SOME CALL ME OJI
(others call me crazy)
CARL J. WELLAND
It has taken me a few years to
convince Carl J. Welland that he should share his memories of the
Beach scene with the rest of us. I knew that Carl or Oji, short for
as he seems to prefer, had been associated with the world famous
nude beach at Makena since the sixties.
I also knew it would be difficult if not impossible for him to share his tales orally. Carl has been dealing with the neurological degenerative disease known as Parkinson’s for much of his adult life. It can be a chore for him even to talk. And when he does it may be impossible to understand what he is trying to say.
Oji had once told me that he had written a column for the Hawaiian tabloid, “Sunbuns,” back in the sixties and seventies. Although I never discounted this, I was still not prepared for the brilliance that comes through in his writing. The style, wit and wisdom jump off the page to the delight of the reader with every word.
As one might guess, Parkinson molds and filters Oji perceptions of himself and the environment around him. To our benefit Oji shares insights into his perceptions of himself and how Parkinson effects his reality with us.
Through his writings we not only share history and events at Little Beach, but we also share the struggle of living with a very formidable disease. Oji’s writings clearly establish that the human spirit is not bounded by the physical limitations of the human body. The soul and spirit know no boundary and Oji gives us cause to think and go outside the boundaries of our physical self and to share the metaphysical realities that abound around us.
So dear reader, read on and enjoy! Live vicariously the many facets of Little Beach as captured by one who lives life to the fullest working against conditions which would seem insurmountable.
Dr. George R. Harker,
It is important that I tell these
from the Present, which is the Here and Now. The Present is, and
this we must always try to remember, exactly what it says it is.
It is a Gift. Presence, the latest "spiritual name" chosen for
by the 50 year old backpacking Mama from jolly old England and who more
than once admitted to being "mad as a stick", would have wanted these
autobiographical yarns to be told, truly they must be told, from the
and Now. She'd say that “the Present is the only place to
Indeed the only place we can be. They should not be told from the
Then, or even in the reverse of their chronological order, but be told
from the right Here and right Now, the exact place of where I'm at.
Presently, I sit shivering in my tiny log cabin, in my "Home Sweet Home", cabin sweet cabin, nestled in the woodlands of the Sierra foothills, somewhere between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe in the Mother Lode country. I am somewhat protected from the cold and harsh, outside elements by a smokey Elmira wood burning stove. My right Parkinson Diseased hand and middle typing finger, devoid of a nail lost to an infected felon my last week on the beach, is poised but trembling above the keyboard of my ever faithful Canon Class B digital device, the Starwriter 80 Digital Word processor.
I can, of course, allude to the past, to events and people that crossed my path, things that happened or of personalities I stumbled across or who stumbled upon me in the Sixties, and the Seventies, and the Eighties, and the Nineties, as well as for the turning of the New Millennium, the Two Thousands and the year of Two Thousand and One, made infamous by Stanley Kubrick's movie partially about Hal, a computer with opinions of its own. After all, I've been back to the beach for at least as little as a few days during all of those decades, and often for more than thirty days in a row, more than a complete month, a full tidal and lunar cycle of sun, surf, sand, and yes, sometimes even sex.
"You've just got to stay in the Present. That's is all there is. This moment right here is all there is." Presence instructed as she positioned her freckled body atop mine for a good morning hug. "I used to call meself Jade," she said, pointing to the jade talisman around her neck, "and before that I was jost plain Linda. But now I'm Presence and I'm right where I bloody well belong. Oh, I miss me Mum and farmily terribly moch, but when I go home they're just horrified with me looks and me lifestyle. I'm jost too wild and free for their stuffy shirts. They make me so crazy, I just want to tear me hair out."
Presence slowly began to weep. "Don't stop me," she cried. "I've just got to get this out. The tears are good for me soul. And you, me brother, maybe you're just meant to be me Healer? I only cry when I'm around you. Look at me, such a mess. Maybe I'll go brosh me hair, get the tangles all out."
"I love to have someone else brush me hair. Makes me feel like a real lady. Oouf, we're a teensy stuck together. Just a bit of the old skin fusion. I wanted to give you a great big hug this morning. Looked like you needed one, and I'm so grateful for your helping to bring up me tears." Presence peeled herself off of my body and went about wrapping her sandy and sunburnt bum in the shred of a sarong she'd found a few days before on her sunrise stroll. "Look at what else the beach gave me. Some really beautiful song-glasses. Which ones do you fancy me in better? These here are Varnes. I think actually I prefer this smart secretarial style. Suits me quite well, don't you think?"
"Maa-velous, darling," I said, planting a big kiss upon her forehead. "Blessings, my dear. Jou look simply maa-velous."
