Thursday, December 16, 2010

Da Docent Is In

Census for December 9, 2010
7 Chelonia Mydas basking.
5 Chelonia Mydas Actively feeding in the tide pools.

Interesting turtle fact #1: The green sea turtle, unlike its land based cousins, cannot retract its head inside its shell.

As the sun peeks its head through the palm fronds, Da Docent is open and ready for business. What a great day! Why? Because I am sitting in my brand new Docent Headquarters located smack dab in the middle of Punaluu Beach. To my knowledge, this is the first Docent Headquarters on the south side of the Big Island and, in fact, it is the first Docent Headquarters on the entire Big Island. The new HQ did not cost the taxpayers one red cent as I constructed the HQ from donated or liberated materials. The walls are of a peachy, pastel-colored cloth material, which has been fastened between six large coconut palms. The enclosure has ample space for me to store all my docent supplies. It also includes a break room for me to enjoy my lunch, as well as a place for me to lie down when the stress of the job becomes too much. I have devised a pulley system to display the donated warning flags to make visitors aware of any TPSR violations. The flag system, combined with my whistle, should keep turtle viewing orderly. With a generous contribution from Walmart of Hilo, hundreds of plastic shopping bags liberated while the cashier was counting out my rolls of pennies when I purchased some bungee cords to complete my construction project, I will be able to add a new program to my repertoire. Now, on first warning I will give the offender a shopping bag which they can use to pick up refuse on the beach. When they fill the bag they can have full turtle viewing privileges restored. This will avoid the need for me to drag children back to the parking lot and hopefully avoid contact with camera bags wielded by out of control sightseers. I have also created a wonderful sign identifying Docent Headquarters that I painted on the back of a really unnecessary stop sign that I liberated from Main Street in Pahala.

Punaluu Docent Headquarters
Respect the Honu
(Sea Turtle)

It is any wonder that I am proud as a peacock this fine morning. Sitting in my beach chair, binoculars around my neck and whistle at hand, I survey the Honu. Like my spiritual bruddahs, the Honu, I cannot retract my head to injustice. In a little over a week I have founded the Docent Program, established guidelines and policies, and constructed a Docent Headquarters at NO COST TO THE TAXPAYER. Maybe I will tackle the U.S. Senate when my mission here is complete.

Interesting Turtle Fact #2: Turtles do not reach sexual maturity until they are 25 years old and then mate once every two or three years.

Again I can relate to my spiritual bruddahs, the Honu. Did I mention that my clothes were on the front porch after that incident at Walmart?
Well, no tour buses due for another hour, I think I’ll walk over and talk story with the bruddahs at the end of the beach.

“Howzit, my bruddahs. Check out my new Da Kine Docent Headquarters!”

“Hey wait, bruddahs, we talk story and have some ono grind”

Guess they all had to go to work or something.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Census for December 7, 2010
2 Chelonia Mydas basking.
6 Chelonia Mydas Actively feeding in the tide pools.

Under state law, the penalty for anyone convicted of harassing an endangered Hawaiian sea turtle, including disturbing its nest, on first conviction, is a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $2,000, or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or both. For a second or subsequent offense within 5 years of a previous conviction, a fine of not less than $500 or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.

It was well after nightfall when I finally arrived home. The 5-mile walk home was made more difficult by the fact that I had to carry all of my equipment. Up the hill I trudged with backpack, beach chair, binoculars, and the whole 9 yards. Everything made it home except for my TWSC cards and Data Records Book. The TWCS materials were ripped up by the husband of the woman who hit me in the eye with her camera case, which all could have been avoided if her twin 6-year-olds would have just stepped back into the turtle safety zone. Then I would not have had to give the little tykes double yellow cards and physically remove them to the parking lot. Personally, I think the mother’s reaction was a little over the top. I was only running to the parking lot with her children under my arms to protect the sea turtles from her little ones repeatedly getting inside the 15-foot TPSR. I told her and her husband there was no need to be confrontational, but they were too unbalanced to listen to reason.

