Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

This is a tale about how a landlubber-Bill would call me a ‘shitkicker’, sailors use bad words a lot- ended up with the scariest, roughest, most dangerous job an a sail boat. Ask any sailor. I won’t use nautical terms, although Bill made me learn them all and it was a good thing. Did you know there are no ropes on a boat? There are only sheets and haulyards. Sheets trim sails. Haulyards haul the damn things-that’s shitkicker talk-up or down.

Bill taught me to race on Manila Bay. I learned to love it. Our first boat was very small, two men- one guy and one girl-we were beautiful then- I was the one on the jib. When he bought a bigger boat, an Olympic class Dragon-29 feet of gorgeous sloop, there were over 20 of them in the fleet-I felt as if he’d moved me out of a tent into a  house. A nice house, too.The English royals sailed one. Her name was Blue Bottle and they would cry “Blue Bottle fly”  in the heat and delirium of a race.

Our boat was named Pau Hana and when I became the foredeck gurl I learned how to swear in fourteen languages and throw beer bottles.  Coming up on a mark with over a dozen sharp-nosed sloops, cranky skippers, and other foredeckers determined to haul their sail in fastest and hit you with their beer bottles was not only a physical feat, it was an emotional high.

The foredeck man is  the guy-in this case gurl-who’s on the bow hauling the spinnaker up and down. The spinnaker is that gorgeous sail that looks like a colorful balloon out in front of the boat when the wind is filling it from behind.  Billowed out it looks like the boat is pregnant.  It also has a spinnaker pole that must be attached and unattached when the damn thing goes up or down.

I got to be the foredeck gurl because, when the winds were light, I was the only one light enough to work it . When the winds came up I was the only one who knew how.

When we sailed in Hawaii, crossing these channels with the spinnaker up when the winds were light, was fun. When the winds were high it was scary as hell. At least for this shitkicker.

We always sailed with a crew of stinky gorillas-surfers or hippies, happy to catch a free ride to other islands- but for the most part useless when it came to working. They got to watch while I did all the work. In a race, with the spinnaker coming down, Bill would slap the main sheet on the deck in a kind of a Captain Bligh beat, and shout, “Faster. Faster. Get it down.” Once I almost cut my toe off on a stay and he shouted, “Stop bleeding on my deck.”

With the sail down, hanging on with my teeth while making my way aft,  I’d  try to impale him with the pole when I tossed it at him at the tiller. With one hand  he’d  snatch it out of thin air. It never failed to amuse the gorillas.

I never considered divorce, but I sure considered murder.


February 28, 2012

The old bloke is certainly all over the news, isn’t he? Hope all of you read Donna Brazile’s column this morning, “Belief, as in believing in God, can be a tricky thing.One’s person’s faith is another persons’ heresy.  Some people proclaim no faith but still are strong believers. While others believe they have all the answers…” She writes simply, surely, and well and always on interesting subjects. She’s one of my favorite columnists  Her title this morning on the forum page is Why should  there be a religious test for election to public office? It caught my eye. I’ve never understood the concept of a political god, it always sounded a bit beneath him. And, of course, I am always troubled with the gender. The patriarchal god makes me want to vomit. In our country today, he is owned outright by the Republican Party which is patriarchal to the core.

On a personal note, I used to wonder why I am so lucky to have no religious hangups, but if all of us are the product of our past- I think we are- then we can turn back the clock and find the reason.

I had a father I adored. Very handsome. He looked like Clark Gable. Very intelligent. Very wise. He strung none of the rocks of sin, guilt, and fear around my neck and he taught me I could do anything a boy could do. He solved so many of my childhood problems I lived in awe of him.

I remember once, out in the cold woods, I found a half dead cat with its head stuck in an empty can of dog food. I tried to yank its head out but couldn’t. The poor little thing was so weak it couldn’t fight back. No claws to scratch me with. it was a Saturday and I knew my father was home, so I grabbed the wretched thing and raced back. My father was in the kitchen sipping a glass of milk, he didn’t drink. He took one look at me and the cat, grabbed the cat  and hung it can-side up on a wind- up wall can opener. The cat took a deep breath, the stinky suction wafted, leaped from my father’s arms and streaked out the door. Now come on, wasn’t that godlike? It was godlike enough for me.

