Hawaii Says Aloha -- Don Blanding
Columns published in the Hawaiian Life magazine section of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January-March 1956
~ ~ ~
About a month ago I was interested by receiving a letter regarding one of my books from a Mary Harrison Lister, from Aloha Lodge near Gadsden, Alabama.
January 7, 1956
I replied to the letter and inquired whether she was a homesick Islander marooned in the Mainland or just a visitor who has been enchanted with Hawaii and had used the name "Aloha" for the lodge as a reminder of gracious days in a lovely land.
I was more than interested to receive this information from her.
"Now to tell you about my own 'Aloha.' Once upon a time I was riding with a group of friends along a road out from Mobile, Alabama (being shown the sights of the city) when we came upon an attractive rustic home, set some way back from the roadway ... there was a fence about the place, and over the gate the word 'ALOHA.'
"I was much interested and remarked that it seemed a bit unusual to find this word in this part of the world. Well, among the little group there was a lady who, it seemed, was well versed in Indian lore. She it was who explained to me that the Alabama Indians, survivors of the Cherokees and Seminoles of early days, used the word in greeting and farewell. Since then others have told me the same thing."
When Mrs. Lister built her own home near Gadsden she remembered the lovely name and used it for her own.
I'M GETTING accustomed to finding Hawaiian names for hot-dog stands, motels, homes, restaurants, amusement places and what-not everywhere. It would be interesting to stop and find out in each case why the choice of an Hawaiian name for a Mainland item.
I run across the name "Vagabond's House" in odd places, sometimes for a rustic home in the far back-country, sometimes for quite an elaborate home along the seashore. Usually, if there's time I do stop and inquire about that. I've made some interesting friendships through the name.
When the freighter Metomkin, on which I journeyed to Micronesia, put into the atoll of Majuro in the Marshalese Islands, I met the District Administrator.
He introduced himself and asked me up to his Quonset Hut for a drink and meal. On the way he stopped at another quonset hut to leave some papers. He called out, and a voice from the bathroom said, "Make yourselves at home. I'll be with you in a minute."
We went in. On the coffee table I saw a copy of Vagabond's House, well thumbed and marked. That delighted me. I knew it wasn't planted for effect because there had been no advance notice of my arrival. The lady of the house came in. Introductions were made in the usual mumble and polite things were said. The lady noticed that I was holding Vagabond's House.
"Oh," she said. "Do you like that book? I've loved it for years." I grinned and said that I had a rather especial fondness for the book. She saw the expressions on Don Gilfillan's face and mine. "What did you say this man's name is," she asked. Gilfillan told her.
"Now I'll believe anything!" she said. "For years I've wanted to meet the author of Vagabond's House. And here he is in my own house at the ends of the earth and I don't even realize it. This calls for a toast."
THESE LITTLE "extra surprise dividends" of life make it so exciting. That's why I always have a happy expectancy of what will happen next ... and it usually does.
I was riding from Kansas City to Denver on tour once. A very nice older fellow started conversation with me and we chatted for an hour about generalities. He handed me his card as we were parting. I looked at it and remarked, "I have a cousin by that name, Carl Fisher. He's an eye surgeon. We've never met. Odd, isn't it."
He said, "If your name is Donald Blanding, it's more than odd. Because I am your cousin in that case."
On my first big trip away from home in 1912 I landed in Portland, Oregon, well after dark. I felt very much alone, being convinced that I knew no one in that city, and I was just a country boy venturing out into the world. I walked into the hotel, a block away.
As I stepped under a small and rather dim light, a man came into the circle of light at the same time. We looked casually at each other, then stopped and did a double take. He was a former teacher of mine. A couple of seconds delay on either side would have missed the meeting.
Life is full of surprises. Sort of a grab-bag proposition, and we never know what the next hour may hold for us.
~ ~ ~
In my leisure work up and down the country, I'm speaking to plush clubs, to small-town clubs, in hospitals and to Service Clubs, in fact anywhere where people are willing to listen. I'm traveling on buses, planes, trains and cars, with much waiting in stations, depots, roadside eateries and deluxe hotels. I'm constantly in touch with people from the bottom to the top and back again.
January 14, 1956
People are more interesting to me than books about people, so I keep my big ears open and I hear fascinating stories first-hand. I learn more about living from people than from books of theory. I watch life being worked out in the laboratory of LIVING, and that's where I learn the most.
Which reminds me, watching people enjoy and un-enjoy life, what Aunt Cally told me long ago. "It ain't how much you GOT as how much you git OUT of what you got that counts. And, honey, someday you'll learn this: "You git OUT of life what you put INTO it."
LATER, from my own experience, I learned the following which I put into a verse. I pass it along for what it's worth to you.
"It's not so much how far you go
As how much you see.
It's not so much how much you see
As how much you learn
From what you see.
It's not so much how much you learn
From what you see
As how much you do
With what you learn
From what you see
As you go
Wherever you are trying to go."
I WAS reminded of this truth by two letters or notes that came with Christmas greetings. One was from some very nice people who are very wealthy and who can afford to travel deluxe all over the world. But everywhere they go they are BORED. They didn't like Hawaii. They were BORED.
"You surely sold us a phoney bill of goods when you recommended Hawaii," they wrote. "We didn't see anything very glamorous or fascinating, and, as for your spirit of ALOHA ... where is it?"
Poor people. They get everything from life that they want except what they want ... enjoyment. Why? Because they think that JOY can be ordered to delivered in cellophaned packages to their room. "We're willing to PAY for it, aren't we? Why don't we get it?"
ON THE OTHER HAND I had a friendly card of greeting with a note inside from Bill and Isabella Hardin. He's a master Sergeant. They're not usually padded with TOO much kala or moola or money, if we must use the word.
