Vagabond's House Aloha, Don Blanding
Columns published in the Hawaiian Life magazine section of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April - June 1955
~ ~ ~
April 2, 1955
From March 1 through March 4, I was literally "out of this world." That is, I was out of this world of towering hotels and apartment buildings, traffic jams, tourists, tourines and tourettes, and bargain sales. I was on Johnston Island.
I had four grand days on this little coral vaccination mark on Ma Nature's blue beltline, 850 miles south and west of Honolulu.
It boasts of being "the biggest little base in the Air Force."
It's a short mile long and not very wide. It's really a landing strip fringed with maintenance buildings and quarters of the personnel.
From the air it looks like a slightly used band-aid pasted on the limitless pavement of lapis-lazuli, turquoise matrix and jade of the Pacific. Actually it is a self-contained little world apart where every man, woman, child and cat and dog has its specific place in the compact little jigsaw puzzle of humanity.
Of course, there's a lot of difference between being there and having to be there.
In my capacity as transient "man from Mars" I enjoyed every minute of it. From Colonel Donahue and his wife through the entire personnel down to the smallest wag-tail pooch I received a concentrated version of "the old Hawaiian hospitality" which will warm my memory book for a long time.
OUTSIDE OF the four talks which I was scheduled to give, I had nothing to do but saturate myself in the beauty and human interest of this unique place.
I soaked it up greedily as soda-crackers absorbed the dampness of Honolulu during our six weeks of "unusal weather" in late January and February in Hawaii.
Life there on the human side makes a gold-fish bowl seem like a photographer's dark-room for privacy. There's only one direction on Johnston Island, and that is makai or "toward the sea."
A muted burp, in the silence of all those vast stretches of "nothing but nothing in every direction" sounds like a lonesome fire-cracker. This inforced intimacy demands a wholesome give-and-take on the part of all the people.
The assorted dogs have their place in the community life, and they know it. From the pedigreed pooch to the mutt that was colorfully described by one small boy as "mostly Cocker spaniel . . . or something," each dog considers itself as "people," and not merely a flea-motel. They strive for personality, and they achieve it.
IT WOULD be easy to develop "island claustrophobia" and a few do but most of the personnel make the adjustment admirably.
It's a wonderful place to get acquainted with your deep inner self. The vast horizontals of the Pacific and the infinitude of the night skies seem to insulate a person from the hurly-burly and complexities of our contemporary life. It is possible, there, to do some interior re-decoration.
Johnston Islanders are not as isolated as the Trust Territory people on Yap, Koror, Palau or Majuro. The constant come-and-go of planes provides a blood transfusion several times weekly of news, new faces, new ideas and new stories. But if you do get a good new story from a plane arrival, you'd better tell it quickly or it will be old stuff in a half hour.
As I left, I was courteously told to "come back soon." Well, I'm hard to get . . . all they have to do is to ask me. I could use a lot of that pleasant spot.
When I arrived back in the comparative rush-and-rumpus of Waikiki, I felt like a late arrival at a roaring cocktail party. It took me a little time to catch up with the tempo.
Aloha to the Islanders of Johnston island, and mahalo for the grand time there.
P.S. There are no gooney birds on Johnston Island. Lots of other birds, and a few odd ones, but NO GOONEY BIRDS. Another illusion shattered.
-- Don Blanding
Note: Most the of the columns during this period bear only the author's name at the end, rather than a photo and his classic signature decorated with the little bird.
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April 9, 1955
Here's an idea for the Visitors Bureau, the hotels or any of the organizations which are interested in a long and continuous flow of tourists to Hawaii. You're welcome to it, and I hope you follow through with it.
During my high school years, I used to spend Summers working in the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park. It was then that I decided that since I would probably always work for my living, I'd live and work in the beauty spots of the world. Why not? I picked up a lot of ideas for tourist business.
The Transportation Company with the Park concessions used to set aside three weeks each Summer which were mostly Teachers' Weeks. Travel rates and accommodations were reduced to rock-bottom and offered to teachers throughout the West and the Middlewest. The hotel help knew that tips would take a drop but we were instructed to be extra courteous and friendly to the teachers. There was a wise reason.
The teachers truly "lived it up" on their trips. They sent tons of postcards; they collected souvenirs to bring back to students and friends; they filled note books with scribblings and snap-shots. They really saw-tasted-smelled-touched-heard-and-enjoyed everything.
YOU CAN be sure that their students got heavily indoctrinated in Yellowstone Park ideas during the year or yeaers to come. Yellowstone Park was established as a "must" in their alert, busy, receptive minds.
You can be sure, too, that when vacation time came around the family was assailed with persistent and penetrative yowls, "We wanna go to Yellowstone Park and see the BEARS." Sooner or later the BEARS WERE SEEN.