There were no Bibles or holy books in our house but the shelves were filled with books. He bought me books about animals. He introduced me to  Mowgli and Shere Khan and Rikki Tikkie-Tavi and Bagheera. They were the animals in Rudyard Kipling’s Garden of Eden, the only Garden of Eden I was taught about, and, as I grew up his stories filled me with delight.

‘Witty, profound, acerbic, and occasionally savage, Kipling’s poetry can be bother tender and deeply moving.” My father opened up these dimensions and, oddly enough, both Bill and I shared this love, too.

So, the point is: I had a real god the father in my childhood. I didn’t need a make-believe one in the sky.

February 24, 2012

“Here’s a toast to health and happiness, let the rest of them drink to money.”

I’ve never had a thing about money. As long as I could pay my bills, lead the life I chose, and stay healthy, I was happy. I had to work at it, it didn’t come free but that was a pleasure, too. Surrounded by books, animals, and a husband I adored, I set out upon life’s journey. I loved to act. So I acted. I loved to write. So I wrote. Money had nothing to with it. As far as a career in acting or writing, I was as close to Hollywood or New York as I ever wanted to be. Happy  The Scam made it to New York, though.

My husband said I was  perfectly well equipped to live in the 15th century, so I had to find out about that. Turns out it wouldn’t have been a healthy, happy time for me to land in at all. No, not at all. Witch hunts and burnings were the rage. Fun and games. And  I discovered the book Malleus maleficarum- the Hammer of Witches- was one of the first books ever printed on the Gutenberg press 1485-86.

“All wickedness,” said the Catholic inquisition authorities, “is but little to the wickedness of women. What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment,  a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with colors…Women are by nature instruments of Satan…”

That certainly doesn’t sound very happy or healthy to me, so I think I’ll just skip it. Hard to do- though-if you’ve been following the Garden Island Forum discussion site lately. So many posters-all of them of religious bent or right wing-play the gendercide game. it’s a game they’ve mastered. Can’t resist going on. Health and happiness on Kauai can wait. Hopefully it will  be there when we get back.

In 1980, Ben-Yehuda, wrote “it was to become the most influential and widely used handbook on witchcraft…its enormous influence was practically guaranteed, owing not only to its authoritative appearance but also to its extremely wide distribution…The moral backing had been provided for a horrible endless march of suffering, torture and human disgrace inflicted on thousands of women.” I think it resurfaced in 2008 when Palin had her exorcism. It’s quite the rage on the Forum discussion site. Toned down, maybe. Not exactly identified but alive and well and that’s not healthy.

Well, I don’t keep it on my shelves and as long as I remember that health and happiness are, quite often, an inner human expression, I can toss the madness out with the holy water.

Still, you must be physically and morally healthy and strong to confront this 21st century madness. Stand on your head. Worship the  scented plumeria.  Listen to da’birdys sing. Talk a walk on golden sand. Dip your tush in sparkling water. Bask your butt beneath a happy sun. Trust your feet on jungle paths and mountain trails.  Screw the bucks and the witch hunts…

That’s what simple folks do. On Kauai.

February 22, 2012

tt’s raining in my neck of the jungle. I can practically watch thick furry green moss grow up the trunks and branches of the trees and over the rocks and walls and stepping-stones. At the garden centers you pay more for lava moss rocks than you do for just plain old   rocks. Here, in my very wet valley, clouds heavy with rain slide- big fat slugs- down Mt. Kahili’s eastern slopes and all I have to do is haul rocks home and let them do the green thing by themselves.

Out in my jungle the most incredibly brilliant orange fungi sprout and drink like exotic weeds on rain drops big as dimes and nickels. I don’t get pennies from heaven here, I harvest a lot of  loose change falling from the sky’s deep pockets. The little orchid -white heads of Walking Iris twinkle like holiday lights on the bank and jungle floor. Lawai fern, taller than the kid’s ears, shake water off their backs like  dogs shake fleas. Open on three side to the outside my jungle studio was meant for a  grown up kid who grew up in the woods.

