About Me

Pearl City, HI, United States

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ground Golf, Another Fun Thing To Do in Hawai'i


Copyright © 2018
By Ralph F. Couey

Yes, it's a game.  And it's fun, so there.

Seriously, Ground Golf was invented in Japan, where it is huge.  The game is played mainly by that class of people known as "the elderly," but just because the participants are past their best years, don't think for one moment that there's not some serious competing going on.

Every Wednesday morning, I take my mother-in-law to Blaisdell Park in Pearl City, Hawaii, a lovely piece of greenspace that was once called (and still referred to as) Pearl Harbor Park.  Because it sits on the shore of the forenamed historic body of water.  There, we meet about a dozen of her friends and acquaintances, fellow players.  What follows is actually fairly simple, but complex.

The game is a kind of mix of regular golf and mini-golf.  The equipment required to set up the course is simple and temporary.

The Hole.  And the ball.  In the hole.

Age and Surrendering

Copyright © 2018
By Ralph F. Couey

I have heard that while aging is inevitable, being old is a matter of choice.  It is an aphorism rooted in a perhaps stubborn way of declaring that one won't willingly give in to the dark side of passing years.  But for all the courage inferred, it may also be a bit of useless arrogance.

This has been on my mind since the death of my father some 14 years ago.  He was for my entire life a man of immense dignity and intelligence; one whose commitment to matters moral, ethical, and spiritual made an indelible impression on me, and frankly dwarfs anyone else I've ever known.  But the last two years of his life was a time of heartache for me.  His once-prodigious memory was rapidly fading.  He knew us, but not much beyond that.  Physically, his decline was rapid, to the point where a simple trip to the bathroom involved a small portable crane device.  It's hard to assess how aware he was of these things happening to him, but it's possible that his decline in mental faculties was in fact a small blessing.

Cheryl's mom is approaching 92 years old, and stubborn as the day is long.  She is also having memory problems, mainly involving the humorous aspects of "where did I put that thing?"  She had insisted on continuing to drive until the first week we were here.  She was out doing errands when she got confused, made a wrong turn, and when trying to correct her routing, cut a turn way short and gently nosed into another vehicle waiting at a stop sign.  As accidents go, it was minor -- the airbags did not deploy on either vehicle -- but the incident was enough to put enough fear into her to willingly give up her keys.  Her car is repaired and back in the carport, but still she occasionally makes noise about driving again.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Making Angels in a Paradise Sky

Copyright © 2018
by Ralph F. Couey

These are the dog days of summer in Hawai'i, when the cooling northeast trades die away and the humidity rises with the afternoon heat.  In any other place, one could look to the calendar and assume that the cool of autumn lies just over the horizon.  But here, the weather really doesn't change all that much.  I've often said that you could tape record the weather forecast, replay it every day and you'd be accurate at least 310 days of the year.  The biggest difference between winter and every other season is the increased rainfall, and slightly cooler temperatures.  But if you didn't grow up here, you might not even notice the change.  

Being closer to the equator, the sun is far more direct, and many a visitor has suffered the painful indignity of sunburn as a result.  Also, if you come here from a more temperate climate, you might find the heat and humidity to be an annoyance.  But iff you live in a place like this long enough, your skin pores begin to open up, and thus you become acclimatized at least to a point.  A normal day which would be uncomfortable anyplace else, becomes simply normal.

When the sun begins to slide behind the Wai'anae Mountains, and if the winds are blowing at all, the air begins to cool down nicely.  Not October in Denver nice, but still...  All homes here are of single-wall construction with no insulation.  But they still tend to retain a lot of heat even after the sun goes down.  Even with fans, a living room in Honolulu is not the most comfortable place to be.  

Cheryl and I have taken to spending the evenings out on the back patio to escape the still-uncomfortable heat inside the house.  We set up our chairs in that spot where the breeze wafts through between the house and the back fence.  There we talk, read, write, cogitate, or just vegetate as allow the breeze to make us more comfortable.  

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Forgotten Day

Yep...204 years young
Key's original penned manuscript
Maryland Historical Society

Copyright © 2018
by Ralph F. Couey

September 14th will slip by this year without much notice, not surprising given the drama in Washington and the landfall of two hurricanes, one in North Carolina and another in Hawai'i.  But on that morning in 1814 on board a British warship, an American lawyer, detained by the British, witnessed a heart-stirring sight that inspired the poem that eventually became our National Anthem.

Two years into the War of 1812, British from September 13-14, 1814 conducted a night-long bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, the prelude to an assault on the Port of Baltimore, and an attack on the city itself.  Key and a friend had been detained aboard the British flagship after pleading for the release of an American physician on the strength that he had treated wounded British soldiers and sailors as well as Americans.  While aboard, the two Americans were present during the pre-invasion staff conference where they heard the complete plans for the operation, hence the detention.

