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This is usually for my sisters who want to see how our early season gardening has been going. So, if this doesn't interest you all that much, you have my permission to pass on today's entry in Road Tips.
We've had a pretty good spring around the Quad Cities. It started out warm and dry, then it went to wet and cool. Finally about two weeks ago we went from temperatures and rainy conditions found on average in early April to hot and dry weather like you'd find in late July. We had a high of 95 degrees here in the Quad's about two weeks ago and it hit 91 on our thermometer over the Memorial Day weekend. Other than a heavy downpour that brought us about two inches of rain on May 25, the weather the past couple of weeks has been amazingly great.
Our plants are rocking this year. All two dozen of our rose bushes made it through the winter - the first time in memory that happened. I tried something different last fall - I raked up the leaves from the yard and put them over the base of the rose bushes. Then I put hardwood mulch over the leaves and watered the living crap out of them before the first hard freeze. It helped that we had a lot of snow this past winter to help insulate the rose bushes. Not long after we got back from Hawaii in early March, the weather was getting warm enough to promote some growth on the roses. Initially, we were worried about a couple bushes in the rose garden next to the garage wouldn't come back, but they began to show life in April with the warm weather and we breathed a sigh of relief that we wouldn't have to buy any new rose bushes this year.
Actually, our first rose bush to open up was around May 8 - a full three weeks earlier than what is usually normal for our rose bushes to bloom. Cindy took a class in nature photography about a month ago and the instructor told her that everything was about three weeks early this year in this region. We'd heard that the annual Tulip Time festival in Pella was nearly void of tulips because the tulips bloomed early and had lost their petals long before the mid-May celebration. The same thing happened to our tulips that Cindy had planted last fall - by mid-May, all the petals were gone. But, by Memorial Day last weekend, the majority of our rose bushes had bloomed out and there were a stunning amount of roses on some of the bushes.
We're also more cognizant of the feeding and care of the roses this year. We've already given them a monthly liquid fertilizer/disease control solution and have sprayed them for bugs (beetles and aphids) about three or four times now. I have to say this is most healthy our rose bushes have ever looked.
One other interesting aspect about an early spring - it was also one of the earliest times in memory of the return of the wrens. We had wrens by the first week of April - nearly a full month before we normally see them. I kept hearing what sounded like a wren off in the distance, but dismissed it as some other migratory bird. But in talking to the guy who sells us our bird feed, he told me that the wrens did, indeed, come back early. He did say, however, that the goldfinch population was very low due to a winter kill of many of those colorful birds in the area. We then noticed that our thistle feeders weren't going down all that much. But over the past 10 days, we've suddenly noticed an uptick in the number of goldfinches at the feeder. A few evenings ago we counted five bright male goldfinches on the feeder in back.
Our vegetables and herbs are also doing very well so far. With the exception of a late season frost the second week of May - and having to replant our basil (Sweet, Genovese and Lemon) due to too much rain earlier in May - everything has been going according to plan. We planted three tomato bushes in the garden this year - a Better Boy, a Roma and a Grape/Cherry. We planted a red bell pepper plant in a large pot behind the garage and Cindy planted an ornamental pepper out in the berm. We learned that if you pick the first pepper off the plant when it's almost full grown, it fools the pepper plant into thinking that it has to grow more to make up for the loss of the first pepper. We did that last year and we've never had so many sweet red bell peppers as we did. We still have some cut up in the freezer.
Our berm out back continues to be an on-going project. Cindy wanted me to mulch the berm this spring because the weeds were so bad that she couldn't keep up. It's been a double-edged sword for us as the mulch is helping keep the moisture in the ground, but we've had so much rain in April and into May that it's not getting a chance to dry out. The water table is so high around here that our sump pump is running nearly non-stop creating a nice little swampy marsh in the front yard where the water comes out.
Speaking of the front yard, the wild rose bushes have come back tremendously in front of the house. We planted impatiens in the window boxes as Cindy decided that a potpourri of flowers just didn't work out that well. And the perennials around our maple tree in the yard have turned into a mini-jungle. The irises and columbines were huge this year. The ground cover is thick and heavy and it's finally looking the way I envisioned it to be when Cindy started to plant perennials rather than annuals under the tree.
