Monthly Archives: August 2004

Word Of The Day

Picked up a new word today, one that is particularly apropos this week:kakistocracy – Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

Does that describe George Bush and Dick Cheney? Is the Pope catholic?

Drunken Idiots=Dead Heads

A potent reason not to drink and drive. Or at least don’t puke while you’re drunk buddy’s driving. Police in Georgia arrested a man for a grisly accident. While driving home from the bars last weekend the passenger needed to vomit because he drank so much. He leaned his head out the truck and the driver obligingly pulled up onto the shoulder of the road. Unfortunately he clipped a guard wire of a telephone pole, decapitating his best friend in the process. He was so messed up he drove home and passed out, only to wake in the morning when the neighbors found a headless corpse in the cab of his pickup and called the police. The cops found him still drunk and covered in blood. Sheesh. A night to remember indeed.

Little Shaker

I left work early yesterday. I have some sort of cold/flu thing, and I felt the need to rest yesterday afternoon. I took a long nap from about 2:00 until 6:30. It felt good and I only woke up one time; during the 4.6 earthquake that shook the island around 5:00 yesterday afternoon. Funny, I could just feel it. I actually woke up about 20 seconds before the earthquake, laid there thinking ‘earthquake,’ and then the shaking started. There must have been some initial jolt that roused me. It was nothing major, after it stopped I turned over and went back to sleep.

Tibet Exhibit In Orange County

The Potala Palace Before it becomes completely irrelevant I thought I should mention this little tidbit from my trip last month. I saw this exhibit on my last day in California: Tibet! Treasures from the Roof of the World runs through September 12th. The show contains treasures from the Potala Palace, the seat of power in Tibet, and the Norbulingka, the traditional summer home of the Dalai Lamas. The exhibit consists of ritual objects and gifts to the Dalai Lamas from neighboring realms, Tibetan statuary and a collection of clothes and jewelry befitting a Tibetan noble. I was enraptured by a small statue of the Green Tara, it was so exquisitely detailed and bejeweled.

The Tibet show, along with an exhibit of children’s portraits from around the world, was really good, but the rest of the museum left a little to be desired. Mostly bad paintings of the Southern California surf and empty freeways – like that was ever going to happen. Some of the historical pieces from Old Mexico and the early 1800’s were interesting though, but most of the permanent collection was disappointly bad art.

It was more than I expected in the middle of Santa Ana though. Orange County struck me as a vast wasteland of tract housing, shopping centers and fast food outlets. The archetype for so much that has gone wrong with the American landscape over the last fifty years. Koyaanisqatsi incarnate.

A Looser Shade Of Pale Ale

Sirena Pale Ale I think I mentioned the Mermaid Tavern before, or at least the excellent beers they serve. It is the recently opened pub in the GCIC building in Agaña that features microbrewed craft beers. The tavern is the public face of the Great Deep Brewing Company, a small microbrewery that has been around for a few years now.

The tavern opened a few months ago and while business isn’t booming, the place appeals to a certain clientele. The menu is mostly burgers and sandwiches, but a couple pizzas and salads are available. The real attraction to me is the beer.

The Beer
They currently serve six beers, ranging from a light pilsener to a dark oatmeal stout. All the brews are delicious, far better than anything else available on the island.

  1. Knapstein Pilzen Ale – the lightest of the beers, crisp and clean without overpowering the taste buds. A little too similar to mass produced beers like Budweiser, but it’s probably really good on a hot afternoon after working in the yard. Call it good lawnmower beer.
  2. Sirena Pale Ale – My favorite beer. Nicely hopped, with a cleansing bitterness and a touch of malty sweetness. It cuts to the chase and lets you enjoy a tasty pale ale on Guam. I can drink a lot of this, and I have.
  3. Dos Amantes Irish Red Ale – Moving on down the line, this tasty ale is also one of my favorites. The red ale is obviously sweeter than the pale ale, but it has a nice hoppy flavor mixed in with the malty sweetness. I usually finish off my drinking with one of these.
  4. Man Hita Scottish Ale – A tad darker, a malty Scottish ale with lots of character. A very good beer with the pub food they serve at Mermaid Tavern.
  5. Maga’lahi Dry Stout – I’ve actually not tried this, so I cannot comment on the beer. Kirino seemed to enjoy it though.
  6. MCD Oatmeal Stout – The darkest and strongest beer on the list, Marine Corps Drive Oatmeal Stout is a meal in a glass. I’ve got to admit this isn’t my favorite. It’s not a bad stout. It tastes good and I know it’s one of the more popular beers but it just doesn’t compare to Guinness.

