Vagabond's House Aloha, Don Blanding
Columns published in the Hawaiian Life magazine section of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July-September 1954
~ ~ ~
July 3, 1954
I DON'T SPEND much time envying anyone else. If I have to be someone, I might as well be ME. I've kinda gotten used to being ME in 59 years, but it took a long time.
But if I WERE envying anyone, it would be the youngsters who grow up in Hawaii. I worked off a lot of that several years ago by writing Stowaways in Paradise.
I vicariously enjoyed the adventures of Mickey and Pua and their dog, Ukey. I've had letters from boys and girls from all parts of the world telling how they wished that THEY could have been Mickey and Pua in Hawaii.
But our Island kids just say, "What's so wonderful about it?"
They don't realize that what they have for everyday living is high adventure to the youngsters in other parts of the world. And I suppose our kids envy Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and their adventures on the Mississippi.
As a matter of fact, it was not until I started traveling that I realized that what I had taken for granted in my boyhood out in the southwestern part of Oklahoma in the early days was the stuff of which Western movies were made later.
It was perfectly natural for me to talk with old Geronimo, the famous Apache chief, who used to sit in my father's office by the hour.
And I wasn't particularly awed by Quannah Parker, the son of a Comanche chief and Anne Parker, the captured white girl of history.
I had eaten dog before I was 10 years old, and didn't see much difference between it and rabbit.
All the kids in our gang personally had to kill, skin and cure the diamond-back rattlesnakes that went to make up our belts and hat-bands.
That's just the way things were there, and we didn't think they were wonderful.
Travel books always fascinated me and I wanted to eat every kind of food that I read about in other countries.
What a time I would have had getting acquainted with Chinese food then, birds' nest soup, shark-fin stew, bitter melon, cracked seeds, varnished ducks and salt eggs.
And the delectable dishes of the Japanese cuisine, the raw fish and shrimp tempura and the tiny squid in shoyu. And all of the other food adventures which are here for the having for Island youngsters.
Incidentally, half of my struggle to win my Battle of the Bulge is due to making up for lost time. I can't be 10 years old again, but I can still have adventures in eating.
My idea of a good morning is to go to the Fish Market and eat my way through counter after counter of the foods proffered. With a jar of hot Kim Chee in one hand, a sack of dried shrimps and a half-yard of octopus in the other, I begin tasting and enjoying. Opihis, vunna, limu, are just appetizers.
It's my theory that if you know what people eat . . . and like it . . . you'll know more about them, and like them, too.
So, I say to the young fry of Hawaii. Get wise to the wonderful life you have here, the daily living which is high, thrilling adventure to boys and girls in Kansas City, Tulsa, Philadelphia, Oscaloosa and Puyallup.
Enjoy these days while they're here. They won't come back except in homesick yearnings if your later years take you away from Hawaii.
I guess that maybe I'm glad, after all, that I didn't grow up in the Islands; knowing what I missed just makes me enjoy what I'm getting now twice as much more.
Aloha, Don Blanding
Note: The cover of the July 3, 1954 edition of Hawaiian Life Magazine features a Blanding drawing.
~ ~ ~
July 10, 1954
A lot of us who yap the loudest about the "Good Old Days" were probably so busy in the Good Old Days yapping about the Good Old Days before those Good Old Days that we didn't fully enjoy our Good Old Days while they were supposed to be so good.
We forget that in 10 years from now, these days that we're living TODAY will be the Good Old Days that we'll be weeping into our atomic beer about then.
I'm talking to myself as well as reminding you that we'd better really make these days good while they're here so that we can honestly brag about them 10 years from today.
In the last analysis, happiness is not in THINGS but in our attitude toward them. Have you read Korzybski's Science and Sanity?
You ought to read what he does in the way of showing up the illusion of such as word as "Security" which is the major god of contemporary theorists, those boys who think that because something works on paper that it will work in life.
ARE DOLLARS security? The phrase "sound as a dollar" may have meant something sometime. I don't remember. The only thing sound about a dollar these days is the clink as it goes onto the counter to pay for something that you could have gotten for two-bits 10 years ago.
In 1937, a friend who was making $250 a month said that he'd feel secure when he made $500 a month. He's making $500 a month now. He has the finest exhibition of stomach ulcers in California. He didn't enjoy his $250 a month while he was making it because he was waiting until his $500 a month came.
He isn't enjoying his anticipated $500 a month now because he's waiting to hoist it to $750. He has changed his tune only this much; he says he'll feel "more secure with $750."