Here's what they said. "We are your devoted fans. We read your books and follow your column and we agree WITH ALL YOU SAY ABOUT THESE BEAUTIFUL ISLANDS. Thanks to Uncle Sam, we have the REAL PRIVILEGE of living here for a three-year military tour, and just wish it could be extended forever."
What's the answer. They're greeting Hawaii with open hands, and wide-open hands can both give and receive. They are giving their love TO Hawaii, and we who know the real Hawaii know that Hawaii gives back DOUBLE all of the love that is given to Hawaii.
"ALOHA" is not just a word; it is a state of heart, a state of mind. And those who use ALOHA to give power to their living are getting things which all the money in the world can't BUY. I know. I've been broke in six languages and flush in two, and I know that the joy I've had FROM life has been the joy that I put INTO IT.
~ ~ ~
January 21, 1956
A letter from a grand part-Hawaiian friend of mine in New York really gave my heart a twinge. He was having his initial baptism in the cold pressured life of that city.
At first the chill goose-flesh reaction blinds us to the fact that there ARE kindly people in that city with memories of friendlinesses given them at times. But his experience is so typical of what happens to so many people who are born and reared in the friendly atmosphere of Hawaii with its traditions of hospitality, givingness and gratefulness.
I quote, "Aloha, Aikane. Friendliness seems to have been lost in the mad shuffle of living here in New York. People for whom I've awakened at the crack of dawn to board a bouncing tug to take a lei to upon their arrival in the Islands, all seem too busy to greet a friend.
"I am so very glad that I am Hawaiian because I know the value of thoughts of kindliness. Since being here I have had numerous occasions to remember the words of my father who said, 'Son, you have enough Irish in you to be pig-headed about things but be ever thankful that you have enough Hawaiian to do it pleasantly.'"
HAWAIIAN and island haoles alike know the effusive shower-bath of thank-yous and gushings of phrases like this "Oh, we'll never forget your WONDERFUL hospitality. Now be sure to look US up when you get to the Mainland." Uh-huh. So you do it. Once or twice.
After that, you wear a raincoat cautiously against the chilly, "Oh, yes. So glad you called. We're very busy this next couple of weeks. You know how it is here on the Mainland ... just hurry, hurry, hurry. Call us again sometime." Uh-huh.
It isn't always so. There are people who DO remember and are actually grateful to make some small return for the unbelievable givingness they received in the Islands. It's a disheartening experience for the warm hearted Island visitor, though, when he first meets with this reception.
I wrote my Hawaiian friend, "Yep, Feller. I had my fingers crossed for you when I knew you were going to the Mainland, especially to New York. It's hard to understand. Don't let it curdle the warm Hawaiian heart of you. You'll find the real ones who Do remember."
And I added this, "But I can tell you this; Ungratefulness is not limited to the Mainland folks.
"Some of the very ones in Hawaii who have benefitted most from my publicizing of the Islands, and to whom I have personally sent many tourists who left many shiny round dollars, have been the ones who gave me the biggest brush-off when I asked for some very small help in publicizing my book Hawaii Says Aloha, which is itself planned to publicize the beauty and charm of Hawaii."
One of this breed said to me (I quote), "Sure, I know that your lectures and books bring tourists to Hawaii. But why should I do anything about it. You'll be doing it anyhow. It's your living."
THE HAWAIIAN spirit of Aloha is somewhat like the giant sequoias of the Redwood forests of California; they heal themselves after the burns of fire and slashes of lightning and ravages of humans. Maybe it's because they realize that it feels better to be BIGly BIG than chiselingly small.
However, it's wonderful to know that one kindliness can wipe out the memory of many slights and hurts. Maybe the kindliness feels even better after the bruise of the brush-offs.
I remember two lines from my poem "To TUTUS."
I would look back as you look back, Tutu,
Remembering all the good; the rest forgetting."
A good emotional Disposal Unit is a fine thing to have in the heart and the memory.
Who wants to keep old dried cockroaches of memory when there are so many lovely flowers of kindliness to press and keep, holding their faint hint of fragrance through the years, and recalling dreams and laughter and love.
I must oil my own Memory Disposal Unit. I have some Memory Cockroaches of my own which there's no use keeping. I'd be better off without them.
There's an old Arabian saying which I try to remember often and often, "Never avenge for a wrong. Sit by the door of your tent and one day the body of your enemy will be carried by, self-slain, and you will weep for him."
I don't want to make a career of sitting by the door of my grass house waiting for dead enemies to be carried by, so I'll try to kill the MEMORY of the unkindness, and let it go at that. It can be done.
Aloha to all!
~ ~ ~
January 28, 1956
As we know, our Hawaiian word "Aloha" means "love." But love has so many interpretations and misinterpretations that it's a very puzzling thing. I think Adam probably was the first to realize this. There are as many interpretations of "love" as there are people who love and people who are loved.
I'm always looking for answers for my own bewildered and puzzled heart. So is everyone, at one time or another. Folks who think that they can do without "love" sooner or later discover they're missing their vitamins.
Something occurred here in Hollywood which I think will be interesting to you. I'm passing it along for what it's worth to you.
There was a big movie premiere here on Hollywood Boulevard recently. I'm still a country boy at heart so I joined the packed crowd behind the ropes to watch the shimmering, glittering, glamourized movie celebrities sweep by, diamonded, minked, perfumed, polished and spot-lighted. What a show!
I knew that we were seeing more acting outside where we were than we would see on the screen. The parade went on endlessly as Gloria Glamour, Harry Chest, Cutie Cuticle, Dora Drahma, Morrie Musclebound, Beaulah Beautyspot and Betty Bunco slithered, swaggered, strutted, and preened for the benefit of their Public. Only the old timers realized that They belong to the Public -- and not vice versa as some of the younger ones who were just tasting the heady wine of tricky public adulation fail to realize.
