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October 2006

 

Eastern Standard Time

By David DelaCruz

 

Living on the eastern seaboard can be a real pain in the `okole.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about the weather, the people or the politics. It’s about football. You see, I dutifully wait each year for those weekends between September and February to welcome the game into our living room. It gratefully arrives through the air, beamed in by the networks, cable and satellite and brought to me in surround sound and HDTV.

On the weekends my wife and I awake at 6:00 a.m. EST. We’ve installed a dependable but cost-prohibitive alarm clock called “the kids,” no batteries needed and guaranteed to be up at this hour. Getting up this early on the weekend isn’t that bad. The issue, one which frustrates and annoys, is that when on Eastern Standard Time, you’re living on Post Meridiem time, aka “p.m.” (as in 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, etc,… p.m.). So although I’m up early, the first game of the day doesn’t begin until 1:00 p.m. and the second at 4:00 p.m. On Sunday night there’s an evening game but due to the hour and the next morning’s wake up I’m rarely able to witness to its conclusion. Each weekend during the time of year when the outdoor cold, snow and ice sap the ambition of open-air activity, there is a seven-hour gap between when I wake and when the games begin. Don’t even get me started on Monday Night Football.

Sure the gap is filled by the kids and errands and the miscellaneous trappings of the day like watching the roast defrost or cleaning the garage but seven hours?!?! You see, in Hawai`i, the world clock blesses us with the arrival of these SAME GAMES via a 7:00 a.m. start (8:00 a.m. after fall Daylight Saving Time) the completion of which leads to a free afternoon. What a deal!! In one day I can watch two games AND catch waves! Where else in the world can you do this?! Florida may tell you they can surf in the morning and be back by kickoff but come now, who are we kidding? Once you’ve traveled a block or more from the house you’re subjected to the variables of time, traffic, weather and the list goes on and on.

As is the East Coast custom, last year’s Super Bowl was played in deference to the “p.m.” and of course got over quite late. My team lost so there was some consolation with going straight to bed, pretending it was all just a horrible nightmare. What though, if they had won? I would have been obligated to stay up late through the post game interviews, the celebration and the champagne. This would have clearly jeopardized my next morning’s obligations. Too much hassle. But had I been in the Islands , I could have watched the game, the postgame, had plate lunch at Zippy’s AND been well rested for wake-up!

I suppose it could be worse. I could be across the pond in the U.K. waiting an additional five hours and enduring the other “futbol,” the one played with the foot.

The great season is now upon us and the weather outside is beginning to change. As the temperature drops I can picture my uncle at home in `Aiea with shorts, t-shirt and T.V. While he’ll have been up just long enough for spam and eggs, I’ll be seven hours into the day, reconfiguring the garage for the umpteenth time and still waiting for the opening coin toss.

I may have left the Islands but this is one of the main reasons to return.

 

June 2006

 

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

By David DelaCruz

I was 14 years old when we moved to Seattle. We had lived the prior four years in Hawai`i and during that time my perspective on time, travel and the destination had been greatly influenced. Upon our first few weeks in the Northwest we took the 2 hour ride to Vancouver, Canada. This seemed a long time for someone whose most recent experiences advised that 2 hours in the car usually meant you’ve circled the island or had arrived at some outstanding beach. If arriving for surf and sun, then the drive was worth it but Canada? Come now.

As the years passed my perspective on travel changed and has become of course dominated by the mainland. Road trip to the Bay Area, no problem it can be done in 12 hours. Vegas? How about 17 hours.

Later, I spent a few years in Atlanta bearing an hour-long commute, toll booths, EZ passes and daily freeway gridlock. I’ll never forget my first commute home. Halfway into my 30 mile ride I came to a dead stop. That day, dead was a literal circumstance as a semi carrying thousands maybe tens of thousands (nah, probably not that much) of live Tyson bred chickens had overturned and the state police had closed the roads in order to clean up the “debris”. Now I suspect that’s something you won’t experience driving down H1 in Honolulu.

Before the kids came along we spent a week in Long Island attending the wedding of a best friend. Although our accommodations were on the Island we spent most of our waking hours in Manhattan taking the 90 minute train ride into and out of Grand Central Station. The father of the bride worked in the city and had endured this commute every day for the past 20 years. Three hours a day to and from work is a lot of life to spend on a train.

These days my son plays with his Hot Wheels cars, some worn and vintage because they were once mine but most new and mint. He takes out his trains and I help him build tracks. He takes his airplanes and pretends to fly to pictures we’ve shown him of the Islands. He pretends to drive, choo-choo and fly to all destinations. He’s young and his perspective is the 12 minutes to daycare and back which for me is an ideal Island memory.

In the Islands we don’t need to travel 12 hours to get anywhere. In most cases 12 minutes usually does it. In the Islands there’s no need to spend 3 hours of your day to work and back. Best of all, I don’t have to fly 10 hours to get there because I’m already there! In most cases any excess time spent on road is time well invested. Driving the 90 minutes from Hilo to Kona, the pit stop at Tex Drive Inn for fresh malasadas, Honoka`a and the Hāmākua Coast are the things I reminisce upon when stuck in traffic, considering a road trip or watching my boy play with his planes, trains, automobiles and the imaginary destinations they take him. I reminisce upon them because ultimately, you may leave the islands but the islands will never leave you.

