Henry David Thoreau–remember him?–said, I paraphrase, “A man is as rich as the things he doesn’t need.”
Isn’t that kind’a un-American?
I mean, isn’t it true the more stuff you have the richer you are? What I’ve found is: the opposite. The more stuff I have, the more stuff I have to dust, move, arrange, rearrange, walk around or stumble over. Do you ever feel that way?
What does it mean to be rich, anyhow? In my heavy dusty American Heritage Dictionary the first definition is “Possessing great material wealth”. Which would mean–would it not?– you’d have to be rich enough to hire guys to dust, move , arrange, rearrange, walk around or stumble over your stuff.
If you have enough long green to buy a Trump jet, you’d have to buy guys to fly it, fix it, clean it, park it and do other stuff you need to do when you own a flying white elephant. Wouldn’t it be better to have a plain old-fashioned elephant? You could take it for a swim, a walk, or feed it and sing it to sleep when it needs a nap.
I’ll admit I am a collector. I collect books and animals. I’d be lost without them. Books are my oldest friends. I enjoy the silence of their company and they’re always there when I feed them. .
The animals are my family. I’m happiest with a bunch of kitty/doggy/parrot snacks in my hand to feed them
But, like you, I love the malls. I love the herd when it’s feeding or shopping. Sometimes I think it’s where they’re most content.
Are rich people more comtent than us? Do rich people go to malls?
I see few Roll Royces in the parking lots. Maybe they drive cranky old clunkers when they go to Lihue? Then, with ragged baseball caps slung backward on their handsome heads, raggedy canvas shoes on their famous feet, and what goes on between the two raggedy, too, do they look like us? Would they be collecting stuff? Carting it around in shopping bags? How about munching a red hot dog in a fast food joint?
I probably wouldn’t recognize one if I saw one. Would you?
If they weren’t dressed up to walk the red carpet or had a string of serving men– and women– to protect them and carry all the stuff they bought , would they be visible to the naked eye?
We seem to be obsessed with money and guys who have it. We love celebrities who flash around like peacocks on parade. I’m told some who visit Kauai, love it here ’cause we don’t bug them. Maybe all the ogling gets a bit tiresome?
Maybe, for just a moment, they’d rather be a peasant. Kauai is full of peasants.
Me? I love to stroll through the mall and come out the other end package free. If a guy is as rich as the things he doesn’t need, I’m the richest peasant of all.
Archive for the ‘A writer’s story’ Category
June 24, 2016
Henry David Thoreau–remember him?–said, I paraphrase, “A man is as rich as the things he doesn’t need.”
May 7, 2016
Some stories must be told. Though some people would rather not hear them.
There’s a school of thought: if you don’t talk about ‘bad stuff’ it’ll vanish. Trust me, it won’t. A time comes when one must face the truth. Particularly when it smacks you in the eye with a sharp stick.
True stories, like this one, aren’t meant to vilify. Nor endorse fear. They’re a means to understand. The rage, the violence, the hate that brews inside the flesh, the mind, the core of man, can erupt any time. And, until it happens to you, you haven’t a clue the trauma it can create.
Yesterday was a lovely day. Sunny. Pleasant to the senses. Birds sang, A perfumed breeze blew, it caressed my check. Traffic on my narrow two lane road was serene. My little gray Yuris was happy as a saddle horse on a morning ride through Central Park. I dropped mail off at a neighbors box, crossed the one lane bridge, and braked at the sign at the top of the hill. I signaled to turn right.
Suddenly, from the left, a four door gray sedan whipped’round a sharp corner and stopped within inches, as far as I could tell, from my driver’s side door. Had it hit me, my little car would have flipped. To my left I was looking through the front window of the car. I gasped, tried to grin–stuff happens– and gestured the driver, a blank countenance behind the windshield a few feet away and opened my palm to gesture he back so I could safely traverse a right and continue on my way.
Thus began an incident so surreal, I’m still shaken thinking about it.
