What’s better in its middle than in its edges, beginnings, or ends? Pizza and pie for sure. My first meal of 2021 was a slice of apple caramel pie, and I don’t often do this, but I kind of ate the whole slice except the edge crust. Threw that away. The filling-crust ratio on the edge of a pie is just not satisfactory. I’ll add an airplane ride to this list too.
Why is a sunrise better than a sunset? All the usual answers: hope, potential, new beginnings. I love that my birthday is in early January, too, for the same reasons. Where I live, you can see the sun rise from the water and then set on the water in the same day, and while the colors are often much nicer for the sunset, the shoreline in the east and north of Oahu is a lot nicer for sitting on the beach.
What’s better in retrospect than when you experienced it? I remember romantic relationships and near-misses much more fondly than they probably warrant, even near the ends. The long relationship with R is the exception. Also almost every decent hike I’ve ever been on. Misery while you’re doing it, but amazing when you look back on it.
What songs have wonderful endings? I’m disappointed that nobody has said “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, which I thought would be the number one response. I’m mentioning it here because it should be, but it’s not even my favorite ending of a Beatles song. That goes to the wistful “yeah-yeah-yeah, yeah” at the end of “The Long and Winding Road.” I’ll also nominate Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and Led Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
What was the first thing you unwrapped in 2021? Taco Bell and a bottle of cava, my January 1 breakfast.
What did you learn in 2020? A major lesson I learned on my own, highlighted by recent events at ESPN and the testimonies that followed, is that you simply cannot assume your work will speak for itself. There are people who make important decisions about your employment who do not know what you do. I listen to this podcast I’m fond of but don’t always enjoy. Its target audience is younger than me by twenty years, it’s about sports but not really, it’s super creative in how it uses its time (even the ads are mustn’t-miss programming), and it’s way up front about its host’s mental health issues. It didn’t start off this way: its host and co-host took time to develop a relationship and a nurturing community of listeners (a community that doesn’t include me, but this is also part of its appeal). The co-host is pretty much 49% of the reason for the show’s success — its creative success and its commercial success. It was doing so well that ESPN asked them to produce the podcast twice a week after a couple of years of going once a week. Not two weeks after it began its double output, the co-host was laid off. It’s a clear case of executives acknowledging a program’s success while having no clue what makes it successful. Screw that. People get laid off; it’s a ridiculous, unfair fact of business. This is insane, though. ESPN is killing the show it’s trying to build. Anyway, I wen through a bit of this myself this year.
What do you regret doing (or not doing) in 2020? The big one is injuring my knee. Long, late-night walks were the thing around which my lockdown life revolved on a day-to-day basis. When my knee got too sore even for sleep, it was the end of my walking obsession. My physical and mental health since then is now one of the things I have to manage consciously, and I’m not always good at it. It has definitely healed some, so that I’m not thinking about it 24 hours a day, but last week’s car repair stuff meant a bit more walking than I’ve been doing, and my knee has really complained, reminding me that when this pandemic crap is over, I need to get it looked at. We’re talking major quality of life issues now. I regret not reading.
What are you proud of doing in 2020? I neglected my living space for quite a long time, and I’m proud that I’ve taken big steps toward getting it squared away. I have a lot yet to do, but it feels really good to see my progress.
Who did you get to know better in 2020? It was a real challenge getting to know anyone better in these circumstances. I have some new coworkers I’m getting acquainted with now, but I think the spirit of the question has more to do with people who were already in my life. I think my answer is Ali, who was already one of my best friends at work, but she’s got these walls that keep me away from a lot of personal stuff. She left the company (and the state) in February, and we’ve spent a lot of time communicating via text since then, and I feel like she’s letting me in, a little at a time, ‘though she insists she doesn’t consciously keep me out anymore. I think I disagree, yet I acknowledge I’m getting to know her better. I’m grateful for her friendship.
