Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

My Two Ukes

Kala Waterman ukeGot myself a Kala Waterman uke. We saw these in Maui Nix surf shop in Daytona last month and I had to have one. It’s made of acrylic and is ideal for taking to the beach, the lake, out in a canoe or a boat. Getting it wet won’t hurt it. Even though it is acrylic and not wood, this is not a toy. The sound is sweet and the notes clear.
Lanikai Pineapple uke
My other uke, which I’ve had for four years, is a hand-crafted Lanikai pineapple. The sides are made of eastern mahogany and the neck is rosewood. Like the Waterman, it is a soprano (GCEA tuning). The tone is more mellow than guitar-shaped ukes. The body has more volume than the Waterman, which gives if a slightly fuller sound than the Waterman.
At $49, the Kala Waterman is about half the price of the Lanikai, so it is a real bargain. The difference, of course, is the hand-crafting of the Lanikai. Regardless, one does not have to spend a lot of money for a quality ukulele. I can not tell you which one is more fun to play, though the Waterman is great for strumming while lying in the hammock.Wastin’ Away Again
I like the looks of both. I have always thought that pineapple shape makes for a great looking instrument and the clear, bright-colored Waterman is just cool looking. The Waterman, by the way, comes in a wide range of bright colors.
If you’re fretting (pun intended) about tax day, get yourself an uke and chill.

2017-02-02 18.19.14Haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been busy editing Questions Of Loyalty and getting it to my agent. The edits were completed Monday and sent to Beth. Now waiting to hear from her.

Magnum P.I. Reboot

Watched the new Magnum on Monday. I had hoped to be impressed by it, but was somewhat disappointed. The show had plenty of humor and action, which means car chases.  Jay Hernandez is a lot different from Tom Selleck as Magnum. No eyebrow waggle, no trademark aloha shirts. He’s a good action character and maybe will develop some depth. I have to admit that I’m glad he’s not Selleck. I think I’ve got more than enough Selleck in Blue Bloods and the Jesse Stone shows.

The supporting cast is the biggest disappointment. The new Rick and T.C. don’t cut it, in my opinion, but I’ll keep an open mind about them. As with the Hawai`i Five O reboot, they added a kick-ass female. The Higgins character is now a woman. John Hillerman was great in that role and will be missed. I’m hoping Perdita Weeks will be up to it.

Locale. We see Magnum paddling near Chinaman’s hat. Is that where Robin Masters’s home Is? As with the old Magnum and the new Hawai`i Five O, do not take your geography of the islands from the show. Why are there so many chase scenes up or down Tantalus? Sure, the road is winding and the views of Honolulu and the University of Hawai`i are beautiful from up there, but the road doesn’t go anywhere. It is a loop past a park and some expensive homes and back down again. It is not a short cut or direct route to anyplace on Oahu. Nobody would lead pursuers up there because all the pursuers need do is wait at the bottom for them to come back down. And if you miss a high speed turn and crash down the side of the mountain, as did the bad guys in Monday’s episode, you will not land in the ocean, but on a roof top in Manoa Valley or even Punahou School.

So much for my critique. I don’t need to tell readers that I like violent action, car chases and kick-ass babes in Hawai`i. I will be tuning in again on Monday.

 

Upcoming trip

We’re going back to Hawai`i. This is Mary Fran’s birthday trip. The last trip was for my seventieth birthday, so now it is Mary Fran’s turn. We are so excited.

Here’s the itinerary:

Depart Houston, Oct. 10, nonstop to Honolulu

Depart Honolulu, Oct. 10 and arrive Lihue Kauai

  • Staying Courtyard Marriott Coconut Beach
  • Sight-seeing Thurs. and Fri. Drinking mai tais in Hanalei, maybe visit some music shops to check out ukuleles
  • Saturday: Niihau Day at Kauai Museum. This is a once a year event to celebrate the culture of Niihau.
  • More sight-seeing on Sunday

Monday, Oct. 15, fly to Kona on the Big Island

  • Staying Marriott Waikoloa
  • Sight-seeing, doing research for next Ava Rome novel, specifically hope to explore Koa rain forests. Maybe do some paddle-boarding.
  • Thursday, Oct. 18, one night in Volcano House, which is planning to reopen on Oct. 14, having been closed because of the Kilauea eruptions.
  • Friday, Oct. 19, drive to Hilo
  • Staying Hilton Naniloa which is right on Hilo Bay on Banyan Tree Drive
  • Explore Hilo and the Hamakua Coast

Sunday, Oct, 21, Depart Hilo for Honolulu

  • Staying at the Moana, the oldest hotel in Waikiki
  • Mai tais at the Royal Hawaiian
  • Sunset at House Without a Key in the Halekulani

Tuesday, Oct. 23, depart Honolulu

Wednesday, Oct. 24, arrive Houston

Aloha

 

I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the volcano blows.