In 1937, I wrote the following little advertising dity for the Carmel Pine Cone. How casual. How lavish. Yet we were probably beefing at the time about the cost of these items. Even beefing is expensive these days, with the price of meat what it is!
Folks, I'm going to relish my next round steak as though it was pheasant breast under glass.
COLOR SCHEME IN A MEAT MARKETHere's a lovely color scheme to please a hungry man,
The red and white of juicy steaks that wait the grill or pan,
The smooth plump breasts of chickens and the pale cool pink of veal,
The generous proportions of a healthy wholesome roast,
The rosy tints of luscious ham awaiting eggs and toast,
The links of spicy sausages and weenies by the yard,
The golden hue of butter and the moony-white of lard,
Perhaps we're not poetic and perhaps this verse won't scan,
But isn't this a color scheme to tempt a hungry man!
And here's a follower-upper. It's stuck on my typewriter so that I can take my own medicine . . . daily.
TOMORROW IS TODAY
Today is here! "What day?" you ask? This day,
The only day that we can live today.
Tomorrow . . . a promise or a threat.
Yesterday . . . a memory or regret.
But here's today . . . the urgent hour . . . now.
The living moment, fleeing as we speak. Ah, how,
How may we spend the treasure of this day
That we may bid farewell to it and say,
"This day I lived. Godspeed to you, good Day."
Tomorrow comes. Tomorrow's on its way.
Tomorrow's here. Tomorrow is today.
Today is here!
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
July 17, 1954
When I was around 15 and 16, I worked for two Summers in the Old Faithful Inn of Yellowstone Park.
I was determined then that, as long as I had to work for a living, I'd work and live in the beauty spots of the world. With the exception of two hitches in the Army, I've done it.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico; Laguna, La Jolla and Santa Barbara, California; in Florida, Nova Scotia, Paris, London and a swing into Micronesia, and a lot of other places which would take too long to list.
I learned about tourists and those who cater to tourists. I've come to the conclusion that the poorest businessmen are the very ones who consider themselves the smartest; that is, the ones who interpret the word "cater" as meaning "tourists are fish. Hook 'em, scale 'em, clean 'em, and don't give 'em any more bait than it takes to land 'em."
They're a minority, but they're powerful because they have one-track minds.
I say they're poor businessmen because they are the ones who destroy the most valuable commercial asset which is "atmosphere." Atmosphere is hard to define; it's an intangible. The smart angle-boys consider it's merely "front, the come-on, the ballyhoo."
Actually, it's what in Louisiana is called "lagniappe," or a little generous extra thrown in "for free."
ATMOSPHERE IS what condiments and spices are to food: without it the dish is flat and flavorless regardless of how it is dolled up for sales.
For instance, here in Hawaii we had plenty of those "signatures of the tropics," our graceful, beautiful coco palms. At Waikiki they're going fast, but because they go down by two's and three's we don't notice.
Soon, unless two are put in for every one that goes, the beach is going to look like a Mexican Hairless dog's skin. The angle-boys say, "It costs MONEY to have them trimmed." So what? Are they going to put in cast iron palm trees and call it "atmosphere?"
Oh, there's a certain breed of tourist who'd be satisfied -- the sort that come here and plant their overstuffed bulks on the lanai, fortify themselves with several tall cold "Zowie's" and say. "We're here; we're spending our money. Bring on your Hawaiian atmosphere." They're the angle-boys' meat because they expect and get synthetic atmosphere.
FORTUNATELY THERE are the others, not so plush maybe, who come saying, "What is there to do and to see? Where is it? How soon do we start?"
They are living sound-recorders, smell-recorders, sight-recorders and memory-recorders, and they are our best advertisers when they go away, happy.
The real visitors can give us much, and we can give them much. Let's not get so smart that we outsmart OURSELVES. Let's not let the poem at the top of the next column be our theme song, which would be "Aloha" played on a record with cash-registers for accompaniment.
THE TOURISTS ARE COMING! So jack up the prices
And get out the lures and the traps and devices
For snagging their pennies and grabbing their dollars,
And pay no attention to squawking or hollers.
They've saved up their money intending to spend it,
(The government's waiting to tax it and lend it).
So, join in the chorus . . . you bell-hops and waiters,
You folks who sell shell-fish and stuffed alligators,
You Sight-Seeing Busses and doormen and chauffeurs
And swank hotel-keepers and Beach resort loafers
And teachers of dancing and bookies and caddies
And girls who make suckers of big sugar daddies
And parking-lot owners and swimming instructors
And novelty sellers and quick-tour conductors
And permanent wavers and cute manicurists . . .
