16 October 2011

1712 Poki Street

It is said that persons with Alzheimer's Disease can remember things of the distant past, but are not so good at recent events.  Perhaps this means I have not (yet) come down with Alzheimer's.  I can (usually) remember what people said to me yesterday.  I am less certain of the address Edna and I lived at during the two years we were together in Honolulu - but I am pretty certain it was 1712 Poki Street.

"Only two years!" I say to myself.  We arrived in June, 1966 - and Edna and I separated in September, 1968 - so yes, two years, or a little more.

It seems longer, perhaps because it really was a formative time in my life, in so many ways - and so, I believe, it was for Edna.

For me, it was the time when I:
  • definitively thought of myself as a "Pacific person"
  • got my MA in linguistics - and, therefore, became, in some serious sense, a linguist
  • was irreversibly committed to study of the Yapese language
For Edna, if I may speak for her:
  • she was definitively set in a career in field of medicine
  • she, also, became at least strongly attached to Hawai'i - this, anyway, is the way it seems to me
And for both of us, we began the painful process of transition from late childhood to genuine adulthood.

I wish I remembered the details of our getting this apartment - I am sure Edna does.  It was a two-bedroom second storey (= American third floor) apartment.  The back had a lanai - a patio hung off the back glass sliding door.  The lady who lived in the apartment below us was Korean and cooked - every Saturday, as I recall - kimchi - a very smelly procedure!

The fish!  Yes, you may recall that I said Edna shipped, single-handedly, the tropical fish from Berkeley to Honolulu.  I had thought they all arrived without incident, but she tells me that many died in the process.  I don't recall that - but it wouldn't be surprising.  It was a fairly major operation.

Nevertheless, many did survive.  In Honolulu, of course, tropical fish have their natural climate.  Perhaps I continued to use tank heaters - I don't recall - but the fish tanks went on the lanai this time, instead of filling the (very small) living room.  That, at least, might have been progress.  Edna and I did actually talk to one guy on the far side of O'ahu - in Kaneohe, I think - who did tropical fish for a living.  I even imagined our doing the same - very unlikely of success, I may say!

Edna worked for Straub Clinic.  I may be wrong, but I think she got her job there from the very beginning, and certainly she continued working there until ... well, until we separated, at least, and, I think, until she left Honolulu many years later.  It was there that she trained as a psychology technician - the sort of person, I think, who administers and analyses psychological tests of various sorts (I am somewhat nervous of saying all this as fully expect her to respond with laughter telling me all the ways I remember it wrong - so I hereby say that I am only telling you things that I remember :-)).

I was a linguistics graduate student at the University of Hawai'i.  Rather, I was that from September, 1966, when I enrolled.  From June, 1966, when I first arrived, I was an employee of the University's "Pacific and Asian Linguistics Institute" (PALI).  It may no longer exist - at least, I could find no modern reference to it on the web.

I arrived in Honolulu alone, Edna still struggling away in California at disposing of our belongings, shipping the fish, bringing herself and Kathleen to Honolulu, and presented myself to Don Topping, who was to be my teacher, friend, eventual thesis adviser as a Phd student.

"Here I am, ready to work on a Micronesian language, sir!  I would like to volunteer to work on Marshallese, if it's all the same to you."

"Ah, well, yes, thanks, but Professor Bender is actually already working on Marshallese.  This seems appropriate since he has been working on the language for thirteen years now."

"Oh - well, ok.  How about Trukese?  Or maybe Ponapean?"

"Well, John, actually, all the other Micronesian languages have linguists assigned to them.  We want you to work on Yapese."

"Yapese??!!  But Yapese isn't even a Micronesian language!!"

"Ah - yes, that's true.  Nevertheless, Yapese is the language we need you to work on."

"[sigh!]Oh, well - ok.  Where's my informant?"

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