Monday, January 26, 2009

Travelog Rediscovered...


Cleaning out 12 years of stuff I have accumulated living here, I came across an old travelog diary I kept when I backpacked New Zealand in 2003.

They say that we have the answers to all of the challenges we face already inside of us...we just need to ask the right questions. Interesting thing is, I'm still asking myself the same questions six years later...and am not entirely sure how I feel about that.

Had I become that comfortably numb? Am I just a lost soul swimming in a fishbowl - year after year [God Bless Pink Floyd] - living the same year over and over again, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day??

Early in my mortgage career I had often questioned if "10 years experience" on my competition's business card meant the same year over and over 10 times, or if my competition was taking the necessary steps to learn, grow, innovate, and remain at the leading edge of their field.

Now I cringe at the thought of how I have spent the last 12 years learning about real estate & finance, and building for the the expense of what lay right before me. About how I created an "Instant Family" for myself at the tender age of 20, wanting so badly to provide more options for my family and stepson that I worked countless hours for the future I dreamed about at the expense of being present with what was right in front of me, what I cared about most...

....and that being said, I would take none of it back.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Angry Woebots


I bought a painting in 2003 at a live art show in Chinatown called First Thursdays, when it was held at Studio One on King st in Chinatown back in the day serving beer out of giant fisherman's coolers and makeshit plywood has since grown into the largest registered Poetry Slam in the world and moved from Studio One to the Hawaiian Hut at Ala Moana Hotel.

The poets were passionate, some angry, some funny, and they all had something to say...the blank canvas was crafted  by the emotions  of each poet's words, and by the end of the  night an artistic phenomenon was born.

"BREAK YOUR REMOTE" calls to me across the room, me who has not owned a TV set for six years now, who hasbecome his father despite his furious efforts not to [television is EVIL and will rot your brain]...and I find myself purchasing my first piece of art.  

Two days later, the artist [Aaron Martin] rolls up to my house with the painting sticking out the back of  his mini-truck bed, all smiles and stoked that someone had actually purchased his work - his first sale.  

From a recent cover story article in the Honolulu MidWeek:

"...his trademark black-and-white panda paintings began as an accident.  “Originally I was going to paint a grizzly bear, but a friend of mine forgot to bring the paint I was waiting for,” says Martin, noting the only colors he had with him in large quantities were black and white. With the room packed and the pressure mounting, Martin had to make do with what he had.  “I was standing on the side, people were just staring at me, so I decided to change (the design) and make it into a panda.”
I am in awe of this man.  Here he is, pursuing his passion, making a good living doing what he loves....painting.    His passion has become his business.  In doing what he loves, he is able to make a good living.  I have looked him up today to help me sell my painting.

He says I look familiar, and when I tell him that I am the guys who bought his first painting, he is all smiles and stoked again, shakes by hand, gives me a hug and tells me that it is good to see me again.  Yes, his assistant did get the email I send him about 3 months ago explaining that I had hit upon hard times and don't want to sell the painting but need the cash....they have just been too busy tearing up the arts scene around the world to get back to me.  He tells me yes, of course he will help me out to sell my painting on his blog, it is THE original painting, and he tells me that I should go travel the world.

I am taken back to my drunken-stoned days in art school where the most important things we were concerned with were things like light & shadow, composition, and expressing form, where my self-induced bluriness lent me a clarity devoid of logic & reason.  Of couse, it makes sense to stop my studies, leave everything behind, and fly off to Hawaii to travel the world.

And then....I remember the conscious decision I made to take the path of entrepreneur rather than starving artist, and I feel again the frustration of having ignored my artistic impulses for the last 12 years.  I am standing before myself in a parallel dimension, a me who took the path of starving artist and "made it", because he is following his passion rather than finding things in his work to be passionate about.

And here I am 12 years later, leaving everything behind, flying off to see the world.....haunted by a quote I just read on a friend's blog:

And the doubt and the questions creep back in to my I doing the right thing?  Won't I be losing momentum in my career?  Will I ever come back?  Am I running away or am I indeed taking a much-needed breather? blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah 

They say that fear [my mind] is the voice in your head that screams loudest, a great guide but a poor master.  They say that inution [my soul] is a soft, gentle, knowing whisper that is there when you quiet the incessant chatter.  

The quiet thoughts of travel have been whispered to me for the last twelve years of my life...

