Saturday, February 28, 2009

The S.P.A.M. Chronicles - Day 12

Day 12 concludes of our Hawaiian vacation
The rain provides us some needed hydration
From the sun we get our Vitamin D
Elsie’s oranges exude fresh Vitamin C
And the fresh salt air is welcome ventilation

I’ve been asked why I take my time writing down these vacation musings and I suppose the motivation is from examples both recent and long ago. For the first six weeks of the year Loren & Veneta kept us informed of the Arizona adventures in their Desert Digest. Loren’s a great writer and he recently uncovered a trove of letters from him to his parents during his Korean War days which he’s using during the writing of his autobiography. In college, I used to write 3 or 4 letters a week and I miss the challenge of crafting and organizing my thoughts in a way at least I understand. In the fabled summer of ’72 when Ken & I embarked on a month long 8000 mile automotive odyssey around America, I started a daily journal that I kept for the next 3 years. Though the writing was pedestrian, as the years have gone by I’ve appreciated the documentation of big & little events that shaped the world and got me to who I am today. College life, relationships, and the day to day decisions made against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the 70’s economy, and Watergate are interesting fodder for reflection. As a result I look upon these writings as less about ”how I spent my spring vacation” and more about “who I was as I spent my summer vacation” Also, two of my inspirations are Quaker/Unitarian philosophers, Rick Seifert ( and the journal of Robert Fulghum ( ) In the age of texting and twittering, it’s nice to slow down and savor someone else’s well-considered thoughts. I’m sure it’s the same reason I enjoy immersing myself in a good book. It’s one reason I encouraged Evan to document his impressions during his far-flung adventures. If he did, I’d have to wait for the English translation since my Spanish is rusty.

We had intended to get out for some walking today since we planned to give the PT a rest today but needed to wait until a break in the weather after lunch and then ended up driving down to some of our favorite viewing spots. Not much whale action due to choppy seas and a rain shower chased us home. Off to the Land of Hanalei tomorrow.

In a fitting postscript to today, I just learned of the passing of master storyteller, Paul Harvey. I remember earning money for our 1972 trip @ $1.91/hr and listening to him on the radio. When asked about retirement, he stated he could think of nothing better to do than paint pictures with his typewriter… To Paul Harvey, one last time… Good Day!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 11

Knowing vocabulary can make you seem smart
The correct order of words from finish to start
A mistake in the usage between wind break
And break wind, a person easily can make
So instead of safe haven, you’re left with a fart

The windbreakers were out in full force as we headed north by mid-day for a day of sight-seeing. We had suggested to Elsie that we visit the Kilauea Lighthouse and ‘Anini Beach. For us Northwesterners, we rarely miss an opportunity to visit a lighthouse, particularly one in such a beautiful setting (see attached picture) The wind was brisk which limited the chance to catch any whale action, so we didn’t stay too long. Our next stop was a gorgeous stretch of beach known as ‘Anini. Years ago, possibly just after WWII a resident shot the “W” off the Wanini Beach sign and locals got used to the new name. This seems to be a great example of the “Hawaiian” attitude – take things as you find them. This beach has a long coral reef and is great for snorkeling but even better for windsurfing or kiteboarding. We some some great examples (picture also attached). We dropped Elsie off at her home and headed back home in time to catch a nice sunset from our deck. (also attached). Have to pack up and leave a week from tomorrow, so I guess we better start enjoying ourselves before it’s too late – Aloha – ‘Ike Ponder

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 10

Today is Day 10 if you’re keeping a tally
We were up early and tried not to dally
Ocean and foliage and woods made of koa and banyan
Were all on display as we visited Waimea Canyon
And ended our trek at the Kalalau Valley

The wind had swept the clouds away and the sun shone brightly as we headed out after breakfast for a visit to one of the major scenic wonders of Kauai, Waimea Canyon and the lookout from the top of the Kalalau Valley. Mark Twain called the canyon the Grnd Canyon of Hawaii and I’ve attached a picture to illustrate this. We knew we needed to get up the top of the canyon early in the day because the clouds can quickly obscure the view. We raced from sea level at Waimea to 4000 feet in 19 miles and saw the temperature drop from 77F -50F (25C – 10C for those metric-centric readers). We were glad we had our jackets with us. Got a great view, minutes before it was closed off by approaching clouds (picture also attached) The valley was once a self sufficient home to 50,000+ Native Hawaiians but is rarely visited due to the treacherous trials and high surf. We overheard the comment that waves sometime reach 60 feet during intense storms that sweep in from the ocean.

