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Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Very Own "Kenneth"....But Smarter

Since graduation in May, Averie had been working at a well-known (but we won't name it here) production company in Los Angeles as a Producer's Assistant. The pay wasn't great, but she was getting production experience that she felt was invaluable. For the most part, the people she worked for were, in her words; "awesome". Except one woman in particular (who shall also go unnamed) that I liked to call "EB". The first word was "Evil". I'll let you figure out what the "B" was for. She made Averie's life a living hell. She actually KNEW how horrible she made Averie's world because she was very careful not to allow Averie to fetch her coffee or food. Smart cookie, that one. Not that Ave would actually DO anything to EB's lunch. It was just her mother thinking out loud. If nothing else, her position there at least allowed her to extend her resume and acquire her first listings on IMDb. Oh, and of course to affirm, by experience, that The Devil does indeed wear Prada, blames all her shortcomings on those around her, and screams "Where's my fucking Tylenol? Where the fuck is my Tylenol?" So yeah, all in all, a good time for Averie.

Right before Thanksgiving, Averie got a call from NBC. She had worked there as an intern at the Sci-Fi Channel while she was still in school and had applied to their Page program. She never heard back from them after graduation, so she figured she didn't make the cut and had to take this other job. The one with "EB". After all, a job's a job and there was rent to pay. Now it was 6 months later, and they were calling to offer her a coveted spot in the Page program. Curiously, the first thing she did was call her Daddy and ask his advice. You see, if she took this position, she would have to take a cut in pay from an already dismal payrate. Which basically means that she might need some help with rent.

Charlie told her that if she didn't take the job, we would both drive to LA and knock her into next week. Yes, it was a cut in pay. Yes, she'll be eating Top Ramen (but she was already used to that). Yes, PLEASE go back to that place you work at and tell EB to go find her OWN fucking Tylenol, and yes, of course we will help you get through the transition (Money? Savings? Huh?). NO, you absolutely cannot turn this opportunity of a lifetime down knowing full well that the NBC Page Program is harder to get into than Harvard. For heaven's sake...isn't it your DREAM to follow in the footsteps of Tina Fey and break into the "Boy's Club" of comedy writing? Could this be your chance to one day write for Conan O'Brien? Why even hesitate? Run Girl! Run! So with our blessing, she accepted the position, gave her two week notice to EB (who snubbed Averie the entire two weeks) and started her happy new life (for the next year, anyway) as a West Coast Kenneth at the Burbank studios on December 8th.

When she came home for Christmas, she carried with her two GIANT NBC manuals full of NBC history and trivia, which she is expected to memorize, along with her beautiful new gray Brooks Brothers uniform (YES I forced her to pose for the pictures). In celebration of their 75th anniversary, NBC has changed the uniforms from the old blue (like Kenneth's) to the Brooks Brothers gray. Apparantly, the pages are very, VERY happy. But I think OUR little Page girl is the happiest of all.

So..I wonder when I can get in to see The Tonight Show? I really DO know someone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Missing The Grommet

My son is in Hawai'i. The little shit.

He was at his friend Jeff's house last Friday night and Jeff's parents were upset because their daughter had backed out of the annual family vacation at the last minute. She called them on Friday morning and told them that she was going to Texas with her boyfriend instead. Problem is, they were leaving at o'dark thirty the next morning and now Jeff's parents were not only upset, but were left holding an extra ticket. Suddenly, Jeff's mom has an epiphany..."Bryson, you should come with us!"

Naturally, he wanted to go, but knowing that we were in no position to pay for a ticket and he, having been unemployed for the last two months, left him, as he puts it; "poor". So he thanked them kindly and declined. Jeff's mom insisted. She works for United, so the ticket's a done deal. She simply has to change it from her daughter to Bryson. Jeff and his dad both chimed in that it was no big deal. So Bryson thinks on it a few minutes and then calls me.


"Mommy. Can I go to Hawai'i?"

"Um....With what money? When? With who? What the hell are you talking about Bry?"

"Tomorrow morning. With Jeff's family. His parents invited me. The ticket's paid for."

"WHAT?? Are you messing with me right now Grommet?"

