Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hawaii, Days 1-2

Day 1, December 1: Big Island, near Kona

Mahalo nui loa na ho'olaule'a me la kaua

Pics: Condo inside and out (including local insectopedia shots), bird preying on wrapped baked goods (as always, bonus points for being first to identify birds), views from the boat

Drive to SFO because our flight is leaving at 8:40am, too early to really use BART effectively. Get there in plenty of time, they board us early, we’ve got plenty of legroom in the premium economy seats, and then we sit….and wait….and sit….to find out that the captain is now informing us that they have found a few screws missing (hmmmm….sounds like a THB story, right?). An hour late, we’re up and over the ocean amidst some pretty strong winds. Later we find out how lucky we were, as flights were being cancelled all over due to high winds.

Land in Kona, spend a half-hour getting a rental car, then drive ever so slowly on Highway 19 (or is 11?) about 14 miles south to our house exchange condo overlooking the 8th fairway. Find a local market (pretty decent) a few blocks away and stock up on the essentials: Peet’s decaf French roast, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, local brewskies, POG, fancy crackers.

And, we are less than a mile from one of the best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island! Amazingly, our old masks and flippers still fit and appear to work as we take twenty minutes to give them a test.

Dinner at Sammy Choy’s, just up the hill from us, where they have an open dining area with a great view of the water and sunset. We get a real shocka: there is a green flash tonight!!! Damn…a first for us, though we were nearly there for one in Bonaire many years ago with S&A (A was there, the rest of us were off getting pizza). Hummus and pita chips, trio of seafood with brown rice for DB and an seared ahi salad for DB, three drinks (total, not each, that would’ve been another shocka), $90.

Day 2: Same-same

Aloha kakahiaka

Weather: intermittent clouds and blue sky, temps in the mid-80s, light winds

Ahhhh, imported breakfast items from Arizmendi and Acme…$10

At 8:30, right down the road from us, we board the Sea Paradise catamaran, with one other couple and a single woman who seems to know the crew, practically a private charter. Takes about an hour from here and we are at Captain Cook’s Memorial (see pic), a great snorkeling spot that comes with a bonus of leaping baby spinning dolphins (sorry, these fish are too fast for pics) and a profusion of Yellow Tangs, spectacular against the coral. Tons of other fish and, by the time we are ready to leave, tons of people. The snorkeling is about as good as THB has seen outside of Bonaire and a few choice Maui spots. We wear “skins” from the Bonaire era (15-20 years ago? In any case, before THB was THB), which both makes us more buoyant and provides sun protection. Will there be pics….hmmmmm…it ain’t pretty, our bodies are no longer the 15-20 year ago models.

The second stop is not near as successful, rougher and a bit cloudy and not near as shallow, and thus is a shorter snorkel. Plus, THB is starting to realize the mistake of eating a tuna fish sandwich between the two stops. Fortunately, it does not turn into a disaster. Breakfast and lunch included. Total for two of us: $125 + $25 tip.

Now the environmental update: in 2008, along with the rest of the world turning to financial shit, a vent opened up at the nearby volcano (where THB and DB visit in a few days) and has been spewing ash into the sky ever since. Unless the trade winds are favorable, there is a lot of haze("vog") in the sky, preventing things like good visibility, green flashes, and improving tourism. Now we understand why Sammy Choy’s staff was so impressed with the sunset last night and how we thought they were saying it was great that the fog cleared up…fog, vog, fog, vog, my sister, my daughter, my sister, my daughter.

Back to shore at 1pm, and then a rest before dinner. We try an early dinner at Huggo’s in Kailua and hope to catch the sunset. Vog!!!! Lot’s of vog (similar to a massive Monterey Bay marine layer) and.…no sunset. And, dinner is not so good: arugula salad, over-sauced ribs with mushy special fries and slaw, mushrooms and four drinks: $93. About every two minutes (sometimes less!) somebody comes by the table asking how we are doing, do we like the food, is everything okay...sad, trying to hard is pretty much worse than not bothering to ask. Plus we have to work hard to have them not rush us...and the place is over half empty when we leave. THB is having flashbacks (not so fond flashbacks) of how hard it is to get a good meal in Hawaii. Toto, we aren’t in the Bay Area any more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

THB is in the movies

THB is in the movies

DB and THB are enjoying a vodka gimlet (not sharing, we each get our own), watching a DVD movie about the struggles of women balancing a life in art and life-life, when one of the artists in the movie (we own a few pieces by her, see pics) takes a trip with her family to see her work on display at a show.