THE COMMENTS of the crowd held envy, admiration, sour grapes, sneers, whispered scandals gleaned from the dirt sheets, delighted cheerings and about every other emotion in the human catalogue of reactions.
The young couple next to me interested me more than the show in front which was not new to me. They were so very much in love. They held hands during it all. Their clothes were nice but inexpensive. It was obvious that soon there were going to be three of them. The man's air of protectiveness and pride was sweet to watch. They were like children watching a Christmas tree freshly lighted.
One of our top movie stars waited for her turn at the microphone. She was so close to us that we could have reached out and touched her. Her perfume swooned around us. From enameled toe to the top jewel in her hair she was the finished, glamourized product of the movie magic of the studio.
I knew her and I knew her background. I knew that she, herself, was a finished product of her own driving ambition and her flexible steel determination to get to the top and stay on top. She had succeeded at least in that.
SHE WAS working her way through her fifth marriage. Her current husband was with her. Handsome, yes. He was all that a dreaming romantic girl could think that she wanted. Mr. Dreamboat. He was aware of it. He gathered admiring glances as a strutting peacock pecks up scattered grain. Certainly they were a stunning couple ... to look at.
My young couple watched the star with unmasked delight. They missed no detail of the fabulously expensive and beautiful trappings and groomings.
The young husband turned to his wife. There was a bit of anxiety and regret in his voice. "Do you envy her, Honey?" he asked.
She turned to look at him. her eyes were shining brighter than the synthetic moonlight of the spot-lights.
"She hasn't got YOU, Bob," she said, so simply. Her voice was like great music with its undertones of love and tenderness and gratefulness. "If she knew what We've Got, she'd envy ME."
THE STAR turned. She took in every detail of the little tableau, the simple clothes, the joined hands, the visible promise of what was to come. She stepped forward quickly and kissed the girl on the cheek.
"I DO envy you, my dear." She said, "Oh, I do." It was a great act, but she was not acting. The star's name was called from the microphone. She stepped to the platform. She made her little graceful speech, she bowed and smiled ... all that the public expected. But the tears in her eyes were more brilliant than the diamonds about her throat.
As she swept toward the entrance of the theatre, she veered quickly over to the young expectant mother and handed her the beautiful white orchid from her shoulder, and went on, head high.
The young husband turned to his wife. There was wonderment in his eyes as he said in a dazed voice, "Well, what do yuh know? Well, what do you know about that?"
I echo, "Yeah, what do we know about anything. Not much."
~ ~ ~
February 4, 1956
An editor I know has the genius of believing in you when you don't believe in yourself. Oh, yes, that happens even to the cockiest of us. And when your head is as empty as a rat-raided coconut, he supplies an idea for you. That's brotherly love at its best.
He wrote me the following. "How about a Hawaiian Life magazine column urging somebody to restore the famous ol' Moana Pier out from the Moana Hotel." That, I'm happy to do.
Time and again when I was sunning my operation scar (49 stitches. I'll show it to you sometime, if you want, or even if you don't want, but are on the beach), I would think, "Something's missing from Waikiki." And that something is the old pier which ran, rather ricketily, I'll admit, out into the surf. Kamaainas will remember it.
IT WAS a wonderful vantage point for enjoying the view of the shore-line from Diamond Head clear to hither-and-beyonder toward Pearl Harbor.
It was fun by day, but it was Romance, Incorporated, at night, especially on moon-light nights after the dancing had stopped on the lanai of the Moana. The music boys would adjourn to the little open-sided hut at the end of the pier, and the music would go on and on far, far into the wee small hours.
The people on the shore enjoyed it, too, as the music came in over the murmur or roar of the surf. Sometimes it would be very faint if the wind was reef bound and then it would strengthen as the breeze veered and generously bore it to the sands.
It was a great place for getting and developing romantic ideas. The eagle-eyed chaperones mostly stayed on the hotel lanai. However, as I remember, the chaperones were thoughtfully near-sighted even in those days. Probably wished they were out there themselves.
By day it was a wonderful place to sit and dream and drink in the loveliness of the pageantry of the Island clouds, sea, surf and the swimmers and surfers in their activities. The song of the surf was very soothing. The air out there had a winey tang to it that it somehow lost on the shore where it got diluted with human aromas, which aren't always Arpege or Quelques Fleurs.
THERE WAS one draw-back though. Despite many signs of warning there was no way of keeping malihinis from diving off the pier into the surf and breaking their necks. It was alright to dive into the surf, if you knew when and how to do it. But the malihinis would wait until the crest of the surf was even with them and then dive. By the time they hit the wave, it wasn't there any more, and they'd crash into the coral. Kamaainas knew enough to dive just ahead of the advancing wave and they made it alright.
Right now, as I'm writing this column I can see the scene in memory's eye; the necklace of jewel lights around Diamond Head. Not as many as now, of course. And the glimmer and shimmer of the glow on the lanai of the Moana, and the silhouettes of strollers and lovers against those lights.
There would be the fragrance of gardenias and carnation and ginger mixed with the tang of the sea breeze. This, mixed with the intermittent music and the magic of the Hawaiian moonlight ready made a heady and unsteadying wine of sensations.
I WAS TALKING with a contemporary of mine who was bewailing his accumulated years. Personally, I'm glad I was born when I was born. I'm so grateful that I experienced the Hawaii from 1916 to 1940 as I did.
It's a little bit sad to watch your own era pass and to feel more than a little alien in the customs, ideas and idiom of this new era. But it has its compensations. This generation has missed much that was casual, gracious and waltz-rhythmed.
Perhaps we WERE naive and sentimental. Well, we enjoyed it. The youngsters of today are probably enjoying THEIR tempo just as much as we enjoyed ours.
