Or Kansas Either

          Moani went to Seattle last week . . .

          Once upon a time, I moved four times in four years. Each time I knew for a fact that I was making the right move, getting out of a lousy place and heading for a magical new home. Each time, of course, the new place was actually worse than the last. So I finally moved a fifth time. Back to Honolulu. Often, it sometimes feels like the right move. So maybe it's the fifth time that really is? Maybe there really is no place like home?

          It was a bright and stormless night at Kincaid's tonight, when out of the proverbial blue, Mike says to our server, Moani, "And you should hear the stories he's written about you."

          Which gives me pause, because I don't remember writing any stories about Moani. But by the time you get to my age, you never actually know what kind of honest-to-goodness brain damage you may have suffered, leading to certain mental lapses. One hazard of keeping on living, I've surmised. Especially if you like, say, beer. Like me.

          Growing old inexorably into forgetfulness. Old saws about old age, although if you were to ask an old lumberjack, I bet you one flannel checkered shirt he'd tell you that for sure the best saws are the old saws. They may have cut through a whole lot of wood, but they still have, with loving care and regular maintenance, much sharper teeth than any of the newer saws made. And that's a new saw for you.

          See me? I've sawed through a mountainous woodpile's worth of lumber in my life, and I'm not anywhere near ready for dentures anytime soon. I still have all my original, pretty sharp teeth, I brush and floss minimally twice daily . . .

          Still, I can't exactly recall . . .

          I do believe, however, that I am correct, even though I've had a Happy Hour few.

          I turn to her and say with some conviction, glancing back at Mike, "I actually have never written a story about you, Moani, but I hereby accept his challenge." I give Michael an affirmative writerly challenge nod. "I will write a story about you, Moani, but I have one question to ask you before I do."

          She looks at me like I might be drunk and or joking. I am neither, but I know that look. I get it all the time. Even when I'm sober and serious. It's the way I say things, maybe. Sometimes no one seems to know when I might actually be serious. Honestly. I kid you not.

          "It's a question for story-writing research purposes," I add, approaching application of the fully documented frosting atop the story cupcake of truth —


          Well, what I mean is that I'm the kind of writer guy who likes to thoroughly research his stories before he writes them — blueprint his narrative high-rise around some kind of factual foundation. The only good stories, I say, are the absolutely factual stories.

          "Okay," she says, waiting, smiling.

          Geez she must get so tired of this kind of stuff from customers. But this is why we love her. She's always very patient, always very pleasant.

          "We are in the dark about your disappearance last week, Moani. Pray tell us. Why did you go to Seattle?" — she’d told us earlier that she'd gone to Seattle.

          Moani begins to talk about working for "this company." She emphatically stabs both index fingers at the floor when she says "this company," so we all know for sure which company she's talking about. She says she had actually wanted to move to Portland, but "this company" didn't have any restaurants there. They did, however, have some in Seattle.

          Ah, Seattle! Where I have spent many a pleasing hour perusing the stacks of U Dub's Suzzallo Library and roaming blissfully about the surrounding environs . . .

Ah, sweet Seattle!
Stalwart Holden Caulfield-esque terminus of I-90 moistly
nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, soaring
space-needle city of the breathtaking Parallax View opening
from whence Starbucks plots world coffee shop domination,
Huskies and Seahawks and Mariners,
Amazon über cyber store alles,
Boeing corporate headquarters —
Before they boeing boeing bonged off to big-shouldered Chi-Town —
land where soft strains of "it's the water" only echo
now a lost Olympia,
where dead fish fly through Pike Place Market like 737s,
quaint suburb of Microsoft USA,
city of much rain . . . but few Bows —

          My mind snaps back to me from my Northwest reverie. I fear the outcome of this mysterious trip. I might quickly require only a 7% solution.

          "Oh darn, Moani, so you're applying for a transfer to Seattle with this company?" I stab my index fingers at the floor so we all know which company I'm talking about too.

          "Oh, no, that's where I came from. I moved here from Seattle."

          We have all just time traveled and are now safely back in a happy time. Mystery solved!

          "Yay!" we all cheer.

          "Oh, I see," I say. "So you were like visiting some old friends from back there in the day."

          "Yes, exactly," she says, then disappears to do her job.

          I breathe a monumental sigh of relief. My research complete, I now must plan my narrative outli–

          You know, I truly believe that when you name your children, you seal their fate. Take my name for instance. It's Lanning, like planning without the "p." This is the story of my life. The best laid plans for anything, anytime, anywhere have often on to always gone awry: He never planned well, just barely "lanned." If only he'd had that "p."

          What does Moani mean, anyway? I've heard that word in so many beautiful Hawaiian songs. Could it possibly be that Moani is the Hawaiian word for Oregon or, perhaps, Washington?

          Bus out da Pukui dictionary. Here it is. Moani: Light or gentle breeze, usually associated with fragrance; wafted fragrance; to blow perfume.

          Aha! I knew it. Not even the slightest hint of a reference to any State on the West Coast or on any other coast for that matter.

          Where was I? Oh, yes, when you name your daughter Moani, then not Portland, Oregon nor Portland, Maine — nor certainly ever Seattle, Washington can claim her. It's here in Hawaii that Moani is meant to be, here in Honolulu now, the fragrant gentle Hawaiian breeze her parents lovingly named her to be. Maybe there really is no place like home.

          So now I have to plot my story, plan it out. I love this part of writing.

          Hmmmmm . . . You know, this is actually turning out to be a bit harder to do than I thought it would be. A story about Moani . . . let me see . . .

          Come on, baby. Easy does it. This ain't no confounded highfalutin bedtime story fairy-tale. This is genuine. This is writing for real. You know how to do this. Simply begin with the facts, okay? The rest will flow from there.

          All right. Let's write.

          Moani went to Seattle last week . . .

Mahalo for reading!

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