Monday, September 29, 2014

Aloha kukae

Posting has been light this month for three reasons, one you've heard and two you haven't. The usual one is that I just don't have anything to say. Politics in this country is a total shitshow with a very real possibility that that Ass the Public plans to hand over control of both houses of Congress to the bunch of Christopathic morons and political thumbsuckers.

And "foreign policy"? Shit, what can you say about trying to use aerial bombardment to defeat geography? It's like one of those electric belts that promise to undo those weeks of evenings you spent pasted onto the recliner gobbling a full bag of those little Kit-Kat bars they sell before Halloween and watching reruns of Naked and Afraid. You know it's a stupid fucking idea and so do I. What can I tell you that you don't already know, and why should I waste my time and your bandwidth doing that?

You don't want to read about soccer, and I don't want to talk about the weather or trivialities - shit, that's what Facebook is for - and that leaves home and family and history and stories.

I didn't get to the Siege of Vienna this month but I might write it up for October. It's a good story and an important battle. And I really should finish up my regular Army days; so that's history, and stories.

But the other two reasons were sort of new for me. First, the Boy has been a brass-plated pain-in-the-ass. And, second, my company sent me to Hawai'i for a week, and I'm honestly not sure which was the more trouble.

To deal with the Boy first; he's been a handful this year. Alternating between whiny/tearful/clingy-to-his-mom and then arguing with her to the point of maddening. Picking on his little sister until she shrieks and throws things in anger. He wants to play video games...and just about nothing else. If he wasn't still playing soccer and charming when he chooses to be I'd despair of him as a complete waste of good oxygen.

It was when I left for Hawai'i that things really went to hell, though, and I'll talk about that in a bit.

The Hawai'i thing was purely a job of work. Three days drilling on the street in a suburb of Honolulu followed by a couple of days poking around a development project out in east Honolulu near Koko Head. As it turned out I did have some time to poke around the island a little bit, but let me say flat-out that I remembered Honolulu as kind of a dump, and ten years' time hadn't improved it much.

I visited the islands for the first time back in the middle Oughts as part of an Army Guard training. We spent a couple of weeks dicking around the Schofield Barracks training areas whilst a Hawaiian Guard unit took our normal place up at Fort Lewis. I hope they liked the wet woods better than we liked the tropical hills of Oahu; the red dirt never came out of three pairs of fatigue trouser-knees, I got a nasty septic infection, and the impact area at Schofield is about half the size of a postage stamp and about as useful as an object for artillery training.

What little I saw of the island outside post was mostly Honolulu and its outskirts, and it impressed me as rundown and overcrowded. The touristy area around Waikiki was appalling; a junky Vegas-on-the-beach gilded with faux-Hawaiian kitsch designed to hoover dollars out of the visitors' wallets. The traffic was a nightmare.

Well, that was 2005. Almost ten years later the traffic is worse, the place more rundown, the tourists largely Japanese or Chinese but still thronging Ala Moana Boulevard in their tourist outfits (t-shirt, baggy shorts, flip-flops) still looking overheated and under-exercised, still looking either dazed or vaguely dissatisfied, the fake-Hawaiian-tourist-traps still frantically sucking cash. The parks were probably the worst; you couldn't find a major park without a dozen tents or hootches or piles of assorted junk and dirty clothes. Honolulu had a lot of homeless people ten years ago, but now the place seemed teeming with them.

Probably the defining Honolulu moment came within hours of my arrival. My boss, who had flown out there to drum up business, was driving towards the closet-space we called the "Honolulu office" located near the older city center. We turned a corner onto Market Street and there he was, the youngish hobo with his wild mop of filthy hair and his pants down around his ankles.

That's right. He was taking a dump right there, in front of God and everybody, in the gutter on the north side of Market Street at two in the afternoon on a Sunday. And not just a hasty little crap-and-run deal, either. No, from the small hillock of used food in the gutter our boy had been working on that one for a while.

My boss was revolted. I just laughed. Aloha, welcome to Tropical Paradise, hope you enjoy our casual Island hospitality.

