but usually only for four or five.
  5. When did you last give roses to someone or receive them from someone?
    I used to give roses to people all the time but I’m only realizing now that it’s been a very long time. I gave sunflowers to all the office support staff on the first day of school when I was teaching, once. Anonymously. That was fun. Okay, this is a lame answer, but I often pick up leis for people at Cindy’s Lei Shop, the best lei shop in Honolulu, volunteering to grab something on the way to work on behalf of coworkers who will Venmo me part of the price. I did this yesterday morning, in fact, for a coworker who’s leaving. While I can’t remember specifically buying anyone a lei with rosebuds on it, I’m sure I have some time in the past five years, so that’s going to have to do. I’m a single guy who’s romantically not seeing or courting anyone. Roses are too risky. Don’t want to be misread. When I was younger and didn’t mind being misread and when my intentions were blatant anyway, I bought lots of roses for lots of lovely young women. I thought I was being charming or something. Now I think I was being a doofus.

Friday 5: We learned more from a three-minute record, baby

(than we ever learned in school)

From here.

  1. Who needs you?
    I’m a single guy who mostly sticks to himself, so I don’t think anyone actually needs me, but since I try to be the here-if-you-need-me guy, the person who needs me changes on the reg and doesn’t come around very often. Similarly, I don’t think my parents need me, but they need me to be ready when they need me. I think this counts. I kept myself away from people for a year in case they should need me. Isn’t this a great Leo Sayer song?
  2. Who runs to you?
    Everyone’s mentioning their pets in response to this question, and it’s a good one. My parents’ dog gets pretty psyched to see me when I go over. They say he recognizes the sound of my car coming up the hill (much to my embarrassment, it’s a very loud car) and runs to the fence to watch me pull into the driveway. Then he meets me halfway down the stair as I’m coming up to the living room. There are worse ways to be greeted than excitedly by a dog, I tell you.
  3. Who forgets you?
    I don’t know what it means that, while people may forget my name, they seldom forget me. There’s a guy on this island whom I run into every five years or so, and he calls my name and says, “You still don’t know who I am, do you?” And I have to admit I don’t, but could he please tell me? And he never does. Whoever it is, he’s known me since we were kids, so I probably haven’t forgotten him: I just don’t recognize him because while I almost never forget a name, I forget a face very, very often. Ohhh I just thought of a good group of people. My students’ parents. Which is more than fair. I think we forget each other. To them, I’m just one of a long string of teachers they met maybe once a year. To me, they’re quite often more types than they are people, which isn’t fair, but I suppose I’m just a type to them as well. It’s okay. We know each other when we have to know each other, and then we forget each other. One parent I have not forgotten recently announced her candidacy for governor of Hawaii. We interacted a lot for a few years when I taught her son — she even sat next to me at another student’s graduation dinner. I had a bit of a thing for her and still do. I wonder if she’s forgotten me.
  4. Who keeps you hangin’ on?
    People are answering this question as if it’s asking who keeps you from losing your grip, which is fine. But I think the lyrics to the song have more to do with keeping someone on the hook. Like, get out of my life, why don’t you? You’re just keeping me on the hook and I’m ready to move along. To which my answer is perhaps nobody. I’m the one who can’t let go of people; they don’t have to keep me hanging on because I can’t seem to loosen my grip. That friend Ali whose text messages helped me get through the first year of the pandemic has ceased to communicate with me altogether, and I miss her, even though I pretty much know it was too volatile a friendship for either of us. I’ve backed off completely, knowing she won’t respond well to my reaching out again, but I still have wisps of hope that we can be friends.
  5. Who’s watching you?
    As one respondent pointed out, when you journal online as I do, you don’t know who’s watching, and I’m intentionally pretty visible on different channels. I keep all my social media accounts wide open too. It’s just a life I want to live, for now, which means I don’t know who’s reading what I write, or looking at my photos, or judging me for the music I listen to or the films I like. I’m sure there are more than a few people who note every error I make in spelling or punctuation, since I’m famously (but really only supposedly) a language snob, taking wicked glee in my hypocritical ignorance. It’s fine. I hope they also see a person who’s trying his best not to reach for that other half of the pizza too.