Friday, September 30, 2005

40 Things in the Life of an Italian Child

A colleague who was originally from Italy emailed this to me. My dad was an imigrant from Italy and my mom was also Italian and I grew up in a neighborhood dominated by Irish-Catholic's and, you guessed it...Italians.

  1. You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an entire year after a funeral.
    (My Aunt Esther. She lives in Italy but came to stay with us for a month or so. My paternal grandmother [the only grandparent I ever met] came to visit in 1969 and she was also always dressed in black - and we're not talking goth black folks, this is little old Italian lady black.)
  2. You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich." And peanut butter and jelly was not one of them.
    (For me it was bologna and cheese - every day for eight years!)
  3. Your family dog understood Italian. And his name was Bruno or Pepi and you didn't buy him special dog food. He ate whatever you ate.
    (Our dog was Bear. That's right, Bear! She was a pisser - literally. She had the weakest bladder ever and pe'd everywhere, especially when my dad called her name.)
  4. Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.
    (We rotated where we went on Sunday's when I was a little kid. Eventually it ended up always at our house - I could smell the sauce cooking just thinking about it .)
  5. You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.
    (I've experienced that phenomena both out of doors and indoors.)
  6. You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.
    (For us, seven meals was a typical weekday. Sundays were 9-12 and holidays often ended up at closer to 20).)
  7. You thought killing the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal.
    (And I still do!)
  8. You ate pasta for dinner at least three time week, and every Sunday.
    (Pasta in our house began every meal, every day with very few exceptions. Occasionally, mom would prepare an "American Meal" where we knocked back to 2 or 3 courses and passed on the pasta.)
  9. You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.
    (I could proboably write a book, well at least an entire post about shopping in those days. Supermarkets were a whole different animal and "mom & pop" stores were a big thing.)
  10. You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.
    (4 1/2 - years old, not feet. I'm not sure if my grandma was 4 1/2 feet tall.)
  11. You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel. Unless you were from the North and then you were automatically tagged as a snob.
    (Only until I met all those people whose last name started with Mc.)
  12. You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.
    (With a ragged piece of elastic holding them in place.)
  13. Your mom's main hobby is cleaning (only behind nagging).
    (There was a point in time where cleaning became a difficult chore for my mom because of her illnesses. At this point, she would occasionally hire a cleaning lady but always went on a cleaning binge before the cleaning lady came.)
  14. You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.
    (My uncle always made his own wine. I did learn pretty early that it was sold in stores but for the longest time thought it only came in gallon jugs and must be stored a the foot of the table where dad sat.)
  15. You thought that everyone made their own tomato sauce. That's right it's sauce, or "lo sug" and not "gravy".
    (I can picture and smell that sauce cooking like it was happening in the moment. I can't even begin to describe how amazing it was and of course, there was no better sauce than mom's.)
  16. You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter. Not when there are 7 varieties of seafood to be had.
    (Christmas Eve was so much fun with all the fish. My father would spend days preparing seafood. Often in the morning of Christmas Eve my brother and I would race live crabs.)
  17. You ate your salad after the main course.
    (Except of course when we had the salad at the same time - sometimes even in the same bowl/plate.)
  18. You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.
    (Only until I was old enough to see all of the...wait, this is going to stay fun. I'll move on.)
  19. Your were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom. First with the wooden spoon.... until it broke. Then you were really in trouble because you knew either the broom or the "the strap" was next.
    (I don't think there's a household appliance I hadn't been beaten with. The rotary eggbeater had to be the funniest of all!)
  20. You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your left hand.
    (I still do and always will. F U Atkins!)
  21. You can understand Italian but you can't speak it.
    (My parents thought they were pulling one over on us talking in Italian when they didn't want us to know what they were talking about. HAHAHA! We knew!)
  22. You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.
    (Many - including my dad himself.)
  23. All of your uncles fought in a World War and all of your uncles are missing at least one finger or part of a finger.
    (My dad fought in WWII on the wrong side! But once he defected and became an american citizen he was as true to the red, white, and blue as anyone.)
  24. You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.
    (Joseph and John [Guiseppe & Giovanni to be exact] are the most common names in our familty but we've got all of the above mentioned names in reasonably Italian doses.)
  25. You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.
    (Too many to count! I've had many "uncles" and "aunts" that were no relation at all by blood and several that were actually cousins but so much older than us that we called them uncle or aunt.)
  26. You have relatives you don't speak to.
    (My mother's side of the family has always been famous for this. My mother and one of her sister's didn't speak for more than twenty years. Totalyy wacky!)
  27. You drank wine before you were a teenager.
    (I was really young. I remember my dad telling stories of how when he was a kid, all the kids got a spoonful of wine at dinner time before graduating to a glass. I remember mixing the red wine with coca-cola. My dad would also put peaches in the wine sometimes then eat the peaches after he finished drinking the wine.)
  28. You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos.
    (Admittedly only in the corniest and/or dumbest of ways.)
  29. You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.
    (We had a pretty tiny yard to start with. There was a tiny patch of dirt that my dad had things growing out of. He became sort of damous around the neighborhood for making planters out of a car tire. It involved cutting, then contorting the tire.)
  30. Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic.
    (Actually it was the furniture in our house. My mom was obsessed with uncomfortable furniture made even less comfortable with plastic slipcovers.)
  31. You thought that talking loud was normal.
    (I'm a regular loudmouth.)
  32. You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings; along with escarole & meatball soup and "lo goookies" if your from Abruzzi.
    (Now I have a craving for some "Wedding Soup!" The almonds, more commonly referred to Jordan Almonds were one of the tastier ways to crack your teeth.)
  33. You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.
    (My uncle Carmine had a vicious pinch and several of the men had this evil streak where they'd rub their extra thick, and sharp 5 o'clock shadow along your cheek. OUCH!)
  34. Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.
    (I've been referred to as...nevermind, the memories are painful. Needless to say that beginning at the age of 19, even at the deepest point of my rebellion, Mom always came through for me no matter how much of an ass I was able to prove I was.)
  35. There was a crucifix in every room of the house.
    (My mom was a bit less obnoxious than most of my other relatives with this one but there were other Roman Catholic idols neatly placed around the house.)
  36. You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (oh, and he has to be Italian)
    (Growing up a heterosexual boy, I never craved dating boys. However, I never dated an Italian girl to which my mom always seemed perplexed and often asked, "Can't you meet a nice Italian girl?")
  37. You called pasta "macaroni".
    (And still do! Hey, this isn't exclusively Italian, do you run around getting cravings for "pasta and cheese" ? No, it's macaroni and cheese...)
  38. You dreaded taking out your lunch at school. Because you had to carry it in a brown shopping bag where a gigantic pepper, onion, sausage and egg sub would leave a nice grease stain in the corner for all to see. Thankfully, American kids were hungry and you could trade it for a first baseman's glove.
    (I suspect that were I ever brave enough to begin psychotherapy, alot could be revealed from the trauma of lunchtime during the early years of my life.)
  39. Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over an Ann Marie or a Rose Mary's house.
    (Often, the day of the week, time of the day, and/or argument of the time determined whose house we went to for coffee. This also often determined which family members weren't speaking to other.)
  40. Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something. but could be cured by your grandmother saying an incantation over a shallow bowl of olive oil and pressing the sign of the cross into your forehead.
    (I really can't go to far with this one because of all of the things I have inherited, it's my mother's side of the family's keen sense of hypochondria.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Subservient Chicken

