IMAGINE THE FUTURE
November 16, 2016

IMAGINE THE FUTURE

Kauai lucked out in 2017. A great American, a philanthropist who chose to be anonymous, bought scads of land on the island to protect it from further development.
I was ten. My mother came to Kauai to teach kids in a public school, and we both fell in love with the place.
Although confronted with many problems—over population, traffic jams, foul air, polluted water, lots of homeless—its spirit, its people, its open spaces, its great beauty, left us with hope for a better future.
It didn’t take me long to adjust. My brown Latino skin felt right at home, and my mother told me about the wonderful diversity–race, religion–this small spot in the Pacific was blissed with. The purchase of so much land by some mysterious person cornered all the chatter. It seemed to be all anybody talked about.
What did it mean? What would happen?
The first thing that happened, a new real estate firm opened in the Grove and everyone held his breath. Turned out nothing was for sale, but all the land called Keka Agricultural Park was laid open for lease. Small and medium parcels were offered. Large sections for orchards: orange groves, citrus, avocado, papaya, mango, coffee—an interesting circle of sites to grow breadfruit cropped up. Adopt and care for a tree and a new recipe to go along with it and there will be a special stand to market this original Kauai treat. So diverse: Maui onions, tomatoes, organic soybeans, carrots, corn, you name it.
Plenty of land for free range chickens and green meadows for registered Jersey.
There were fresh ponds where tilapia flourished, kids could even swim there.
There was plenty of land for anthuriums and hibiscus and carnations and pikaki and plumeria. What my mom and I loved most was the more fragrant trees and flowers were planted near the towns, so people could enjoy a heady breath of scented air as they walked or worked.
All the roads inside this real come-to-life fairy tale Agricultural Park were well- packed dirt and, sometimes, red or black tire mulch. You walked in there, or rode, or motored about on golf carts.
Only those farmers who had to truck their produce in or out were allowed pickups.
Multi national flower and plant stands lined the road. Mexican, Hawaiian, Japanese and Filipino farmers built them and decorated them. It was a kind of United Nations Ag Park, the first of its kind.
Just being in this special place was delightful.
My mom loved to grow chili peppers, she remembered the wide variety of chili beans my grandparents grew on their little farm in Baja.
She managed to get a year lease, they were reasonable priced and a promise was made from the leasors that if you could make it go, a better deal could be worked out next time. Absolutely no dollar crops allowed.
The family who leased the small piece of land next to ours was from the Philippines and their stand was a nipa hut. They had a disc that played Bahay Kubu and I learned to sing along.
We taught them to sing De Colores. Before long our entire road was filled with music. Nobody tried to out blast the other. Mom decided to grow some flowers and maybe have a Kauai rooster–they’re the official island bird–and a couple of hens so we could share fresh laid eggs.
Kauai soon became the Hawaiian food basket. We fed the state. Sustainability, island wide, was the goal.
We suddenly became famous and another billionaire showed up. She wanted in on the act. She bought up all the automobile and car rental properties and shut them down. This lady bought her way into the Mayor’s office, got her cronies elected, and they passed a law about automobile ownership. Car owners were taxed off the wall and the money the rich automobile addicts contributed bought a transportation system, so clean, so sweet, so Kauaian tourists would come just to ride around in it.
This batch of lawmakers also passed a law that no more hotels could be built. Ever. That filled every existing hotel/motel to the fullest and every visitor who planned to stay more than a day had to have a reservation. That worked because visitors could only visit when a room was available. You had to stand in line, the whole world over, to book a room on Kauai.
Sometimes it got a little crowded in the Park, so visitors were asked to buy a ticket. Locals, of course, got in free. Lots of lucky guys, who stayed in private homes, had guest privileges, if their host wanted to treat them.
The super stupendous surprise was a solar city built tall with a every small foot print, at the foot of the cliffs–not much concrete here, at least on the ground–and visitors were often struck with an extraordinary shock: they didn’t even see this high rise city until they walked through the front door.
Lots of locals often didn’t even know it was there.
Health Spas, renowned world wide, also sprang up. If you wanted to get healthy spend a week or two in a spa on Kauai. Amazing how many tourists were sick and needed healing. Very expensive for out- of- staters, locals got a kamaaina rate. We rarely sold them, that was bad, but you know how some people are.
A local spiritual group created an Hawaiian Lourdes. A special bill had to be passed to find a way to limit attendance. On opening day all the public transportation and golf carts, even some pickups, had to be commandered. One historian said it was like a Dunkirk without the danger, guns, and huns.
It grew up to be a farmer’s joke, “Where was your pickup when the hoards flocked to Lourdes?”
Answer, “Every pickup on Kauai was at Lourdes.”
We’re the healthiest happiest people in the world. And we intend to stay that way.