Hurray for the tourists! The TOURISTS!
T H E T O U R I S T S!
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
July 24, 1954
Last week I was talking about the rapid disappearance of "atmosphere" from Waikiki. Sure, the big new hotels are fine, and the commercial troupes of dancers, singers, the beach-boys and the surf-riders and catamarans . . . they're all fine, as far as they go. They're all part of the staging of the "tourist show," but that's not enough.
What do most of you look for when YOU'RE traveling. I mean, you real people? You're looking for those little "accidentals," those "conversation bits," those photographable bits, those human contacts which become foremost in your stories of your trips, the "characters" you met.
Those bits of atmosphere disappear so quietly that we don't miss them until it is too late . . . like so many lovely and lovable things.
I'M TALKING about our lei sellers among other items. I heard one of the commercial-minded chaps say, "What do we want those lei wagons and lei sellers cluttering up Kalakaua for?"
Excuse me while I delete some highly inflammable words. Imagine, lei sellers "cluttering up" Kalakaua. What do flowers want perfume for? What do mangos want flavor for? Why do birds sing?
I live at Waikiki and love it even though many times I'm exasperated with it.
Heck, I'm exasperated with myself half the time, but I still kinda like me, such as I am. If I don't . . . who will?
But many an evening has been made sweeter and happier by Aunty Elizabeth's cheery, friendly long-drawn "Aloooooha Pehea oe?" or I've had a chuckle from sneaking some peeks from Aunty Bella's television set, or have been given a gardenia "for free" by the other lei vendors who hold forth in the evenings and make the night fragrant with the perfumes of their lovely stores.
AND OUR lei sellers ARE going to go, unless we do more to keep them going in their small businesses.
It's a long time since I've heard the plaintive cry of "Frow . . . frow" from the little door-to-door flower vendors with their baskets of loveliness. They're atmosphere.
Of course, there's the kind of tourists who talks mainly about how much they paid for their accommodations but the real people talk of those little bits of "atmosphere" which are getting fewer and fewer with every year.
I wrote the following verse in 1931.
I repeat it in 1954 from a full and fond heart.
The women and men who sell the flower garlands of greeting and farewell in Hawaii. Most of them are characters well known to all Islanders.
If in a hundred years, by magic way,
I should return, I hope that I may see
All of that motley crew to welcome me
With "Lei . . . lei . . . buy lei?"
Anie and Mary . . . Can't you hear them say
Fifty cents fo' one, I give you two.
Gingah ley you like. I get fo' you.
Lei . . . lei . . . buy a lei."
Heaven, I hear, is quite a pleasant place.
Happy and nice. Now, I shall like it more
If I may hear as I approach the shore
Faintly the cry "Lei . . . lei . . . buy lei."
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
July 31, 1954
Hobby Business is Big Business in these days. We're told to "Get a hobby to take your mind off business, worries and atomic bombs which may or may not go boom."
I'm frequently asked, "Can you suggest some hobby? The doctor told me to get a hobby-horse and ride it."
There's one answer that I feel safe in giving to anyone from 9 to 90 years of age. "Take up painting."
The answer usually is, "But I'm not an artist. I couldn't draw a straight line."
I didn't tell you to be an artist. I say:
Take up painting. It's fun. It'll open whole new worlds of amusement and delight. You'll learn to "see" as well as look. Your surroundings will take on new meanings. A walk or a bus ride or an auto ride will have doubled delight as you "see" design, color, pattern and meaning where before you just looked at scenery.
Just as a camera enthusiast sees 100 pictures where he saw one before, you'll stop a dozen times to LOOK AND SEE where as before you just looked. It's great.
YOU DON'T have to "make a picture." You can just splash, dab, pour paint on a canvas and chase some kittens around on it. You can call the result "Aunt Tilly Having a Fit" or "Oil Derrick in a Quandary." Go to some of the contemporary art exhibits and you'll understand what I mean.
Have fun! You'll have the kind of fun that a kid has in splashing mud on himself. Who knows, you may find yourself to be another Grandma Moses. And what's the difference, if you HAVE FUN!
YOU can always give the results to relatives for Christmas or birthday presents. They won't be any worse than the neckties you get from feame cousins and aunts . . . and you will have done your bit.
YOU CAN study with a teacher or get some of the numerous books which are available for amateurs and "go for broke."