I think it's easier on us museum-pieces than it is for the ones who are in-between years. They're not content yet to be amused observers with an occasional dip into the contemporary scene and yet they haven't the wind and zip to keep up with the terrific pace of today's tempo. They huff and puff and wheeze, trying to keep up appearances, sagging fronts and fallen arches until one day they say, "Oh, to heck with it. I'll cheer from the sidelines."
I find that with the passing years
My pace IS just a little slowed.
I may not go so far nor fast,
But I see more along the road.
Maybe that's whistling in the dark, but at least it's whistling -- which is a better sound than mumbling in the beard or crying into the guava juice.
~ ~ ~
February 11, 1956
Goshamighty! Here it is half way through February already. Only 10-1/2 months until Christmas again.
I'm still answering holiday cards, and will be through July, probably, as I get only a couple of days off tour each week to catch up on correspondence. I'm grateful for all of the greetings, but I'm cussing (in a restrained and gentle way) those folks who didn't put return addresses on their greetings. My address files got hopelessly confused during their sea-voyage to the Mainland and it's worse than finding a cockroach in a grass skirt to locate an address in that upheaval of names and locations.
So, any of you who don't get replies will, I hope, know that I did appreciate your Aloha thoughts.
I brought all of the big jumbo post-cards I would find with view of Hawaii with me, and these, combined with colored slides which I can put in the projector, give me trips back to the Islands which are ALMOST but not quite like being there.
AS I RUN through the cards and slides and as I vicariously visit Hawaii, I realize what things I miss most. Especially I miss the clean freshness of the dawns as I experienced them daily in coming up from my studio on the Ala Wai to Kalakaua Avenue for breakfast.
They always made me feel as though Mother Earth had decided to wipe out all of her mistakes and start over fresh. It seemed that I could start all over, too, and maybe start a new day, a new year, a new life, and let the Rubbish collectors take away all of the mistakes, regrets, fumbles and bumbles of Yesterday.
People who miss Island dawns are missing almost the best part of the day, it seems to me.
And then a couple of slices of fresh pineapple were sheer magic in taking yesterday's dark brown taste out of the mouth. That's something that the restaurant people ought to be more careful about, even if it costs a little more to serve golden sweet slices of pineapple instead of the white acid slices which take the enamel off of teeth, even store-bought teeth.
The visitors are propagandized so much about Hawaiian pineapples that they've built up a great expectancy. Then when they bite into one of those slices of pineapple that ooze sink-cleaner fluid instead of champagne-of-the-sun they're rightfully disappointed.
I GOT A Christmas package that delighted me, even if it did make me mighty homesick. It had a smelly collection of dried fish, chewy squid, little dried shrimps, poha jam, a tin of poi, a bottle of kim-chee (not the sissy haole kine but good old opu-scorcher style), some Chinese and Japanese pickled onions, and a jar of mango chutney.
Flavors and fragrances are very powerful in recalling past experiences and places, even more so than pictures, so I dribbled some nostalgic tears into my glass of tinned guava juice and imagined that I was prowling around in Aala Park when it was the most colorful and smelliful place in Honolulu before it got plate-glass and chromium fronts and neon signs.
I remembered particularly the little noodle-carts which used to be in Aala Park. They looked like baby-buggies, and for 10 or 15 cents (when dimes were few and thin in those early days) I could get a fragrant steaming bowl of noodles with chopped onion tops and slivers of meat and some shrimps, and a couple of sticks of broily-beef with a good glaze of soyu and ginger on them.
Of course, appetite is the best sauce in the world for food, but those things seemed to taste better in the 1920s than they do now. The years could have something to do with it, maybe. I don't know.
THEN, TOO, it was fascinating to watch the Passing Show of people. The costumes had more of the national backgrounds than they do in this day of standardized clothes. I always felt that I was watching a little side eddy of a Year-Round Mardi Gras in those days.
Heigh-de-ho! As I've said before, I'm glad I was born when I was born. And I'm glad that I come from a durable long-lived breed because never in the history of the world was the BIG TELEVISION show of Life so fascinating, even if it is strenuous. I expect to celebrate January First, 2000.
I wonder what Hawaii will be like then? I'll just have to "live it up" for 44 more years to find out. At the rate that the years go by now, it won't be too long.
I'll make a date with you at Kalakaua and Seaside Avenue for that date ahead. We'll probably be saying "Hawaii ain't what it used to be" and we'll be longing for the "good old days of 1970 and 1980." That's the way it goes. Aloha.
~ ~ ~
February 18, 1956
Proof that Hawaii DOES say Aloha is shown in this letter from Jack Addington who, with his delightful wife, visited Hawaii during the Christmas holidays.
He has the large Church of Religious Science in San Diego, and I was honored by being chosen to take his place on the Christmas Day service there. Hawaii was largely my theme as representing the "expressed-in-living" feeling of true Christmas spirit.
Here's part of his letter:
"I agree with your statements that Hawaii seems to have found the "love thy neighbor" policy more than any other place that we have ever visited. We have never been in a place where there was so little apparent thought about race or position.
"There were a few, of course, who would have liked to be ostentatious but no one seemed to respond to them or be impressed. Only one place on the beach seemed to feature any feeling of people trying to be held apart from other people.
"We had a wonderful evening on New Year's in the home of a Chinese couple. At this party there were people of all national backgrounds. It was unforgettably enjoyable.
"Earlier in the day we were at an open house at the home of Dr. John F. Fox, the president of Punahou School, and there again we were delighted to meet people of all racial backgrounds. Hawaii is a great leveling ground (note: I would have said 'uplifting ground.' D.B.) and we on the Mainland can all take a lot of lessons from those wonderful people."