This fine propaganda via the teachers was not just one-season stuff, either. Future tourist trade was guaranteed because the remembers delights of Yellowstone Park were passed along by the Johnny's and Susy's when they had little Johnny's and Susy's of their own.
Yellowstone has the highest visitor's number of any National Park, I believe, and this is not merely the attractions of the place. It is the cumulative aftermath of that fine far-seeing policy on the part of its resort operators. So far as I know, they still continue the policy.
I'VE CONTRIBUTED my bit along the line with my book for youngsters from 9 to 90, STOWAWAYS IN PARADISE. I know at least a half dozen teachers in 6th and 7th grade schools who read the book at least once a year to the youngsters.
Often on Kalakaua, I'll have a tourist come up to me and say, "Do you know what brought me and our kids to Hawaii?" I usually have an idea but I let them tell me; "It was Stowaways in Paradise, which Miss Martha Mortenson in Seattle read to us."
Miss Mortenson is a personal friend of mine. She has been reading the book to students since it came out in 1931.
I'm glad that she has done this for Hawaii, and I'm grateful, too, because she has always been the cause of much hamburger money dropping into my always-needful pockets through her reading of the book. I send her magazines, pictures and interesting items to accompany the readings of the book. It has paid off richly in more than money.
Teachers ARE people, and grand people, too, which the public sometimes seems to forget. They, more than any people that I know, deserve to enjoy the delights of our Hawaii. And, not being merely commercial about it, they pay back ten fold for the joys that they enjoy.
I'd sure like to see Teachers' Week as an official part of the cycle of our Hawaiian Summers. I've given you the idea; now it's up to you.
-- Don Blanding
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April 16, 1955
There's a sign on Kalakaua Avenue just ewa of the Waikiki Branch of the Bank of Hawaii which warms me each time that I see it. It's a little dike of Aloha spirit of givingness, without price-tag, valiantly trying to hold back the flood of cold commercialism which is coming in increasingly from the Mainland,
The sign says simply, "You are welcome to visit this hibiscus garden." At the bottom it says rather wistfully, "Please do not pick these flowers."
That would seem to be needless but it is not.
Because there are always a few crumb-bums to spoil the party for others, like the folks who break noses off statues and put mustaches on the pictures of pretty girls. It's an ape trait which the pschologists might be able to explain.
Inside this friendly garden is a splendid display of the latest developments in our glorious hibiscus flowers. The flowers are unbelievable. They seem to be made of silks, satins, jewels, feathers, beads and enamels. The passionate givingness of nature working with the inventiveness of men adds daily to the joy-of-living which is the genius of Hawaii. It is a place to be pointed out to all our visitors.
WHENEVER I walk in this garden, I am reminded of the time when we had a few hundred varieties of hibiscus instead of the thousands of today.
Gerrit Wilder, one of the pioneers here in the development of our gracious flower, used to let his wife, Lillian, name the new varieties after her friends. These bushes were planted in her "Friendship Garden," which made the garden-spot a place, not only of beauty, but of warm sentiment which is so characteristic of the best of Island life.
I remember when the Agnes Galt hibiscus was a blossom of wonder to us (it still is to me). It was a great richly colored chalice of loveliness. It was one of the first advance guard of the profusion of flamboyant varied colors and patterns which we now see on every hand.
Much as I admire these new "show-girls" of the hibiscus family, my heart still gives first place to the simple red hibiscus, which nods its friendly Aloha to us from the hedges, and the coral hibiscus, which looks like a little vagabond from some mermaid's undersea garden.
The coral hibiscus has nearly disappeared from the scene. I wonder why. Someone said it was because the branches were scraggly. Surely our garden-experts can do something about this. Maybe someone can give the bush some lessons in being more graceful and elegant.
A FEW business places at the beach and downtown feature daily displays of hibiscus blossoms.
Somehow it's easier to part with cash in a setting of rainbow colors, especially if the cashier has a big hibiscus tucked in her hair. Women and flowers, like puppies and small boys, and mint and lamb, and waffles and maple-syrup (or coconut syrup, to be loyal to Hawaii), seem to belong naturally together.
Just because we see these wonders daily, we rather take them for granted. Because I come from a background of the Middle West, I know that these glorious blooms seem literally "out of this world" to Mrs. Crumplefender from Oklahoma City or Tucumcari.
This Hibiscus Garden on Kalakaua is a project of a bank. If it pays dividends, they richly deserve it. We need more of the same to balance the standardization of buildings which is turning Waikiki into a replica of Miami and Long Beach.
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
April 23, 1955
Someone asked me, "What is your favorite tree in the Islands?" That depends on the circumstances.