The sun is out for a moment but I’m hunkering down, waiting for the next downpour. I can hear it coming. Walking. Trotting. Running. A thundering head long gallop with the wind up its tail and its mane in its eyes, straight for me to cuddle through. At least the house will stay on an even keel and the computer will keep dry. My puppy, too. She’s sleeping at my feet.

When I’m not thinking about my column on a rainy day, I’m thinking about Soup. A big hot cup of nutritious, delicious Soup. Soup. Soup. Beautiful Soup, Soup of the morning, beauti-FUL SOUP. Did anyone else grow up with Louis Carroll? How many guys have a cup of Soup for breakfast? I just glanced into the jungle and a Cheshire cat grinned down at me from a branch.

I make quantities of Soup stock-chicken or veggie-in the winter  like the French. Just as Adelle Davis taught me years ago when she jumped  off a shelf. Let’s Get Well. Let’s Cook it Right. Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. Do you know she sold more books than the Bible? It was a better time.  She told the truth about the American food industry and was vilified for it. What a surprise. She and Linus Pauling-Vitamin C and the Common Cold- saved my life and the life of my animals many times. But she didn’t have a Vitamix.

I do. I toss stuff in and whistle while I whirr. Green peppers. Carrots. Onions. Garlic. Ginger. Potatoes, red and white. A dash of this. A dash of that. A tablespoonful each of Brewer’s yeast, rich in the B vitamins, and wheat germ.

As I slurp, a squall that shivered me timbers just waltzed by.

I learned the art of digression from James Thurber. Soup and rain and puppy dog’s tails are the order of today.

On Kauai.

February 21, 2012

Don’t you think we are all a product of our past? Did you have a happy childhood? Did you love your parents? School? Other kids? Activities?

I think, in many ways, I was lucky. As an only child who came from a happy home, I was probably indulged. Spoiled I was told as a young adult by a few friends and  frowning relatives.  But I always replied,  “Perhaps. But it all came out as love.” I was a beloved child. I’ve  never seen anything wrong with that.

One could argue I was born with an over-healthy ego and that might work, but, again, I see nothing wrong with it.  One nice thing about a healthy ego a child rarely finds itself in a situation where it has to put down another kid’s ego to feel secure. I was born with and nourished by  what I’ve always considered  gifts: the gift  of belonging, of being wanted, of being loved. I was always-still am-very happy being me and during the aging process-81 full years of it- no one was ever able to mess that up.

I was never saddled with inferiority or the fear of God. Hell and damnation were concepts to which I was never exposed.

My parents were not religious but my father sent me to a Catholic school to be raised. I boarded for awhile and had forty of the greatest mothers a kid could have. Once again I was indulged. I could tell wonderful stories about teachers who competed with each other to see which one could send me out in the world best prepared.

The secret to that? They all adored my father. He worked in a very classy floral and decorating shop just down the street from the school. Very handsome and charming, the little nuns, in pairs, would enter the shop shyly to say hello to ‘Jerry’. My father always gave them each a rose which, I think, they slept with.

I wasn’t allowed to attend Mass or take catechism but I’d sneak in to church that forbidden temple.  I sat in Catechism class, with  always a catechism-the forbidden book-on my desk and knew it forward and backward. When a Catholic kid couldn’t answer a question, a little nun would say, “Let’s see if our little Protestant girl knows the answer.”

I always did and that didn’t make me popular.

But not being popular worked for me, too. I didn’t-don’t- need that label to make me happy, either.  I guess I was just born happy.

My mother said I was born with ‘my tongue tied in the middle. Wagging at both ends’.

All my readers can feel fortunate. If it weren’t for paper and pen and now ‘the screen’ the whole world would be deaf by now.

These ‘gifts’- I didn’t create them- have never failed me. Even on Kauai. Even now.

Here and now it’s  rocks or roses, but the rocks never hit and the roses never faded.

I’ve a light heart as a grown up kid on Kauai.