We worked our way back down and visited a couple of viewpoints that afforded great panoramas of the Canyon and waterfalls. As we cruised back into town we stopped at the Shrimp Station for Shrimp Tacos, Beer-Battered Shrimp, and a particularly tasty Coconut Shrimp. We had failed to pick up T-Shirts commemorating the Town Celebration, so we found the printer and placed an order for pickup early next week. We knew we wanted to be back in Hanapepe by 3:00 just like last week for the Sunshine Market, so we visited Salt Pond Park and then browsed the local bookstore until the whistle blew. At 3:08 we were headed back home and enjoyed a nice meal of snapper, rice, corn and salad, Cards, cribbage, and Five-Straight occupied us until 10:00. We head North tomorrow….”Mountaintop” Mike

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 9

The economy can't seem to sell a car
Stock markets are crashing near and far
We need a way to cope
Someone to give us some hope
Tiger shows how good it is to be under par

It appears the only people that can inspire folks these days are those millionaires, Slumdog & Tiger. We were amused today to see the hype for the return of Tiger Woods after a 254 day hiatus. He, of course, acted like he had just stepped away for a lunch break and picked right up where he left off at the US Open 8 months ago, calmly dispatching his opponent by starting birdie eagle for a 2 up lead. This tournament is Match Play which is very fickle as a bad bounce or inopportune hot or cold streak can eliminate a player. Tiger's record in Match Play is about 75% so he's got a good chance to make it into the weekend. One of the best moments of the telecast came during the airing of a new Nike commercial welcoming Tiger back sung to the tune of "Sunshine, Lollipops. & Rainbows” It seems to sum up nicely the attitude of the rest of the PGA players.

It may seem odd that we watched a golf tournament on TV today but the island was buffeted (not the billionaire) today by strong winds and some rain. The wind subsided and the sun came out in the afternoon so we ventured out to enjoy the sight of some leaping whales and to check on action down at Spouting Horn. The NE winds were blowing offshore so even the waves were some of the highest we've seen, the blowhole wasn't too active. We drove past the Grand Hyatt Hotel which is just down the street to Shipwreck Beach to stroll the grounds and check out the surf. This is the former site of the Grand Slam of Golf at Poipu Bay where Tiger won 7 out of 14 times it was held here (he hadn’t turned pro yet for the first 4) Caught a bit of the sunset before the winds picked packed up and we enjoyed a quiet evening at the condo watching a video of the famous Kamehameha School Song Contest and WALL-E. We have no complaints about the weather since we know parts of the Mainland including the Northwest are getting some cold wet & snowy conditions. Tomorrow it's off west to Hanapepe where the winds might be less... MTP

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 8

We searched for Malasadas for Fat Tuesday
Think Portuguese-Hawaiian deep-fried beignet
We saw a bevy of gnome
At a 93 year old's home
And it brightened a day that was windy & gray

Mardi Gras is late this year so we get to celebrate in Hawaii. In one of the many blended customs Portuguese immigrants made dough to use up lard & sugar which were usually forbidden during the season of Lent which starts on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow). This creates a problem for me since those are two of my favorite food groups (salt, chocolate, and pork products being significant others). Our goal was to visit Merlin & Mary's friend Elsie, a 93 year old German widow who is still going strong. We picked up lunch at the Snack Shack where orders were placed for 2 fish plates, shrimp teriyaki, and I was able to check off two food groups with fries and a corn dog. The paper listed locations where fresh Palisades were available so we looped around but found them already sold out.

We headed east and north to Kapaa about a 40 minute drive. To visualize where we are on the island, if our base of Poipu is at 6:00 for those who still remember analog clocks, our ventures to Waimea would be around 8:00. The NaPali cliffs are at 10:00. Lihue is at 4:00 and Kapaa is at 3:00. Elsie still lives in the home she first occupied in 1950 and we found her outside manicuring her yard. She has dozens of garden gnomes of all sizes and shapes interspersed with well-maintained planting including lemon, orange and pumelo trees and spends at least a couple of hours outside each day gardening. She treated us to a dessert of cherry pound cake and we sunned ourselves in the garden during a break in the clouds. Merlin harvested some plentiful low hanging fruit for fresh orange juice and we made plans to visit again at the end of the week and have her join us as we head further north toward Kiluea Lighthouse and Anini Beach.

