Wednesday, April 30, 2008


this was an email in response to my dad's question of what it sounds/smells like here

the 7 pm meeting is held 5 nights a week in the Susupe Community Church on Beach Road. Beach runs along the western side of the island from the heart of the tourist district in Garapan, all the way to south tip of the island, where it turns east and leaves the final resorts behind for the reality of the villages and the shops that make up the majority of the island.
the drive has become routine, and some nights it is a trip made on bicycle, although I've realized that the bicycle disallows the all important fellowship that comes from giving others rides.
the sun sets right around this time, and there is a few minutes, most evenings, of perfect climate, wherein the heat source has dipped below the unending expanse of the Philippine Sea, and the breeze is moving just right. it carries with it the smells of restaurants of all different types as they cater to the dwindling tourist market. the road is lined with vehicles as people finish their days before the never-ending inspiration of the sun setting over the ocean. Some gather in groups, guffawing and slapping each others backs. children run along the wide sidewalk that serves as a bike trail and running path between the busy road and the serene ocean. tables and benches are occupied by pairs, sometimes women out on an evening walk. sometimes partners doing the same, or just lying together on their backs, letting the last rays of our sun burn out over them. there are others like me, who stop, solitary, looking out over an ocean, towards a foreign land. i can only assume they are feeling as i am the gentle caress of the wind across my face, audible in the waves rythym against the shore, heard as much as felt, since the eyes have to be shielded from the brilliant star as it dutifully makes its continuous trek from east to west. i think that as it sets here, it hasn't quite yet risen there. you still have a half hour or so before you will see its shining face...soon, as the days lengthen there will come a moment when we will be simultaneously on opposite sides of the my day ends so shall yours begin. but as the night creeps into saipan, the lights do come on and the trip to wherever I am going continues.

Monday, April 28, 2008

For the dogs' sake...

I would like to clarify my first post about the boonie dogs.
Although there are many boonie dogs on this island, roaming around and generally looking disheveled, there is an abundance of love and loyalty for man's best friend no lesser here than any other peopled place.
The next day after that post I witnessed two separate fathers and sons bring their respective dogs/puppies to the ocean and try to teach them to swim. AKA drag them into the water and tell them to like it. Whatever. But here's the thing-the dog's allowed it. They quite obviously loved and respected their owners.
I have some boonie dog pics but I haven't got them up on flickr yet.
if you don't know, my flickr site is
you can view the pics without an account (yahoo)
but ya need one to comment
love the person next to you today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Alone in a crowd

