To all who have taken the ice water challenge and feel just so great about it, here is another great cause you can challenge each other to do something about. Nearly 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Lack of clean water kills the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing and killing everyone inside every four hours. About 3.4 million people die every year for lack of clean water. And lack of access to clean water kills more people in the world every year than any war. Go ahead challenge each other to do something about hat, but please, please don’t do it by pouring clean potable water over your head onto the ground in you back yard. It is just a stupid idea. No wonder so many people hate us entitled Americans.
As I step back into the dream we are surrounded by a thin line of touristy stores. It is daytime. We are lost again. There is a rotary of stores with open or glass-window fronts surrounding a small fountain in the center of a tarred circle for pedestrians only, about a 30 yard diameter.
One store window is filled with clocks, small silver pocket watches with chains, table clocks made of polished dark wood (a round face with outstretched wooden arms clinging to a small round glass shelf), a standup-Mickey Mouse clock, Krazy Kat on the wall. They all say 12:15.
A furniture store – the expensive kind, but old.
Next is a liquor store. In the window are, Drambuie, Crème deMenthe, Galiano, auburn, green, golden. There are decanters of leather and glass,and wine skins with Spanish words on them. A four-foot leather cat standing in the center of the room.
The clothing store that sells multi colored shirts and pastel shorts with white canvas belts. Things in which I have no interest, is the only one that is open. I don’t go in. The owner doesn’tknow where he is anyway, not even the name of the street, so he won’t know where I am either.
There are people, families on vacation, looking into the store windows with ice cream cones from the other shop across the circle, but I’m not here for that.
Behind the circle of shops, on the other side, is only a path across the rocks between the scrub brush that has managed to grow through cracks in the rocks leading to a downhill path to the ocean. It is a quiet ocean.
We climb down the rocks to the slim strip of white sand and look out across the lake-like ripples. It is comfortable, a docile ocean. We swim. We are way over our heads, but I am confident of our safety. Then the water begins to swell.
Many of the swimmers are frightful. For some reason I am calm, swimming with more expertise than I have ever had. I swim from swimmer to swimmer, making sure they are safe. The ones who aren’t safe I direct to a part of the shore that has a way up the rocks.
We usher them from the water because the ocean is becoming a menace of deep swells filling the cove, climbing up the rocks and then retreating down the sides by 20 or 30 feet at a time.
We scamper up the rocks and look down as the water floods across the beach and climbs the rocks to nearly the level where we are standing.
I don’t see it as unsafe. I know it looks it, but I know it isn’t.
I turn calmy and walk back to the midway of stores. They are still closed except for the clothing store, but now I am alone and looking for my lost car.
There is a low clinging haze across the field, about three feet high, and it evenly y spreads across the entire field. It seems to go on for many miles, as we run, this silent Asian girl and myself, I am not sure why we are leaving the car in the middle of the field.
Then I stop and hold her wrist stopping her also, somehow knowing there is a reason for us to stop here, but not knowing what it is. In the distance is a flash. No, farther away, almost too far for us to see. The flash rises as a white sun rising, but it isn’t the sun. It takes too much of the sky.
“Florida,” the silent girls says.
At my feet on the ground is a Christmas wreath. It is made of dark green holly leaves with red berries. It is at my feet and then it is gone.
“Florida,” she says again.
“When?” I ask her.
“Not this year,” she says looking at the flash in the distance. She nods and says again, “Yes, Florida … 2015..It’s an explosion. Just after Christmas.”
I wonder how we can see it from Hawaii, then I remember it’s a dream.
She says, “This way,” and leads me out of the field that suddenly ends a few feet from us and we step onto a road that leads into a maze of neon signs and heavy sweet smells of beer and fish sauce and perfume and incense, of burnt steak and vodka and lime – the smells of three continents. Shops flurry by on both sides of the road. Hanging cloth of each color in several different shades. Bright blue plastic chairs hang from hooks outside one shop where an old woman she knows glares at us as we walk by. Cigarettes in jars, Ronson flints and Coca cola cans. A shrine to someone’s ancestor with red flowers, white candles, a photograph and a small statue of the Blessed Mother. The sights fly past too fast for the eye to carry each to the brain for processing.
