Don Blanding Says Aloha
Columns published in the Hawaiian Life magazine section of the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October-December 1956
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When published in 1956, each column was arranged with Blanding's photo in the center, above Aloha, Don Blanding, his characteristic signature decorated with the little Goofus bird.
October 6, 1956
PLEASURE places like Hawaii where people have lots of idle time for chit-chat, yak-yak and verbal confetti are great breeding grounds for gossip.
There are plenty of self-appointed authorities on "Who's What" on the beach at any hour.
Most of the chit-chat is fairly harmless, but sometimes it proves to be jagged broken glass which wounds persons, careers and lives.
A good lesson in the falseness of most gossip is to be on the receiving end of some garbagey item about yourself which you know, from your own authority, is NOT true.
I heard ON THE BEST AUTHORITY recently, that I was dead. I mean "make loa," mortuary-slab kind of dead.
I hated to dispute the ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY of the one who told the one who told me about my demise, but, after some experimental pinches and pokings of my person I decided I was NOT dead.
I realized the source of the rumor.
A VERY fine chap in Palo Alto, about my age, did die a few months ago. We had met a couple of times and kept up correspondence. His name was Don Blanding, too.
When I received notice of his passing, I told my secretary to be prepared to receive notes of condolence or congratulations according to the attitude of the writers.
In case you're interested (or even if you're not) and in case you hear it, I'm NOT -- at the time of this writing -- dead. In fact, I'm more alive than I have been in years.
Two years ago, September 11 on the operating table of the St. Francis Hospital, I did come close enough to Death to pluck a whisker from his chin, but managed to scramble back, with some interesting mental snap-shots of the "other side." A very valuable experience.
Also, in case you're interested (or even if you're not) I can't prove my statement and you can't disprove it to me, but we DO GO ON.
We're written "out of the script" for a bit, but we do go on. That's wonderful to know.
It takes the strain and anxiety out of so many things that we pressure ourselves into doing hastily because we think we have only this life to work out our patterns.
A WOMAN came back from Honolulu redently just oozing gossip from every pore. She had a lot of items about people I know well, and most of her items were completely phoney.
She said, very archly and pointedly, "And, oh, what I heard about YOU." She all but leered.
I told her, "Tell me whom you talked with and I'll tell you what you heard."
What a few people KNOW about you is more important than what a lot of people think about you. One is Character and the other is Reputation.
In Hollywood, where reputations are made to order and unmade to disorder, one learns to discount 80 per cent of what one hears and not believe too much of the rest.
It's a curious and sad thing that the ones who start the most vicious rumors about someone else are the ones who are most deeply indebted to that someone.
There's something about the make-up of a debt-dodger that makes it essential that he or she shall picture the one to whom a debt is owed as a son-of-an-octopus or cousin of a mongoose.
Not that it matters in the long run . . . and the run IS very long for us humans, as I stated above.
Note: On September 11, 1954, Don Blanding was admitted to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.
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October 13, 1956
AN ITEM tells of a woman who saved a dime a day for 30 years to get money for a trip to Hawaii, which she finally made.
It recalls the student days at the Art Institute of Chicago when a dime loomed as big as the full moon coming up over Kaimuki.
I had to earn my own money for schooling and living by ushering in theatres, posing in studios, acting as bus-boy in one of the great cafeterias, and acting as super in Grand Opera.
But the things I bought with a few thin dimes often were more wonderful to me than things I bought in the days of easy dollars.
BY USHERING in theatres I was able to see, hear and adore Ethel Barrymore, Elsie Ferguson, Elsie Janis, Laurette Taylor and other great stars night after night for a month's time.
I knew their every gesture and inflection until I was actually saturated with their charm and greatness.
By supering in opera , I could study at close range Tito Ruffo, Geraldine Farrar, Lucien Muratore, and others.
Then there were times when I would get an extra $5 from my folks for shoes. I happily put folded newspaper in the holes in my soles and fed my beauty-hungry soul with a $5 seat at the Chicago Grand Opera to watch (I didn't say HEAR) Mary Garden in Tosca, or as Melisande or Monna Vanna or Louise.
In the days when I could pay scalpers $20 a seat for some hard-to-get-into show on Broadway I never enjoyed the show as much as I did those former ones when I had planned and juggled values as to a square meal for my stomach or a banquet for my soul.
It usually ended with hamburger and a good seat for a really splendid theatre showing.