Rain and fog moved in, but the barrage was conducted despite the lowering weather.  As daylight faded, the last thing Key saw was the small "storm flag" stars and stripes fluttering from the converted ship's mast over the fort.  All night long, the British cannons thundered away.  Estimates of the number of rounds expended run into the thousands.  At times, air bursts allowed brief glimpses of that tattered flag still flying, signifying that the vital fort was still in American hands.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Copyright © 2018
By Ralph F. Couey

It is a quiet, peaceful morning.  Outside my window the twittering of birds is occasionally counterpointed by the mournful sound of a dove.  In one way, it is the calm before a powerful storm, set to arrive early tomorrow morning.  But it is not just a day of preparation.  It is also a day of remembrance.

Seventeen years ago on another beautiful Tuesday morning, men, consumed by hate and twisted by an ideology that made a religion of peace into an excuse to kill, flew airliners into buildings in New York City and Northern Virginia.  A fourth aircraft dove into an abandoned strip mine in the Pennsylvania countryside, as a group of ordinary people, passengers and crew, fought back.  2,996 innocent people died that day, and in the years since, over 1,400 first responders have died, apparently poisoned by the rubble they worked so hard to remove.

The calendar calls today "Patriot Day" A Day of Service and Remembrance."  And there will be ceremonies in New York, at the Pentagon, and at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  They will not get the attention and focus as in years past.  As the sage once said, "Time moves in one direction, memories in another."  Children born that year will graduate high school come springtime.  For them and millions more, it is not the searing memories, but the colder, less personal readings of history through which they will remember.  

Time has, in some ways, closed the open wound we suffered.  But the scar that remains has already begun to fade.  Today, politicians and pundits will use 9/11 to launch new attacks against each other, urging and manipulating the rest of us to embrace their hate and anger, and join the ever-widening divide.  The sun will set today on a nation wrapped in mutual loathing, divided perhaps beyond redemption

Monday, September 10, 2018

Round Two for Paradise

Copyright © 2018
By Ralph F. Couey

Between August 22 and 28, Hurricane Lane battered the Hawai'ian island chain with high winds and record rainfall, ranging from 52 inches on the Big Island to just under 10 on O'ahu.  People are still digging out and the soil remains saturated.  Now, some two weeks later, the state is once again bracing for the onslaught of a major storm.

Hurricane Olivia, as of this morning, is about 650 miles from Honolulu.  Still rated a Category 1 with sustained winds of 85 mph, it is expected to weaken into a strong tropical storm by the time it begins to affect the islands.  A tropical storm warning has been issued for the islands of Hawai'i and Mau'i, and a TS watch for O'ahu.  The storm will begin to affect the state Tuesday, with high winds and heavy rainfall.  While not as much as Lane, it will nonetheless be an an unwanted 15" to 20" addition to areas on the Big Island that experienced some 52 inches of rain less than two weeks ago.  

Governor David Ige has declared a state of emergency and local and state officials are urging residents to prepare.  Working at Target last night, I did see a slight increase in water purchases, but considering that folks really stocked up for Lane, it seems as if everyone is about ready.  The only task remaining is to remove loose items from around the houses and properties.  For this island, the forecast is 40 mph winds and 4" to 8" of rain.  Mau'i and The Big Island may get as much as 20" of rain.  Complicating matters is that the storm has slowed from 15 knots to around 8 knots and is expected to slow even more, which means that the effects of the storm will linger much longer, increasing the risk of flash flooding and landslides.

Now this situation is passing almost undetected by the rest of the country because a truly monster storm, Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall in the Carolinas as a strong Category 4, perhaps even a Cat 5, affecting an area ranging from Georgia to Washington DC.  The storm will push inland, bring torrential flooding rains as far as the Ohio Valley.  Tens of millions are in the threat cone for this storm, and since the media capitols are all in that area, Florence will occupy the nation's attentions.  But while Olivia is a far less powerful system, it is nonetheless poised to impose significant damage to Hawai'i.  

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Aloha as a Home

Copyright © 2018
By Ralph F. Couey

Tomorrow marks the end of our first week in Honolulu, and as in all moves, this has been a time of transition.  We arrived last Wednesday after a six-hour flight from Seattle, anxious to finally get off a plane knowing that we wouldn’t have to board another one the next day.  Our seven suitcases and one box, all carefully balanced to stay below the 50-pound limit, arrived with us and the five boxes we had sent on ahead were here waiting for us.  Our car had arrived on time, despite the presence of Hurricane Lane and Cheryl’s oldest sister picked us up at the airport using our Santa Fe, and thank goodness she did because we needed every cubic inch of space to load our stuff.

I guess the first thing I noticed was the weather.  Honolulu Airport is different in that the walkways from the gates to baggage claim are open to the outside air, which while warm and humid, is still pleasant thanks to the northeast trade winds.  I’m pretty sure the Hawai’i tourism folks had a say in that particular architectural choice.  Of course, once I started humping luggage out of the terminal and into the car, I sweated up pretty quickly.

When we arrived at the home of Cheryl’s mom, with whom we’ll be staying during our sojourn here, she came out to greet us, small, thin, fragile, but still a dynamo of stubborn energy despite her nearly 92 years.  It was good to see family again, and looking at Cheryl, I could see the joy and happiness written in her countenance.  She was home.