It seems as if everyone and everything is moving fast, almost blurred, and then starkly focused, and we walk slowly as if in a second dimension, side by side with this one.
There are old women sitting on the sidewalk leaning tired backs against the flimsy buildings , as we pass they smile with their teeth black from chewing on beetle nut for toothaches.
There is a tap from behind and we slow and turn to face a beggar with no nose and burns on his face. He holds out his hand palms up. I search my empty pockets, then turn and move on.
Then, on the right side, there is a darkened street that goes downhill to the ocean. No colors, just shades of grey and black and shadow. On its edges, both sides are lines of bars.
I know one of them. It is familiar. I have been there before, and I try to go in, but she won’t let me. As she pulls me across the street I look back and see a woman in a grey dress in the doorway. She is almost smiling as if she knows me, and knows why I am not being allowed inside her bar.
I ask the girl where we are going, and she points to a military gate. She pushes me toward the gate and runs back to the woman.
I enter the gate and find my car parked in a lot just a few steps beyond the guard shack. I don’t want to enter the base, but I do, and the main street brings me back to the intersection of Keeanamoku and King streets and The Lobster King restaurant.
I still have no idea why.
I haven’t been back to the corner of Keeaumoku and King streets, but I continue to dream of it.
In my dream, inside the building is an elderly black haired woman. I think she is Japanese; an equally elderly man with a paper hat on; a teenaged Asian girl and three men whose job it seems to be to protect her, but for the life o f me I don’t know from what. And I am not one of the three men.
In the beginning of my dream I find myself driving off into a maze of roads I am not familiar with, then there is a sort of raised road that circles back to the left with a large empty field on the inside and a mass of buildings on the outer. I keep ending up at this corner business that is currently called The Lobster King restaurant.
I usually park in a multi-layered lot, which I have found out recently is the Safeway parking lot. I dreamt of it long before I moved here.
As I approach the corner there is a huge banyan tree (that isn’t there so I don’t know what it is doing in my dream) I get more and more tense. Then , as I enter the place, that seems to be a diner with a counter running parallel to the inside wall and booths along the outer wall, all hell breaks loose.
The guy with the paper hat is screaming and waving a cleaver and the elderly woman is screaming. They are angry with someone who has just come in. The girl is being pointed at. I usher her out the back door. We are followed, or maybe chased, by the three men. The elderly couple seem content that we are all out of their diner.
We run through the parking lot. Get to my car and I realize I have no idea how to get out of here.
Earlier on in my dream I used to stop at a storefront to ask directions. While I am inside inquiring, my car is stole. I call the police on a phone hanging on the wall, and ask this man where I am. In those old dreams he laughed at me, since he is part of my dream, if I don’t know where I am neither does he.
So now I just drive by the store without stopping.
Only a few streets farther, the road ends in an empty field
We get out of the car, feeling safe, and we walk around the field looking for a way out.
I have never found out who the three men are, what they want, who the girl is, what she is to me (it doesn’t seem like a romantic relationship).
But I believe there is a reason I am here now.
For those who blame President Obama for the influx of illegal immigrants, there is a problem with that. Please, listen. The cause is much more bipartisan than you might think.
What happened is, starting in 1984 an idea to help make more money for U.S. businesses began its rise with Ronald Reagan, It was negotiated and signed by George H.W. Bush, signed into law by Bill Clinton. The law is NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Act.
In effect, because of the law, the tarriffs among the North American countries disappeared.
One of the main effects of that was that so much U.S. corn was pumped into Mexico that the price of corn in Mexico dropped 70% in a handful of years. Corn was Mexico’s number one legal export.
This cheap U. S. corn killed millions of farm jobs in Mexico, about 2.7 million to be more exact. It put most of the country’s small farmers out of work. It also forced another 30,000 support businesses out of existence.
NAFTA, an idea that was born with a Republican, Reagan, negotiated by a Republican, George H.W. Bush and signed into law by Democrat Bill Clinton, forced Mexican farmers into the drug business that fuels the United States’ insatiable addiction to drugs.
Those family farms and their workers could do only one of two things.
