Friday, December 26, 2014

Post Script

I had never heard of Pahoa Hawaii before we moved there five years ago. We bought ten gorgeous acres with an acre of pineapples, some citrus, a macadamia nut orchard, room for horses, a main house and the cutest little Tiki Room we could imagine.  We were at the end of the road—or so we thought.

Later we learned that at one time Railroad Road went all the way to Hilo, but right beyond our gate debris blocked any vehicle from going farther.

Railroad Road also known as Puua Kapoho Road has been made into a through-a-fare; well maybe I exaggerate, but it has been made passable as an escape route for the people of Pahoa. We remember it as two miles of lumpy, lava encrusted, pot-holed infested road that beat the heck out of our Prius. It consisted of a single lane where we would pull over to let another car pass and therefore wave at our neighbors. About fifteen mongooses would do the squirrel scurry across the road before we got to the highway, and at night stealth wild pigs would run their little wiggly tails down the road before disappearing into the brush. Now Railroad is a two lane road, and our house which was once at the end of the road, no longer is.

Fiery hot lava is threatening to cut the town of Pahoa in half and close off the highway, the road out of there, thus they have widened Railroad Road as an escape route.

We sold our house and property on the island thinking it was not safe, and moved back to the states. Now the marketplace in Pahoa where we shopped, where we went into peals of ecstasy over the Bakery’s Butter Mochi, where we shopped at Malala’s  grocery store, where Island Crazy sold Barry’s paintings, and Island nick-knacks, and who took one of my books on consignment (sold it), is at risk. In that shopping center we frequented the propane store, the hardware store that once sold a bouquet of orchids for $2.99, the tire shop, The FEX X, where we FAXed more documents trying to get a loan on that property than I care to count, the Urgent Care Facility where they took good care of my husband, the Fish and Chips cafĂ©, the Subway Sandwich shop, and the Sushi Restaurant—are all at risk of Pele’s hot lava.

The turn-off into the shopping center is highway 130, the highway to Hilo, and numerous other places on the island that I mention in my book, like the drive to Kea’au, and Black Sands Beach, and Kona— which was “Going to Hawaii,” for us, could be completely bisected by the lava. Long’s Drug Store, fancy and new, was being built as we were leaving, closed recently.

Barry, the caretaker who lived on our property before us, called it “The most beautiful spot on earth,” and the name given to it by its owner was Pu’u Honoa, meaning “Mount of Refuge.”

Maybe it will be just that for the people who travel the road in front of our house, (that is someone else’s house now), and thus escape Pele’s fiery ability to make more land by pulling it from inside the earth and depositing it on the surface.  

I wish all those stalwart souls well, and please watch out for the critters.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

" A Christmas Memory"

“A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen, but due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—while not unlike Lincoln’s, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind, but it is delicate too, finely boned and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. “Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking the window pane, “it’s fruitcake weather.”

The person she is speaking is Truman Capote as a seven-year-old child. 

Truman Capote writes, “A Christmas Memory” 1956.

The woman he is speaking of is sixty-something, they are cousins, and have lived together since before he can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over the two and frequently make them cry, they are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. The boy and the old lady are each other’s best friend…

Every year I read Truman Capote’s, “A Christmas Memory,”—makes me cry though. The old lady calls Capote “Buddy” after a best friend who died as a child. The old lady is still a child.

With his exquisite manipulation of words Capote tells of taking an old dilapidated baby buggy into the woods to collect windfall pecans for the fruitcakes, and gathering together their year-long savings of $12. 73 to buy “Ha Ha’s moonshine for the cakes…whiskey, that’s the best, and the most expensive.

 “Buddy,” she calls from the next room, and the next instant she is in his room holding a candle. “Well, I can’t sleep a hoot,” she declares. “My mind is jumping like a jack rabbit. Buddy, do you think Mrs. Roosevelt will serve our cake at dinner…”

Well, you just have to read the story…

Truman Capote has a natural gift that makes him a great guest at a dinner party—writes Irving Pen in Truman Capote 1965, “he is always interested in whomever he's talking to. For one thing, he really looks at the person he is with. Most of us see outlines of one another, but Truman is noting skin texture, voice tone, details of clothing.
One of the reasons that Truman is always interested in people is that he won't allow himself to be bored. He told me that when he meets a truly crashing bore he asks himself, "Why am I so bored? What is it about this person that is making me yawn?" He ponders, "What should this person do that he hasn't done? What does he lack that might intrigue me?"

