Archive for March, 2012

March 28, 2012

When we first came to Kauai, in 1969, sugar was  king. Kauai was a feudal state. A benign feudal state. Plantation managers were Kings, the  Department Heads Knights of the Round. I recall Bill’s words as we set forth across the wide water,  “…and I’m going to have to keep you on a Plantation.” He knew whereof he spoke. I shrugged.

On Oahu he worked for Castle and Cooke in Ewa, but we lived in Kaneohe,  a world away. He knew the plantation social structure,  I knew nothing. I had to learn fist hand  and what I learned  was: it was  the pettiest, stinkiest, most gossip prone, conformity freaked out mess I’d ever had the misfortune to drop in on. “A woman’s home is who she is,”  one of the wives sniffed at me. To  which I replied, “To me a house is a place to drop saddles and sail bags.”

Suburban America wasn’t my style, but I could escape it. I played the big city game and told the little housewives to stay home and bake cookies.  I didn’t need them and they certainly didn’t need me. I acted.  I wrote.  Got in lots of trouble for things I wrote but it didn’t bother me. Fact is, for the most part, I wasn’t even aware of the uproar I created. Once a talk radio show-Watamuls yellow radio journalism at work and play-tore me to shreds for a week before I even became aware of it. I didn’t  listen to the radio. I didn’t  do the talk radio thing-still don’t-and first heard about it at the end of that week when my boss at the Honolulu Advertiser quizzed me.  “What in the hell did you say?”

The name of the infamous article was All the Pretty Parasites and put Beacon Magazine of Honolulu  on the map for a week. I was big on Beacon, but lower than a ground termite in Suburbia USA. I still have a copy, maybe one day I’ll publish it again.

On Kauai I got off to a really bad start when the Queen called to tell me what I should wear to a party. My thinking? Lady, you may be Queen of the May, but you’re not going to tell me what I can or cannot wear. Bad start. Good finish. And- trust me here- the finish was a  blue ribbon- gold star- halo-event. At the end, just before Bill’s diagnosis, I could have gone to one of their silly parties naked and there’d have been nary a peep. How this came about? I’ll save it for another episode.

Still there’s more to eccentricity than defiance. Like everything else in this world there’s an upside and a downside. Upside, I was free. Downside, Bill was flack catcher. Whatever went wrong anywhere on the island was my doing. Poor Bill. He had to face them every day. I saw them rarely.

Once I gave a party and nobody came. To Bill I said, as I wrapped and stored a delicious ton of edibles, “I’ll never have to do that again.”

He shrugged, but what he said to them I do not know.


March 26, 2012

I think most writers are eccentric. We tend to be loners. Articles, columns, letters, novels are not usually written by a bunch of folks. There are writer’s clubs and courses in colleges and universities but I think most of the best writers go along with the idea: if you want to write write. Study other writers. Read. I also think many of us find  our creative process dwindles the more social contact we have.

I also think writing is more a calling than a profession.

Filled with words and ideas we have to get them on paper. If we spoke them all the world would go deaf. I blame my addiction to words on my Irish roots, we’re filled with them. I think too many of my ancestors hung upside down and kissed the Blarney Stone.

As many writers in my generation did, I started with long yellow legal and a pencil. Then got lucky and married a man who had a small portable typewriter he’d taken with him to Berkley. He wanted to be the writer but it turned out I was. He was never jealous, but egged me on and even bragged. Bill,  delusional, was content to know that if he couldn’t write, he was smart enough to marry a budding Dorothy Parker. That helped my ego.  As a young writer I hated rejection slips. Printed rejection slips. Nothing could be more demoralizing.

I’d learned to type, not a very good typist-I wasn’t born to be a secretary-and am a terrible speller. Once I had an editor say, “Bettejo, never write a word without a dictionary.” I also have a habit of making up words which is fun, entertaining, and creative, only nobody knows what you’re talking about. Dictionaries do come in handy. Especially if you can remember the first three letters.

But eccentricity? Well, I have an over abundant supply. I am a devout non conformist. If everybody else is going north, I’m quite content to go south. In high school I went through the bobby sock and loafer shoe trip but as soon as I grew up I developed my own distinctive style. It went over. Heck, guys, in Manila I was named one of Manila’s best dressed women. Often the clothes I wore I designed. Don’t know if the fits the eccentric bin, but I remember the times fondly.