Either they could grow illegal drugs and join the cartels, the ones who thought growing drugs was wrong, could flood across the boarder to get jobs here
NAFTA caused unemployment here, mistreatment of workers here, destroyed the Mexican economy, forced farmers and farm workers to choose between feeding the U.S. more drugs or crossing the boarder illegally to feed their families.
It caused U.S. corporations to get rich beyond belief and hide their money from taxation.
And we blame the farm workers, who decided to cross the boarder rather than grow drugs, for our problems, and we scream,”Put them in jail,” or “send them back.”
We believe they are our problem when the opposite is the truth. We are their problem.
Who is against this law that has forced so many illegal immigrants into this country?
Why, we are, right? We want this nonsense to stop, don’t we?
The Koch brothers aren’t against it, they are making money.
The top 2 % who won’t pay their taxes aren’t against it.
You know who is against it?
Barrack Obama is against it, the man you blame.
Who else is against it?
Hillary Clinton, the woman youvilify for this problem..
How smart are we?
The ambiguous connections of the day perplexed me.
Lin and I packed a couple baggies with Cheerios, filled travel mugs with iced coffee, added a few bananas, hiked down Ala Moana to the beach, sat in the shade of a palm tree and watched the dragon boat races.
Bet you can’t beat that for a Saturday morning?
The races took place only 20 or so yards off shore in the calm water inside the reef. Three boats at a time lined up and a team of paddlers dug into the green water and raced about a quarter mile to the other end of the beach. There were teams from China, Australia and New Zealand racing against local Hawaiian boats. The dragon boats had no outriggers. They are about 20 feet long, just skinny canoes. I had no idea how the paddlers kept them from tipping over…then they didn’t.
As we watched one boat tip and go over, the waves from the mishap rocked the other boats as if they were strung together by invisible twine cords. The survivors struggled to stay alive in the race.
We met some very nice people who are native Hawaiians and whose relatives from China were racing. It was interesting that there was such a connection between the Hawaiians cheering on the sidelines for their family who lived their lives so far away.
After awhile the cooling breeze slowed and the heat began to stoke up so we walked home.
Shortly after, I saw a connection that made my brain flutter, like a butterfly flapping its wings in a corner of my existence.
I left Lin at home and was walking to the market for the rudiments of a Mexican dinner when I saw a makeshift sign across from our condo complex where a construction crew is working on a new hotel.
It said. “GATE 2.”
I had seen that exact sign on the other side of the world on the other side of nearly 50 years of life. In Koza, Okinawa there is a street called Gate 2 Street. The Airbase empties its young men and women into the streets of the city by way of Gate 2, hence the name of the street.
The street was lined with bars, strip clubs, restaurants and massage parlors. I frequented this street for four months in 1969 until the Army tossed me out of Okinawa for good (well they thought it was for good, but that’s another story.)
This idea that the sign crossed time and space and the Pacific Ocean to reappear as part of my life made me stop on the sidewalk and stare at it.
Behind the gate here and now was a concrete wall that was going to be an entryway soon to a new place for tourists to spend a week enjoying all the pleasure they could muster within their budget before flying home.
But beyond it I saw the dark expanse of Gate 2 Street, the skoshy cabs with their yellow top lights, the hawkers outside bars “State side Show. Come on in GI” and the guard shack at the end that checked the passes as the drunk and the half-drunk wobbled back inside the protection of the Unites States military.
It all reminded me of a story Lin tells about when she was about seven and she would take a walk at dusk with her mother down the roads of Mendon, Ma.
On the way to the ice cream parlor she would walk three times around the oak tree, and on the way back, she would have to walk around it three times the other way.
She explained often to her mother that she didn’t want her “string to get tangled.”
This all reminds me of course of particle physics.
Lately we, ( and by we I mean someone entirely smarter than myself,) have delved far deeper than the atom as the basis of everything. Scientists have found that even smaller than the neutrons, protons and the like there are the things the world is really made of.
The whole idea is called string theory.(Probably named after….well, maybe not.)
The idea behind string theory is that all of the different ‘fundamental ‘ particles of the Standard Model are really just different manifestations of one basic object: a string.
They have decided that electrons, which we used to think were the smallest things, are not.
If we (and again, not actually me) look even closer we find that electrons are made up of something smaller: Right, strings
And that the strings are vibrating.
