Two Incendiary Firefighting Memoirs

Two Incendiary Firefighting Memoirs

Dennis Smith’s Report from Engine Co. 82 and Lizbeth Hartz’ Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story are both memoirs about firefighters. One big difference is the setting: Smith’s in New York City, Hartz’s on a military base in Hawai’i.

How accurate is Angel Hero? Every detail is true except for names, dates, and places—a necessary camouflage to protect the innocent from the murderer. After he died in 2015, the subtitle was changed from “Inspired by a True Story” to “Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story.”

The specifics: Two civilian firefighter best friends, Vic Lazzarini and Jaku Cardoza, work with dispatcher Lizbeth Hartz on Whaler Air Force Base in the early ‘80s. Told from Liz’s point of view, this true crime, true love memoir will take you on an unforgettable journey of terror and betrayal, courage and redemption.

The song Angel Hero also accompanies the book.


Glowing reviews of Angel Hero abound:

Kirkus Review: “The author displays a wide array of skills … taut, fast-paced … she’s adept at evoking the atmosphere and day-to-day feel of both contemporary Hawaii and the sometimes high-pressure world of a dispatch operator (the workplace drama elements of the book are well-handled throughout.)

Grady Harp, Amazon Vine Reviewer: “This is a true crime story – the dispatcher of the tale is the author and she relates factual experiences. Lizbeth shares that … what we are reading here is the polished version of an incident while mired in intrigue and with names changed of a terrifying psychological reality… One aspect … that is a bit startling is the degree of sophistication with which the story is related. Perhaps her depth of background aids her depiction of the atmosphere of emergency measures dispatchers encounter, but she is equally skilled in writing solid romance … painting characters both wholesome and exciting as well as loathsome and frightening.”

Iwilei Fuel Tank Fire

Excerpt from the book:

“It’s like Vic’s got exceptional peripheral vision,” Tom said. “He might be focused on a C-5’s hot brakes, but he’s also keenly aware what each of the guys are up to and who might be in jeopardy. Ever hear about him saving Bob’s life during the fire at the fuel tank farm?”

I hadn’t. I remembered that inferno, though. Remembered thinking, oh my god when I’d seen the billowing black smoke blot out the blue sky as I drove to Fort Craig one afternoon in August 1981, a month before I transferred to Whaler. As the entire fleet of Whaler fire trucks raced, sirens blaring, to the huge fuel tank fire, I dispatched an Army fire truck to stand by at their station.

Back then, Vic manned the turret, a powerful nozzle, on the roof of the enormous P-2 fire truck. At 13 feet wide and 33 feet long, with a 2,300-gallon water tank and 200-gallon foam tank, the P-2 was the Air Force’s most formidable airfield firefighting weapon. From his high post, Vic could shoot a foam/water mixture at 1,000 gallons per minute for a distance of 175-200 feet for two minutes before the foam ran out.

When I asked Deputy Chief Bob Henderson about the incident, he said, “In those days, everybody carried radios. But we chiefs were not practiced on working a unified command.”

“Meaning you didn’t broadcast what was happening like you do now?”

“Exactly,” Bob said. “After Vic laid a blanket of foam on top of the burning fuel in the huge tank, I didn’t think to radio in that another fireman and I were walking along a pipeline at the bottom of the tank, looking for a valve to check if it was turned off.”

The two men had walked into an area where the foam blanket had deteriorated. Suddenly, the fire flashed, cutting them off from exiting the same way they came in. The smoke quickly rolled over them and they couldn’t see a way out.

Vic, instantly alert to what had happened, turned the turret and laid foam over the place where the two men were cut off from egress. He reopened the area so they could run out before fire singed them, filled their lungs with black smoke, or worse.

“If Vic had not been hyper aware, we would have been dead,” Bob said. “So much was going on and everybody else was focusing on the tank tops, worried the fire would leap to the other tanks and the entire tank farm would ignite.”

Valiant Vic, I thought, not daring to say it to his face. Afraid of chasing him away, I didn’t tell him how much I admired him for his prowess on the fire scene. But even if I had, he probably would have said, “Just doing my job.”