At the end of a sweat-soaked weekend day, the sun finally gives up its domed kingdom to Luna, and the stretching shadows merge into darkness. I am particularly bothered by the headlights of the autos traveling towards me, as I repeatedly have to squint, a sure sign that my being needs more rest than it has been allowed lately. No, not lately. Ever. Than it has been allowed, EVER.
This is my choice though, as the borrowed mountain bike makes navigating the crowds and the less-than two mile distances much more efficient than an auto. On this bike, on this night, the line of brake lights ahead do not mean stop ahead, as I coast by on the shoulder of the two-lane beach road.
The lines of traffic are caused by the pedestrian crosswalks, which are manned by teen-agers with whistles and light-sticks, for Saipan is hosting an arts festival this weekend. The groups of people trekking toward the site make for minor obstacles as I weave around both traffics and enter the gravel lots. The relenting of the sun has allowed the dust to begin to settle, and for a moment I'm allowed a reprieve from the day's heat. almost immediately I come up against the heat being generated by the crowds of people, and my repast vanishes.
The noise alone from that many people is a stifling temperature of itself; a symphony of people each adding their own little notes in an attempt to cause an avalanche somewhere in Alaska. Children run, sometimes chasing, sometimes eluding, although as I watch I realize that they do not know which they are doing anymore than I. Groups of teenage boys march together, and I catch some of their eyes as we pass, some return my nod, others glower. The gangsta look prevails here as well as any other place in the mainland of the U.S., straight-billed ball caps, do-rags, and colorful patterned tops are in abundance. I watch some of these groups, and witness the leader step forward, as well his posse closes ranks around him, but not in front of him, as the groups approach the crowded concourse of the festival. The places are recognized, even assigned sub-consciously, and these young men are picking their roles in life's journey as surely as if they filled out a questionnaire honestly. We enter the fairgrounds together, to the right of the stage, and as my crowd of people draws even with the first tower of speakers, the drums tempo intensifies, as if welcoming us to the show. The male voice is chanting, singing in a language so unintelligible, yet familiarly beautiful that I can immediately picture an intimate circle playing out this same song and dance, in a time come and gone before my birth. Although the rythym calls to me, I must first make a visit to one of the booths further away, almost at the back of the fairway, where I have been attempting to commission a personalized shirt for a friend.
The crowd is not as large tonight, it almost seems as if many have stayed away because of the hundreds who visited the festival on the prior two nights. There is ample space to walk along without the constant press of bodies, and look at the booths and the wares being displayed by these local craftsfolk. Coming towards me are the faces of a people regularly unseen in the land where I come from, although they are faces in which I see my brothers and sisters. Most often I am looking upon Chamorros, descended from a culture native to the Marianas Islands, who have mixed with Carolinians, Fijians, Japanese, Spanish and Germans, to name but a few, without ever losing their dark, beautiful skin color. There are Korean and Japanese, some as tourists, some as inhabitants of the island, and by no means the only representatives of Asia I encounter. Caucasians are a minority, although not an oddity, but the climate of Saipan doesn't allow them to adhere to their descriptive misnomer of "white" people. Some are red from the sun like me, mostly the few who appear to be visiting Americans-which is an amazingly easy thing to spot once you go to other places because we Americans do have a "look" about us-but much more plentiful are the locals who hold some sort of degree of tan on their paler skins. Many of them are grouped in families with children of beautiful appearance, clearly adopted and reared as their own, which is an increasingly common occurrence among new friends during my travels. In short, I am submerged in an ocean of colors and appearances as I meander through the open field eying the many different local handicrafts on display.
Good news at my destination, the artist is in and he agrees to my personalized request. I pay him a mere fifteen dollars for the tee-shirt and the screen printing he is going to do. Although I continue to search the booths as I make my way back towards the stage, I determine that unless one specific totem appears to me, I won't spend any more tonight.
The drums had stopped, emcees had talked, full darkness had fallen and the drums had started again. The tone of the voice speaking into the microphone was rising, and so I returned to the outer reaches of the crowd to discover the cause. What I saw was so naturally unnatural that you have to see it to really feel what I am about to describe. If you have seen it then you will know. Polynesian fire-dancers had taken the stage, and they twirled batons lit on each end as the drums and chanting called out their moves.
If you don't understand think of this. Have you never sat at a campfire, and looked at a person five or so feet from you, and realized how amazingly lit-up their being is by the flames? You have an inkling then, of the impression that fire makes when associated with a physical body. Seeing a person standing, without clothes or any other outer protection, even though they are immobile, with fire grasped in their hands...the spinning, the throwing, the skills with the torches are amazing, but not as much for me as the raw power that emanated from these dancers as they performed on that stage. 'Playing with fire' has taken on a new meaning for me.
The rest of this evening was enjoying the food and looking at the stars. Wonderful, but not the point of mind that got me started on this post. I walked through the crowds alone tonight. I stood and watched something amazing, and I felt energy all around me, but I still chose to feel lonely. and it has been like that, throughout my life. I can remember being in Texas at fifteen, walking around at rodeos, football games and a fourth of July celebration, lonely. I lay in a bed on the 4th of July in 1998, with over twenty other men who were being detained and felt alone. I have been to Christmas parties and Thanksgiving dinners where I was as morose as if I had dined solitary. The list goes on and on, repetitive in all my initial memories. Why do I feel so alone? For a person who can make friends with so many people, why? I don't expect people to just walk up to me and say, Hey you look cool, let's be friends. But why do I scoff at my own inability to do exactly that? I call myself names, pummel my mental being because I won't just walk up to a perfect stranger and say hi. Why? I am creating a feeling of alone by telling myself that I am somehow less than other people, that I am not as good as others would be in my similar situation. Ridiculous. So I relaxed. Intuitively I know that as far as any mental change would happen to me, I must first relax mt physical being. My terseness shows to all those who care to look. Once I felt physically relaxed, I owned the feelings. Not a hard thing to do. I chose to leave all my loved ones, hence i am alone. I don't really want to try to meet a bunch of new people tonight, hence I am alone. I am sitting here talking to myself in my own mind, but the things that are being said are a composite of thousands of volumes, conversations, expositions and knowledge gleaned from the universe. The universe that is me. And all of you. So how can I ever be alone? When there is a universe inside of me, that is also inside of all of you, and it talks to me, then I must acknowledge how wonderfully connected I am with everything around me. But enough of that, I was still standing alone, and now hours later, there has been no one to touch me, no voice to say good night, no tail to wag upon my arrival, I am sitting in front of this computer alone. It just occurred to me that blogs aren't usually this long when I've read others'. It all makes sense though. I am what I believe I am. If I want to be alone, and sometimes I do, then I am. If I try to fill myself physically with another person, or people, to combat that loneliness, I am only human, but it is still in vain. When I decide to stop feeling alone, I will be able to sit in a crowd, and feel as if the life is flowing through me, and not all around me. I am NOT alone, I never have been. All those remembrances of lonely events, contain in them some sense of awe and wonderment, not at first recalled, but always there, as a gentle current, carrying my life along.

