Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Musings: Beautiful Prison

The sky was packed with brilliant, glittery stars last night, but only a few were still visible, struggling to shine through a dense layer of clouds, when Koko and I went walking this morning.

The only sounds were the roaring surf and the muffled thump-thump-thump of roosters flapping their wings before they crowed and crickets chirping beneath a mock orange hedge. As a pink dawn approached, the clouds shifted to the southwest, creating a mass of blackness mauka and exposing in the east a golden crescent of light cupping the dark whole of the moon just about three fingers width from Venus.

It’s looking to be another fine day, with the kind of gorgeous weather that makes the tourists happy, except perhaps those who were sitting in the blazing sun in open convertibles for 20 minutes at noon yesterday, waiting for flagmen to wave them through the road construction up near the Hanalei transfer station.

A Honolulu-based reporter for NPR is on island this week, doing a story about how Kauai is weathering the slack economy, and he called me to get some information and contacts.

“Have their been any noticeable indications of the decline in tourism?” he asked.

“Well, our traffic problems seem to have eased,” I replied.

I do still see lots of tourists around, but with the Hyatt’s occupancy down to a stunning 60 percent — now remember, this is a hotel that has enjoyed near-full occupancy since opening — it’s obvious the industry is hurting, especially on the high end.

While we’re on the subject of economics, someone left this comment on Sunday’s post:

If you don't mind me asking, how is it that an apparently accomplished professional journalist and general writer such as yourself comes to live in such humble surroundings? 

No home ownership, having to (I assume) rent very down-scale digs, no typical modern appliances that most take for granted, no TV, etc. 

Austerity choice or living with a bad hand of cards, as they say? IF so, why? 

Just wondering.

It’s kind of hard to know where to start on that one, except to say that it’s all by choice, I don’t feel deprived in the slightest and humble is a relative term, anyway. I suppose I could spend more of my time accumulating stuff, so that I could join the millions of Americans who are now stockpiling crap they don’t really want/need in the 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space now available in this nation. I guess could give up going to the beach so I could spend hours staring at the TV or shopping. I might even possibly be able to rearrange my thinking so that the glint of gold, rather than stars, made me happy. But why would I want to?

And when are we going to get past that life- and planet-destroying notion that material acquisition is a good measure of success?

Going through Hurricane Iniki, and living for 11 years on a multi-million-dollar estate, cured me of my fascination with stuff. Ultimately, it just becomes a burden, or as the original owner of the estate once described it: “I’m living in a beautiful prison.”

But plenty of folks seem eager to lock themselves up, which is partly why our ag land is being turned into luxurious gentleman’s estates. While doing some research, I came across this ad, and its numerous misspellings, on Craig’s list:

$1787500 KAUAI, LAND 5 ACRES WHITE WATER OCEAN VIEW PROPERTY FOR SALE

OCEAN VIEW LAND FOR SALE IN BEAUTIFUL PRESTIGIOUS KAUAI IN 'ALIOMANU ESTATES' LOT 7-C. ALIOMANU IS AN UPSCALE DIVISION OF CUSTOM HOME ESTATES O THE NORTH EASTERN SHORE OF THE ISLAND OF KAUAI. BUILD YOUR OWN CUSTOM ON THIS RARE AND UNIQUE PROPERTY OF APPROX 5 ACRES, WHITE WATER 360 DEGRE OF OCEAN VIEW AND KALELEA MOUNTAIN RANGE VIEW. CLEARED LEVEL TOPOGRAPHY READY TO BUILD! (PLANS ARE AVAILABLE FOR AN EQUISITE ESTATE WE CAN ALSO ARRANGE TO BUILD FOR YOU IF DESIRED)

THIS AREA IS FAMOUS AND USED IN THE OPENING SCENE'S OF MANY FAMOUS MOVIES LIKE " 6 DAYS & 7 NIGHTS", "RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK" "JURRASIC PARK" ETC.

THIS IS TRULY ONE OF THE LAST REMAINING PARCELS OF LAND THIS BIG WITH OCEAN VIEW...LAND IS LIMITED IN KAUAI AND WILL JUST BE ALL THE MORE VALUABLE IN THE FUTURE.