Click on the pictures below to view the books and mp3 song on Amazon:

  1. My memoir in paperback: “Angel Hero, Murder in Hawaii, A True Story”
  2. Anthology of short mystery stories (includes one of mine): “Dark Paradise, Mysteries in the Land of Aloha”
  3. My memoir as a Kindle e-book: “Angel Hero, Murder in Hawaii, A True Story”
  4. My mp3 song: “Angel Hero” (Single – Song that accompanies the book. For a snippet of the song, check out my book trailer at

Get your e-book signed by Lizbeth Hartz

March for Our Lives #WATWB

March for Our Lives #WATWB

Social media and news in recent times has been filled with hate and negativity. Just as you cannot fight darkness, only light lamps, Hate and Negativity cannot be fought. You need to bring Love and Positivity forward instead.

I bring to you the We Are the World Blogfest, along with these fabulous co-hosts:Belinda WitzenhausenSylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein  Shilpa Garg, and Eric Lahti .

We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our dark world.

Here’s my share:

On March 24, 2018, hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets of Washington, D.C., and cities across the U.S. in March for Our Lives rallies. I’m uplifted by those stalwart souls, these shooting survivors, who are confronting the tragic shooting in Florida by demanding an end to gun violence and a change in our gun laws. Another positive thing happening is more people are realizing the importance of becoming politically aware and voting. A few lines that stuck with me from eloquent speeches I listened to this week:

  1. We are pushing for a change that does not align with the NRA’s agenda.
  2. We cannot keep America great if we cannot keep America safe.
  3. Fight for your life before it’s someone else’s job (Emma Gonzalez’s powerful 6-minute speech had the audience and me weeping.)

Organized by the student survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the event protested the ease of a gunman in securing a high-powered AR-15 gun and killing 17 people in six minutes.

Every day, 96 people die from guns in the U.S. Yet most lawmakers “have no public stand on guns,” said David Hogg, an outspoken Parkland student activist in Washington.

“We are going to take this to every election” this year and make sure the “best people” run, Hogg, 17, said. “This is not cutting it,” he added, pointing to the Capitol behind him. He said the country must come together as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats.

“We will come together. We will get rid of these public servants that only serve the gun lobby. And we will save lives,” Hogg said.

Please check out this link:





Social media and news in recent times has been filled with hate and negativity. Just as you cannot fight darkness, only light lamps, Hate and Negativity cannot be fought. You need to bring Love and Positivity forward instead.

I bring to you the We Are the World Blogfest. Thank you to this month’s co-hosts Shilpa GargPeter NenaEric LahtiRoshan Radhakrishnan and Inderpreet Kaur Uppal. Please visit their blogs for more positive stories.

We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

On Feb 19, 2018, Facebook reposted a link to a story I’d posted a year ago, titled “This Is A MUST Read: Take A Gander At This Amazing, But Little Known, 9-11 Story.”


I got chicken skin (as they call “goose bumps” here in Hawai’i) all over again, reading about the goodness and generosity of the Canadian people during the devastating crisis of 911. Even though this online article was published in 2015, I chose to share it with you today, in hopes that you, like me, will be lifted up by this amazing story and reminded of how much good there is in the world.

As is stated in the article linked below, “In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward. Let’s not forget THIS fact.”

Military vets deliver supplies across Puerto Rico #WATWB

Military vets deliver supplies across Puerto Rico #WATWB

Special thanks to the We Are The World Blogpost cohosts this month,  Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, Damyanti Biswas and Guilie Castillo. It lifts me up to be part of this journey. Puts me in mind of the old song “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…”

But now on to the main heroes of this story. Army veteran Jason Maddy inspires me. He spent most of the last four months handing out much-needed supplies to folks in Puerto Rico hit hardest by Hurricane Maria.What’s especially inspirational to me about Maddy is that, even though he and his wife must cope with his PTSD, he puts his own issues aside and focuses on helping others.

“Puerto Ricans are Americans,” he told NBC News. “They deserve help, they deserve support, and they deserve not to be forgotten.”