I will listen to my soul. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009



Meanwhile, my brother James is now addicted to Sudoku!!  We met some friends for drinks at Aloha Tower last night and I drove us in his car so that he could solve more Sudokus on the way over.....and on the way back.  The Tower was dead so we left early so that he could solve more Sudokus!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sunset with Pootie Tang


Pootie Tang is not much of a dog in the grand scheme of things....he weighs in just under 5 lbs...though what he lacks in size he makes up for with mounds of personality.

One of my favorite things to do of late has been to drive around the corner to Diamond Head Lookout and watch the sunset with the dog.

There is a small public garden that most visitors drive right past on their way to the lookouts which is the perfect place to watch the setting sun.  Surfers ride the rolling swells below, passenger jets make their final approach to Honolulu overhead, couples cuddle and an endless procession of joggers surround this tiny garden oasis....while the sun puts on its show each day, quietly and majestically slipping below the horizon. 

Another one of the simple pleasures of this job...

nalo pics






Tuesday, January 20, 2009



JOY! JOY!!" - Ren & Stimpy

While millions of people around the world tuned in to watch the inauguration preceedings, my buddy Laurens and I retreated to the valleys of Waimanalo to celebrate the new presidency by spending more time with new friends at Olomana Gardens.

We thought it appropriate to take step back to nature and simplicity as the rest of the world held its breath and wept while Barrack Obama, the great Icon of Hope for our generation, was sworn into office.  In celebration of new beginnings, we questioned and further explored new territory in what we want our lives to stand for, and how we want to live.

In doing so, we spent the morning the interns and WWOOFers living on the farm to learn more about organic permacultre and aquaculture, then hiked watertrails in the mountainsides with the group to learn more about the local watershed and water quality issues.

"[Living on a farm] is not how I want to live", Laurens explained to me, "but I LOVE learning new things and connecting with people who are leading the way and using their resources to actually DO what they love to affect change."

Laurens is one of my best friends, the kind of guy who looks at a challenge and simply figures out how to make it work; no whining, no drama.  He is a fellow alumni of HKU...Hard Knocks University.  We've both built our businesses with our bare hands, and little more than our wits + a burning desire to provide as many options as we can for our loved ones.  Money....and lots of important because of the options it affords us; it is the means, not the ends....though in recent times we have found ourselves questioning our definition of "lots"...

In some ways, I feel like I have lost my business so that he doesn't have to lose his...there are mistakes I've made along the way that he doesn't have to make himself since I've crossed them off the list as "things not-to-do."

He is facing his own set of challenges we all are....and I admire the way he looks to make the best of whatever comes his way.  In many ways, he and I are on similar paths, though from the outside our lives look very different: 

He = married, 3 young children, still in business, driving us in his Mercedes.
Me = single, 1 small dog, out of business, driving my uncle's beat-up 1992 Volvo...

...yet each of us questioning and exploring and discovering more and more about himself with each passing day.  Fighting the good fight.  The fight to listen to your own heart's true desire, true purpose.

Henry Ford famously said, "failure is simply the opportunity to start again more intelligently."

So, when President Obama proclaimed, "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America," I hear it with slightly different ears.

Starting today, I must pick myself up, dust myself off, and begin again the work of remaking myself.

No more laying in bed feeling sorry for myself.  No more avoiding phone calls or old friends reaching out to support and connect with me.  No more hiding.  Time to hold my head high and dive into the work of rebuilding myself....and to start from within.  

This is the part of the movie where the main character gets beaten down by his nemesis, and retreats into the mountains humbled and bloody to lick his wounds.  Thus begins the battle that is fought within, the battle of "Can I really do this?  Am I worthy enough?".....the wandering and the wondering and the soul-searching that goes with it....this is the part of my life I am entering into now.

We have been called to “a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

Character.  What am I made of?  Is my desire to travel simply me running away from my challenges?  Or am I on the path of searching and discovery that envisioned by the movie running in my head?  Will I come back?  Will I even leave [I haven't yet bought my tickets...]?

Task.  How do I want to make a difference to our world?  Why am I here.....what do I want my life to stand for, and be about?  What is it that I want to do with my life? 