Her zest for life wasn't just due to the lemons in her backyard. She said she was grateful everyday and eagerly looked forward to daily chores - she still drives and never misses her weekly church visit, but clearly it's the time out in her yard that energizes her. This got me to reflect on the message from a poem Loren sent yesterday that he received from a friend in 1961 just before the Lesher clan departed to Alaska. It was the opening line of William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis" which Dianna & I were introduced to by Mrs. Stewart, our 11th grade Transcendentalist English teacher At 17 we didn't understand the meaning of a poem written mostly about death by a Romantic poet in 1811 but now in our mid-50s the tone of the poem is different. It seems to say fully embrace nature while you can since you and everyone else will eventually be part of it. Elsie's attitiude serves as a good reminder.

This was probably an odd tangent, but maybe it was inspired by all the birthdays in around this month like Rick & Leah today, Lika, Deborah & Nicole at the end of the month and Scott, Dan & Nathan earlier. I suppose this is an unusual birthday wish but in the spirit of "Carpe Diem", I hope you embrace every day... Here in Hawaii we don't need reminders....Aloha - Mike "While I Pondered"

Monday, February 23, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 7

Monday's Activities are totally free
Ukeleles by the dozens to hear and to see
Sunshine markets give wonderful veggies and fruit
If you're willing to tussle, jostle, grab and root
Calmness & Artistry prevails at at E Kanikapila

A nice rosy fingered dawn greeted us this morning as we began Day 7. Today is the local Koloa Sunshine Market which is one of the biggest and has the best selection. We lined up at the gates just before noon and joined the throngs pummeling for pumelos, grabbing for grapefruit, and knocking coconuts in search of the best and the freshest.

Dianna & Mary got out for a walk and some whale-watching which has been quieter than in recent years. Part of the reason is the wind has been active which makes it a little harder to spy spouts and we haven't been lounging on the beach as much so far so we've had less "eyeball time"

Snacked in the afternoon and then got ready for the evening's entertainment in at the Island School Lihue. E Kanikapila Kakou loosely translates as "Hawaiian jam session with strings" and is a 25+ year tradition on Kauai where some of the best talent showcasing Hawaiian music is highlighted at free Monday night concerts from mid-January through early April. At least a quarter of the audience shows up with their ukeleles and plays along after participating in a workshop before the show. In past years we've seen a 17 year old ukelele prodigy who studies remotely with the Berklee School of Music and a 100 year old Uke player who can play behind his back. We used to think of this series as a local secret but the word is out this year as the place was almost as packed as the Sunshine Market. Tonight's artists were a 20-something duo, Kupaoa ( who met at UH where they were music majors. They play upright electric bass and 6 & !2 string guitar, and ukelele and wrote about half of the songs on their album - very talented artists and an enjoyable concert where they explained in detail how they devloped their music. At intermission, Axel,the high school senior who won the Waimea Town Celebration Uke Contest Saturday played 2 tunes.

Another great day in Paradise... "MUSIC is my sideline" Mike

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 6

It is time for the daily theme search.
Is it M&M's visit to church?
Or is it the fresh rain?
Which we rarely disdain
Sitting sheltered on our lanai perch

Washington's birthday was today as best we knew
Though he was actually born Feb 11, 1732
Because of the switch to the Gregorian calendar
There's doubt about just when those dates were
Which is why we use President's Day with no further ado

We were able to catch a bit of a nice sunrise before the morning wind and rain blew in and cancelled our morning tennis plans. Merlin & Merry always like to attend a local church up near Lihue where they're always welcomed back by the congregation so they headed out around 10:00. It's nice to have a community to participate in... They did some local shopping and in a small world coincedence, they ran into Larry Rivera ( ) a famous long time Kauai entertainer who serenaded people for years at the resort Elvis made Blue Hawaii at, The Coco Palms. The resort was devastated by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and within the last year plans to reopen were cancelled, much to Larry's regret. Merlin & Mary have seen Larry many times and he remembered them and invited all of us to his Wednesday show at the Kauai Beach Hilton.

It's a slow news day so a geography primer may be in order to make sense of some of the places we visit. The island is roughly circular with a diameter of ~30 miles which for those who still remember their circumference calculation (Diameter x Pi ) yields a 90 mile round trip. We situated in the South at Poipu and Koloa and a 30 mile drive West through Waimea puts you at the edge of the 5000 ft NaPali cliffs. This is the dry end of the island averaging only a foot of rain per year. It's very Arizona-like with cacti and it's own version of the Grand Canyon - The 3000 foot deep Waimea Canyon.
head off to the East and you pass through the commercial hub of the island, Lihue on your way to the north shore. The mountain in the center of the island gets ~480 inches of rain per year, enough to feed 5 navigable rivers and numerous waterfalls. As you head north you see the lush end of the island where South Pacific and Jurrasic Park were filmed. Hanalei is reminiscent of the Willamette Valley complete with a laid back community vibe. A few miles further you reach the end of the road and the NaPali coastline where it's a challenging 2 day hike around to the top of the Waimea Canyon through the muddy Alakai Swamp. This geographic and micro-climate diversity make it easy to find someplace on the island to enjoy the beauty.