If I'm hungry, I might vote for a mango tree heavy with luscious ripe fruit yielding gooey but delectable munching, or providing green mango pies which are my idea of tops in pie, or mango chutney which is an inspired condiment.
But in a rainstorm, I might favor a banyan for shelter. Or a papaya tree (if it is a tree) looking like a statue of the many-breasted Diana or Ephesus is a very satisfying tree.
I think, however, that for all purposes, our coconut palms are first in my affections. They are practically the "signature" of the tropics.
I'm fortunate in having about a dozen of them in full view beyond the window where my typewriter is located.
They are friends. They are the most eloquent of teees. They reflect every mood of the day.
Sometimes they are like hula dancers standing in complete graceful repose waiting for the first beat of the huka-pahu or the notes of the music. The tradewinds breathe a melodic note through the fronds and they begin to dance. Sometimes, in storm, they are like Iolani Luahine in the wild frenzy of her Pele Hula; at other times like Leilehua Beamer pantomiming the beautiful tribute of I Liliu E.
I LOVE THEM, too, because I know how deeply and intimately the coconut palms are woven into the fabric of Island life, both here and through the lonely little islands and atolls of the deep Pacific. They provide food, shelter, and a thousand indepensables to the life of the people.
On Johnston Island, a barren little atoll about 850 miles southwest of here, it is an unwritten obligation to bring back a couple of coconuts to plant to lend graciousness to the life of those who are carrying on their work and lives there.
I had the first-hand experience of the tragedy which came to Palau when a destructive coconut beetle invaded the groves there, threatening complete elimination of that life-giving friend of the Islands. This scourge is being valiantly fought by Bob Owens, the bugologist of the of the Trust Territory forces.
WHAT COULD we do for our coconut cream pies, like angels' beautyrest mattresses, without our coco palms? And think of Mr. and Mrs. Rearbumper of Dubuque going back to the States without a picture of them in coconut hats. It's unthinkable.
Visitor's Bureau would have to go out of business if it didn't have coconut trees for pretty girls to loll seductively against in their publicity pictures designed to stir Mr. Stoxon Bond's last hoarded wild oat.
I wonder if there was ever a visitor who didn't ask, "Do coconuts ever hit people when they fall?" Do you know the answer?
I never got hit; I never knew anyone personally who got it; nor do I know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who had either a friend or distant relative who got hit . . . that is, by a coconut falling from a tree.
I did know one chap who got hit, but the coconut was heaved with accurate aim by an angry girl friend, but that comes under un-natural and not natural history data.
What with one thing and another I'll give my vote to Miss Coconut Tree for the Tree of the Year . . . any year.
Aloha, Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
April 30, 1955
I used to hear my folks say that the longer they lived, the faster time seemed to go. I thought that was just "tutu-talk."
Now that I have collected 60 birthdays and am half way toward another, I know that they are right. Time, these days, makes a jet plane seem like a slow motion movie of a lazy snail.
It seems only a few months ago that I was shaking the stray fallen petals of plumeria and carnation of Lei Day out of my aloha shirt-tail, and here it is Lei Day again.
Time is such a curious thing. The same length of years can seem both short and endlessly long. In one way it seems like only a few yesteryears ago that we were celebrating that first unforgettable Lei Day in 1928. In another way it is like something from another incarnation.
The idea for Lei Day had come up like a burp.
I presented the idea to Riley H. Allen and he said to outline the idea and The Star-Bulletin would print it and we'd see what happended. We had no conception of what Lei Day would grow into. What a joyous day it was! Everyone did everything he amd she could to make it grand, and the result was like a kid setting off a firecracker and finding that he'd triggered Madame Pele into putting on one of her more spectacular shows.
I was on the Mainland for the next 10 years (I don't remember why I did such a foolish thing). Honolulu gave me a trip back to celebrate the 10th celebration. This included my first plane trip from the mainland to Hawaii. Lei Day had become an Island holiday by that time. Instead of just one celebration in Honolulu there were little and big Lei Day celebrations all over the Islands.
It's an obligation of every kamaaina to see that as many visitors as possible are encouraged to see the lei exhibitions. No one could believe, until he sees it, the invention, patience, inspiration and ingenuity that goes into making these lovely garlands-of-aloha. I am freshly amazed each year.
But Lei Day is more than just exhibitions of leis, dances and songs. It is a symbol of the genius of Hawaii. It is the Islands gift to the world in a time when this gift is sorely needed. It is a symbol of friendliness, of givingness, of livingness and lovingness.
This is not merely a sentimental idea to be celebrated on one day of the year. The flower garland is only a tangible symbol of something which we, individually, can give out daily through the year . . . if we remember to do it.
It is significant that visitors remember the friendliness of Hawaii more than they do the scenery. Scenery, of various sorts, is everywhere, but the peculiar warm all-pervading aloha of Hawaii which is in the people, the flowers and in the very air, is something that seems to be our happy heritage.