Another surprising area for us this year is our hosta beds along the west side of the house. This side doesn't get a lot of sun due to a large maple tree that is in our neighbor's yard, but the plants have just been going nuts this spring. It's been a perfect combination of moisture and temperature to enhance the growth of these plants.
About the biggest problem we've had this spring is the amount of maple seed "helicopters" that came down from the maple tree up front and the large maple tree next doors. Unfortunately, when they all decided to drop, we were in the midst of a three-day stretch where we were getting a stiff wind out of the west. The vast majority of the ones from our neighbor's tree landed in our yard, in our gutters, in our flower beds - all over the place. And there were millions of 'em. We're now having to get down and pull them out by hand and it's a major hassle.
But that's about all the problems we've had so far. Even the peony bush that we've threatened to dig up because it's getting old and hadn't had a lot of blooms over the past couple years is flourishing this spring. We've lived here about eight years now and it's taken a lot of time - and money - to get our yard the way it is right now and I'm happy with it. We just planted a couple of dahlias and this weekend we're going to plant an orange azalea bush up in front. Walking around the yard surveying the plants and flowers in the early morning sunshine is a great start to my day.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the second of my two hip replacements I received. Had I not looked on the calendar and figured it out a week ago, I probably wouldn't have noticed. The anniversary of having my left hip replaced in early March went by without so much of a fanfare, probably because we were in Hawaii at that point and we didn't even know what time it was much of our visit, let alone the date. But life is about as back to normal as it can be for me one year after my second surgery.
Back to normal is a relative term because I don't know what normal really was with all the pain I was having before my hip replacements. I do notice that I have increased mobility and flexibility in the legs and hips compared to the months before the hip surgery. But I've also had to learn that I can't move certain ways in fear that the hip socket will pop out. And when I go through security at an airport, it's always an extra 10 to 15 minutes as TSA personnel have to give me a thorough once over with a hand held metal detector and pat me down. I've just learned to live with that when I travel by air.
A friend of mine told me that it would be almost a full year before I'd feel "normal" and could get around with no pain. She was just about right with that. I'm still having some problems time to time with my right upper quad and groin muscles. Those were the ones that were giving me fits of pain off and on since the surgery a year ago. Every once in a while I'll tweak the groin muscle but stubbing my toe or getting my foot caught while I'm trying to walk and it will literally immobilize me for about 3 minutes. But the pain subsides and I can go back to what I'm doing. But the muscle is still somewhat weak and I have trouble lifting my leg to get in a car, to put my pants on, etc.
I also get a somewhat sharp pain in my left hip from time to time. I don't know if it's weather related or what the deal is. My sister told me that after her hip replacement she would get some tinge of pain from time to time if the weather changed. Cindy has been on me to go back to see the doctor to get it looked at, but I just haven't made the time.
Interestingly, the left hip continues to make sort of "ratchet" sound when I walk up and down steps. When it's quiet and I walk up and down our basement steps, I can clearly hear what sounds like a little ratchet wrench working in my left hip. It used to freak Cindy out at first, but now it's just a normal - and accepted - sound coming from my body. I had asked the doctor's assistant about it during some follow-up exams last spring, but he said, "Aw, it's just normal." Funny that my right hip isn't making the same sound.
Today also marks the one year anniversary of the last taste of soda pop. I completely cut out pop as part of my diet last year and, quite honestly, I haven't missed it in the least. That's probably been the biggest change in my life style and Cindy noticed it, as well. She doesn't drink pop all that much any longer, either. In fact, I'm not certain we have any pop around the house at this point.
I ended up losing about 45 pounds last year and I was doing well to keep it off - then Christmas came. Between the cookies and other goodies that abound that time of year, I ended gaining about 10 pounds back. I've fluctuated losing five pounds, then gaining five pounds back since then. I'm not happy that the pants that I bought last year after my weight loss are getting tight again, but I know that I can lose the weight if I really try. Now that I know how to lose 40 pounds, I know I can do it again. And keeping it off wasn't all that hard. Sugar is what really kills me on my weight.
My knees are the ones that are beginning to talk to me now. I've noticed recently that I'm getting some stiffness and pain in the knees. I've been taking chondroitin and glucosamine off and on when the pain flairs up and that seems to help. My biggest worry is that eventually I'll have to get my knees replaced. And from what I've heard and what I saw during my rehab last year, I don't want to do that. It's ten times worse than a hip replacement. But I'm not getting any younger and they're really perfecting these procedures these days. Who knows? If I have to get knee replacements in ten years, maybe the recovery time will be reduced like it has been for hips. But I'm not looking forward to it.