But I'll tell you more about that in a bit.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The winds of autumn

Last night the wind blew in.

Sometimes in the last of summer or the earliest months of autumn we get an odd sort of east wind. The winter winds that blow off the interior are frightful and frigid; they usually meet our Pacific rain in a head-on collision of ice and snow, plunging the Portland region into a Dantesque Hell of fearsome roads and fearful drivers.

These are not those winds.

Instead, the late-summer winds clear out the skies and crispen the air. Temperatures drop into the pleasant seventies, the nights are sleep-cool and the days brisk and autumnal. Moribund leaves, already drying and turning, pile in drifts along fences and at the base of walls. Crows scud overhead in playful bands trying tricks that only the strong winds allow them.

We don't enjoy the autumn wind every year, so it was with a deep, slow satisfaction that I roused in the night last night to hear the soughing of the trees above the roof and the faint singing of the street-wires that announced the arrival of our occasional visitor from the East.

This morning was everything that a wind-morning should be; crackling with cold, bright and vivid, the gustlets whisking the steam from my coffee cup as I stood in the long shadows anticipating the arrival of the day.

The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through the rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love.

~ Deborah Digges

Friday, September 05, 2014

Back from the East

My silence over the past several weeks has been, unlike my more typical silences of late, not occasioned by simply having little or worth or note to say.
It was because I was not here.
My in-laws succeeded in emotionally bludgeoning my Bride into dragging all of us back to the Eastern U.S. on a "family vacation" ostensibly because her parents so delighted in their adorable grandchildren that their 40th wedding anniversary would have been barren and meaningless without said nippers. They had gone to the vast trouble and expense of renting a summer house on the island of Mt. Desert in southeastern Maine for a week-long getaway to spend time with their beloved grandkiddies in the pastoral Maine woods.

This struck me as nonsenseical at the time it was proposed and, now that the whole magilla is over, done, and dusted seems little less nonsensical than it did at first. My in-laws are perhaps the least outdoorsy people I know, my sister-in-law (another of the Great Grandkid Anniversary Vacation crew) is so huge as to be practically immobile more than 100 yards from vehicular transportation, and my kiddos are both video addicted and at the stage where merely wandering the woods palls relatively quickly.
So off we went, 3,000 miles, to flop down in a great big rental along the northwest coast of Mt. Desert for a week.

My in-laws, I might add, showed little inclination to do anything with the supposedly-adorable grandkiddos they supposedly so desperately needed to make their anniversary complete. I wish I had a little movie of Grandpa Steviepie getting the word that he was expected to take his grandson to ride the little putt-putt go-karts at "Wild Acadia"; I thought he was going to give birth to something right there, and not something adorable or fluffy.
It turns out that my father-in-law's idea of "vacation" is "to be as inert as possible"; he really thought that his week in one of the most beautiful parts of the Maine coast was going to consist of laying immobile on a couch in this rental house while, I suppose, his adored grandchildren gamboled about his rest like wooly lambs. Or something.

For me the whole business was a mixture of occasional enjoyment mixed with repeated periods of frustrated irritation with the general inertness of my in-laws. The entire business came to a head on the second day in Maine, where my poor Bride ended up on the end of a tirade wherein I announced that the solution was simple; either the group came up with a plan or plans to do and see more of the National Park or I would, myself, and they could go hang.
The result was a little more activity, although the Boy was unimpressed with All Things Park; he wanted to watch television and ride the go-karts. The Little Miss was better about nature-ing, but she was desperately homesick and not inclined to be happy about that. Both kiddos were bored, and their grandparents had no idea how to enjoy them or entertain them.

Taken altogether, a rather sad way to spend a week in a very lovely place.
I'm back now, several thousand dollars poorer, but with little more in the way of inspiration for blogging. My nation still seems to be composed largely of hysterical idiots led by cynical idiots or clueless idiots, and I have no notion of what We the People can do about that assuming the a critical mass of us continues to clamor for more idiocy from both varieties of idiots.
But I'll see if I can think of something.