Hawai’i is burning. Fissures are opening on the East slope of Kilauea destroying homes and threatening the lives of more than a thousand residents. The danger comes not only from lava, but also from toxic gases emitted by the volcano. Now comes possibility of a new danger at the summit. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the lava lake in Halemaumau crater in Kilauea Caldera is draining due to the eruption at the lower levels. the concern is that the lake will drain down below the water table, which could cause a steam explosion that could send boulders rocks and ash into the air. Authorities have closed Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as a precaution. An explosion in the caldera could do serious damage to Volcano House, which sits on the edge of the caldera.

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Lava in Halemaumau Crater

Here are two images of Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea Caldera taken last year from the observation deck of Volcano House. The lava fountain you see in the night photo is estimated to be about sixty feet high.

Even in daylight, the eruption is impressive, although the lava itself is hard to see. Only smoke is visible in daylight. that smoke contains the toxic gases that are threatening the health of people in the subdivisions on the East slope.

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Kilauea Caldera

When I worked for Kamehameha Schools in the 1980’s, we had a demonstration program at Pahoa Elementary School in the Puna District of the Big Island.  The Puna district is where the current fissures are opening. According to reports, fifteen fissures have now opened. Although the school is not directly impacted by the eruption, many families with children at the school live in the endangered areas. One teacher has reportedly lost her home to the lava. We can only hope for the best for all of them and keep them in our thoughts.

 

Go For Broke

One of the units making up the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, was the 522 Artillery Brigade. Once the 442nd arrived in France, the 522nd became a roving brigade, attached to whichever units needed them the most. In March, 1945, the 522nd remained in France for the campaign in the Lorraine region and the final drive into Southern Germany while the rest of the 442nd returned to Italy for the Gothic Line Campaign.

From March 12 -21, the 522nd participated in the attack on the Siegfried Line. When it fell, they crosded the Rhine and participated in the fall of Mannheim. In 60 days, the 522nd traveled 1,100 miles through 40 towns chasing the retreating Germans.

On April 29, some scouts from the 522nd came across some barracks surrounded by barbed wire in the Bavarian town of Lager Lechfield. What happened next wlll never be forgotten. This is how Technician Fourth Grade Ichiro Imamura described it.

“I watched as one of the scouts used his carbine to shoot off the chain that held the prison gates shut. . . They weren’t dead, as he had first thought. When the gates swung open, we got our first good look at the prisoners. Many of them were Jews. They were wearing striped prison suits and round caps. It was cold and the snow was two feet deep in some places. There were no German guards. The prisoners struggled to their feet. . . They shuffled weakly out of the compound. They were like skeletons – all skin and bones. . .”

The Nisei liberated Kaufering IV Hurlach, a Dachau satellite camp that housed 3,000 prisoners.  Most of the prisoners had gone. In the last days of April, Hitler had ordered the concentration camp guards to march the prisoners to the interior in a terrible death march.

On May 2, Nisei from the 522nd came across a field with several hundred lumps in the snow. The lumps were people—Jewish prisoners—many had been shot. Some had died of exposure, but some were alive, although barely. They found other prisoners wandering the countryside. For the next four days, the Nisei were engaged in getting the people to shelter and providing them with warmth.

In what is, perhaps, the greatest irony of the war, many of these Nisei who liberated the concentration camp, had, themselves, left concentration camps in the United States to fight against oppression and totalitarianism. They still had family and friends behind barbed wire in Manzanar, Poston, Gila River, Jerome, Rohwer,  Heart Mountain, Minidoka, Granada, Topaz and Tule Lake. It’s to their credit that the men of the 442nd were willing to risk so much to preserve freedom. It’s to our country’s lasting shame that we would incarcerate people solely because of their heritage. We must be vigilant that it never happens again.

 

The Tiki Bar Is Open.

47F5129B-F1F4-4D68-9827-E47071728EE0I don’t know what to call this drink. It’s based on gin and elderflower liquor. It has several different spices to give it an exotic flavor.

Firsst muddle .5 oz simple syrup, .5 oz lemon juice, a sprig of Thai basil, and a slice of  ginger root. Add 1.5 oz gin and 1 oz elderflower liquor. Shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass over ice. Top with a splash of tonic. It’s sort of sweet and sour with Asian overtones.