This is freaky and funny. Click on the picture...

Monday, September 26, 2005

See Ya Later Alligator!

So I show up for work, open up my email and this is what I see first...

This gator (pics below) was found in New Orleans swimming down the street. 21 FT long, 4,500 lbs, around 80 years old minimum. Specialists said that he was looking to eat humans because he was too old to catch animals. This crocodile was killed by the army last Sunday at 3:00 pm, currently he is in the freezer at the Azur hotel. The contents of it's stomach will be analyzed this Friday at 2:30pm.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Zombie Scenario Survival Test

You made it. Barely.
Congratulations! You scored 54%!

Whether it was the fact that you could run faster, or were just plain lucky, you made it out alive. Even you aren't sure why. But you're sure as hell not going back, or risking your ass for anyone else from now on.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 20% on survivalpoints
Link: The Zombie Scenario Survivor Test

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 9

Day 10 – Friday August 12th, 2005 (Kona, Hawaii “The Big Island”)

Our first port on this cruise was Hilo, located on the eastern side of “The Big Island.” Today, we visit our last port of call before returning to Honolulu; the port of Kona – located on the west coat of “The Big Island.” Kona is commonly associated with coffee but “about 20 miles south of Kona, in a place called the Kealakekua Bay, is where Captain (James) Cook arrived in 1778.”