Maddy, who served in the Army from 2000 to 2015, came to Puerto Rico soon after Hurricane Maria hit last September, wanting to help in any way possible. He began by getting supplies to people in rural areas of western Puerto Rico, and soon launched the nonprofit organization Veteran Disaster Relief. Several other volunteers, who bring food, water filters, and medical supplies to people who still don’t have electricity and are living in structures considered inhabitable, have since joined Maddy.

For the full NBC news story, go to:

A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy#WATWB

A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy#WATWB

Social media and news in recent times has been filled with hate and negativity. Just as you cannot fight darkness, only light lamps, Hate and Negativity cannot be fought. You need to bring Love and Positivity forward instead.

I bring to you the We Are the World Blogfest, along with these fabulous co-hosts:

Special thanks to our cohosts for this month:  Shilpa Garg,  Guilie Castillo, Belinda Witzenhausen, Mary Giese,  and Sylvia McGrath.

“We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

Check out one such story, posted 3 days ago at In a few days, be sure to check out what happens at:

The blind runner’s can-do attitude inspired me to:

1. Do my best no matter the odds against me.

2. Remember that a real friend is someone you can depend on to be there if you need him or her, and

3. Remember, as the Beatle song puts it: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

A brief synopsis of the article follows:


A Blind Runner and His Very Good Boy, The New York Times, By DANIEL KRIEGER

Thomas Panek had been a runner from a young age, and continued to compete in road races after he was blinded in his early 20s. Whether he ran the New York City Marathon or the Boston Marathon, human guides, connected by a tether, led his way.

And yet Mr. Panek, now 47, has wondered what it would be like to run with one of his guide dogs, but was told that guide dogs were not appropriate for long-distance running, let alone a race.

One morning in April 2014, a friend brought up running with a guide dog: “Why don’t you see if it’s possible?”

He began dwelling on the challenges and held a focus group for the blind community to weigh in. In early 2015, the first program for training guide dogs to run with their handlers occurred. For the pilot, Mr. Panek used his guide dog, Gus, a yellow Lab. “I’ll have to prove it’s safe,” he recalled.

On Oct. 29, Mr. Panek and Gus hope to reach this milestone when they run the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, a five-mile race in Central Park, without human assistance.

“Gus sets the pace,” he said, “and I follow him.” Trotting at a nine-minute-mile clip, Gus, 5, is trained to avoid obstacles, slow down for congestion and, above all, keep Mr. Panek safe.

Moving with abundant caution and focus, Gus is unfazed by the steady flow of bicycles, horses, pedestrians and other dogs streaming past in both directions. Six miles is the maximum distance Guiding Eyes allows its dogs to run.

“We want to make sure that the dog is happy and healthy while running,” Mr. Panek said.

As for the five-miler this weekend, Mr. Panek said he is feeling more butterflies for that than for the New York City Marathon, which he will run for the second time the following Sunday. “But I’m also confident that Gus is going to get me through it,” he added. “This will be a good first step to show that it’s possible for me to run a race without a human guide.”

A New York Road Runners spokesman, Chris Weiller, said in a recent phone interview that the events team has thought through this and is comfortable with Mr. Panek’s plan, which includes having a vet present and water breaks.

“We want Thomas and the dog to have a good run and be safe,” he said. To ensure that, a spotter on a bicycle will follow along in case any problems arise. Mr. Panek will start off in the rear; and Gus will wear a bib so all can see he is an official participant.

And if all goes well with the race, the next step will be to develop best practices for other blind runners, “to set the standard for running a race with a guide dog,” Panek said. “Gus contributes,” he said. “He’s my training partner.”

Lowes, Generators, and Heroes: We Are The World Blogpost #WATWB September 29, 2017

Lowes, Generators, and Heroes: We Are The World Blogpost #WATWB September 29, 2017

Aloha nui loa from Hawai’i, worldwide friends. Like you, I believe that when we let our love lights shine, we banish the tortuous shadows of hate and negativity. In this spirit, I offer you links to a news article, which shone a light in the darkness for me. Here’s hoping it will banish some of the darkness for you as well.