Oh, and yes, that's an x-ray of my new hips at the start of this post...
Spring arrives in Iowa today at 12:32 p.m., signaling the end of one of the longest and more brutal winters we've had in the Midwest. But as we got up this morning, you couldn't tell that today was the first day of Spring. We were greeted with over two inches of heavy wet snow that had fallen overnight.
This was on the heels of 60 degree days the past week. In fact, it was just above 60 here in the Quad Cities yesterday. I had the windows open and a nice breeze coming in. I even cooked out on the grill last night. We'd been joking with people all week long that we brought the spring-like temperatures back from Hawaii with us. But it began to get colder in the early evening last night and you could see a big bank of dark clouds off to the west just before sunset. Yes, winter was trying to hang on.
We knew it was coming - they'd been predicting a chance of snow all week long. When it was 57 and sunny here yesterday about 5 p.m., it was 31 in Des Moines and 33 up in Waterloo with both places reporting snow flurries. It was sort of misting when I went to bed last night and we both slept in this morning. When I got up, I looked out the bedroom blinds to see if it had snowed like they predicted. Cindy sleepily asked, "Did it snow?"
I said, "Oh, boy, did it snow!"
The good thing about it is that there's a lot of moisture content in the snow so it will probably melt when the temperatures rise above freezing this afternoon. And the pavement temps are above freezing so there's little shoveling or travel problems to be had. But in the meantime, it's actually pretty outside this morning with the wet snow plastering the branches of trees that are just beginning to bud out.
My grandmother used to say that we always get one last "big one" before Spring really takes over. I don't know if this qualifies as a big snow, but I'm hoping that this is the last we see of winter for the 2009-2010 season. The grass is already turning green, the bulbs that Cindy planted last fall are beginning to bust through the soil, our rose bushes are green and showing life at the base of their stems. I've even had to turn the air-conditioner on in the car because it got so warm as I was driving back from Chicago this week. After our trip to Hawaii I'm ready for warm weather. We don't need any more cold weather and snow.
(Update - Our winter weather lasted all of one day. By Sunday, the skies cleared and it warmed up to 50 degrees. Most of the snow that fell on Saturday was gone by Sunday afternoon. Monday, the skies will continue to be clear and temps should make it into the mid-to-upper 50's; and by Tuesday it will be in the low 60's. Spring is here.)
Since we've been back from Hawaii for a week or so, most people haven't really asked about how our trip was as much as they've asked about our experience of dealing with the tsunami warning due to the devastating 8.8 earthquake in Chile during our first weekend on the Big Island. I was reluctant about writing about it as even though it was sort of exciting at the time, the outcome turned out to be very anti-climactic. I really didn't know how I could make it interesting because there was all this tension and excitement, but it fizzled like a dry fart at the end. My sister said, "Oh, I'm sure you'll be able to make it interesting enough. I want to hear all the details. Not many people have gone through a tsunami warning."
Hawaii has been hit by some devastating tsunami's over the years. One of the most famous happened 50 years ago when a tsunami that was generated by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands hit Hilo. There was adequate warning about the initial wave and most people were able to get to higher ground when it hit. However, when the wave receded, a number of townspeople gathered along the shore and in the downtown area to view the damage. A secondary swell came ashore and swept 61 people to their death. There's a memorial museum in Hilo - the Pacific Tsunami Museum - that commemorates that tsunami and others that have hit the Hawaiian Islands.
On April 1, 1946, another tsunami was generated by an earthquake in the same Aleutian Island area that spawned the Hilo tsunami 14 years later. Unfortunately, because of the day - April Fools Day - a number of people who heard the warnings of a tsunami thought it was a prank so they didn't heed the warnings. Unfortunately, a number of children at a school/day care center north of Hilo were swept away by the tsunami. Cindy and I just happened to visit this place on a day trip to Hilo. They have a memorial on the former site of the school that commemorates those children and teachers who lost their lives that day. One family lost five children.
So they take their tsunami's rather seriously in Hawaii. And this one was no exception.