Now, I happen to know that this land is zoned agriculture. Indeed, it’s an agricultural subdivision, with one true working farm, and numerous vacation rentals, so I sent an email to the seller asking:

How come you never mention that this is agricultural land and so the houses here are supposed to be FARM DWELLINGS?

I got this reply:

Aliomanu Estates is an upscale division of custom homes overlooking the ocean. you wouldn't want to build anything less

How, I wonder, is the county ever going to put the genie back in the bottle? With this kind of mentality so firmly established, we might as well just kiss our ag land goodbye.

Meanwhile, Mayor Carvalho has taken the bold political step of supporting the proposed bill banning plastic bags. Yes, I know that Indian cities like Dhaka, Bangladesh and Mumbai have already banned the bags, along with San Francisco, Oakland, Mexico City and entire nations, like South Africa. Others have imposed hefty taxes to discourage their use. Getting rid of these greenhouse gas-making, landfill-choking, wildlife-killing bags is a growing international trend.

But the County Council, which seemed all set to pass the bill last week, balked and deferred when the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and Retail Merchants of Hawaii sent in letters of opposition. Will they come around now that the mayor’s on board to share the political heat?

The Garden Island reported in an article today that Papaya’s has already instituted its own ban on plastic bags and noted: “Costco is another business that currently does not provide plastic bags for its customers at checkout.”

Ummm, that’s probably because so much of the stuff they sell is already encased in plastic that can be neither re-used nor recycled.

In other political news, Gov. Linda Lingle continues to recycle the tired, and false, argument that the Superferry didn’t need to do an EIS because Matson and Young Brothers didn’t have to. In a reply to the scathing Maui News ”Sour Grapes” editorial that told her to admit she blew it with the big boat, Lingle wrote:

The facts bear out there was no mistake.

Young Brothers has never filed an EIS to haul cargo between the islands; Matson never prepared an EIS; and the cruise ships have not been required to complete an EIS. In short, we applied the same standard to the Superferry as has been applied to every previous use of our state harbors for interisland travel. Our state Supreme Court decided to impose an EIS on this single ship, a clear example of legislating from the bench.


But as a Superferry story follower astutely observed:

The Governor neglects to point out: that several environmental studies WERE done for harbor facilities; that a previous (1989) proposed ferry on Oahu had to do a major EIS; that the other transport systems which she mentions were started before the environmental laws were established; and that the Supreme Court, the State's Environmental Council, and the State Auditor said her administrator's decisions were wrong.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Lingle then goes on to say:

It is time to remove from leadership positions and political office those who are unwilling to represent us when controversy flairs.

The only political leader to speak up clearly in support of the Superferry was Rep. Joe Souki. Let's hope that in the future more politicians will tell us all what they are for rather than what they are against.


Yikes. Holding up a smarmy, back-room wheeler-dealer corporate stooge like Souki as a role model speaks volumes about Lingle — none of it good.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Governor Lingle should review the OEQC's records regarding EAs done for harbor improvements. Based on the e-mails between DOT staffers, it appeared to be common knowledge that an EA would be required for the improvements. Is Governor Lingle the only one in her administration who still doesn't know this?

Katy said...

Joan - While I appreciate your comments about the benefits of choosing to live simply, I think it's also important to note that hard work and intelligence does not guarantee financial stability in our individualistic society, though this is one of the many myths we are socialized to accept, along with its corollary: that if you have not achieved financial security, you must be lazy or stupid. This frame allows us to view the poor with disdain and frees us from the "burden" of collective responsibility, and the impetus to structure a more just economic system.

Indeed, although you may have personally chosen to live a simple, uncluttered life, there is no guarantee that even someone with your skill and determination could afford to live otherwise - particularly if you were also supporting a family.

Many of us have found that out - that even with the best of intentions and the greatest determination, our efforts have not rewarded us with the ability to afford health care, to help our children attend college, to save for retirement, to take vacations, and so on - hardly excessive or frivolous financial goals.

The occasional "Horatio Alger"-success story of an individual who has "made it" in the face of tremendous adversity, while heart-warming and demonstrative of little more than the benefits of good luck, does not address the fundamental systemic barriers in place for most working-class and poor people who try mightily to reach a basic level of security.

Joan Conrow said...