In circumstances of extreme stress, we hear moving examples of people going out of their way to help others. On September 8th, such an example was captured in a news story about a customer in Lowes. Compassionate customer Ramon Santiago gave the store’s last generator, the one he’d just purchased, to the woman standing in line behind him, weeping. That woman, Pam Brekke, was crying because her father would be without oxygen if she couldn’t buy a generator and hurricane Irma shut down the power.

For me, Santiago’s action personified caring and unselfish giving to a stranger who was also trying to unselfishly help another person. For the full story, click on this link:

Here’s a compressed version of the article:

A Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Orlando received a surprise shipment of 216 generators at about 7 a.m. on Thursday September 7. All units were sold within two hours.

Pam Brekke was next in line to purchase a generator when she watched employees load the final unit onto a cart for the customer who was standing in front of her in line. She broke down.

“My father’s on oxygen, and I’m worried about this storm,” she sobbed, wiping tears from her eyes.

Ramon Santiago turned to Brekke and insisted she take the generator.

Brekke embraced Santiago and the two parted ways.

“I’m very overwhelmed by that man,” Brekke told ABC News. “That gentleman was a great gentleman right there. God will bless that man.”

The touching moment between two strangers was captured on video. When Ramon hugged Pam and told her everything was going to be fine, she’s not the only one who wept.


Others who witnessed this act of extreme kindness were deeply touched, including the manager of Lowes. Guess what she did on September 11?  Here’s the link:

Here’s a summary of the article:

Last week, we shared a story about a Florida woman who tearfully embraced a complete stranger who’d given her the last generator in the mad rush before Hurricane Irma. After Brekke embraced Santiago, the two parted ways.

The story captured the hearts of many.

When a new generator became available, Lowe’s manager Melissa Rodriguez immediately thought of Santiago. On Friday, Santiago returned to Lowe’s to get his own generator for free from the store.

“I wanted to make sure he received it because he definitely deserved it,” manager Melissa Rodriguez told WFTV. “He’s the hero of the day.”

Good on you, Melissa. Muchas gracias, Ramon. It’s lovely to see a hero recognized and rewarded.


While I’m here, allow me to honor another hero, Vic Lazzarini. Back in ’85, this courageous firefighter lost his life protecting others. Vic is the protagonist in my memoir, Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story. If you’d like to listen to a snippet of the song I wrote about him, also titled Angel Hero, here’s a link to my publisher’s book trailer:

Lizbeth’s We Are The World Blogpost #WATWB

Lizbeth’s We Are The World Blogpost #WATWB

Last week, one tweet (from our former POTUS) and one news story (about a couple of heroes, one canine and one human) especially strummed my heartstrings. For me, they personified love and humanity (and dogity.)

Obama’s Tweet

A tweet by Obama, posted after the violence in Charlottesville, quoted Mandela and was the most-liked tweet ever. It attracted more than 3.3 million likes and 1.3 million retweets as of August 17th.

I’ll include an excerpt. You can read the whole thing at

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion …,” Barack Obama tweeted on August 16, quoting words from South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. The tweet was accompanied by a photo of himself, jacket slung over his shoulder, smiling at four young children of different races gathered at a windowsill.

As they say in Hawai’i, Obama gave me “chicken skin.” Mandela (what a great name for a great man, yes?) gave me something even better. He gave me hope that someday the blazing light of love might dissolve the pitch blackness of hate.

Patriot the Husky

Here’s the link to an uplifting story published on August 11th:

Patriot the Husky, a victim of abuse as a puppy, now helps kids who’ve also been victims of abuse. This cycle of events was only made possible by Kevin Marlin, 47, the man who rescued Patriot and taught him to trust again, thus enabling the dog to return the favor by helping hurting children. Patriot helps them through the trauma of having to testify in court. What a heartwarming story of receiving help and giving help back, of suffering abuse and, with the help of emotional support, surviving and sometimes even thriving in spite of it.

 Patriot the dog.  Photos credited to Kevin Marlin

When Kevin Marlin, who’d been involved with pet therapy for 10 years, adopted Patriot, he was 4 months old with severe mouth injuries caused by metal wire wrapped tightly around his snout.