If a string oscillates a certain way, then from a distance, unable to tell it is really a string, we see an electron. But if it oscillates some other way, well, then we call it a photon, or a quark, or a … you get the idea. So, if string theory is correct, the entire world is made of strings!
To make matters even more interesting, we (again, not really me but some other wicked smaht people) have said that in quantum physics we see that these smallest particles are linked in pairs, and if one does something, another one connected to it does the same thing for no reason whatsoever.
So if the whole world is made up of strings, and when one does something some other small particle somewhere across the world does the same thing, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Lin had let her string get tangled.
I also wonder if that is the main problem with everything: too many of us got our strings tied in knots thereby screwing up everything, everywhere.
Our internet, phone and TV have quit working today. It has happened four or five times this month. I always wonder if this is a sign of something.
It is the first month we have had them. So either aliens are messing with me, I’ve done something wrong so God is punishing me, or the modem the guy put in is bogus. And of course the first two cold be the same thing.
The pool at our condo complex is being resurfaced this week, so it is closed, and my grandchildren are being readied for the beginning of school on August 1, which left Lin and I little to do but walk around Honolulu.
So we walked.
We headed off, out past the Ala Moana Park, which had previously been the end of the world for us, and continued on to the Ward high-priced retail store center. A place I wanted to be near as much as a person with a peanut allergy wants to be eating in a Thai restaurant.
The sun beat down in the 90s, but the sweat mingled with the trade winds, cooled my body and made it bearable enough. Did I tell you Lin is younger than I am, and as we approached the stairs that climbed up to the theater I balked like a horse being led over a jump he knows better than to take. I wanted to barge up those stairs like Rocky Balboa (the young one) and jump up and down at the top.
But I knew it would kill me so my eyes frantically searched the expanse of the entryway.
“This is part of the United States,” I thought to myself, which is the only way you can actually think….to yourself, and I wondered why people say it….Then I found it just as someone shut off the trade winds and sweat took over my body in earnest.
I felt slippery as Lin called, “Where are you going?”
I was too hot and tired and slippery to answer so I nodded dejectedly at the signee that said “escalator” beside a drawing of a man on a set of slanted stairs denoting movement upwards. Under it was an arrow that pointed to the left. It occurred to me that arrows fit all languages, which made me happy. I love how we communicate with each other even in a place such as Hawaii where so many different languages are spoken.
A woman was on the down escalator as we were going up. She was Asian and had a dog. I wondered if Japanese dogs could understand dogs whose owners spoke English or Chinese, or German or well, you get the idea.
Once when I was interviewing God (I did that a lot when I was a columnist and had to produce two or three columns a week.) I asked God what his or her name might be, and he, she or it asked me, “What was the name of your first pet dog?”
“Seabee,” I answered proudly.
“No, I meant the name the other dogs called him.”
It is difficult to answer those questions from God, and since then I have had this question about animals from different parts of the world and whether o r not they understood each other, or for that matter if they understood arrows.
Then I remembered the FOXP2 gene.
That gene that has been called the language gene. It is prominent in a lot of animals and even in birds, but at some time in history it mutated in humans in such a way as to allow for language. Lately scientists are finding that it isn’t just for language but for all communication. I guess that is why we all realized that the escalator was in the direction of the arrow no matter what language we spoke, and I wondered if dogs did the same thing.
I guess not.
It seems we humans have a mutated gene that allows us to communicate better than all the other species on Earth.
I guess it was also the reason that woman cab driver shouted to us from a red light. “Hey, I’ll give you a ride to where you are going, for free.”
I guess sweat pouring down the sides of my face, my hair soaked and matted, my shirt sticking to my sides, and the expression on my face (looking like the human model for that frowny face used on facebook by people who don’t have a lot of words at their disposal) are all forms of communications that say.” I am at the end of my rope. Have pity on me.”
Lin waved her off. Did I tell you Lin is younger than I am?
And we finished our walk…3.6 miles, give or take a few dozen agonizing steps accompanied by that line from that movie, “I’m melting, I’m melting…and your little dog, too.”.
I think that FOXP2 gene may also be why all those old Japanese ladies going the opposite way on the rest of our walk were careful not to veer onto my side of the sidewalk. They must have known I was one of them, just in a different body.
