Christmas, Gifts, Love

A priceless gift that costs nothing!

One can give a loved one — or friend — all kinds things as gifts.  Books are popular.  Tasteful clothing items always are appreciated. Music lovers will welcome concert tickets — if they are to hear music they will appreciate.

Cookies, candies and other treats are almost certain to be consumed, and not take up space on shelves or in drawers!

But the biggest gift you can give — to anyone! — will cost you nothing, in dollar terms.  It’s your attention, listening carefully, during a conversation.  Commenting at an appropriate point, or asking a pertinent question, will indicate that you’re tuned in.

Hmmm, I never thought of that, the speaker might say.  Bingo!   You’ve completed the loop.

half marathons, running, senior runners

A Happy Man!

Look at that happy man — me!  Margie took the photo as we had
a celebratory dinner at a popular 5-star local restaurant,
Merriman’s Fish House, in Poipu Kauai.

That morning, with a 6 a.m. start, I began my fourth long-distance race on Kauai — the first, in 2012, a full (26.2-mile) marathon.  I was a relative puppy then of 78.  The last three have been half-marathons.  How did I do?  Read on.

Kauai is a lovely island — my favorite “Neighbor Island” — in the state of Hawaii.  And the the Kauai Marathon and half-marathon have come to attract a lot of runners — from the state of Hawaii as well as the Mainland and even Japan.

For me, there was no need to drive to the start. We were staying in one of  the Kiahuna Plantation beachfront condos, a short walk from the start on Poipu Drive.

It’s a lovely course and a tough one!  The first several miles proceed relentlessly uphill.  Finally, runners get to the the famous “Tunnel of Trees,” where the course proceeds through a long canopy of Eucalyptus trees on either side. Magnificent!  It’s only a bit further till runners turn left and begin a long, mostly downhill course to the finish.

The course even proceeds through a rural residential section where many of the local folks set up chairs to watch the runners pass by.  Some of the kids were even offering cups of drinks. That was appreciated even though there were frequent “aid stations” along the course.

Alas, during the last few miles, I found myself doing some walking.  But when I saw my beloved Margie waving at me, with less than a half-mile to go, I ran with some vigor to the finish line.  A good thing!  Despite the walking, it was still
my fastest time among the three half-marathons I have done this year. 

After the race, over-all winners and age-group winners are announced and called up to receive their awards.  Guess who has the longest wait?  The octogenarians. I waited patiently for 80-and-over to be called — but they were waiting for other 80 year olds to finish.  Margie spoke up. She called to the presenter, “he’s the only one over 80!”

So now I have a set of four of the attractive, hand-made plates presented as awards each year.



Health, Paruresis, Pee Shy Syndrome, Public Rest Rooms

Paruresis = “Pee Shy”

Paruresis.  That’s the scientific term for what is popularly called “pee-shy” syndrome — finding it difficult or impossible to start a urine stream in the presence, or perceived presence, of others.

In a severe case, a person can urinate only at home or through a procedure known as catheterization.


Look at two photos above.  One was taken, by me, in a men’s rest room at the Honolulu Convention Center, where Margie and I were attending an event.  As one who has been “pee shy” almost all of my life,  I give it a failing grade.  In fact I could detect other men, like me, going into stalls for privacy.

I took the other photo at a small men’s rest room at our church.  It is pee-shy friendly, with a generous “modesty” panel provided between urinals.

I have been pee-shy as far back as I can remember.  It may have started when my mother scolded me once for peeing in the bushes behind our home.  Sensitive little boys don’t like to be scolded!  And they often suffer from a sense of shame and embarrassment.

At school, starting early on, I would go into a stall whenever possible.  I sensed a few other boys were doing the same.

During my long career as a journalist, I decided at one point to see if I could get help.  I learned of a nonprofit called the International Paruresis Association, and I signed up for one of IPA’s workshops, held near Los Angeles International Airport.

