MMS Friends

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Work starts today on Route 4 in Yona, a mere six years after it was authorized. The entire two lane road just 50 meters from my house will be torn up and replaced with a modern 4 lane highway, with a center turn lane and sidewalks. I am pretty excited about this, the road has been among the worst on Guam for the last couple years. In just the last three months the road has really detiorated, with huge potholes opening up and long stretches were the top layer of pavement has washed off, exposing the road bed. While the traffic will suck on the road for probably the next year, I am looking forward to the construction work. Hopefully a number of people from Talofofo and Inarajan will divert to Cross Island road and lessen the traffic impact.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

It's Wednesday; tonight is the Chamorro Village Night Market. This started a few years ago to boost the shops and food vendors in the Chamorro Village. Dancing, food, music, carabao rides, arts & crafts on sale, food, people, food, a farmer's market, and oh, and did I mention food? I'll probably stop and pick something up on the way home from work. I got a hankering for Jamaican Grill jerk chicken tonight. Check out some photos of previous Wednesday nights, courtesy of the Guam Visitors Bureau.

Today's big headline photo in the Pacific Daily News: The pumpkins have arrived! Just in time for Halloween. Only 250 - and only at PriceSmart! This story takes up 50% of the front page, relegating the other headline to just a couple paragraphs. After all, who cares about the FBI investigating the Government of Guam for corruption and mishandling of funds - again. Happens all the time.

I tried to make a Mama Tita's bake-at-home pizza last night. It was not a success. But from bad experiences comes good judgement. I now know that you bake these things with the cardboard base still under the pizza - otherwise the pizza melts through the rack and gets all over the inside of your oven.

It was a disaster, melted and burning pizza everywhere inside my oven. I had a friend over last night to watch a movie and scan some documents, and we both just stared in dismay at the debacle within the oven. We both looked at the mess and said it was a waste, then reached down and started picking half-cooked toppings off the mess.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

On my drive into work this morning I noticed that the smoke was no longer billowing from the landfill. I guess the surface fires are out. Last night the smoke blanketed low areas throughout the area, searing my throat and watering my eyes. The exotic sides of island living.

Speaking of island living, the New York Times has a poignant story about Hawaiians relocating to Las Vegas. The high cost of living on the island is driving many to the desert. Substitute the word Guam for Hawaii, and the article is virtually interchangeable with the situation here in the Marianas. People are leaving in droves for the Mainland, cheaper costs, cheaper housing, and more job opportunities.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Well after three consecutive losses, my fantasy football team finally won a game this week. I am happy, doubly so since the other two teams in my division that I shared first place with lost to their opponents. That puts me in sole possession of first place in my division, and happy as a clam after a couple good trades this week. I got a solid roster now, and I think I am placed to make a solid run in the last half of the season for a playoff berth. Since the prize is now over $500, I am pretty interested in winning the league.

The Ordot dump, Guam's only landfill, is on fire once again. The whole thing is a terrible situation, Guam's greatest environmental disaster. The landfill should have been closed over a decade ago, but no one has the political will to open a new one. The politicians just talk endlessly about what to do, but never make any decisions. The EPA has sued GovGuam to close the dump, it regularly catches fires and it's leaking pollutants into the groundwater.

The struggle to close the dump is a large, tangled mess. A large part of the problem is the NIMBY effect - "Not In My BackYard." Nobody wants a new landfill near them and no senators are willing to champion the issue for fear of political suicide. A new landfill site was selected on the western end of the island, in a relatively unpopulated area near the Guatali River Valley. However, upon further study most of the land was determined to be on Navy property and not available for GovGuam's use. So that plan is in hiatus.

The other major issue in creating a new landfill is the incinerator debacle. The law mandating the creation of the new landfill includes a section on the creation of an incinerator to burn a large part of the waste material before placing the ashes in the landfill. The government signed a contract with a contractor to build and maintain the incinerator and landfill. The plan was fundamental sound; the incinerator would be a waste to energy generator, supplying much needed electricity from the burning of trash to supplement the island's power needs. However the contract has one major caveat: it stipulates that GovGuam supply a minimum amount of waste for incinerator or else we must pay a fine to the company. Many have pointed out this as a major stumbling block for the finalization of the contract, to say nothing of the protestations about the construction of an incinerator.

Personally I feel the incinerator is a good idea for Guam. It would drastically reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill. Combined with an aggressive recycling program, the island's waste troubles could be eliminated. As for the minimum waste clause in the contract, Guam could make arrangements to take the waste from the CNMI, Yap and Palau for a fee to meet the quota. All these islands are also facing a landfill crisis, especially Saipan. Their dump at Puerto Rico is literally falling into the sea just north of the port. Guam could arrange for contracts to accept the waste from these islands and burn it in our incinerator. I will admit this isn't a perfect solution, but given the realities of modern life I think this is the best possible solution for Guam.