After my exercise at the usual insane hour, I came back to shower, dress, and wake the ladies so that we can get a god breakfast in our bodies before our excursion for the day, “Historic Kona.” Our tour guide was a man named Sal whose New Jersey accent I picked off before his first sentence was complete. Sal moved to Hawaii 12½ years ago and seems to have learned every morsel of Hawaiian history ever recorder. His delivery of information was both exhaustive and entertaining and thanks to Sal’s accent, sounded much like a history lesson from my Godfather (who lived in New Jersey for many years). Among the stops highlighting Sal’s bus tour and this beautiful port were Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau, the Kona Coffee Museum, and the “Painted Church” of Saint Benedict.
Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau is a national historic park used to “preserve aspects of traditional Hawaiian life.” Its location and design made it appropriate for its royal grounds where the royal chiefs (ali’i) established residences. A massive wall separated the royal grounds from the Pu’uhonua, a “place of refuge for defeated warriors, noncombatants in time of war, and those who violated the sacred laws (kapu).” The punishment for non-royalty stepping on royal grounds was instant death! How’s that for a wrong-place, wrong-time scenario?
The Kona Coffee Museum is small but relevant to its mission to, well let’s face it, be a tourist trap and sell 100% pure Kona coffee for $18.99 a pound. However, there were free samples of just about every variety of coffee as well as some spectacular views just good enough for the caffeinated shaky handed shutterbug.

“The Painted Church,” the church of Saint Benedict, is a catholic church that dates back to the 1800’s. The nickname of “The Painted Church” refers to the many beautiful paintings of bible scenes created on the walls and ceiling of the church. Many of its parishioner’s were unable to read or write and the pictures were used to teach the stories of the bible.
I have been on quite a few but tours and I must say that Sal could very well have been the best tour guide I’ve ever had. I was absolutely mind numbing to think of all of the information he provided and still made the drive both interesting and entertaining. The information and history though mostly about Kona and the specific locations we drove through, also included a wealth of Hawaiian history, culture, current events, real estate, economics, and more. I really can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this tour and this port of call – Kona rocks.

As our touring day ended with us back at the pier, we decided to go back to the ship for a late lunch (no need to spend cash for fast food outside when there are gourmet meals on the ship already paid for) and then return to the pier area along the Kailua Bay for some seaside strolling and perhaps a look at Hale Halawai Park just a short walk away. As we sat to lunch we began to realize how tired we were from our day of touring and decided that after our overwhelming late afternoon meal that we would stay aboard the ship and simply relax and recharge for our last evening aboard the Norwegian Wind.

I opted for a brief nap while Lucy and Victoria watched a movie on the tiny TV screen in our stateroom. Victoria was looking forward to attending the last Kid’s Crew get together, a pajama party featuring a farewell pillow fight. I showered and dressed first and while the ladies had their turn getting ready, I went to grab some food for Victoria’s dinner. We dropped Victoria off at 7:00pm and then Lucy and I enjoyed a quiet dinner before spending a little lime in the Observatory Lounge with Jose and Patti. We snatched Vickie back from Kid’s Crew in time for all of us to rush down to the room to get Vickie out of her PJ’s and into street clothes, then head over to the Stardust lounge for the 9:15 “Farewell Variety Show.”

The show featured cruise director Patty as host, the comedy of Alfred & Seymour, and vocal impressionist Wes Epae. The fact that this was the last show of the cruise, one performance only, and that we were running late, we were reluctantly allowed to stand in the back as all seats were taken. Lucy and Victoria had no desire to stand for the entire show but I did manage to convince them to stay long enough for the side splitting comedy of Alfred & Seymour. These guys were once again amazingly funny and when they left the stage, we left the theater and headed back to the Observatory Lounge to close out the entertainment portion of our cruise with Jose and Patti.

Jose and Patti were a really fun part of the cruise. Once they spotted you in the crowd, they found a way to make a connection and then maintain that connection throughout the cruise. They really took to Victoria who got a picture with them and an autographed CD. Once the show ended, we needed to get back down to our room and pack in preparation for our long journey home.