"No. Serious. Totally fucking serious." (Explanation of the circumstances)

"Bry. Remember Daddy and I told you that Christmas is going to be tight. You and your sisters are only getting stockings this year. So if you go and we give you spending kala ($$), THAT'S your present this year. Are you sure this is okay?"

Suddenly I'm talking to Jeff's mom who is BEGGING me to let Bry go with them. Everything's planned and covered. They can't think of any one of Jeff's friends that they'd rather have along. Please.

What could I say? I thank her humbly for their kind gift and she thanks me for a having such a great son whom they adore. She puts Bry back on the phone.


"You're a lucky guy Grommie. I guess you better get home and pack."


So, as planned at o'dark thirty, we were dropping him off at Jeff's house, handing him the Christmas kala, and giving him all the parent-type admonitions; mind your manners, stay out of trouble, be grateful, and PLEASE call Tutu (Grandma) while you're there. Oh, and have fun.

It's been a week and it's quiet around here. Caris loves it of course because she has the bathroom to herself. She doesn't have to deal with wetsuits hanging in the shower or toilet seats being up. There are no dirty dishes lying around. The house stays cleaner longer. And it's quiet. I miss him.

The phone calls have been few, which is unusual for my son. Apparantly, he got so excited to be there that on the first day when he and Jeff went straight to the beach, he forgot his phone was in his board shorts and it went swimming with him. He's used Jeff's phone a couple of times to call. Mostly I hear about his activities from his girlfriend, who also misses him.

Last night, our neighbors brought over homemade tamales; something that Bry looks forward to every year. So while his girlfriend Samantha was over, she called him to tell him that she was eating his share of the tamales. She put him on speaker phone.

"Mmmmm..Bry, you're SO right! These tamales are awesome."

"What? The tamales came?"

"Oh yeah, and they're dank." (Dank; teenspeak for "good", "awesome", "great")

"Hey Girl, don't be eatin' all my tamales. Let me talk to my mom."

"Hi Grommie. Yep, the tamales came and they're delicious as usual. Bet you wish you were here."

"Oh yeah? Well, I just had a kalua pork manapua (my favorite kind of local "sandwich") and a lilikoi shave ice (passionfruit). Bet you wish you were here."

Dammit. Little shit.

I miss him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

He Makes His Approach...

Twenty-eight years ago, when I met my darling husband, his idea of "fun" was bowling. He bowled on Wednesday nights on a scratch league and he bowled every Friday night in the Nisei league. Nisei means "second generation". It is a Japanese language term used to specify the children born to Japanese people in their new country. No, my husband is not Japanese. But all of his best friends are. We always joke that he was the "token white boy" in the league. In fact, when we were set up for a blind date by mutual friends, in telling me about him, they described him as "Charlie only dates Japanese girls". (He denies this.) When I said, "Well..I'm not Japanese." My friend responded.."Eh, close enough!" Yes. She really said that.

Anyway, our days of courting were spent in bowling alleys. Me, sitting in the gallery watching him bowl every Wednesday and Friday night. I was 19, he was 22. I remember how excited I would be after work to get myself quickly to the bowling alley to see him. I remember the smells of the alley, I remember how EVERYONE smoked inside back then and you would leave there smelling like you had been in a bar. I remember the sounds of the pins and the thud of the balls. I remember the cocktail waitress who looked like Hallmark's Maxine and always had a ciggie hanging out of her mouth when she'd ask you.."Whaddaya want ta drink, Sweets?" But mostly, I remember being so in love that it didn't matter to me that I spent two nights a week in a stinky bowling alley.

I LOVED watching Charlie make his approach on the lane. He was smooth and his moves were fluid. But the best part was...he had the cutest ass. Back then, the popular style of pants were Angel's Flights. Those things just fit his toosh so perfectly. So deliciously. He would stand there before delivering his ball down the lane, concentrating on placement, while I concentrated on how I couldn't wait for the third game to be over so I could get him in the back seat of his Torino. (Right now, I picture Averie running to the bathroom to rinse out her eyes. Which are burning from reading what her mother just wrote.)