The driver shook his head, so I gestured again. The head shook ‘no’ and a woman–she spoke–jumped out her side and shouted, “It’s your fault. You’re over the double line.” She crawled back inside. The driver, obviously a man, had nearly collided with me. I wasn’t able to judge the distance between the cars so when the driver rolled down his window I asked, politely, “Back up, please.”
With that he jumped out of his car, loomed large outside my window breathing down on me. Then, thrusting his fist through my open window, grabbed the steering wheel.
What saved me was a car with three passengers–I think I counted– one tall young man came immediately to my aid, “Are you okay?” I shook my head.
Another young man spoke to the driver, suggesting he back. This one came to my window and stood between me and the driver. He helped me navigate the corner. “Have a good day,” the tall one said. “You, too, ” I replied. Behind us the driver, in the middle of the road, was screaming obscenities.
I want to thank the young men. Hope their day was good.
My bad trip was balanced with three good ones. That’s Kauai.
But I don’t know what to make of it. Do you?
May 2, 2016
“…and then I went to church.”
“That’ll be the day.”
” What I did was even worse.”
“Worse than going to church?”
“Okay,” my guest sipped his beer and stretched his legs. “This is gonna be a long one.”
“Well, I have this book…”
“This book? You can’t sit down around here without landing on one.”
“It’s a cocktail table book. Most people don’t sit on cocktail tables,” I sniffed. “It’s called Luxury Equestrian Design and I keep it around to remind me what a peasant I am.”
“You can say that again.”
“It’s so classy the pages aren’t even numbered. But on page 34–I counted–there’s a picture of Seattle Slew’s grave.”
“Triple Crown. Earned $1,207,726.”
“All you think about is money. He was a People’s Horse. And he’s buried whole, just like Ari, at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Kentucky.”
“,,,so his grave is so enormous and so blazingly alive with blossoms and color and grace and style it takes your breathe away. He was a year younger than Ari and, like him, died in his sleep. He’s buried in his favorite green blanket with a little bag of peppermints he loved. Ari didn’t wear a blanket but he’s off to the Happy Hunting Ground with a whole bottle of Cornflake Butter Crunch Cookies. Maybe when they meet, which I’m sure they will, they’ll share.”
My friend slurped. “And?”
“And,” I replied, “if Seattle Slew can be so honored and beloved, I mean if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for Ari. So I set out to make his grave as rich and gorgeous. I bought plants, I bought gloves, I bought doohickey gardening tools from a garden center–I even bought new gardening shoes–and raced off on a new path.”
“…and the shoes put a blister on my foot and it rained and my shoes got wet and my foot got infected and at one o’clock in the morning I set off for Wilcox. I think I was in shock. The wound was open and red and sore and swollen and feverish and a little red line was running up my leg.”
“Skip the gory details, but whatever happened to the little old miss self- healer- squealer?”
“Healer- squealer shuffle dealer, I don’t play around with tetanus and blood poisoning. No way. But know what?”
“Turned into such a pleasant surprise. I couldn’t’ve met a nicer bunch of people. The lady who signed me in. The darling male nurse with the pony tail who listened patiently to my tale of woe. The doctor, a neighbor, who had much compassion. The lady nurse who gave me two of the most painless shots I’ve ever had. I went home happy. With a prescription I won’t fill. Met a pharmacist who talked me out of filling it. I’m in the process of healing myself. So hahaha…
…but let me tell you something, if you’re ever in trouble and need an ER go to Wilcox.”
April 20, 2016
American Indians called the horse ‘sacred dog’ and acquired him in the mid-1500s when De Soto and Coronado brought it to our shores. The Indians took to the animal like brilliance takes to rainbows. The horsemen of the plains were considered by many in the American cavalry,”The finest light horse cavalry in the world.” They were never defeated in combat.
The Horse Culture on the plains lived with their animals, and like the riders in the Spanish School in Vienna today, came to call them ‘friends’. They lived with their horses. They knew them with their heart.