Packing was rather simple and swift and upon completion, we left our luggage outside the room (per ship’s instructions) giving them the whole night to lose, I mean get your luggage either to the bus area or to a hotel. All that was left to do on this evening was sleep – so off to dreamland we went.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

My Inner Child

Not sure about "you're rarely cynical or jaded;" the rest is pretty accurate:

Your Inner Child Is Surprised

You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hair of the Donald

On a number of occasions I have reprinted on this blog a Boston Globe column called "The Observer" written by Sam Allis. Today I offer yesterday's column that although makes several local Boston references, I think will still amuse many of you. Enjoy...

Hair of the Donald
New York trumps Boston in star power
By Sam Allis, Globe Columnist September 18, 2005

I had a rare opportunity last week to examine the architecture of Donald Trump's hair, a subject of intense speculation on par with the location of Elvis. (I ended up sitting a few feet from Don -- I'll call him Don -- for a couple of hours at an event in New York.)

There is no one in Boston whose hair interests me one iota. I could care less about Bill Belichick's tresses. Ditto for the locks of Larry Summers or Ned Johnson, Larry Lucchino or James Levine. There is no one in Boston for whom we suspend our critical faculties. The conceit of Boston is that we're above celebrity. We adopt this conceit because we have no celebrity. So we put Alan Dershowitz in boldface.

I'm not the only one entranced by Don's hair. Larry King grilled him about it on national television. I'm here to report that, contrary to rumors, the confection atop his scalp lacks the superstructure of the Eiffel Tower. And if it is the color of spoiled corn silk, it's all his own. There's no rug on this man.

I study the back of his head every time he turns to the row behind him to talk to Carl -- that would be corporate raider Carl Icahn to you rubes -- and fail to detect a tonsure of pink skin hidden beneath the geometry of his layering. Thin hair? Yes. But what man sports a rain forest at 59?

The flight pattern of Don's hair, for the record, is as follows: It rumbles forward, swoops right, and then streaks back again on the other side of his head in a wide loop that approximates the arc of the entrance ramp onto the Central Artery from the Charlestown tunnel. Meanwhile, both sides are brushed back to form a duck's tail in the manner of Conway Twitty. What we've got is haute '50s coiffure.

I'm liking this retro look. Don is no slave to fads. He has his standards. He's in a major blue suit, white shirt, and yellow tie. His face has color, a faint orange hue rare in your basic tan. His cufflinks appear to have the White House emblem on them. I ask the person next to me -- no one wears presidential cufflinks to a tennis match, do they? The consensus is, Don does. And why not?

I'm not being snide about Donald Trump. Quite the contrary. I like the guy for his sheer delight with his own celebrity. There's something sublime about his astonishing sense of self.

Some men make fools of themselves on the golf course. Donald Trump has a grand time being Donald Trump. How many of us have a grand time being ourselves?

He wears no hair shirt about his money, unlike the Brahmins here who faked shabby when they still had bucks. Bill Weld carried no guilt about his dough when he was governor, which is why he was a dangerous politician. Boston cabdrivers loved him. But then he was from New York.

Don shows up late with his mute, cubist beauty of a wife, Melania. He doesn't know me from Adam but he shakes hands and says ''hi-howaya" anyway. (I'm reminded of Frank Bellotti's wonderful line when he was running once for governor: ''I'll shake hands with a fire hydrant.")

Then he turns a slice of his attention to the tennis match. (This was the Agassi-Federer final of the US Open.) I ask him something inane along the lines of ''Do you come here often?" He says, ''This is the first time I've been here. I always give my tickets to Carl."

How refreshing. He couldn't give a hoot about tennis but knows this is the place to be today. He's rooting for Agassi but concedes, ''I'm up against reality." I ask him, ''Do you like Agassi because he's old or because he's local?" He says, ''I like his energy. I like the way he carries himself."

People swarm to Trump like moths to a back-porch light. In the general vicinity sit Lance Armstrong, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, James Taylor, Vogue's Anna Wintour, Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter, among many lightbulbs, but former New York City mayor David Dinkins comes over to shake Don's hand. So does Franklin Johnson, president of the United States Tennis Association. Kids pass him hats to autograph. ''They don't want Carl's autograph," he taunts. Everyone, including Carl, beams. People wave. He waves back.

In a case study in the vagaries of power, Michael Ovitz, once the most powerful man in Hollywood and now celebrity road kill, sits a mere two rows below Don. Ovitz, almost unrecognizable in a loose white shirt over jeans, is the anti-Trump this day. He bombed in L.A. No one talks to him. No one waves. He is a black hole of anticelebrity matter. That's the thing about celebrity. The ride down is brutal.