So, here we are, nearly 3 decades later and Charlie begins a new job in September. One of the engineers approaches him and asks him if he bowls. In an effort to get to know his co-workers and try to "fit in" at his new place of employment, he says yes, even though it's been YEARS. So the gentleman invites him to join the company team in a league. Before he knew it, he was wearing a team shirt and going to the bowling alley every Tuesday night.

For the first few weeks, Charlie comes home after bowling and heads straight to the medicine cabinet for a vicodin. Everything hurts, his scoliosis is making itself known, his hip is sore, his thumb is killing him from a crappy alley ball, etc. etc. Age sucks. But I ask him if he's having fun. "Yeah, but I can't believe how bad I bowl now. Remember when I was a scratch bowler? Remember when I could bowl over 200?" I nod, but honestly what I'm really remembering is how hot his ass looked when he bowled.

The weeks pass, and Charlie's bowling seems to be improving. His average is going up, he's talking "handicap" again. He still hurts and heads to the medicine cabinet when he gets home, but his morale has improved along with his game. In all these weeks, I haven't been to watch him bowl because I have been working late at the shop and after work, I just want to go home and be couch bait. The last couple of weeks, I fully intended to go watch him, but something prevents it. Last night, I was determined to go and watch my husband bowl. I even closed the shop a couple minutes early so that I could hopefully beat traffic.

I call Charlie and tell him I'm heading to the bowling alley. He sounds excited and gives me directions. As I walk into the doors, those familiar, unmistakeable, sights and sounds hit me and I'm suddenly 19 years old again. I look down the long row of lanes and I see his smiling face, so happy to see me and coming to greet me. He scoops me up in his arms with a big hug and says "It's been a long time since we did this. Weird, huh?" Yeah, weird.

Minus the smoke, everything else is the same. The cocktail waitress still looks like a Maxine. The greasy fries and onion rings in the red and white paper boats. The beer boys yelling at their bowling balls after they release them as if the ball can hear them and change course. High fives for a "Brooklyn". And then there's Charlie's approach. I watch as he addresses the pins and goes through his routine. Despite the addition of 28 years and a bit of weight, his method is the same as it was back then. Even though his bowling shirt covers his butt, I can still see that familiar little wiggle that set my teenage libido afire. When that ball finds those pins and they fly, I feel that sense of pride I had so long ago. That feeling that this guy is mine. I'm with him. He's with me. The years that have passed make no difference at all. The only thing that's different is that there's no Torino backseat to run to after game three.

Friday, December 12, 2008

42% More Christmassy and A Bit Off to the Left

On Thanksgiving, Averie asked me if she could take her Christmas tree "home" with her.

I felt this twinge in my stomach. It was the same twinge I got this past summer when she moved out and into her own apartment in LA. I knew it was coming, but honestly, nothing prepares you for that moment you have prepared THEM for their whole lives. You WANT them to grow into self-sufficient adults, spread their wings, and go and make a world for themselves. And yet, when that day comes, it aches.

I "dealt" with it by closing the door of her empty bedroom. You see, her room is the first room as you walk in our front door. It was quiet, naked, and obvious. I had a hard time coping with it. So, I just closed the door. For about a month it sat there. I told Charlie that we HAD to do something. It couldn't just stay like that. Everytime I walked in there to use the computer, I wanted to cry. I wanted to make it a proper office, and it must be done quickly. So that is what happened. Averie thought it was a bit too quick for her taste. To her it seemed that we couldn't wait for her to leave so that we could turn her room into a workspace. To me, it was a way to soothe my aching heart. It worked. Until last week.

I LOVE Christmas. When the kids were tiny, and we had no money, I would try every imaginable way to surround them with Christmas on a shoestring budget. We made ornaments out of old Christmas cards and scraps of fabric. We went down to the tree lot and asked for all the sawed off branches and I made wreaths and boughs and put them all around the house. One year, a friend who was a florist gave me a bunch of miniature tress that were overstocked at her shop. Enough for me to have a tree in each of the kids rooms, our room, and the kitchen. She and I made "theme" trees. We cut out blue and pink felt hearts and put them on the girls tree, we got a pack of hockey and baseball cards and tied them with red ribbons to Bry's tree. We took Celestial Seasonings tea bags that I "borrowed" from my mother-in-law's pantry and put them on the kitchen tree. It was a glorious feeling to walk around our little house and see each room aglow.