I'VE SAID before that the best barbecue sauce for meat is a good appetite. And how we do build up an appetite by saving, sacrificing and then gloriously spending our all for something beautiful which we may keep with us always.
In high school days I drew, painted and sold hundreds of little place-cards for bridge parties for my Mother's friends and burned Indian heads on leather until I had saved enough for a train trip to Yellowstone Park, where I worked during the season at the Old Faithful Inn as a bus-boy.
For sheer glory, delight and satisfaction that trip gave me more than in the plush Florida days when I could call up the travel agency and say, "Two tickets to Mexico City via Merida, Yucatan, with hotel accommodations, guide and car for touring."
Better to be crucified for a brave cause than to mildew in the tomb of our small timorous certainties.
I hope that the dime-a-day lady's trip to Hawaii was more and more glorious than her happiest dreams. I suspect that it was.
Many a top figure in theatre, opera and literary field has said that, with all of the struggles and defeats, the climb to the top was more thrilling than the view from the top. Especially after a short while when the realization came that after the peak there was no place to go but down.
Note: Don Blanding graduated in 1912 from high school in Lawton, Oklahoma, where his family had resided since the city's settlement in 1901. Blanding made his first trip to Yellowstone in 1909; he attended the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913-14.
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October 20, 1956
WHADDYA know! A new thrill and a new love! At my age! It's encouraging. But I thrill easy-like. It's a secret of joyous living and keeping young. Hawaiians taught me this trick.
I flew up to Anchorage from Hollywood via Seattle for a talk to the Anchorage Dinner Club. It cost them $10 a minute to hear me talk about Hawaii. That's more than I'd pay! But after 62 years I'm no treat to me.
They loved the word-pictures of Hawaii and asked for more. I threw in an extra half-hour manuahi. It's easier to start me than to stop me when I talk about the Islands.
Expect an inflow of igloo, kyaks, hiskies, sourdoughs and Kodiak grizzlies this winter, if their enthusiasm means anything.
We cleared Kodiak Island at 16,000 feet a little after high noon. Alaska did a strip-tease; took off her cloud-ermine cloak and revealed the glittering glory of her vast snowy body. I got what Aunt Cally used to call "ingrowing gooseflesh."
It almost equalled my first glimpse of Mauna Loa from Hilo in 1916 when I came in on the Great Northern. But Mauna Loa modestly kept her white muumuu on. It was December 22 and maybe she was chilly.
I was younger then, as you can figure out if your arithmetic is good, and my gooseflesh was quicker on the trigger, but that first aloha to Hawaii and aloha from Hawaii remains my top thrill.
RETURNING to Alaska: from 16,000 feet it looked as though all of the great peaks of the world were accordion-pleated into one vast endless fabric thrown over the shoulders of Earth.
Four main impressions crowded in simultaneously, making it a bit difficult to unscramble.
Alaska looked like a relief map of Eternity carved in marble and crystal with Infinity thrown in.
The endless savage peaks and ranges stretching beyond the horizon, gleaming white, had a terrifying beauty like a kihikihi's eye view of a shark's lower jaw.
It also looked like a germ's eye view of Santa Claus's birthday cake, or a small boy's idea of an Eskimo pie factory.
It's a maverick land, uncurried and untamed, merely tolerating the men who have tried to harness it and break it and own it. Man's brand on its hide is small and thin now. But as I listened to the plans of the little fellers with big dreams, I realized that, as Mae West said, "it can be had."
Anchorage is booming and hopeful. It is outgrowing its "parka" as fast as Honolulu is outgrowing its holoku.
THE ALASKAN people are like Island people in many ways. Although Alaska is a peninsula, it is geographically isolated like an island.
In Hawaii, we speak of going to the States or to the Mainland. Alaskans say "Going Outside." We say "malihinis"; they say "outsiders."
They take over the Outsiders with the same grand heart-warming hospitality that Islanders offer malihinis. They get their quota of chiselers, bums, and riff-raff, too, but as yet, they are hopeful and would rather believe a man is O.K. until proven otherwise than miss a good friendship by over-suspicion.
They, too, get writers who spend a week absorbing "atmosphere" in the way of Polar bear's sweat in the bars, and then write "authoritative" books about the country.
Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America, was cameo-clear during my stay, looming like a majestic white ghost-god guarding the land.
It's strange how lands can lay an unbreakable claim on the hearts of their people, both the native-born and adopted. Alaska has that charm.
Those who love it, love it with a passion equal to the Islanders' love of Hawaii. They may "leave it forever," as they think, but the Aurora call, like the Hawaii call, follows them all their lives.