We emerge from the rainforest into a new world...on the drive home, the dark  clouds of challenges still ahead loomed ominously in the valleys to our right...and rays of sunshine blazed patches of blue sky over the ocean to our left.  The earth itself is whispering to us of what lies ahead.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Green Worms


When I first met Glen Martinez at the IHS Rooftop Aquaponics Garden meeting on Friday, I liked him immediately.  He was wearing a funny paper-boy/golfer's cap, offering me chocolate-caramel cookies, and he was constantly being "reigned in" by the meeting's moderator each time he launched into a passionate description of an aspect of their green roof project, his blue eyes twinkling brightly.  

My brother James and I have had Glen's name come up in several unrelated, seemingly random conversations over the last few months, so meeting him so unexpectedly was a pleasantly karmic surprise.

James is an architecture student at UH-Manoa, with a passion for urban garden and permaculture initiatives.  He is finishing his studies soon, and is planning to conduct his thesis on "resource positive" buildings - buildings which go beyond producing their own energy.  The grin that creeps on his face as he pulls up (fashionably late, in true Lynch-style) says it all: "I'm home."

Now that we've spent 4 hours touring Olomana Gardens, in Glen's words: "an informal, old-style, Hawaiian, tropical garden that is a model for modern, sustainable agriculture", I like him even more. 

Most tourists pass right through Waimanalo in the blink of an eye on their way to Bellows Beach camping Grounds, Makapu'u Beach, or Sea Life Park, and never guess that they are passing through Hawaiian Homestead and agricultural lands.

Glen is only the 4th landowner of record; the parcel under his stewardship is a kuleana lot that has been passed along directly from the Hawaiian Royal Throne.  The property is nestled in the back of Waimanalo Valley, so close to the foot of the Ko'olau mountain range that the sun was disappearing behind the towering peaks as I drove up at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

Fed by the Waikupanaha spring, the valley used to be filled with breadfruit, mountain apples, kukuinut and coconut trees, sweet potato, sugar cane, and taro patches with banks covered in ti and wauke plants.  Today, the valley is home to Native Hawaiian Homesteaders, military folk living off-base, a handful of small family farm and nursery operations, and the only horse polo field on the Winward Side of the island.  

Olomana Gardens is "a production and demonstration, organic market garden including organic, biointensively-produced vegetables, and selected fruits, herbs and ornamental plants; exotic chickens, geese, turkeys and ducks, naturally-raised eggs (no antibiotics, no hormones)" [from their website].  

Papaya and calamungai trees (makes the best chicken soup ever - just ask any Filipino!), ti leaf, sweet potatoes, taro, lettuce, a variety of herbs, we even spotted a cacao (chocolate) tree....all of it doesn't grow in the topsoil, instead they are happily and healthily growing in worm castings (aka worm poop).  This is created by thousands of composting worms which munch their way through organic greenwaste and animal manures to produce a natural, nutrient-rich fertilizer that looks like topsoil, tastes like topsoil....but ain't topsoil!  

Despite the recent heavy rains, the "soil" the plants grew in was still quite loamy, soft, and easy to break apart.  Glen keeps diving into patches of dirt with both hands to eagerly give us a sniff and feel of the stuff - it smells like sweet mother earth, with notes of rain and a hint of fresh mountain air, the stuff that life is made of. 

We walk into the horse stables and were invited to sniff the air - guess what?  No smell!  The worms were doing their thing in here too, breaking down the horse's wastes into loamy-sweet plant food.  Same thing in the chicken pens, and where the ducks roost.  Amazing...I'm starting to really like these little wriggly guys.

Glen is most excited about the aquaponics system being installed.  A recent blackout caused filters to failand wiped out over 2,500 fish at a neighbor's fishfarm...they had to use a tractor to bury them all....and with fertilizer costs steadily increasing, using aquaponics to minimize costs and maximize efficiency takes Olomama Gardens a step closer to creating a completelly self-sustaining ecosystem on the farm.  

In an aquaponics system, the fish eat the worms and black soldier fly larvae that are munching through the green and organic waste created by the farm, and then poop in the water.  The water is recirculated through cinder growbeds, where the plants grow very quickly by drawing the rich nutrients (fish poop) out of the water, thereby filtering the water so that it can be recirculated back to the fish as clean, healthy water for them to eat and poop in.  

The Aussies are the world leaders in developing these systems, and so Glen is heading off this week to visit Brisbane, Australia; spending thousands of dollars to attend "aquaponics bootcamp" with the world's foremost expert on the matter, Dr James Rakocy.

We meet some of the interns who live and work on the farm, in exchange for the learning opporunity - there is a landscaping contractor, a master's student, and a full-time dolphin instructor hanging out and drinking hot tea under the tents of the communal ecclectic, and very intelligent group of people.

