Friday, December 31, 2010


At around 5:30pm today, I was still in the garden,weeding and planting purple basil and Korean cabbage, when Steve who lives in a condo at Kaimana Beach, mentioned that a big part of the beach was roped off to protect a Hawaiian monk seal while it was resting in the sand.
"Is it still there?" I asked.
"It was there 15 minutes ago." Steve said.
That got me so excited, I hurried watering my new plants and rushed home to get Phil.
"Come on, Phil, quick, before it gets too dark."  I yelled as I ran panting up the stairs.  "Let's go see if the monk seal is still there."  It would definitely be a first for us.   

Fortunately it did not take Phil long to get ready and we set off across Kapiolani Park at a brisk pace. There were several games going on in the Park, lots of kids running around in colorful uniforms and lots of spectators with their cold drink containers lining the fields, and the setting sun slanting low across the expanse of grass, turning it into an otherworldly fierce green.  Ordinarily I would linger and take in all the activities and strange beauty, but we were on a mission.  No dawdling, we're making a beeline to the beach.

There it was.  A real life Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, sleeping on the beach by Hau Tree Lanai restaurant.  People taking pictures.  Photographers with cameras on tripods.  All of us watching the seal do nothing but sleep.

We barraged Karen, a volunteer with the monk seal response team, with questions and she kindly educated us about seals. There are about 30 monk seals that beach around Oahu daily.  There are more around Kauai, and a total of approximately 1000 around the Hawaiian island chain.  Life in the northwestern parts is much more dangerous for the seals than here.  There's not as much food there, so the competition is brutal.  Main competitors are sharks and ulua.  A mother seal will nurse her pups for 40 days, after which she abandons them.  But in the northwest, a mother may get so weak from the birth that, in order to survive, she has to leave her pups much earlier.  The seals therefore turn out smaller and thinner. 

The seal we're watching is named Rocky (she's a girl, though).  After monitoring so many seals on a daily basis, the volunteers are quick to identify the seals they see.  They give them names like Benny and Ewa Girl,  Sam, Irma and Kermit.  See:

Rocky is 10-12 years old (a seal's lifespan is something like 30 years), and she frequents Diamond Head, Magic Island, and the harbor.  She was sighted at Magic Island yesterday, so she did not travel far today.  Seals hunt at night, so we were waiting for Rocky to get up and swim out looking for her dinner.

A wedding was taking place on the other side of the beach.  I would have liked to have taking pictures of that too, but I had my camera trained on Rocky.  I did not want to miss her getting up and plunging in the water.

 This is a close up of Rocky that I found on the Monk Seal Mania website.

Ah, another beautiful sunset...
Well, the sun went down.  It got darker and darker.  But Rocky didn't move a fin.  No, that's not true.  At one point, a wave washed over her face and she lifted her head.  For a mini-moment, that is.  Then she resumed her slumber.

The beach was clearing out, leaving only Karen (the volunteer), three serious photographers with monster lenses, and me with my dinky old camera that just pooches out a little nipple-sized lens when you turn it on.  (Sorry, my sweet camera, you're still really good for daylight pictures, and that's what counts).

Phil had enough and wanted to leave.  I thought, of course, that the moment we'd leave, Rocky would move, stretch out, and slip gracefully into the dark waters.  And I would have missed the chance to witness it. 

Phil won.  We said our goodbyes and wished Rocky a Happy New Year, then trudged across the beach back to the steps, my sandal shoes scooping up sand.  When we got to the top step, I did not even look back.  This was enough.  I had seen my first endangered Hawaiian monk seal and that would be an excellent ending for 2010.  May all beings find peace.

Om swastiyastu...

Thursday, December 23, 2010




Wishing you  
Phil & Elsha
Our daughter Monique Weisman (left)
And our grandchildren 
Lola (middle) and Johan Schalekamp (right)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


My grandkids, Johan (almost 18) and Lola (16), are visiting us.   
It’s been a long time since they were here last.

I decided to drive Johan and Lola to Pacific Heights Road where we used to live back in the early Nineties and where they stayed with us for a month.  Lola was still in diapers but ready to get potty-trained.  That was LOOOONG time ago.  I used to take them for a walk every day, to a delightful meadow higher up the road where they could run around to their heart’s content.  I took pictures of them running down the grassy hill -- Lola like a dainty little girl, Johan, speed devil that he is, going all out, hair flying in the wind.  They vaguely remember the pictures.  For memory’s sake, I took them up there again, this time in the car, and took pictures of them as they are now.  I asked them to run around again, but only got Johan to do it.  Check them out, my skinny little darlings.  How time squishes my heart.


Johan worked out on our Total Gym machine for 45 minutes this morning.  
The thing has never seen so much action before. 

Then we went shopping all day, ending with a visit to Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hawaii’s largest shopping center.  There were huge, huge crowds, unbelievable.  But because of the heavy rains the last two days, some sections of the Center (especially toward Macy’s end) were plagued by power outages, plus, an apparent threat of carbon monoxide along the side by Barnes & Noble.  Very strange.  Many stores were darkened and locked.  Some had their sales staff stand outside the door to apologize to customers.   It was eerie – to say the least – to walk through a darkened Food Court on the lower level with people sitting quietly around tables.  This surely is a mega disaster for the merchants and the Hawaii economy.  They’re already so vulnerable. 