Circumstances may keep them away, but their hearts return to their beloved land with every wild goose flying north in spring.
As I took my last look from the air as I headed "Outside" it looked like a white sphinx of the Arctic smiling its inscrutable smile and saying "you will be back." Could be!
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October 27, 1956
I'VE really been going through glory this week, driving on lecture tour from Fargo, North Dakota via Chicago to Fort Wayne, Indiana, en route to New York.
It was my grand good luck to hit the top crest of the October autumn coloring.
Minnesota and Wisconsin landscapes looked as though they were heavily upholstered with the most vivid of our croton leaves -- the Indian blanket variety. A dizzying panoramic kaleidoscope of blazing scarlets and crimsons of maple trees; russet, bronze, burgundy and maroons of oak trees; the gold-leaf brilliance of birth trees and a hundred other tints and shades against a clear blue October sky.
These older northern Middle West towns have streets completely arched over with trees. The incense of burning leaves made the air pungent. I had to get out frequently to scuff through the drifted leaves.
ALL along the route were roadside markets with golden hills of piled up pumpkins, hubbard squashes, gourds and apples. There were spacious baskets filled to overflowing with luscious tomatoes -- the kind that taste like tomatoes.
And barrels of apple juice and cider -- all you can drink for 15 cents. I'm oozing apple juice from every pore -- and I have lots of pores!
It's getting co-o-o-o-ld up in this North Country. But it's not the cold that bothers me. It's the heat. Hotels, homes, halls, dining rooms, bedrooms and conveyances are so hot that I feel like a mynah bird's egg in an enthusiastic incubator.
If I suggest opening windows, I'm looked at the way a Brahmin regards an untouchable.
Of course this results in the lecturer's occupational hazard -- colds, both the sniff and drizzle kind and the ticking cough. So I frequently give a new pronunciation to Alohuff-huff-achew!
The migrating wild geese have started the itching foot among the people up here.
I know that my talks of Hawaii have deflected a lot of people from Florida and Mexico to the Islands. Maybe the Visitors Bureau will name a rest room after me some day.
THERE'S one sad thing that I've found.
When I have time in each town or city I drop into the bookstores, where there are any -- but mostly there aren't -- not real bookstores, the browsy wonderful old time bookstores.
Some of the department stores carry very inadequate book departments, which they treat like traditional stepchildren and shove them off into hide-away corners. It's too bad.
Also, the old style booksellers are going the way of the buffalo, the passenger pigeon and the whooping crane and the i-i bird, or is it the a-a or o-o or u-u and sometimes w and y bird of Hawaii. I mean the type of bookseller who knew all of the books and all of the customers by their first names.
I'm holding up under this lecture schedule fairly well, although it's a real whistlestop campaign in its way.
I do this by thinking of only one lecture or one train or plane jump at a time.
I'll make an exception to say that in New York City I have 15 talks in 10 days in addition to television, radio and autograph parties.
Then I take what's left of me on the road until December 9 or 10 when I get back to Hollywood -- I hope.
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November 3, 1956
THERE'S a little modest restaurant around the corner from my studio in Hollywood. It's very popular, although it has none of the gleaming chromium and fluorescent trimmings of the more modern cafes.
It has extra-good food and noble coffee, but there's another element which is an intangible but is very real.
A man sitting next to me at the counter the other day expressed this intangible element perfectly.
"You know," he said, "this is FRIENDLY food. That's why I like it. It tastes the way food used to taste at home. It's more than just good food (he searched his mind for the right words and returned to his original expression which was the rightest word of all). It's FRIENDLY food."
I KNEW what he meant.
Many restaurants serve perfectly good food, well prepared and served, but it has an impersonal flavor or lack of flavor which leaves us unsatisfied. It seems to bear the invisible label "Not touched by human hands . . . nor by human kindliness."
My curiosity was aroused. I wanted to find the source of this "friendly flavor" to the food in the little restaurant.
The cook is a large colored woman. I complimented her on her wonderful vegetable soup. It had a "garden" flavor that took me back to childhood. We talked for a little and she revealed the secret.
"I like to see people happy," she said. "They say that the way to a man's heart (and that includes women's hearts, too) is through the stomach. Most of the people who eat out in restaurants are folks that are away from home. That means that they have a lonely spot inside. I can't meet 'em all personally, but I can sort of talk to them in a friendly way by making the food extra tasty.