The camera moves from the family making their way through the show to the booth where her work is displayed. Whoa...DB says, hey, that looks like you! Hmmmmmmmm...maybe....rewind...play it slow...yes, by gosh, it does appear to be THB...and, it must be a SOFA show from around 2008 (big show of sculpture, jewelry, objects, paintings, held annually in Chicago, New York, and now Santa Fe).

Make up your own mind: is it THB????

Note 1: two of the THB pics are from the movie and one is a current self-taken pic (pretty impressive camera footwork!)

Note 2: The pic at bottom is THB with friends at Pinnacles National Monument (almost a National Park), at the pinnacle...well, maybe near the pinnacle...or was it near the outlook...in any case, we highly recommend a visit to the bat cave!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

THB goes to court

THB gets a ticket and goes to court

The location where THB got his ticket, with live shots of some committing misdemeanors on their bikes, some in their cars, and one of an Emeryville public art piece

Act 1: In early August, THB rode his heavy clunker craigslist $70 bike through E-ville, running errands. On his way back, he was riding up to an intersection he had been through many times, a pedestian scramble. Seeing that the cars were stopped and almost no pedestrians, THB rode slowly (the only speed of the clunker) through the intersection.

Uh-oh, a siren, and quickly THB realizes he’s being pulled over! Not a big deal, he can put his foot down and stop. Alongside is a motorcycle cop! Hmmmmmm….maybe THB should have been more observant, more law-abiding, and maybe more cognizant that the temporary E-ville PD HQ was only a half block back.

Officer politely and firmly explains that he is writing THB up for a misdemeanor; does that mean there is a felony version of riding 3 mph through an intersection? THB shakes his hand, gets back on the bike and tries not to think of the 4,000 (more? easily more) times he has broken some traffic law while riding his bike, including the four times in the less than a mile it takes to get home after getting a ticket.

Act 2: 5-6 weeks go by, no official paperwork on what to do. So, THB makes a visit to the Oakland court system (riding his bike, of course) to find out what’s the next step. If you want to do community service instead of paying the fine, you have to go to court first. The clerk advises him to wait for the official letter and then make sure to be in line by 7:30…no, 7:15am. She gives him a sheet with the times and days open, some days there are morning and afternoon sessions.

The letter arrives, and the fine is $313. Wow, $100+ for every mph! And, a misdemeanor! Wonder what the felony amount is?

Soooooooooo, THB decides it is court for him, oh it is court for him!

Act 3: He picks a Monday since that is one of the double-down morning and afternoon days. Rides his bike over, arrives at 7:15 and finds 30 people already there waiting to get in. You have to go through security, which is supposed to open up at 7:45. Er, 8:00. No, 8:15…actually, today, 8:30. As they raise the metal grate in front of the clerks (talk about double-secure: glass windows with slots aren’t enough), someone makes an announcement using a microphone (from behind the glass!): This is the first day of a new computer system so please do not take the delays out on her clerks.

Sure enough, there must be 2-3 people at each station behind the glass, some watching the clerks, some using the mouse for the clerk (like the clerk that THB finally gets to talk to), some talking on phones (to the computer room?). THB has done this before! Damn, first day training of an on-line system…so, when THB gets to his clerk, he is hoping to see how it is going. It is going very slowly, is how it is going, and all THB gets is a pre-printed piece of blue paper and a courtroom assignment. That took 30 minutes? Yessssssss….it did!

Now another wait, outside the courtroom. A surly, you-people-hear-me-I-am-only-saying-this-once courtroom clerk (bailiff?) comes out and tells us: DO NOT TOUCH THE DOOR TO THIS COURT! I will tell you when the judge is ready. Okayyyyyyy…at 10, the judge appears to be ready. Well, not exactly. As we enter the courtroom, we see 10 people sitting in the place where attorneys and defendants would sit, lined up along either side of this inside-the-gate area. The judge is sitting looking at his computer screen. He is not touching anything or making any motion to enter data, just staring at his screen. Then a techie (well, some 35-ish guy in a short-sleeve plaid shirt and jeans and scruffy hair comes in and takes the judge’s spot, the judge scoots back, and both stare at the screen. Then the techie gets on his cell phone. Much staring at the screen. More staring at the screen. Time has slowwwwwwed way down. THB is familiar with this, too: the first day of a new on-line system!