Lives of the nomadic Plains tribe, especially the Comanches, were revolutionized by the horse and they became skilled thieves perfecting the art of rustling. They were the best of horsemen and we treated them badly. In 1874 thousands of animals, considered by the southern Commanche to be their best, were senselessly slaughtered. Ari often reminded me. Horses have a different sense of history and time. All of them recall what earth was like when the world was young and no grunting four-spinning upstarts jammed the roads and fouled the air.
I ‘d tell Ari stories like a silly human–dates and names and stuff like that–and he’d look me in the eye the way a good horse does–and snort, reminding me his roots on our home planet went back 40 to 60 million years. His earliest ancestor, little eohippus, the Dawn Horse showed up a lot earlier in the game than we did. “How long you been around skinny two legs?”
He had me there.
He loved me to tell him stories.
An incurable romantic, he loved fiction best. Hidalgo, the mustang, and Frank Hopkins who raced him’cross the Ocean of Fire were his favorites. When Ari was recovering from surgery, I constructed a paddock at my end of the barn and rigged a projector and white sheet sharing the Disney movie with him. He watched it over and over. For a horse who’d been free as a feral hen, to be corralled in a 20×20 foot area for three months–the recovery was long–was an ordeal. I had to relieve his boredom. Mine, too.
I mean, how many organic carrots can we munch? He loved dearly cornflake butter crunch cookies.
For over forty years I’ve lived with a horse like the Indian lived with his. He was a friend. My best. He slept in the bedroom next to mine. I couldn’t ask for a sweeter neighbor. I met him first on Oahu in 1993. We looked each other in the eye and immediately bonded. Born on Kauai in 1987, he was 29 years old.
The night he died, peacefully in his sleep, he said, “What you skinny two legs need is another Seabiscuit.” He loved that film best.
His death left a hole in my heart the size of Diamond Head Crater, and a chunk out of my life the magnitude of Mount Kalihi.
But this he gave me: the joy of having known him.
Je Suis L’Homme
March 22, 2016
But, by all means, come out of the closet, if you’re in one.
I’m an outspoken atheist, have been for years, but I don’t claim to have come out of a closet. I was in a big room. Just me. No religion. An only child. Playfully– one day–I knocked down the walls and set myself free.
My father had sent me to the nuns to be raised and I loved them. Wonderful teachers. They were all in love with my father who brought them flowers and made them smile. They were happy women. About in the fourth grade all my friends took First Communion. They wore white dresses and veils and married god or something–I never quite understood–and I felt left out. So I asked, “Could I become a Catholic?” He answered. “Yes. When you’re old enough to find out what it’s all about.”
When I found out what it was ‘all about’, I said, ” I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole.” So off I went in a thousand different directions. Strangely enough, it was an Irish Priest, Father O’Connell who I met–befriended, shared a beer with on the porch of the Manila Yacht Club– who sent me on my way to freedom. He dubbed me a ‘free soul’–a phrase I liked– and knew nothing about, but the more I learned the more I loved the idea.
When the walls came down I found myself surrounded by other bipeds. Related to the apes. Chimps. Monkeys without tails. Darwin got in the act.
I found human beings. So beautiful. Skin white and black and brown and yellow and pink and every color in-between. Eyes blue and green and gray and brown, snapping and flashing with intelligence. Hair a vast assortment of shades. Red. Yellow. Black. Brown. They painted. They wrote. Composed music. Danced and sang. Young and old and in-between. Male and female and other preferences. Once I knew a homosexual stallion. (They’re unipeds.) He liked boys not girls. Never bothered me.
Humans think, therefore we are. Carry no guns. Carry no flag. We’re citizens of the world. “Breathes there no human with heart so dead who never to herself has said, This is my home, my planet earth.”
So, if you chose to be a Klansman–hide your face and wear a white robe–burn a cross. Come out. We’ll stand on the sidelines and watch you pass.