"Home cooking, in the right kind of homes, is flavored with love. It's hard to describe but it's a feeling in me that food ought not to be just GOOD. It ought to be extra-good.
"I know what unhappiness and loneliness are; and I know what happiness and love are. So I kinda pay back for all the happiness and love in MY life by passing it along through my cooking.
"I just feel better for doing it this way."
AS SHE talked I realized that she was describing for me what I think the true Aloha spirit of real Island people is.
It's the feeling that "just enough" is not quite enough.
It's like the spirit of "lagniappe" in Louisiana where the grocer usually has a free gift of a candy stick or a stick of gum for the kids when a woman shopper buys some little item.
Those little "extra dividends" certainly do warm the heart. It's the thing that visitors to Hawaii remember most when they return.
It's something that rests with the individual.
There's a little waitress, "Bonnie," in a restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard.
People wait to be served by "Bonnie" because she could make an old tired fried inner-sole taste good through the friendliness of her service. She has a "listening face" and seems interested in the aches and pains, the hopes and dreams of the lonely people whom she serves.
No one could estimate the good that such people as Bonnie and the friendly cook do in their modest way.
By such is the Kingdom of Heaven made into an earth experience for us bewildered humans.
Thank gosh there are many, many such people in Hawaii. Long may they wave.
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November 10, 1956
After 10 strenuous days in New York, I have skyscraper neck, tourist gallery-backache, sightseer's fallen arches, taxicab callouses, pedestrian's knee-sprung and spavined legs, and gourmet's burps.
Otherwise, I'm in fairly good condition, all things considered -- and there are so many things to consider in New York.
I've eaten in eight languages and six dialects -- Swedish, Italian, Spanish, Porto Rican, German, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, and Kosher, delicatessen, Finnish, Automat, Shrafft's, Algonquin, Moe's Greasy Spoon, and basement grubbery.
Due to my long training in eating Hawaii's varied foods, I have survived fairly well; only two packages of anti-burp have been consumed.
This Fabulous City of Vertical Villages has almost everything you could want, anything you could imagine, a lot of things you never dreamed about until they come to your attention, and a number of things you'd rather not be reminded of.
BUT IT has been a grand adventure.
In addition to having my horizons expanded by two viewings of Cinerama's glorious Seven Wonders of the World, I had one wonder-filled day at the American Museum of Natural History, which is a MUST with me whenever I'm in New York, however briefly.
Of course it always sets my itching foot into a violent case of Hither-and-Beyonderness. It reminds me that time is so short and the wonder of the world is so great that I have to suppress a growing hysteria of franticity, which is a feeling of frustration over missing so many of the marvels that are to be seen, smelled, tasted, felt and enjoyed.
With 15 talks in 10 days and with two programs taped with Ted Malone, the radio commentator, I've been able to make a lot of converts to Hawaii.
This is something I always enjoy doing, and it's just butter-on-bacon that I get paid for it; I'd do it anyhow through my need of paying my great debt to Hawaii for the glorious years I've had there.
I'll be having four days in Washington, D.C. and will get to see something of that amazing city.
I was there the first week in July but I confined my sight-seeing to the interior of the air-conditioned Statler Hotel. It was so hot in July that in the restaurants they poached eggs by breaking them in pans and then sticking the pans out of the window.
THERE'S one thing I particularly intend to see, and that is Salvador Dali's astounding painting of the Last Supper. I'm told that it really conveys a couple of extra dimensions and that it leaves no observer unmoved.
I've had wonderful luck with the weather and have caught the seasonal glory of coloring at its crest in each place. The full moon competing with the neon lights of Broadway reminded me of another time when I saw the full moon over Broadway.
It was in 1942, the night of the full eclipse of the moon. I was at 42nd and Broadway, probably the dizziest and bizziest spot in America, not excepting Hollywood and Vine Streets in Hollywood. As the eclipse obliterated the neon globe of the moon, Mayor La Guardia, who was a grand showman, staged the first complete blackout in New York City.
No cabs moved, pedestrians were brought to a standstill, cigarettes were snuffed out, and talking ceased. There was a dead city under a dead moon.
TWO months before, I had been on the pyramid of Kukulkan in Yucatan in the lost city of Chichen-itza on the night of the full moon. I had looked over a great city of temples, pyramids, and carved monuments, deserted by all except myself, my guide, and some crying night birds.