THOSE ARE the impressions of visitors. I say again and again, above all other charms, allurements and inducements to Hawaii, it is the spirit of ALOHA, truly lived and expressed, which makes the most lasting impression on visitors, and makes many of them become kamaainas as soon as they can arrange it.
We know that this is not 100 per cent lived out, but even Eden had its serpent.
We know, too, that although this spirit of livingness-lovingness-givingness-and-gratefulness seems to be a natural heritage of the Islands, it must be maintained by definite directed effort or it will disappear like the nene and o-o and the little painted fishes of the reefs.
And that would be the greatest loss that Hawaii could know.
A group of people from the most varied backgrounds is responsible for much in maintaining and increasing this wonderful spirit.
These people work selflessly year in and year out helping to heal differences in understanding, in fostering greater beneficial interchange of ideas and cultures, in increasing "togetherness" in Hawaii in particular and the world in general.
IT IS THE Hawaii Chapter of World Brotherhood. I have had the great joy and benefit of working with this group, and I have always felt that I was the gainer after any meeting when projects were being planned and executed.
The annual "crest of the year get-together" is approaching. Anyone who is not personally acquainted with this group and the splendid work it is doing will benefit by getting in touch with World Brotherhood, Hawaii Chapter, Box 3106, Honolulu 2 (Phone 6-5565), and getting announcements and bulletins, especially information about the grand feast which is being planned. It's no "creamed-chicken-and-green-pea" dinner. It's really something in edible food, and food for the eyes and heart and hopes for Hawaii -- a "No-price" 9-course Chinese dinner with a Lloyd Stone program -- pay what you will - any surplus supports the Brotherhood educational program in Hawaii.
All who want a more "livable and lovable Hawaii" for their children in the years to come should follow through on this, and wikiwiki, too.
~ ~ ~
February 25, 1956
Now that the holidays have receded far enough to get a little perspective on them, I want to pay sincere mahalo-tribute to the entire Post Office personnel to whom I am endlessly grateful.
We're so inclined to take them for granted except maybe to register a squawk if something goes wrong and delays a piece of mail (nine times out of 10 it's faulty addressing or insufficient postage or something, and not the fault of the Post Office people at all). We're so much quicker to squawk than to say Mahalo, anyhow.
But my MAHALO is big and sincere. My holiday greetings come in to the numbers anywhere between 900 and the record in 1950 which reached 1,100. I marvel that some of them reach me at all, and they wouldn't if it weren't for the patience and integrity of the Post Office people.
This year there were cards forwarded from Oregon to Honolulu and back to Hollywood, and were so scribbled on that it would have made a job for the men who decipher the hieroglyphics on Egyptian monuments to figure it all out. But they did get here.
THERE WERE envelopes sent to Killacow Avenue, Kalico Avenue, Kulukawa and endless variations on that street address. Then others went to Ally Woo (must have had Rita and Aly Khan on their mind) and Alley Way (figuring that poor poets must live in slums, if at all) and Ala Wow and everything but Ali Baba Boulevard. But finally they arrived with a cheerful look of "Well, we made it, didn't we?"
Because I remember distinctly the tempo of the horse-and-buggy days and the slow ships and trains, I marvel afresh at the speed of air-mail delivery. Ping-pong and pong-ping, the letters fly back and forth from Honolulu to Coast to Honolulu again. And it used to be weeks for communications to exchange their messages.
If there's one thing I want to avoid in life, it's this: Never take blessings for granted.
It may be simple-minded but I like to keep that sense of "What do yuh know about THAT?" whenever I experience any of the marvels of contemporary living. That's the advantage our generation has over the youngsters; we have a background of comparison to give added appreciation for the benefits of today.
IN TIME of personal crisis (sickness or death of those close to us) how wonderful are the transoceanic telephones putting us in direct contact with the ones we want to talk with, or the swift service of airplanes in getting us to them. And the wonderful service of helicopters in rescue work both at sea and on land.
[Indecipherable] in an age of marvels . . . and I am determined to keep that sense of marveling at these wonders.
A good time to feel that permeating tingle of awe and delight is in the morning. To wake up and say, "Well, what do yuh know about that . . . here I am alive and more-or-less all in one piece, with a day . . . 24 whole hours to live and enjoy and be aware."
It's worth the experience of going right up to the edge of Eternity and looking over and then coming back, just to stimulate that sense of gratefulness for life and consciousness of life.
Too often we get caught up into the Flurry-go-round and come to the end of the day and realize we've just blurred through the hours, not tasting the flavors of delight in our contacts and in the beauty that surrounds us.
Instead, we have gulped the hours like a drug-store sandwich and a cup of coffee or a malted milk, swallowing it without actually tasting it -- unless, of course, something was slightly wrong with it which would give us legitimate cause for a squawk and a grouch.
But, getting back to the Postal People, MAHALO NUI OE for them. How they ever decipher some of the writing on envelopes is beyond me. Maybe they use crystal balls. That's why I usually use the typewriter. My writing is flourishing, decorative but not too legible. How's yours?
~ ~ ~
March 3, 1956
Several of us temporarily expatriated Islanders were talking (as all Islanders talk when we are away from home) about Hawaii. We began thinking about things we missed. We at once agreed that all of us missed the climate, the genial Aloha spirit, the beaching, etc.
Then we got to the question of Island food. What were the things that we missed up here. Here are some of the things that I miss, or find hard to get without making a project of it.
I miss those lively Portugese sausages that I had for breakfast a couple of times a week, either cut up and scrambled with eggs or by themselves. In California, I can get Italian, Polish and Spanish sausages, but they're not quite the same. They sometimes "answer back" later in the day in a burpy fashion, but Isle sausages are one of my favorite breakfast dishes.