"Thank you dearie. Do you want me to do some bodywork on you? Could you receive a bit of healing? I'm quite good at Reiki. Just put your head between my knees and try to relax your shoulders a bit. You've got to learn to sit up straight. Just let you shoulders relax. Breee-the into it. That's the boy. If you're supposed to be some sort of Respected Elder around here, you've got to learn to sit up nice and tall. Can't be all slumped over like that. Right-o, just breee-the into it.
For the past
years I've spent at least the month of February on the beach. I
spent my birthday and turned the ages of forty-eight through
there. And probably, in the past thirty-eight years since I'd
came oh so close to finding that little beach of sand, I celebrated
a couple of other birth years older. It's my very favorite patch
of sand in the entirety of my known wide world.
This is a special beach unlike no other, with the bluest of water, a sand bottom with no coral or rocks and what seems to me to be the nicest little body surfing waves in all of the Pacific. Not to mention its awesome sunsets beyond the two small islands on the horizon, or the great Humpback whales that propel their massive bodies into a fully airborne breech, and whose splash could be heard from what seemed to be nearly a quarter mile away from the shore. And the naked girls, they’re definitely a plus.
"She blows!" my neighbor, Steve, shouted. "Awesome breech! Did you see that? Came almost all the way out of the water!"
I was deep into my breathing, trying to let go, relax, surrender, be in the moment, in the now, attempting to 'Be Here Now' as Baba Ram Das had once told us to do. As I was being with my breath and in that moment paying homage to the pain, I had missed the two sacred seconds when the whale had breeched. I had only heard the great "THUMP" that its forty plus tons had made landing on its back, and saw the circle of white foamy water where the gigantic splash had just been.
"Nope. Missed it. I was deep into my massage."
But that didn't stop Steve from talking. He was a rambler of sorts, both verbally and physically. A San Francisco street performer at the trolley turn around at the Fisherman’s Wharf at the bottom of Powell. He often sought refuge from long winters of fog by also camping out on the beach. I'd seen him a few times before and actually camped right next to him six winters earlier when his two daughters were there camping with him. We shared the cover of the forth fallen tree, the one whose branch is waist high and hangs exactly parallel to the sand. Steve was hard to forget and his daughters had made it even harder. His big girl from the first marriage was Julia, and she had the come to life body of Playboy's Little Annie Fanny. Bodacious to say the least, she handled the questionable gift of being big bosomed with great courage. She ignored all of the men who sat conversing with her chest, and seemed to forgive them for the improper weaning that they must have received. His daughter by his second wife had freckles and the name that I would steal for my own baby girl, if I had ever wanted one. I always remember her name as Merysol. Indeed a "Merry Old Soul." Too, the name speaks in Spanish of the two elements which I most love, the Sea and the Sun. She was far from being the statuesque woman that her half-sister was, but she was always cheerful and a pleasure to spend time around.
"I hope this raking doesn't bother you." Steve rambled on, "I've just got to get some of the rocks and trash cleaned up and then I'll move my stuff out of your way."
"They're not in 'MY view', and it's not 'MY space’, Steve, it's anybody's and everybody's sand. It's not "MY beach' and this is not 'MY tree.’ It's for whoever wants it and gets here first, so never worry about anything being in "MY way'. Longevity on this beach doesn't give me ownership over Mother Nature."
"Yeah, but you've been coming here for a long time. I finally remembered who you are last night. You're the guy who used to get so badly sunburned. You'd get as red as your sarong there. I'd look at you and I'd be so worried about your being so burnt. I'd think, oh boy, is that guy gonna hurt. You were just completely red.”
"And,” he relentlessly continued, “you used to build those big alters out of the rocks and and coral and shells, and you'd bring flowers and put them in coconut shell vases. You'd burn incense and then bananas and oranges and sometimes some herb would appear out of nowhere. I remember sometimes you'd make these great big bowls of guacamole appear and you'd feed everybody. Yeah, it suddenly came to me the other night now that you're getting your color back. You're the red guy with the magic guacamole!”
Steve was partially right, about my sun burn, but not about
guacamole. I used to do my power tanning from sunrise to
I'd get all greased up with a zero sun block concoction of coconut,
avocado, and sesame oils and lay in the hot sun and just deep fry my
And in those sunny days I suppose I used to get very red. But I
pealed, I just turned brown overnight when I got out of the sun.
And I used to build what some people called my altars. I started
small with miniature rock and shell and coral compositions, which I'd
on the teensy, one person sand beach just below the right point.
I even trained a mouse to do puja or worship, at least come out to my
or divine leftover food, and take it off of the flattened rock.
I moved them to 'MY spot.' It is beneath the Fourth Tree
is toppled over on the beach, below the cluster of branches that reach
out towards the ocean's water like fingers on a giant hand trying to
the waves, where I would and still do tie on my trusty sarong and
And on that spot where I often sat, I would sit and make my artful assemblages and water my daily pick of flowers and clean the sand off of my collection of rocks and shells. It was only Dale that had issues about my creations. "It's just not natural to have pieces of coral just stuck up here on the sand. Did you see all of those white rock names laid out to spell names
like "Chuckey Loves Cassandra" on the black lava flows by the Kona airport? It's unsightly, rude, and it's just not natural."