I'm liking my proximity to Don and this A-list crowd, and I'm fascinated by the unspoken bond among them to leave one another alone. They're all off duty. I remind myself how spectacularly I don't belong in their midst. And truth to tell, there's something nice about following the signs for New England when it's all over, just as there was about going home as a kid after the rodeo in the old Garden.

Would we tire of Donald Trump if he lived in Boston? We'll never know because he couldn't exist here. He's a New York hothouse orchid.

Federer wins the tie-break in the third set. The outcome is clear. I look over and Don is gone. One thing he knows is when to leave.

Sam Allis's e-mail address is

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The King of Queens and Lemon Bars

I was watching an old episode of The King of Queens and realized several things in the process:
  1. I really like this show alot.
  2. It's had some good staying power while remaining relatively low profile.
  3. I saw Kevin James do stand-up at Jimmy's Comedy Alley in Bayside, Queens when he was first starting out in the business.
  4. I miss Lemon Bars! I haven't made them in a dog's age and with this whole watching the weight thing it was twice as depressing watching Doug Heffernan enjoying his mom's lemon bars when I wanted to be enjoying my lemon bars.
  5. The recipe for my Lemon Bars - which are actually Ellen Straine's Lemon Bars follows this list.
  6. I have no idea who Ellen Straine is.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cup oatmeal (not instant)
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • Zest of 2 lemons, chopped fine
  • Zest of 1 orange, chopped fine
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
>Cream butter and sugar
>Add the flour and oatmeal to make the dough (it will be a little crumbly). Set aside.
>Stir juice and zest into milk. Set aside.
>Butter (or spray) a 9 by 13 inch pan.
>Press two-thirds to three-quarters of the dough into the pan.
>Spread lemon/milk mixture evenly over the top of the dough.
>Sprinkle the remaining dough (kind of like streusel) over the top.
>Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until golden.
>When cool, slice into 1-inch squares.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I Saw Saw, Did you See Saw?

"The denouement will probably surprise you, but it won't get you back the previous 98 minutes. (" I couldn't have said it better myself. I so desperately wanted to see a good old fashioned horror flick. All three names that adorn the packaging offered hope before the fact but as it turned out only amplified the disappointment.
The film's title is somewhat misleading as my original assumption what a bloody, slashfest featuring of course a saw as the weapon of choice. However, this film turned out to be an attempt at a psychological thriller that failed so miserably that I actually felt bad for the lead actors (except for the guy who play this character named Adam-he really blew).
Amongst the few positives, the absolute depth of darkness of this film serves as like a bass line in a funk groove that at times had the capacity to raise goosebumps. Unfortunately, the lack of acting and solid writing are so often apparent that the eerie lingering sensation often associated with goosebumps during a horror film quickly become more of a rash brought on by an allergy to awful.
So, if you have about a hundred minutes and you have a hankering for watching once credible actors make you second guess their credibility all for a two minute payoff, I highly recommend this film. I'm going to go eat some steel wool right now so have yourselves a great day and I'll speak to you all soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Feeling emptiness
Everything is gone
All I’ve worked for
And all that I loved
They say it will get better
Perhaps one day I’ll find a way
For now all I can do is cry
A river of tears beside me nothing to feel
Only questions remain and answers I pray that I’ll find

dedicated to all who are affected by Hurricane Katrina

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 8

Day 9 – Thursday August 11th, 2005 (Lahaina, Maui)

I woke up a number of times this morning starting at around 2:30am when at around 5:30am I decided to hop out of the bed and get up to the gym. I saw the coastline of Maui through the sunrise out of the floor to ceiling windows of the gym while moving at 4 miles per hour on the treadmill; very romantic.
The port of Lahaina in Maui evolved into the “whaling capital of the world” in the early 19th century while Kamehameha I set up shop here at the top of the century. This historical port was the starting point for an outstanding day of touring, shopping, and relaxing.