I woke up remembering that a girl I knew when I was 22 or 23 in Okinawa told me matter of factly that I had an Asian soul. I had no idea what she was talking about at the time. I found out today.
As the morning wore on, Lin and I got out of the house, noticing that our address was 1778 Ala Moana, and Captain Cook, one of the first white people on record to find Hawaii, arrived here in, you guessed it, 1778. Our condo is on the 18th floor of the building, and Cook arrived at the end of the 18th century. Coincidence? I think not. I took this as a hint that some momentous realization was about to be shown to me.
To make everything all that much more evidentiary, we had been awoken the night before,, sometime after 2 a.m., to the voice of God in our bathroom.
First came a blast of what sounded like the silly plastic air horns mainland soccer teams use to get the attention of self-absorbed referees to announce substitutions. Then, in the midst of the honking, came the voice of God.
“Walk to the nearest stairway……Please, walk to the nearest stairway…”
OK, on the third repetition I finally realized it wasn’t God, but, in my defense, it was 2 a.m. and I was woken from a dead sleep, and no one had told me the fire alarm in this building included a man’s voice.
So while I was struggling in the dark to get my clothes on so I could obey God’s warning, I became fully awake and realized how thankful I was that I was getting older and it took me longer to put my clothes on than it took for someone to realize it was a false alarm and turn off God’s voice and that annoying honking sound.
I went back to bed.
And now here I was walking down roads that I had dreampt of several years earlier and trying to figure out just what it all means. I keep thinking, why are these streets and buildings so familiar to me, I have never been here in my life? If I am about to have revealed to me some life altering truth, why the hell would any god wait until I was creeping quickly up on 68 years old? Why not tell us right from the start? Wouldn’t that make us lead better lives? Make the world a better place?
Then it happened, and a basic truth was revealed to me.
She was approximately 20 yards in front of me. She was small and bent. She was Asian, possibly Japanese. She was dressed all in white except for a wide-brimmed straw hat and black gloves in the near 90 degree heat of a Hawaiian afternoon, and she was walking toward me in the center of the sidewalk.
Lin was to my right next to the road, and I was being careful to walk beside her but take only our half of the walkway. At ten yards, she looked directly up at me, then tilted her head down so the hat blocked her face and I could no longer see her eyes. She sped up and walked directly toward me. She wasn’t going to move. She was going to walk right into me.
I had experienced this before, and most often it was with elderly Japanese women. Perhaps it was here on the over-heated sidewalks of the world where they exacted retribution against the male-domination of their youth.
Maybe they are just tough old ladies.
Whatever it was, I learned something there on the sidewalk between the Ward Center and Discovery Bay.
I braced myself, lowered my head. She continued to cross onto my half of the path . I made sure I was only taking half of the concrete walk. She kept coming, and I walked right into her.
She bounced back and I looked directly at her and said, “Gomennasai” before she had a chance to.
There it was, the truth revealed.
In a last life I must have been an old Japanese woman, possibly right here in the island of O’Ahu.
Just when you start to believe there is a difference between reality and a dream world this happens.
Since Lin has been out of sorts for the past few days, we have had trouble sleeping and we have been, in effect, turning night into day. My under-the-weather wife has been up late, or should I say early, because she has been coughing and feverish. Therefore, we have watched TV or read late into the early morning hours and slept until early in the late afternoon.
Night has been creeping slowly into day and crossing the barriers of normalcy.
I was determined to break the cycle by getting up early enough so as to be ready for sleep before midnight. I was determined to take back the day. I mean I live in a Pacific paradise and pretty much everywhere looks the same in the middle of the night. Hell, at 3 a.m. this place doesn’t look unlike Wisconsin.
I strategically placed the square, yellow alarm clock with the dark brown face on the near side of my night stand, about 18 inches from my head. I did not flip the small off-white button for the alarm clock to the “ON” position. I wanted to be able to see what time it was, but I didn’t want to be jolted awake by the scream of an electronic reticular formation. That particular part of the brain that wakes us every morning could damn well do its own job for a change.
If I dreamt, I don’t remember it, then slowly the light filtered around the sides of the room-darkening shades that block the world from our studio apartment and thwart prying eyes and errant high-flying moths.