I have listened to folks on the Mainland reminiscing about their trip here. Nearly always they will recall some kindliness at the hands of Island people, the courtesy of a tour driver, the thoughtfulness of the little waitresses, the smilingness of faces, which made their closed hearts open like a red hibiscus under the first touch of the Hawaiian sun in the morning.
Wear a lei of friendliness on your heart on Lei Day and every day through the year ahead. Let every day be Lei Day in our hearts.
-- Don Blanding
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May 7, 1955
Two men passed from the Honolulu scene recently of whom it could be said honestly, "They were truly gentlemen because they were true gentle men."
Each one would, I am sure, be greatly astonished to know how widely and sincerely he is mourned and missed.
These men had the genius of friendliness. They had the intuitive knowledge of a need to be met, and they met it, quietly, unobtrusively. There were no mortgages on their gifts, no spotlights on their givingness.
They were splendid examples of a word which is fast disappearing from the contemporary scene. Despite wide knowledge of the world and its sophisticated values the remained always "neighbors" at heart.
They belonged to that rare breed, the "humble-great," because the humble and the great are equally "neighbors" in their hearts. In their true humility lay their greatness.
HARRY LUCAS and Jimmy Gallet, despite any personal sorrows, carried laughter in their hands to give to all who would accept it. It was tolerant and understanding laughter. They laughed with the world, not at it. And they laughed at themselves; a tolerant chuckle which was infectious, and enabled us, their friends, to laugh at our own selves, with gentle cleansing amusement.
Theirs also was the gift of expressed appreciation. Their flowers were for the living while they could enjoy them. They had that loving X-ray vision which looked into us and saw us as greater than we saw ourselves. We walked on, a little taller, after contact with them.
And they remembered, they who gave so much, some little forgotten kindliness done for them. And they treasured and remembered our small victories in order to bring them to our minds again when they sensed defeat within our hearts. They gave us the blood-transfusion of faith-in-us when we sadly needed it.
I BELIEVE that we often miss most those things which we notice least because we take them for granted. There is more talk of sunlight on gray days than on sunny ones.
Meteor personalities flash across our skies, dazzling us briefly, but we have little sense of personal loss when they pass. But the light in the window we do miss when it is not there. We had depended on it so completely that we often forgot to thank it, in our hearts.
I offer this epitaph to those Good Neighbors, Harry Lucas and Jimmy Gallet:
Do not carve on stone or wood,
"They were honest" or "They were good."
Write, with a smile, on the passing breeze
Seven words, and the words are these,
Telling all that a volume could,
"They lived . . . they laughed . . . and they understood."
-- Don Blanding
James R. Gallet, who arrived in Honolulu in 1926, was organist at Kawaiahao Church, harpist with the Honolulu Symphony, and a teacher in the schools. Particularly among sightless children of the Diamond Head School, he helped others to appreciate music and to discover the joy of competent performance.
I have no information about Harry Lucas.
On May 7, 1955, the cover of Hawaiian Life Magazine features a Don Blanding illustration, The Volcano That Won't Die.
~ ~ ~
May 14, 1955
There are two words which help me to fill my days with at least 80 per cent of either simmering contentment or actual inward shouting joy. Any day that I fall below that percentage I know that life has not failed me; I have failed life.
Those words are "awareness" and "gratefulness". By keeping those words actively in the foreground of my mind I can feel very rich under almost all circumstances.
For instance, any morning when I leave my studio on the Ala Wai and, because of some small irritation or worry which I failed to wash off in the shower bath, I forget to stop and take in the Cinerama glory of that stupendous natural mural which stretches from Diamond Head to Punchbowl, I have made myself poorer.
I think I'll get a STOP sign and put it at the gate so that I'll be sure to stop, to look and to be grateful.
Gratefulness is one of the warmest, richest and most stimulating emotions of all. It's free and it's artesian. We have only to uncap the well of it which is within ourselves.
WHEN I DO STOP and let the glory of color flood through my heart I feel taller, and bigger and richer.
My mind invariably goes back 38 years to begin its gratefulness because it was that long ago that I first saw Hawaii. If all of the joy and happiness which I have experienced were to be piled in a heap it would make a mountain taller than Mauna Loa.
This little pause at the gate tunes my whole day to a higher key of happiness. But the pause is not limited to the morning. Any time during the day or night, there is always the possibility of that "lift of spirits."
Nights of the full and waning moon have been like Viennese waltzes played by a cosmic orchestra.
When I see the great moon pulling free from the clouds on the horizon I feel as though I had swallowed a gross of toy balloons and they were all inflating and busting at once.
It makes me more in love with life than usual, and that's saying a lot, because "love-of-life" was one of the birthday gifts which my Guardian Angel gave me.