Then there are the times when, for no particular reason that I know, I really get itchy to drop into any one of the places where I can get opihis and limu. It's more than just the flavor of these little marine sink-stoppers that I like. They represent the beaches, and the younger days when I used to go with Aunty Pinau and some of her friends to pick opihis off the rocks and then come back and eat them with good sour poi and limu.
Fragrances and flavors are so powerful in evoking memories of old experiences, so maybe opihis help me to take vicarious trips through time and space to Hana, Maui, to Kona and to beaches on the Windward side.
I like the little pipipis, those tiny shells which we used to pick out with a pin and munch happily. It took half an hour to get enough to fill a hollow tooth, but laughter and talk and friendship went with them, so they must be part of the unconscious flavors.
I JUST thought of vana, the sea-urchins when they are "fat."
This brings another memory. Armine von Tempski and her husband, Al Ball, were living in my house in Carmel while she was writing the first half of her book, Born in Paradise. We were taking a walk along the Carmel shore to get the typewriter cramps out of our fingers. A group of Sicilian fishermen and their families were seated on the grass. They were eating. They had big loaves of delectable dark bread. They had wine, garlic, onions, etc.
But Armine and I spotted something else, and began to drool. They were opening and eating beautiful sea-urchins. We paused. A big fat happy looking woman saw us staring. She said something to the others and mockingly offered us one of the sea-urchins. We practically broke her wrist snatching it. She saw the happy reminiscent expressions in our eyes and realized we were veterans to this fare. We were invited to join them. After that, these nice people would call us when they went sea-urchining, and we'd drop whatever we were doing and speed to the feast.
OF COURSE, I miss papaya for breakfast, lunch or dinner or any time between. And guava sherbet. And the unforgettable taste of fresh golden-ripe pineapple. By making a project of it, I can occasionally get bitter-melon up here. But Denny Wong, who always used to let me know when it was available, has moved to San Francisco, so I haven't located a new source. Very few haoles, and a lot of the younger generation of Chinese do not care for it, but it's one of my favorite foods.
I miss dropping in for sushi and related Japanese foods at the little stores all over Honolulu. And of course, mahimahi, Island-style, is just NOT here.
Poi and canned laulau are available, but maybe it's the setting that affects the flavors. They just don't taste the same on the Mainland!
These don't exactly come under the head of "flavors," but I miss the friendly smiling little waitresses with hibiscus, orchids or pikake in their hair. They are not listed on the menu but they certainly do add to the enjoyment of meals.
And there are frequent days when a bowl of lomi-lomi would delight me more than pheasant or squab under glass. I have a couple of jars of kim chee, but people are nasty about it when your breath is like an acetylene torch. (People are more tolerant about this in the Islands.)
As I say, these things CAN BE HAD up here, but maybe it's just the idea of being able to have them at the exact time when I'm hungry for them. Or maybe, as you suspect, I'm just doggone homesick for the Islands, and these things are so much a part of the life there that they pop up to tease and bother me.
The next time any of you might be eating a fresh mango, dedicate some of the dribble to me. Mahalo nui oe. Be seein' you some day. We'll split a guava!
~ ~ ~
March 10, 1956
Headlines in Los Angeles papers say: "Hollywood spending $9,000,000 to make Hollywood look like Hollywood."
Comment from visitors returning from Honolulu: "Honolulu seems to be spending millions to make Honolulu look like Miami."
Hollywood businessmen finally realized that if they are to enjoy tourist money, they must sell an intangible thing, 'atmosphere" or "illusion." Illusion and atmosphere are intangible, yet though they are immaterial they are real.
They are "effects," true.
Like "charm," they cannot be weighed in scales like beans, but they can make or break a "glamour" spot as this atmosphere is either made available to visitors or allowed to evaporate through neglect or short-sighted pursuit of the quick dollar.
Hollywood leaders now realize that Hollywood, like Honolulu, is not merely a geographical place. It is a dream in the lives of people all over the world. It is Shangri-la in the lives of many people whose otherwise drab or job-bound existences need an illusion of a place where love, laughter and lilt are transiently available to them.
They spend money to come to Hollywood . . . and what do they find at present? Hollywood Boulevard looks exactly like Main Street in Kankakee . . . except that the Boulevard is rather shabby.
SO, WISELY, Hollywood is having a face-list. It is having a glamour treatment. It is going to take a course in CHARM UNLIMITED. The charm will be synthetic, largely, but our contemporary life is becoming more synthetic all the time.
In the hurry-flurry-scurry speed of today there is not time to seek the real thing. We of Hawaii know that it takes TIME to get to the real things which used to be immediately and ubiquitously available to all. TIME is the one thing that there's least of, today.
Since the prosperity of Hawaii in general and Honolulu and Waikiki in particular depends greatly on tourists, it can well take a lesson from Hollywood's belated "waking up."
To people in all parts of the world and from all stations in life, Hawaii is the Garden of Eden, the Garden of the Hesperides, the Polynesian Shangri-la where romance, beauty, and glamour, they hope, may be briefly experienced. They hope to have a few dreams come true. It is up to the entire tourist industry to fulfill this dream.
A NUMBER of men with vision are realizing this and are following through. They know through experience that the modern visitor wants comfort, air-conditioning, speedy service. Few of them will really search "for the real thing" if it involves much discomfort. But a combination must be worked out so that a flavor or atmosphere which is peculiarly Hawaii's and not Miami's or Palm Springs's is available.
There is one element which must not be forgotten in preparing the cellophaned packages of illusion which are to lure the tourists' dollars. There must be at least a small percentage of the real thing. And that real thing in Hawaii is the spirit of Aloha. Service with friendliness and with graciousness. And that must be more than a printed label or slogan. The metallic song of the cash-register must not drown out Aloha Oe.
That lovely, gracious spirit of Aloha will come mostly from the people of Hawaii. It is, in spite of modernization, an artesian thing which flows from the heart.