I peered at the clock though, probably, my left eye since the right one doesn’t work very well any more and there was the reality of failure.
“Damn,” I thought, 1:30. I had failed to get up early as I had wanted. I knew it had to be a.m. Because we hadn’t even gotten to bed before 3 a.m.
I nearly leapt from bed, pulled on my blue shorts and white pull-over shirt and started the coffee.
Lin asked what time it was, and in defeat I mumbled, “one thirty or so. We did it again.”
She got up and came to the kitchen area in a drowsy gesture of support. The kitchen is separated from the bedroom by approximately 10 feet of space with a chest-level room divider/bar.
She hugged me and looked at the stove clock.
“It’s 8 o’clock,” she said.
I looked accusingly at the clock on the bed stand.
It was upside down. I had awoken somewhere around 7:35 a.m. which read as somewhere around 1:25.
I threw open the day-killing curtains and there was a rainbow from one side of the window to the other, spanning our own piece of the Pacific. The streets were wet with morning rain, and multi-colored dots were lined up on the sidewalk at the Ala Moana/Discovery Bay bus stop.
Just when you begin to believe reality is a concrete thing, something like this happens and show us how tentative it all is. And as I watched the rainbow end reach out toward a small sailboat in the harbor, I realized that if, when I was in high school, I was right here, where I am right now, I would be floating about a hundred or so feet above the roof of the building that was here in the middle 1960s, and those of the people below who saw me wouldn’t believe their eyes.
Today was a disappointment, as disappointing as a day in this incredibly beautiful place can be. Lin woke up with a fever. We weren’t sure if it was a cold or the effects of a small spider bite she had gotten a few days ago, while we were walking towards the park for breakfast.
The disappointment came in that we were supposed to be going to my daughter’s house early in the day. John was going to be home and we could have a cookout with the kids. We love seeing them so the telephone call was a sort of agony.
It had also been annoying that at 2:45 a.m. the alarm in our building came on with a loud honking like a goose in heat and a man’s voice trumpeting, “Walk to the nearest stairway.” It ended at 2:48 a.m, and since I am too old to get my clothes on in three minutes, I told Lin not to worry and we went back to bed.
Since we were going to be home anyways, I decided to try to research the two-door restaurant. First I found a site that had reviews about popular Honolulu restaurants. There was a plethora of entries about the Lobster King, the “diner” from my seemingly repressed memory.
A few things were a mild surprise, but then there was a major surprise at the end. First, most people admitted that the food tasted good, all except the lobster, which they said tasted old, stale, fishy. Then they complained about the cleanliness of the place and that the lobster tank was filthy. Nearly all said the wait staff was rude, the wait was long (even when they were the only people in the place), and the parking situation was horrendous. As surprising as all this was, one fact they all talked about was the most surprising of all.
With complaints about the food, the cleanliness, the wait staff, the parking, (what else is there by which to judge a restaurant), nearly every reviewer wondered why the place was always so crowded.
I have questions about this place, and I am hoping a visit there will answer them.
I seem to need to know if this has been around for a long time (for some reason, when I think about his place I see cars parked in front of it. The cars are older, late 40s early 50s, and I always picture a middle-aged Asian woman in an apron behind a counter like you might see in a bus station, but when I had looked into the front door I hadn’t seen a counter, so I want to know if a counter was there in some time in the past, and I want to know who has owned it over the years.
I have no idea why this is so important to me. It just is.
I can’t explain it other than to say, I have long known that our makeup is largely determined by our DNA, our genetics, and we know we get our genes from our parents, and they from theirs and so on, but what we don’t know is what is in the DNA and where it came from originally.
And it just keeps coming to mind. “And God made man in his image”.
I always wondered what that meant. Does it mean all men, including Neanderthal, Australopithecus, Cro-Magnon? Does it mean God’s image was the ape-like creatures we may have looked like in the beginning? Or does it mean, as I am more inclined to believe, that, whoever God was, He changed mankind, His chosen ones, into a being more closely resembling the “Us” of the Bible. I wonder what little trick of DNA might accomplish that, and whether or not this two-door diner is some sort of chromosomal déjà vu.
I guess I’ll have to go see.