February 20, 2012

That the whole world comes to Kauai is one of the joys of living here. The house up the Alexander Dam Road was remote but,  partly because of the kids, at least half the world ended up there. Also partly because this monster lava rock abode had five bedrooms, four baths, a huge living/dining room, and a mammoth ‘party’ kitchen, everyone Bill and I had  known since the beginning of time suddenly remembered us and came for a visit.

That’s one of the reasons why this house has one bedroom, one bathroom, and one interior door. I love people and house guests but after a while hotel keeping grows tiresome and tedious.  Now when friends come calling I say, “Bring a tent. Camping gear  You’re welcome to stay on the back forty.” I only have four acres but it’s a steep traipse to the back side and when you get  there you’d think you were a million miles from anywhere. No roads. No street lights. No sounds, except for the birds and the feral pigs snuffling. My neighbor to the east is the back-end of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. When John Allerton was alive- the vast estate and the Garden was his baby-I teased, “You walk ten miles. I’ll walk ten feet. And we’ll fight over the back fence.”

The most interesting house we lived in was the house on Kukuiula Harbor. Our boat floated in the bay, our horses hung out across the street, and millionaire’s row was a bit scruffy. All the rest was green stalks of cane-grass at its tallest- and miles and miles of bridle paths called cane roads by others. Our air was the softest. Our  stars the brightest. The bay the cleanest. And it was  my country all the way to Shipwreck at one end and Allerton’s red gates at the other. I taught Beau how to open those gates. I wasn’t allowed to enter- but of course I did-and  was always getting caught. I’d flash the peace sign, wave a big wave, and gallop off  in all directions.

At this end of the road, too, is the Spouting Horn. One morning as we stopped to hear it roar and watch it burst and bubble, I caught sight oi a guy with his butt in the air and his head in the hole.

“Sir,” I hollered. “Don’t…”

When he stood up and turned, my heart skipped a beat. This was really good-looking guy. His name was Terry Mulligan, a Canadian Mountie and movie star, and he walked my horse and I home. He stayed with us. Sailed with us. Taught me Mountie horse stuff. We baby sat his daughter, met his girl friend, fed them Portuguese bean soup made in a tub and feasted on for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This memory is for all my new-found Friday world-wide friends, Krista from Kalamazoo, Marlene from Hanapepe, Susanjane and Don from Canada, Mike from new York, Peter from Oregon, Sid from  British Columbia, darling Julie-who loved Scam-and came back to say so.

Hope you have a happy stay, a safe trip home and hurry back.

February 17, 2012

Write a book?  So what?  Writing a book is getting a book read and reading a book is what writing a book is all about.  We are lucky on Kauai. We have  Talk Story Book Shop in metropolitan Hanapepe that, with great verve and joy, opens its doors every Friday night to local writers and buyers.

Can a writer also be a ‘seller’ of his books? You bet’cha. I love it. I’m in my element. The world strolls by, walks in, talks story. Ed and Cynthia-two absolutely gorgeous human beings- are delightful hosts. “Welcome to the farthest eastern book shop in America,” is their cheerful welcome.

Outside their door, an amazing underwater photographer sells his photos. A local musician sings and plays his heart out. Darling girls sell culinary art. Try a piece. Guests at Talk Story  munch a piece of pie as they browse.

But, as often happens in paradise, we have a snake in the garden. It walks around in a rumpled sandwich board, popping in and out the door, scaring little children-me, too- berating common street vendors who spoil the elitist atmosphere. Every piece of pie, every photograph, every book sold on this sacred night detracts from the sale of art.

I first met the  sandwich board years ago. I’d been invited to a party in Princeville and, since the hostess- a writer- knowing I didn’t like to drive at night, arranged  a ride with someone I’d never met. I arrived early. I was taught being late is rude. I drove up to the porte-co-chere, nice to have where it rains a lot. The sky was a cloud swept deep Kauai blue. The air alive with scent and song.

A voice called, “Move the car.”

I moved. Parked down the road and walked back to the house. “I’m here.”

“Wait outside.”

There was a bench. I sat. Maybe my driver was in the shower. When it opened the door, it said not a word, but started off to the car  I trailed behind.