About a dozen men attended, along with one woman.  We were paired up to go into hotel rooms to “practice,”  moving varying distances to find comfort zones.  (Margie paired with the woman.)  It really helped!  Today, my anxiety level is low to moderate.  Travel always provides the biggest challenge.

The issue gained national attention a few years ago with a commercial for Direct TV  “I can’t go with other people in the room,” says “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe,” the nerdy, Jerry Lewis/Nutty Professor-like cable TV client as he stands in front of a public urinal.  In the background suave, satellite subscriber Rob Lowe looks on judgmentally.

IPA called for the ad to be immediately pulled, and it was.

Bottom line:  If you are pee shy, know that you’re not alone.  And as best you can, relax — literally.

Daughters, running, Sports

Sandy & I do the GAR

One unique run of which Hawaii can boast is the Great Aloha Run — 8.15 miles from the landmark Aloha Tower downtown to the floor of Aloha Stadium to the west.  The 32nd running attracted over 20,000 registered runners.  That doesn’t count the 5,000 or so military personnel who run in formation.

I have done most of the GARs to date.  But this year, for the first time, I ran with our daughter Sandy.  She was visiting from Tucson, Ariz., with her husband Dave.  Sandy shares my love of running.  As a teenager she ran two Honolulu Marathons with me.  And she is good!  Read on.

Before the race started, Sandy said, darn, she needed to find a restroom.  She said, “You go ahead, I’ll catch up.”  I’m embarrassed to say, I did just that.  I wanted to get as close to the start as I could to avoid the walkers!  That used to be a help in one’s race time but because of the chip (now in our bib) timing is from starting mat to finish mat.

I’ve gotten age group awards in the Great Aloha Run, including 1st in age group (in men 80-85) in 2015.  And I’m competitive — even with my daughter!

Sandy finishesIndeed I finished well ahead of Sandy.  I waited patiently near the finish line, even though finishers are urged to keep moving.  Finally I spotted her, she spotted me, and I used the camera in my brand new iPhone SE to capture that moment.  She looked proud and happy and I felt proud and happy.  Then, we proceeded to pick up our finishers shirts and collect some goodies.
Again, MarathonPhoto captured us together, in this happy moment.

Checking results online, I found that — in spite of my long wait — Sandy had beaten me!  Her time: 1:45:48.  My time:  1:47.11  TRULY, I am pleased that she won the family championship.

Pearl Harbor attack, Punahou, senior runners, World War II

Incredible Personal History

img_2174-1What do Siegfried Ramler and I have in common?  Well, not a whole lot, besides our both being Hawaii residents and having a passion for running.

Sig has retired from running while I’m still chugging along, doing 5Ks to half-marathons. But, hey, I’m 10 years his junior!  I’ll explain the T-shirts at the end.

Sig has an incredible personal story, dating back to World War II and its aftermath.

In March 1938, as a 14-year-old Austrian Jewish schoolboy, he watched Wehrmacht troops enter Vienna. Through drawn curtains, he observed the coming of the swastika and the jubilation of a multitude of Austrians.

His family was soon thrown out of their home.  Shortly after the infamous Kristallnacht, Sig was sent to London to live with his uncle in north London.

Toward the end of the war, in 1945, Sig signed up with the U.S. Air Force to work as a linguist in Germany.  When he learned of the trial of Nazi leaders, he went AWOL and hitched a ride to Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice.

There he was recruited to serve as an interpreter.  Within days he found himself sitting in a small room with defendant Hans Frank and a military interrogator.  Without any training, he interpreted the pre-trial interrogations of the man who came to be known as “the Butcher of Warsaw.”

Sig shoved to the background any hate for this man and determined to do a good, accurate job of simultaneous translation. “I was just 22.  I just concentrated on the job,” he told an interviewer for the Guardian.  “I was there to interpret, not to judge.”

Ten times he heard the presiding judge, speak the words “Death by Hanging.”