What do you hope to accomplish in the remaining days of 2020? I would really like to get these car repairs done. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I don’t want to leave my car anywhere during a long holiday weekend, and I don’t think they’ll be able to take me during the week. Oh, I know. The new blog. I still haven’t decided if I’m actually going to launch it, but my frustration with the writing makes me think I should really do it, if for no other reason than to explore the challenge of writing it interestingly and well. I’m giving myself until December 31 to decide. If I go live, I go live on New Year’s Day. I’d also like to finish a few books I started.
Who made you laugh most this year? The hosts and producers of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. The podcast was once about three hours a day, five days a week. It’s a bit shorter now, but because these guys got more of my attention more often, they had an easy lock on this answer. The refusal to take sports or anything else too seriously (except very serious trivialities, like whether or not the original Running Man was a good film) is exactly what I need in my sports talk. They’ve ruined me for most other sports programs because the others are so dang sportsy.
In what ways was 2020 better than 2019? I was seriously depressed from July to September last year. It creeps back in once in a while, when I’m reminded of the stuff that had me depressed (there isn’t usually a reason, but this time there was), yet overall my mental health has been so, so much better this year. I’ve also been much less stressed about money this year, a thing that will make a big difference all around.
What was the best movie or TV series you saw in 2020? The best TV series was easily Ted Lasso, which I have now seen five times all the way through, some episodes more times than that. I haven’t watched as many films as usual, since my attention span makes it difficult lately, but the best is probably Borg vs. McEnroe (2017), which I watched three times.
What was your favorite food discovery of 2020? It may be the Instant Pot the Tamashiros gave me as a late Christmas gift in February. I don’t use it every night as I did when I got it, but it’s super useful, especially for things like curries and stews. Tatsoi was a nice discovery, a veggie I’ve been familiar witih but which I hadn’t brought into my own kitchen until this year. Works great cooked or raw.
What’s something nice you purchased for yourself or received as a gift in 2020? I splurged on some pricey wireless headphones on Prime Day. They’ve made a difference in how I hear music, even though I don’t use them every day for that. They’ve really made a difference in my Zoom calls, a now-regular part of my work life. I also bought a green screen, which takes away some of the Zoom stress.
What do you do when it’s bedtime and you’re not sleepy? If it’s just not being sleepy, and not insomnia, I usually stare at my phone for a while, then lie absolutely still on my back with a podcast playing, usually one I’ve already listened to, and Darth Vader stuck to my face. I make myself not move, as agonizing as it can be: no wiggling, no shifting, just lying still. I’ll either focus on the podcast or just use the podcast as background sounds while I think about, um, doing things with whoever I’m crushing on, but not Crush Girl because I haven’t gone there in my mind. This usually works before too long. If it’s actual insomnia, I usually stare at my phone until I drop from exhaustion or until it’s time to wake up. Sometimes I get up and eat something or do a crossword puzzle until I’m ready to try again.
When were you most recently bashful? I’m bashful by nature, so this is almost always an easy question to answer, but with no social situations these past nine months, it takes a bit of thought. The best I can do is a few months ago when I participated in a Hawaii Public Radio trivia night with my friend Sylvia. It was on Zoom, and Sylvia was the only person I knew, so I was seriously uncomfy. We won, though, and I contributed a few correct answers nobody else knew (Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar; the women’s professional soccer league was the first U.S. professional sports league to resume play after the lockdown; the titles of plays a bunch of Shakespeare quotes came from). So I got a little less bashful and made a couple of jokes, too.
Have you seen a doc in the past nine months? I was a no-show for my appointment with my opthalmologist in May or June, and asked my GP to let me get some bloodwork in January. So, no. EDIT: For my company’s staff newsletter, I write a monthly movie column, and this month I’m collaborating with a new coworker, who mentioned in her bio that she loves documentary films. We’re working on a column about our favorite film docs, which reminds me that I saw Woodstock late this past spring. I’m counting it!
What’s got you feeling grumpy lately? I haven’t been feeling much emotion at all lately except a bit of boredom. Oh, certain current events are totally making me grumpy, but I’ll avoid them for this entry. I can’t find my Kindle, and haven’t seen it for months. That’s getting super annoying, so I’ll go with that.