The weather cleared in the afternoon as we enjoyed a relaxing day at the condo. Turned the TV on for the first time this week to watch the Blazers cruise to a comfortable win over the Clippers and then watched some of the Oscars complete with popcorn. Our penultimate Kauai Sunday ended quietly at 10...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 5

The big day had arrived for the Oregonian Team
The Player of Tunes and the Eaters of Ice Cream
On a musical note, all the practice done daily
Served Merlin well as he played his Ukelele
And we did ourselves proud just like in our dream

Bookended the day with a picture perfect sunrise and sunset and had an enjoyable time at the Waimea Town Celebration which is like Multnomah Days with Kalua Pig and Poi Balls (an odd twist on a hushpuppy). We participated fully in the Ice Cream Eating contest & The Uke contest but "Veni, Vini, No Vici Bruddah" ( We came, We saw, We left empty handed..) Documentation is available at: Look for Merlin 1/3 of the way through the Uke contest and the AARP contestants (55+) at the end of the IC Contest. Merlin is in the yellow shirt and we're on the left side. This proves were not writing these recaps from our condo at Caldew... >New week to make good use of... More later - I've got an ice cream headache... MTP

Friday, February 20, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 4

As Day 4 comes to a close, we settle into a routine
that involves sitting and watching and reporting what's seen.
As you receive this message through this medium
We hope to alleviate some tedium
As we strive to translate what we say into what we mean...

It's Aloha Friday here but the attitude is typical any day of the week - take it slow, no problem, it is what it is. I leaped into action after a modest sunrise and made a batch of Hawaiian French Toast based on a recipe from Alton Brown, a chemist/chef from the Food Channel. Eggs, Half & Half and Honey made a nice custardy breakfast. Our major goal of the day was to trek into Lihue, about a 1/2 hour car trip, replenish our food stocks, and add Merlin as a driver on the car. The weather remained breezy and showery so our usual agenda of walks was limited. A Costco chicken provided an early dinner before some more card playing. Finally saw some good whale action at sunset and we passed a quiet evening gearing up for the big Waimea Town Celebration tomorrow. Dianna & I are veterans of the Ice Cream Eating contest and Merlin will once again participate in the Ukulele Contest. We are guaranteed a pint of ice cream and a T-shirt respectively. We still have 2 Fridays left before we pack up so we hope to venture out more in the coming days.

If my browser cooperates I'll send an occasional picture - maybe even of tomorrow's festivities.

Aloha -MTP

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 3

Our choices of cuisine have become more auspicious As our cravings tend to be more ambitious It heightens all our moods To enjoy home-cooked foods To quote a Midwestern musician, "Fish is Delicious!"
Food always plays a big part of a vacation in Hawaii and today we "stayed home" to some degree. After our sunrise acknowledgement we had breakfast and lounged around with books, cards, music and e-mail until Mary & Dianna headed out on a walk to Poipu Beach. The fickle rain gods waited until they were exposed and then decided to shower them with greetings. We drove down and picked them up and shopped for some suitable lunch fixings for a in-house lunch. The island has local "Sunshine" markets scattered around each day and at 3:00 we knew we would head down to Hanapepe for their event. These markets are much different than our Farmer's Markets as you need to be in place when they blow the whistle since things sell out quickly. Our fruit & vegetable experts were in place early and by 3:15 we were on our way home with a variety of avacados, rambutan, oranges, papaya, lettuce, onions, sweet potatoes and other items for the pantry. We visited Salt Pond Park and enjoyed the view while we tried some wind-aided card playing and then set sail for home. We played games until dinner which would be highlighted by Merlin's lovingly hand-caught salmon from Brookings. We bring a suitcase full of frozen food with large quantities of salmon fillets, ling cod, snapper, beef jerky, and smoked salmon prepared by Merlin. Enjoyed a subdued sunset and then had a marvelous meal and resumed the male domination in game playing. Pinochle, Five Straight, and Back-Alley Bridge all went the guys way until Mary & Dianna broke through with a come-from behind win in Pinochle. Retired to the stirrings of the tropical breezes by 10:00...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 2