I stood by the statue of the Chacmool, the guardian spirit of the city; my imagination moved back a thousand years, when the city was greatest of the Mayan empire. If anyone had told the assembled priests and the nobility of that time that one day a white-skinned stranger would be looking over the abandoned city, they would have laughed with scorn.
On the night of the eclipsed moon and the darkened city of New York, I wondered if one day Martians or Venusians would be standing on the ruins of the Empire State Building and wondering what we strange, vanished people were like.
I get gooseflesh just remembering it. It could be. An atomic bomb burped in action by some power-mad fool could achieve just this picture.
It's wonderful to be alive and more or less conscious in this incredible age of ours. We are living in a mystery story of unlimited potentialities.
No one can give us the answers, and we can't peek ahead to read the happy or unhappy ending. I suppose it's best that we can't.
So I want to live as long as I can and watch the Greatest Show on Earth.
Note: The full lunar eclipse occurred on August 25, 1942. According to a New York Times article the following day:
"The blackout was ordered by Brig. Gen. J. K. Cannon, commander of the First Fighter Command of the Army Air Forces, and was a complete surprise with no advance notice before the warning signals to Mayor La Guardia and the police.
"The Mayor and General Cannon had arranged during a conference last week that the Army officer would select a night and time for a blackout drill some time during the week, but the Mayor was not told on what night it would occur."
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November 17, 1956
It is Presidential Election Day as I write this. It is also the last of four splendid days in our nation's capital.
This heart and nerve-center of out nation is vibrant with the excitement.
This has been my first chance really to see this magnificent city.
When I was here in July, it was so hot that I side-stepped all sightseeing as I did not want my memories clothed in a deep layer of prickly heat. At that time I felt like on over-sized ostrich egg being brought to a slow boil.
Local folks have shown an Aloha spirit of hospitality almost equal to Hawaii. I've been shown so many famous places that I'm oozing history at every joint.
Everywhere I turn there's a marker saying that "someone slept, slipt, supped or sipped here." Ordinarily I'm not an avid "X-marks-the-spot" enthusiast, but somehow this is intimately different.
My people have been American pioneers since the beginnings of our nation. I found that I had more basic sentiment than I had believed that I had.
A tumbleweed is supposed to have shallow roots, but I find that mine went deeper than I realized.
THE AFTERNOON at Mount Vernon was crowded with memory-ghosts and imaginings. The word "gracious" fits all of that setting; the broad slow rolling of the spacious acres surrounding the house where grace and hospitality spoke from every room.
The view is one that, like the Pali, is best described by a softly-breathed "Ah!"
Something intangible in the atmosphere silenced the usual raucous clamor of the crowds of tourists.
The last valiant vivid banners of Autumn made the scene glorious with color. I picked up a red dogwood leaf which had drifted onto the great front verandah, and put it in my pocket.
I was unfortunate in school in having a teacher to whom history was only an endless string of dates. We got only the bones of early American history. Now there will be more blood, flesh, nerves, heart and combined despair and hope in those remembered figures. They "came alive" for me in those grand hours at Mount Vernon.
My tour ended at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at sunset time.
I read the bottom line of the simple inscription -- "Known only to God." Actually, doesn't that really apply to all of us bewildered humans who don't even know ourselves very well.
LAST NIGHT closed with three unforgettable sights; the dome of the Capitol illuminated and floating on the sea of darkness like the emergent sphere of a new world in birthing; then the great shaft of the Washington Monument silvered with soft light, like a rigid finger of fate pointing "up."
The finale had particular meaning at this time of decision.
It was the Lincoln Memorial with the great seated figure of Lincoln bathed in a mystical bluish light which seemed from beyond this earth's source. The deep enveloping crowding darkness all around was so symbolical of the world-darkness of today.
I shall never forget the compassion in that gaunt brooding face. It seemed to look deep within itself and yet look through and beyond the surrounding city to the nation itself.
It seemed to say "Whom will you follow, my people, leaders or demagogues, God or the little lesser gods?"
It is a question for the nation and for the individual. The question is with me now and will be with me. "What do I follow?"
Note: Election Day was November 6, 1956, one day before Don Blanding's 62nd birthday. He visited Washington, DC, on November 3-6.
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November 24, 1956
THE WEEKLY interviews with visitors which are featured in the Hawaiian Life Magazine remind me of something that a great teacher once told me:
"We do NOT see things AS THEY ARE. We see things AS WE ARE."
He also added a couple of other explanatory ideas. "Some people believe what they see; others see what they believe." "Bees find honey; flies find garbage in the same area."