Friday, April 25, 2008


As I sit here trying to come up with my first post, which will no doubt be looked back upon as one of the defining moments in the twenty-first centuries literary history, I find myself at a rare loss for words. It's not that I have nothing to say. It's that I have so much to say. I feel like a puppy trying out it's legs in the first weeks of life. I am sure to fall any moment. I can't even tell if my eyes are open yet. But I am pretty sure that my mother has left the box, and for the time being, I am on my own. If I was more than the metaphorical reference to a dog, I would probably pee, step in some poop, and climb on top of one of my siblings. However comforting that may be for a puppy, I do not have that option available to me at the present moment. So I shall begin...
The island of Saipan has no shortage of dogs. They are everywhere, wandering about, unencumbered by leashes, collars, and the other trappings we humans use to mark these faithful animals as our property. The dogs that I see quite often are lacking not only the appearance of homes, but they are haggard and skinny, their bright pink tongues lolling out of their heads and proclaiming their thirst for all to see. they are commonly referred to as "boonie" dogs.
I'm not sure why they are called boonie dogs. Did someone mean to say bony, and somehow it all has been confused for so long that it stuck? The dogs I speak of are not limited to the "boonies", they hang out on the sides of busy streets, and at the entrances to the local corner marts, so I'm not sure that is it either. Why then, are they called boonie dogs?
Let me first make sure that you understand what type of dog I am referring to. Boonie dogs sleep in a manner that makes you wonder if they aren't dead where they lay. Breathing is quite often imperceptible, and even loud shouts of "hey boonie dog!" does not illicit any response. Boonie dogs rarely move quickly, preferring to turn almost as a horse does, swiveling it's entire body on some imaginary axis in between it's front and hind quarters. If one had the inkling, it would be entirely feasible to sneak up behind a boonie dog, tap it on the rear, and then move with it as it turned, preventing it from ever actually getting a good look at you. (Note: Do not try this with afore-mentioned horses...they will kick you.) The same lack of energy is demonstrated by a boonie dog that has found its way into the road. Boonie will quite often look at you with absolutely no intention of moving as you bear down upon it. Along the gravel road to my current residence, the boonie dogs combine these traits. They lay in the path of my car, as if dead, immobile and unconcerned with my approaching radials. They simply do not move! It is up to me to go around them. I suppose I could try touching them with a tire, but they usually lay in the ruts, so it wouldn't be a very accurate trial. If there is no way around them, than continuous honking of the car horn accompanied with shouted insults will make these boonies (there's two of them) slowly raise their heads, glare at me, then drag themselves upright so that they can amble out of my way at a leisurely pace. This is repeated all over the island.
You are probably wondering "What does a boonie dog look like?". As near as I can tell, someone brought a German Shepherd here long ago. It must've been lonely, so someone got it a dachshund to play with. (You know a wiener dog.) Or it could've been a beagle, who knows. The results are dogs of varying sizes, with strange unnatural characteristics. Or, as we all lovingly refer to them, mutts. They aren't all small mutant looking shepherds, I have seen a few that resemble yellow Labradors. But island-wide, I haven't seen a single dog that I would describe as 'stout'. All the boonies are lanky, but lacking in muscle tone and definition.
I don't want to misconstrue these dogs physical abilities. As I found out, they are still dogs, and some of them, especially the ones who have homes, can move pretty quickly when motivated. Motivation arrives in the form of me pedaling by on a bicycle! It is always fun when I turn onto a street, and see ahead of me, anywhere from 10 to 30 dogs just standing around looking boonie-ish. The best plan I've come up with so far is to ride straight at them, since they're usually standing in the road. Usually that confuses them. Of course, it's never the ones in the road you really have to worry about. The chaser usually comes flying out of a yard already barking and traveling at full speed as he closes in on your lower legs. I have heard from my runner friends that this scene is repeated against them as well, sans bicycle.
I am a little saddened by all the dogs that appear to be homeless. Maybe they aren't, I don't know, I'm not a $&%@# genius. Truthfully, any dog that got lost should be able to find its way home within 2 or 3 days simply by process of elimination. It's not a very big island. Forty-nine square miles or somewhere near that. And plus, I think the rule is sort of that if you want a dog here, you just feed one, and it probably follows you. So until the people of Saiapan start starving, the boonies will probably be ok. I mean, there's cat roadkill out there. Because when I'm driving, and mr. kitty just lays in the road looking at me, i don't make quite as much of an effort to avoid him. Cats should know better though.
So if anyone knows the origin of the term boonie in relation these mongrels, let me know. And someone tell my dog that he would be king on this island. And that I miss him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

my real first post

Okay, so this was actually written prior to my post about boonie it is really the beginning of what the world has been waiting for...:)

