Soccer in the Rain

Four out of five of my children play soccer every Saturday, which means we attend three different games, depending on the schedules. (The twins play on the same team, so that’s why the math doesn’t quite add up.)

Today, it’s raining. Hard. It was even hailing at times.

Yet two of the games went on as scheduled until the kids revolted in a mass mutiny at halftime.

Why did this have to happen? Why? I cry plaintively into the night, but there is no answer.

Getting Home

While in Oahu, waiting for my next leg of my journey home, I got a call from Hawaiian Airlines telling me that the next leg of my flight had been postponed from 9:25 last night until 6:15 this morning. I told them that was unacceptable, and to mollify me, they offered me 300 more frequent flier miles.

I went to the counter, waited in line for 45 minutes, and haggled with the clerk, who managed to get me on a United flight that left in 30 minutes. So, to make the flight, I had to run down the length of Honolulu Airport to get to the United Airlines terminal, which was as far away from the Hawaiian terminal as it is possible to be and still be in the same airport. I had two laptop computers and a camera as part of my carry-on luggage, so I had to use about six plastic bins to accommodate all my stuff going through the X-ray machine. After getting through, I was tagged for “further screening,” which means I almost missed the flight because they insisted on frisking me down and rummaging through my souvenir bags to see if the plastic Volkswagen Beetles with surfboards on them that I ghad bought for my three boys were hiding explosives.

I finally got to the boarding area, and they almost refused to let me on the plane, because even though the flight was still there, the flight had been “closed.” I raised a sufficient stink that they finally let me on, but not without telling me what an inconvenience it was for them. I was seated in a middle seat between a sweaty guy and an old lady. I took four Tylenol PMs and did my best to sleep through the whole dang thing, but I could never extend my legs, and they came and barked at me before take-off for having my seat partially reclined, because all seats must be in an upright position for takeoff and about ten minutes after take-off. Why? Don’t ask why. On an airplane, you’re cattle. Shut up and moo.

We arrived at LAX at 4:45 this morning, and my leg from LAX to Salt Lake City didn’t leave for another three hours. I found a corner of the terminal and slept with my feet draped over my carry-ons. I had a fairly decent seat on this flight, and I slept peacefully on the way home, only to discover that my checked luggage hadn’t made the transfer to United, and nobody was quite sure where it was.

Doesn’t matter. I’m home now. The end. Must sleep more.

What I Learned on Kauai

I’m going home today, a little older, a little wiser, and somewhat fatter.

Here are some tidbits I discovered whilst slaving away on Hawaii’s Garden isle:

1) I dig Ni’ihau.

Kauai’s next-door neighbor is the island of Ni’ihau, but think twice if you want to invite them over for a family barbecue. You can’t visit. Locals insist that you’ll be shot on sight if you try, although I find that hard to believe. Still, the truth is pretty strange on its own.

The island of Ni’ihau is privately owned by a family of billionaires. The whole stinking island!

They bought it in the 1870s for ten grand. The handful of locals who still live there speak Hawaiian as their primary language – it’s the only place on earth where that still happens. They have a few electrical generators, but mostly they live a fairly Gilliganic existence, only without the help of the Professor.

In 2004, 40 votes were cast from Ni’ihau, all but one for George W. Bush. It’s called the Forbidden Isle, and you would think all the people there would be hardcore, Ted Kaczynski-type lefties, but other than the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, it’s the most Republican place on earth.

The owners continue to subsidize the place, and it’s costing them gazillions, mainly in property taxes, which run in the millions per year. Most Kauaians want Ni’ihau to continue as a sort of nature preserve for native Hawaiian culture, but the owners want to lease some of the land to the government to help create a missile defense system, much like the missile defense systems they had back under King Kamehameha.

2) Visit Kauai by plane, not by boat.

Kauai is also the place where the new Superferry will no longer go, because surfers and boaters repeatedly kept the ferry from docking. Apparently, big boats disrupt the ecosystem. So ferry service to Kauai is postponed indefinitely, while massive cruise ships that are about three times larger than the ferries make port several times a day.

3) The north shore rocks.

The north shore of Kauai is 73% more fun than the south shore.

4) If you take enough drugs, mountains can look like dragons.

Puff the Magic Dragon can still be found in a land called Hanalei, although, unlike in the song, the town is pronounced Hanalay, not Hanalee. The song was written looking out from Hanalei Bay, where a big mountain supposedly looks like a sleeping dragon at sunset, when you can’t see all the trees.

I think it looks like a bunch of rocks, but I’m not high, either.

5) Come to Kauai with your family.