 

Haleakala

This time last year we were on Maui, visiting the summit of Haleakala. Haleakala means House of the Sun. It is a volcano rising 10,023 feet above sea level. It forms most of east Maui. Haleakala is considered still active, with it’s last eruption occurring in 1790 AD. It’s a sacred place to native Hawaiians. Several species, including the silversword are endemic and endangered. It is also the place where Apollo astronauts trained for the moon and where Reagan located his Star Wars missile defense program. Because of that, the road to the crater is well-built and maintained.
The best times to visit Haleakala are sunrise and sunset. In recent years, Haleakala has become so popular that visits are restricted. Individuals need to make reservations well in advance. The number of available reservations is limited. The alternative is to visit as part of a tour group, which we did.
We went with an outfit called Mountain Riders. They picked us up at our condo at 2:00 am and took us to Paia, about an hour away, where they fitted us with cold weather gear—jackets, pants, gloves—and bike helmets. Then we made the 2.5 hour ride to the summit.
Haleakala Crater Before SunriseThe temperature at the summit was in the mid- to high-thirties, but the wind chill was a lot lower. Even in our cold weather gear, we were shivering. Down at sea level, the temperature was in the mid-seventies. Some people who had come on their own, were not prepared for the cold. The mountain was shrouded in clouds, but the visitor’s center was just above the clouds. From there we looked into the crater, which was filled with clouds.
The sunrise at 6:05 was spectacular—a red fireball rising above the clouds. Our group waited until most of the visitors had cleared out. Then we drove to the park gates at the 6,500 ft level where we mounted fat-tire coaster bikes for the 26 mile ride to Paia Beach Park.
Halfway down Haleakala. West Maui and Molokai (in the distance)The ride was incredible. The road is great, well-paved and smooth, but, as you can imagine, descending 6,500 feet meant there were a lot of hairpins that really whipped you around. Our group consisted of 15 riders and a guide. We rode single file with the guide in front watching for problems, and the van and sag wagon behind to keep traffic behind us from entering into our file. Now and then we pulled over to let vehicles pass us. The weather was perfect—sunny and clear. At several points we stopped to remove some of the cold weather gear as the temperature warmed nearing the bottom. All downhill. The bikes were outfitted with heavy duty coaster brakes. No gears. No need to pedal except to get going from a stop.End of the ride with Akela, our guide
From the park entrance to Makawao, the site of the Makawao rodeo, was about four hours. We stopped there for lunch. Makawao is the setting for one of my Val Lyon stories, Horns, published in The Thrilling Detective, 2009, and republished in Game Face. Oskie Rice Arena, where Val had the encounter with a bull, is still there. The cowboy bar where she had the encounter with the bull rider is not, to my disappointment. Another disappointment is that we made the ride on a Monday, which is the only day Komoda’s Bakery closes. Komoda’s is famous for their cream puffs, which you want to get hot. Makawao to Paia Beach took about another hour.
Haleakala SilverswordNeedless to say, the scenery coming down was spectacular, with vistas of ocean and mountains and most of Maui in view. Alas, we saw only a few silverswords and they were in protected areas. Silverswords live about 80 years. They only flower once, but when they do, it is spectacular. When Mark Twain visited, he said the silverswords were so abundant that when he first saw them he thought he was seeing snow on the mountains. Now the plant is endangered and Hawaiians are doing their best to recover it. I would definitely do this ride again if I ever return to Maui.Silversword n Bloom

Go For Broke

At this time in April, 1945, The 100th/442 RCT we’re engaging the Germans for control of the Gothic Line. The Germans were desperate to hold the line, as it was the last defense before Germany, itself. They were ordered to hold it at all costs. The fighting was fierce because the Germans had built the line through the ragged Appenine Mountains and fortified it with steel, concrete, and overlapping machine gun fire.
On April 21, the 442nd, 3rd Battalion, K Company fought to seize the town of Tendola, Italy. Private Joe Hayashi single-handedly wiped out three machine gun nests before being killed by machine pistol fire while pursuing more Germans. You can read Private Hayashi’s Medal Of Honor citation here:
On the same day, Lieutenant Daniel Inouye (who later became senator from Hawai’i) of 2nd Battalion, E Company, took out two machine gun nests on a ridge called Colle Musatello. While taking the second one, he was shot in the stomach. Bleeding and in pain, he crawled to the third nest. Rising up to throw a grenade, he was hit near the elbow by a rifle grenade, which nearly severed his arm. He ordered his men to keep their distance because his now dead right hand clutched a live grenade.  He pried the grenade free and threw it left-handed at the nest, taking it out. He then charged the nest, firing his Thompson left-handed, killing the remaining Germans. He continued to lead his men onward until a German bullet hit him in the leg and ended his fight. Lieutenant Inouye’s Medal Of Honor Citation is here.
For four more days, the battle of the Gothic Line raged until, on April 25, the 442nd 2nd battalion and a task force of B and F Companies engaged in a pincer attack on the town of Aulla.
Two weeks later, Germany surrendered.