If you’re a witch who needs to be exorcised, talk to Sarah Palin. She’ll arrange one. We’ll stand on the sidelines and watch.
If you ‘re a nazi, wear a brown shirt– easy to find–and goose step. Tattoo a swastika on your forehead for all we care. We’ll stand on the sidelines and watch.
Strap on a bomb and blow yourself and others to smithereens. Why not start with each other? We’ll stand on the sidelines and watch.
I’m proud to be related to the Chimp. Wonder if she’s happy to be related to me?
Open letter to Richard Dawkins
October 27, 2015
Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015
I’m a columnist not a journalist. Columnists have more fun. We break rules.
Quick aside: Ann Druyan and I started a religious war on Kauai. In the November/December 2003 Skeptical Inquirer ‘Ann Druyan Talks About Science, Religion, Wonder, Awe…and Carl Sagan’ and I responded. My letter appeared in the Letters to the Editor section in the March/April 2004 issue. It then appeared as a column in The Garden Island Forum.
Eleven years later and I still don’t understand what it was in that letter that set ‘them’ off. The war’s still waging.
The current column –better known in this back neck of the woods as a bettejo– was a hoot to write. Have already had one response. Before the letter was published–I think there’s a leak–someone named Jerry Terui from Lihue cautioned me, quoting 1 Corinthian 1:18-25, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
….blessed are the dense for they will inherit the earth?
My Editor wants more Richard Dawkins. Will try to work something up about A Candle in the Dark and see if I can include the densers. Don’t want to leave them out.
By the way, I found, on my desk when I returned home, two books: Sense of Style and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. I’m trying to read Candle, Sense, and 36 Arguments all at the same time.
If gawd had a hand in this, I think he’s got his fingers crossed.
PS: New comment: ‘I’m a Dawkish adolescent.’ In a way I’m kind’a flattered. Adolescent? Don’t I wish.
RICHARD DAWKINS and me
October 18, 2015
Many of us, I’m, sure, hold someone so completely in awe that the very idea of meeting him, dining with him, takes our breath away.How could it happen? If it did, wouldn’t we be struck dumb? Turn loose a tsunami brain wave that washes all our cognitive thinking out the window? We’d mutter. We’d stutter. We’d falter. We’d faint.
Well, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t like that at all. Richard Dawkins, my companion at the table, was, as David Silverman, president of the American Atheist, Inc., said, “…. sometimes funny, sometimes fascinating, and always interesting…” But, more than that, a delightful host. He made me feel welcome, comfortable, at home. All of them did.
It was a small group at the table. Several brilliant women, three Turks, one who plays polo, a guy from Australia, a lawyer from Texas–hope I’ve not left anyone out–I didn’t count, I listened and talked and had a great time.
The experience, I suppose, was something like it might be for you Christian guys having supper with Jesus. We didn’t drink blood or eat flesh, but we did wine and dine. Richard didn’t wash anybody’s feet. Good thing. I was wearing a pair of Haines Barely There panty hose which would have turned my foot washing into an awkward feat under the circumstances.
The introduction by the others was impressive. Lot of letters ‘fore and aft, degrees in fields of science I didn’t know existed. But there was a human quality there. No chest pounding or me me meing. They were almost humble. Richard’s introduction was, “I’m Richard Dawkins.”
When my turn came, I said,”I’m Bettejo Dux. The lady from the provinces. I’m an atheist. No buts about it.” It was an ‘inside’ joke and Richard grinned. That made me happy and set the stage.
Sometimes the banter became a little hefty but all of it fascinated me. Held my interest. I could have sat at that table for hours listening in.
I think the women were a bit more interested in the awful ways in which atheists were treated. I told my story about guys on Kauai who say, “I agree with Bettejo but I can’t say it.” “I’d lose my job.” “I couldn’t be elected.” “Neighbors wouldn’t talk to my wife.” “What would I tell my flock?” We all agreed speaking the truth was a dangerous step but one which all of us had to take. Someone said, “Like our gay friends, we have to come out of the closet. Too many are sadly locked in there alone.”