In spite of frequent lack of appreciation and rebuffs from the wrong kind of visitors, I pray that it remains that intangible "atmosphere" which will permeate all of the synthetics.
Hawaii can be an example to the world. It is the thing I speak about most in my lectures on the Mainland. It's what they will expect. And I hope they will always get it.
~ ~ ~
March 17, 1956
Why is it that as soon as we make a serious good resolution it seems that all of the mongooses of temptation take out after our tender chicks of fine intentions?
For instance, my bathroom scales, the bathroom full length mirror and an honest friend all were in perfect agreement that I looked like a luau hog.
I made the feeble alibi that on a lecture tour it's almost impossible to diet successfully because of the creamed-chicken, the well-intentioned hostesses who ply one with delectables and calories, etc.
The bathroom scales, the mirror and my honest friend simply chanted, "waste time," and quoted my own lines back at me (which is the meanest thing that people can do to an author), "What you DON'T put in your face . . . can't add pounds some other place."
But what can you do when you love good food and good food loves YOU and decides to stay with you in the form of bulges, dewlaps, belt-line overhangs and sagging jowls? Well, there's just one answer . . . DON'T EAT IT.
THREE DAYS ago the expressman came struggling to the door of the studio with a large box from Wisconsin. I groaned and licked my chops at the same time. I knew what was inside. A grand and gracious "fan" knows my weakness for cheeses. There were 12 glorious cheeses ranging from nippy mouse-trap cheese, which I love, to aggressive runny ones that have to be beaten with a club to make them stay on the plate.
On my way from my studio into the house I pass the cooling box and those siren cheeses lure me with their aroma-wiles. I resist temptation better when it's out of reach . . . and these cheeses are so handy.
Then from Florida came a box with smoked fish, guava jelly, coconut pastes and syrups, candied limes and lime marmalade, a tin of beaten biscuits and preserved cumquats.
A friend in Mexico sent cactus sauces, quince paste and goat cheese, pinto beans and wonderful barbecue and chili sauces, coconut candy and candied papaya.
I have not yet finished the Hawaiian quota of caloric temptations, coconut chips, poha jam, Island fruitcake, tinned laulaus, smoked oysters and assorted pupus, and half a dozen cans of poi.
AUTHORS KNOW how persistently they get a come-back (like a burp) from something they had written and forgotten 20 years ago. My troubles all come from the Condiment Shelf in Vagabond's House.
I get phone calls from nice people who say, "You don't know us, yet, but we love your Vagabond's House book, and tonight we were having curry which my husband learned to make in India while he was there; and my husband said, 'I see that Don Blanding is lecturing around here. I'd like to have him try our curry. I'll bet he'd like it.'"
Well, of course, I'd like it, just as I like the friendly thought which prompted it. So I say, "Oh, well, just this time won't hurt." No, it doesn't hurt AT THE TIME. But when I get home and get on the scales it does hurt, because no matter how I hold my breath and try to feel light, those bathroom scales are brutally honest and they check up a couple more pounds.
To make it worse, I have two friends whose assimilative systems must register minus-plus because they eat two or three helpings of everything including pie ala mode, gravy, potatoes, buttered toast, jellies, jams, candy and slathers of butter on everything and never gain an ounce. And they're so nasty and smug about it, too.
I'm really fond of them but there are times when I wish I knew a good conscienceless kahuna to work them over as they gloatingly say, "We'll remove temptation from you, Donald, and eat your pie or cake or gravy. We'll sacrifice ourselves to save your figure."
But I'm not trying to SAVE my figure as it is now. I'm trying to get rid of it. Life is never simple.
EDYTHE HOPE GENEE, who is tour manager and secretary, usually is a loyal friend, but there are times when she indulges in the blackest treachery. The program chairman or chairwoman will call and say, "We'd like to entertain Mr. Blanding and you before or after the lecture. What does he like?" Edythe basely says, "Oh, you know how fond he is of good food. You've read his books. Just use your imagination."
It's difficult enough right in this Los Angeles area, but it's worse when I'm on tour.
There's always something that is special to different localities, as, for instance, Dungeness crabs in the Seattle area, barbecues in Arizona, wonderful Spanish and Mexican dishes in New Mexico, sea foods in San Francisco, all sorts of irresistible fruit concoctions in the Northwest (including fruit soup, which a friend in Portland always prepares, with large dollops of real whipped cream floating in it).
It's so easy to resist things that I don't care much about . . . but what are you going to do when you were born with a delicatessen opu? Yes, I know . . . "What you don't put in your face . . . ." but I wrote that MYSELF, dang it!
WHY DID I ever write these lines?
To taste good food, meats, sauces, gravies, spice,
Hot chilis, syrups, honey and fresh bread,
Crisp ham, wild game, thick steaks, rare, juicy red,
Odd relishes that epicures device . . . etc., etc.
I COULD say to friends, "Don't send 'em," but then my weaker nature tells me, "Oh, well, you can always pass 'em along to friends," The trouble is . . . I DON'T.
"There are times when only a dog will do
For a friend . . . when you're beaten, sick and blue
And the world's all wrong; for he won't care
If you break and cry or grouch and swear
For he'll let you know as he licks your hands
That he's downright sorry . . . and understands."
IN THE last five years, I've had word of so many old friends passing on to the Next Adventure that I've learned to accept the news with a certain degree of acquiescence, especially after peeking over the edge for a view in September, 1955 [sic]. At least, I KNOW that we do go on, and that's come consolation.
But I got a real jolt under the heart the other day.
Carmen and Ed Sawtelle, long-time Honolulans, wrote from their new home in San Bernardino, California, that Baron, the superb German Shepherd dog whom I've mentioned so often and so affectionately in my columns, died quite suddenly from one of those strange illnesses which strike those beloved guardians of our hearts, leaving us with what might be called a "barking emptiness."