 Kevin Marlin and Patriot

Marlin and Patriot currently work with Orange County’s PANDA Program — PAWS Assist the Needs of the District Attorney. Patriot is one of 13 therapy dogs helping young victims feel more secure when telling their stories.

“One young girl, just beginning the process of a trial, was visibly uncomfortable until Patriot came over and nudged her with his nose,” Marlin said. “The girl grabbed hold of him and cried. They made a strong connection and the girl was able to move on with her story.”

Surprise! A New Format (Podcast or Radio play)

Surprise! A New Format (Podcast or Radio play)

Thanks to the suggestion of my friend Gail Baugniet, former President of Sisters in Crime Honolulu, I recently signed up for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Aloha from Hawai’i to all my insecure writer sisters (and misters) friends out there.

In this post, I’ll do my best to answer the September 6 question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

Well, I suppose it’s not actually a new genre, but for sure it’s a new format. In a recent online Creative Nonfiction Writing Boot Camp class taught by the excellent teacher Rhonda Miller, she challenged us to write in a different format than we’d written in before.

I’ve been published in many different formats: my memoir (Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story), a mystery short story (Palm It Off On Murder), the lyrics for my song Angel Hero, and over 150 non-fiction magazine articles.

But this was different. This was a whole new thing and I had no idea what to include or how to begin. My inner critic (IC) screamed, “You want to WHAT? You know NOTHING about writing a podcast! Everyone will laugh at you and point fingers! You will flounder like a fish on dry land. Who do you think you are?”

I whimpered and cowered until finally I didn’t. I wish I could remember the tricks I’ve learned and apply them when I’m in the depths of doubt. Oh if only I could remember to immediately tell that icy IC, “Thanks for sharing, I’ll  need you when I edit this piece, until then, hibernate,” or repeat the 7-word mantra my friend Marianne taught me, “Everything is always working out for me.”

Somehow, I finally shut IC up and started playing with a podcast/radio drama format. Since I’ve been trying my hand at writing a screenplay adaptation of my book for many moons now, I took a scene from that and tried to re-sculpt it into a podcast or radio drama.

Did I succeed? I’m trying to make it so it will stand alone and make the listener want to hear more. I feel insecure about it because it’s my first shot at a new format. Won’t you tell me if it works for you?

I’ll check out your posts tomorrow, my fellow IWSG bloggers. But right now the Hawaiian trade winds are howling outside my window and I’m grateful they’re only trade winds and not a hurricane. Praying for your safety and wishing you sweet dreams.


Photo of Firemen Trying to Save Big Old Wooden House on Fire

This scene takes place in the dispatch office of Whaler Air Force Fire Department on Oahu. Liz and Irene are dispatchers and friends. Vic and Jaku are firefighter buddies.

LIZ: I’m sorry I’m late for shift change, Irene. I’ll make it up to you.

IRENE: It’s okay, Liz. It’s quiet, no airfield emergencies, no … what’s wrong? Your eyes are all bloodshot …

LIZ SNIFFLES, says: Last night I had a bad dream, the same dream I had after I broke up with Billy. A man attacked me …

IRENE: Little mouse you broke up with big bad Billy?

LIZ: I was so disturbed by his anger, something went through me like a force, like I never felt before. I didn’t hit Billy, but I let him have it.

IRENE:  Good for you.

LIZ: Yeah, but he blew up at me and … split.

Liz SNIFFLES again.

IRENE: There, there. I always thought you could do better than that angry bum.

LIZ GIGGLES, says shyly: To tell the truth, something Vic said motivated me.

IRENE: Oh? What did Adonis say?

LIZ: Pussyfooting around ain’t no good way to live.

Irene LAUGHS: Vic’s your personal counselor now?

LIZ: We’re pals. He’s got my back.

IRENE: Pals, huh? How unromantic. Any chance you two …

LIZ: I wish. But he’s taken, and I’m hurting …

IRENE: Billy might come back if he just left a few nights ago.

LIZ: No, it’s been two months now. Mum’s the word, okay?

IRENE:  Two months! Why didn’t you tell me?

LIZ: I should have. You’re my best …



IRENE: Things’ll get better, you’ll see.

LIZ: I’m okay. Time for you to head out.