Swimming in the ocean all by yourself gets boring in 10.3 minutes.

6) I need a haircut.

But I’m going to wait until I’m back in the mainland before I get it.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

As a little kid, I wanted to be a brain surgeon. I heard they make lots of money, and you had to be really smart to do it.

Then I met a brain surgeon. He was old and crusty looking. I didn’t want to be old and crusty looking, so I decided I needed to be something else.

I wanted to be a rock star. So I sent in my application, and I have yet to hear back.

I also wanted to be an actor, until I discovered that I don’t like actors. I like acting, sort of, but I don’t “appreciate the craft.” Actors tend to be very self-important, narcissistic people, and I can no longer imagine a life where my entire existence is validated by the amount if applause I get.

So what’s left?

I’m pushing 40, and I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not really complaining; I’ve been able to make a living, which is a good thing, since I now have five children who only eat if I have a job, yet I have yet to discover a career. I’d still be happy to be a rock star, though. When Mick Jagger retires, I’m going to fill his position.

It’s not like I’m nobody. I’m a husband and a father, and both of those roles are very satisfying. It’s just that I’m not content just to make money. I want to accomplish something. I want to achieve something. I feel like as time goes by, I’m running out of options.

Should I be a dentist?

Ahmadinejad: Universal Spy?

Driving around Kauai all day yesterday taking pretty pictures, I had plenty of time to listen to a bunch of conservative radio hosts lament Iranian nutjob Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to Columbia University. Rush Limbaugh noted how much the guy sounded like a traditional Democrat in his Bush bashing. Michael Medved applauded the fact that at least the university president insulted him thoroughly before he gave his speech. Laura Ingraham just seethed with overall disgust.

I think Hugh Hewitt got it right, though. He pointed out that all the Iranian people will ever see is footage of their loony leader being treated with dignity and respect. They’ll never hear the president of Columbia University say mean things about him or the harried, frustrated questioners getting increasingly irate as Ahmadinejad refused to give them a straight answer. No matter how foolish we thought he looked – and he looked foolish, indeed – the Iranian propoganda machine has plenty of material to make their guy look great.

As for me, I have a slightly different take, although I agree with most of what these hosts said. I think it’s pathetic that Columbia gave a forum to someone who is actively engaged in killing American soldiers. I think those who hide behind the idea that this is just “free speech” are deluding themselves. Where does the Constitution guarantee the right to speak at Columbia University? The hosts touched on all this, and more, and I was right there with them.

What they failed to mention, however, was how much the guy sounded like Languatron.

It’s eerie, really. Both Ahmadinejad and Languatron refuse to answer straight questions or accept simple logic. They ignore facts they don’t like. They attack their accusers, and they carry on spouting nonsense, regardless of how stupid they look. The only time Ahmadinejad gave a straight answer was when he dismissed the fact that homosexuals exist in Iran. It was straight out of the Languatron playbook, which assures us that everyone on the Internet works for Universal Studios. Both of these guys live in a fantasy world, and they’re very comfortable there. Nothing real people say can jostle them into coherence. The difference, of course, is that Ahmadinejad is developing nukes. And lunatics with nukes makes for a bad scene.

That’s why I think the U.N. should preemptively sanction Languatron, purely as a precautionary measure, before he gets his hands on any plutonium. You never know when one of these wackos will start to get real traction.

And I hear Languatron’s scheduled to speak at NYU on Thursday.

Being Alone and Writing a Book

Sunday was better than Saturday.

I’ve figured out a workaround for the video shoot – I’m just not going to shoot in HD. That bugs me, but it’s probably irrelevant anyway, since all of this footage is only going to be used on the web. So I spent the day filming pretty things and even got in the water once in awhile.

I miss my family.

I’m surprised at what a homebody I’ve become. But even being in a beautiful place like Kauai gets intensely lonely after a few days. Swimming in the ocean, even the very warm ocean around Kauai, is no big deal if you’re doing it all by yourself.

As soon as the sun goes down, I’m back at the condo, and I’m using the nighttime hours to rewrite my book.

I wrote a book years ago, and it sucked. It was written in the first person, and it was essentially my autobiography if I had superpowers. It reads like a bad stand-up comedy routine – all jokes, no plot, and tediously self-indulgent. When I returned to it not too long ago, I came up with an actual idea to flesh out the story, and I added a villain, who I’m finding more interesting than the main character. And it’s all written in the third person now. I figure if Twilight can get published and sell millions, then so can this thing. That’s my motivation as I press forward.

