Sunsets through a martini glass

Published 6:14 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

“It is the responsibility of writers to listen to gossip and pass it on. It is the way all storytellers learn about life.” — Grace Paley, a New York short story writer.

I received a card from my mail-carrier friend today who lives on the north shore of Hawaii in Waialua. She says the life of a postal carrier isn’t so sweet anymore. The mail volume is down, hours are down and her paycheck is down, but  “it’s a job.”

I met Joyce when I stopped for the first time at the Haleiwa Sands, a watering hole that sat across from the ocean on the edge of Haleiwa. I think it answers to another name now, the Sands that is. Joyce was the tallest woman in there, and she was the bartender. She too, was from Minnesota. At that time she was married to Aki. He has sense passed away. They had a young son then.  That was in 1976. I’m sure he is older now.

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We connected back a few years for an afternoon of “talking story,” lunch and coffee in or near Osseo, Minn. She was back visiting family. A few years before this I met up with Joyce and Debi, then Debi was living in Haleiwa. We met up in New York City. They stayed in a hotel, and I stayed with my nephew’s friend and his wife right there in the heart of New York City, a block away from the Chelsea Hotel, where Bob Dylan spent some time. Brad took me there, and he also pointed out a room where Jack Kerouac wrote part of “On the Road” supposedly. A must read for people our age.

I spent an afternoon in New York by myself searching for traces of Dylan on “desolation row.”

Debi and I did a class together on Human Sexuality at the University of California, Riverside where we were both students. The instructor, whose name has slipped away, said the first day of class that a quarter of you will fail. When all was said and done, Debi got an “A” and I was one of the fourth who failed. This was after returning from Viet Nam. At the same time I was seeing a psychiatrist, in part because of Viet Nam.

Eventually Debi moved to Hawaii and brought her three sons with her. They stayed in my “bungalow” while I traveled back home to be with family. I had asked Lung and Toshi, my new local friends, to watch out for her. When I returned weeks later Debi and Lung were about to get married. A Buddhist Priest performed the marriage. Following the ceremony we went to Lung’s quaint little place where the Buddhist Priest blessed it.

If some of this looks familiar to you its probably because I’ve written about this in the past but its been a while.

Toshi would drop off a box of fresh pineapples he arranged for my trip back to Minnesota. No wonder Obama wants to go back to Hawaii for Christmas Vacation.

A card from Joyce arrived in the mail this week that included a friendly article by Roy Rowan, who is writing a book about making the most of old age. The page was titled: “Do Not Go Gentle—the feisty man’s guide to aging anything but gracefully.”

Roy tells us his heroes are the two Pablos—Picasso and Casals—“who pursued their painting and cello-playing well into their 90s; who were not corporate titans whose golden parachutes landed them safely inside gated communities for unbroken days of golf, bridge and sunsets seen through a martini glass. Or voluntarily inhabit one of the 36,000 retirement communities with bucolic names like Sterling Glen, Pleasant Valley and Meadow Ridge.” I looked up bucolic—“of countryside.”

Roy closes by sighting Satchel Paige who asks, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

I’m still aware of “how old I was” but keeping up with names is wearing thin. I now pay more attention to the quiet. That goes back to Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence.

It’s easier for me to read.

I don’t think silence belongs too much in early education though and as Grace Paley tells us writers need to listen to gossip and pass it on.

I’m not sure there is enough of that in education or in the classroom especially now with text messaging. Writing is for all of us.

That’s not the message getting out.