 

May 2006

 

 

Barracuda!

By David DelaCruz

 

I once swam with a barracuda.

When I was a little boy swimming at Onekahakaha I thought I saw a barracuda. I was seven, maybe eight years old and really scared. Perhaps it was only a stick fish or the shadow of a mynah bird but some 30 odd years later that experience remains memorable enough to put to paper.

Tonight my son scared himself in the bath as his rubber ducky crept up from behind where my daughter was splashing and making waves. Now, maybe it had something to do with my nightly game of hiding behind the shower curtain, lights off and the general pitch black darkness that scares the heck outta my kids but,… in this instance the lights were on and I was in plain sight.

What I’m getting at is that I can’t wait to take my kids to the Islands to share the land and the experiences. We’ll go to Onekahakaha and as we swim I’ll scream, “BARRACUDA!”

Of course we’ll begin at the airport, arriving at HNL having gained the extra hours of daylight from traveling east to west. If continuing on we’ll walk as I always have, not shuttle, to the Interisland Terminal experiencing our first taste of the trade winds while crossing between the breezeways that separate the concourses. As we arrive at the terminal we’ll order kalbi and rice from the eating place next to the Burger King. It’s been awhile and I heard there may have been a change since I visited last. If that’s the case, no worries, we’ll order whatever comes closest and fill up for the short flight to Lihu`e, the Big Island or wherever our boarding passes suggest.

Upon reaching our destination we’ll trek the breathtaking vistas of Nā Pali, hike the blacktop of the crater and breakthrough the cloud cover to summit Haleakalā. If the month is right we’ll sight whales in the channel or cheer the Ironman from the roadside. On the weekends we’ll visit the morning flea markets and drive the switchbacks to Koke`e and the “little Grand Canyon ” in the afternoon. We’ll keep our snorkels stashed in the trunk and I’ll point out a certain reef fish and later try to teach how to spell, humuhumunukunukuāpua`a.

And the eats! The lau lau, loco moco, malasadas and the pork chops at Manago! We’ll start on some poi that I’ll probably finish and sample the salt-sour-sweet tastes of crack seed while I snap pictures of the first facial expressions from a preserved plum taste test. Of course we’ll do shave ice - I’m guessing rainbow which I’m certain will become a daily occurrence. Last but not forgotten, spam and eggs, spam fried rice, spam musubi and all things spam we’ll enjoy morning, noon and night.

As the kids get older we’ll hike into Kealakekua Bay. It’s the hike my wife wanted so badly to take some years ago unaware of its 1500’ climb and high degree of difficulty. As I recall, we’ll have to take time to find the entrance as it sits unmarked and most days idle since the majority choose to bypass the hike and kayak into the bay. We’ll snorkel in the clear waters in front of the Captain Cook monument and if lucky witness the spinner dolphins that occasionally come to visit and play.

Here on the mainland when you say Hawai`i, everyone answers beach and with our goza in tow we’ll do that too, the white, the black and the green sand. In the late afternoon we’ll use the beachside showers to wash off the salt and the sand. The cold water and hot sun on the skin leaves a refreshing clean and end-of-day satisfaction. I could stand under that water for days.

The barracuda may or may not have really been there but the memory of that day lingers. All these experiences I can’t wait to share because after all, you may leave the Islands but the Islands will never really leave you.

 

April 2006

 

Close Encounters of the Island Kind

By David DelaCruz 

I’ve been many places.

My wife and I spent 2 years in Georgia. We lived 30 miles north of Atlanta in a town that was still “country” but quickly being enveloped by the creeping metropolis. When we arrive at a new location a priority on my move checklist is to determine where I’m going to get my haircut. You see, I live my life with seven gidi gidi’s and the barber shop occupies the space between hospital and pizza delivery on my emergency registry. Nearby I found a shop which was newer than most whose entrance was distinguished by an old fashioned barber pole which some days was rotating and other days was not. The owner was originally from the area and had covered his walls with local sports memorabilia which sparked casual conversation but disguised the common link between us. I was three, perhaps four months into what would become a 24 month routine when through our conversations discovered my barber was just a few years removed from the Islands. He had met and married a local girl and for the past decade had owned and managed a similar shop on the west side of the Big Island. Now picture this; I’m getting my haircut in Alpharetta, Georgia from a haole guy who knows more about Kailua-Kona than I do. Let me tell you, each month after that was a surreal experience.

Later we visited friends in Kansas City, Kansas, the Barbeque Capital of the World and home of the original tailgate party. One day my son wanted donuts so I went out in search for some. A few miles past Oklahoma Joe’s (which was odd since this was Kansas ) and near a more aptly named KC Masterpiece and another store I can’t remember but was probably BBQ related I found Penguins Donuts. Stepping through the entryway I noticed donuts on my right but stopped short at the prize spread in front of me. Scribbled in different colors on a chalkboard hanging over a separate counter was a menu of flavors including guava, mango and lilikoi which in parenthesis was listed as (passion fruit). It turns out the owner was from Honolulu, had attended Punahou and even had azuki beans off the menu. This was the real deal. On the outskirts of Kansas City, Kansas I had stumbled onto hallowed ground and though I had come for donuts I also left with Shave Ice, lychee, and knew I’d return the following day for more.