That's very true, Katy. I often wonder how people do manage, especially with kids, and the fact is, a lot of them aren't.

Or to quote the Clash: "You're frettin', you're sweatin', but did you notice, you ain't gettin'."

Anonymous said...

"The Governor neglects to point out: that several environmental studies WERE done for harbor facilities; that a previous (1989) proposed ferry on Oahu had to do a major EIS"

-- that such a study was done in '89 is pretty compelling. that effort involved some six (6) ships and improving / constructing about seven (7) docking sites / terminals. also involved a good bit of deepening / widening the channels / waterways (aside from the shoreline area improvements / construction). not sure how that compares to SF-related land and harbor work on oahu / kauai / maui

you can see the doc here: http://gen.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Oahu/1980s/1989-01-OA-FEIS-OAHU-INTERISLAND-FERRY-SYSTEM.pdf

(hope that works)


"The occasional "Horatio Alger"-success story .....not that uncommon, in my view


a_mainland_mentality

Dawson said...

"Lingle then goes on to say:

'It is time to remove from leadership positions and political office those who are unwilling to represent us when controversy flairs.'"


Go Linda! Go Linda! Go Linda! YEAH! :D

Anonymous said...

Our individualistic society isn't to blame for a lack of guarantees to a happy life. It's been going on in all forms of society for thousands of years, as indicated by Solomon:

"I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all."
Ecclesiastes 8:11

"Luck", for most, is preparedness meeting opportunity.

Anonymous said...

"Luck", for most, is preparedness meeting opportunity.

--Like being born in the US instead of Somalia or Iraq, or driving down Kuhio Highway when someone crosses the center line and smashes your car head on, or going to school and having an insane classmate blast you with a gun . . .

Anonymous said...

So according to anonymous September 16, 2009 2:03 PM, someone who lies around in a drunken stupor all day every day is just as likely to strike it rich as someone who works their ass off starting and running a business. Interesting philosophy, that.

Anonymous said...

Depends on their parents.

Anonymous said...

Joan said: "And when are we going to get past that life- and planet-destroying notion that material acquisition is a good measure of success?"

To do so is a revolutionary act. Minimalist consumption patterns and simple pleasures is anathema to buying the American Dream. Even The Tax Foundation of Hawaii (Lowell Kapana a one man Front Group for anybody knows who exhorted people to consumer to keep the economy afloat. He even implied people who only "buy what they need" are unpatrotic. Seems not going along with the program pisses a lot of people off. My sympathies for the rats in the acquisition race but I perfer to be a revolutionary by simple reducing consumption. Just say no.

Anonymous said...

Depends on their parents.

Wow, you sound like a walking excuse machine. Hope that's working out for you.

Anonymous said...

""Luck", for most, is preparedness meeting opportunity."

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition - Monty Python

Anonymous said...

""Luck", for most, is preparedness meeting opportunity."

Water is a compound containing hydrogen and oxygen.

Anonymous said...

-someone who lies around in a drunken stupor all day every day is just as likely to strike it rich as someone who works their ass off starting and running a business-

worked for Keith Richards

Anonymous said...

worked for Keith Richards

keep telling your mom that.

Anonymous said...

She wouldn't get the reference. She may like your platitudes.

Anonymous said...

So what's wrong with a nice house, 2 cars in the garage, couple of TV's, pool table, nice bank account? It's all paid-for...we still go to the beach and look at the stars, etc.

We also have big football parties where we all eat, drink and be merry quaffing our homebrew.

Everything is used...nothing in storage lockers collecting dust.

I simply can't imagine life without sat tv and broadband internet, though....so 1940's.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see the virtue of living an unusually austere life by choice and not by necessity.

Neither do I see the virtue of conspicuous consumption to the point of paid storage lockers, owning things never really used just to "one-up the Jone'es", or living in unnecessary debt.

But there is a broad middle ground of comfortable modern living many people enjoy with reasonable debt, or no debt at all, based on having really good jobs in the present or past. I definitely see the virtue in that.

It's unfortunate that not everyone can achieve that middle ground, but that's how the world works. Always has - always will.

As was said over 2,000 years ago: "The poor will always be with you."

Anonymous said...

"Luck", for most, is preparedness meeting opportunity.

