Ah…another passing of the month of the great Caesar’s namesake, July… When, in the modern era, we celebrate the birth of our nation and reflect on the passing of Mr. Jefferson and John Adams, all on the fourth. When the bride and I celebrate our wedding anniversary…21 years and still kicking (each other).
July, this year, we also celebrate the publication of the latest tome of self-proclaimed “creation steward” and fellow-Virginian Joel Salatin, lament the retirement of American legend and cultural icon Garrison Keillor, and mourn the passing of another Lorne Michael brainchild–the Maya and Marty Show. (If you grew up on Carol Burnett and appreciate SNL, this one should catch your attention.)
And when you ponder the goodly month of July, do not forget Belgium National Day, Bastille Day, and National Lasagna Day!
Welcome back, dear readers, for another dose of the madness, another glimpse into the strange dark pool, the very literary soul, of our ever more addlepated lives… Welcome back…to our blog.
Shall we begin, then, with a riveting account of the latest goings-on of our ragtag band of ramblers, our intrepid troupe of itinerants? … Let’s!
Our Wily Wayfarers
Da Paddla. (That’s pidgeon for “The Paddler.”) Who would have ever thought that this little haole boy, who when still in diapers was dubbed “The White Prince” by his Thai nanny, would be going to a state championship for outrigger canoe paddling in Polynesia? This month, he racked up additional medals from the 16- and 18-year-old age groups and a free plane ticket to Oahu to compete in August against the best in the islands from the 18-year-old age group. Separately, as a reward for all his hard volunteer work over two weeks at a local Christian summer camp, he was also treated to a week at the camp as an actual camper, gratis. Also this month, he received the results of his bi-annual standardized tests (a device to ensure that homeschooled kids are hitting all the marks)… At the age of 16, he ranked at the college level in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies.
Aikido Mini-Master. Speaking of camp, this one also attended for a week on scholarship
from our church. To earn the scholarship, she has been busy over the past many weeks working at a local soup kitchen, where she helps feed the homeless, and memorizing scripture. This month, she also received the result of her bi-annual standardized tests and, at the age of 11, ranked in at the college level in reading, language, science, and social studies and at the 11th-grade level in math. (I suppose this homeschool stuff is working; else wise, these trials are inexcusably simple in design and we, as a nation, would benefit from cutting some five years out of the public grade-school curriculum. Then again, what’s all that longstanding clamor about the educational result of the States United’s educational system ranking behind the likes of Bangladesh when it comes to arithmetic, geography, and other fundamentals of the classical education? Dare I say, like our food system, this (too) is a broken side of modern-day Rome? I digress… (And my blood pressure riseth.))
Deep breath. Light incense. Deep breath. Stretch. Deep breath. Pray…
Joe College. Slim was duly occupied running many an errand for mom and dad (now that she has a driver’s license and no job). Groceries, trash and drinking water runs, library visitations, shuttling siblings… She also continued the job hunt and had two interviews. (While the job market in general is quite limited and tight here on the Big Island, we find that jobs typically and easily snapped up by teens in places we have lived before are more challenging to secure here for the young ones. Why? You have adults competing for these jobs and, in general, a wide-spread issue with poor work ethic that makes employers more cautious about hiring teens when they have trouble getting adults to show up and perform. Remember that paper route I gave up 3 months ago? They are still seeking a dependable replacement after I helped them screen four candidates prior to my exit.)
Jester Extraordinaire. Our resident master of japes and purveyor of general tomfoolery… Her babysitting gig and farmer’s market seed sales continued, punctuated with a few nice tree sales on Craig’s List, and she went for a job interview at one of her all time favorite stores–Hot Topics–to try to secure some regular hours at the local mall around college classes in the Fall. She also talked the local farmer’s market owner and operator into allowing her to M.C. an open mic forum during the market to add to the current format of single act live performances, and she made her debut on stage with a set of somber songs and her acoustic guitar. (We keep pushing this one towards the entertainment industry–SNL would be a perfect fit–but there is a certain sloth factor, as seen in many a teen, that interferes with realization of potential, of actuation of talent. Indeed, if the fathers of some past great performers, from Mozart to Michael Jackson, hadn’t been “strict” (to be polite), God only knows if civilization would have ever benefitted from their innate, but forcibly practiced, talents. Now…where’s my cattle prod?)