The artist's trained eye sees a dozen shades of color where the untrained eye sees only one.
Folks ask why artists are always painting old delapidated barns. After just a little study you'll understand. Those weather-beaten boards have a hundred subtle shadings of gray, green-gray, blue-gray, warm-gray, cool-gray, lichen-gray, stone-gray, twilight-gray, and they're such a tricky challenge to paint.
Every little roadside shrub becomes more interesting than an orchid was before.
And except for the initial cost of paints (which needn't be too expensive), the enjoyment is all "for free." You'll find your medium, water color, oil, pastel, crayons, charcoal, pencil, brush and ink or you can try several or all of them. Just don't get tense about it.
Aloha, Don Blanding
Note: The cover of the July 31, 1954 edition of Hawaiian Life Magazine features a Blanding drawing.
~ ~ ~
August 7, 1954
The other night at a party, I saw a guest's charming face turn to a Medusa mask of horror. She pointed a rigid finger at the wall behind me and let out a strangulated screm which put a permanent wave in my otherwise straight hair, and fell in a dead faint on the floor.
I turned, expecting nothing less than a hooded cobra, a Gila monster or Senator McCarthy, although I knew that none of these is indigenous to Hawaii. What was it? A little lizard having its evening "pupus" of gnats, flies and crawling items!
THE LADY was revived with some water poured on her face and some reviving liquid poured in her mouth. I thought maybe it was just her unusual way of hinting for a drink, but NO! The minute she came to she began screaming, "Take that horrible thing away," and she scrammed for the door.
Nor would she return until the mangled body of the lizard had been exhibited and consigned to the ashcan. The rest of the evening, her eyes roved like a loco horse's.
No amount of reassurance, explanation or exhibition of articles on the "value of Lizards as House-Pets" did anything for her. She just didn't like lizards. There's no accounting for people's tastes and distastes.
Personally, I like lizards.
We Oklahoma kids had horned toads (which are lizards with sharp goose-flesh) for pets.
Whenever I meet any lizards here, I give them my address, hoping that they'll move in and bring relatives and friends. I like them better than cockroaches, gnats and mosquitoes. But then I like certain kinds of spiders, too. I have a big one named Boris Karloff who is a welcome guest up in the left-hand corner of my bedroom. Now it's your turn to say that there's no accounting for tastes.
But then Boris and I have some swell bull-sessions on nights when the neighbors marital brawls keep us awake.
I try out a lot of my verses and ideas on Boris before I write them out. This is your chance to say that I'd better get a better literary adviser, but I'll just say there's no accounting for tastes. It's a handy comeback and doesn't mean anything much, and there's no special answer to it.
BUT GETTING back to our nice little, friendly, useful lizards, it reminds me that this is just one more reason for saying that we're so fortunate ot wise in living in Hawaii . . . so few pests, that is, among the reptile breed.
And that brings on another bit of Useless Information:
The term "lounge lizards" went out with the Charleston, but the term "towel lizards" has come in at Waikiki, referring to the sun-bronzed males who lie in torpid inertness on their beach towels, coming to life only when some shapely little tourist butterfly flits by in a near-Bikini. Then they really go into action!
I will say this for the towel lizard, most of the beach butterflies don't flit as fast and as far as it would seem that they could.
As we said before, there's no accounting for tastes.
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
August 14, 1954
A Texas woman, born on the prairies, returned from a visit to the land of valleys in the Blue Ridge country. When she came to the plains of Texas, she breathed deeply of the clean air of the prairies. She lifted her arms to the wind as though greeting an old friend.
She looked to the North and the South, to the East and the West. She released her heart to race down blue, uncluttered distances. She said, "Oh, it is good to be back on the prairies. I have been inclosed. I have looked at walls, the walls of houses, the walls of mountains have pressed on my heart. I have been imprisoned. Here on the prairies I CAN STRETCH MY EYES."
PEOPLE ON the Mainland are always asking me why my faithfulness to Hawaii. That's one of my replies. "I can stretch my eyes in Hawaii." Almost anywhere in Hawaii, we can look to the sea and the blue retreating horizons.
A few people here feel confined, imprisoned. They say, "It's just a jail with blue walls."
I can't see it that way. I have more feeling of freedom in Hawaii than almost anywhere except on the desert.
For instance, when I do a tour in Winter in the Northern States, people ask, "Don't you mind the cold after Hawaii?" No. It's the closed windows, closed doors, closed clothes, the artificial heat of rooms, and even the closed face of people in the great cities of the Mainland!
