Saturday was when we really reached our limit.
Sitting across the living room from each other, both flabby, both pasty, both exhausted by the worlds inside our laptops and the gloomy, windy, dead, and frozen terrain outside, we exchanged a glance that conceded the surrender of all hope. Without saying a word, we both suddenly understood why Russians drink themselves to death with small glasses of vodka, and why Wisconsinites do the same with giant fishbowls of brandy. At some point, there is no longer enough will left to simply go outside and commit suicide by freezing — or to traverse the longer, slower path to congestive heart failure via bad diet and lack of exercise. The stupid Super Bowl is over, the groundhog has lied once again and, as Tom Robbins wrote, “the international situation is desperate, as usual.”
Several times, thanks to the generosity of radio legend Steve Dahl, we have been fortunate enough to spend a week in Hawaii around this point of the year, and just the memory of those islands might still be enough to pull us through again.
On Tuesday morning, out of the blue, I remembered the streaming audio of KPOA 93.5 FM on Maui and listened to it while part of the huge, national winter storm raged outside. (The link on KPOA’s site doesn’t work for me, but the link on this page does.) The music is kind of hokey, and the commercials are kooky and low-budget, but the overall effect makes February considerably warmer in Wisconsin. Well, at least until you hear the umpteenth Jawaiian song or public service announcement about Maui’s “ice” problem.
In Milwaukee, even when your breath freezes in midair and falls to the pavement with a soft tinkling sound, you can still get a Hawaiian plate lunch at Sushi-a-Go-Go in the Milwaukee Public Market. For stay-at-homes, it’s very easy to make Oven Kalua Pork. Put a little sunshine in your mouth by adding some fresh pineapple or citrus, and pretty soon you can almost hear the gentle ocean surf.
Yesterday, I was outside shoveling the latest lake effect snow when the clouds finally moved east and the sun came out, turning everything a brilliant, sparkling white. I knew that soon, our temperatures will rise above freezing and the snow will melt. Before very long, there will be daffodils and tulips and dandelions, and I will be wearing shorts and slippas (“flip-flops,” to you mainlanders). Already, it’s plain to see that days are getting longer, and this year, Daylight Saving Time is coming early, on March 11.
This morning, a friend sent me a link to the Barefoot Natives page at YouTube, where I found the video above — a medley of what is almost a sacred hymn for Hawaii’s visitors, “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u” (featuring Eric Gilliom), followed by “Ku’ulei ‘Awapuhi” (featuring Willie K). Their resonating voices, deft slack key guitar touches, and shoelessness really put the wind back in my sails. See the official Barefoot Natives site for more on them, and the Spirit of Aloha archives for some articles to read while you listen.
So sure, it’s only 9° F. here right now. I’m not going to inflate the bicycle tires just yet. But according to Month-By-Month Gardening in Wisconsin, it is already time to start onions indoors. Can barbecue be far behind?