I make it easy on myself. As an atheist, I prefer to pal with astronomers rather than astrologers. Reason my way through life rather than indulge in make believe. Browse The God Delusion rather than the Bible. Watch Cosmos, narrated by Carl Sagan, rather than any sermon from any televised house of worship.
Lets teach kids the marvelous magic of math, not the mythical magic of religion.
What do you think?
GET A HORSE
September 6, 2015
After the muggy weather, we lived in a steam bath, we breathed in water– our lungs turned to gills, our skin, and fur and feathers, unpleasantly drenched with sweat– a new day beckoned. It was the kind of day, my husband used to say, “You pays your money for.” It do cost long green stuff–plenty long green stuff–to live in Hawaii. Always has. Always will.
But this day, that wonderful Sunday–Kauai Marathon Day–was a gift from Mother Nature. We awoke, me and the zoo–Ari, Boots, Reba, Rosa, and Duke–with a stretch and a yawn, a smile and eagerness to get started. The rising sun, behind the hill, gave birth to a misty morning blue and golden cool sky. The silence on this beautiful stretch of country road gave air space to every bird on the Island. Waking up in my jungle house is waking up in an aviary. A crowing roosters– Pavarotti with a beak and wings and long slender chicken legs– starts it off. Joined soon enough with a chorus of trills and tweets and twitters–not the computer kind, oh joy, oh joy–but the real thing. Hope all of you reading this woke up that way, too. Wasn’t it Jimmy Durante who sang, with that scratchy irresistible warble, “Start off each day with a song.”?
“Okeydokey, Jimmy baby,” Duke, the macaw, screeched, “You got it.” They heard him in Metropolitan Kalaheo.
I rushed through morning chores. Fed Duke first, Ari second, Reba and Rosa and Boots third–serving their breakfast at the human end of the house–and brewed a pot of organic coffee. Gathering some vanilla wafers , I took a front row seat on a chair at my end of the barn. Everybody in my house loves vanilla wafers. We munch together. I plump a cushion. Taking off my slippers, I plop my bare feet on the long, book- strewn table. Comfort is my style, coarse eating is my comfort. Crumbs fall and strew about. Boots, who’s finished supping–she’s a very tidy eater–cleans up after me and sits beside me watching the empty road. The kittens, Rosa, the fuzzy black with red streaks, plunk themselves on a black ice chest and sit up watching the street.
At the barn end, Ari, with an arched neck and perked ears, glues his focus on the quiet, empty road.. Duke is perched in his jungle cage facing the street. Gone quiet, he’s chomping a peanut.
The first runner appears. We see only his head and shoulders. A slight glimpse of a handsome torso. Erect, eyes forward, he seems to float by. You can’t hear him breath. You can’t hear his feet. Do they touch the ground? He’s in the zone. He wafts up the hill. It’s 7:40 AM. Soon others follow, heads and shoulders bobbing by in many different Marathon styles.
I kind’a wanted to shout, sweetly, “Get a horse.”
Ari heard me and responded, “Be a horse.”
Wonder if they heard?
SCOTT SIMS WRITES
August 25, 2015
…”Eating Horses Don’t Die.” The title of a book Scott was writing. Wish he’d lived to finish it. Would love to read the manuscript. My interest? I hope there are many horse and Scott lovers reading this because I’d like to write about an ‘eating horse’–my beloved Aristotle–who Scott operated on several years ago. I could write about that time, that incredible surgery, that experience–Ari’s life and times– but I’ll try to stick to the subject.
Ari was bon on Kauai in September, 1987, which makes him 88 and a half horse years old in people years, three years older than I. As a colt he was sent to Honolulu where he was badly abused. A very proud horse, but spooky, he hated everyone. He was rescued by a lady and her family who loved horses–Scott would’ve loved that story–and I first met him, bought him for a song, at her barn in May, 1993. There was something about that big roan– the way we looked at each other–that touched my heart. I brought him home.
