Archive for April 2011

Friday 5 for April 29: In Memoriam

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Like Mitchell at Friday5.org, I too knew Ryan Suenaga. I won’t rehash my tribute here, but I do want to add that in Gene Park’s excellent Storify story done as part of his obituary for Ryan, my contribution is the picture of Mount Olomana located just after the jump (credited under my nom d’Internet, pineapplejuice). It’s in his honor that I take this week’s questions on:

1. If you were suddenly unable to make any excuses, what could you realistically do today to address whatever in your life is keeping you from being healthy and happy?

I think I’ve reached a time in my life where I’m probably the happiest that I’ve been in a while. That is to say, nothing’s thrown me completely off balance. Physically, I’ve gone from being significantly underweight, to ideal, to being slight overweight, at least as far as BMI is concerned. But I have run eleven marathons and counting. There’s room for improvement in both departments, of course.

I’ve found that my magic formula for staying happy is remembering that whatever happens to me, God has a higher plan. To the extent I try to force things and stray from that sweet spot, that’s when I feel tension, unhappiness, feelings of deprivation, etc. I’ve gone through a lot…abandoned a career path that I thought I was meant for, lost family members and friends along the way. But I know that there’s a plan at work here, and just pray each day for the strength to keep the faith and do what I was meant to do.

2. What are your feelings about professional wrestling?

I watch it every so often but not as much as before. These days, at least in the WWE, it’s become less about athleticism (your off-the-top-rope maneuvers and finishing), and more like a bad soap opera.

3. What is the brightest, most colorful article of clothing you actually wear once in a while?

My normal clothing is pretty subdued—I tend toward earth tones, reds, browns, tans, and beiges. Occasionally blues and blacks when the occasion calls for it. My most colorful clothes in my wardrobe, though, are my finisher shirts for the Honolulu Marathon. Sometimes they’re tasteful, understated maroons, yellows, blues, and such. But the shirt I have for the 2009 marathon is a microfiber shirt that is—I swear I am not making this up—fluorescent chartreuse. And yes, I do wear it to work from time to time.

4. What’s something you do, not because you want to or because someone’s compelling you, but because it’s the right thing to do?

Actually, this is not something that I do, but something that I choose not to do. Yes, I know alcohol is American culture’s widely accepted social lubricant. But my father’s side of the family has an unfortunate history with it—problems with drinking to excess, leading to liver problems. Soon after I lost my father at age 16 to complications from his treatment for a liver condition, I made the decision that whatever happened to my grandfather, my uncle, and my dad, would not happen to me. I am probably one of the only people in America who went to a mainstream college and avoided alcohol entirely, and not for religious reasons.

And twenty years later, I’m still true to my promise. This has put me in awkward positions at times—my good friend’s bachelor party, for instance. I have been in confrontations where I’ve had to resist—strongly—efforts to get me to drink. And it has limited, somewhat, my options for social interaction. I don’t feel entirely comfortable in a place when others are indulging (and maybe overindulging) in alcohol. It’s like being a vegetarian in a steak house. But if I have to, I find ways to cope.

(Edit: Clarifying that last paragraph—restaurants are OK. Bars and nightclubs, though, make me feel like a fish out of water.)

(Speaking of vegetarianism, I have great respect for vegetarians and wouldn’t even think of pressuring them to try my filet mignon. Most others I know are of like mind. Sometimes I wonder why teetotalers don’t get the same level of respect. But that’s another entry.)

Still, I know that my decision to be a teetotaler will mean that I may live longer and avoid the problems that come with drinking to excess. That’s a good outcome in itself.

5. What’s a food you’ll keep eating until it either runs out or someone stops bringing it to the table?

Put a King Arthur’s Supreme pizza from Round Table Pizza on the table, and I’ll keep eating it until it’s gone or I’m stuffed. It’s that good.