This brings to mind a letter I received recently. It berated me for "Un-truth in Advertising."
It went something like this:
"The famed Aloha Spirit that you drool and dribble over is strictly a come-on bait for tourist traps. I didn't find it anywhere. (Such a person couldn't get wet in the ocean, D.B.). I was cheated at every turn.
"As for the 'cheerful friendliness of the little waitresses' . . . they were rude, indifferent and not at all attractive as you had pictured them."
Another letter a day or two later said: "Even your enthusiastic adjectives couldn't do justice to the friendliness of the people of Hawaii. I was simply enchanted and can hardly wait to get back."
Now, which one was right?
A FEW years ago some curdled half-assimilated intellectual wrote a book purporting to tell the truth, the whole truth and the only truth about Hawaii.
It was one of those grim, slanted, "social significance books," obviously written to order. It opened with a long haymaker at me for my "rhapsodic pipe-dreams about the life of Hawaii."
Well, after 40 intermittent years of Hawaii, I still claim that what I have found of beauty, joy, friendliness and Aloha IS there.
If "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder," as it is said, then I must have built-in rosy lens in my eyes.
Certainly I've seen some of the ugliness and shabbiness of the Islands (much of it imported from the Mainland) -- but I claim that "my Hawaii" is just as real as the one that the sour-stomached intellectual found.
Certainly, there is an occasional dead mongoose among the jasmine vines, but maybe I have a selective nose. One buffo bellowing in the night cannot drown out my knowledge that Imi au and I Liliou e are being sung, somewhere.
THERE'S the story of the man who moved from one town to another. He asked a local resident, "What sort of people are here?" The local man asked him, "What sort of people were in the town you left?" The newcomer opened up, "They were a meddling, disagreeable, unfriendly lot and I was glad to leave." The local man said, "I'm afraid that's what you'll find here -- since that seems to be what you're looking for."
I read another significant phrase. "We ought to love our enemies . . . we made 'em." That takes thinking over.
A careful study of our reactions to people, places and things will tell us more about ourselves than it will tell us about the things we're reacting to so definitely.
~ ~ ~
December 1, 1956
The December 1 column is missing from my collection.
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December 8, 1956
THERE are letter-answerers and non-letter-answerers. I'd rather answer a letter than answer the telephone.
A letter gives me a little time to consider or re-consider what I want to say. But I often blab or bleat things into the telephone which I's like to take back but can't.
I've been so steadily on the move since I was 15 years old that I've had to maintain friendships by letter.
Consequently time and distance have no particular meaning to me in thinking of friends or writing to them.
Being naturally a wag-tail person, I would not ignore a friendly greeting on the street whether I remembered the person or not.
A letter is just an absent-treatment greeting and, so far as I'm concerned, is something I want to respond to as soon as possible. It may take time but sooner or later I'll get around to responding, except for fringe-case letters or particularly nasty ones . . . which do come in sometimes, gosh knows why.
THE reason for some D.P.F.s (Displaced Friendships) is the failure of the writer to put a return address on either the envelope or letter. It's better for me when the return address is on the letter because the ones on envelopes get blurred, stamped out or otherwise rendered illegible. A friendship that is displaced that way is as uncomfortable as an unburped burp.
Unanswered letters and unpaid bills are as disturbing as cracker crumbs in bed, and the sooner I can attend either or both the sooner I feel comfortable.
It's not writing letters but getting ready to write letters that deters so many people.
I find that I can simplify the whole process by having a flock of stamped envelopes, stamped post-cards, paper and address-files all in one convenient place set aside for that exact purpose. Then in an idle or extra-time moment I can get one or two letters answered.
A series of those one-or-two letters answered can wear down a considerable heap of them. And I always feel better when that is achieved.
EVERY year I urge people to PLEASE put return addresses on greetings. In this I'm backed up by the Postal department. Tons of undeliverable or unreturnable greetings must be destroyed at considerable cost to the Government because of this thoughtless and inconsiderate failure to put return addresses on the greeting.
People move around so much these days that old addresses become obsolete. It's disheartening to have a carefully chosen card and a thought-out letter returned with the marking "Moved. No forwarding address."
I'll be on tour until shortly before Christmas, so I'll be sending and answering holiday greetings clear up to next August! But I'll make it sooner or later. Friendships are too valuable to be carelessly consigned to the Waste-Basket of Time.
While I was on tour the last time, a thoughtful but misguided friend cleaned up the "hopeless confusion of my desk." I'm still unearthing packets of letters which were tucked away where "I'd be sure to find them."