I first heard about the earthquake in Chile when I turned on the TV when we got back to our hotel room at the Hilton Waikoloa Village after dinner on Friday evening. There was some mention of a possible tsunami and that was something they were going to monitor overnight. What was sort of ironic is that during our first trips around the Big Island, we would see the signs like what are at the top of this post. We sort of chuckled because of the somewhat comical nature of the signs. But we just never - ever - figured that we'd have to worry about a tsunami while we were in Hawaii.
The next morning, Cindy got up before sunrise to take our camera out to Buddha Point - a slab of land that stuck out into the ocean on our hotel resort's property. You could very easily see humpback whales surfacing and frolicking just off the coast. Cindy thought that was so cool and she wanted to get some pictures.
While she was out doing that, I woke up and turned on the TV just after 7 a.m. Each of the local stations on the television were having non-stop tsunami coverage. Now, we were on the Big Island of Hawaii and there are really no local television stations on the island. The local television stations for the whole state of Hawaii are based in Honolulu on Oahu. And to make matters even more confusing, three of the six local television stations - KGMB-TV, KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV - share local newscasts. So I could turn to any one of three stations and get the exact same information.
I could tell right away that my plans for the day would be altered by Mother Nature. My plans consisted of going up to a small village up the coast to have breakfast at a place that was recommended to us, then coming back to the hotel, grabbing a lounge chair by the ocean and reading one of the books I brought with me on vacation. They even had wait staff service who would bring you drinks or beers. I already had it planned out - a mai tai right off the bat, then a series of Kona Big Wave Golden Ales. I was on vacation and ready to "veg" out for the day.
The first reports coming in said that, overnight, buoys out in the Pacific between Chile and the Hawaiian Islands were reporting some massive swells. Some were reported as high as 9 meters (just under 30 feet). That's a big swell in any stretch of the imagination. Initially, they had the state of Hawaii under a tsunami watch, meaning that there could be a chance of some massive waves hitting the islands.
As tsunami waves fan out, they can level out and that's what forecasters at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centeroutside of Honolulu were predicting would happen. Forecasts of waves as high as 9 to 12 feet were to hit the Hilo area on the east side of the Big Island around 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. Suddenly, the tsunami watch became a tsunami warning.
About the time the local stations were beginning to announce a tsunami warning, Cindy came walking back into the room. I said, "Listen, I don't want to alarm you, but I guess there's a tsunami warning for the islands."
Well, I shouldn't have said anything because she immediately began to panic. "What's going on? When did this happen? What are we going to do? Do we have to get out of here? What do we pack?"
I explained to her that not only were we on the far side of the island, we were on the sixth floor of the hotel and that the hotel was built up on the lava rock base by about 15 feet above the ocean. But they kept talking on the local channels that all low lying areas around the Hawaiian Islands would have to be evacuated. I was sort of perplexed with all that as we were on the west side of the island and the waves were coming from the south and east. An expert on one of the local channels then spelled it out for me.
The Hawaiian Islands are all volcanic based land forms. When a tsunami hits one side of the island, the ensuing swells wrap around the islands because of the conical shape of the volcanoes whose base is well under the ocean. The expert said that the devastating waves can hit the east and south side of the islands, but the swells will envelope the rest of the shorelines around the islands due to the lack of a continental shelf on or near the islands. Hmm... OK. Well, it's gonna affect us, then.
By this time, the alarm system for the hotel is going off and the "message" light on our phone lights up. I call up the voice mailbox and the hotel has a recorded announcement alerting their guests that a tsunami warning has been issued and that everyone should evacuate the property. Well, I still didn't see any sense of urgency, considering we still had over 3 hours before the first wave hit Hilo. Besides, I was thinking it would be kind of cool to watch it come in from our balcony.
Cindy was still somewhat frantic, but I assured her that we'd have time to take showers, get dressed, grab what we needed for the day and go if we wanted. They were saying on TV that a large tsunami could have wicked swells for up to 10 hours after the first wave hits. That said, I was thinking that if the tsunami was even going to be 9 to 12 feet, it could be well after 8 p.m. before everything would settle down.
In the meantime, reports out of Hilo and Honolulu said that gas stations had begun to run out of gas, grocery stores were running out of food, and roads were clogged with evacuees. Cindy had settled down quite a bit and was even wondering if we could still get some breakfast at the hotel. I called to the breakfast restaurant at the hotel and the lady who answered the phone said it was closed. She said, "Everything in the hotel is now closed for the tsunami."