After a tiring day, it was comforting to see that wifey was considerate enough to put my pillow and blanket out on the couch so that I could get a good night’s sleep. I needed a good rest because I knew tomorrow would be busy now that my TWSC system was ruined and I would have to address all violations the old fashioned way. What did we do before technology? There has to be a way to perform this mission more effectively. Let me sleep on it, as all my best ideas come after a good rest.

The brainstorm hit at 3 a.m. How could I not have thought of it before? The solution … a flag system. I could raise a flag of warning and blow my whistle without coming in camera bag range of the offenders. Brilliant, and I knew just where to get some colored flags. The other day wifey and I were driving up in Woods Valley and drove past a house that had numerous flags right in front of the house. Surely they could spare one or two. Now, Woods Valley is well off the beaten track. We were told it was an area inhabited by old hippies who just wanted to farm and do their own thing. That is exactly what my purpose could use is some of that good old 60’s hippie feeling. Hippie farmers would be happy to donate a few flags to help Mother Nature.

With that, I knew I had to act on this brainstorm or I might forget by the morning. So I quietly slipped out of the house to make a quick drive up to Woods Valley and the flag house.
I found the house with the flags without a problem. There must have been 50 flags draped around the front porch. I’ll just run up grab a couple and get back home in time for breakfast before heading into my office. I walked up the driveway just past the sign that read…

Hare Krishna
Temple of the GlitteringLeftShoe
Hare Rama

I climbed up on the porch and gave a good tug to the first flag. It wouldn’t budge. They were all tied together and on the same line it looked like the week’s laundry was out as well. Just one quick tug and I’ll be on my way. I tugged and tugged and with one last mighty heave the line gave and I tumbled across the porch and fell into a large ceremonial gong. What a racket! I noticed a light had come on in the house and thought it might be a good time for me to be on my way. So I scurried to the car with the flags trailing behind me. By the time I started the car every light in the place was on. I stepped on the gas and headed down the hill back towards Pahala. Mission accomplished, and the turtles will be safer tomorrow. As I began to speed down the hill with my lights off, not wanting to wake any of the locals, I noticed in my rear view mirror that all the gentleman in the house were out waving at me, probably wishing me well.

When I got home I reeled in my new turtle saving equipment. Not only did I get the two flags I needed, but I also had every flag from the porch as well as the items that were on the clothes line. My bad! I had fifty flags that had tags reading Genuine Tibetan Prayer flags and 15 bedsheets of a peachy pastel color. I thought about taking them back, but it was a long drive back up the valley and surely they have more bedsheets. And with the jovial send off they gave I surmised they would not mind a donation to the docent program.

It is shaping up to be another great day in the life of the Senior Docent of Punaluu.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This is my wife after one day on the job with me

Census for December 5, 2010
2 Chelonia mydas basking

I knew it was going to happen, but was hoping it wouldn’t. I knew my wife was going to want to come to work with me to check up on this “so-called job,” as she calls it. As soon as she said she wanted to come, I knew there was going to be an incident. I knew she wouldn’t understand my position. She works at home all day by herself. She has no idea about the stress in working with the public and at the same time dealing with wild animals. This is not some Disneyland fantasy ride.

It was a nice morning walk across lava fields to the next beach up the coast. I was, as usual, working, looking for turtles and ever vigilant for those that wish to do them harm. She was just walking and enjoying the scenery. She then said she would like to go back to Punaluu to just sit on the beach.

“Are you sure you want to do that dear? You know I am on 24/7.”

“Oh give me a break and just sit on the beach for an hour.”

“If we must.”

All was going well for the first quarter hour. And then a wonderful Chelonia mydas beached itself right at our feet. This beauty had to tip the scales at 400 lbs. This was a large, mature female, probably at least 30 years old. What a specimen! We were both enchanted. But then I noticed a tour bus pulling into the lot about 400 yards away. “Show time,” I uttered, while pulling on my fluorescent green cycling vest.

“What? What the hell are you wearing? Oh please!” she muttered. I think it was disbelief with a dose of exasperation I noted in her tone.