GOT MILK?
October 9, 2016

To produce real, nutritious milk two healthy mama cows–contented belle and boss– need a little over an acre on which to graze. They need a clean barn to come home to, to be milked and fed supplements during the process.
In high tech barns they get a quick exit shower to freshen them as they wend their way into the day.
Inside, people clean up after them. Mama cows are not potty trained. These guys bag the stuff and sell it to farmers who use it to fertilize their organic gardens. Health and happiness is the essence here and those sweet mama cows can live productive lives for 13 or 14 years.
The milk so generously gifted is sent down the road to be pasturized, to be bottled and home delivered, sold to stores, shipped off island or kept at the farm to be sipped in a soda fountain designed to delight the eye and tummy of tourist and local folks alike Especially kids. Remember milk shakes?
It’s the only real dairy in the state. Many milk products are created here. Cheese. Ice cream. Butter. A new industry and a tourist attraction are created.
It’s a world class show place. People come from all over to see it.
It’s a win/win/win. Jobs. Money. Green grass in the fields keeping fresh air fresh.
Visitors arrive in buses. Two trams– Nani and Hoohaku– belong to the dairy and haul in lots of bucks and contributions. Pretty local girls and handsome guys–drivers– love to talk story about how this wonder came about and make sure their passengers note how little space the parking lot and road take. Not much concrete here.
Two thousand mama cows on three thousand acres are the island–and the state–pride and joy. Their beloved babies, before they’re sold–the farm tries to find them good homes–bring joy to all who watch them gambol.
It’s a glorious piece of nature and it’ll remain in place forever.
A destination, movie stars and models come. Even Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Every tour agent in the world sings its praise.
Long pause.
Why doesn’t it happen?
Well, in Hawaii, we have a hard and fast rule. Land must be put to highest and best use.
What is highest and best use?
Development, of course. Three thousand acre!! Six thousand houses with two cars in every garage. Paved streets. Underground utilities and water in every tub
Land owners, contractors, realtors get rich. The state gets rich. Property tax is money you know, which it will need to create and clean up this endeavor.
It needs a new police and fire station. It has roads to maintain and repair. Foul air to deal with. Traffic jams and suburban sprawl to uglify the landscape.
And, once this development is complete, it’s time to find more land to concrete coat.
On our precious island paradise, as in the rest of the country, money trumps health and happiness. Every time.

HI, PEASANT
June 24, 2016

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.

THE ATTACK
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?

 

 

 

ER
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?”

I nodded.

“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?”

“,,,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?”

“…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?”

“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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RABID JACKELS
April 21, 2016

 

There are millions of   Americans–the majority of us–who recognize a great man when they see one. The guy with  pick and shovel,  The cashier behind the counter.

The farmer planting seed.   Young men and women dying in these senseless wars. But when greatness resides in the White House, in the most powerful office in the world, our chests swell.

He’s brilliant. No one needs a dummy.

His words are elegant.  A pleasure to the ears. He has manners  befitting royalty  hosting  guests at a courtly table. If he’s tall and slender and handsome with a family of equal  beauty  we’re even more proud. Please, at this moment, watch a FRONTLINE document: Inside OBAMA’S Presidency.

This young man made one grave mistake: He thought he could reason with his adversaries. He tried his best. He gave it all. But one cannot reason with rabid jackals. The best thing one can do with a rabid jackal is run.  He didn’t run. He held his ground.  He’d the courage  of a madman. Madman?  It goes beyond bravery to confront such a  dangerous animal.

Frothing with greed. For money. For power. Indulging in beliefs so ridiculous they’re an insult to human intelligence.  Rancor, vulgarity, and deceit are its nature. And this den of disease spawned the greatest frother of them all.

I beg you–all of you– don’t descend to his level. May that brilliant maligned woman and that elegant elder join forces. Together they can–we can–heal.

 

 

Sacred Dog
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.

 

 

 

 

 

AGREE TO DISAGREE
March 17, 2016

Thank you Editors, for the wonderful Forum page, Thursday, March 17.

Gene Lyons’ column is always a joy to read. He has many admirers all over the country. He’s articulate, funny, serious and profound.  (Hope you read The Hunting of the President.) To Google ‘Battle of the billionaires’ –that ‘fool thing’– would be, “…several minutes of your life you’ll never get back.”,  is so perfect I, as a writer, am green with envy.

Also, in case you didn’t know, Gene Lyons  loves horses, cows, and dogs. If my memory serves me, he has Great Pyrenees and his house, which makes his wife happy, too, looks a little bit animal worn and torn and friendly.  How could anybody help but love a guy like that? I know he’d love my house. Anyway, I hope everyone read TRUMP’S BRAND IS CHAOS.

One suggestion: Editors, please restore the discussion site. I think we’ve all grown up enough we could handle it well. It’s so wonderful to respond to other letter writers– politely, reasonably, with passion–it’s so much what America was and what it could be again.

By the way, your OTHER VOICES column is always a pleasure to read. Even if we don’t agree, what’s fascinating is how often we  find a moment when  we do agree with  the person with whom we disagreed.  We’re multi dimensional folks. We’re not gingerbread men. Wouldn’t it be a dull world if we all agreed about everything?

Please give us another chance.

