Dear Switchback friends,
As I write this, the sounds of the Pacific come in through the screen door. Out the other door are the highway sounds, cars going by at 30 miles per hour, heading off to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a luau. By the look of the brochure costs, it is the tourists who are once again to be eaten alive.
The north shore of Oahu is a great place to “hunker down” with my family. We just finished a dinner of pompano fish, freshly caught by a young father and his three sons out by the coral reef. Aine watches “Wally Kazam” on television. As I look at Annie’s laptop monitor, it reads 1:16 a.m. back in Chicago. One more weekend and we will be back in the Midwest, where spring will welcome us with her freezing rain and straining daffodils, yearning to be warm. I shut that thought out of my mind and wonder, “Will that dog be back again?”
When people land in Hawaii, the pilot usually says, “Welcome to Paradise,” and in so many ways, the pilot is right. Even the threat of storms here means that there might be some rain (a Hawaiian Blessing as it is called), followed by a lot of sunshine. The weather is not like the storm forecast in the Midwest that shows an unbroken front that often stretches from Manitoba to Texas, snowing in some places, flooding in others, and generally making half a continent miserable. Here, even miserable is tempered by sunshine. The rain falls warm and forgiving. It is Paradise.
But, every morning outside my lanai, there it was. A deposit made by a local dog, strategically located to ensure that the unsuspecting tourist will step in it. This dog revealed itself on day two of our stay here. It is a big, chunky black Lab. The owners appear to be native Hawaiian and are affable enough as they go chasing down this dog. “Oh, there you are!” the dog’s owner declared, deftly sidestepping the mound of Mahalo it left. The lab wore a thick red collar, at least the first day, when the owners reunited with their dog. Later, it went commando.
“Are you going to say something to them about the dog?” Annie asked me. I was immediately defensive. First of all, the idea of any confrontation over dog poop is something to be avoided when on vacation. I saw the owners bundle the overweight dog into the pickup truck where it waddled to the tailgate and looked at me with its big yellow unblinking eyes.
It was sizing me up and I could tell the dog was laughing. “I’ll be back to alter your Aloha, haole,” was what he was saying to me, as the truck turned and zoomed off at 10 miles per hour, which for Oahu is making a statement.
The dog was gone, but there remained his calling card. Now there are a bunch of staff guys at this rental property. Their neon lime green polyester work shirts attempt to create a jovial vibe as they walk around the property, occasionally with a rake in hand, but most time, it seemed they were just walking around the property.
“Sir,” I said to the guy who slowly walked within striking distance of the Lab-lava, “this black Lab was running around and he deposited this big business outside my lanai.” He rolled his eyes toward heaven and sighed.
“Yeah, we are trying to get that dog. Don’t even mention that dog,” he said as he walked off, pleading to the Hawaiian gods with his hands outspread. The dog doody was still there, a prodigious bit of island in a sea of short green beach grass.
“All right,” I said to my family, “I am going to clean this up.” I found an old dustpan that was used to empty coal ash from the grills and walked over to the pile. Dressed in my swimsuit, with my very pale skin glistening with 500 SPF lotion, I slowly attempted to coax the poodle-strudel onto the coal ash dustpan. I felt like I was on a curling squad.
I pushed against the resisting beach grass and tried not to roll this canine-cannoli across the entire yard. Finally, I had the object of my annoyance in the dustpan and took it to a nearby trash container.
I felt like I did a good deed for everyone there and even rinsed the grass down for good measure.
The next day, after waking up to a glorious Easter sunrise and watching the deep blue rollers crossing the reef at high tide, I sipped my Kona coffee and counted my blessings.
Then the dog came back. Commando.
He ambled to the exact same spot where he done his job the day before and squatted. I ran out onto the lanai. “Bad dog,” I said, “get out of here.” The dog looked at me with his yellow unblinking eyes wearing a blank expression. All my yelling and gesticulating were part of his entertainment as he made another Magnum-oh my.
As I was rounding the gate to shoo him off the property, he was done. He smiled at me, quite happy that he showed me a bit of “hope you are enjoying your holiday” and for good measure squirted around the palm tree where I had planned to hide Easter eggs for Aine.
The Lab ambled onto the beach and walked away as I waved down another guy wearing a neon lime green polyester shirt.
“That black Lab was back,” I said to him as he walked around without any rake. “He did his business back in the same spot.”
The guy looked at me, and perhaps because it was Easter, refrained from saying anything other than, “We know about that dog and are getting it under control.”
“Well, I don’t want my daughter to go running across the lawn and step on some ‘under control’,” I said, trying to be light about it. He looked at me and turned away.
I decided to go to Church and pray about it. The Lord works in mysterious ways, I figured. He might work on this, too?
Back from church, I was surprised to see that no one had moved that Waimea-watchit. It sat, baking in the sun. Barefoot people walked obliviously around it, heading to the beach, sauntering over to the grill and arranging lounge chairs. Any sense of civic duty ebbed with the low tide.
I sighed and thought that at least on this holiest of days, I should humble myself and move the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak.
So I armed myself with the dustpan and once again went canine-curling across the lawn. Everyone ignored me wearing my bright red sand shoes, hunched over, my back showing the areas that I missed with my 500 SPF lotion, my long hair dangling over my face, muttering to myself as I rolled something that was definitely not an Easter egg.
Rinsing down the lawn after another successful attempt, I was happy that at least all the kids looking for Easter eggs would not pick up a dud with me on patrol.
The next day, no sign of the dog, but a sign that the dog was there. I was incredulous.
“This dog has it in for me,” I said to Annie. “Does he have GPS in his lower intestine?”
Sure enough, a guy in a neon lime green shirt with no rake was walking slowly toward the ocean to see if it was still there. It was.
And I said to him, “Sir, this dog just dropped another puppy pile in the exact same spot.” The guy looked at me, noticing that I had failed to completely sunblock my skin and that I had a beet red patch of burn that looked something like the map of Antarctica forming on my stomach. “Okay,” he said, not even looking at the gigantic rover-range that was blocking my view of the ocean.
And seven hours later, I gave up and took the now trusty dustpan and expertly got the Oahu-uh-oh into the trash.
People splashed in the ocean. Retirees with platters of burgers walked over the lawn in bare feet to the grill. A little boy rolled his ball as his mother shed her shoes and padded across the lawn. She gazed open mouthed at the ocean as the kid trotted back and forth over the scene of the crime.
And I wonder, when I leave, what will happen? Will the Lab look around and say, “Well, where did he go?” Will a neon lime green shirt guy finally decide that it isn’t beneath him to scoop up a Honolulu-how-do-you-do?
Or will some other guy, sitting in his swimsuit on this lanai, his pale skin slathered in 500 SPF, look out at Paradise, turn to his wife and say, “WHAT is that dog doing?”
American Roots & Celtic Soul