Everything is breaking: A farewell to a friend

Monday, April 25th, 2011

The last couple of weeks, in general, have been a bummer.  The motherboard of my desktop computer of two and a half years died a horrible death, forcing me to get a new computer and go through the necessary rigmarole of reloading programs and data.  Then I find my mom’s last mammogram found abnormalities.  The biopsy found a tumor—fortunately, most likely benign—but one that my mom will probably have removed pretty soon.  The Blazers’ 23-point comeback over Dallas on Saturday, though, had been a bright spot of sorts.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Sunday—a Japan-earthquake sized jolt.

I logged on to Twitter last night and found the mood on Twitter to be much gloomier than usual.  What caught my eye was Ryan Ozawa’s tweet, “Godspeed, my friend,” which I found weird.  Reading his tweet stream, I found an entry on a 10-year-old dying rice cooker and thought to myself: A rice cooker is indispensable in Hawaii, but to be that attached to one’s rice cooker to bid it farewell? That didn’t make sense.

But then in addition to that, there were a few tweets of what appeared to be outright grief over someone unknown. In any case, I thought the vibe weird, so I tweeted:

Seems everything is breaking. Just replaced my desktop; mom will be going in for surgery soon. Reading my tweet stream, seems I’m not alone.

In the next few minutes, it became clear that something was going on behind the scenes.  Mentions were made of seeing something on the news.  A look at the Star-Advertiser site found a story of a hiker killed in a fall off of Mount Olomana.

Then it dawned on me that my friend Ryan, whom I had just seen last week Sunday at the Geek Meet, was planning a hike there.  Ominous signs on Twitter emerged – tweets asking about his welfare and that of another Twitter user in the same group.  When I found the other Twitter user, atop his feed was an “I’m OK” tweetBut nothing atop Ryan’sHis last tweet was that morning.

Then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me:

Oh. God. No.

Final confirmation came on Facebook, where Ryan’s profile page had been transformed into a makeshift shrine of sorts.  The jigsaw puzzle became clear, and even though the authorities and media had not released the victim’s name until this morning, it became clear that night who the victim, in fact, was.

Ryan Suenaga—social worker, diabetic turned endurance athlete, and all-American geek—was no more.

One thing I remember about Ryan was his fastidiousness about money.  He pinched his pennies until they bled, and made them work overtime.  His ultimate goal was to retire early, which, given his work as a social worker (not exactly a relaxing career), might have been just as well. But fortunately, while frugal about money, he was generous in other things that were ultimately more important.

I’m not exactly sure where I saw Ryan first, but I imagine it was probably at the first Geek Meet. Since then I had seen him at tweetups and at endurance athletic events.  Although he was a self-described hater of running, he nonetheless did a lot of it, completing two marathons.  After having completed my own race, I was glad to have been able to cheer him on and congratulate him on a job well done.  His true love, though, was cycling, and he was always in training for the next 100 mile or 100 kilometer race.  And how he got there was equally inspiring.  From a peak of 265 pounds, he reached 172.8 in the last week.  (He would weigh himself most mornings and tweet his weight.) If you saw him as I remember, you wouldn’t know that there was a lot more of him back in the day.  For most of the time I knew him he was around 180.  Yet, 180 wasn’t good enough—his ultimate goal was 165, a one-hundred pound loss.

True, he was a self-professed non-people person.  But he had filled every other moment of his life with fulfilling things and in so doing touched other people’s lives as well.  He was a curmudgeon with a big heart.

Like I said, everything is breaking, and it appears a lot of hearts are tonight. God’s comfort be with all of us during this difficult time.

My front door faces Mount Olomana and it greets me every morning.  This morning, as I left the house, I looked up at the three headed monster that ate my friend and spit him out, and said a silent prayer for his soul.

You climbed the high peak,
And, stepping out in great faith,
Fell into God’s arms.

Thank you, Ryan, for being a part of my life.

Ryan Suenaga
January 21, 1967 – April 24, 2011

For more tribute posts, read Ryan Ozawa’s blog post and see the list at the bottom. Too many to list here.