 

 

MILK AND MONEY
March 7, 2016

Why so many of us object to a milk factory  in Poipu…

…“Factory farm pollution turns drinking water – a basic substance we need to survive – into a silent killer,” said Elisabeth Holmes, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “These industrial operations pollute our air and water under the guise of agriculture….  lawsuits will help  safeguard public health and the environment.”

“Congress gave citizens the right to act to protect themselves when  regulatory agencies fail to do so,” said an  attorney in court on the mainland. “Citizens have no option but to act when their families’ health is at stake.”

“Unlawful dumping of manure at industrial dairies hurts the environment, the community, and our food supply,” said Jessica Culpepper, staff attorney at Public Justice. “When these same factories do not report their toxic air emissions, the public is endangered and left in the dark and we are standing up on behalf of those harmed to change that.”

“Fast Food, Fat Profits highlights what is arguably one of the most disturbing health trends of the 21st century – the fact that today’s generation may be the first to live a shorter lifespan than their parents, and this is a direct result of too much cheap (nutrient-deficient and toxin-laden) food. Avoiding processed food requires a change in mindset, which is not always an easy task. It CAN be done, however. Rather than looking at processed foods as a convenience that tastes good or saves money, try thinking of it as:

Extra calories that harm your body
A toxic concoction of foreign chemicals and artificial flavors that will lead to disease
A waste of money
Likely to lead to increased health care bills for you and your family.”

Do you eat to fill your belly? Or do you eat to nourish your body?

Do you understand the relationship between ingesting nourishing food and good health?

How much green pasture  does a  healthy grazing milk cow need?  A general rule of thumb for grown cows is about 2 animals per five acres.”

Factor in the stench–cow poo is not perfume–which is  wafted in the wind. So, if you live close to this  ill-conceived and badly maintained and managed milk factory–2ooo cows on five hundred acres which produces a nasty liquid for profit not for nourishment– a  gas mask when the wind blows wrong might come in handy.

Now factor in flies. Flies are unpleasant. Under the best of circumstances. They are not the healthiest of neighbors and they, too, are wind-borne. Think of them as tiny living drones that carry disease and discomfort.  You’d complain if a neighbor’s yard was so filthy it grew flies on an open garbage dump. In this instance a caring  Health Department would involve itself. Sadly, however, we cannot know what it’d do for milk factory  flies on Kauai.

Most likely it’d decide they were good flies…

…which, unlike feral cats,  crowing roosters, and barking dogs, should not be diminished, destroyed, or defamed.

Fast profits? Just say ‘no’.

 

 

TRANSPORT, BUSES, SUCH A BORE
February 22, 2016

 

When I first arrived on Kauai some forty years ago, Kauai was a feudal state. The plantation managers were the kings and their department heads were  lords and ladies. Field workers lived simply, but, for the most part, peacefully together. Outside this circle were the big land holders, small business and services, schools and hospitals, a few quaint island style hotels and a rich rash of city and county workers. It was a benevolent state. All of us, at our different levels, lived in peace with each other and the extraordinary beauty of the island and its surroundings. I think of the great and glorious fields of waving green cane,  a cash crop, which contributed to clean fresh air and extraordinary beauty.

I think of Iniki.  Troubled times, and how we all came together…visitors, too, some of them…as a family and worked towards restoration. I think these times are gone.

Today the island is a third world country. Treated with much indifference and malignancies by the rich.  The powerful.  The greedy.  The military  And a most fragile industry, the tourist industry. Today we are a hard hit, rapidly disappearing middle class, with a steadily increasing number of unhappy islanders.

How dare I  express this?

Because it’s true.  We live at  the end of a long line of destructive influences. Some people, mostly newcomers, question why we didn’t protest over-development. We did! But the big land holders, the rich and the greedy and their bought off political cronies, held all the cards. Look at the mess they’ve created on the highways.  None of us can afford the million dollar  needed to build more roads.

All of us on this island, rich and poor, brown, black, yellow and white, young and old will be catastrophically impacted by this ignored insult left unanswered. This monstrosity is always in the headlines.

We all have to transport ourselves to somewhere. Some people must commute.  And you can’t even write that  expense off your taxes. Buy a car, buy some gas, some oil, tires, batteries–whatever–go broke in the process.  Working people  have to get to jobs so they can pay for the commute. They have no choice. The rush to work, the rush home, causing road jams that just won’t quit.  We have constant, disgusting, frustrating  traffic jams. Bumper to bumper fore and aft. Any hour. Any day.  Coming or going.  Where or why. To satellites overhead we must look like ants on a senseless journey to and fro.

Add to that visitors who fly in and  rent a car. Off to their destination. Off to see the sights.  Which they can’t see, they’re driving so fast. Or grumped miserably in a lump of exhaust that takes the breath away.

Then we have locals who love their cars, trucks–four-wheeled noise makers–like Americans, a few years, back loved their horses. “I’ll die before I’ll let you take these reins from my hand.”

Horses were prettier, but history repeats itself. Such a bother. Such a bore.