So, if any of you have not received replies to your friendly greetings, that's the answer. I'm mighty sorry. Please understand. Happy holidays . . . and all days, all ways.
~ ~ ~
December 15, 1956
THIS tour -- which jumps me from Alaska to North Carolina to New York to Oklahoma to Montana -- should prepare me to be an expert strip-teaser in the next incarnation -- if there is one.
"Take 'em off! Put 'em on. Take 'em off" That is, take off and put on various weights of clothes as the temperature rises and falls with geographical shifts.
Then there are the shifts from outdoors to indoors. The colder it is outside, the hotter it is inside. You could hatch mynah bird eggs in almost any room north of the Mason-Dixon line in winter.
I'm old "liquid sunshine" itself on the lecture platform, where the body heat of my audience rises and concentrates to envelop me in a steam-bath. I drip visibly.
On the bus yesterday down from Washington, D.C., to Portsmouth, Virginia, I was like a rump roast in a pressure cooker. In such an atmosphere, the traveling public does not smell like white ginger. And I know that I'm not any pikake myself.
THE combination of damp wool, damp fox, damp feathers, damp people, cigarette smoke and gasoline fumes might be "Nuit Noel" for a mongoose, but I'll take the fragrance of seaweed on the shore, spiked with the sukiyaki fumes of Hawaii, any day.
My weather-luck has quit me. After the long month of glorious clear Indian Summer of October, I'm now in a gray, gloomy month, sodden with drizzly chill rain which quickly chills the marrow of bones and spirit.
But it helps my talks.
After a day of watching the wolves of winter weather bare their fangs, I'm ready to take the audience with me via imagination and memory to Hawaii.
The trouble is that it makes it just that much tougher to pack the luggage and go out into the cold damp night to catch a plane, train, or bus.
Of course, this all puts the audience into an ideal mood of receptivity for my "sales talk" on Hawaii. Now, if I got a commission on all the travelers I'm steering to Hawaii, I'd be driving in my own slick sleek Cadilluxo-Supremo with a chauffeur, no less, instead of squeezing my 244 pounds into plane and bus seats designed for 150 pounders.
SOMETIMES it takes an hour's soak in a hot tub to get the wrinkles and creases out of my flesh so that I look more like a human and less like a tub of honey-comb tripe.
Shortly before mid-December, I'll get back to Hollywood -- where I can break out an Aloha shirt and let my pores breathe again -- even if it is smog that I breathe.
Then I go out in March again on the girdle-gabble-and-gobble circuit. I don't exactly know why. There are a lot of easier ways of earning a living, people tell me.
It will be wonderful to get back to a place where people smile first and then find something to smile at or someone to smile with.
I have to watch myself to keep the closed houses, shuttered windows and shuttered faces from acting as an astringent on my own natural extroverted Aloha spirit.
But I think that I'll survive. I always have.
(Editor's note: In answer to many telephone calls from readers making out their Christmas card lists, here is Don Blanding's address: 1154 North Ogden Drive, Hollywood 46, California. He'll be delighted to hear from you. Print your name and address on the envelope, please, for Don's files.)
~ ~ ~
December 22, 1956
THE holidays have roared down upon us and passed like a fire truck scattering the tourist pedestrians on Kalakaua Avenue, leaving most of us with a tired and not too enthusiastic gratefulness for surviving the tension, the hullabaloo and hullabaloney, the sometimes serious good-will-to-men spirit, and all the extravagant trimmings which would make the Man in whose Name Christmas is celebrated wonder at what has been done with His birthday.
There's sort of an empty, let-down feeling in the reaction.
Father hangs a faded wreath of stomach ulcers on the gizzard and wonders if he can meet all of the bills, including the one for liver colored ties with pink spots on them that the children and the wife frugally got for him, with his cash.
Too many people say, with more fervor and sincerity than went into the made-to-order greeting cards, "Thank Heaven, Christmas is over."
PROBABLY the loneliest person at a Celebrity Cocktail Party in New York is the Celebrity for whom the brawl is staged. A few people talk ABOUT him, lots of people talk to each other, more of them talk about themselves, and the Celebrity gets stuck in a corner with a soggy sandwich and a warm cocktail and a Miss Gludderbutt from Poughkeepsie, who accidentally got an invitation intended for some more glittering personality.
I've an idea that the Christmas MAN would feel as left-out as the Celebrity at the party if HE walked through a large percentage of the Holiday parties.