They were with him when he gave his last trusting wag, and he went over never knowing that he was a dog, knowing that he was a "person" just like his loved master and mistress.
A dog, especially a house-and-yard dog, is so intimately a part of our lives. They love so without reserve or judgment. Perhaps their very inarticulateness makes them love more from the heart.
Baron, particularly, almost achieved articulateness. He wanted so much to "get in on the conversation" that he would make almost-word sounds which all of us accepted as real talk.
BARON WAS a joy-dog from the time he was a puppy. The zest of life was so strong in him that he had to share it somehow, and he had many engaging ways of doing so. He was a democratic dog and everyone was his friend. He had the true Aloha spirit.
Dixie, Baron's mother and constant companion is [in]consolable. There's no way of telling her what happened. Part of her life quite suddenly "isn't there any more."
She was an introverted dog who had known sadness in her puppy days. There was no play spirit in her in her earlier years. Baron taught her to play. Her first attempts to be frivolous were heart-breaking; she tried so hard and was so inept.
When she first competed with Baron in ball-chasing, she was like a conservative matron trying to unlimber her dignity and play Easter-egg rolling on the lawn with children.
But there was no withstanding Baron's engaging persuasiveness and finally she tossed all dignity to the winds and cavorted and snorted in a way to shock more conservative matron-dogs.
PART OF Baron's having more "person-ality" than "dog-anality" was due to the fact that he didn't get around much with the boys of the Flea Motel Gang. Many of the facts of life escaped him and he was positively na´ve about a number of things. In consequence, he lived his like wholly in and through his "folks."
I was always happy to know that he accepted me as "his folks." Sometimes, over at the Sawtelles', I'd lie down on the couch for a nap. That always struck Baron as a wonderful idea.
He would crawl over me and get next to the wall. After a few friendly licks and wags he would decide to really "stretch out and enjoy 15 winks." He would put his feet against me and shove. He was no Pekingese, and his shoves really had power. I'd land on the floor. Baron would open one eye to signal the message, "Gee, you're careless with yourself" and go to sound sleep.
Any of Baron's many friends may write the Sawtelles at 2947 Mountain View Avenue, San Bernardino, California. I know they'd love to hear.
So, we say "Aloha, Baron" with the meaning "Until we meet again" . . . which I'm mighty sure we will.
I don't know why the word "Mahalo" seems to carry more gratefulness than "Thank you" but, for me, it does. I know that it's the feeling behind the sound that counts.
Some people can drench us with a spray of verbal thanks, and it's just a dry-wet gesture that evaporates fast because they don't follow through with any actions which verify the effusive shower-bath.
Other people are congenitally inarticulate; they can't say "Thanks" because, maybe, they remember too many empty "thank yous." These people live and act their thanks in kindlinesses.
Aunty Lahi-lahi used to say, "Mahalos don't fill the poi bowl," but she meant the people who TALK a lot of thanks for the generous Hawaiian hospitality that they enjoy, and then never follow through with so much as a post-card from the Mainland.
But I still love the word "mahalo." Maybe it's the graceful, gracious taste of the smooth syllables in the mouth. It's better than any mouthwash I ever tried to "freshen my taste-buds" when it is said with feeling and sincerity.
AUNY CALLY, the colored Guardian Angel of my childhood, used to have a lot to say about "thank you," which is a form of giving-in-return. I remember when my pal, Art Hallum, did something especially nice for me. I told Aunt Cally about it. She had just given me a sack of freshly baked cookies. In a sudden rush of gratefulness I divided the cookies half-and-half. "I'm going to give Art half of these," I said. Then my greedy little opu nudged me. I took four out of Art's share and put them on my side.
Aunt Cally looked at me sorrowfully, "Honey, she said gently, "you is being stingy with yourself when you gives little-ly."
I put ALL of the cookies back in the sack and took them over to Art. He beamed and mumbled a muffled "thanks." The he spilled the cookies out on the table. He divided them. There was an extra cookie left over the half-and-half. Without hesitation, he put it on my heap. I've never forgotten the shame I felt for my stinginess of a few minutes before.
ANOTHER memory just came vividly to mind. I was playing with one of our gang in his yard. His mother called and brought out a plate of doughnuts. "Divide them up evenly," she said. He went through the ritual of "one for me and one for you." A big fluffy doughnut was left over. He picked it up. I could almost hear his thoughts tick. Then he looked me straight in the eye and put the doughnut on HIS heap. It wasn't an impulse. He had thought it out and made a decision according to his nature.
His later career came intermittently to my attention. He made a lot of money. Three wives divorced him. The third one summed it up. "It wasn't just that he was stingy with money; he was so stingy with giving himself."
Later this man committed suicide for no reason obvious to outsiders. Some of us knew that he died deliberately from "malnutrition of the heart." He had been stingy with himself through giving "little-ly" and had emotionally starved himself to death.
A BRILLIANT Southern woman used to tell me stories of her Aunt Texas. We loved to swap Colored stories because we realized what masters these people are in the art of saying things so pungently. This woman, when a young girl, had let February come without sending "thank-you" notes to those who had given her presents. Finally Aunt Texas took her firmly in hand, and sat her down at the desk with papers, ink, pen, stamps and a list of the presents and the givers. "Honey," she said, "They ain't nothin' so un-tasteful as rancid thanks."
With our two wonderful Island words, "Aloha" and "Mahalo" often on our lips and IN OUR HEARTS, we can be happier and healthier people.
"Let me SAY my thanks, and LIVE my thanks.
Articulate in word and deed."
Above all, let me LIVE MY THANKS to Creative God for the wonder and beauty which is so abundantly mine by stopping to take full inventory of this abundance by appreciating it.