Lying on lava rock, looking up, I saw the thin white moon high in the sky, holding its own as fluffy fleece breezed by on the bright-cool afternoon of Saturday’s Spring Equinox. But by nightfall, it had succumbed, and its snuggle up with Pleiades was blotted out by clouds that perhaps had some relation to this morning’s rain.
Fortunately, we’ll get another chance to see Pleiades, which the Hawaiians know as Makalii, connect with a crescent moon on April 16. It’s my favorite cluster of stars, home base of the light workers, according to Barbara Marciniak and the subject of extensive mythology for peoples all over the world.
I witnessed another bit of mythology last night when I watched John Wehrheim’s movie “Taylor Camp,” about the place of the same name in what is now Haena State Park. But it’s really more about an experience than a place — or more specifically, the memories of that experience — and the official website refers to it as “living the 60s dream.”
I am not of that generation, so I never dreamed that particular dream, but I was alive on the planet and living near the San Francisco Bay Area during the hippie heydey, so I certainly was aware of it, and curious about it, though not curious enough to drive somewhere and pay money to watch John’s depiction of how that dream played out on Kauai.
But about a month ago, John lent me a copy of the book and DVD, and last night I finally got around to checking out his creation. While I can’t fault John’s photography, which is remarkable, or even the way he put together the documentary — aside from its re-created bits, which felt like fill, and the aerial footage of Na Pali and the North Shore, which felt like a plug for the visitor’s bureau, and the superficiality of the interviewees’ reminisces, which were utterly devoid of any reflection on the fallout of their actions — I was extremely bothered by what Taylor Camp and its inhabitants ushered in.
After seeing the movie and reviewing the book, I must say I share the sentiments of Farmer Jerry, expressed in a previous blog post, that Taylor Camp was the beginning of the end for Kauai, especially the North Shore. Because the campers reflected an attitude that was sharply at odds with local culture, an attitude that still persists to this day.
Those who came to Taylor Camp didn’t care that no one else on the island wanted them here, except others like them who had arrived earlier and spread the word, encouraging more to come. And when they were told to leave, they cried out indignantly, “This is America, we have rights,” in much the same way the mainland transplants now claim they have the right to build atop burials or right smack on the beach.
They didn’t care that locals were offended by their nudity and lifestyle, or that they largely lived apart from the locals, literally lost in their own little world, just like the mainland transplants of today who stick to themselves and don’t care that locals are offended by the extravagant eyesores they construct in the view planes. The campers with their treehouses were essentially no different than those who build mansions that are similarly occupied by transients who are just passing through, removed from the larger workings of the community.
I was struck by how the campers, with few exceptions, gave nothing back to the place that they supposedly loved so much. Instead, they just took: food stamps, welfare, the time and patience of Clorinda, the longtime Hanalei postmaster who had to pass out their mail through general delivery, rides from people who had the cars they couldn’t afford or eschewed, fish from the ocean, water from the streams, schooling for their children, medical care. They were skimmers, folks who came in and took the cream off the top, much like the land speculators and Realtors and vacation rental operators who continue to exploit “Paradise” today, leaving their trash and doo doo and houses behind.
I was also annoyed by the campers' deluded belief that they were “living off the land” with their plastic-enclosed houses and furniture scrounged from somewhere and food and booze and propane purchased from Ching Young Store. It’s not unlike the folks who pretend they are living sustainably now with their veggie garden and solar panels imported from somewhere else.
But what really jumped out was the campers' selfishness, their insistence on doing what they wanted with no thought to how it affected the locals or this place, their overall lack of respect. One example was how they started living on the beaches, which prompted county officials to shorten the shoreline camping period from one month to two weeks, so locals ended up getting screwed. They also gave fake names like “mermaid’s pool” to places that already had perfectly good names conferred on them from ancient times. Amazingly, not one person interviewed in the film expressed one word about the Hawaiian culture or history. Instead, it was as if the place never existed until they arrived.
And unfortunately, that disrespect, whether through obliviousness or disdain, is an attitude that characterizes the mindset of so many mainland transplants living on Kauai today. That, and projecting all their fantasies onto the island to make it into something they want it to be, rather than taking the time to know and appreciate what it is.
I did enjoy hearing the observations of locals on the phenomenon, and putting faces with names. I also liked seeing the footage of old time Hanalei, which brought to mind the mournful refrain from a Shilo Pa song: “Whatever happened to Hanalei?”
But mostly, it just made me feel kind of sad – sad for Kauai, sad for the North Shore, sad that the campers’ true legacy is such a far cry from what they fantasized it would be, sad that the '60s dream is expressed as a narrow world of self-indulgent, narcissistic, destructive escapism. I always thought, as the generation that came after and looked up to the one that came before, that it was supposed to be so much more.