I finished preparing. With the fluorescent green vest I included my whistle, my binoculars, my Field Guide to Turtles and Fishes, my tide book, and my newly made “Turtle Warning System Cards” (TWSC).

The TWSC is my new invention. It was a stroke of genius, if you ask me. Due to the number of European visitors that we have at Punaluu and due to the fact that I only speak English and Hawaiian Pidgeon (more on that shortly), we needed a method to communicate quickly and clearly. With the TWSC, when a person violates Turtle Personal Space Rule (TPSR), I blow my whistle and run down the beach until I am face-to-face with the TPSR violator and then I show them a yellow card and note it in the TWSC Data Records Book. A second violation will result in a red card and banishment back to the tour bus. A person touching a turtle would earn an automatic red card. This would require me to escort them to the bus and report it to the tour director.

I was watchful as the group neared my Chelonia mydas. To break the ice, I would approach the gawkers and engage them in some of the local lingo, Hawaiian Pidgeon.

“Howzit, visitors. Aloha and mahalo, welcome to Da Kine Hawaiian Turtles (the real deal Hawaiian turtles).”

“Who are you?” An impertinent young man accompanied by a 20-something hard-body asked.

“I am da Docent . Da turtles are taking da sleep befo de go for some ono grind (good food). Me and da turtles are ohana (family)."

“Whatever old guy. Do you know how to work a camera? Would you take our picture?” asked the young man.

“Sure thing, kahuna”, I replied. I’ll fix his wagon, this smart-mouthed, flat-bellied youngster. Just because you have a full head of thick luxurious hair you think you can disrespect me and my language, I’ll show you. You know, I may not be Hawaiian, but I did sleep in Pahala last night.

So I framed up their picture and snapped away.
“Let me get another.”
“Just one more, perfect.”

I got 5 good photographs and that wiseass doesn’t have his mug in one of them. Though I did get some good close ups of the more curvaceous parts of his girlfriend’s anatomy. See how that plays back in Peoria, arsehole.

I looked back to make sure my bride was catching my tactful display of people skills. She must have been really proud because her face was all red and she was trying to hide her pride by hiding behind her beach towel.

Well, then it really hit the fan as a elderly couple violated the TPSR. I raced into action. I was a whistle-blowing, binocular-clanking, yellow-card-displaying dervish of a docent. By the time I finished recording the violations in TWSC Data Records Book, I was a nervous wreck. I headed back to our chairs just in time to see my wife burn rubber out of the parking lot.

I knew she wouldn’t understand.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work . . .

Disclaimer. For all you arseholes who commented about the picture…that is not I, the turtle OR the Swedish guy in the banana hammock.

Census for December 2, 2010
7 Chelonia Mydas basking.

Part of the new job requirement coming from the new Senior Docent and Supervisor of Docent Activities is the daily census, which I have posted above. I don’t know if I like this new supervisor and the extra work he is requiring.

The details of my position are still being worked out. Things like salary, benefits, working hours, and uniform allowances have yet to be worked out. But for now I will make do with the following:

Salary. I am a volunteer. I report to work every day on my own without a thought of financial gain. As Julia Butterfly was to the redwoods, so am I to the green sea turtles of Punaluu. This is not a job; this is a search for purpose! You may ask why I have taken on this demanding position without hope of financial reward. My recent motivation is not totally altruistic. It stems from a comment by wife… something to the effect of “What in the hell is it that you do all day?” I forget the exact verbiage, but I did pick up something in the tone that made me think taking on this mission might be wise.

Benefits. Being the giver that I am, I have little regard for any benefits. Much like the old story of the starfish that I have sat through at almost every teacher staff development seminar I have attended, today I made a difference to those 7 Chelonia mydas.

Work Hours. I show up when I want and leave when I want. But, as we all know, as Senior Docent I am really on 24/7. No rest for the weary.