The Boss. If she were a Catholic saint, our resident China doll would surely be called “Our Lady of Perpetual Fists of Fury.” Yes…for those who know her well…she remains ever feisty. Her attention continued to be focused on household management, lovingly prepared home-cooked meals (from crocodile soup to congee to sundry dishes with a more common flare), homeschool, translations, and exploring consulting opportunities.
As the center of attention during this wedding anniversary period, the bride chose an outing to the local seafood buffet to celebrate. And feast we did! The eldest child chauffeured her beloved parents (a clever ruse to gain access to the car and kick around town with her sister for a few hours). Huzzah! (We have long had domestic servants…er, I mean children…but the possibilities abound with a newly minted, personally attentive, licensed autoist.)
Now…given that 25 years of marriage is, in polite society, dubbed the “Silver Anniversary,” I hereby proclaim that 21 years of bondage…er, I mean affection…is the
Black Jack Anniversary…complete with Queen and an Ace! (Honestly, in this instance, it’s more like a Queen and a Joker, but, in the world of the professional gambler, that simply cannot add up to 21, irrespective of your chosen method of counting cards. (I’m more of a Hi-Lo advocate, while the bride favors the Knock Out system.) Honestly speaking, even a Queen and a Jack (o’napes) simply does not ring true to the occasion. Pray grant me some measure of poetic license here, gentle and patient readers, and be on the look out for the new Hallmark card that I am penning just now on this newly dubbed celebratory occasion.
Finally, for you Kevin Spacey fans and Vegas historians out there (you know who I’m talking to), I’ll close this little piece of my longer rant with “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
Puppet Master. My full-time on-the-job training continued, leaving me exhausted by 1:30 pm (given that my day starts, quite literally, at o’dark thirty). Given the circumstances, I was quite unable to muster even a speck of energy to tackle any of our green pursuits. The end is in sight, though, good readers. This month, I completed my practicals, tested out well in all areas, and was turned loose to operate solo–fully certified. Now, who’s ready for a pat down?
In the coming weeks, I’ll begin my long-sought-after part-time schedule, freeing me up after 10:00 a.m. each day to resume my green collar duties (and a well-deserved nap each day). Frankly, with full federal benefits restored, the restart of my retirement pay calculation clock (the ole “high three” being locked in many a moon ago), and free college course work and credits towards an advanced degree, I honestly could not have expected a more perfect fit of a job on this ocean-bound rock. I also have a fantastic crew to work with (quickly becoming akin to second family) and the commute is nothing compared to our former lives in various metropolises around the globe. Again, tip o’me hat to the ole Maker.
Meanwhile, in my copious free time, I sold a few more of my previously drafted freelance pieces on the history of coffee, the use of coffee cherries, and a comparison of composting methods. The digital nomad, the freelance scrivener gypsy, rides on…
And? “What about the other two? The furry ones?,” you ask. Fair enough. It has been a goodly span of time since we last raised the exploits of our tireless blue-eyed mouser (aka “hairy baby,” aka “the queen”) and the less-than-dire wolf, the guardian of the flock, a regular contributor to our floors of more wool material than any ungulate could dream of. Well…rather than drone on…I’ll just note that these pictures just about sum it up…
Why do I feed these slugs?
Things Multifarious and Motley (“Miscellaneous” is so droll…)
Cars (and I ain’t talkin’ Disney here). This month, we were again reminded of how rough this place seems to be on our vehicles. Heat, humidity, acid rain, air salinity, country roads, theft. (You may recall that, in our first year of owning the Jeep, we went through eight (8) flat tires on that vehicles alone and in our first 18-months on island, two out of three of our cars were unsuccessfully targeted by thieves. Rust and sun-faded paint are quaint touches added by Hawaii on all three vehicles.) This month saw all of our chariots requiring some level of attention by the black smith’s hammer. Over a grand on the mini-van, eight big ones on the sedan, new tires on the Jeep (and an engine tick that needs attention). Now…keep in mind…our van and sedan are old and fully paid for and, so, are still a bargain with their occasional costly repairs, and the Jeep was a parental gift. These days, we never know where the money is coming from to cover such costs, but The Maker always steps in. In this case, it so happens that a neighbor of ours who we have helped extensively over the past two years has a brother in town who is a gifted mechanic, and this fine fellow has tweaked our rides for half the cost of going to any local shop. Onward ho!