After breakfast, the three of us ended up in the Stardust lounge waiting for our tender boat boarding call. The ride from the anchor point was short and smooth and our arrival at the pier left us waiting for a tour bus while enjoying a beautiful view of the seaport and the Front Street area. Our tour took us on a scenic drive to our first main stop, the Haleakala Crater. Click on the link (in the previous sentence) to learn more about Haleakala National park,
I can only describe it in a word – AWESOME! The tour bus spot lies 9000 plus feet above sea level, about 1000 feet short of the peak. It was fun to hike up the rest of the way where the view was simply magnificent (once the body adjusted to the height/oxygen differential). After leaving Haleakala National park, we journeyed onward to the Maui Ocean Center.
This place was far more than an aquarium as the marine life displayed was representative of the waters of Hawaii so as to “portray the integrity of these animals and their native habitats so that you may discern a deeper understanding of Hawaii’s seas – one of the most unique marine environments on Earth.” The displays, the information, the corals and reefs, the actually marine life are all jaw-dropping. I’ve spent countless hours at the New England Aquarium back home as I love to study these unique natural habitats. What I saw here in Maui was simply extraordinary and a highlight of the trip for me.

As the tour came to an end I found myself reflecting on all of the wonderful (and often powerful) images imprinted in my brain while driving through the island of Maui. I’ve managed to capture a few of these images with my trusty little digital camera but no photo can do justice to the natural beauty of the geological wonder that is the Hawaiian Islands. The tour bus returned us to the pier but we were not ready to tender our way back to the ship just yet. We took advantage of the time we had to explore the seaport and get in a little shopping while checking out the sights.

The walk along Front Street was crowded with tourists, many from our ship as well as several nearby resorts. We opted to walk left – I’m not sure what compass direction it was but it was a left that we made off of hotel street and onto Front street as we headed to Hilo Hattie’s which was about one mile ahead of us. I was hoping to visit Hilo Hattie’s after our tour in Hilo last week but there just wasn’t enough time. When “Cousin Junior” told us the story of Hilo Hattie, he mentioned at that time hat we’d find other locations throughout the islands so I wanted to take the opportunity here in Maui as the vacation was nearing its end. It turns out that each of the Hawaiian ports had a Hilo Hattie’s location along with a free round trip shuttle ride from the pier/dock. I thought this shuttle idea was a nice touch has the store’s slogan is “the store of Hawaii” and of course, at the dock are lots of tourists looking to absorb everything Hawaiian. What I found somewhat bizarre was that both Wal-Mart and K-Mart also offered free round trip shuttles at the pier; even odder was the amount of people excited about this. I was able to justify some interest using the logic that the many of the ship’s staff work onboard for a 10 month shift, so there is some logic to the idea that they may need some stuff. Perhaps the occasional tourist who forgot to pack a necessity might take advantage though 9 days into the trip this becomes less of a justification. Either way, I couldn’t come up with any good reasons why the crowd for these shuttles was always ass large as it was, not even the nuts who just want the opportunity to say “I was at a Wal-Mart in Hawaii.”

With walking, shopping, sightseeing, and all the rest complete, we headed back to the pier to catch a tender boat back to the ship which was anchored just a short distance away. While shopping, I had purchased a couple of bottle of a pineapple wine that is produced in Maui and they were about to be “confiscated” (as expected, this was ship policy) so I had to fill out a claim ticket so that I could get them back for final disembarkation. Not a lot of wine is produced in Hawaii and even less from grapes. The idea of Pineapple wine intrigued me and at the bargain price of $9.00 a bottle, I simply had to pick up a couple. I’ll try to remember to keep you posted when I finally do pop the cork. We made our way through the rest of the security check points a re-boarded the ship tired and sweaty from all of the walking under the hot sun. We showered then rested briefly then began to lock in our plans for the rest of the evening.

One of the Maui port excursions offered was an “authentic” luau. Lucy and I had gone back and forth on deciding whether or not to attend. The price tag for the three of us was $267.00, a hefty sum indeed but we didn’t want money alone to be the determining factor if there was a chance that this was really authentic and a once in a lifetime opportunity (we were still fresh with regrets over not booking the excursion for Kauai). The more we talked it over and looked through the information we had, the more we talked ourselves out of it. After all, how authentic could this luau be since it was being held indoors at the Sheraton? I’m guessing there were some major differences other than venue as well in comparison to those held during the years of the monarchy. The price did include unlimited food and drink but we had unlimited food available to us on the ship and there was no way in this lifetime that we could drink that much in one night without death as a guaranteed side effect. Also, all of the tourist spots on the waterfront were selling luau tickets for either $19 or $29 per person – that’s a huge variance. The only thing we really thought might be of interest was the traditional dance (and perhaps some hula hotties). This all made planning the rest of the evening quite simple as you’ll soon understand.