The Tiki Bar Is Open

Maui Breeze CocktailToday’s cocktail is The Maui Breeze.

This is a refreshing drink made with vodka, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. It is very simple to make, which is good, because you will want more than just one. Or two.
In a shaker,
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 6 oz. pineapple juice
  • Splash of cranberry juice
  • Ice
Shake until chilled. Pour the mix and the ice into a glass. Garnish with pineapple and a cherry. If the drink is too sweet, add more vodka.

The Tiki Bar is Open

It has been a while since the bar has opened, but spring is here and it is time to get to it. We are heading to Peru in May, so today’s drink is the Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru. Peru, in fact, has a Pisco Sour Day, which is the first Saturday in February.

B3AD8BB1-2601-42C9-B526-F3301DBEA636The Pisco Sour was created by an ex-pat American, Victor Morris, who opened a bar, Morris’s Bar, in Lima in 1915. the exact year that the drink was created is in dispute. Some put it in the 1920’s, while others say it was created soon after the bar opened.

The base liquor is Pisco, a type of brandy produced in Peru. The Spanish introduced grape to Peru shortly after conquest in the fifteenth century. Soon after they began producing a fermented liquor called aguardiente. It became known as Pisco after the port from which it was shipped back to Spain.

Making the Pisco Sour is easy. In a shaker, mix

  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 oz Pisco
  • The white of one egg

Fill with ice and shake. Strain the drink into an old-fashioned glass. Add a few drops of Angostura bitters and garnish with a lime wheel.

The egg white makes it frothy. You can also make it in a blender, which will produce something like a frozen margarita, but the egg white will form a meringue to sit on top of the drink.

 

Japanese Internment

A new article in the Washington Post reports on the abuse of census data during World War II.  Census data is supposed to be private and confidential, but it was long believed by Japanese Americans that data from the census was used to identify them for relocation to internment camps in the Western United States. Approximately 120,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry had their civil rights violated. they lost their homes, their savings, their businesses, and their freedom as a result of national xenophobia and fear mongering. Now a new report details how census data was used illegally to help accomplish that.  At a time when our leaders have engaged in unashamed fear mongering and xenophobia, and have proposed changes to the census, all Americans should be concerned. We are facing serious threats to our democracy and our freedom.

Questions Of Loyalty

My latest book, Questions Of Loyalty, is set, in part, in a Japanese Internment camp during World War II. The story is a mystery involving the cold case investigation of the death of a Buddhist priest in the Tule Lake camp. I can’t tell you when it will be published. Just a few days ago, I heard from my agent that she had sent the manuscript to ten publishers. Got my fingers crossed.

 

Retirement.

I should really call this, No Work For Another year. Yesterday was the anniversary of my retirement from Texas A&M on February 1, 2017. Looking back on the year, I have to say it was a year of one great event after another. Some highlights from the year of retirement:

  • Retirement parties: Jan 31 at A&M, thrown by my colleagues at work, and birthday/retirement on Feb 18, thrown by my wife and sons.
  • Left Coast Crime in Honolulu, March 2017
  • Six week extended stay in Hawaii following Left Coast Crime. we visited Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Kauai.
  • Weight loss: over 50 pounds from June through January of this year. The weight loss was motivated by pictures from our Hawaii trip.
  • Completed another novel in the Ava Rome series and completed a short story.
  • Caribbean Cruise in October to Roatan, Costa Maya, Cozumel.
  • Signed with Ladderbird Literary Agency.
  • Finished 3rd in my age division in the BCS Half-marathon.

And that was only the first year of retirement.

Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i

Kailua-Kona, usually referred to a Kona, is a port and city on the west side of the island of Hawai`i. It is known for deep sea fishing and the Ironman Triathlon. The beaches in Kona are not great, in my opinion. They are small and difficult to access because of the rock. the Big Island doesn’t have great beaches anyway because, being the newest island, has not experienced as many eons of erosion as the other islands.

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Kailua-Kona from out at sea

Our favorite adventure in Kona was a night snorkel with manta rays. We signed onto a tour which left the harbor at dusk. They provided us with snorkels, masks and flippers. We set out for about a 45 minute trip to the manta ray feeding ground. On the way, we experienced a gorgeous sunset (of course) and witnessed pods of dolphins. There were about 15 of us on the boat, not counting crew and guides.