The first ‘eating horse’ story: he came at me striking. A big horse coming at you, walking on his hind legs, forelegs boxing the air, is a formidable sight. Taught by a Canadian Mountie, ‘always ‘leave ’em laughing’, I calmed him down, fixed him a bucket of food and walked over the hill. Sadly. My horses always have full run of the land and I could not live with a horse that might attack me. Several minutes later–I’d left Ari with a full bucket–I heard hooves clopping behind me. I didn’t know what to expect. I turned. We met eye ball to eye ball. Face to face,
The look in his eyes said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” We bonded.
Fast forward to his homecoming after the surgery. Scott had put him on antibiotics, which Ari hated. He fought me. Came at me striking. I took him off the drug and offered him Vitamin C. He loved it and healed quickly. I gave Scott the drugs and told him the story. “He even ate oranges,” I said.
“Horses don’t eat oranges.”
“Don’t tell Ari,” I replied, “he hasn’t read that part of the book.”
Today my long- in- the- tooth beloved friend, eats like a horse. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I cook for him in the barn. He watches, making sure I do it right. No skimping. He counts: one large measuring bowl of oat alfalfa soaked in warm water, sprinkled with salt and tossed in his bucket. Another bowl of same dimpled with raw carrots. And one more bowl flavored with bran and laced with molasses on the top. He licks the bucket. Scott would have loved the sight, but he would have said, as he always did, “Horses have no sense of taste.”
And, once again, I’d have replied, “Don’t tell Ari.”
I hope Scott’s right and Ari never dies.
AND THE GOOD NEWS
August 23, 2015
On Saturday, September 5, 1992, I heard about Iniki that morning. It was a hustle and a half ‘battening down the hatches’ and getting my zoo–three horses, one dog and four cats–to safe shelter.
Once again I stayed home with the animals. (I’d spent Ewa in the barn with two horses on property surrounding the house on the Alexander Dam Road.) “We’ll all go together when we go,” I said then. And now. We cuddled up in the barn as hurricane winds brought down branches and stripped every leaf off every tree as far as the eye could see.
A nude tree is a very strange sight to behold.
The next day was so beautiful–swept clean of dirt, dust and debris–it blossomed like an hibiscus in the hearts of all survivors. Across the street cattle, that had gathered at the bottom of my green valley, rose to their feet and sauntered back up the hill to graze.
The rest of the island looked like a war had stormed through. Houses at the top of the hill appeared perfectly normal, until you caught on their roofs were missing. A house without a roof is a strange sight, too.
We’d been hit, darkness dulled the light, and passed through the eye–sunny, cloudless and clear blue sky–and been hit again. I think everyone who went through that remembers the morning after. That glorious glorious day. The air smelled sweet. The sound of no traffic a welcome silence.
In front of my house hundred of birds had feathered down–an animal knows instinctively where to find haven–and they began singing at first light, their tweets and twitters and bird lyrics an ode to joy. A peahen in a bare tree screeched as only a peahen can screech and livened up the party.
I think most of us were unprepared for Iniki. We swallowed our fear, took a deep breath, and rode it through.
Times are different.
We watched Kilo form south of us. We know that El Nino has gone berserk and may continue its berserkness until April. I’ve heard that because of climate confusion–global warming, whatever you want to call it–to follow the path of our storms is unpredictable. They can go anywhere.
I’m happy we were forewarned. Those of us who had computers watched Kilo–a strange critter–strengthen and weaken and lolligag around like winds on LSD. It couldn’t make up its mind. Did it have a mind? A destination? Or was it just on a spree?
What I do think is: if this is the way it’ll go until April, we’ll all be nervous wrecks.
I hope we get honest reporting. Not headlines to sell papers or religion. Please Editors–newsmen, talking heads–don’t become little boys who cry wolf. We need to be prepared. You need to be prepared. But we don’t need Tom Foolery.
I think Kauai can show the world how well we can handle reason, truth and disaster.