Once showered and dressed, we headed up to the Stardust lounge where the “Matagi Polynesian Cast” was set to perform a show called “Beat of Polynesia” which was a display of authentic dance from Hawaii and other Polynesian cultures. It was a great show that ended with both Lucy and I in agreement that we made the right choice avoiding the luau. Actual agreement between a husband and a wife, the magic of Hawaii! After the show, we had the opportunity to take some photographs with members of the cast. It was fun to get close to the hula hotties with hips of magic.

The Four Seasons restaurant was rather empty as many folks were out at the luau so we had our choice of seating for yet another incredible meal. We walked off the meal along the deck and watched as the crew was preparing for a late night tropical deck party. Fatigue had gotten the better part of us as this long day was coming to its end so after several laps around the deck we headed down to our stateroom where sleep came fast despite the noises of the ship lifting anchor and getting the engines going as we sailed onto the next port.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Funny How Time Slips Away

  • I was four years ago today that the world changed as we knew it.
  • I remember when the twin towers first opened to the public, I was just a small child and my mother still referred to Manhattan as "New Yawk".
  • I remember the first of many trips to the twin towers and the remarkable elevator ride that caused my ears to pop.
  • I remember standing on the observation deck thinking how "I could almost reach the sky from up here."
  • I remember being told that if I dropped a penny from the top of the building and it hit someone in the head, it would kill them instantly.
  • I remember wanting to throw a penny and not hit someone, but really see for myself if it was really that big a deal.
  • I remember the thousands of times driving with the NY City skyline in view and those towers proudly peaking at the center of one of the most recognizable views in the world.
  • I remember driving to work on 9/11/2001 listening to Howard Stern when the laughs turned to shock at what my ears just heard.
  • I remember getting to work and talking to people trying to find out what the heck was happening.
  • I remember quickly rigging up TV's to the cable feed so that everyone and anyone, but mosty I could see the news and try to understand or make sense of what was going on.
  • I remember watching the first tower fall and seconds later, the first of millions, maybe billions of tears falling.
  • I remember the second tower falling and the images of people jumping to their death because the pain of living in that moment was worse - or was it the possibility of living was greater if they jumped than if they didn't?
  • I remember the state of shock, the sadness, the disappointment, the lack of understanding, every moment of emotion.
  • For now, all I can do is remember because what was, will never be again.
The photo above was taken by me on a visit back home to NYC from the top of a double-decker tour bus. It was about 60 days before the towers fell.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Weary Hello

I work at a community college and this is the first week of classes, that's where I've been. In fact, I am so tired that I'm heading out for now and hope to be back soon.

Ya gotta love this...

Monday, September 05, 2005

1,950 Years or so Later - Still Relevant?

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't figured it out, it's from the bible. More specifically, Paul's letter to the Romans (written between 40 and 50 AD). This was one of the readings in Church this past Sunday and it moved me, so I wanted to share it.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

YardStick and The Quiet Man

This neat yet unusual stick insect just happened to be hanging out on the outside of my house. I spotted it while I was grilling and was so amazed that I ran inside to get the camera and snap this photo. I wasn't even aware these insect hung out around these parts here in New England but then again, I'm not an entomologist.

The Quiet Man - referring to my not being around for the last few days. I've been in a funk about Katrina. I have a friend who lives down in New Orleans and until I heard that she is doing fine and fled to Texas before the storm hit, I was pretty worried. I am so saddened at the devastation that I am virtually speechless. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims.

Adding to my funk are the seemingly uncontrollable prices of gasoline. I really need to put some serious thought into a more economical vehicle as my Jeep only gets around 16-17 MPG.

Work has kicked into high gear as classes start at the college this Tuesday. I hope you are enjoying the Hawaii trip journal - the are just a few more parts left.

See ya all soon.

Hawaii '05:The Journal - Part 7

Day 8 – Wednesday August 10th, 2005 (Nawiliwili, Kauai)

Let’s start the day off with some phonetic fun time pronouncing the name of the port all together: Nawiliwili (Năh-willy-willy), Kauai (Kă-ooh-ă-e). Wasn’t that fun? This journal entry will serve two purposes: one, a recording of the day’s events and activities and two, a cold, hard lesson learned the hard (and stupid) way which will hopefully prevent you from making the same silly mistake that I should have know better (having been on a cruise in the past) not to make.

After my morning sweat-fest, a shower and a quick gathering of he ladies had us chowing down on breakfast at the Four Seasons after which we retreated back to the room to grab the camera and explore the island of Kauai. With no pre-booked excursions to rush off the boat for (huge mistake), we left the ship at about nine-something and tried to plan our day (another huge mistake).