What’s making you happy today? Again, I’m mostly only feeling boredom these days. Still, I had to run an errand this morning before work, and I picked up a turkey-bacon-avo sandwich from Machete’s, my second visit to the sandwhich shop. Delicious. At least for the moments I consumed that thing, I was pretty darn happy.
What most recently made you feel elated? Thankgiving afternoon, jumping into the cool water and having the ocean mostly to myself. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in this entire lockdown.
Where is the slowest elevator in the universe? When I was in grad school at Hawaii Pacific University, I was in an elevator in one of the downtown buildings. HPU sooooorta has a proper campus now, but before it bought the Aloha Tower property, it was spread out in buildings all over downtown Honolulu. I was in the verrrrry slow elevator in the building where the library was, and as I and my fellow passenger arrived at the library floor, I said, “This is the slowest elevator in the world.” She said, “No, it’s not. Have you been to the Hawaii Loa Campus?” Yes, of course. Most of my classes were at that campus, in fact, and I knew exactly what she was talking about. “You’re right,” I said. “That one is even slower than this one, by far.” We smiled and went in different directions.
When were you most recently in an airplane? October last year. Two coworkers and I flew to Lanai to work on a project. The other two stayed overnight; I flew back late the same evening. It was a good trip, and the thing we worked on is still being considered.
With what have you had it up to here? I’ve been neglecting my car since I spend so little time behind the wheel and all my trips are very short. Now certain things remind me every time I get in the car that I haven’t been taking good care of it, and I hate myself. So this weekend I’m doing a bunch of car maintenance stuff, as much as I can do myself, and then I’m taking time off next week to have done the stuff I can’t take care of, like the stupid airbag recall. I saw a headline a couple of months ago that read something like, “Nissan says it sent man sixteen letters about defective airbag before he was killed by his in an accident.” Yeah, that man is going to be me if I don’t do this. Except I’ve only received six or seven letters.
What’s a good song whose title contains the word “sky?” “Blue Skies” by the Choir. My easy number one. Others I love are “Bullet the Blue Sky” by U2 and “Crack the Skye” by Mastodon. Also, shout-out to a band I really like whose name has the word: Harakiri for the Sky.
Where do you get most of your pandemic-related news? I read Google News a couple of times a day, clicking only links to sources I believe in. I subscribe to the online editions of the Washington Post and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, ‘though for local news on the pandemic, I’m more likely to go to KITV 4 News. The Star-Ad’s mobile app is kind of a pain to deal with.
How do you feel about your local government’s leadership during this pandemic? I know a lot of my fellow residents will disagree, but on the whole I think it has been almost as good as could be expected. Our governer is a terrible communicator, yet overall, we erred on the side of safety, and I’m here for it. It helps that our lieutenant governor is a physician, and his daily lectures kind of gave me more confidence that at least informed knowledge was in the decision-making room. The mayor’s gotten all kinds of hate, and I get it, but this is an unusual city. Our geography is the reason for the economy, and our geography is one reason we’ve been able to keep numbers comparatively low. We have laws about bringing in non-native pests, and they can seem crazy restrictive, but we also have never had an instance of rabies on this island. You wanna mess with that? I don’t. I say this because the seeming dick-ness of the mayor may actually have been necessary. He just didn’t do a great job of communicating it well, although his “no peaches on beaches” was pretty brilliant.
What does your favorite mask look like, and about how many masks have you accumulated? I think I have close to twenty. I like most of them quite a bit, but the ones I’ve worn the most are my two Las Vegas Raiders masks (one black with white print; the other white with black print), my Oakland Atlhetics Masks, and my My Neighbor Totoro mask. I like the designs but what really does it for me is the way they fit, and the ease with which they slip on.
Where have you most often had takeout during this pandemic? Counting drive-throughs, it’s undoubtedly McD’s, which I’ve gone to at least once a week, but more like twice a week, since this lockdown began. I do my laundry in a laundromat each week, and McD’s has been my distraction of choice while my clothes do their tumbling dance at 3:00 in the morning. Not counting drive-throughs, it’s probably Rainbow Drive-In because it’s super close to home.