He catalogues thoughtfully the bore's face, his hair style, his mannerisms, his speech patterns. He tries to imagine how the bore feels about himself, what kind of a wife he might have, what he likes and dislikes. To get the answers, he starts to ask some of these questions aloud. In short, Truman gets so absorbed in finding out why he is bored that he is no longer bored at all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Can't help laughing...and this blog is about age

Picture, Unknown Victorians laughing

And this blog is about age.

When someone would ask Neil’s mother how old she was she would answer, “I’ll forgive you for asking that personal question.”

I even resent a doctor asking my age. That means he has immediately categorized me.

We do want to be perceived as young—that baby-butt smooth skin, how gorgeous is that? No wonder we want it, but who wants to be judged as slow, awkward, ugly, conservative, stupid, or forgetful—or worse yet, “What age did your parents die?” Horrors.   Even being victims of our DNA  can be changed, so I’ve heard, as genes are constantly turning on or off. Bottom line, we fight to look young, while we ought to be fighting to think young—meaning, of course, forward thinking, innovative, inventive, open to new ideas, and new people. Be a person worth keeping around.

“Look for your mold.”

Scientist Dr. Jonathan Sackner- Bernstein persuades us to “Look for our mold.” He tells the story of one scientist, who daily sorted through his petri- dishes checking specimens—you know where this is going, but the story bears repeating. Dr. Alexander Fleming was 47 when he discovered penicillin. Every day he would check his numerous petri-dishes. If he found that one had turned moldy he chucked it into the trash.  One day, a moldy dish looked a little different from the many others he had thrown away, so he put it aside. Later he noticed that the bacteria around the mold had died--thus Fleming discovered one of the first antibiotics. He called it mold juice—I guess Penicillin sounds more scientific.

Bernstein’s  point was that this scientist, Dr. Alexander Fleming, at age 47, had the years of experience to discern,  the wisdom to trust his intuition, and the training to identify. Unfortunately he was not good at communicating and thus the community didn’t listen to him, even in WWI when he said, accurately, that the antiseptics they were using did more harm than good. He brought in a couple more scientists and eventually the word on penicillin got out.

Too often people use the excuse that they won’t make a difference because they lost their chance, they are too old.

Remember what Richard Back (book Illusions) said, “If you wonder whether your mission on earth is over, if you’re alive, it isn’t.”

Berstein pointed out that even such things as learning to play a musical instrument involves different components than years and years of practice. It involves how you are supported, your attitude, and your innate talent.

 “Go boldly in the direction of your dreams.”

If you’re alive having your dreams come true is still an option.

I certainly didn't plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.”
—Alexander Fleming

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Angels Beware, a New Kid on the Block

It was over four-score years ago that she sat across the aisle from me in Spanish class. She smiled, I smiled. She invited me for lunch at the Barn at UC Riverside, and thus began a friendship that endured for those forty- some years.

We were both married students, older than some, both of us had a gap in our schooling. We graduated, lived in the same town, then apart, together, apart.

I remember a Christmas Eve in Oregon, when Sylvia and her husband Greg flew in from California, and found themselves unable to maneuver their car on our snow laden hill. I saw them from my kitchen window, trudging up the road dragging their suitcases, laughing and slipping. They joined us for Christmas, and we ate turkey and drank Champagne—one of Sylvia’s favorite things—Champagne and Christmas.

Over the years we have sometimes lived close by, oftentimes far apart, but visited often. The Fourth of July at Coronado Island and eating sea food from Point Loma Seafood, and watching fireworks will always be our favorite fourth of July—she mentioned it every year and wished we were there. 

We endured separations, togetherness, confidences, marital disputes, pregnancies, childbirth, child rearing. She had a little girl when I met her, and 13 years later she gave birth to a little boy. My kids and her little boy took baths together, ran around the Zoo, Disneyland, and Bazaar Del Mundo in San Diego where Sylvia and I drank margaritas, and the kids perused the court yard, and visited the toy store, and were safe and confined while we wiled away the hours.

We wondered about the afterlife together, and when hippies came along we contemplated what that meant, and about the gay movement, and women’s rights.

She liked shocking pink fingernails and toe nails, and flip flops with huge flowers on her toes, and all things bling, but her favorite were jewels of the real variety. Going to an auction stirred her creative juices, as did Interior Decorating.

I still remember those pink fingernails clutching basalt bluffs as Sylvia and I slogged in sandals through the water of Oneonta Canyon in the Columbia River Gorge, then we sat all wet and prickly, but laughing about it, until we changed at Nordstroms before the drive home.

Within this past year she said, “When I lose weight and get in shape I’m getting a pair of skinny jeans with rhinestones on the pockets.”

When you see a short lady with long blond hair, with rhinestones on her butt wandering around heaven—that will be Sylvia

She died December 7, the day after her 83rd birthday.