 

Once at the feeding spot, we donned our gear and entered the water where we clung to surfboards outfitted with rails along the sides and lights in the middle. The guides swam us to the viewing site and turned on the light. The light shines into the water and attracts plankton, which are the primary food source of mantas. Then we waited. Not for long, however. In a short time we saw several mantas below. Magnificent creatures with huge wingspans. All of a sudden, one pealed off and swam up at us and did a barrel roll right under our board. We could look into the creature’s gaping mouth. It gave us a show of several rolls before swimming off. Altogether  we saw five or six mantas. We had brought waterproof cases for our phones and I would like to say that I got some great pictures. Each appearance happened before I could get the phone aimed. So all I have are memories. But great memories nonetheless.  If you go to Kona, I recommend a manta ray expedition.

Anniversary: The 442nd RCT

Yesterday, February, 1, 2018 was the 75th anniversary of the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Japanese American unit that fought so bravely in Italy and France during World War II.  They are the most decorated combat unit in the history of the Army. In earlier posts, I tell about some of their battles.

The unit was created by FDR.

Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race and ancestry.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt, February 1, 1943.

Timeline in the formation of the 442nd.

  • December 7, 1941. Japanese planes bomb Pearl Harbor, Hawai`i.
  • January 23, 1942. Japanese American soldiers are segregated out of their units.
  • February 19, 1942. FDR issues Executive Order 9066, which calls for the establishment of a western defense zone and the removal of Japanese and Japanese Americans from that zone to concentration camps.
  • February 25, 1942. The all nisei Varsity Victory Volunteers, made up mostly of University of Hawai`i students, is formed as part of the 34th Combat Engineers.
  • May 26, 1942. The Hawai`i Provisional Infantry Battalion is formed of Japanese Americans from the Hawai`i National Gard.
  • June 5, 1942. 1,432 members of the Provisional Infantry Battalion depart Honolulu for San Francisco.
  • June 12, 1942. The 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) is activated on the Oakland docks.
  • February 1, 1943. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is activated by President Roosevelt. Members of the Varsity Victory Volunteers join the 442nd after deactivation of their unit at their request.
  • May 1943. 442nd RCT begins training in Mississippi.
  • September 2, 1943. 100th Infantry Battalion lands in Oran, North Africa. It is assigned to the 34th Infantry Division on September 5th.
  • September 22, 1943. 100th Infantry Battalion lands on the beach at Salerno, Italy.
  • November 3, 1943. The 100th Infantry Battalion crosses the Volturno River, south of Naples.
  • January 24, 1944. The Battle of Cassino and the Gustav Line begins. The 100th Infantry Battalion fights in the first two assaults in the first month of battle.
  • March 26, 1944. The 100th Infantry Battalion lands at Anzio
  • May 1, 1944. 442nd RCT ships out to Europe where they will meet up with the 100th in Civitavecchia, Italy in July.
  • June 2, 1944. The 100th captures Lanuvio in the push to take Rome.
  • July 7, 1944. The bitter battle for Hill 140.
  • July 9, 1944. 100th Infantry Battalion occupies and controls Leghorn, Italy near Rome.
  • August 14, 1944. The 100th Infantry Battalion is formally made an integral part of the 442nd RCT.
  • August 31, 1944. 442nd RCT reaches the Arno River in Italy near Florence. the 100th Infantry Battalion crosses the Arno and captures Pisa.
  • September 26, 1944. 100th/442nd RCT leaves Naples for France where they are attached to the 36th Division (AKA the Texas Division) of the Seventh Army..
  • October 15, 1944. The battle of Bruyeres in the Vosges Mountains.
  • October 22, 1944. 100th Infantry Battalion takes Biffontaine, suffering many casualties.
  • October 26-31, 1944. 100th/442nd RCT rescues the “Lost Battalion,” which was cut off and surrounded by the enemy.
  • March 20, 1945. The 100th/442nd RCT returns to Italy for the attack on the Gothic Line in the Appenine mountains.
  • April 5-6, 1945. The 442nd RCT makes a surprise attack on Nazi mountainside positions in Italy, breaking through the Nazi Gothic Line in one day.
  • April 6-30, 1945. The 100th/442nd RCT drives the enemy up the Italian coast to Genoa and Turin.
  • April 29, 1945. The 522nd Field Artillery battalion help to liberate Jewish prisoners from Dachau satellite camps.
  • May 2, 1945. German Army surrenders. The war in Europe is over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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