Now we live in Ohio, about 20 miles north of Cincinnati. A few months ago I dropped my daughter off at daycare to the greetings of a new teacher whom had just started the day before. My daughter’s name is Malia and there was an immediate interest. Can you believe, the new teacher was born, raised and had graduated from Hilo High, class of 2001! My mom graduated from Hilo High. I checked the local yellow pages and found there are 22 daycares in our immediate area. What are the odds?

I looked at a recent census and there are close to 1.3 million people living on the Islands. This however, represents only 4% of the total U.S. population. How is it that these chance encounters occur? I never meet anyone from South Dakota or Iowa and maybe there’s a reason for that, maybe not. The encounter though sometimes brief is always personal, always memorable. Like a lost relative, it’s the Ohana spirit that reaches across the oceans, continents and concrete intersections to reveal itself when you least expect. Like a haircut in Georgia, donuts in Kansas or daycare in Ohio I know the next encounter is nearby and can’t wait for it to occur.

So now every morning I drop my daughter off at our daycare in Mason, Ohio comfortable with the unspoken word that she’s receiving a little extra, never calling it preferential but knowing that come snack time she’s getting the first fruit cup or the extra cookie.

You may leave the Islands but the Islands will never really leave you.

 

March 2006

 

Rock Quarry

By David DelaCruz

 

Did you know you can scuba in Ohio?

I live in Ohio. I’ve lived in Hawaii. On my daily commute from work to home to daycare to home to the Costco and back my travels take me along the same roads, bumps, dips and turns which by now are burned into muscle memory. I’m sure it’s a similar route that all of us have, one which all that matters is the recognition of our final destination.

About once a week for reasons either traffic, weather or just plain indifference I find myself taking a right when I should have gone left, a zig when I should have zagged. When this occurs I eventually spill out onto one road which connects all others. On this connector there lives an Underwater Dive Shop advertising equipment rental and FREE SCUBA lessons in standard black lettering set unevenly on a placard board near the side of the road. Now, I’ve been zigging and zagging this particular road about once a week for the past 3 years and in these 3 years the sign really hasn’t changed. In these 3 years the small customer lot has always had business and in these 3 years I’ve always wondered,… where the heck do you scuba in Ohio?

So finally one recent afternoon I found myself on this road with time to stop, which I did, to satisfy my curiosity and finally see just what diving in Ohio was all about. As I entered the small, family run shop I could tell it did a brisk business. The neat displays, organized inventory and photos filled with personal inscriptions handwritten in different ink and by different authors told me so while the woman at the counter whose name I didn’t get was eager for the chance to talk shop. I said, “So, where do you scuba in Ohio?” Betty, I’ll call her, exuberantly replied, “In the rock quarries!” Mining in Ohio reached its peak many years ago and a majority of the quarries have been filled with water and now serve in the Parks Department as a fishing, boating or as I just learned a diving hot spot. Betty must have noticed I was unimpressed and quickly added that you could, “also dive in the Cumberland or up north in the Great Lakes”. My blank stare extended the awkward silence to which Betty finally included, “Many of our customers take lessons to prep for their vacations to Florida or the Bahamas”. It’s there where I surmised most of the handwritten photos had come from which finally released us from our uncomfortable standoff. As I walked down the rows of wetsuits and vests I asked what the visibility was like diving in a quarry to which she replied not much. At that point I imagined I’d like to see what was eating me before actually being eaten. At least I’d stand a fighting chance of getting away.

As I pulled out of the lot I stole a chuckle at Betty’s expense and her excitement over the “Rock Quarry”. Holding it against none, I wondered how many customers came through the doors to share in that excitement. You see,… I’ve been to a place where the water is crystal, the coral alive and the colors vibrant. I’ve lived at a place where the surf is rolling and the tans are natural. I’ve dove Molokini, snorkeled Lapakahi and all points in between. I’ve been at times both tourist and local. For me, the pull of the Islands is like a magic string, always attached, sometimes felt but never limiting. In Ohio some folks know this and some folks don’t and the road leading to my Dive Shop has become an increasing addition to muscle memory and the regular drives I take in everyday life. My Dive Shop though is now a landmark and as a milepost is something other to consider than the destination. Now as I pass by the string tugs at me, a gentle reminder of the sun, the sand and the people. One day we’ll visit, my kids for the first time and as we drive back from a day at Onekahakaha, Sunset or NaPali eating shave ice or leftover spam musubi I’ll have even more to appreciate as I consider how different things could be. I could after all be diving in a rock quarry somewhere in southern Ohio looking at, well,…rocks, and thinking “boy, this is it!” while wondering if there was anything close by that was about to eat me.

At the end of the day you may leave the Islands but the Islands will never really leave you.


David DelaCruz grew up in and out of Hawa`ii and now lives far away from those islands in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean.

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