They seem to be afraid to laugh because some fresh air might get into their heads and they'd catch cold from being in a draft.
It's wonderful here, when things seem to crowd too much, to go to the beach and sit there and release eyes and heart to the beckoning of the blue retreating horizon.
Whenever I hear some of the ancient Hawaiian chants and meles, telling of the great voyages and heroes and warriors in their big canoes to the Islands of the West and South, I get that feeling of "stretching my eyes and heart."
SOME FOLKS are stay-putters and they need walls to make them feel comfortable. Others are move-oners . . . they need to stretch their eyes.
Out there . . . out there . . .
Beyond the dim horizon
A golden road is leading, Is pleading to the drifter.
The road the plover flies on.
The road thee gray gull cries on.
The road the outcast dies on.
Horizon and horizon, the ever-new horizon.
It draws the dreamer's eyes on
To goals he'll never find
Although his heart flies swifter
Than hawk or hunted hind.
Out there . . . out there
Where sea and sky are merging
A golden road is gleaning, is dreaming for the roamer.
Where cobalt waves are singing.
Where typhoon winds are dirging.
Where brazen suns are scourging.
The lands beyond the moon . . . the land sof Rigadoon.
A constant, distant urging.
A subtle, silent croon.
A ghostly summons verging
On madness of the loon
Is calling to the roamer above the roaring comber.
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
August 21, 1954
By Don Blanding
I do not seek the Fountain of Eternal Youth
Nor care what Heaven or Hell comes after;
While I'm alive I seek a far more precious truth . . .
The Secrets of Laughter.
Why seek the Fountain of Eternal Youth . . . when we can live in Hawaii? As I've said before about people who truly live in the Island Mood, "We don't get older here; we just last longer."
As for Heaven and Hell . . . we commute between them, back and forth, right here and now, humanly, and it takes a long time to learn that we have a choice.
But we buck a lot against the truth that we make our own Heavens and Hells by our refusal to realize that it's a matter of using our moods or letting our moods use us.
We'll discipline outselves a lot to improve our golf, bridge, music, tennis or surf-boarding without quite realizing that the rewards from discuplining our moods are infinitely more rewarding.
Out in new Mexico I saw a bronc-rider emerge from the chute in a cloud of dust aboard an ornery cayuse that was a combination of a string of fire-crackers, and earthquake and a hula-dancer. When the dust settled down, there was the cowboy on the ground; somehow the saddle had come loose and was across his back, and sprawled over the saddle and cowboy was the bronc. The horse looked more embarrassed than the cowboy because he realized that the wrong thing was in the right position. At that time it struck me that was us in relation to our moods. Who's going to ride whom and how long?
ARMINE VON TEMPSKI and her husband were living in my house in Carmel-by-the-sea when she was writing the first part of Born in Paradise. Pennies and luck were at low ebb at the time and things looked pretty discouraging. From my place at the drawing board in the studio, I could see her face as she sat before the fireplace in the living room. She looked as heart-sick and unhappy as a little wet kitten.
I saw her take her fingers and lift the corners of her lips into a smile. It drooped very quickly. Again and again she'd lift those corners. Finally the smile caught, not just in the muscles, but in her heart and she was her own vibrant, sunny valiant self. I never forgot that scene.
BEFORE I'D leave my house in the morning, I'd use adhesive tape, if I had to, to get the corners of the lips up into a smile. By disciplining that smile for a while it will catch on and soon the smile will come from where all real smiles come from . . . the inside, for JOY IS AN INSIDE JOB.
That's not an original statement. It was said better a couple thousand years ago, but it takes the individual a lot of years to learn it sometimes, and humanity has taken longer.
One of my Secrets of Laughter is in this little four-liner that I did for my own information and discipline.
Above my door and across my heart
These words are carved in lasting line.
My prayer, "Lord, I do give Thee thanks
For the abundance that is mine."
What abundance? Take your own inventory; you'll find a lot of it that you'd forgotten about, like your old fishing tackle in the closet that you don't find until, often, you're looking for something else or are cleaning out the accumulated goop in the corners.
There's the drawing of two half-faces, Sour Puss and Grinny. Which side will I match up -- Droopy Drawers or Joyous Joe?
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
August 28, 1954
Privacy at Waikiki is as rare as papayas at the North Pole.
Life in an apartment court makes a goldfish bowl seem like a Safety Deposit Box.