I didn’t like it from the get-go, although it looked very much like my husband.  The ride to Princeville was tense with silence. No happy talk in this jalopy.  At the party it went north. I went south. I ate, drank, and made happy until it was time to leave. The ride home was a disaster. We sped. Crossed  double lines. Tailgated. I perched on the edge of the seat.

“Stopping to see friends. Wait here.” First words uttered.

“Please take me to my car.”

My driver gave me guff but I insisted and won, but not without a verbal  exchange. I  happily departed company. The next time, I promised myself, I’d hire a driver.

I never saw nor spoke to the sandwich board again until it appeared through the door of  Talk Story and scared me. An apparition. But I sold a lot of books.

A true story, but any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.

Looks to be a fun night in Hanapepe on Kauai.

February 17, 2012

I’m not going to describe them, I’m not a bird watcher, but I am a bird listener. My jungle house is an aviary. I’m awakened and put to sleep by the songs of these incredible creatures. They love it here. My land is bird friendly.

On September 11, 1992, I was awakened by a clatter. Early morning jangles make me nervous. I scurried to the kitchen. I had one phone.  It stood there staunchly, red lights flashing. When I put the receiver to my ear, I could hear Billy’s voice.

“Mom,” his voice crackled thick with urgency. I thought there was a problem in Honolulu, but before I could speak he  did, “Know you don’t listen to the news. Storm’s coming. Big. Turn the radio on.”

I’m not a cool-head. My first response to disaster is panic. Standing in silent stillness I  screamed and yelled and tore my hair.


“Yeah. When?”

“We’re going to shelter now.”

“Not a breath of air here.”

“There will be.”


“Check out the nearest shelter.”

“Can I take the horses?”

“Call first thing tomorrow,” the line went dead.

Billy had helped me with the horses before hurricane Ewa. We’d chased them to hell and gone, trees crashing down around us as they raced for open country.  They sense stuff. We were living up the Alexander Dam Road in a big tough lava rock house. My husband  helped us get Flash and Beau in the barn and he and  Billy went to bed. I stayed in the rickety barn. All I can remember about that night was the noise. The sound of that storm was the roaring thundering thump beat of a thousand over-heated hearts.

This time I had three horses and not a Bill or a Billy in sight. Once I settled down I got to work. My house had survived Ewa with nary a scratch and I clung to that. I battened down the hatches. Secured everything I could. My idea was to lock the horses in the their stalls, get the cats and the dogs and- eventually-me in the car and ride it out. The horses were edgy under roof. I tried to calm them.

The first thing I noticed were the birds. It seemed like hundreds of them were feather- scrunching in the pasture and  the cattle in the hills  were lumping together across the street. I put three pans of food in the car, nibbles for the dogs and the cats, carrots for the horses, a bottle of wine for me and stood my ground. When a swirling gust threw me into the wrought iron, I checked into  my shelter and huddled down. Before the night was over the dogs were eating carrot, the horses nibbles, but I had the wine all to myself.

The next morning when the birds took off with a joyous whirr it was a celestial event. When a lost peahen in a tree let out a shriek all of us knew we’d made it.

It was a glorious golden morning on Kauai.

February 15, 2012

So many of us on Kauai love this dimension. We are, in truth, a miniature United Nations. A macrocosm of what the world can be. We’ve a large very active Filipino community who add a spicy flavor to the mix. Lots and lots of Japanese. An industrious, often brilliant, people. They’ve contributed so much to the state and the island. We’ve Portuguese, Italian, Brits, irish. We’ve too many newcomers who, mostly, don’t belong. The world has been and comes to Kauai and many of us would like to think we are what the world could become.

The indigenous population, the Hawaiians-few pure Hawaiians  left-struggle with their loss. A writer friend of mine, Jo Anne Lordhal wrote an amazing book, history disguised as fiction, titled Princess Ruth, that tells part of this sad story. Her book, like my humorous piece The Scam, is available through Amazon, listed under Kauai Fiction. Worth the read. Little of Hawaiian culture, their past, their tears and sorrow is out there for folks to know about. It’s one of those ugly American secrets swept under the rug to fall through the cracks in the rotting floor.  Often I think, if I were Hawaiian, I’d be out there with flaming arrows and I’m a dyed in the wool peacenik. In their eyes Hawaii is an occupied country and, when one knows the true story, one can understand.