Well, I was thinking there was an outside chance we'd be able to stay. But with everything at the hotel closed, I thought I'd better ask if this was a mandatory evacuation. She said, "Oh, yes, sir. Everyone must evacuate the property."
I turned to Cindy and I said, "Well, now they're saying it's a mandatory evacuation. I guess we have to leave for sure, now."
Not long after that, the hotel's alarm goes off again. This time the message on the voice mail said that everyone MUST evacuate the property. In fact, as we left around 9:30, security details were going room to room making sure everyone was out, then programming the electronic locks on the doors so that people (or enterprising thieves) couldn't gain access to the rooms.
Before we left, I was getting e-mails and text messages from people who knew we are out in Hawaii wanting to know if we're safe. I decided to sit down and send out an e-mail to friends and family letting them know of the situation before we left.
The tram that went between our building and the main lobby was waiting for us as we got down to the ground floor. A hotel employee was telling people that they were going to evacuate people to an off-site area that would be safe in the event of a tsunami. Cindy said, "Do we have to do that?"
I said, "I'm not gonna be stuck in someplace with a bunch of strangers. No, we can drive up to Waimea."
Waimeais a quaint little ranching town of about 7,000 people in the "hills" region of northern Hawaii island (see map). Actually, it sort of reminded me of some of the small towns we encountered years ago when we traveled Northern California's wine region. It is also known as Kameula (the Hawaiian name for "Samuel", named after the father of John Parker, the first rancher in the area) and it's shown as that on some maps. However, the maps I bought out in Hawaii showed it as Waimea and all the towns signet and the locals called it Waimea. The town is about a 15 mile drive from our hotel and it sits just over 2500 feet in elevation. I figured that we'd have no problem up there.
As we left the hotel, I was sort of surprised by the lack of traffic. I guessed that we were probably part of the last stragglers getting away from the low-lying areas. We drove up to Waimea with no problem. However, when we got to town, it turned out that we weren't the only people who thought getting away to Waimea was a good idea. Turned out we were going to be surrounded by a lot of strangers where ever we went that day.
The main roads through town were packed. People were parking where they could and local officials opened up the school's soccer field for overflow parking. We were able to park along the main road into Waimea near where we wanted to eat breakfast. The place - Hawaiian Style Cafe - we had breakfast at three days prior on our way to Hilo. It's a great little place and the food was excellent. Be sure to look for my entry on the place in coming days.
It was a 45 minute wait - minimum - before we could get in. We decided to put our name in, then go across the street to a number of little shops that were teeming with evacuees. Cindy looked around at some of the shops while I returned e-mails, text messages and took phone calls from people back on the mainland wanting to know what was going on. There was wireless internet available in the shopping area and number of people were on line with their laptops keeping up with information.
Before we left for Hawaii, Cindy chastised me for wanting to take my notebook computer with us. "You're just gonna sit on-line the whole time we're there," she said. I promised her I wouldn't. (And I didn't - other than trying to find places to eat or go see.) However, when we were in Waimea and seeing all the people with their laptops getting information on the tsunami, her tone was completely different.
"Why didn't you bring your lap top with us," she asked.
I said, "Geez, Cindy! You didn't want me to bring the thing with us to Hawaii. Now you're wondering why I didn't bring it with us to Waimea!" I couldn't win...
After about a half-hour, I went back across the street and checked on our status. It would be about 10 minutes before we could get in, so I went back and told Cindy we needed to go back to the restaurant. If we weren't there when our names got called, we'd lose our place in line. And the line was still growing by 10:30.
In the meantime, forecasters at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Oahu had pushed back the time the first wave was to hit the island to about 11:30. A buoy about 100 miles south and east of Hilo reported another large swell of 9 meters just before 11 a.m. Oh, man. This was gonna be a big one, we thought.
We finally got into Hawaiian Style Cafe around 10:45 a.m. We sat at the counter and ordered up our food. Seated next to us was a couple from the north suburbs of Chicago. They, too, had to get out of their hotel which happened to be the Marriott hotel next to our hotel in the Waikoloa Village resort area. Cindy asked them what procedures that hotel went through and the guy said, "They came around to each of the rooms and told people that they needed to leave the property. They said they had an area where people could go to if they didn't have transportation out of the facility. I asked, 'Can we leave if we have a car?' They said, 'Sure!' In fact, I think that's what they were hoping that most of the people would do."