THB is ready, he’s got his Kindle. Same courtroom guy (Clerk? Sheriff? Enforcer!) comes by: NO READING! Gosh, and no sleeping and no talking and no cell phones, just staring at the techie and the judge…and there is no air conditioning (first day for new a/c system?). Some form of purgatory? It is dawning on THB: he is a criminal! One of the worst kind: riding his bike at 3 mph through an intersection scattered with a few perfectly safe pedestrians. He is being punished, and before his sentencing everyone knows: THB is GUILTY! And, to prove it, in the 90% minority crowd, Marlowe and Chris look-alikes are there…bike riding tickets and big time drug dealing murderers? Racial profiling?

After a while, a printer cranks up and every 3-5 minutes or so a few pages are printed and one of the 10 in the front gets a little packet and leaves the courtroom. Hmmmm…what is going on? Did these guys show up Sunday afternoon for night court and get stuck here? Finally, the techie leaves, and at 11am one of the judge’s other assistants starts calling 10 people at a time up to the front of the courtroom.

Act 4: Then, one at a time, each goes up to the lectern and pleads: not guilty (come back for a jury trial), traffic school (is that a plea, on the sheet it is says it is not an admission of guilt), guilty or no contest. What does no contest mean? Is it better or worse than guilty? For a parking ticket? For overly tinted windows? For driving in the carpool lane without stickers or a second person? For driving while talking on cell phone?

THB decides to keep track: 6 guilty, 2 not guilty (“Are you okay with waiting over 90 days for a trial?” “Yes, your Honor”), 8 no contest, 1 dismissed (barely got her name out and the judge barks: “Dismissed, pay $20”), ½ proof of innocence (two tickets, other “guilty”)…then THB gives up counting....

First guy up wants to say that he did not know about the second violation…he sold that car a year ago. Judge does not let him drop that second violation. It takes 25 minutes to get through the first ten. It takes another 20 minutes to get through the second ten. Each time, after a plea, the person has to go and sit on the side and wait for a paper printout (this paper turns out to be the results of his/her plea and follow-up instructions). Finally, THB is called in the third group (10 at a time up front), and is the second person of the third group called to submit a plea. Only one person so far has had her ticket dismissed, so THB pleads guilty (THB IS guilty). THB is not sure what pleading No Contest would do…in any case; the judge reduces his fine to $233 and accepts community service as an option for working off the fine. Does guilt pay better than no contest?

Act 5: THB now sits on the side of the courtroom waiting for his paperwork. At 12:15, the clerk/bailiff/enforcer orders all of us waiting (now more than 15) to come outside and then says: you can wait for your paperwork or leave now (the only real option) and we’ll mail the results to you. What he fails to mention is that in order to sign up for community service you have to have your paperwork and report to Project 22 on the second floor. There are maybe 20 people still waiting in the courtroom that have NOT been called to the front yet...

Act 6: After 10 days, the paperwork arrives (are they testing a new "put it in the mail system'? and THB now realizes he has to return (on his bike, of course) for another discussion on signing up for community service. As most of you now realize, THB is going to use his Habitat for Humanity hours to pay off his fine. Is this fair? You “earn” $10 for every hour of community service and thus THB must work 23.3 hours (something tells me that a bunch of those doing community service have figured out how many minutes .3 of an hour is) to pay off his fine.

Over the course of the next two weeks, THB puts in 28.5 hours at HFH, and faxes his paperwork back to Project 22. After a few days, he calls to make sure he has paid his debt to society and is advised they will let the judge know that THB put in 28.5 hours. Extra credit? Will the judge approve of all those extra hours, get a smile on his face?

Epilogue: Final questions:
- Should THB have paid the $311 and skipped all the courtroom anguish?
- Should THB have figured out that they would implement a new computer system on a Monday? His Monday? Without A/C?
- With guys from The Wire there, looking smug?
- Should all people appearing in court be treated like convicted criminals?
- Should people waiting while a judge stares at a computer screen be allowed to read? think? dream?
- Will THB ever put his curiosity aside?

Postscript: DB and THB are walking through the same intersection a few months after THB got his ticket and sure enough, there is a guy on a bike slowly cruising through the intersection during the pedestrian scramble. THB points out that this was exactly what he got his ticket for. DB: you got a ticket for doing THAT?????? She had no idea, not exactly sure what she thought THB was doing...certainly not that! Something felony-ish perhaps?