I know most of the old missionary families and the military- this used to be a sugar-coated fortress, now it’s just a fortress-would prefer to keep this dirty secret to themselves but today word leaks out. In books. On PBS. Look for The Massie Affair on PBS. A  disgraceful event. it’s a bitter mix to the stew but knowing it’s there can help us balance the flavor

I do not write as an Historian. Not even as one who is an advocate of sovereignty. Only as one who has lived on Kauai for over forty years and has seen it-and read about it- through her own eyes. Has watched its transformation. Has a great concern about its future but hopes, with all the hope within her, that she can add that little bit of honey that makes the medicine go down. it’s there, too. Let it blend.

I am also not here as a travel guide. I won’t lead you to the canyon, take you on a hike, a helicopter ride, or tour. There are other books and writers who do that. I’ll just write about the journey. Hit the highs and  lows of a wonderful trip and try to make it interesting and fun…

I’ll tell it as a little girl, a young woman, an old lady. Take you on a road less traveled. Bumps, detours, curves and straight aways alike.

This began as a tale about the wonderful cosmopolitan soup that is  Kauai which many of us-most of us artists and writers-love but I must warn you, I will also tell you some very sad and true tales of those who would take this mix and turn it into a pasteurized, dangerous and  insipid gruel. A concrete-coated  fortress for dim wits, closed and one-dimensional  minds. I’ll try to drag them along, too.

Welcome to my Kauai.

February 15, 2012

My father taught me to read the Sunday morning funnies. He taught me to love books. To love animals. A perfect combination for an only child. Out in the woods with my horse and dogs when the weather was good, or curled up with my dog and a book by a warm fire when it wasn’t.  I’ve carted books around the world with me for over sixty years and when I married Bill and his books joined mine we carted a veritable library.

You can’t sit down in my jungle house because every flat surface is piled with books. My library needs a library, but I know where every book is. I’m happiest around books. Around people who love and read books. The feeling in any book store is a wonderful feeling of human camaraderie. A sense of belonging. A sense of well-being. A sense of knowing you’re exactly where you belong.

Now toss in a writer, a plate of cheese and crackers and a glass of wine and look out, the hours fly by like feathers in a storm.

Early on I fell in love with the New Yorker, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Ross, Thurber. They were my friends. I first read Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea in the edition that  featured nothing but this brilliant piece of work. Writers have heroes and Hemingway is one of mine. His short stories still amaze me. I learned to write dialogue from him. I learned about Spain and the Spanish revolution. I learned about  Guernica and Pablo Picasso. I learned that the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was a communist organization.  I learned about Marx and Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg and John Reed and ten days that shook the world.  That didn’t convert me, but it did pique my interest.

With a book on a log you can travel the world. The open curious child mind in a library  can sniff out stuff no teacher would recommend. Combine that with a lust for knowledge and you’re a menace to society.

I recommend it.

When you’re talking to other writers it’s wonderful how minds leap and jump to other books, other authors, other subjects. I read a critique about Carl Jung recently where, it was stated  that he said  “Books jumped off the shelf at me”. I’m sure that was a metaphor and, if so, I understand.They sure jump off the shelf at me, and this seems to be true of many writers and readers.

I love Stephen King and his book, The Stand jumped of the shelf at me. So did  The Watchers by Dean Kuntz. Anything Kurt Vonnegut wrote.

I love fantasy. I write fantasy. I cannot be separated from my books. One of the saddest things to happen was the loss of Borders on Kauai, but we do have the delightful Talk Story Book Shop in Hanapepe. Ed Justus and his beautiful wife Cynthia are superb hosts. On Friday nights the world drifts in. To all my readers, if you live on Kauai, please come visit me there. I think you’ll love my humorous fiction, The Scam.

If you’re off island, look for my website and check it out on Amazon.