Every window is a television screen featuring Real Life Programs of Marital Mix-up, Washboard Weepers and What the Well Undressed People Are Not Wearing This Season.
Willingly or unwillingly, every person with even 10 per cent vision can become a Peeping Tom or Thomasina. Let's be honest and admit that we're not too unwilling. One must keep well misinformed, these days, to stay in the Social Swim.
Everyone knows What's What and Who's Whose at Waikiki.
Walter Winchell's snoopings would be Yesterday's News by the time it got into print. The Beach Towel Brigade at Waikiki is psychic. They know the dirt before it's spaded up.
MINDING YOUR own business is impossible because there are so many who are willing to mind it for you.
Nearly every apartment court has at least one Meddlesome Mattie of either sex who makes a career of See All, Knowing All and Telling All. They are usually ambidextrous; when they haven't something to gossip about, they find something to complain about. They run a dawn-to-midnight news broadcast.
In a nearby court, unofficially called "The Open Arms," there's a problem. Mrs. Peepentelle is a frustrated woman.
For a week there hasn't been even a mildly gamey tidbit of gossip, and she's had nothing to complain about. No one has played the radio after eleven. No one has staged a late party. The Waikiki Widow hasn't had any boy friends in. The plumbing in her apartment works with annoying perfection. All of the married couples seem to be enjoying ideal marital bliss.
She's living in an Eden without a serpent, and it's wrecking her.
One young couple, out of the goodness of their hearts, staged a fake fight. It was Love's Labor Lost. Mrs. Peepentlle is a connoisseur. She knows the difference between a good Knock-Down-and-Drag-Out Brawl and a mere Pass-the-Time Squabble.
I'VE CHANGED my ideas about a lot of things recently. For instance, the magazines are filled with articles saying, "Don't Worry." I've contributed a few columns along that line myself.
But we're all wrong.
A good thing can be overdone.
Everyone should have at least one spare worry in ther Deep Freeze saved up for a sunny day when things go too smoothly!
There's the atom bomb, of course, and Senator McCarthy, and Zaza Gabor and her Tubirosa (pun!), but those are Community Property. We need a personal private worry, once in a while. I think that if the Adams family hadn't been evicted from Eden they'd have moved out anyhow. Undiluted perfection is a bore after a time.
I've been too contented lately. Maybe I'll get smug, and that's bad. I think I'll leave the door open. Maybe a Good Samaritan mosquito will fly in and give me an annoyance.
Give a dog a flea to scratch;
Give a hen an egg to hatch;
Give a spinster a door to latch;
Give a woman a swatch to match;
Give a housewife a fly to catch;
Give a mother some pants to patch;
Then we'll be happy.
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
September 4, 1954
Every so often, Mother Earth seems to stretch, yawn and kick the covers around. Mountains rise where sea-bottoms were. The surface buckles and great cliffs are formed. The local climates are changed and everything is altered.
An equivalent of that upheaval is going on at Waikiki. Two great palis are rising from the flat beach, looming above the coco palms. They are not earth-made but man-made. They are the Princess Kaiulani Hotel and the Waikiki Biltmore. In their present state of building they have the raw look of huge escarpments heaved up by some sub-surface disturbance.
And they are going to change the climates at Waikiki. Notice I said "cimates," plural. They will cut off the breeze from the valley for the areas beachward from them. They will change the financial climate of the area as plush shops cluster around the de-luxe big-sisters.
The happy-go-lucky casualness of the present area will be polished and stylized to meet the wants and tastes of the vacationists.
Whether this is for better or for worse depends upon your viewpoint. One thing certain, it is inevitable.
There's an old Oriental saying which applies to these changes, "Wise is the man who, faced with the wall of the unchangeable, climbs over it, goes around it or walks away from it." If we can't stop it, we can try to control it, although most of us feel that it's like a kihikihi fish trying to control a tidal wave.
AUNT CALLY used to say, "Be mighty keerful what you prays for, Honey. You might get it." The go-getters wanted Tourist Money. To get it, we have to take the tourists, with their wants, needs, likes and dislikes, and the camp-followers and parasites who feed on them.
Only time will tell whether this is a blessing or otherwise.
No use weeping in our poi-bowl about the good old days. The beauty spots of the world were doomed to lose their simple naturalness for many reasons. Color photography and color printing brought allurement of far places vividly to the stay-at-homes through magazines. Documentary films of the world's far places set the itching feet of humanity into movement.