As introductions are made and short bios given, it dawns on me that this sustainability thing is no longer the realm of leftover hippies and crazed tree-hugging environmentalists.  There are some very smart, forward-thinking, highly conscious, outward-focussed individuals that are really embracing this philosophy....and the striking genius of it all lies in its simplicity.  Fish poops, dirties its water.  Plant eats the poop, cleans the water.  And the cycle starts again.  Simple.  Beautiful.

At what point did we in the western world decide that life had to be so complicated, so layered in its intricacies?  Did we inadvertently seduce ourselves into complacency through our indulgence in the creature comforts of progress?  Farmers throughout the world have been farming the same plots of land for thousands of years, and in two generations the western world has poisoned and leeched many of our farmlands in the mindless pursuit of profit.

Thankfully, ventures such as Olomana Gardens show us that we are poised on the brink of a new level of collective consciousness.  The pain that lies ahead for so many of us as we weather the global downturn that shall be upon us for the next few years will no doubt prove to the masses that unconscious capitalism simply does not work.  Conscious capitalism, in which a "triple bottom line" of profitability encompasses social, environmental, and economic sustainability will be the way for businesses and organizations to innovate and prosper.  Imagine a big business where the more money it makes, the more our environment and societies benefit - does such an animal even exist?

My brother James and I are so impressed with Glen's passion and knowledge, and with the tranquil setting of Waimanalo Valley, that we stay and chat with this man until well after dark.  We have long been interested in creating a sustainable development of our own and used to sit out on our patio in Kailua, the next neighborhood over, and dream about what ours would look like: kalo (taro) patches, organic vegies and herbs, courtyards in the main house, a horse stable for our old roomate, yurt or hale [pronounced hah-lei] structures where healing arts could be practised, a workshed to build stuff with our Dad, high-performance technology center for communications with global projects ... the list goes on....  Think feudal-era-rural-Japanese-farming-compund-meets-James-Bond-villan-lair and you get the general idea.

When we learn that there will be a vacany opening up at Olomana Gardens soon, we catch each other's eyes across the tent and reach an unspoken agreement: "We'll be moving in soon."




ABOUT OLOMANA GARDENS:  Olomana Gardens is dedicated to serving the local community as an informal, old-style, Hawaiian, tropical garden that is a model for modern, sustainable agriculture.  Organic fruits and vegetables, composting and tiller worms, worm compost, organic plants, and organic pallet gardens are available for purchase.  Agriculture workshops and tours are a regular feature.  Learn more at:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bestest Neighborhood Ever


I'm really going to miss this neighborhoood.

Living "in the shadow" of Leahi, the Hawaiian name for Waikiki's world famous landmark most people know as Diamond Head Crater, has been so much fun...  

Each morning I am greeted by the many moods of Leahi through my bedroom window; this time of year the rains awakens the slopes into lush shades of green.  Hiking the inside of the crater 3 mornings/week was a great workout while I had the habit...then breakfast down the road at Boggarts cafe, voted "Honolulu's Best Breakfast Sandwich" by Honolulu Weekly readers [also home to the cutest waitresses this side of Waikiki]....

Technically, this neighborhood is called Kaimuki [pronounced kai-moo-kee], though it is bordered by the affluent neighborhoods of Kahala, Diamond Head, and Waikiki's Gold Coast...which is just fine by the property owners becuase it means we enjoy living in an affluent neighborhhod - without the affluent property taxes [shhhh nobody tell the City & County....].

The charm of the area lies in the vibe of the people who live here - a combination of college students, adventurous travellers, old local families, affluent Honolulu executives, wealthy trophy-home owners, and the international jet-set.  On my block live 3 generations of a hawaiian family [right next door]; a retired local-Japanese man, his wife, and their tenants [hospitality workers in Waikiki who shower at 2am like clockwork]; "Crazy Ivan" the German software engineer, his Japanese girlfriend, and their college student roomates;  the bright yin-yang, dog-loving couple who live in a cute & cozy two-bedroom cottage [he teaches at the community college one block away, she's an up & coming lawyer at one of Honolulu's leading firms] and their furry family: Daisy, Noodles, and their lazy fat cat Snowball; and another young couple who own the Le Guginol, the best french food in Honolulu [he's a local boy trained in France].