It's a faithful love, too. We may two-time it but it stays with us as long as we will stay aware of it. Few human loves could stand such faithlessness, neglect and sheer forgetfulness on our part.
I SHALL NEVER cease to be grateful to Mike Hanape who, in a time of stress in the 1920s when I thought that I was not only broke but shattered, gave me a talisman which has stayed by me through the years.
He said something like this: "Whenever you feel poor or sorry for yourself, just say over and over and over these words until you know what they mean, 'Lord, I do give thanks for the abundance that is mine.'"
Now, as our Hawaiian year floods us with the glory of our flowering trees and the uncountable beauties of Summer, we'd have to make a project of being unhappy or miserable. Even in times of human sorrow or distress there is always that balm of free and limitless beauty quick to our hands, if we will only be "aware" and "be grateful."
I've had to draw heavily on this "balm of gratefulness and awareness" this year. As I address the 7,500 or 8,000 envelopes to announce a new book, I have to take so many dear names from the files. The toll has been large this year.
But the gentle and understanding spirit of Hawaii has never failed me. It says, "Let not your heart be troubled," those immortal words, in the language of colors, fragrance, music and, above all, the friendliness of Hawaii . . . and soon the heart is less troubled.
And I DO give thanks.
-- Don Blanding
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May 21, 1955
People on the Mainland ask me, "What is your favorite time of year in Hawaii?" My answer is always the same, and always sincere, "Any time of the year that I'm in the Islands."
But if I did have a favorite time, I think that it would be during these months when the flowering trees are turning every day into Carnival Day with gay giddy color on the high-ways, low-ways and by ways.
Our flowering trees are like Hawaiian songs, sung in color or petals.
Even a gray day is a gay day when the flowers shake out their bunting and crepe-paper decorations along the way. Invisible music is in the air making our steps lighter and drawing laughter from our lips for no especial reason.
With colors by day and flower fragrances by night to nudge us into gayety, we'd have to make a project of being gloomy.
INCIDENTALLY, speaking of projects, here's one for every Islander. If you know that the night blooming cereus are due to blossom any evening, tell everyone who looks like a visitor about it, giving as specific directions as you can for finding the location.
It is an unforgettable experience for anyone. It never loses its wonder for me. I get a new inspiration for living each time that I watch the gray-green cereus trembling into the unearthly glory of their beauty.
It's like one of those gray days when it hardly seems worth while getting out of bed, and then the phone rings and it is the voice of an old friend or a loved one unexpectedly calling. Then we realize that weather, like joy, is an inside job, and we can turn the sun of our happiness on for ourselves and others almost as easily as we can turn on the electric light to banish the darkness of a closed room
FLOWERS, especially our hibiscus, are a constant inspiration toward joyous living for me. No matter how soggy I may feel when I get up in the morning, by the time I have walked from my studio on the Ala Wai to breakfast on Kalakaua, I'm in a good mood for the day, largely through the silent cheery "aloha's" which the hibiscus call out in their own way along the street.
Of course, the mynah birds help. They are a combination of Mickey Rooney, Bob Hope and Groucho Marx, cheeky, impudent, raffish . . . and lots of fun.
People reared in the Islands cannot possibly know how unbelievable our daily carnival of flowers seems to folks from the prairies of the western Middle West or from the desert country. Nor can Hawaiians realize how they are going to miss this free gift of beauty which is ours until they spend a year or two on the Mainland.
I DON'T THINK we are grateful enough for the wonderful therapy of our flowers, constantly suggesting happiness through the sun-gold of golden shower trees, the tender blushes of pink-showers, the petal prisms of the rainbow showers, the sentimental lavenders of the jacaranda, the gypsy gayety of the poinciana, the shouting oranges of the African tulip trees, and all the little blossoming shrubs and vines that give Harlequin gayety to our days.
Although I envy kids who are fortunate enough to be reared in Hawaii, I am also grateful for my Oklahoma background because it makes me doubly appreciative of the sumptuous color of the Islands. We don't know how good water tastes until we are mighty thirsty.
-- Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
About a month ago I mentioned in this column that I had never met personally anyone who had ever been hit by a falling coconut. I said also that I had not known anyone who had known anyone who had been hit. That covered a period of about 38 years, which I considered long enough to establish the rule that coconuts do not hit people when they, the coconuts, fall.
Oh, well, people believed for a very long time that the earth was flat and then found out that it wasn't.
But the next morning after the column appeared, a man's pleasant voice sounded on the telephone to tell me, apologetically and with deep regret for spoiling an illusion, that he had been hit not only once but three times!
You know how we fight to keep our illusions. I called on my small smattering of psychological misinformation and said, "You'd better see a psychiatrist. You're just a coconut attracter. No one could be hit THREE times without making a project of it."