But before they left, they were asked to fill up their tub with water. "They told us that if the water system went out, that would be the only fresh water we'd have."
I said, "Well, they certainly didn't tell us to do that at our hotel!"
After we finished breakfast, it was getting close to the time the first wave was supposed to hit Hilo. I got back into the car and turned on the Hilo radio station I was listening to on our way up to Waimea. It was off the air. I thought, "Uh oh. That's not good."
Information around Waimea was sporadic as to what was happening. I ended up calling my friend, Scott Schroeder, back in the Quad Cities to find out if he knew of anything. (How strange is that? I had to call back 4000 miles to find out what it was going on in Hawaii.) Scott said that he was watching a stream of KITV out of Honolulu and he said, "Well, I don't think anything has happened. The time frame for the first waves to hit the island has passed, and they're not getting any reports of any big waves."
Cindy and I ended up going to a farmer's market in Waimea to pass the time. As we were looking at the different booths, reports started coming in that the tidal wave was not much of a big deal. It was close to 12:30 p.m. when we started to hear the same thing from different people. Hilo was still there, no big waves have hit the island and it appeared the tsunami threat had passed.
We drove around Waimea for a bit listening to a couple people talk about the situation on a Hawaiian public radio station - mainly because we couldn't get any information from any other station. They were all playing music like it was a normal day in paradise. The two people on the station were sort of confused by what was going on. They were getting reports that the largest wave to hit Hilo was about 2.8 feet - considerably less than the 9 to 12 foot waves predicted by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. They said that there was no information from Hawaii Civil Defense or from any of the law agencies regarding whether or not the danger had passed. The tsunami warning, as far as they knew, was still in effect.
I said to Cindy, "This is ridiculous. Nothing's happened. Let's go back down to the hotel to see if we can get back in."
As we drove down out of the hills, we came to the intersection that would take us back down to our hotel. Police had the road to the little village we were going to go to earlier in the day still closed off. But the main highway south toward our hotel was open.
When we got to the entrance of the hotel, police still had the entrance blocked off. Dozens of cars were lined up along both sides of the road waiting to get back in. We decided to drive down the road about six miles to a scenic overlook to wait out the time.
The parking lot of the scenic overlook was full of cars and we were able to squeeze into a spot. We got out and sat on a stone wall that overlooked the black lava fields and out into the Pacific Ocean. A local family had a boom box playing music. It was sort of a party atmosphere in the parking lot.
Suddenly at 1:45, people began to pack up their things, got in their cars or trucks and drove off. I said, "Hmm... Maybe those people know something that we don't know..." Cindy suggested we get back into the car and drive back to the hotel. Sure enough, when we got to the entrance by the highway, the barricades were down and the cops were gone. We drove onto the property and went to the hotel.
As we were driving near the hotel, the guy on the public radio station came on and said the tsunami warning was rescinded at 1:38 p.m. Everything was slowly getting back to normal.
By the time we got to the hotel, valet parking was a madhouse. All these people were coming back and they had a skeleton crew of people working at the hotel. They just told us to leave our car and they'd deal with it later.
The tram wasn't working, so we walked back to our room - about a 10 minute walk from the lobby. When we got up to our floor, the hotel's security staff was going around and reprogramming the doors to allow people to get back into their rooms. We tried our door and got right in. I went out on the balcony, checked to see what was going on out near the ocean and Cindy said, "Well, I'm gonna change into my bathing suit and head outside."
I sent a quick e-mail out to friends and family letting them know that we were safely back at the hotel and the tsunami warning was canceled. We went out and found a double lounge chair. I got comfy and began to read my book. The only problem is that the bar was closed - the hotel sent a lot of people home thinking this was going to be a massive tidal wave and getting them to come back proved to be quite a chore.
And that was it. I told you it was pretty anti-climactic. Here's a picture of the cover of the West Hawaii Today newspaper on Sunday morning that talked about the tsunami that wasn't, with an accompanying article talking about how they evacuated 1500 people from our hotel. I didn't think they had even half that amount of people on the property, to tell you the truth. All in all, I think they overly erred on the side of caution in regard to this tsunami. But as I said earlier, Hawaiians remember some big ones in the past and they count themselves as lucky this time.