Read the articles I linked to above; many more are available on the web. This is an issue near and dear to everyone on Guam. I woke up this morning with the smell of burning tires for the dump filling my house. I pity the poor souls that actually live next to the festering mass.

On a related trash note, my own personal pile of trash continues to grow outside my house. Trash collection is at a virtual standstill, not because of the fire at the dump, but because GovGuam's fleet of trash trucks has been reduced to only 9 out of 35 vehicles. Of course nobody bothered to order replacement parts, or even notify the public until the trash just started piling up. I am luckier than most; my landlady owns a condo with private trash pickup, so we took a couple loads of trash over to that dumpster over the weekend.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

I took a little excursion to the beach today. The fourth Micronesian Cup outrigger challenge was held today the the Outrigger Beach Hotel and Resort in Tumon. While I have lapsed from the paddling routine, I thought it would be good to check out this event. The first Micro Cup was held on Guam in 1999, then it went to Saipan in 2000 and Palau in 2001. Numerous teams from Australia, Hong Kong, Saipan, Palau and Japan are participating in the races, making this a truly international event. This morning was the sprints, the Micro Cup will culminate tomorrow with the open ocean distance race. I think it's going to be a 10 mile race from Boat Basin to Camel Rock, then north along the coast to Hospital Point and back to Boat Basin.

Friday, October 25, 2002

I got wind of a good deal for travel last night. I was told by a friend at dinner last night that Northwest is offering a special deal for Guam and Saipan residents: $239 round trip to Hawaii plus 20,000 bonus miles; or $199 to Tokyo plus 10,000 bonus miles. I just checked out the offer on Northwest's Guam page. The offer is actually Hawaii for $239 and 20,000 frequent flyer miles, or Tokyo for $199 and 10,000 frequent flyer miles. This is still a good offer and I might take them up on the offer, but it certainly isn't as good as what I originally thought.

I really want to get off Guam for Thanksgiving. Hawaii would be nice, but I am itching to get some new stamps in my passport. Maybe that deal to Tokyo; I could spend a few days in Japan. Another possibility is Hong Kong; a good friend of mine will be in Hong Kong for most of November visiting family; She's already suggested I join her for a few days. Last time I was there was 1999, but I seriously doubt Continental is offering any good deals right now. They seem to specialize in applying the screws to Guam residents and wringing every possible dollar out of this region. Ah the joys of a monopoly!

Oh I take that back. Continental is offering a good deal to Manila right now; only $295 round trip. Of course the State Department just issued a travel advisory for US citizens to stay out of the Philippines right now.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

My friend Chris woke up a couple nights ago to a harrowing sight: a SUV hurtled into the utility pole outside his house a little after midnight. The driver of the Isuzu Trooper died, two others are still in the hospital. Turns out drugs and alcohol weren't a factor in this fatality; something different for a change.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

There's this dog I pass everyday on my morning commute. She's old and haggard and doesn't look like she has a lot of life left in her. Everyday she sits in the exact same spot alongside Route 4 in Chalan Pago, watching the traffic pass her by. I first noticed her about four months ago, sitting out there at the end of a driveway. Her fixed stare down the road was a little unnerving.

On Monday this old dog was joined by a new white dog, and a peculiar drama has started to unfold. Traffic Watcher was obviously disturbed by Whitey's appearance; as I hurled past on Monday she was lying in the driveway, barking furiously at this new arrival. I got the sense that she was too old to get up and chase this interloper away. On Tuesday Whitey was there again, this time considerably closer. Traffic Watcher has the quintessential "hang dog" look on her face as she stared not at her beloved traffic, but at this new intruder. Today the new dog was even closer. I fear for Traffic Watcher's future. Will she survive this slow usurpation?

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Nothing like going on a two month cruise, in a cooler.

Monday, October 21, 2002

I feel like I just fell into a time warp. I am re-running all the queries I built in California on a different database. It's a little bit boring.

Yesterday I went online to purchase my tickets for Cairns next month. I was flabbergasted. The price for the ticket tripled in the space of one week. I guess Continental realized that it was a long weekend and people might want to actually travel somewhere. That or they realized people were cancelling their trips to Bali, so they jacked the rate up on the other routes to compensate. I don't know their reasons, but I do know the upshot for me: I'll be sitting at home watching TV Thanksgiving weekend instead of scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, exploring the Daintree Rainforest or any of the other activities I was looking forward to enjoying. Thanks Continental.

Oh, and needless to say I did not manage a trip to Saipan over the weekend. I worked around the house instead. Maybe I should go to Saipan for Thanksgiving? Maybe for my birthday? We'll see. Continental will probably triple the rates on that route too.

