Verna’s Two

Posted by Danny

My father-in-law plans a great trip.  And the best part about taking a journey with him is that you get to experience things that a normal tourist might not experience.

On our second night in Hawaii, the restaurant where we were planning to eat was packed and on that side of the island, there weren’t really other options.  So Pops pulled out his trusty tourist guide and started driving.  About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to Verna’s Too.  I’m surprised there was enough enthusiasm about the first Verna’s to open a second.

The guide-book described Verna’s as an inexpensive burger joint where all the locals hang out.  That was true.

When we first drove up, Michelle turned up her nose and said she wasn’t hungry.  The kid has a good sense about these things.

The woman at the window took our order with a ballpoint pen and a scrap of paper.  Her outfit was tight.  I was thankful the half wall covered the waist down.  Her form-fitting tight tank top was the same tan color as her skin.

She handed the order back to an older woman standing behind the grill.  She wore bedroom shoes and held the spatula in her hand; there was no smile.  She had a job to do and was focused on the griddle.  I got the sense she began her career at the original Verna’s as a very young woman.  She’d handled an order for 11 on many, many occasion.  This was not a problem.

The tiny dining room reminded me of the arcade at Permastone Lake, my summer haunt as a child.  I remember Undercover Angel playing on the jukebox as I ate snow cones with Steven Mozena my best childhood friend.  Their dining room floors were similar, concrete with a thin layer of wet sand on the top.  There were two options for sitting: a hard orange table with matching benches on the right and another on the left.  We split up – each booth only held 4.

Jesse was clear in his request, “NO MAYO.”  We all know to keep the mayo and, incidentally, garden peas, away from Uncle Jesse.  Almost makes him sick.

When his steak sandwich came out, the “special sauce” seemed an awful lot like mayonnaise – same color, same smell, same thick saucy consistency.  It wasn’t fully opened when it landed in the bottom of the 24 gallon metal trash can lined with a yard bag.  I suspected that they’d emptied palm tree clippings earlier that day to make room for the dinner rush.

It’s his own fault.  Who in their right mind orders a steak sandwich from a woman with sweat rings circling her armpits?

Our friend from behind the counter doubled as the food deliverer.  A side window opened from the kitchen to the gritty dining room.  She’d peak at the incoming meal and announce the next fare.

Michelle turned her nose up and anticipated my displeasure.

“Don’t get mad at me.  I told you I wasn’t eating that stuff.”

How could I argue?  She’d just seen her 33-year-old uncle toss half a cow into a Glad bag.

I opened my tin foil, the burger was hot.  Michelle nibbled at my fries.  The ketchup bottle looked clean, and I love me some ketchup.

I sniffed the bun as it neared my mouth – I had to do it if for no other reason as an example for my kids.

And it wasn’t half bad.  Sort of reminded me of a two-day old Hamburger Steak, Jr., from the Chargrill, reheated in the microwave.

I’ve decided my family is snotty.  The food wasn’t the issue for my kids, it was the atmosphere.  Somehow I’ve raised girls with country club taste on a YMCA salary.  How did that happen?

Lomi Lomi

Posted by Danny

On vacation last week we were driving back from Hilo to Kona on the island of Hawai’i and passed through the small town of Kainalin.  As we drove through the center of town, my eyes caught a sign for Aloha Massage Academy – $40 for a student massage.

After flying in a plane for 13 hours with my three kids, Jesse, a three-year old and an 18 month old, I found the sign quite inviting.  My head was aching and my lower back felt like Spartacus had pierced it with his Arena Sword.  

And considering my propensity for thriftiness, it looked like both my back and my Wells Fargo checking account back in Raleigh would leave happy.  So I called and made an appointment for my brother-in-law, not Jesse – the other one Matt, and myself.

We discussed a couples massage, we could each save $5, but decided it would probably do us both good to have an hour all to ourselves.

I went first.

Apparently, in Hawaii, they have a “special” massage called Lomi Lomi.  I didn’t know that’s what I was getting when I entered the room with my new fierce fingered friend, Lila.

