Fifteen years of water under the bridge reveals the same river

An offshoot of our Marshallese sojourn last summer was our Hawaiian visit with old friends Dave and Cindy, who we’ve vaguely kept in contact with over the past 15 years. They’re two of the most courageous people that I know.

Dave and Cindy Staley lived kitty corner from us in the old Shiprock High teacher compound back in our Rez days.


From our front yard, we looked over Dave and Cindy’s roof to see Tse’bit’ai (Rock with Wings) itself. Dave and I taught English together, tried (failed) to start a band together, were John Kelly disciples together (see future blog “John Kelly: Man or Myth”), and hiked canyons together. Sherry and Cindy baked bread together, read books together, and had their first babies within a year of each other (Philip is just under a year older than Kylie).

We last saw them in 1992 at the Emmanuel Mission, 14 miles down the roughest dirt road on the Rez (possibly the planet). Rattling our vehicle over those 14 miles, Dave once joked that he and Cindy called it the “road to divorce.” Ironic.

The past fifteen years have seen Dave and Cindy through some rough times. Without going into detail, they’re no longer married and both have new partners. They now live on The Big Island, Hawaii, in the Kona region. To see them, though, they’ve weathered about as much as Shiprock, or Mauna Kea (pick your mountain). They’re great parents to Phil, Ron, and Andy and make a difficult lifestyle look, well, worth living.

Cindy, now Cynthia, lives with her partner, Cindy, north of Kona and works for the TSA at the airport (she knows all of the Homeland Security colors). Off duty, she met us at the airport and took us out to dinner that night with the kids. Though it was clear she had weathered mighty pecular storms, she was the same Cindy we knew fifteen years ago – a person of faith and courage, a mother who knows her children intimately, a person who cuts through the superficial stuff of life. Note how Cindy has acclimatized to Hawaii. She looks cold.


Below, you can see the whole group – from the left, there’s Andy, Kyle (a friend), Phil, Ron, Cindy, and a camera-mugging bunch of weirdos.


One highlight of the evening was Phil’s description of the day’s catch. He’d caught a sea urchin, which he slowly tormented all day by pulling out it’s spines. Upon our return to it, it looked like this.


It once looked something like this.


Dave, something of a sea urchin himself, met us the next day at the hobby store that he runs with his parter, Sara. The store is called Tioli, which is Italian for Take It Or Leave It (OK , it’s an acronym that’s deceptively Italian). Here, Dave showed us all things remote controlled – airplanes, helicopters, cars – and all things craft or art related.


Dave used to be a teacher, then a principal, and then one day he just up and walked away into the world of entrepreneurship. Tioli, he describes, is kind of like Cheers in that every day the store fills up with regulars who hang around, playing the remote control simulators or flying real copters around the store until something gets broken. Around noon, someone inevitably brings in some food. No beer, but life is pretty good.

Sing with me. “Making your way in the world to day takes everything you’ve got. Thank goodness for friends with high-tech toys” (doesn’t really work, does it).

Dave was the same old Dave – a wise, loving father; a quietly wicked sense of humor, still caching me off guard; a knack for finding what’s off the beaten path, even in tourist trampled Hawaii. For example, we tried to get a tour of Goodall Guitars (for you, Buck!) and were asked to leave.


We ate authentic Hawaiian cuisine at the Pine Tree Cafe, where I ate roast pork and cabbage from a styrofoam box (real food, and not a tourist in sight).

After lunch, we headed up the west side of Mauna Kea (the island is one big mountain, after all) for a hike in the jungle in search of feral pigs and mongoose, both non-indigineous and overrunning the islands. Sunny Hawaii was lost from view in the fog, so being from Duluth, we felt right at home. Emerging from the fog up high, we found this sign, a statement of real Hawaiian hospitality.


We also had lots of dicoveries on a jungle path. For example, we found Kurtz’s hut from Heart of Darkness.


Wild ginger.


And a clever hidey spot (yikes, someone needs to work on those eyes!).


No pictures, but I saw a pack of pigs cross the road, and the mongoose were everywhere.

Some of us, at least, will be heading to the Marshall Islands again in the next few years; therefore, there’s a good chance that we’ll be able to see Dave and Cindy and company again. After fifteen years there were some new bends, and water is flowing in unexpected directions, but it’s great to see the same river, and it will be great to see it again.

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3 Responses to Fifteen years of water under the bridge reveals the same river

  1. Tioli says:

    Nice story! I feel famous.

  2. Jocelyn says:

    Dang. I was hoping Dave’s new partner’s name was “Dave.”

    Disappointing, that.

  3. George says:

    Many years ago I used to know Dave and Cynthia from my years in Arizona. I would love it if either of them would touch base with me again so we could re-connect. I was recently driving through Raton, NM and they came to mind.


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