Then, to my vast relief, it came out in the conversation that this had all happened in Fiji.
Well, you know those FIJIAN coconuts! No Aloha spirit at all in THEM. Hawaiian hospitality had been vindicated, and I went forth to life with a lighter spirit. But not for long.
Only an hour later a feminine voice, also apologetic but driven by devotion to truth, called to tell me that just three days before my column appeared she had been hit, right here in Honolulu and right out at Waikiki, too, which is devoted to the pleasure of visitors.
It seems that she had been sun bathing and napping on the lawn of one of our hotels (I shall not mention the name of it) and suddenly she was awakened by what she thought was a large safe falling on her instep. You've guessed it; it was a coconut. It was hard to believe, but she volunteered to show me the bruise, as proof of the claim.
WHAT ARE we to do? Can we get the coconut hat makers to install steel helmets inside their leafy millinery?
Isn't there some way the Outdoor Circle could induce the coco palms to let their coconuts fall only on kamaainas, who would keep the scandalous secret among other family skeletons.
Incidentally, I'd like to mention the names of my informants. I put the names on slips of paper, but the maid came in for one of her intermittent cleanings of my diggings and, of course, I can't find a thing in the studio.
That's another thing that should be taken up by the Better Homes Organization. There should be a law to make females warn males when they are going to clean house so that the males can rescue their accumulations of treasured trash from those rapacious paws.
Women seem to have a chronic pogrom against those moth-eaten stuffed alligators and disreputable fishing hats which are so dear to the male heart.
BUT WE WERE speaking of falling coconuts. We can't eliminate our coco palms just because they are careless with their things. It would be like taking the hump off of camels or the perfume out of gardenias. The tree trimming crews do the best they can, but coco palms, like rabbits, go in heavily for rapid multiplication.
If you have any suggestions, send them to me in care of Hawaiian Life Magazine, Honolulu Star-Bulletin. If there seems to be any merit in your solutions I'll pass them along to the proper authorities. Something MUST be done.
On the other hand, just skip it. There are so many things that need to be done about so many things these days that we needn't complicate life further. Thank you, anyhow.
-- Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
June 4, 1955
We have no Spring-time here . . . but we have JUNE!
Flame-flowered, yellow-petaled June.
Challenging our eyes with scarlet bold,
Luring our fancy with a wealth of pirate gold,
When all the land's atune. When far and near
The poincianas blaze with living fires
And every little roadside shrub aspires
To gaudiness. When golden shower trees
Spend in mad orgy with the madcap breeze
Their hoardings of a year.
Yes, this is the time in Hawaii when Mother Nature really goes for broke! She's giddy, gaudy and gaddy, flaunting her colored ruffles in the highways and the lowways, and flirting with everyone.
"No modest, soft-voiced maid . . . Hawaiian June! A pagan priestess worshipping the sun in garments from the rainbow spun, or borrowing from the moon, in silver-white arrayed. Swooning with perfume, jasmine in her hair, with leis of velvety gardenias to wear, and bougainvillea's royal purple stain in trailing fringe of flowers for a train. And, on her breast, the Southern Cross displayed."
EXCUSE ME for getting slightly delirious. Color is as powerful as music to set me up in the stratosphere like a jet-propelled whirly-bird, if there is such a thing.
In walking up some of the avenues lined with poincianas or golden shower trees or rainbow shower trees I seem to hear the Royal Hawaiian Band parading with every musician giving his all to the triumphal march of June.
I remind you again that the parking place at the Diamond Head end of the Yacht Basin is a place to pass the sunset hour. You get the panorama of Oahu doing a free Cinerama show which is yours for the looking . . . and seeing. But there are so many glory spots here.
There's a place in the High Sierras which is called "Oh Point" because the only thing you can say is a long-drawn "Ohhhh!" Maybe that's the origin of the name Oahu. "Oh! Ah! Hoo!"
Anyone who misses these June dawns is truly missing something splendid. For those people who are only semi-conscious until after breakfast these sunrises are a combination of a cold shower bath and a couple of cups of strong coffee as a morning picker-upper.
AS A FRIEND said to me, "I don't suppose you HAVE to be slightly pupule to be a poet but it sure seems to help you!" That's O.K. I'll be crazy for June-in-Hawaii any time that it comes around on the calendar. And it's all for free.
And this is the time, too, for passing along any information you have to visitors and local people alike of particularly lovely spots, or streets where the flowering trees are in full blossom.
Among the many things I love about our Hawaii is the long established custom of not merely pointing out beauty spots but the kindliness of taking folks to them.
Of course, there are occasional strange souls who can see beauty only when it is packaged, bottled, tinned or gift-wrapped and marked with an expensive label or price-tag. Be compassionate with them.