“You can remove your clothes.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

No longer a rub down rookie, I wasn’t taken aback by her demand.  I was, however, a bit surprised when I took off my shirt, dropped my drawers and turned to find the window behind me wide open.  No curtains, no shutters, actually – no glass.  Yes, Lila apparently wanted the natural breezes from Hawaii to cool me as she Lomi-Lomied. 

I glanced at The Original Donkey Balls Chocolate Factory next door as I scooted under the thin burgundy sheet.  I took a deep breath and got a slight hint of the sweet.  Life is good.

Lila knocked. 

“Come in Lila.”

She walked around the table and immediately placed her hand on my right buttock, the 17 thread count sheet the only thing separating her bare hand from my bare butt.  Using unusual hand coordination, she began shaking my body with ongoing butt thrusts while her other hand and forearm forcefully glided up the right side of my lumbar region.  She shook for a while on the right and then balance it out with an equally nice shake down on my left cheek.

She proceeded to use her elbow to work out the tension in my shoulders – and it hurt…so…good.

She commented on the tightness of my back muscles.  I told her I lived a stressful life.  I could tell she was concerned.

After a few minutes of working up and down my spinal cord, I heard Lila drag something across the floor.  A second later, she was pressing equally across both sides of my back, starting at the bottom and slowly moving toward my neck.  A bit startled at the evenness of the pressure, I thought to myself:  Is she on the table?  Did Lila actually climb up on the table?

Lomi Lomi – indeed, she did!  Lila was straddling my legs and using all of her girth, and there was plenty, to release the impenetrable constriction in my back.  I’d never had a masuess actually get on the table with me.  I wonder what she would have done had the tension been in my chest.

When my hour was up, I was re–laxed.  I didn’t even flinch when a woman with a bag full of chocolates walked by my window as I was standing up from the table.

And when I got home, I asked Matt, “Did Lila get on the table to work on your back?”

“What?  No.  They don’t do that!”

I didn’t want to break it to him, but I think he was cheated.  He just got one Lomi; I got both.

Lomi Lomi sweet Lila – I’ll see you in my dreams.

Sunday Post 75: The Bird

Posted by Danny

Does God send signs?  I’m just not sure. 

I told Lisa before she died that if it was at all possible to come back and visit, I expected her to make that happen.  She told me she would not – she said she didn’t want to be stuck between here and there.  When she went, she was diving in with both feet.

But I sure have had some peculiar things happen since February 2010.

In June of 2009, three months before Lisa was diagnosed, her father took our entire family on a trip to Yellowstone.  About every three years he plans an incredible vacation where we laugh, grow closer and build significant memories.

In preparation for the trip, Lisa had t-shirts made up.  On the front it said, “The Katsopolis Family Tour.”  On the back, there was a list of places we’d been and the year we’d traveled.  The last entry on the tee was:  Hawaii, 2012.

That was Lisa’s way of encouraging her dad to keep the tradition going.  These truly are special occasions for our family.

So in true family tradition, Pops, as all the children call him, planned an incredible ten-day stay on the big island of Hawai’i!  We just got back.

On day 5, DJ received an email from a friend who said that her mother, who was a friend of Lisa’s, had a dream the night before.  In the dream, Lisa appeared.  As they were talking Lisa said, “Kathy, I just wish I could let Bruce know that the bird who has been following him is me.”

Interestingly enough, a bird had flown into our vacation home the same day that Kathy had the dream.  The bird flew in a second time later in the week.  And to top it off, as I stood on the lava rock in front of our house, a bird flew so close to my arm that I could feel a sharp breeze from his wing.  It startled me.   It almost felt like he touched me, but I didn’t see him until after he began flying away.

In no way do I believe that my wife has been reincarnated into a bird.  And I have absolutely nothing that could make me say the dream and our three encounters with Hawaiian fowl were anything more than coincidence.

And yet, I found it comforting. 

Maybe Lisa did turn rouge bird for a week.  Or maybe it was nothing.  Or maybe in some small way it is a sign, sent to me, to let me know she is OK and that she approved of our family’s time together.

In honor of our time, my mother-in-law sprung for Henna tattoos for the girls, and yes me.   Mine is the bird.

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