It's been over a week now since the bombing of the Sari Club in Bali. The initial shock has worn off for me. It was unsettling to think that a place I frequented a number of times has been bombed out of existence. I am still dismayed, especially for the Balinese. Such a warm and friendly people, and they are the ones that will suffer the most from this violence.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

I ended up watching Spy Games last night on TV. I sat down with my pizza and came across the beginning of this film on the tube. It was an engaging action thriller.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Jesus, I am tuckered out. I just spent a really busy afternoon. I water blasted the roof, the upper deck the lower patio and the kitchen porch. Sheesh, put a fork in me, I'm done. Plus I ran errands in the morning to the bank, my ISP, the auto parts store, and the post office before heading home to work on my car for a couple hours. It just turned 8:00 and I just got in from the yard. Oh yeah, I raked the cut grass into piles of mulch.

Time to eat some pizza, drink a couple beers, read some of my current book, and listen to KPRG or Radioparadise. I was thinking about heading out earlier this afternoon, but I'm too tired right now. And once I get this pizza inside of me, I'll be very loathe to move.

Pizzas ready!

Friday, October 18, 2002

Well, yesterday was interesting. I visited the optometrist for the first time in almost three years. The verdict? My eyes are still 20/20 and in good shape. The optometrist was curious about the shape of my eye since the LASIK procedure I received in 1999. My record has charts taken at the time of the LASIK that showed my before and after tomographic maps of my eyes. He wanted to check how the current tomography of my eye has changed in the nearly four years since the procedure. Unfortunately, the interface between the tomographic scanner and the computer was not functioning correctly. He promised to have me back once the system is corrected and performing normally.

The final step in the appointment was dilation and a fundus examination. Basically he put numbing drops in my eyes to relax my iris and dilate my eyes wide open. (Just thinking about it right now is making my eyes water.) Once they were dilated fully, he was able to examine the interior of my eye for defects or retinal detachment. The actual examination took just a few minutes; the hard part was the 4 hours afterwards when I couldn't see a damn thing because my eyes were so dilated. I ended up sitting in my office the rest of the afternoon with my sunglasses on, trying to focus on the monitor with little success. Luckily the effects were diminished by about 5:30 and I could safely drive home. I stayed a little later, just so I could avoid driving into the setting sun.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

I left work early yesterday. I wasn't feeling well, and frankly I was worried for my health. I was all woozy and lightheaded, and my heart was racing like crazy. I suspect it was high blood pressure or something. I went home and laid down for about three hours, that cleared it up. Other suggested theories were fatigue or jet lag from the trip, but I suspect the high blood pressure thing. I hate to admit it, but I am in a state of very poor health. It upsets me because I have always been a relatively active fellow. Football, running, hiking, paddling and biking were some of the favorite activities of mine. But I fell into a cycle of despondency and sloth in mid-2000; I stopped paddling, I stopped running, I stopped biking, I found the hikers I was spending time with offensive, so I stopped hiking, and I begged off football because I wasn't in the best shape and had no health insurance. All these things I stopped doing and I just slipped into bad health and increasingly worse shape. Now it's been over two years since I stopped all that stuff and time is catching up with me. I need to rejoin these activities, but I keep procrastinating. Mostly because work sucks the life right out of me; I just want to come home and sleep at night, forget doing anything else. That is the crucial obstacle I need to overcome. More energy, more time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Talked to the doctor this morning. I have tennis elbow. And it hurts. I need to go looking for some sort of strap to fasten to my elbow to put pressure on the tendon. I'll try K-Mart at lunch and see if they have what I need. If not, then a trip to Cruz Pharmacy should set me up. Either way it's going to be a while before the pain subsides. I was hoping for a shot or something to dull the pain.

After stopping to see the doctor, I paid a quick visit to our Optical department. My sunglasses lost their nose pad during my trip and I needed them repaired. I walked out of there with my sunglasses repaired, and an appointment for tomorrow afternoon with my eye doctor. It's been a few years since my last visit, and I am curious to see what my vision is now. Since the LASIK surgery in '99, I almost forget that I once wore glasses and sunk a large piece of cash into frames every year. Now my visits are occassional, yearly updates and the only glasses I concern myself with are sunglasses.

On the platter for today:

Now it's time for work though. I feel good. I slept for 10 hours last night; hopefully I am back on Guam time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Last night was a bit off bar hopping with the usual cohorts. We finished up at Mac & Marti's, a cigar bar in Tumon. It was my first visit to the place and I enjoyed it. I'll be back for more. Probably on Wednesday actually.