What new interests, skills, or hobbies have you picked up since mid-March? I’ve always loved cooking, but this stupid lockdown has sent me seeking new dishes and new methods, which has been interesting. I’ve also set up two new blogs which I haven’t begun posting to yet because who has time for that anymore? They may never launch. They were sort of spontaneous what-am-I-going-to-do-with-this-day decisions. But I’ll announce them here if I do kick them into motion.
From here. This week’s questions taken from AC/DC song lyrics in recognition of the band’s new album, which is pretty dang good.
Are you ready for a good time? I’m eager to have one, but I don’t think I see one in the near future, at least not until after the new year. I may have a good time on my own January 20, which I am absolutely looking forward to. Sorry Mel.
What do you do for money, honey? I’m a writer for a non-profit. It’s good work and I do it with good people. This is all I ask of my career, so I’m pretty happy where I am. I jumped in too late to be called a lifer, but I don’t envision myself leaving.
Who’s your friend and who’s your foe? My foes are COVID-19 and government officials who subvert the democratic process, including those government officials who indulge, encourage, or empower other officials toward this subversion. My friends are (to quote a character in Ted Lasso) “good people trying to make a difference.” I’ve worked in a few different career-type jobs these past couple of decades and I’ve made very good friends at them all, good people trying to make a difference. Ross, George, Valerie, and Traci at HBA. Alison, Kerri, Susannah, and Sandi at Assets. Keith and Juli at KCC. Suzanne, Julie, Cindy (especially Cindy), Wendy, and Shellet at the engineering firm. Sylvia, Patty, Sharon, and Ali where I work now.
What do you do that’s guaranteed? I am almost guaranteed to find new ways to mess up. Everywhere I’ve worked except the engineering firm and the community college has rules in the books added because of something I did. Mmm maybe not the current place, but it’s only a matter of time.
Do you wanna journey? So much. I was already coming down with some wanderlust before this thing started. Wanted to make a few repairs to my car first, then was going to go on a few trips. I even pay for an email subscription to this service that alerts me when there are super low fares somewhere, including mistake fares that the airlines usually honor. I’ve paid for two years and have taken zero trips. I figure when I take one it will pay for the subscription, and when I take a second I’ll come out ahead. However, this is unlikely to happen any time soon! See my answer to number three about foes!
What movie makes you happy? Two that come immediately to mind are Groundhog Day and Sideways. However, the unexpected recent answer is Pitch Perfect 2, which isn’t nearly as good as the first movie (which also makes me happy). Still, for reasons I can’t identify, it really does the job. Oh-em-aca-gee!
What song makes you happy? The one that’s almost guaranteed to do it is REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes,” with REO’s “Live Every Moment” a very close second. I’ve got them first and second in my REO playlist and they’re just great for driving to work with. Shout-outs also to Michael Franti and Spearhead’s “Say Hey (I Love You)” and “The Sound of Sunshine.” And don’t tell anyone, but “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves does it to me too.
What food makes you happy? I’m going to be specific and say indian food at Maharani in Honolulu. I almost never go, since I typically dine alone and you always feel bad as a solo diner in such a popular restaurant. When I go with friends I actually feel lucky to be eating such great food. Like I woke up and Morgan Freeman as God said, “You’re going to have a fantastic meal tonight.”
Who makes you happy with just a text message? I wish I could give a better answer, but almost always Crush Girl. I think I’m nearly over my interest in her as more than friends, but she still lights up my day when she initiates a text conversation. It makes me feel special to know she’s thinking of me.
What beverage is most likely to lift your spirits? Nothing beats a good cup of coffee. It really fills me with joy, especially now that I seldom drink it. Yeah, nothing else comes close.
Listen to Michael Franti and Spearhead and feel good today.
How have you been sleeping lately? Miserably. For the past few weeks. A combination of work stress, not enough exercise (because of bad weather), and current events is making peace and rest difficult to find. I’m hoping some of this will be alleviated in ten days or so.