My more disciplined neighbors can be seen jogging around the crater and community college campus in the mornings and evenings like I got some exercise and walked 2 blocks to Rueger Market for a $6 pork laulau plate lunch [ono-licious!!].  This little store is a local secret, and has been making killer hawaiian food [especially the ahi pok'e] from this neighborhood corner store for over two generations!

On Saturday I slept in and missed the famer's market, which has fresh organic produce, delicious kona coffee [from the farmer himself], grilled Kahuku corn-on-the cob from the North Shore, fried green tomaotes, fresh pizza, free range beef.....sooooo many goodies; I'll have to dedicate a post soley to it.

Last night my brother and I slurped up delicious Tenkaipen Ramen on Kapahulu Ave.  The owner has his own TV show called Ultimate Japan, which took us on tours of "behind-the-scenes" Japan as we dined.  The chicken broth I ordered has been simmering for 48 hours....thick, creamy, full of flavor.....OISHSI!!

I'm really going to miss this neighborhoood!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Inauguration of Change... part I

Late in 2005, I hosted a political fundraiser held at Mariposa Restaurant that was attended by over 40 up & coming business leaders. For many of those in attendance that evening, forking out $100+ to support a political candidate was an ideological challenge, especially given the fact that so many of our generation are dis-encouraged, if not outright disgusted with politics in general.

That night, the political candidate we engaged with spoke of the stages of democracy (attributed to a speech given in 1787 by Professor Alexander Tyler):

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations have always progressed through the following sequence:
1) From bondage to spiritual faith.
2) From spiritual faith to great courage.
3) From great courage to liberty.
4) From liberty to abundance.
5) From abundance to complacency.
6) From complacency to apathy.
7) From apathy to dependence.
8) From dependence to bondage."

It was a sobering thought for many present that evening to think that many of us lingered between stages 5 - 6 before committing spend $100 to come out and engage in conversation with the public servants we have elected to represent us. 

It is an even more sobering thought to think that many people in our own community linger between stages 5-6, and possibly even stages 7-8...which begs the question:

What are we going to do about it?

Barack Oabama is NOT going to change the world and get us out of this mess.  We are living in unprecedented times:

Unemployment is headed to at least 9%. Consumer spending will be off by at least 3% this year and again in 2010, as consumers start to find virtue in savings, which should rise in the US to 6% within a few years. Housing prices are going to drop another 10-15%, taking homes back to a level where they may be more affordable.  The US likely just experienced a 4th quarter with GDP down over 4%. Some estimates suggest 5%. For all of 2009 we are likely going to be down at least 1-2%, which will make this the longest recession since the Great Depression.

Corporate earnings are going to be dismal for at least the first two quarters, with forward estimates being lowered again and again. Global trade is falling rapidly, and it is likely that we will see a global recession this year, which will result in further negative feedback on US, European, and Japanese exports.

The credit markets are still in disarray. While there are some signs that the frozen markets are thawing, the Fed and the US Treasury are having to provide more bailout capital to large US banks. Citigroup is breaking up. Bank of America needs massive amounts of capital to digest Merrill. The hole that is AIG just keeps getting deeper. It is going to take several years for the credit markets to function at anything close to normal, as we simply vaporized a whole credit industry worldwide. To think it will take anything less is simply naive. And in the meantime, the various central banks of the world, along with their governments, are going to step in to fill the need for credit.

(source: John Mauldin, Best-Selling author and recognized financial expert, is also editor of the free Thoughts From the Frontline that goes to over 1 million readers each week. For more information on John or his FREE weekly economic letter go to:
And that's just a glimpse of the economic situation - we haven't even scratched the surface of global warming, wars, poverty....

Don't get me wrong... I voted for Obama, and am proud of it....I happen to think that he is the best thing for America, and, perhaps even the world right now.  I don't agree with all of his ideas and policies, but I do agree with what he stands for, and support what he has become: an Icon of Hope and Change. 

The elections showed us that each of us can make a difference, no matter how small our action is:
[Obama] raised $95 million in February and March alone, most of it, as his aides noted Thursday, in small contributions raised on the Internet. More than 90 percent of the campaign’s contributions were for $100 or less, said Robert Gibbs, the communications director to Mr. Obama.
(source: "Obama Forgoes Public Funds in First for Major Candidate", NY Times 6/20/08)

NOTHING will happen unless each of us initiates change from within.  

So please, leave a comment and share....what will you do differently in 2009 to help initiate change?