Increased travel money, travel speed and travel facilities began stirring humanity up like the ingredients in a mix-master. The world wars gave our civilians actual tastes of foreigness in foods, people and places. Many wanted more, and what people want they usually get.
I have seen Carmel-by-the-Sea, Laguna, Santa Fe, Taos, La Jolla, Ojai and many other beauty spots become commercial. Reports from Bermuda, Majorca, Martha's Vineyard and places hither-and-yonder report the same changes. It's not particular to Honolulu.
THERE'S JUST one thing we can count on these days, and that's change.
More things happen in one year now than happened in 25 previously. After all, none of us is the same as we were 10 or 20 years ago. We couldn't enjoy many of the things we used to enjoy, even if they hadn't changed.
There's another certainty. If we depend on hit-or-miss, trial-and-error, by-guess-and-by-gosh, we're going to go through a messy period.
We have the benefit of the other places' mistakes and constructive efforts. The uncertainty is whether we learn any thing from them.
There are intelligent efforts being made, but selfish individual, political and financial interests are delaying or gumming the works.
Do you like mystery stories? O. K. Guess what's going to happen here in the next 10 years. It's a good conversation-making question to launch at your next dinner party.
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
September 11, 1954
We humans are, in my opinion, the only things funnier than monkeys.
We're so smart in some ways and so double-monkey-minded in others. For instance, since my second hitch in the Infantry, I'm allergic to long walks. If someone offered me good money to walk 70 to 80 blocks a day, I'd have to be so broke that I'd shatter from a mere nudge before I'd accept! Yet I do just that almost every day, sometimes more.
What do I get for it? I get what people pay much money and travel long distances to enjoy, which is, such breath-taking beauty that after a hundred repetitions, it still makes umi-umis in my diaphragm and stops my heart for a couple of beats. And "for free" except for a little wear-and-tear on the soles, ankles and knee joints. A small price!
I MOVED DOWN onto Ala Wai recently. It's three blocks and a half up to the shopping center on Kalakaua. Seven blocks up and back, not counting the bummeling and window-shopping strolls that go with the jaunt. I go up and back from 10 to 12 times a day, making up utterly useless errands as an excuse or bait.
The walk itself is always pleasant. There are new hibiscuses or hibiscii nodding friendly Alohas from the yards. There are old friends to greet and new faces to study among kamaainas and malihinis. And those raucous Donald Ducks of the bird-world, the bumptious and ubiquitous mynah birds; they're always good for a chuckle.
But it's the return trip that I wait for, delaying it as a connoisseur delays the last drop of an old liqueur to roll on the tongue. As I come down Seaside Avenue from Kalakaua, I have a Technicolor mural of the mountains behind Manoa beckoning distantly. Every step enlarges the incredible view.
Then at the corner of Seaside and Ala Wai I get the works. From the tail of that headless sphinx, Diamond Head, clear around to the open throat of Punchbowl, there's not an inch of the scene that isn't singing beauty at the top of its voice.
THERE ARE the great clouds foaming over the mountains like a cosmic tidal wave crashing on a vast reef. I can almost hear the thunder of that tumult. Tatters of rainbows are caught in the spray and spindrift of those cloud-breakers.
Then there's the green-blue back-drop of Manoa Valley, framed on either side making a proscenium for a ballet of clouds, mist, rain, wind and jungle.
Often the Ala Wai Canal waters are mirrors, doubling the beauty.
Hawaii always gives twice as much as we give it, if our hearts are right.
Moonlight nights are indescribable, so I'm not going to try to describe the scene, but the chains of lights on the heights ahead competing with the stars and white torch-light of the moon are like notes of great music translated into color and design.
Why Hawaii? Because, for me, Christmas is every day and all I have to do to open the "for free" presents is open my eyes, mind and heart. Hawaii, from her generous heart, fills my expectant hands to overflowing.
Aloha, Don Blanding
Note: The cover of the September 11, 1954 edition of Hawaiian Life Magazine features a photo of Don Blanding by Wayne Peters Cipar. On pages 12-13 is Blanding's article, "My Hawaii."
~ ~ ~
September 18, 1954
By Don Blanding
Years ago I knew a splendid woman named Nan Patch. She was the character actress in a little theatrical stock company which played the tank towns and smaller cities up and down the Middle West season after season. The townspeople loved the troupe which brought color, romance and some glamour to otherwise rather drab lives.
Nan Patch was almost a tradition. Her entrance, even in a small bit part, brought a welcoming applause which topped that of the leading lady. And even those tempermental ladies didn't mind. Nan Patch was deservedly loved by the audience and the troupe.