What kinds of linens and stuff do you have on your bed today? I’ve found a combination I really like, so when it’s time to wash everything, I just strip the bed, do the laundry, and put it all back. I have a navy blue fitted sheet from Target. Not the least expensive of Target’s offerings, but not the most expensive. I’ve found that higher thread counts are kind of uncomfortable for me; I like a little bit of texture in my sheets. My flat sheet is a brownish-orange sheet, also from Target and possibly the least expensive. I have a black pillowcase from Target for my regular pillow, and a dark blue pillow case with a starry sky pattern (as in yellowish white dots to look like the night sky) for my body pillow. I have a blue and white Mexican blanket, a gift from R, on standby, but I haven’t needed it since winter.
What’s the latest you’ve gotten out of bed these last few months? I like to stay in bed late on weekends, but my terrible sleep has made such relaxation distasteful. I’m usually up by 9:00 on weekends now, and usually take a short nap later in the day.
Have you had any pleasant or unpleasant dreams lately? Geez. I had a terrible nightmare Wednesday morning. I was a teacher, and it was set in a school. Since I’m not a teacher anymore, I’m interpreting this as related to my work stress. I was in possession of a female student’s binder when I shouldn’t have been. It was kind of an accident. I realized I’d grabbed the wrong thing, and was flipping through it when there was a knock on my classroom door. There was a TV reporter with a microphone and several reporters with cameras outside, asking to come in and speak to me. I hadn’t done anything wrong except this unintentional possession of the student’s binder, but I also knew how it might look. I went into near panic when I realized I was dreaming, and I forced myself awake. It was really scary.
What helps you relax these days? Morning swims for sure, but I haven’t been in the ocean for two weeks now. There are a few podcasts I enjoy, whose hosts have relaxing voices. After listening, I often don’t delete them, so I have a few hours’ worth on my phone. Most nights, I’ll play the podcasts when I lie down to sleep. It helps. Mina Kimes. Kevin Sheehan. John Hodgman. Katie Nolan.
What would you consider your most recent major purchase? Chagall Guevara is a band who in 1991 released one of my favorite albums. The lead singer is Steve Taylor, whom I idolize, but guitarists L. Arthur Nichols and Dave Perkins are also musicians I think very highly of. They recorded just the one album, despite excellent reviews. Early this month, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to release a new concert album, recorded in 1991. I jumped all over it, committing at the $75 level, which includes the live album on LP and CD, plus a t-shirt and a CD of unreleased studio songs — including a couple of new things the band is recording now! The rabid fans took the campaign past its $40K goal in twenty-two hours! Then when they were nearing $60K midway through, they set some stretch goals, offering fresh vinyl of the original album and all kinds of other cool things if they hit $100K, which I really thought was too large a stretch. I was wrong — they hit that mark, and are at $114K from 1754 backers, with three days to go. I’m in it for the music only — I don’t need guitar picks or turntable slipcovers or whatever, but what they are offering music-wise was far, far too good to pass up. So now I’m in for $150 for all three albums on CD and 180 gram vinyl. Plus the shirt. It comes to $172 bucks with shipping. Ridiculous, but when it comes in the mail, the pain will have been forgotten and all I will feel is love. And for these musicians to see how beloved they are? That’s part of what I’m paying for, and they are already talking about the possibility of reforming (or maybe I’m making this part up). And they set up another stretch goal they will never reach, but if they get to $125K or 2000 backers, they’re going to have a concert in 2021 in Nashville. Even if I don’t go, I’ll love that I helped it happen. No, I do not own a turntable. Why do you ask?
On what are you hoping to spend a good chunk of change in the near future? Car stuff. The transmission’s getting ready to go, and I really like my car, so I’m going to spend more than its value to have it done, and then since I’ll have invested so much in it, I’ll have some body work done. Yikes.
When did you most recently resist the urge to splurge? I put a new ukulele in my cart and then moved it to “save for later.”
When did you most recently experience buyer’s remorse? I wasn’t pleased with myself when I had that second Taco Bell breakfast whenever I had it.
What’s something interesting you consumed this past week? I watched The Banker on Apple TV+. Listened to a lot of Rush music. Ate a nice veggie stir-fry with a ribeye. Oh, and those Lay’s Nashville Hot Chicken potato chips. Really good. They taste just like fried chicken skins.