--Like being born in the US instead of Somalia or Iraq, or driving down Kuhio Highway when someone crosses the center line and smashes your car head on, or going to school and having an insane classmate blast you with a gun . . .

============

I didn't say that everyone will be blessed with opportunity, nor will everyone make the effort to prepare to exploit whatever opportunities, if any, come there way.

It could very well be that the next "Einstein", or the one that could otherwise grow up and cure cancer, will be born in some third world hell-hole and never live to achieve his/her potential.

It could also be that the next "Hitler" will die young in that same hell-hole.

"Luck" works both ways.

Anonymous said...

She may like your platitudes.

What platitudes were those? That everything is a function of mere chance and any effort at all is wasted absurdity? Your mom must be very proud.

Anonymous said...

"I just don't see the virtue of living an unusually austere life by choice and not by necessity."

What's an unusually austere life? No TV?

Anonymous said...

Anon sez: So what's wrong with a nice house, 2 cars in the garage, couple of TV's, pool table, nice bank account?

Then Anon sez: I simply can't imagine life without sat tv and broadband internet, though....so 1940's

That's what's wrong with it. You start to think that's the way things HAVE to be.

Anonymous said...

"I simply can't imagine life without sat tv and broadband internet, though....so 1940's."

"We also have big football parties where we all eat, drink and be merry quaffing our homebrew."

Can't imagine??? Never mind that thinking, just go on with your drinking, go on an have your fun you old son-of-a-gun and drive home in your Lincoln. Yippeee!

Anonymous said...

'That everything is a function of mere chance and any effort at all is wasted absurdity?'

That was your twist on what was said. Luck is just that and effort has nothing to do with it. Most would consider themselves lucky to have been born in the US and not some third world hell hole. Their effort had nothing to do with where they were born, who their parents were, how well off their families were, etc. I did not doubt the role of effort in determining success but some are more fortunate than others, and not because of anything they did.

Anonymous said...

"I just don't see the virtue of living an unusually austere life by choice and not by necessity."

Sounds like an Rx for fatdullardtitus the latest pandemic sweeping the country."

Virtue is it's own reward.

Anonymous said...

"I did not doubt the role of effort in determining success but some are more fortunate than others, and not because of anything they did."

It is like a footrace. The closer to the finish line you are when you start the less effort required to finish well. The further away you start from the finish line the greater the effort needed to finish well. - Does that sum it up?

Anonymous said...

Yes.

Anonymous said...

"It is like a footrace. The closer to the finish line you are when you start the less effort required to finish well. The further away you start from the finish line the greater the effort needed to finish well."

-- nicely put


a_mainland_mentaility

Anonymous said...

Most would consider themselves lucky to have been born in the US and not some third world hell hole.

Exactly right. That's why so many of them come here. It's called, "making their own luck." So which do you think are more likely to better their conditions, the ones who remain in their third world hell holes, or the ones who make the effort to go where there is more opportunity?

Anonymous said...

So what you're saying is, anonymous's whining about it all being luck is incorrect AND irrelevant. And pathetic. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Again, your twisted interpretation. You seem to assert that effort or preparedness alone determines success. Some people, regardless of their effort, will never be successful. Some will "do well" simply by being born into the right circumstance. As for coming here, some, no matter how hard they try, will never make it to the US. Some won't even live to realize that there is a world beyond their circumstance. Surely you wouldn't attribute that to a lack of effort or preparedness.

Anonymous said...

If someone gets to the point where their possessions own them rather than the other way around, then one lives in a "beautiful prison".

Over extending debt to maintain a "lifestyle", or having so many "toys" (whether paid-for or not) that you're constantly in angst as to which to play with next is a "prison" of the mind at least.

However, being in a position where one has been fortunate enough construct and maintain a "comfortable living", as it's generally defined in America and western Europe, with just enough "toys" and "conveniences" to enjoy the pleasures of financial security, travel, reasonably expansive living at home with friends, etc....now, that's no prison.

That's a beautiful "and they all lived happily ever after" success story that is not that uncommon even though many never attain it.

My compliments to those others who have created it for themselves!

Anonymous said...