On Kauai, that bit of eccentricity went over like a great white shark in a wading pool. So I played it to the hilt.

To talk about eccentricity on Kauai is pretty much like talking about eccentricity in America-we’re a perfect macrocosm-and I think it does not usually play well. Most Americans seem to think they’re eccentric when they’re dressed just like everyone else and their garb has a designer label on it.  Think many of my generation did not outgrow the bobby sock stage.

You know what I love to wear most? Raggedy ass sweaty sweats, pants and sweaters with holes, and cheap white canvas tennis shoes made in China and bought and paid for at Payless.

I’m a practicing eccentric. Some one I love very much asked me, “Are you happy being you?” My answer? A resounding ‘yes’. Your?

March 23, 2012

In 2011, about this time, March 22, I played around with Hugh Hefner’s book, The Century of Sex, and all the nudes that went with it- Marilyn and John and Yoko and all the rest of the glorious others. Out of the blue, it’s raining, I decided to play around with the Dude’s nudes in years gone by. I’m talking about  the head honcho Dude of the Old Testament-not the thousands of others I really don’t know that much about. There are, in 2012,  some 4200 religions, many of whom have more than one Dude. The Hindus  have 309, girls and  boys and stuff, who, however, like the trinity, is really one Dude wrapped up in many.

Today in America the head honcho Dude of the Christian religion  has pretty much taken center stage and thus is worth another  fling dedicated to him. From one perspective, he’s really a little more important than Hugh who’s getting old and ready to go.

All of us can only hope, hopefully, that old Dude does likewise. I mean this old Dude is really making a mess of thing. He’s got his fingers in all the pies. Really gets around. Politics. Wars. Gender, he’s definitely a he. Economics, he’s a dyed in the wool capitalist. A  Republican, and, I’m quite sure, would not take kindly to Hugh or Marilyn, John or Yuko, or any of the glorious others. He’s kind of sexually repressed.

Therefor, I thought,  it might clarify things if I took on another biblical story. Genesis. In the beginning, after the Dude turns on the lights and puts the finishing touch to planet earth and heaven-there’s not much talk about  galaxies or black holes or quasars- he planted a garden, called Eden, and built  a gardener, Adam, a guy, to tend it. Created from the dust of the earth, that was a pretty good idea, but Adam got lonely so the Dude made him a mate, Eve, a girl, created out of his rib. A much more complex and tidier assembly, I think.

This is where the plot heats up. In the garden there were all the plants and herbs and tress with seed.  Animals, too, and also a tree of life and a tree of knowledge which the Dude told the pair not to eat thereof. Then-suddenly, out of nowhere- slithers a serpent who tells Eve  if she ate the forbidden fruit she’d be just like the Dude and know all about good and evil. Tempted, she ate it and then gave Adam a bite and then-voila- they discovered they were naked. They’d been naked all along-there was no Macy’s at that time-so what’s the big deal? Anyway, they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid when they heard the Dude coming.

And that’s it. He kicked them out of Eden ’cause they found out they were naked? Some plot. I mean most kids-2012- discover that when they’re  three and catch a glimpse of their Daddy’s Playboy.

If this is the cause of the mess we’re in, maybe somebody should send the Dude a subscription.

March 19, 2012

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to live in a house with my horses. I’ve designed such houses for as long as I can remember.  Most of the houses were Spanish in design-California Spanish, adobe or stone, red tile roofs, red tile floors. My favorite was an open square with a huge  courtyard- 60’x120′- perfect dressage ring in the middle. It often had a blue splashing fountain in the middle that one had to maneuver around. The ground was compacted clay with a deep bed of soft shavings to fall in. Messy in the winter rains, but what the hell.

One of the sixty foot  sides of the square was the barn- stalls, feed room, tack room-all the stalls opened both to the outside and to the courtyard so the horses could hang their heads over the doors and watch schooling. I always had the idea they learned from watching. The land, of course, meandered  on for miles through sweet-smelling clover pastures and singing hills with bridle paths.

One of the hundred and twenty-foot sides was a ten foot high tile wall covered with ivy and  capped with tile.  The other long side was house. Living room, library, bedrooms and  baths. The other short side was utility.

A child’s dream. To happen, of course,  when my father struck oil.

Forty years later along came Kauai.