There's a mighty good movement on now called "Buy Hawaii!" Well, this is the time to Buy Hawaii's beauty and generous offerings through the mere act of looking, seeing and gratefully accepting. I'm all for a 48-hour day during June.
-- Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
June 11, 1955
I'm kinda double-extra happy.
After months and then weeks and finally days of waiting, I received by air-mail my first copy of the latest book, HAWAII SAYS ALOHA. I didn't think I'd be so thrilled. After fathering 19 or 20 brain-children I thought I'd feel a bit like mr. Dionne, the father of the famous quintuplets, and take this latest one in my stride. But this book meant something extra-special to me. It's sort of an anniversary celebration of 39 years of a long faithful love-affair with Hawaii.
I told my publishers I'd rather like a special job for it. Bless 'em, they doubled my fondest and best hopes. I've been through it from cover to cover, including the cover, and there's not a thing to complain of.
They used color where I expected plain black-and-white. Color is expensive, but what is Hawaii, or a book of Hawaii, without color? They used hibiscus red, Waikiki sea-blue and mermaid green for many of the cuts.
IN RUNNING through the pages I find flocks of memories hovering around. I can recall the circumstances when the first little burpy verses came up and out. Baby Street. Foot Steps and others.
They were just verbal effervescent bubbles that came to the surface from the joyousness of my life in those days. I was so full of love of the land and of the life here that something had to bust loose or I'd have exploded.
Fortunately this joy did come forth in pictures and word pictures. The intellectuals say it isn't poetry. I never claimed it was poetry. It was my heart talking to other people who love Hawaii with their hearts and not just their heads.
And because this is a land of rhythm and rhyme, and my feet and nerves and heart were dancing to the rhythms of hula-moons and ukuleles and the trade-winds, the words had to come in rhyme and rhythm, too.
Let the intellectuals scan the lines, if they want, for pentameter, and hexameter and speedometer . . . I like to use the beat of hearts, the pulsing of blood, the tapping of dancing feet and the long sighing of the wind in the palm-fronds for my measures.
A FAMOUS actress once said, "When a man is too carefully articulate in making love, I suspect that it's all in his head. I prefer an awkward sincere fumbling kiss on the nose to the practiced technique of a 'great lover.' It has more impact."
That was what I wanted. Impact. I had to pass along the impact of the lure and power of Hawaii on my dizzied senses and heart or I'd have been completely and chronically punch-drunk.
As it is, after 38 years, Hawaii can make me fuzzy around the edges when some unexpected loveliness catches me off guard. But I like it that way.
The machinery of the 1894 chassis may rattle and puff a bit in making a steep grade, but the heart still responds when Hawaii Says Aloha.
The petals of the flower leis fade with time, but books have a way of sticking around for a long long time.
I'D LIKE TO think that some years from now someone will idly pick up a mildewed copy of Hawaii Says Aloha, which is my lei of Aloha to Hawaii, and say, "I wonder if it was really like the way this chap seemed to think that it was . . . way back yonder."
You know and I know that no words, no painting, no pictures can ever capture wholly that evanescent, indefinable charm which is Our Hawaii. I didn't really try to do that . . . I knew that I couldn't.
But I could at least testify, "I have loved this land. It has given me great joy, limitless loveliness . . . and I am grateful, oh, so grateful."
Hawaii Says Aloha, and so do I, to you.
P.S. I'm not too worried about Paradise to come.
"These Islands, born of the night, sired by the sun, cradled in the sea, with clouds and trade-winds for playmates, and a hula-moon for godmother" will do me for a reasonable facsimile of Paradise until I move on to the next Adventure.
-- Don Blanding
~ ~ ~
June 18, 1955
It won't be long now until Waikiki will look like and sound like Seal Rocks as the annual migration of Co-eds takes up all available sand space and beach-towel space. Most of them will be new to the Islands. Some will be repeaters.
They'll none of them be the same after their Waikiki experience!
When we're young and windblown, we go out for romance and adventure; when we're blown and windy we go in for philosophy and for giving advice to younger people who, of course, pay no more attention to it than we did at their age.
However, I intend to indulge myself in the privileges of my years. It's not actually ancient history when I was roaring and ramping as loud and lively as any of them at Waikiki and in Flapper's Acre. So, here's a tip or two, for what they're worth.
There's a misty murky magic in the bright Hawaiian moonlight
With its tricky, wiki-wiki sort of hula-hula gleams.
There's a busy, dizzy, fizzy kind of shimmy-shaking shimmer.
Oh, it's amorous and glamorous and it fills you full of dreams.
There are songs so full of rhythm that your heart will hula with 'em.
There's a sea that sighs seductively and murmurs to the moon.
There are nights of merry madness full of sentimental sadness.