That’s all that is currently available. I’ve had a hefeweizen they brewed a year or so ago and it was a tasty thing. And I know they made a brown ale at one time that was pretty good. I wish they’d whip up another batch of the wheat beer though, that’s another one of my favorites.

A pale ale and a pizza The Food
Now onto the food. The menu tends toward a lunch time fare. A variety of burgers and po’ boy sandwiches constitute the bulk of the menu. There’s nothing wrong with that, they do make a tasty hamburger. I tried a mushroom burger a last week and it was pretty damn good. The week before I tried a yellowfin po’ boy and it was so-so. It left me with a ‘is that all?’ feeling after I ate it. If I try a po’ boy again it will be the sausage sandwich, it’s hard to go wrong with sausage, peppers and onions on a bun.

My last meal at Mermaid Tavern was a shrimp, pine nut and goat cheese pizza with pesto sauce base. Now this was a winner. The crust was crispy, the tangy cheese contrasted nicely with the warm, oily pine nuts. A very good pizza. Now if they only had some pupus on the menu I’d be totally happy. Some sashimi, chicken satay or beef kelaguen. Finger food that goes good with beer. I had an excellent lunch at a brewpub in Seattle last month. Rock Bottom Brewery offered two great fresh baked pretzels on the appetizer menu. It was so huge I only ate half of one. And nothing beats a fresh pretzel with beer.

In a previous incarnation, the Great Deep Brewing Company offered their beers at Le Tasi Bistro. One of the pleasanter things to do was spend Thursday nights at Le Tasi for tapas and music from the Pago Bay Reefers. The tapas menu and those craft beers was a mighty combination. If they could try and recreate that ambiance at Mermaid Tavern, I am sure it would be a hit.

Kirino downs an oatmeal stout I’m trying to do my part for this tavern. I know they are relying on word of mouth to build a clientele, so the last couple times I visited I brought along someone else interested in good beers. A couple weeks ago I brought a coworker to the pub, if only for a couple beers. This last Wednesday Kirino came with me and it turned into quite an evening. We were there for almost six hours, and finished off the night playing jun ken po for pilzeners. It was a good night, full of story and memories. Just the kind of night I expected a place like the Mermaid Tavern to provide. I must shamefully admit I dawdled for some time before making myself known there. I hesitated, and let me explain why.

I’ve spent a good deal of time in bars, taverns, pubs and alehouses for almost two decades. Fancy bars full of yuppies, sports bars populated with chugging frat boys, dance clubs with the beautiful people, edgy urban basement bars and their grungey clientele, beach bars with tiki torches and sand between my toes, karaoke clubs, Irish pubs and that wonderful Guinness, and of course more than my fair share of dives. And I enjoyed them all. Plenty of good times. I can honestly say I love beer. And my ever expanding waist line can attest to that. Hell, I’m drinking a beer right now.

There’s a small movie I really enjoyed called Burnzy’s Last Call. It’s part of a genre of movies I like to call barfly flicks. Steve Buscemi is the prince of barfly flicks. Think Tree’s Lounge or the eponymous Barfly. The entire movie takes place in a bar, over the course of a day. People come and go, a parade of characters with colorful backstories. The only constants are the bartender stuck pulling a double shift and the rummy nursing beers at the end of the bar. As day turns to night, the crowd picks up and tensions develop. The title character, Burnzy, finally appears in one powerful scene. He staggers into the bar, a raging alcoholic, and begins to berate the bartender, an old acquaintance. “Gimme a drink! One drink,” he cries. The bartender snaps and begins to pour the mother of all cocktails into a beer bucket; a bottle of gin, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of tequila, another bottle of vodka, some lemons, ice, a splash of tonic. Burnzy stands there looking at this concoction, face to face with oblivion from a drink that will surely slay him. And the temptation is palpable on the face. Annihilation or apotheosis?

Kirino hoists a pale ale Perhaps I’m trying to say I can see my immolation in the bottom of a beer glass, in the limpid depths of a bottle of Scotch. The Scylla of Glenmorangie and Charydbis of Mermaid Tavern beckon to me. I have a deep dread that I will wind up a rummy spending my hours at a bar, my world dwindled down to the next drink. I have little fear of Guam’s numerous neighborhood dive bars; the beer is usually ‘both kinds’ – Budweiser and Miller Lite, and the general ambiance doesn’t appeal to me. Dark, dank, dusty and depressing ain’t really my thing. And the trendy spots in Tumon are not exactly my cup of tea either, too many of the shiny, beautiful, empty people there.

