Sunday, October 17, 2010

Maui Stories

Maui is a small island with a population around 160,000, I think. A small county in a small state. Lots of the permanent residents know each other, or of each other.

We have our celebrities. I hear Oprah has a place or two, but I haven’t seen her and I don’t know if she really comes. I know that Arnold and Maria were looking for a place and looked in Makena, but I don’t know what they finally did because someone else bought that beachfront house for about $29 million, I heard. Cute little place.

So, I’m flying over from Oakland last month and who is sitting behind me but Don Nelson, long time coach of the Warriors. He is an island notable and has a place in Kihei, Hale Nelson. We walked off the plane together and struck up a conversation. I was mindful that he had been fired the day before and might be sensitive, but on the other hand he collected $6 million buyout, I think, so not all has been lost.

So after a few remarks back and forth, including my telling him that I had seen the first NBA game where Russell faced Chamberlain, I said,”Don – I saw you play!” He said, “I thought everyone who saw me play was dead.”

He is 70, not much older than I am, and vigorous, which I am, too. But obviously mindful of that horrendous number. Actually, except for the loss of my parents and one particularly upsetting and dysfunctional relationship with a loved child, I am as happy as I have ever been. Secure and still excited by my work. It’s like autumn back in Philadelphia. I used to think, this is really the best time of the year, fresh aur and beautiful foliage and football, except that we know that winter is coming.

Anyway, Don (he became “Don” to me) said that he was renting Hale Nelson out now and had moved up to Paia, where it’s cooler and rains more. I know he is a member of an island-fabled poker game with Willie Nelson and I think with Kris Kristofferson. Also with local notable Steve Goodfellow, I heard. And then he said that he was busy investing his whole “fortune” -- a word he emphasized in a way that made me think that here’s someone who came from a non-fortune background, and thus doesn’t take it for granted, but still looks at it with a little amazement that he did it -- his whole fortune on Maui. He is constructing some kind of place in Kihei for weddings. And up in Paia he has a coffee shop, where he invited to come up and visit. Would have done it, but I was only going to be on island for 6 days.

So I thought, he might be done with basketball – it looks that way – but he’s not through with action. Basketball had become a business for him, a special business but a business, and he isn’t about to give this attitude to life he has adopted for decades.

OK, that’s my Don Nelson story. Now here’s my Gordon story. Gordon is an Aussie by birth and speech, but an American by residence and business and American son since the age of 20, which was a few decades ago. Gordon lives in our condo complex and is as people-oriented as God makes us. Gordon knows everyone. We have a mutual friend, Anne, who lives in the complex also with her husband. So, Anne got a mattress for their bed. She tried and tried, but after six months she just couldn’t get herself to like it. So she decided to sell it and put an ad on Craig’s List. She got a call for the used mattress from a guy who lives up country, and he naturally wanted to come down and try it out. OK, Anne said, let me tell you where we are and how to get here. She told him the condo’s name and he said, “Hey, isn’t that where Gordon lives?”

“Why, yes it is.”

“Well, I know how to get there. In fact, I know the entrance code!”

This is a true story. As I say, it’s a small island, and Gordon knows everyone. But I have to say it reminded me of the famous story that ends with the narrator standing with the throng outside St. Peter’s and asking a bystander if she knows who is up there. The bystander says, “Of course I do. But who’s the guy in white standing next to Hymie?”

Pretty funny. I had to laugh.

Budd Shenkin

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