Marriage to a Hawaiian reporter on the Nuremberg trial staff led Sig to the Islands and a long career at Punahou School as a teacher and administrator and, later, as founding director of the Wo International Center at the East-West Center.

It was in Hawaii that he developed a love for running.  No surprise, he ran with determination and ran well.  I should know!  As 10 years his junior I did many races with him.

Which brings me back to the photo above.  The Over the Hill Gang is a group of octogenarian (or older!) runners and former runners.  The group meets for lunch once a month, in a lovely setting on Oahu’s windward side.

A new production of the T-shirts was distributed at our February meeting, and we immediately donned them, with pride.

Nostalgia, Punahou, Sports

Al Harrington, my JV football teammate — 66 years later

Al Harrington and Moi

The site:  Kincaid’s restaurant, near the waterfront, midway between downtown Honolulu and famed Waikiki Beach and its concentration of resort hotels.

Margie and I were hosting, for dinner, Jonathan Lyau, his wife Kelli, and their two delightful kids, Sierra and Spencer.  Jonathan has been my running coach since 1997 — first in Team in Training, a fundraising program of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Since then, he has provided me personalized training schedules. This dinner was a token way to say thank you.

As the six of us were leaving the restaurant, Jonathan said he had spotted Al Harrington, at the table next to ours.  Al had achieved national fame as a television actor on Hawaii Five-O.  But I remembered Al vividly as a future football star. We were teammates on the junior varsity team at Punahou School.  Still, I  hadn’t recognized him.  So Margie and I went back in and I introduced myself.  He was good enough to say he had been trying, while we were dining,  to recall who I was.  Once I mentioned our playing together on the Punahou JV team, he stood up and greeted me warmly.  That long-ago connection brought us both joy.

His personal history:  A native of Pago Pago, Al lived there for three years before moving to Honolulu to join his mom, who was working as a nurse.

Back to the Punahou School JV football team:  Al was just a freshman, not eligible to play on the varsity, and I was a junior, not good enough to make the varsity but loving to play.

Even then (1950), it was clear that Al Ta’a, as he was then known, was destined for sports stardom.  In fact, he was the first high-school football All-American to come out of Hawaii.  He went on to play, impressively, for Stanford University.

At this restaurant meeting, I went back in time 66 years. The vivid memory was still there.  Waiting to be remembered — and waiting to be shared.

Daughters, Love, Politics, Writing

My letter to President-Elect Donald Trump


Back in November I wrote a letter to President Elect Donald Trump. Our daughter Suzanne suggested I send it out as a blog. So, here it is:

Dear President-Elect Trump —

I have a long record of writing to U.S. presidents.  As a young boy, I wrote to no less a figure than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our president at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. Then as now, I was a Hawaii resident.  (Hawaii was still a territory then, not yet a state.)

I told the President of my loyal participation in the war bond program, selling savings stamps to fellow students.  And I got a letter of response from his personal secretary, Grace Tully — a letter I have kept and treasured to this day.

I have also written a fan letter, a few years ago, to Barrack Obama, who happened to have been born in the same hospital as I — Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu.  That letter, too, was acknowledged.

So I figure that, even as an 82-year-old, why not write to the next president of the U.S.A., to express what’s on my mind!

Frankly, Mr. President-Elect, you have frightened and dismayed many Americans, including me, with your fiery rhetoric about deporting illegal immigrants and building walls (making Mexico pay for them) — and more.  This does not sound like the U.S.A. in which I have grown up and love so deeply!

My ancestry dates back to William Brewster, one of the the Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620.  That makes me the offspring of “undocumented” immigrants, and I expect that applies to you as well!

So may I suggest that you adopt as a secondary slogan: “LOVE NEVER FAILlETH.”  Those are the words inscribed above the altar at the church where my wife Margie and I worship each Sunday.

Respectfully, with aloha,

Christopher (Kit) Smith