Friday, October 26, 2007

The Great Pumpkins

Last weekend we visited our first real, live pumpkin patch on a farm.

Not just a parking lot covered with hay bales and straw, either, but a place where field after gorgeous field offered up scores of bulbous orange vegetables (fruits? vegetables? fruits? They have seeds on the inside, like fruit, as do tomatoes, which are also often misclassified as vegetables....hmmm).

Anyway, it was a classic Halloween outing, and less than a half hour from the busiest part of the city.

Here, have a look for yourself:

I'm so glad we didn't decide to just get our pumpkin from Safeway this year.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pooling Around

We've been here for more than three months now and have spent countless hours at the many spectacular beaches around the island.

During that time, however, we've only swam in pools twice. It felt almost like we were cheating on the Pacific Ocean when we did, too, as if submerging oneself in an ocean as beautiful, warm and full of amazing fish as we have surrounding us should ALWAYS take precedence over a dip in chlorinated water aside plastic lounge chairs; anyone can do that anywhere.

But we've had fun during our pool visits. Our first outing was to the over-the-top Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki, where we spent the better part of a day splashing and playing with Finney's old girlfriend, Maya, and her sweet Mom, who were visiting from California.

At first, Finn thought little Maya had moved into the Hilton for good -- that it was going to be her new, permanent home. You know, because everyone moves to Hawaii sooner or later and she just came over a little later than we did, right Mom? And why didn't we get a pool that big, by the way? -- and requested that I organize MANY play dates with Maya in her new palatial digs. He was a bit disappointed, in more ways than one, to later learn she was only visiting the Place With The Awesome Pools and Waterfalls and Turtles and Penguins and Parrots and that we wouldn't be returning anytime soon to see her.

Recently, our new friends invited us to join them at their local health club, where they have a great big pool and jacuzzi. About a minute after we arrived, however, a spontaneous storm erupted right over the club and a bunch of clouds unzipped their bellies and poured out their slippery contents on our heads.

In California, that would have, sadly, been the end of the outing. The rain would have continued to spill the rest of the day, and everyone would have packed back into the car, sulking and dejected. But the great thing about rain in Hawaii? It's usually quite pleasant -- refreshing, actually -- and stops almost as soon as it starts.

So while all the towel jockeys surrounding the pool (and those of us with cameras in hand) sought cover from the rain, the swimmers just stayed where they were. They were wet already, right?

And within five minutes, the rain was pau for the day.

A little bit of rain falls here almost every day -- just enough to keep all the flowers in bloom and the vegetation green.

What a wonderful system Mother Nature has here in the islands -- almost as impressive as the Hilton Hawaiian Village itself.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Honolulu Chinatown

According to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, which rotates between 12 different animals in each full cycle, 2007 is the Year of the Pig. Especially interesting is that many believe 2007 is also the year of the golden pig, an event that comes around every 60 years.

Birth rates in China, where couples are allowed only one child, are through the roof this year because, supposedly, those born under this auspicious sign will be intelligent, healthy and live (plump) prosperous lives. Either way, the pigs around Chinatown are frickin' adorable.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Things I'm Still Getting Used To

Lest ye think it's all rainbows, leis and waterfalls here, I've compiled a list of things that underscore that even paradise has its quirks:

Humidity. Yes, I've admitted here before that I am a complete and total wuss when it comes to weather extremes. And my hometown certainly spoiled me in this regard -- rarely too cold, and rarely too hot. And little to no humidity.

But, oy, the humidity in Hawaii in late summer is a killer. Oh sure, it reminds me of the many wonderful memories I have of visiting my extended family on the East Coast during the summers. Of splashing in Montague, Massachusetts streams in August. Of July on the lake in Whiting, New Jersey. Of chasing after the ice cream truck in Brentwood, Long Island.

But the buzz of those sweet memories wears off quickly, especially when I crash face first into the reality that we don't have any air conditioning to escape to in our house. Yet.

The post-Costco experience. The things I love about my Costco are plentiful: the abundant Asian/Pacific Islander food staples that many of the folks who live here eat regularly; the friendly and professional pharmacy staff (truly hard to find); the amazingly fresh fish, sushi and sashimi; and the fact that it never seems to be crowded in the store or the parking lot -- even on a Saturday.

What I'm still struggling to get used to, though, is that they don't bag or box up any of your purchases for you at the check-out counter. This means that if you buy 25 different items (and that's a conservative estimate for me most visits), you leave with 25 different containers to transfer to your car and then transfer again to your kitchen. This can be tricky when there are small, slippery items and you're traveling with small, slippery children.

The price of milk. It's $5.00 a gallon here, even at Costco. It can be more at the regular grocery store, and you don't even want to know what 7-11 is charging. Liquid gold.

No curbside recycling. Despite the fact that we're living on a small island with extremely limited resources and space, Honolulu is only this month beginning to offer residents (in two test neighborhoods) a pilot curbside recycling program. What this means is that our bottles and cans and papers stack up (and the fucking sugar ants always find the pile) until one of us can make a run to the nearby recycling center and hurl the whole ant-infested mess into the bins.

Fucking sugar ants. Sure, they're about a third of the size of the standard-issue picnic ants I'm used to from the mainland. Hell, I even called them cute for the first couple weeks here. Now? Now they are no longer cute. I curse them, loudly, as I battle their persistent streams through the kitchen and bathroom daily. They dance and frolic on the totally ineffective ant bait stations I set out for them. I loathe them.

Mullets. And rat tails. On kids. 'Nough said.

Fall Break. As the kids these days always say: WTF? Yes, you've heard of Spring Break, that much-needed week off in springtime when the weather's just starting to warm up again and the kids are thrilled to have a quick week off. Here in Hawaii, though, in addition to Spring Break, Winter Break, and Summer vacation, they have what's called "Fall Break" -- a full week plus one day off from school during the first week of October.

Really, folks, we don't need this. We were just beginning to hit our stride on the whole school routine thing. And this? This is really just a bummer. Couldn't we extend summer by another week (school started on August 1st!) and just skip this strange middle part, hmmmm?

We are so many hours behind the rest of you. By the time I have a free moment to pick up the phone and make a phone call to a friend or someone in my family, it's almost always too late in the day to do so. Since Hawaii doesn't participate in daylight savings, this will get slightly better in late October, when the difference between HI and say, NJ or NC will only be five hours and the difference between HI and CA will only be two hours.

But for now I've got to force myself to get on the phone in the mornings, typically my worst time of day, to chat with friends and family. But after I do I'm glad I did, as it soon becomes a highlight of my day.


This cartoon strip, sent to me from Hotel Waikiki (thanks!), says it all.