But the Mermaid Tavern strikes just the balance I like. Good music, good conversation, good food and great beer. It would be far too easy for me to become a habitué of the place, parking my duff in the same seat on the bar every night after work. That worries me. I am hoping they ramp up production and start offering bottled beer, that might keep me out of the place every night. The Karl Strauss Brewery I visited in Orange County last month had a cool feature; the sold jugs of beer to interested customers. They returned the empty jugs and got fresh beer straight from the tap bottled in a new jug for about $9-$14. I’m talking a jug of fresh beer. Sounds like a good plan to me. I know the P.U.B., Guam’s original microbrewery that shut down back in ’98, got a law passed to allow for the bottling and sale of locally produced microbrews. For a while I was buying bottle of P.U.B.’s GPA Dark (a great name for a beer on Guam) at Payless, then bringing the empties up to the P.U.B. in Harmon for a refill. I enjoyed fresh beer at home, and I didn’t have to feel like a barfly wasting my evenings brewpub. I think I’ll mention that to them next time I drop in, like tomorrow night.

Guam Catches A Break

Guam and the Marianas caught a break this weekend. Tropical Storms 21W, expected to worsen and pass directly over the islands, instead fell apart and was downgraded to a tropical depression. I even saw a bit of sunshine this afternoon, and patches of blue sky.

All is not rosy however. A storm is developing out by Kwajalein, and it is already christened with a name – Songda. Current projected storm tracks have it passing well north of the Marianas, but everyone on Guam will be paying close attention to this storm. It looks to be a doozy.

Tales Of Typhoon Chaba

Rota was heavily damaged by Typhoon Chaba. Hundreds of homes destroyed and widespread destruction. Reports of the storm’s passage are making it down to Guam, even while relief groups like the Ayuda Foundation and the Red Cross are fanning out across the CNMI helping people put their lives back together.

The ceaseless churning of the ocean produced another storm for the Marianas this weekend. I will never understand how these things always manage to hit on the weekends and never during the work week.

A Prince Of Ozark

Ozark Mountain HardwoodGreat little piece on NPR’s All Things Considered today about Leo Drey and his vast tract of forest in the Ozarks. Drey started buying land in the Ozarks in 1951, and is the largest private landowner in the state. That first purchase was for 3,000 acres of land, priced at $4 an acre. “I didn’t see how you could go wrong when you could buy land for $4 an acre,” he said. He acquired the bulk of his land in 1954, when he purchased 90,000 acres of forest from National Distillery. His Pioneer Forest is the largest private tract of land in the state of Missouri, and home to a sustainable forestry program. He continued the distilleries practice of selective cutting, dividing the land into 1/5 acre plots monitored every 5 years for health, size, growth and quality of trees. Only select trees are culled from the plots every 20 years, making the forest a model of sustainability.

His love of the forest was set as a young man, floating on canoes along many of the Ozarks rivers. Drey was active in creating the Wild & Scenic Riverways on the Current and Jack’s Fork Rivers during the 1960’s, and worked hard for St. Louis County to establish parks and recreation areas.

Not everyone appreciated his conservation efforts though.

He met and married her rather late in life for those times. His mother had worried that Leo’s early preoccupation with buying forest land might never lead him to marriage.

When he first took his mother to the Ozarks to view his property, Drey proudly showed off his land and forests. At one point, he embraced a tree to show her its girth. She responded, “That’s about the saddest sight I’ve ever seen.”

Kay, his eventual wife, needed to prove her worth as a canoe paddler before he married her, and the family spent many a night camped on a gravel bar under the stars.

The radio piece focused on Drey’s donation of Pioneer Forest, all 146,000 acres of land, to a private foundation that will carry on his vision of sustainable forestry after his passing. In addition to the forest, the LAD Foundation will also carry on the Continuous Forest Inventory, an impressive dataset on those 1/5 acre plots that is an invaluable research tool for conservation officials and universities.

Pioneer Forest is open to the public for day hikes and longer backpacking routes. 13 miles of the Ozark Trail pass through Pioneer Forest, linking the Mark Twain National Forest to the north with the Ozark National Scenic Riverways to the south.

Surfer Lost In Typhoon Chaba

The high waves churned up by Typhoon Chaba proved irresistible to four surfers yesterday afternoon. The conditions were too rough and Search & Rescue had to come pull them out. Two were rescued by jetski, a third was plucked from the waves by a Navy HC-5 helicopter, but the fourth surfer is still missing.