There's a pretty, flirty flutter to a ukulele tune.
It's a liquor full of bubbles and it dissipates your troubles
For it's heady and unsteady and it makes the men propose.
Yes, it's usually quite upsetting and it starts a fellow petting.
It's a silly, thrilly, frilly moon as any flapper knows.
OF COURSE, the words "petting" and "flapper" betray when this was written. I doubt if the present generation even knows the word "flapper," but it was our name for "co-eds" and co-odds-and-ends" of the '20s.
Incidentally, these verses were the words for a Junior League show which I staged along about that time. And many of the more-or-less sedate matrons of today were the giddy, gay flappers of that time.
Kids forget that their folks were young, too, once.
One time I said to my father, apropos some romantic tangle that I was in: "Aw, you wouldn't understand."
Mother and Father exchanged a knowing and remembering twinkle, and Mother said, "You know, Donald, your father wasn't born fifty years old. He was a very gay and giddy blade when he courted me."
I had never thought of it before, but for weeks I pestered them both for details of the romancing. They kept their secrets laughingly and tenderly to themselves, so I don't know what the technique of their co-ed days might have been.
So just listen to my warning . . . do your petting in the morning
Or in the early evening or in the afternoon.
For if you're staying single don't attempt to mix or mingle
With a sappy, snappy, flappy little co-ed in the moon.
(From HAWAII SAYS ALOHA)
P.S. This was intended for Advice to Bachelors, but if the co-eds can get any pointers (as if they needed them) they're welcome to them.
-- Don Blanding
Note: The poem, Advice to Bachelors, appears on page 87 of the book. The lines quoted in this column contain minor variations.
~ ~ ~
June 25, 1955
"She fought the years and the years fought back."
There in nine words is the biography of the last 25 years of the life of a once pretty woman who, with most of the materials for mixing the happy cake of contentment, made the bitter bread which she ate with resentment, fear and frustration during her latter years.
I see so many of my friends meeting their birthdays as though the birthday was a thief stealing years off of their lives instead of greeting the birthday as a friend who comes bringing another year to add to the collection already gathered.
We are the sum-total of the experiences, memories and reactions of our years. We drink the drink that we ourselves have poured.
It is pitiful to see people fighting the years instead of boxing with them happily and skillfully. Time always wins the decision; but it's up to us whether we go out with a knockout, or leave the ring knowing that it's been a good, lively match.
Yes, I know that I mixed my metaphors. But you get the idea, don't you?
Life is not what happens to us; it is our reaction to the happenings.
I see people who are so frantically clutching, straining and spending themselves for something which they hope to enjoy TOMORROW that they entirely overlook the abundance which is in TODAY to enjoy.
A friend of mine spent 10 years in Hawaii being too busy to get to the beaches. With some pressure and persuasion I got him to join me for at least an hour of relaxation in the surf, sand and sun of Waikiki.
Now he is first cousin of a seal and has to be dragged from the surf. He is sun-tanned, healthy and no longer a nail-gnawer. Now he's enthusiastically trying to convert other business friends (Islanders, mind you), whose complexions rival a frustrated oyster, to join him. They're too busy!
They're too busy to stop and think that it's nicer to stretch for an hour or so on the warm golden sands a few times a week than to stretch stiffly in a long box underground, way ahead of their natural time because over-pressured hearts finally rebelled.
I THINK OF the hours and minutes as little empty cups on a conveyor belt going by me. As they pass me they go around and empty themselves into the pool of my memories and my mind.
With what am I filling them? Pressure, worry, resentments, fear of tomorrow? Today is here. This day is here now. It is the only day that we can live TODAY. We can't live Today on Tomorrow, nor Tomorrow on Today.
In our hurry and flurry and scurry, we are passing up those little pupus of laughter and friendliness and enjoyment which are all around us. Why not enjoy them, too?
For Gosh sake, Friends. Slow down.
I'm getting tired of sending flowers to friends who can't enjoy them. Don't go so fast getting from here to There (and what's there whe you get there, if you get there) that you don't enjoy some of the lovely scenery on the way.
Some sceptics say, "Aw, you're just a lazy poet. It's easy for you to talk that way." Vulgar word! Anyone who makes a living off of poetry (or verse) HAS to work, brother. I don't work HARD; I just work a lot, easy-like.
There's nothing that I can kill myself overworking to get money to BUY that is any lovelier than this Hawaiian day that I'm living NOW.
Tomorrow is a promise or a threat. Yesterday, a memory or regret. But here's TODAY, this splendid hour, now. The living moment passes as we speak, so 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."
Don't fight the years. Co-operate with them. They're swell partners if you treat them right.
-- Don Blanding
Copyright © 2004-2007 Cadia Los - Revised November 25, 2007