Liz BLOWS her nose.

A KNOCK is heard at the door.

IRENE: If you want to keep it secret, wipe your eyes. Here’s some eye drops. Want some makeup?

LIZ: Sure. Thanks.

IRENE: That’s better. I’ll get the door.

Door CREAKS open.

LIZ: What’s happening, Vic?

VIC: Your eyes are red, Liz … is it Billy again?

Liz SNIFFLES: It’s just … oh, hi, Jaku.

JAKU: Hey doll face. Ever tell you about the time in ‘Nam when a fire broke out in the galley? I was first on scene … Bombs falling all around, I put ‘em out with my trusty fire hose … whoosh, whoosh!

Vic and Liz LAUGH.

VIC: Take a break, Snake?

JAKU: Why you calling this fine lady a snake?

VIC: ‘Cause she’s a yogurt teacher.

JAKU: Yogurt?

LIZ: He means yoga.


VIC:  All that yogurt makes her slither like she’s got no bones.


JAKU: Snaky Lizzy .. give me your hand …

LIZ: Ooh, la la. Getting my hand kissed by Jaku. You’re like a knight in armor…

JAKU: I’ll be your knight any old night.

LIZ: I’ll take that break, Vic.


Only Love, Part 1

Only Love, Part 1

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could rewrite a heartbreaking event in your life so it would turn out the way you wanted it to happen?

This short story is based on true events described in my murder mystery romance memoir, “Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story,” but fictionalized to have a happier ending. The episode at the beginning with the clairvoyant palmist actually happened. The episode at the end could have happened if the hero hadn’t…well, I shouldn’t give the ending away. For a tantalizing taste of the book, go to https://authorlizbethhartz/chapter1  and download the first chapter for free.

I titled this short story “Only Love.” It’s too long for one blog post, so I’ll share it in five consecutive posts.



Tacked to a peeling front door in Chinatown, a purple-lettered sign announces Aurora, Clairvoyant Palmist. Longing for a little magic, I enter the candle-lit shop. A kind-faced, white-haired woman in a billowing purple muumuu floats to a wooden spool table. I sit across from her, the woodsy scent of sandalwood incense wafting over me.

Clairvoyant, huh? Sure. But she makes a believer out of me the moment she touches my right hand. Her touch zaps me like an electric current, waking up intense grief I didn’t know was hibernating inside me. Stunned, I feel pain tearing through me. My heart throbs painfully and I sob so convulsively I hiccup for air. Oh my god. I’m having a nervous breakdown.

“Ah, I see you’re sensitive, Goldilocks. It’s just past life sorrow, dear.” She runs a purple fingernail lightly across my palm, stares at me with luminescent blue-green eyes. “See the cross connecting your life line and your heart line? That’s a psychic cross.”

I sniffle, nod. “My mother called me her little witch Lizzy.”

She studies my right hand. “Was your father present when you were a child, Liz?”

“When he wasn’t flying B-52s for the Air Force, or working long hours.”

Aurora points to a dimple where my second finger meets my palm. “See this? The lack of a mount tells me you lacked a supportive male role model growing up.”

I start crying again. I just can’t help it. “You got that right. I never knew when Dad would explode in anger. I walked on pins and needles around him, and woke up sweating from nightmares about men chasing me, screaming.”

The woman says softly, “You still carry heartbreak in your aura from longing for, but lacking, a man’s love.” She tells me I carried the heartache into this life from a prior lifetime. “You loved a married man. He asked you to be his mistress, as was the custom of the times.”

She went on about how the thought of unsanctified sex had terrified me. How I escaped by becoming a nun, and made spiritual gains through prayer and meditation.  “Hence your psychic ability now. But you hurt yourself withdrawing like that.” Aurora frowns. “Such a retreat is a kind of suicide. God wants you to say yes to life, not hide from it.”

But how do I say yes? 

As if she could read my mind, Aurora said, “If you can break out of your shell, and learn to speak up for yourself, you’ll experience an exalted spiritual relationship with a man in this lifetime.”

Really? You suppose assertiveness training would help?”