Of Mummers and Muses. Here on the Big Island, where imbibing cheap grain ferments while shore fishing, lighting off fireworks at a rodeo, and roasting marshmallows over active lava flows are some of the more common distractions enjoyed by many, we do (on occasion) get access to entertainment novelties that feed one’s soul on a different level all together. This month, courtesy of the annual Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, our merry band of gentrified rabble-rousers was able to take in an opera (The Marriage of Figaro) and a musical (Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music”), both performed at our local historic theatre by artists flown in from around our great nation. And all at just $10 per ticket! Harpsichord, bassoon, and period-authentic French horns…in downtown Hilo!
Ballot Buffoonery. Meanwhile, those of us falling into the 16-year-and-older category submitted ourselves for an afternoon of training as precinct election officials. That’s right! Our homeschooled brood will be learning of government first hand, participating in and facilitating the process of choosing the next leader of the free world, as they instruct their fellow citizens on the casting of their ballots and guide their fellow countrymen into voting booths for both the primary and general elections. (For those who have followed our story for some time, you may recall that one of our goals in this grand life experiment, this leap into madness, was to be able to participate in, and contribute to, community on a level not possible in our former professional lives. We have made some strides in this direction…)
(Before moving on, I must say here, that the experience of being trained as an election official left me further convinced that our beloved nation state is, in almost every way conceivable, following the path of Rome in her final days. When a room full of people who are old enough to be licensed to operate expensive, heavy, fast machinery along our roadways cannot properly count off in fours to create four groups and, once corrected, still get into the wrong party, you have no trouble understanding the election foibles in Florida in 2000. After all, people, there is no “five” when you are counting off into groups of four! (Then again, maybe these seemingly numerically-challenged good folk were just Spinal Tap groupies… “This one goes to 11.”)
Homestead. While heavy rains and a tropical storm again delayed concrete pouring, we finally saw actual footers and slabs materialize from the ether during a small dry patch. (The slabs are for stair landings and places to keep heavy equipment (deep freezers, solar power and solar water heating related gear, etc.) underneath the raised house).
We planted more longterm food-producing plants and harvested our first pineapple (you could literally smell the fragrance from three feet away). As alluded to in our last post, the IRS reconfirmed with us that they would be relieving us of the remainder of our saved building funds, leaving us to now hunt for creative solutions to pay for the completion of our project. Never a dull moment on this particular life journey.
Dr. Evil. You simply cannot even flirt with the thought of “liquid hot magma” without conjuring images of this Austin Powers stalwart. Early in the month, we paired up with some fellow church members and undertook an eight mile jaunt out to where we could get a good look at the new lava flow. Outside of a National Geographic special, this was a first for even the more world-traveled among us. As of this writing, the lava has progressed to a point where we can more easily approach it outright–roast hot dogs, if we like–and that is on the calendar for next month’s adventure. Stay tuned…
Independence Day. While Will Smith did not make an appearance and there were no alien spacecraft to contend with, the day was well spent at a traditional 4th-of-July picnic hosted by a sister church that always includes our smaller congregation in such revelries. Hot dogs and lemonade, assorted homemade pot luck fare, baseball, long conversations about politics and gardening and weather patterns… You get the picture. Hometown USA in the outskirts of Polynesia… (Interesting when you consider… Some would say we celebrated our nation’s freedom from British colonial rule upon an island that Americans later occupied and then forcibly wrested away from a native population…)
Island Insights (Relevant, Pertinent, and Otherwise)
Did you know that the Aloha state usually has the worst voter turnout in the nation? According to CNN, a turnout rate of less than half of eligible voters is not unheard of in Hawaii. Why? Some variables cited are poor public education and a lack of emphasis on civil engagement, a sense of apathy driven by physical distance and time difference with Washington, a laid-back and laissez faire culture and outlook, status as a one-party state causing many to view voting as pointless, and some pockets of descendants of early settlers (the Polynesians) that refuse to participate because they continue to view Hawaii as a colony of an invading super power.
Meanwhile, here in the 50th member of the Union this month, we did see unprecedented progress on the organic grower front…
In other news, while ninety-year-old strippers and (as per above, hepatitis A outbreaks and fecal chloroform at the beaches) are not exactly what you see in carefully crafted tourist brochures for Hawaii, here is another clipping on a local Hilo resident that provides to you, our good readers, a dose of reality regarding life here…
Now…for a a pithy closing quote…
The oxen is slow, but the earth is patient.
…and exit, stage left …