On a brighter note, earlier in the afternoon I had bought Johan a basketball and a pair of basketball shoes at Sports Authority.  We’d barely gotten home when, of course, he eagerly rushed off to our neighborhood basketball place, Lola in tow.  There they found some people to play with.  After about an hour I picked them up and took them out for dinner.  Barely back home again, Johan immediately jumped on the machine for the second time today and worked it for another 30 minutes (see pictures).  Where does this kid get his energy!  After taking a shower he fell into bed, completely exhausted.  Lola meanwhile had laid down after dinner and promptly went to sleep.  I got two spent puppies in the guestroom.  They’re a marvel of blessings and the day has been a pure love fest.  I’m in heaven.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Need your beard trimmed?  (HipstaPrint courtesy of Mark Howard)

No, we're not back in Bali or Bangkok.  We have our own sidewalk barber right here in the Circle!  Or as the photographer, Mark Howard, said: "This is our bring-down-the-property-values exercise."

Phil ran across this scene, while I was out doing my usual walkabout.  He told them that I would kill for a picture of this.  Mark whipped out his iPhone and kindly obliged, taking the time to email it to me before catching his plane to the mainland.  When I came home Phil just said that I would find a surprise in my email.  Sure enough, a fabulous surprise!  10 points to Phil for thinking of me and 100 points to Mark for taking and sending me his HipstaPrint!  Thank you, Mark!

Somewhere (where oh where?) I have pictures of our Ubud neighbor, Herman Suhendro, cutting Phil's hair out on the lanai of our bungalow.  One time he came over at sunset on the day of our weekly power blackout (every Monday 6:00-9:00pm), which is not so good for making pictures.  I had to hold up a lantern to Phil's head so Herman could see what he was doing.  He had been the assistant to Vidal Sassoon.  Yes, the Vidal Sassoon.  After decades of cutting hair, though, Herman changed professions and went into the custom-made furniture business.  He has an enormous work space in the village of Mas, just south of Ubud.  His wife Retno used to be a model.

Phil, Herman, Retno and their adorable daughter Elena

Back in the early Eighties, I had a chance to spend a week in New York City and booked myself an appointment with Vidal Sassoon.  He was the hottest thing in hair then.  I didn't get the Man himself to work on me, but his top assistant did -- a very fussy, very haute-couture-snobbish kinda guy.  With the help of his top assistant, he gave me one (for that time) super radical asymmetrical haircut.  I loved it.  It was the first time I had been to an uber chi-chi hair salon.and the first time I ever had my hair cut that severely lopsided.  I've been lopsided ever since, askew, off-balance, awry. What's worse, 30 years of marriage with a shrink has exacerbated the condition beyond repair.  What can I say...

Now how did I get from a third-world sidewalk haircut scene to celebrity hair styling to confessing my deficiencies?  Maybe I should finish with something totally unrelated, like the Sheraton Waikiki infinity pool.

Row, row, row your float...

Saturday, December 18, 2010


This is my latest addiction: intensifying color and contrast in my photos, creating certain moods by dialing it up or down far enough without weirding it out.  I so get into the process that time stops to exist -- I stop to exist.  It reminds me of the time when I took a photography class in college.  I would go into the darkroom during the day and come out startled that it was night.  What happened?  Where am I?  It's delicious.

Sunset was incredible today because of the heavy cloud cover.

Friday, December 17, 2010


 In a cafe:
A:  Is that stone around your neck real turquoise?
B:  Sure, I got it from this girl in Brazil.
A:  That is the biggest f---in' stone I ever seen.
B:  Yeah, man, it's epic.

On the sidewalk:
A:  Hey, I gotta go. Dancing with the Stars is on tonight.
B:  Oh, you watch that?
A:  Of course. We're all voting for Bristol.
B.  Bristol Palin! Why?  She can't dance.
A:  Cause we just LOVE that family, that whole family! They're really something.

Two white middle-aged guys blocking the isle in a health food store:
A is blabbing on and on and on... blah blah blah blah blah....about some mystic kind of new age evolved something or other.  B listens patiently but finally interrupts.
B:  You sure that's true?
A.  Of course it's true. I should know because I'm a kahuna.
B.  (Silence)
A:  You didn't know that, did you? That I'm a kahuna. I am, you know.
B.  (More silence)
A.  You don't believe me?  Why don't you believe me? I am a kahuna, you know, for real.
B.  Okay. Then say something in Hawaiian.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


For many years, on Monday mornings, our Mililani garage served as an open studio for making Bad Art.  Artists from around the island would come over and enjoy a couple of hours playing with paints and stuff. We called ourselves the BAM (Bad Art Monday) Babes.  Bad Art was followed by Bad Lunch, but not for long because we had some gourmet cooks with us.

After four years or so (I'm terrible with dates), we decided to start doing the exercises in Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way of Life (AWOL), hoping it would somehow kick us up another level.  Instead of weekly, we started meeting once a month and rotated hosting the meetings.  After finishing Julia's book, we continued meeting, so that after - how many years now? - life without AWOL is unthinkable.  I learned that the hard way while I was in Bali. 

This month Lisa invited us to meet in the lounge area of Smokin' Bob's BBQ in Kaneohe, also a place to take your car to if you need any muffler work done.  Funky, funky, funky!!!  Trash art made from auto junk everywhere.  Sorry my pictures of the trash art did not load correctly.  But check out the outside wall murals!  Did you know we had anything like this in Hawaii?

And here's what you find on the roof!

The theme for our December meeting was "Improvisation."  Here are pictures of our brave Improv Stars.  Check out the backdrop of painted canvas walls.

Margo doing her Xmas version of Hey, Big Spender and yes, those are decorated deer antlers on her head.

 Kris had us howling with the story of her recent visit to her gynecologist.

Susan and Sunny doing a skit on a girl's first period.

 Lisa and Patrie in a skit of a preacher and a party girl meeting in an elevator.

 Victoria and Margo saying a prayer with heavy Mexican accent

 Ria and Alexandra kicking back

 Sunny and Victoria

 Half a group picture.  The other half had already left the meeting.

AWOL rocks!