April 24th, 2008

I need to have some business cards printed. Now, I don’t really have a business yet, per say, but I definitely have the makings of one in my head. I also have a name, TWO email addresses, and a cell phone number that is local to Saipan. When a man has this many mediums of communication, he needs it to be organized on a pocket sized card that he can hand to potential clients, friends, or people whom he wants to impress. Truthfully, I think parents should have to get their children business cards immediately after birth. Then, when admiring adults lean in and say silly things like, “Adrian, is that a boy or a girl’s name?”, and “How old are you little one” and “What’s that funny smell emanating from your diaper?”, the child will have been trained to whip out a card that answers all these questions and more. Because let’s face it, who’s got to answer these questions? That’s right, I for one am tired of having to answer questions directed at my children that a business card could answer with much more visually delightful designs.

This all reminds that I actually have had business cards printed for myself before. And then, as instructed by my employer, I handed them out. I think this is a strangely widespread practice among the corporate world. I say strange, because it creates a lot of confusion. The usual result of my business card handing out (everybody in line at McDonald’s always got one from me), is that people call the number on the card, which in my case was an office number for an office that I was never at. So then another employee has to get involved and introduce themselves to this person, and take a message to pass on to me. I would receive the message, examine it, confirm that someone had called me, but that I did not recognize the name or number, and set it on my desk, where it would gradually add to the immovable mountain of papers that I referred to as my paperwork. I kept trying to explain to my boss that the business cards just weren’t working.

So we added my cell phone number to the card. Now, these same unrecognizable people who fished my cards out of the local weekly lunch drawing jar could call directly to me. And they would begin their conversations without any proper introduction.

Me: “Hello.”

Unknown Person: “Hey there Rio. This is Bill Jackson Heffferin. You were out at my house on December 16th, 2005 at 3:12 pm, but you didn’t meet me you met my great-uncle Jeffery and my mistress Cherry.

Me: “Uhh, Okay Bill. Tell me a little more because I’m having a small amount of trouble remembering that particular instance over two and a half years ago.

Bill: “You were out at my house to look at my roof, remember?”

Since I worked for a roofing company, and most of my daily appointments involved looking at roofs, I would hang up the telephone after this startling revelation. I did not need to be reminded of any past work I had done. Leave it be, and let bygones be bygones, that’s what I say. But seriously, what’s the benefit of this customer calling me about a situation that requires me to be in the office looking at his paperwork anyhow? He hasn’t sped up the process any by talking directly to me. And I am much more likely to just come off as the rude salesperson who can’t remember his particular situation when I have to take a call in the middle of standing on top of a roof pretending to listen to my newest client and his situation!

The construction industry did teach me a lot about business cards, though. Just think, you have a bunch of guys, education levels aside, who either want to play with bulldozers, or tell others how to play with the bulldozers. Give them all a box of a thousand business cards, I’m surprised we don’t hand them out to the waitresses when they come to talk our lunch order. I’d give mine to this guy, he’d go to his truck and give me his bosses card. I’d call his boss and he’d babble like an idiot and tell me to call the office. Call the office and they say they’re not allowed to give out JoeJoe’s cell number, would I like to leave a message?

Now the truth is, business cards are really only useful when you need to write down something you really care about. You flip the business card over and use the back. You may write something like ‘use a code name like Helga so my wife won’t suspect anything’ or the measurements of a roof you’re up on without your clipboard. Great! That’s what they’re really for, right?

WRONG! The printing industry got word that we were writing things ourselves, without paying them to write it for us, and they had to come up with a solution. What to do, what to do…eureka! They started printing stuff on the back too! And not just a few words, noooo. They print full-color emblems with texture so that if you try to write on it the pen dries up and will never write again. By the end of my roofing career I had a bunch of business cards that had no useful information on the back of them!

So I plan to apply all of my business card expertise as I choose my new cards. Namely, I am paying for them myself, so I’ll be using the free ones you get off the internet on the cheap paper stock. I will put someone else’s name on the cards with my phone number, so that when people call and ask for him I can say “how do you know him?” and then ascertain whether they’re legitimate clients, or just people who I met in the betting lines at the cock fighting tournament. And of course, the all important question will be, “what’s written on the back of the card?”, because once they tell me that, our conversation will be over!