The biggest problem with the book initially, I think, was the lack of a compelling villain. I thought I was being avant-garde and parodying superhero conventions by showing that if someone in the real world were actually to acquire the ability to flow and move mountains, there wouldn’t have to be someone else with equal or greater powers to fight back.

I wanted to show the absurdity of the genre’s conventions and Make A Statement. That was my first, biggest mistake. It reminds me of my first season in Jackson Hole running a theatre, when I thought it would be a good idea to educate the audience to accept high quality, highbrow musicals rather than “pander” to them. So we produced The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which musical theatre junkies love and audiences generally avoid. When we finally wised up and produced things like Annie Get Your Gun, people showed up to fill the seats.

People watch the things they like, not the things you think they should. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

“Educating your audience” is code for “alienating your audience.” If you’re going to be elitist and condescending, then people aren’t going to bother listening to you. That’s a lesson, incidentally, that Hollywood refuses to learn.

So now I’m focused on writing an entertaining, readable story. No vampire lovin’, either.

I’m almost to 20,000 words. I hope to break 100,000 by the time I’m through.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Yesterday was a study in contrasts.

It began with my first attempt at scuba diving, which was surprisingly easy and delightful. It was also part of my job description. It seems the company I’m working for is thinking of purchasing a piece of a scuba diving business, so it was my job to check it out and see if everything was A-OK. In short, I was being paid to scuba dive. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

I saw giant sleeping sea turtles. I got within inches of a dragon moray eel. I was 40 feet beneath the waves, feeling strangely Aquamanish. I can’t remember when I’d had so much fun.

That was the ecstasy. The agony came immediately afterward and filled up the rest of the day.

The main reason I’m in Kauai is to film a bunch of stuff for our websites, and The problem is that I’m using a Panasonic HVX200, which is an entirely digital camera, and neither the camera or Final Cut Pro is interested in working properly. I began by interviewing a native Kauaian on the beach, and the wind pretty much ruined the sound, and I couldn’t get my laptop to capture the video. I ended up using these tedious digital cards that only take four minutes of film each, so we kept having to stop and download all the stuff off the card after every eight minutes. Except the laptop I use to capture the video doesn’t have a PCMA slot, so I had to use another laptop to get the video, and that one wasn’t charged. So I had to go sit in the bathroom for ten minutes, because the bathroom had the only electrical outlet on the beach. I was forced to endure the stares of everyone coming in to use the urinal as I sat on the floor of the men’s room like an idiot.

In the end, all of this was for naught, because Final Cut Pro kept spitting an error message at me about codecs and refused to import the video anyway. By the time I got to that point, I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to give me technical support, since it was after 3:00 Hawaiian time, which is after 6:00 PM Pacific time, when Apple tevhnical support closes. And, since I don’t have the Final Cut software here, I sincerely doubt there’s anything they can do for me anyway.

It’s now 2:38 AM Hawaiian time, and I’ve woken up to call technical support, which opened at 6:00 AM Pacific.

Wish me luck. All things considered, I’d rather be scuba diving.

Twilight: Dudes Beware!

I’ve never read a traditional romance novel, which, as I understand it, is essentially porn for women. The thinking is that men get turned on by looking at dirty pictures, whereas women prefer to read about mysterious, handsome strangers that sweep into town, listen nonjudgmentally, and help with the housework. They also like to shop, pick out drapes, and cry during “Terms of Endearment,” all of them unlikely heterosexuals who prefer to cuddle. These he/she-men rescue the ladies from their humdrum lives and carry them off into the sunset, all the while looking exactly like Fabio.

Not my cup of tea.

It’s no surprise, then, that I didn’t much care for Twilight, the first of a popular new romance series that every woman I know seems to be reading. (Spoilers are ahead – not massive ones, but if you want to read the book with absolutely no preconceptions, go back to being bored by my Mitt Romney speech.) My wife warned me that I wouldn’t like it, but I read it anyway, because I needed an easy book to read for the airplane ride to Kauai, and this one takes place along the Olympic Peninsula, which is where my wife grew up. (And, thankfully, Fabio ddid not model for the cover.)

Unfortunately, the author spent absolutely no time in Washington before writing the book. She just needed a locale with lots of clouds to keep the sun off of her vampires, and she decided that Forks, Washington, fit the bill. Consequently, there’s no real geographic specificity in Twilight – this takes place in a generic high school in a generic small town where it rains a lot. Where she does get into specifics, she gets it laughably wrong. At one point, the characters head over to nearby Port Angeles to buy fancy dresses for an upcoming dance. Having spent a great deal of time in Port Angeles, I know that there are no such stores. Real life Port Angelinos would likely have to head down closer to Seattle to get gussied up or else buy the finest threads that Wal-Mart has to offer.