I'm thinking about trying a new selection of bars and clubs from the old habits I've been in lately. Phu's, Toy's and Areebaba's are all good places, but I am a little tired of the Thai girl bar scene. Mac & Marti's, Trades, Santa Fe, and this new place called the Fishbowl are places I am more interested in. Basically all these places feature live music most nights, a relaxed atmosphere, and a bar that sells more than Miller Lite. On the downside, these places usually lack a pool table or dart board, favored diversions of mine.

Last night we all lamented the sad state of bars on Guam compared to the venerable Tahiti Rama and long defunct Signatures. Those were some good watering holes, with real character and many good times.

For the second week in a row, it looks like my fantasy football team is going down in defeat. That lets all the other mopes in the league catch up and join me in first place. Not cool. Especially since several of my key players are injured and my defense is falling apart. I might be fading heading into the middle of the season. Oh well, my dreams of fantasy glory is dwindling.

Monday, October 14, 2002

I had this crazy idea to renew my library card at the Guam Public Library yesterday. As always, the pathetic state of the library is enough to elicit tears. I used to have a library card, though I lost it several years ago. Something compelled me to stop off and get a new card. I walked inside and immediately smelled the familiar musty smell inherent it that building. No librarian was on duty at the front desk, which I found curious. I ventured upstairs to the reference desk and found nobody staffing there either. I assumed they were on break, so I just headed into the paltry stacks looking for Pale Fire, the book I wanted to check out. It wasn't there, but I picked up a worn hardcover copy of Nabakov's Dozen and gasped when the pages just fell out of the cover onto the floor. Every book in that library is in a similar state of distress. I think they all date from about 1955 to 1960, probably the last time the library had a budget to acquire books. I wandered to the periodicals section and looked at the magazines, none of which were current issues.I wandered back to the front desk after about 20 minutes and discovered no librarian had appeared. I left without my library card, but with a grim sense of the impending doom that faces this island. The library has been treated like a red-headed stepchild by each successive administration on Guam, and the neglect truly shows. The building is decrepit, the books are crumbling, the magazines are out of date, and the staffing is non-existent. Five one-room branch libraries exist in various villages around Guam, but those are in even worse condition. At this point it would probably make more sense to consolidate all collections and staff at the main library in Hag�t�a. The library is dying a slow death right now, and spreading the sparse collections and staff to man far flung branch offices is not a good solution.

Back to work

Sunday, October 13, 2002

I was out with some friends last night and I think we made the decision to go to Saipan next weekend. I vaguely recall making that decision. I hope it pans out, a little weekend get-away sounds good to me.

We ended up at this place called Casa last night. I used to frequent that bar in my younger days, but last night was the first time I'd been inside in six years. Still pretty much the same thing, with the same crowd. Only I am older now, and all the girls are younger.

I made reservations for Cairns, Australia yesterday. I wanted Bali, but the ticket dates were all wrong. Turns out it was a good thing. Bali has been wracked by explosions in the last 24 hours, all deliberate terrorist attacks. Dozens are dead, many more are injured. I never thought such a thing would happen in Bali, it is such a peaceful place.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

I returned from a long journey yesterday evening. I enjoyed myself on the trip, that I can't deny. But nothing compares to the feeling of coming home and flopping into your own bed at night. I am glad to be back home, even though it is messy and cluttered. It's my place, a reflection of me.

The flights I took to get here were arduous. Next time I am flying Continental, and I am shooting for seat upgrades to Business First. That 12 hour flight from Los Angeles to Narita is just a killer. The last two hours I was going stir crazy on that airplane. My daggan was killing me in that seat. I hate flying coach, especially on those chock full flights that Northwest runs between Japan and the States. I'd rather take Continental and layover in Hawaii between 7 and 8 hour flights instead of the mammoth 14 hour run out of Japan. God that sucks.

And to add insult to injury, the return trip to Guam sucked up a week of vacation time. Two overnight layovers, one in Los Angeles and another in Narita. And both times I was too tired to go out and explore - I just took a shower and slept.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Another dinner out with a former Guam friend. Another evening of bittersweet remembrance.

I just can't stay away from the Yardhouse - tonight was my third visit to one of those establishments. I met Sumiko and her boyfriend Go for dinner in Costa Mesa.

Tomorrow night I leave for St. Louis and the family. Updates will be infrequent for the next week.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

My brother's house is full of love.

I drove through the dusky landscape, through green orchards of avocadoes, across deserts and pine forests. There nestled against a wildlife preserve atop a hill was my brother's house. Inside I found happy children, an expectant mother, and my brother. I met my godson for the first time in almost five years and I felt the awful isolation, the price I have paid for my life in the islands. I was amongst my family, blood of my blood, and I could see how much I missed living across the abyssal sea.

It was a bittersweet farewell to that family. I hope I get the chance to visit more often.