She smiles, her blue-green eyes reflecting the flickering candlelight. Then her smile turns into a frown. “But be careful not to fall for angry men like your dad, lest you perpetuate the heartache that has plagued you so long.”

Only Love, Part 2

Only Love, Part 2

“What is love” was the most searched phrase in Google in 2012. Psychologists say you need to marry self-esteem with a mature, positive love in order to prevent erotic Eros from burning itself out. In Liz’s experience in this story (and in my memoir Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story), that’s about right.

Part 2 of the “Only Love” short story continues below.

Two years after the reading by the clairvoyant palmist, when I turn 31, I long for a Prince Charming who is fun to be with, kind, and courageous. Like in the movies. Like in romance novels. I escape into daydreams about a soulmate I can grow roots with.  Someone who will really hear me.

Not like my boyfriend Billy. The fire between this bronze Hawaiian surfer and me ignites like dry wood on hot coals, throws a smoke screen over the ways we are wrong for each other—his hatred of the Caucasian conquerors, my fear of abandonment and speaking up.

Living together in his roach-infested, crumbling beach bungalow on the dry west side of Oahu splashes cold water on my romantic notions. Intimidated by his hot temper, my difficulty in speaking up increases. We talk less and argue more. He escapes to the welcoming arms of the wild waves he rides like a sea creature. I am landlocked and alone. Hope for a happily ever after with Billy dissolves like smoke in the trade winds. My mantra becomes, “At least he’s faithful.” More than anything, I want to engage, relate, love and be loved.

The gap widens. Afraid of abandonment, I cling. Magical thinking: he’ll turn into Mr. Right.

I take what solace I can from my Army fire department job where I shoot the breeze with my crusty old veteran dispatching partners and the firemen who stop by the alarm room to “talk story” with single blonde dispatcher me. Later that same year, on a cool October day, I change jobs, transfer away from the smoky, antiquated fire alarm room. By comparison, Whaler Air Force Base’s high-tech, pristine fire station where dispatchers work solo and the boss is supportive feels like a refuge.

In my new job, after the 8 to 5ers drive home, I work evening shifts solo. With the bosses away, the men and I enjoy crackling conversations about love and life. For a while, in this exciting, fast-paced world, I forget about the strained atmosphere waiting for me at home. I don’t know how to fix Billy and me, but I hang on, hoping for better days to come. Hoping for a miracle.

On slow shifts, at twilight, I gaze through a picture window past the huge red airfield trucks at golden pink sunsets. Sometimes, after midnight, I turn off the overheads, turn on my Walkman, and sway to lyrics from the song Both Sides Now: “the dizzy, dancing way you feel when every fairy tale comes real, I’ve looked at love that way.” But the only dizziness I experience stems from occasional bouts with vertigo, an unhappy legacy from a childhood ear infection.

Two years later, my budding friendship with fireman coworker Vic Lazzarini blossoms. It’s partly that he really listens. Partly that we are friends for years before becoming confidants, bonding like hydrogen with oxygen. Mostly that we talk, joke, share, care. I grow closer to Vic than to Billy.

Vic, droll, kind, generous. When I make dispatching mistakes, he teases me. Vic listens, hears me, amuses me with his jokes, thinks I’m funny. I’m a red-breasted Robin and he’s the golden sunrise inspiring me to sing. Vic, happy, self-assured. Outspoken, not like me.

Wanting to be outspoken, too, I practice on Billy. Every day for a week, I tell Billy I want to talk about us. Every day, he says he’s too busy. Today, he looks up from the football game he is watching on TV and says, “Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“How about after the game?” I ask.

“If I told you once, I told you a dozen times. I’m not your typical blabbering haole boy. And I’m not in the mood,” he says, turning his gaze back to the TV screen.

My heart aches. Carole King’s lyric, “I need relating, not solitude,” play in my mind. I blurt out, “Well, I’m not in the mood to live with you any more if you won’t talk to me.”

He is used to a quiet mouse, not this outspoken haole. He tells me not to bang the door on the way out.

My stomach ties itself in knots. I cry and cry, pack my bags, stay at my friend Emily’s apartment until I can find my own place. I tell no one that Billy and I are history.

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