Day One ended and we turned the page And embraced a tradition that has become the rage In Iowa or Nebraska it would be considered insane In Tucson or LA it's never considered vain As Oregonians enter the "No Socks" Age Today begins that annual season we Northwesterners eagerly anticipate when we can expose our lower extremeties to fresh air and sunshine from mid Feb-early March. We view going sock-free as a right not a privledge although Merlin invokes the NW Birkenstock option of using socks with his sandals. Still we all are united in being knee-free.. Those of you in Arizona or California (except for maybe this year) may not appreciate how important this opportunity is to us but most likely the chance won't arise again until around the summer solstice... The first full day on the island began with the usual tradition of walking out to the point and greeting the sunrise at 7:00 AM. All indigenous cultures emphasize acknowledgement of the cycles of life such as sunrise & sunset, the changing of seasons, or birth & death and I think we'd all benefit from spending a little time in gratitude for such things. As such, once the sun returned our welcome with a cloud-tinged sunrise, we were ready to face the day. Breakfast is always the first order of business and oatmeal and toast are always staples which give us a literal base as we metaphorically chew over our plans for the day. Today appears windy with a chance of showers so we're in no hurry to race outside and instead enjoy the weather from our lanai as Merlin plays the ukelele. I work on the overarching theme of this communication and put enough down on-screen that I can send out the the initial issue to an unsuspecting public. Late morning we head out for a little sightseeing and stop at Spouting Horn which is usual a good vista for whalewatching. The wind makes it difficult but does enhance the effect of the volcanic blowhole that gives the vista it's name. We wander by a regular stop on our visits, a local takeout shop called the Snack Shack and grab some food for a picnic at Brenneke Beach in Poipu. This is only about a 10 minute walk from the condo so we're down here a lot. Again the wind makes whalewatching or card playing a challenge but as is typical during the "No-Socks" age, we find little to complain about in 75 degree air. Back to the condo for reading, card playing, and napping while I stay connected to what's happening elsewhere with the use of my laptop. At 4:30 it's time to head off to our birthday date with Jim and imagine our surprise when we arrive at the Camphouse Grill and find it abandoned and overgrown. Jim had already scoped it out and we arranged to head to the Brick Oven for some pizza and a sandwich. Had a good visit and headed back home in time to catch the color at the tail end of a sunset. The evening consisted of equal enjoyment of Hawaiian music,Pinochle, Five-Straight, ice cream, and reading before closing the books at 10:00>Aloha - Mahi-Mahi -Mike

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The S.P.A.M Chronicles - Day 1

As Hawaiian Air departed to the West We resolved to take time to document the best Activities and reflections this trip might bring And since in Hawaii SPAM is considered a good thing We offer the following for you to digest... The good thing about e-mail is that you can receive "valuable" communications from friends and family with no effort on your part. The bad news about e-mail is that you can receive.... As a result over the next 18 days you will sporadically receive our version of SPAM which generically will recap the Sights, Play, Activities, and Music we encounter. Consider it a tropical/topical version of a Holiday letter... Day One began early as we were up by 5:30 to prepare for our flight. The participants in this adventure are Merlin & Mary & Mike & Dianna and we all appreciated Merry getting up early and dropping us off at the airport. We ran into our high school friend Jim Taylor who would be spending his birthday week in Hawaii so we made plans to get together on Wednesday for a burger at the Camphouse Grill in Kaleheo, a more rustic version of the Hillsdale Pub. The 5 1/2 hour plane ride was uneventful which is always a good thing. We arrived a little early and had a chance to take our hopper early but passed although Jim rushed ahead. We spent more time procuring our rental car than we did flying across from Oahu but finally got passengers and luggage stowed just after 4:00. Apparently as a last ditch bid to avoid bankruptcy, Chrysler decided to offer great deals to rental fleets on PT Cruisers as this is the 2009 choice four tourists. Our first stop was the ceremonial visit to Wal-Mart to pick up water milk and weights for Merlin and then a stop at the local newspaper office to start a 3 week subscription (Note to Rick S - newspapers are not dead!) Our first meal on the island was at a local favorite Hamura's Saimen Shop, famous for their soups and Lilikoa Pie, passion fruit chiffon. Sated with Saimen we arrived at our condo at 5:30. We're in the same complex we've been in the last 2 years but in a unit a few doors down that has a few pluses (one level, few stairs) and a few minuses (limited view from the lanai for whale watching, and near the parking lot) but still with a great address. Quiet evening as we unpacked, started the initial battles in the Pinochle marathon and retired early since we were still on Portland time.
Feel free to opt out on receiving this limited edition newsletter otherwise you'll learn more than you want to know about this year’s adventure in Hawaii... Aloha - "Manta Ray" Mike