Thursday, August 5, 2010


Two old coots
He says
Don’t worry about the dirty dishes
I’ll just buy you a new sink

She says 
Thank you

He says
You haven’t done anything
around the house for a while

She says
I’m doing the taxes

He says
You always have an excuse ready

She says
I learned that from you

He says
For me it’s a necessity
I need all the excuses I can get

She says
I know


It's Friday evening and still light when I walk across Kapiolani Park to check out what's happening at the annual Korean Festival.  For days now city workers have been busy erecting countless white peaked tents under the trees in preparation for the excitement.  But to my disappointment I find everything still empty.  It's like walking through a ghost tent city.  Apparently the main activities don't start until tomorrow.  For now the only thing going on is a performance of Korean music on a temporary stage on the beach across the street.  A couple of food stalls are open for business.  Phil and I have been living frugally since leaving Bali and are still in sticker shock about the cost of living in Hawaii.  But I'm feeling lazy today and decide to "splurge" on a mixed plate of mahi, rice, kombu and kim chee.  I wince at the price, $8!  I should at least find a nice place to sit and watch the sunset while I'm eating my expensive take-out dinner.

I find an empty bench on the beach walk. The bench next to me is occupied by a heavyset scruffy old guy.  I open my bag and dig into the food.  Not bad.  There's enough for two people, so I plan to take most of the meal home for Phil.  I've hardly begun eating when another man walks up and joins the guy on the neighboring bench.  It's clear he's homeless.  He plants his rolling suitcase next to me.  It's packed all the way to the top of the extended handle with dusty bulging black plastic bags.

"Hey Mike." he says with a big smile.  Most of his teeth are missing.
"Hi John." Mike says. "Whaddya got there?"  He points to the crumpled McDonald's bag.
"Orange juice." John says as he pulls out a paper cup with a reddish smear of lipstick under the rim.  Then he notices me looking at him.  "Would you like some?" he asks.
I'm completely taken aback.  "Oh no." I answer quickly, too quickly.
"I didn't think so." he nods, pulling out a metal camping utensil that holds a combination spoon, fork and knife.  He carefully spoons the orange juice out from the bottom of the cup, savoring each drop.

I suddenly feel terrible about eating my big plate of Korean food in front of them.  I close it up and consider offering it to both men.  But then I would have to go home and fix dinner which I don't feel like doing.  I know, how cold  is that!  But that's what's really going through my stupid head.  I go back and forth.  Give it to them.  No, it's for Phil.  They need it more.  I don't want to cook.
John suddenly turns to me and asks, "Where do you live?"
"Across the park." I answer. "And you?"
"Here and there." he shrugs. "Me and Mike we like to watch the sunset. Look, isn't it beautiful? And tonight we get to watch fireworks too."
"John," I ask, "would you like my food?"
"No, no," he says, shaking his head adamantly, "You keep it. I've already eaten."  Pointing to his McDonald's cup, he adds, "This is my dessert."