This after six people were lost at sea from Tingting in June. The surf on the western side of Guam has been huge the last few days because of the storm. No fear I guess.

Power’s Back

Power was restored in Yoña around 21:30 tonight. I missed the exact time, I was busy watching The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I scored the extended special DVD whilst I was in Orange County a few weeks ago. Tonight seemed like a good time to settle back and watch a movie.

Anyway, I noticed the power was back on when I switched DVD’s. Not a bad turnaround for GPA, less than 24 hours. I only wish all typhoons were this easy. Never lost water, power out for 18 hours, phone service the entire time. I can only say Guam got very lucky this time.

I had company too, Kirino showed up and drank all my beer (with a little help from me of course). We’re hooking up again on Wednesday for a round at this new tavern I’ve been meaning to mention; look forward to pictures and a complete write-up then.

Sorta Still Here

Okay, the sorta calm after the storm. My power went out last night around 12:30 am. The winds continued with harsh fierceness until about 6:30 am, went I finally went belly up on the sofa and fell asleep. Spent the night mopping up the water that was flowing through my shower spigot/front door. It’s time for a typhoon shutter on the entrance for sure. Every time there’s a storm it floods.

Anyway, I slept until about 9:00, when Dianne woke me. Time to open the shutters. Surveyed the damage; a few branches broken, a litter of leaves in the backyard, but that was about it. We got lucky.

Went into work, no damage at my workplace so it was back home after a bit of rubbernecking. Took the long, long way, down through Merizo. Same problems as always down there. The road past Achang Marina was all messed up because of debris in the culvert they built down there about seven years ago. Another example of bad planning. Every time it rains that culvert fills with downed bamboo and the whole area becomes a muddy lake. PUAG crews were on the scene clearing the debris, but the road was still a muddy mess. That little mess was the worst that I saw though. Seas were really, really rough on the western shores, probably 15-20 foot waves on the reef line.

Took a nap when I got home, then spent most of the afternoon monkeying with the generator. There’s power now, just enough to run the fridge, some lights, a couple fans and my laptop/DSL modem! I’m hoping GPA gets Yona connected to island power later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Guam got lucky, not too much damage from the winds. I didn’t see any downed power lines or poles, and no homes blown apart by the winds. I don’t think the wind ever got above 60-65 mph last night. From all reports, Rota took the brunt of Typhoon Chaba, with Tinian and Saipan also receiving major damage.

22:25 & Still Here

The power went out for about 20 minutes an hour ago. It came back on, and the storm doesn’t seem to have gotten any worse in the last couple hours.

The storm seems to have stalled over Rota. I hope everyone is okay on that island, it is getting pummelled. The last storm track show Chaba slowly pulling away to the northwest.

19:20 & Still Here

Winds are ferocious outside right now. The whole house is rattling with the wind. As much as it sucks here, I am oh so glad I ain’t on Rota right now. Typhoon Chaba is crawling just north of the island. I think Rota’s had eye wall for a couple hours now, judging by the Doppler radar.

One bit of good news. GPA is hopeful they can keep the southern end of Guam energized. I’m thankful for the little things at this point. I’m still cooking up frozen foods with abandon today – odds are they will just go to waste in the coming days.

I sandbagged the front door with bags of potting soil, it seems to cut down on the seepage into the house.

Stormy Weather

Well I take back the negative things I spoke about the meteorologists. It looks like the typhoon is actually turning to the northwest, and the eye will pass between Rota and Tinian this evening. The weather is still a bitch here, with winds probably about 50 mph with gusts to 60-65 mph. The power is still holding up, but I expect it to cut out in about 15 minutes. I have a foolproof guarantee of that.

See, Stalag 17 is showing on AMC right now, and I am cursed to never watch the final 20 minutes of that movie. Something always happens, bad tape at MCV, power outage, faulty DVD, bad videotape. Seriously, this has happened at least six times. And since it is the Christmas party in the barracks, and everybody thinks Sefton is the bad guy, the power is destined to go off any minute now, right about the time he fingers Peter Graves.

National Weather Service Strikes Out Again

Seriously, NWS is worthless. Absolutely worthless. For the last 24 hours any idiot could see the typhoon was heading right for Guam. “Oh no, it’s going to turn to the northwest,” said the meteoridiots at the National Weather Service. Now it’s Sunday afternoon and it is pretty fucking apparent that Typhoon Chaba is right on top of us. No shit Sherlock.

Yet again it is obvious that listening to meteorologists instead of Barbara White is a mistake. Just like Pongsona, when they insisted the storm wasn’t going to hit Guam, right up until the eye wall struck the island.