Here is where I offer an important lesson on cruising that I should have remembered/learned from my last cruise (which was a wonderful Caribbean cruise of which I have many fond memories). Cruise lines, at least the two that I’ve sailed with (Norwegian and Carnival), have a variety of excursions available at each port of call. Though my experiences on such excursions have been mostly positive, they are priced considerably higher than if one were to spend time researching the port in advance and booking similar excursions outside of the cruise line. Learn about your ports of call, embarkation/disembarkation times, etc. The more you know up front, the better prepared you will be for booking equally good excursions at a fraction of the cost and not be shut out because of waiting until the last minute when all of the tours are sold to capacity. It is essential that you really take care of this stuff in advance of your trip – I can’t emphasize this enough. The excursion business yields major profits to the cruise line and they will (and do) go out of their way (without you realizing it until it’s too late) to make it very difficult to exit the vessel without a pre-booked/pre-paid excursion at a time convenient enough for you to find a suitable outside excursion that will return you to the ship in time for “all aboard.”

The first thing we chose to do once in the port terminal was to grab the free shuttle to a place called the “Coconut Marketplace;” what turned out to be a tourist trap shopping center featuring overpriced t-shirts, souvenirs, and jewelry. Here’s another tip when traveling with the ladies, never opt to go shopping unless of course you too are a lady at which point you may in deed opt for the shopping and go absolutely nuts. The coconut marketplace kept us busy for an hour or two at which point we hopped on the shuttle back to the dock, re-boarded the ship to drop off the shopping and eat lunch, then left the ship again for a short stroll over to Kalapaki beach; located just behind the Anchor Cove shopping center. Both Lucy and Victoria love the beach, I hate it. I find the sand annoying because it gets into places and follows you around for days despite how carefully you floss it out of every nook and cranny. Sandy nooks and crannies make for a cranky Chris, so I avoid the sand when and where possible. Anyway, while the girls enjoyed the beach, and Victoria made a new friend, I spent some time trolling the shops at Anchor Cove with no intention of buying anything, but snatching some much desired air conditioning, which proved to be challenging but time consuming enough to head back to the beach with some cold diet 7-Ups and try to convince Lucy and Victoria to leave their little sandy paradise.

After sand, sun, and fun, the ladies wanting their chance at eh Anchor Cove shops before walking back to the ship so again I perused only this time knowing where all of the good air conditioning was – of course, this is where I lead Lucy and Victoria. A few trinkets later and we were walking back to the dock where we re-boarded the ship to say goodbye to Kauai and ready ourselves for the evening. Our time in the port of Nawiliwi was over without being a complete bust. I’m not one for regrets in the grand scheme of things, but I am sad that I left the island of Kauai without seeing either Waimea Canyon or the Fern Grotto. The shuttle bus driver that took us to Coconut Grove was kind enough to point out several spots along the way including the Wailua River but I wanted to see at least one of those spots.

We showered and dressed then made our way to the Stardust lounge where the final of three great performances by the Jean Ann Ryan Company was scheduled to start. This production, “Sea Legs, Circus at Sea” was a musical revue with a circus theme and featured some remarkable athletic displays by a gymnast referred to as “The Professor.” The vocal and dance numbers were equally entertaining and at times, breathtaking. One couple in particular did a lot of those (here’s where I sound stupid) dance things where the guy tosses the girl around and she contorts her body into seemingly impossible positions while balancing on the guys hand. It was quite spectacular to watch especially from such a close distance (how oxymoronic). Yet even more amazing about this particular show’s feats of balance by both the dancers and gymnast was the fact that we were on a ship at sea in the mighty Pacific – and yes, the boat was moving.

After the performance our rumbling tummies were craving a meal so we headed off to dinner where everything from appetizer through dessert anointed the palate with flavors and sensations that I will sorely miss once vacation ends and proper dietary concerns re-stake their claim on my eating habits. Dinner ended with a relaxing walk in a sweet misty breeze eventually landing us back in our stateroom where Lucy and Victoria retired for the evening and I made my way back to the Stardust lounge for a late night comedy show featuring Tim Jones. The show was very funny and capped off a day that had a rocky start to say the least as a result of poor planning and ignorance but overall managed to be a fun day. Off to bed now as the ship makes its way to Maui.