The author mentions Port Angeles’ “charming boardwalk” filled with quaint stores, when, in reality, no such boardwalk exists. According to my wife, it may have existed 30 years ago, but today, downtown P.A. is pretty dumpy. Nearby Sequim is getting all the growth, but nobody visits Sequim in Twilight. I’m not sure it would really matter if they did.

Because nothing happens in this book.

Now, that’s not entirely true – there’s a busy, climactic scene that feels tacked on for effect, and there’s also plenty of lovey-dovey mooning. The plot, in a nutshell, is that a cute girl arrives in a new town and falls in love with a vampire, who, in turn, falls in love with her.

The end.

To fill the space, the author finds as many ways as she can to describe just how beautiful this vampire is – he’s an Adonis, a Greek god, he’s perfect, he’s intoxicating, he’s stunning, he’s dazzling, he’s exhilarating, he’s magnificent, he’s smooth, silky, sexy, well-groomed, punctual, and intensely, intensely boring. Take away the blood fetish, and he’s just a pale Fabio with a haircut.

The vampire is torn, because he wants to love this girl, too, for reasons that are unfathomable to us dudes, an he also wants to suck her blood, which I could better understand. The author gives him plenty of opportunity to tell her how dangerous he is. Except he’s the exact opposite of danger. He’s caring, attentive, and doting to the point of imbecility. He remembers names she mentions in casual conversation weeks earlier, which proves he’s a better guy than I am. He is, however, a bit of a stalker, as he stares at the girl all night while she sleeps. I found that unnerving, but the girl finds it charming.

To each their own, I guess.

I can’t say, really, that Twilight is a bad book per se. The author writes clearly and simply, which makes the book a fast, breezy read, but it’s a book for an audience that doesn’t include me. I can live with that. I’m just going to have to find a different, more manly book for the plane ride home.

Maybe I ought to spend some time looking at dirty pictures. Or maybe I should just take a nap.

Finding Something to Complain About

You’ve heard all the stand-up jokes about airline travel. The food sucks. The person you sit next to won’t shut up. The person you sit next to is fat. There’s no room, leg or otherwise. They lose your luggage. They frisk you naked. Lines. Announcements. Delays. And always twirling, twirling…

I added the twirling part.

The thing I can’t stand, which I’ve never heard anybody mention, is the airplane air. The stale, compressed, recycled air. Just the scent of it makes me feel like part of a cattle herd. It’s impossible to feel comfortable anywhere near an airplane or an airport. Falling asleep on an airplane is next to impossible, especially when your knees are in your face.

And they lost my luggage, too. Bungholes.

But the good news is they found my luggage. And now, because of the miracle of airline travel, I’m in Kauai. And there’s nothing to complain about in Kauai.

Except the chickens.

There are six bazillion chickens in Kauai. Nobody’s sure how they got here, but everyone agrees that they’re not going anywhere soon. A local here calls them “Kauai’s feathered rats.” Except that, unlike rats, the roosters crow all hours of the day and night. It’s not unusual to hear a “cock-a-doodle-doo” at 4:00 AM in complete and utter darkness. I don’t really mind so much, though, because 4:00 AM Hawaii time is 8:00 AM my time. But hearing a rooster crow at 2:00 in the afternoon while you’re sitting on the beach is a bit much.

Since Kauai has no natural chicken killers, there’s nothing to kill the chickens. And these chickens desperately need to be killed. And someone needs to kill them.

Let me be the first to volunteer.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about them:

1992’s Hurricane Iniki may have caused an indirect change in Kauaʻi’s ecosystem. Some say a chicken farm was destroyed, causing all of the chickens to roam free that one may see today. Others say that sugarcane plantation laborers in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought and raised chickens (for eating and cockfighting) and many got loose over the years and multiplied. Whatever their original source, Kauai is now home to thousands of wild roosters and hens, roaming the island with few natural predators. Wild roosters have been known to disturb evening quiet time at odd hours with their crowing. Currently, the Humane Society is investigating the death of large numbers of Kauai chickens. The deaths are most likely due to bacterial infections caused by over-population.

That’s right, Humane Society. “Bacterial infections.” Except they’re caused by the squealing tires of my car.

Maybe the airplanes could kill the chickens by checking them all as luggage and then losing them somewhere.

I’m here all week. I actually have to work, but I plan to enjoy myself while doing it. If I can find something else to complain about, I’ll let you know.