Over the years, the kids have grown, the themes of the trees have changed, but NEVER the desire to have their trees out at Christmas. Bry is always the first one to ask for his tree. Last year, when Caris changed her room colors to sage green, black, and white, she went and bought vintage-style buttons and made new black and white ornaments with black feathers for her tree. It's really beautiful. I was joyful at her enthusiasm to embrace this little tradition that started with such humble means.

Averie was in the throes of finals hell this time last year. She was in no mood for Christmas and could only concentrate on getting through her exams. I did know, however, that I wasn't going to let Christmas pass without her having her tree. But now, I struggled over a theme. She wasn't a blue and pink felt heart type of girl anymore. In fact, those blue and pink felt hearts had been put away long ago and she just had lights and a snowflake garland on her tree for years. When she came home from school for Christmas, I really wanted to surprise her with something that would make her forget her school stress. Something that would make her laugh. I remembered that she and her boyfriend Ryan are big Stephen Colbert fans. So I made a "Truthiness" tree. I spent hours cutting red, white, blue, and yellow stars and pasting little pictures of Stephen Colbert on them with Colbert slogans like "I AM America", "42% More Patriotic", and "Make Fun, Not War". I also made miniature, red foam wristbands and wrote "WRISTSTRONG" on them and strung them on the tree. I put it in her room, and waited for her to come home for Christmas. I've never seen a bigger smile. Not just hers, but Ryan's as well. They took pictures, brought friends home to see it and Ryan commented that he was jealous that his mom didn't go through that much trouble at Hanukkah for him...EVER.

It was a hit. Obviously a bigger hit than I thought. Because now she was asking to take it to her OWN home. Apparantly, when she asked, my face went sheet-white, because she waved her hand in front of my face. "Mommy, are you okay?"

"Huh?..Oh, yeah. I'm okay." But I really wasn't. I was sad. I was feeling that empty-nest pit in my stomach again. When she asked if she could go up in the attic and get her tree to take it home with her. I admit, I wasn't helpful. I didn't help her identify where it might be up in that dark, scary place. So, she left without it at Thanksgiving. I felt bad. But in "truthiness", not that bad.

Last night, Charlie brought all the Christmas bins down. I went through and found all the trees. I took each of the kid's trees into their rooms and put them on their dressers, and I brought the Truthiness Tree into the office formerly known as Averie's room. I put it on the desk and lit it up. It made me laugh out loud. It's a great tree.

Suddenly, that pit in my stomach was replaced with joy in my heart. My daughter loves this tree. She loves this tree so much, she wants to take it with her. I should be thrilled. I reflected on all the years of Christmasses; those lean, and those plenty, and of the simple traditions that my kids have adored because I adored them. I thought about how they talk of their little trees with their friends and how proud they are to tell them of the kick their mom gets out of making them, and how hopefully, one day, they will tell their own kids how much these trees mean to them.

Besides, in the spirit of Stephen Colbert, I think I'm 42% more Christmassy than your average celebrant. Which just means I get to go to the store and find a new little tree to put in Averie's old room...::ahem:: I mean, my new office.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Keeva Christmas

Wes sent this via his phone the other day. Ellie thinks he's preaching to the choir.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The New Tiki Hut

As promised, here are more pictures than you probably wanted to see. This is where we've been putting in an extraordinary amount of hours; packing, unpacking, cleaning, working on displays, etc. Not nearly as many hours as Wes as he did all the paint, trim, and build-out trying to turn this old quonset hut into a new tiki home. All the while moving stuff from the old place into storage and finding a "home" for all the furniture we couldn't sell before we moved. But, it's turned out beautifully and everyone who has walked through the door in the past few days has been mezmerized. They tell us that they feel like they've walked into a Shag-like, Disney-esque, tropical experience. That's music to my ears. I couldn't be prouder. If you're ever out our way in the OC...please, e komo mai.