If you'll indulge me for a moment, I'd like to talk today about an old friend, Kenny Brown, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack over the weekend. Kenny was one of those guys who touched many people's lives in both positive and negative ways. You either loved or hated Kenny Brown, but I will tell you that the vast majority loved the guy.
Kenny was one of those lovable rogues who had a line of bullshit a mile long. Quite honestly, you really didn't know if the stories he was telling were true, an embellishment of the truth, or outright bullshit. But he was such a likable kind of guy that it never really mattered in the long run.
Kenny was a master in a big room with a lot of people. He held the center of attention as well as anyone I've ever been around. And he made everyone feel just as important as he was and everyone was his friend.
Everyone who was touched by "KB" has their favorite stories about him and I have many great and crazy memories of Kenny and me being together. Unfortunately, we grew apart over the past few years as he began to settle down with his life after he and his partner, Sue, gave birth to a daughter, Kendall. Kendall was born prematurely and has had a series of health problems in her short life. But Kenny loved that little girl with all his heart.
I would stay in touch with Kenny from time to time, just to catch up with him and share a laugh. The last time I saw him was a couple months ago when I stopped into see him at his job selling furniture in Newton, IA. He was a little sheepish that he was all dressed up and selling furniture after a series of jobs at Maytag,Newton High School and with Hanson Directory. After giving him some good natured ribbing about the job, I told him that in this day and age ANYBODY who had a job had a leg up in society. He said he was traveling too much with his job at Hanson Directory and he wanted to get back home and be with his little girl. "I needed to get back here, so I took this job to keep me around," he said.
Kenny brought up the time that we met just off of Interstate 35 near Ames and talked for nearly two hours. I was traveling back from Minneapolis on a Friday and decided to take the long way home to the Quad Cities, down I-35 to Des Moines, stopping off in Newton to see my sister, then heading home on I-80. I had just passed a car and pulled in front of it. Suddenly, this car came up quickly behind me, flashing its headlights. I thought, "Oh, crap. I just passed an unmarked car." As I pulled over, I looked in the rear view mirror and there was this big, Kenny Brown shit-eating grin staring back at me. We pulled off at the next exit, stood outside in the warm spring sunshine and talked about everything and anything for about two hours. We probably hadn't seen each other in a year or so, but it was like we had never left off from the last conversation.
I first met Kenny when I was 14 and he was 13 when we were playing Babe Ruth League baseball. He was on the Braves and I was on the Cards. We got to know each other pretty well after that and it turned out that he knew a lot of other friends that I knew. In fact, he was responsible for my nickname that close friends and some family still call me, "Will Bear". We were playing a game against each other one summer - I was pitching and Kenny was at bat. Some guy in the crowd yells, "Hit the ball, Kenny Bear!" I sort of looked in at him and said, "Kenny Bear?"
He smiled and said, "Just throw the ball, Will Bear." I like to tell people I struck him out, but he remembers getting a two-run double off of me. After that, our nicknames just stuck. He later became "KB" to his friends, but I kept the "Will Bear" moniker.
As we grew up, we had a lot of great and wild times together. The Brown family became like a second family to me and their home was my "in town" home as I grew up in the country. I try to stay in touch with the Brown family, but I don't as much as I should.
As I was flying back from the Consumer Electronics Show on Sunday morning, I had turned off my Blackberry for the flight between Denver and Moline. When I landed about an hour and 45 minutes later, I turned on my phone and it began to light up like it hit the jackpot. I must have had nearly two dozen e-mails, texts and phone messages from friends who told me that Kenny had died the night before. As I got off the plane my phone rang and it was another friend telling me that Kenny had died. As I walked to the baggage claim, I received two more text messages from friends. I got another phone call from a friend as I was leaving the airport. At home, I got another four phone calls, along with a handful of text and e-mail messages.
As I was telling our friend Tom Norris yesterday, "You know, Tommy, that shows how Kenny affected the lives of many people. For me to get that many messages and texts during the flight from Denver to Moline showed that he touched the lives of a lot of people. People who knew Kenny and I were good friends."
Tom said, "Yeah, Will Bear, whether it was positive or negative, he certainly did touch the lives of a lot of people."
Another friend, Mike Durbala, once told me, "Kenny is so full of bullshit, but you just can't help but like the guy."
Life will be a little less fun without Kenny Bear.