She had a formula. She told it to me. I have treasured it and have tried to live by it as well as I could, with my horned-toad nature.
SHE HAD a traveling bag which she never checked with the other baggage. It went with her from the train to the dingy little hotel which was the usual home for the company. Fifteen minutes after her arrival, her room was transformed.
Out came a Paisley shawl for the bed.
Two giddy-gaudy pillow covers concealed the tattle-tale gray of the hotel pillows.
A bright scarf livened up the dresser top.
Two candle-sticks with bright candles took their places flanking Nan's collections of photographs of friends.
A little vase awaited wayside posies picked in Summer or Spring; or, if Nan was too broke to get "store-boughten flowers" in Winter, she took a flower from her hat for the vase.
A few colored squares of bright fabic were thumbtacked over the worse rain-and-time stains on the wall.
She shook a little cinnamon powder in a small tray. "Smells homey" she said. Also some of her Lavender Water went into the wood-work cracks to neutralize the accumulated fustiness and mustiness of the room.
WITH a few magic touches, she transformed a depressing little hotel cell into HOME. And it was "home away from home" for the troupe, and usually for half of the hotel people while Nan was there.
Her understanding heart had therapy for tears, tantrums, tempers and temperaments.
In the lonesome hearts of those homeless people, Nan's rugged craggy features were more beautiful than Lillian Russell's celebrated charms.
Nan told me, "My little old grandmother taught me this one secret of happiness
. . . 'let me make beautiful the place where I stay, however briefly.'
"For a long time," she said, "I thought Grandma just meant rooms or houses or gardens. But then I thought, but where do we stay all of the time? Inside ourselves, of course. If we don't keep our inner selves prettied up and clean and friendly, we're not going to make a pretty picture outside no matter how many gewgaws we put around. We should make-up out hearts as well as our faces. We'll be nicer friends to ourselves as well as others.
"Let me make beautiful the place where I stay, however briefly."
I think that is one of the meanings of our wonderful word "Aloha."
Aloha, Don Blanding
Note: The cover of the September 18, 1954 edition of Hawaiian Life Magazine features a Blanding drawing.
~ ~ ~
September 25, 1954
Every so often, I'm reminded that Ancient Men who wrote the great Scriptures of the world may not have had the professional jargon of today's psychoanalysts, psychologists and psychiatrists, but they knew the answers.
For instance, when they told us to bless our enemies and those who persecute us, they gave us a tough nut to crack.
Just recently, I had occasion again to realize that I never had a so-called enemy that, sooner or later, I didn't have to thank in my heart for putting an obstacle in my path just when I was softening up, slacking off or lazing up in my career.
IT ALMOST seemed that some Silent Partner inside knew when I was loafing on the job of trying to be a decent human being and a moderate success in the business of living, and this Silent Partner seemed to doodle up an obstacle, with perfect timing, or seemed to put a panini under my tail to make me "git up and git."
I realized that the men who climbed Mt. Everest didn't train by climbing feather beds, and a prize fighter doesn't punch marshmallows to get in form. When we've overcome or come-over an obstacle it isn't an obstacle any more, and it teaches us something about approaching the next one.
For 15 years in my career of trying to be a moderate success in writing and illustrating books, I was sustained by the thought of three people, who, for reasons of their own which I never understood, seemed to make a hobby of sneering, fleering and jeering.
In all sincerity, I can say that there was no vindictiveness I me when later they separately became friends. I did not revive the old feud, but I did thank them silently in my heart. They wouldn't have understood if I had thanked them verbally.
JUST RECENTLY this situation came up again, in a milder form. I'm happy to say that again I can offer sincere thanks for the panini under my tail. I'm within two months of completing 60 turbulent, exciting and sometimes danged painful years of living.
These people revealed to me that I was getting a little fearful of the grayer years ahead, and that I was accepting some of the spurious ideas about "coming to the end of things," or being "through," whatever that means.
They put beef-iron-and-wine tonic back into my blood and renewed my determination to earn this epitaph. "He lived up the last cent and the last minute of his life . . . joyously."
So, if any man thinks he's my enemy, let him know it's in HIS mind and not mine. There will never be any enemy except myself who will get me down for long, so help me God . . . and that's just what I mean.
Aloha to all . . . and I mean all.
Aloha, Don Blanding
Copyright © 2004-2007 Cadia Los - Revised October 27, 2007