But First...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Exhausted. That's the only word I can come up with. We're all spent. Wes, me, Charlie, the kids (Wes's AND mine). We've all busted ass to move the shop (www.houseoftiki.net) from the old location to the new. We've put so much stuff in storage because the new "hut" is smaller than the old place and Wes has outdone himself with the build-out on the new place. He's turned a WWII quonset hut into a tiki paradise with lots of bamboo trim and funky "Shag-Art" paint. All this, with a new puppy underfoot. In record time (less than two weeks) we've worked and worked, packed and unpacked, painted and cleaned, and stuck an "OPEN" sign outside the door. My home hasn't seen a vacuum cleaner, or a clean load of laundry in weeks.

The past year at the old place was an effort in futility. I don't know how we made it through and it was pretty evident we weren't going to survive another month there. The year before that was devastating with the failure of the coffeeshop and the subsequent sale of the property and move to an obscure, off-the-beaten-track warehouse. We had to make a tough decision; close permanently, or try again in a smaller, more visible for retail location. I told Wes I would do whatever it took not to go back to the corporate world. My luau feet CANNOT handle being put back into dress shoes.

It's been hard and kinda scary. The one day off we took last week for Thanksgiving gave me a minute to reflect. I'm so grateful for a husband that continues to support my decision to give up a financially stable job in the corporate world to pursue this not-well-paying dream to keep the Spirit of Aloha alive on the mainland. I'm so grateful for my kids who didn't have to, but came to help in the biggest ohana type way. I'm so grateful for a friend like Wes who first believed in that dream and let me take the ride with him. We've had a hard few years, but I have to believe in my heart that this will work. Tiki Gods willing.

I promise to post pics of the new place soon. Until then, please send good mana our way. We can use it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Thanksgiving Gift

My son woke me on Thanksgiving with a MySpace note. He of course had to tell me it was there. I originally created my MySpace page when they were in high school so that I could keep an eye on them (read "Spy"). But it turned out to be a great tool for communicating with them through the years. Even if they tuned my voice out, they would still read a message from me on their MySpace. As time went on, I would go there (to MySpace) less and less knowing that I gave them life tools, they were young adults, and they were gonna do what they were gonna do with or without my input. I'm glad I kept "input-ing". When things like this come through, I can't help but be thankful every day.

"Hey Happy Turkey Day. I love you very much and cant wait to eat a Turkey with you. I wanted to tell you that Im thankful to have you in my life. I wanted to remind you because its that day to tell people what youre thankful for. Im thankful for a great mom who cares about me especially when I do stupid things. Im thankfull for having someone so accepting of people in my life. Im thankful for being raised right, Im thankful that you taught me how to think for myself, teaching me good morals, and right from wrong. Im glad that you let me have a choice in what I wanted to do In life and didnt critisize me for the things I did and do. Im thankful that you cook food almost every night and have enough patience to not blow up when I leave the house without eating it, or even when I tell you that I had other plans to eat elsewhere and I didnt let you know before you cooked for me. Im glad that youre here every morning when I wake up and go to sleep even if I dont see you, Its the comfort of having a loving mother in the house that makes me feel safe. Im glad that youre most willing to pick me up when I cant drive! Im thankful that you guide me though the best directions in life. Im thankful that youre a parent that believes the pursuit of happiness is just as valuable as the pursuit of a 100 thousand dollar a year career. Im glad that you were the mother that didnt take anyones shit, and put me on timeouts instead of throwing me money, candy and toys when I commited myself to boneheaded mischief. Im glad that you taught me the proper manners every human should know and doesnt know. It seems as though every mom Ive met notices what a great job you've done at raising me. Im Thankful you've absolutly done your best in loving me as your son and taking care of your family. And when you know your child can write something as appreciative as this, then you know youve accomplished something few mothers have or ever will have in their whole entire lives.

I love you very much! Your Youngest, Bryson"

On those hard days of Motherhood when you wonder "What the hell am I doing?" and if these little lives that are depending on you to give them your very best are getting it, remember that one day, the payoff will come. Even if its through MySpace.