How the land ownership came about is a story in itself, but for now, it did. Four strange acres. What wasn’t under water when it rained was straight up and down. But as I explored I found vistas so secret and beautiful, I fell in love. My Spanish horcienda was out of the question, so a different vision blossomed.  But now, a married grown up,  two people were involved.  What was Bill going to say  about living in a barn?   I sketched. I dreamed.  A long racing barn.  Two stalls at one end for horses, rooms for humans at the other. A hundred foot ‘covered walk’ down the entire front  so with the horses’ heads poked over their doors and human heads munching at the other, we could watch each other graze. I dropped my vision in Bill’s lap and ran.

“Wait’ll you see that covered walk,” he said.

I had a go.

With a little outside help, we began a big  do-it-yourselfer. I learned to be a roofer, but Bill said, “After a coffee break, I have to retrain her.”

Three years and one hurricane later we moved in. No doors, no windows, one light bulb on a long cord, and a romantic mosquito net covered hand-crafted four-poster to sleep in. We moved in in September and Bill was diagnosed with incurable cancer in October.

He died here two years later. July 5, 1985. On July 12, 1985, on a stunningly still and beautiful blue, cloudless, breathless  Kauai afternoon he scribbled DUX  in the sky for me.

So it wasn’t the end of the story. It was the beginning. Creat’a’life on Kauai? You betcha.

March 9, 2012

Love at first sight. He fell for me, I backed off.  Enormous and gaudy, he always wanted to reach out and grab me. It got to the stage that, whenever I drove my  Skylark into the parking lot, he preened and flirted.  I had to walk by his house every time I entered Dels which put me off, too. He lived in a vast abode right alongside the front door and his noisy screech stopped traffic.

My quiet “Hi” in response  was more a polite recognition than a “It’s good to see you, too,” sort of thing.  I  didn’t want to shake his hand.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t even want to get  close to him. It was a relationship I tried to avoid.

Jan, the manager of the store, clued me in. “He’s in love,” she said. I groaned.

I seem to attract guys like that. Not my type, you know. All birds fall in love with me. The swans at the Hyatt, in some circles, are called ‘Bettejo’s birds’. They come when I call. I think they think I’m a funny looking bird who got plucked.

After a bit, however, I succumbed. I mean, who could resist Duke’s-that’s his name-romantic advances? We held hand through the bars and he tried to kiss me. He moved in when Del’s closed and the day he came through the gates-cage and all-he whooped  a “HI” they heard in town. He lived, as Jan said, when she saw his new digs, in bird heaven. No longer confined to his cage, when he wanted company he’d stroll on down. Once I had a Quaker-go-to-meeting meeting here and he joined in silent vigil.

He flew away last Thursday. First glorious flight. His cheerful “Hi” sprang from a tree, not from the wrought iron gate where he lived.  Between then and Tuesday, when we finally caught him, he’d flown in the highest, skimpiest branches of seven tall trees. The first two were in his own territory, the third was in an Avatar banyan across the street and up a steep wet, slippery red mud bank. WhenKauai got hit with a deluge, thunder and lightning, crashes and bangs, rain like water sloshing from a hydrant overhead, and a flooded road to cross, they  became an obstacle course contributing to the melee. I sat in the rain by the side of the road in stinking sweats and red foul weather gear talking to a tree. I slid down banks. I crawled up slopes. Trespassed. Tried to avoid barbed wire claws. I spotted him but nothing I did could coax him down. Hungry and cold and scared nothing I  did helped. Once below him in the tree, thtough, he never took his eyes off me. But his voice got weaker.

Every morning I’d wake up thinking this was the day I’d find him dead.

When he flew to a tree by the side of the road I called the fire department. Wonderful guys. They got here pronto, spent the day, and we got lucky. The sun came out and a power line looped and galloped right in front of my gate.

A darling lady at 911 called the power company for me and they showed up with a huge white cherry picker and more wonderful guys who got in the act. Traffic got stopped. Roofs and tall timber got climbed. A great guy from the power company in a high white bucket thing caught him once. He got away. But luck was with us this time, too. He flew down. I  reached him. Fed him. He scarfed  a  bag of peanuts before I got him on a perch. He tried to bite me but I held fast his feet, threw a towel around him, and, with the help of a burly fireman, who kept me on my feet,we raced with him to the barn.

Not an ounce of  love got lost in Kalaheo Tuesday. All because of a bird named Duke. What won’t people do for love?