Uniform Allowance. My official uniform is swim trunks and T-shirt. I have to buy my own whistle to alert visitors that they are getting too close to the turtles. The whistle makes me feel like one of those damn basketball officials when I was coaching. “Sir, I am going to have to ask you to step away from the turtle, next warning I‘m going to have to send you back to the tour bus.” I blow the whistle and head off like a Quixotic Barney Fife on a mission to save the world. Maybe that is why Julie won’t come to the beach with me when I’m working.

Must go now. Need to get some sleep. That new Supervisor is making me work on Saturday. That is actually okay, now that have a porpoise (docent joke).

Thursday, December 2, 2010


One of the perils of the job!

Well, you may think I am crazy, and after reading this it may be confirmed, but after a month in Hawaii I have found the need to pursue a higher purpose, or at least some purpose. To that end I have recently accepted a position as Senior Docent at Punuluu Beach Park. I am in charge of supervising Chelonia Mydas, or green sea turtles, with auxiliary responsibilities for spotting Megaptera novaeangilae or humpback whales.

How I came to accept this position is quite a story in itself. I accepted the position from none other than myself, as I created this position. Since I am the only person in this position, I am the longest serving person in this position; therefore, I am the Senior Docent. I didn’t know I would advance so rapidly when I developed this position yesterday, but I have always thought I was upwardly mobile. Currently there is no Junior Docent or even a Supervisor of Docents, so I have been extremely busy. I could move into a management position soon. The brainstorm for this position came from sitting on the beach at Punuluu watching the sea turtles come up to bask on the beach. I could relate to them on a cosmic, mystical level. I, too, would bask on the beach and when I got too warm I would head into the ocean to thermoregulate. I felt they needed an on-shore advocate as I watched, with horror, as too many banana hammock clad tourists would violate their and my personal spaces. That exposes my prejudice, that wearing a banana hammock in public violates everyone’s personal space. So, the turtles needed an advocate and I needed a job, well I didn’t need a job nor did I really want a job, but I needed a purpose and since I came to the beach to bask on a daily basis it was a match made in paradise.

The reason I needed a purpose stems from the fact that nearly everyone I have met here is retired or unemployed. I needed something to set me apart because, as I was both retired and unemployed, I felt I was becoming a statistic. I wasn’t an old fart crawling off the tourist bus to gawk at the black sand beach on my way to tonight’s authentic luau at the Sheraton-Hilton- Four Seasons-Marriot-Hawaiian Holiday Resort. Nor was I in the ranks of the unemployed who occupy the parking lot at the other end of the beach who drink beer, smoke gange, barbecue fish that they take from the ocean, and just hang out. Though I am probably closer to the latter than the former.

The position of Senior Docent and Supervisor of Docent Activity (see? I got a promotion already and only my third day on the job) is a work in progress. I am still working on my job description and list of duties. I haven’t yet scheduled the meeting to review and approve the job description with Senior Management, Labor Union representatives, Community Representatives, and the Budget oversight Committee, and I may just stonewall that meeting and block all progress until my demands for tax breaks for the top 2% of docents are met. But I digress. The job description includes a myriad of activities that I fulfill on a daily basis. I will detail these, but this is not a comprehensive list and my duties change daily depending on the level of need and interests. That is, my needs and my interests.

I answer questions, sometimes politely and other times filled with a full frontal Doddonian retort.
“Yes, the turtles are alive.” What did you think, they were dead and we were just waiting till lunchtime to throw one on the barbie?

“Yes, they move.” Did you think I went out in the water and hauled a 500-pound shell up here for you to photograph?

“Yes, they are asleep.” You would sleep too if you had to watch for 12-foot tiger sharks when you went out at night.

“No, they don’t bite.” They are herbivores and that melon on your shoulders that comes up with these stupid questions might make you a candidate for lunch.

Well, you get the picture.

I have to go to work now. I will continue this later. But, first I must go pack my lunch. Yes, I am a lunch pail toting docent headed to the salt mines for another grind. First, I must check to see that I am prepared with the tools necessary to fulfill my purpose. Beach chair, towel, crossword puzzle book, trashy novel, binoculars, camera, hat , sunscreen, lunch, and more.

It’s tough, but somebody has to do it.