His Name is very much in the air, on the air and everywhere . . . but what of his Message, which WAS the Man's whole purpose? As HE looked past the tinsel, the lights, the trees and the exploitation to the world scene . . . what would HE think?
Many people celebrate on December 25. Some celebrate HIS birthday, but how many of us really celebrate the Christ-mas which is the spiritual Bethlehem with the star of His message burning gloriously in our hearts?
IN HIS humility and realization, he said, "Why call ye ME good?" Only the message, the light, the spiritual birth in the hearts of the world were HIS concern.
It is good to know that there ARE many who are celebrating the Christmas spirit throughout the world and throughout the year, working valiantly to keep the tidal waves of cynicism, greed, rottenness, cheapness and selfishness, individually, nationally and internationally from drowning the LIGHT which HE released.
Two thousand years of partial and sometimes almost complete darkness have not blocked out that LIGHT. This fact gives us courage to believe that the Dark Shadow of Night, which is the "fall-out" from the emotional and political bombs of today, cannot dim its LIGHT to extinction.
Christmas is December 25. Christmas is any day or hour or minute of the year when the Star of Faith flares again in our hearts, and the Wise Men, who are the wisdom-thoughts of our minds, rejoice to see that light.
There are as many Bethlehems as there are human hearts in the world, but in how many of them will the BIRTH and the STAR be found this coming Tuesday? There are how many shopping days before December 25, 1957. What shall we shop for next year -- tinsel stars or THE STAR?
I'm making that my $64,000 question. You're welcome to try for it yourself. It's not competition. Anyone or everyone CAN get the great prize.
~ ~ ~
December 29, 1956
MY friend Lillian Healy sent me a note of good wishes for my lecture jaunt and thoughtfully tucked in a white ginger blossom in a little cellophone nightie.
Even before I opened the letter, I caught that unforgettable perfume. What magic it has for evoking the living Hawaii to its wandering sons and daughters.
It is like a few notes of half-heard Island music in the night. There are two of the Island flowers that especially do that for me.
One is the awa puhi, white ginger, which sings of romance, moony nights, dawns of glory, sad departures and glad returns, laughter and tenderness . . . in the Island style. If at my funeral someone brought a white ginger lei I think I'd rise up, sigh "Awa Puhi" before flitting on to the next adventure . . . if I went at all with that luring perfume earth-binding me.
The other flower is plumeria. It tells me more of the busynesses of the day. I love it. I do remember when it was not so popular; when it was called "grave yard flower."
But now, the mere saying of the word recalls vividly the glorious collection of varied plumeria at The Willows, and the humble little houses on the Round-the-Island trip, each one glorified with one or several plumeria trees, flling the air with their perfume, and starring the ground with the fallen blossoms.
THERE'S a noble stand of white ginger plants just half-block up the street from my studio. I love them, too, but this little wilted blossom in the cellophane envelope called with the direct voice "Aloha . . . until we meet again."
With the increasing years I'm gladder and gladder that I'm the open-pored sentimental type with plenty of Hawaiian liquid sunshine behind my eyes.
I don't mind being drippy when something lovely like this happens. The strong silent type may feel just as deeply and be more noble, but we leaky ones have more fun whether we're laughing, sighing or crying.
I'm glad I learned early the Hawaiian trick of laughing first and then finding something or someone to laugh WITH.
On tour I have been an eyewitness to the pitiful and tragic racial conflicts which are wracking (and maybe wrecking) our U.S.
Oh, I'm glad that I learned early in Hawaii that people are people are people, and that I'm people, too.
I've made a lot of mistakes in my life (the Bible word "sin" actually translates as "miss the mark) but the sin I would regret most and longest would be the belief that the shadow of my selfishness or prejudice had fallen between any man, woman or child and their view of the sunlight.
ALOHA is not just a word to be spoken; it is a way of life.
Only those who have a chance to compare the Aloha-way and the non-Aloha-way can realize the difference.
It would be Hawaii's greatest tragedy if a group or groups should succeed in disuniting our Island peoples. Those who "shut-out" others ultimately find that they have built a lonely prison for themselves.
I'm quite sure that in the Heavenly botanical gardens there is a large space reserved for all of the ginger family, yellow ginger, kahili ginger, shell ginger,, red ginger and all the others, but especially for awa puhi to make the new arrivals from Hawaii feel completely at home.
If moonlight were fragrant, I'm sure it would smell like white ginger."
Note: The December 29 column does not include Blanding's photo or signature.