Itʻs a good thing for McCloskey and Aliomanu Estates that nobody has called them on one of the conditions imposed that they are still in violation of. Those 20 foot foliage berms alongside the highway, which used to be 1-2 feet were supposed to have been leveled or brought down.
Because even at 1-2 feet the viewplane of the magnificent ocean becomes ʻprivate viewingʻ for those future residents and it also keeps the ʻcommonersʻ eyes out of their neighborhood.
So ever since that condition to remove the berms was imposed (4years ago?) McCloskey has not only nurtured the tree growth but built up the dirt mound.

I miss that view and still feel a void whenever I drive past that stretch which I donʻt like to do so much, one reason being the stolen view.

I imagine it helps with sales appeal being sealed off from sightseers and the awful public.

Anonymous said...

"That's a beautiful "and they all lived happily ever after" success story .

Oh yeah? What about the trash and carbon footprint they produce, the resources they consume and the pollution they cause by accumulating all those toys and conveniences?

Anonymous said...

An acceptable cost to those enjoying the lifestyle.

Not that many are willing to give up a significant portion of their "styles" just to please the tree-huggers.

Try again later...2-3 generations down the line...

Anonymous said...

"Not that many are willing to give up a significant portion of their "styles" just to please the tree-huggers."

Perhaps "willingness" will not be required.

"Mr. america, walk on by your schools that do not teach
Mr. america, walk on by the minds that wont be reached
Mr. america try to hide the emptiness thats you inside
But once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of hungry freaks daddy!" - Frank Zappa

"Twenty - five years and my life is still
Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination

And I try, oh my god do I try
I try all the time, in this institution

And I pray, oh my god do I pray
I pray every single day
For a revolution

- Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps not...

Anonymous said...

Find the seven deadly sins in these comments-Satan at work!

Anonymous said...

Let's see...

Droopy, Sleepy, Bashful...

I've indulged in all 7 many many multiple times and have lived to tell about it.

Ah, memories...it's a wonderful place to "live" in reminisce-land while sipping a cocktail in the hot tub overlooking the great expanse of the Pacific.

America has been "berry berry good to me".

Anonymous said...

"Off with their heads!!"

- unknown spectator
- French Revolution (1789-1799)

Maybe an update to the 21st century:

"Off with their assets!!"

At any rate, the French Revolution came and went..so what's the current state of wealth distribution in France????

And you expect any lasting difference here and now???

Idiocy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Don't you all know YET that humanity ALWAYS reaches it's common denominator of stratified "have's" and "have not's" given enough time from the last "eruption"???

Waves and troughs for the "have's". Currently we're riding a wave. Maybe or maybe not there will be a trough coming soon enough to impact the current generation. At any rate, what follows is the next "wave".

And, unlike the ocean, the social waves are more frequent and longer-lasting than the troughs.

Anonymous said...

"Droopy, Sleepy, Bashful...

I've indulged in all 7 many many multiple times and have lived to tell about it. "

Oooh, was it good for them, too?

Anonymous said...

It was!!! You ought to try bisexual midget sex sometime.

Especially in Brazil...really.

Anonymous said...

Ignorance is not knowing that a trough is part of and not separate from a wave.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I stand corrected....replace "peak" with "wave" in the earlier post.

In any case, in the long haul, measured in hundreds of years, social peaks ("have's" on top) and troughs ("have's" once again separating themselves like the cream that they are and rising from the milk that everyone else is) are endlessly observed.

It's better to be the "cream", if you can pull it off, than the "milk"...let alone the "2 percent" that clutters up civilization.

That's enough for me tonight. Time for one more pint before bedtime.

Tomorrow is another wonderful day in the paradise of my own making.

Your mileage may vary...

Anonymous said...

"Tomorrow is another wonderful day in the paradise of my own making."

.... Suddenly everyone reached the same conclusion HE WAS INSANE!

Anonymous said...

Waves break and if you're the peak, enjoy the ride down. If you're lucky, it's a mellow wave, if not, the impact can be gnarly. Gurgle.

Anonymous said...

If "insanity" is characterized by the total lack of concern regarding all the world's ills because the "insane one" has successfully buffered himself from them through the use of a huge insulating blanket of assets for the rest of his natural life.....


....then I want to be as "insane" as he is!!!!