Dale was a professional gardener by trade, who spent his weekdays gardening, theoretically mowing back the weeds and grasses of lawns and shaping the shrubberies and trees on magnificent estates that would be unkempt by anyone's standards if all were left their natural progressions, and were he not there to garden it all into shape. Ignoring this most obvious artistic paradox and inconsistency of values, he spent each of his weekend mornings voluntarily picking up garage bags bulging with assorted trashes, including but not confined to cigarette butts, hotel towels, deflated rubber rafts, abandoned beach mats in assorted states of decay, but also socks, sunglasses, and bits of food items ranging from banana peels to bar-be-que'd bones, all the while silently cussing the rude rubbish and litterbugs that made his weekends an endless if not futile battle.
When this chore was done, he'd strip off his uniform of levis, a baseball cap, flannel shirt, boots and little round granny shades and lay them out neatly on the lava rocks, I guess to try and dry out the garbage he'd come in contact with. He'd slowly jog up and down the beach, followed by a brief but vigorous swim. Then he'd tote out his Hefty bags full of trash, cursing both the tourists for their champagne bottles and the hippies for their pineapple, orange and banana peels, and especially the remnants of their Sunday night bon fire.
And my rocks for my "altars," being out of their element and up on the sand, drove him crazy. So crazy, in fact, that on several occasions he was seen cursing and hurling my "altar" stones, pieces of shell, and coconut vases up on the embankment above.
"MY altar space", which I would, of course, roll back down the hill and have resurrected by Sunday noon. Actually, I didn't look upon them as being religious pieces or compositions. They were simply specifically chosen rocks, coral, shells, coconuts, and an assortment of found on the beach leis and imported flowers neatly arranged in some sort of aesthetic manner which I, and others, found it pleasing to be around. I was just passing time and decorating my space.
Some tourists came by to watch me one morning saying "What are you building?"
"I'm-just-playing-in-the-sand." I responded with one long slur, in my best early morning Parkinsonia mutter. Clearly, they didn't understand a word I said.
"Oh well, we believe that whatever it is you're making, well, we think it looks very nice." By this time I had rolled some big white coral chunks into place, balanced some large, black elongated lava lingums on them, and decorated them all each Sunday with white Spider Lilies which I picked in the park and red Hibiscus which I picked off the hotel fence near my campsite in the field.
And it came to pass that each Sunday, I would also display a picture of my guru, Babaji, as the young and wild looking sadhu which He first reappeared as upon His return in 1970. And I'd burn incense and I'd sit by my rocks in Lotus pose, basically because I don't walk well, much less try to dance. In those days before the beach had no trespassing hours, lots of people would come to camp on the sand for the night. The crowd would stroll up and down the beach until after midnight or later, looking at the "stalls" of jewelry and sarong salesmen, fire dancers and other assorted vendors and freak shows.
Often, the Krishna Consciousness people would come from their temple and build some huge sculpture out of the sand, like a full sized boat which they decorated with boughs of colorful red and purple Bougainvillea branches to carry the images of "Hare Krishna, Hare Rama, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Rama Rama" to wherever sand boats sail. More often than not, the drumming circle as well as the fire pit would end up in the same general area. And it was that way that I became a booth at the un-real religious trade show that appeared there every Sunday, sure as the Sun would set. Sure as the hippies would howl. Sure as the drums would be beaten, and sure as the Umbrella people would moan and groan and complain. And in that same manner, I would sit and half-meditate and half-sleep late into the night, then slip away to my campsite only to re-appear fresh and relatively clean, with new flowers that next morning. When the altar space got too crowded, I would slip away to "MY" seat, "My asan," my power position upon the fallen trunk in the relative calmness and cool air of the Third Tree which lay on its side, providing a comfortable space to sit out the show upon its roomy trunk.
From there I could watch as the newly arrived to the island hippies were given the walking tour. "And here we have the 'Altar Look' for those of you who can dig rock lingums and floral arrangements." I also watched as the beautiful little flower child, appropriately and really named Daisy, gave meaning to my creation by bowing down to my rocks, and praying earnestly.
It was too late to turn opinion around, to reverse their image of what I was doing, or to see that I was simply arranging rocks and flowers. It was simply too late to stop the nonsense and grasp the obvious reality. Thus, I became known to the beach crowd as "The Guy Who Builds the Altars."
Let's set one thing straight. I am not now,
nor have I ever been, nor have I ever even been affiliated with any
actual hippies. That's just the name pasted on those whom I
to call "the Children" or "the Kids", by the second type of constant
goers, whom I choose to call "The Umbrella People." You see,
are basically two types of people on that beach. There are the
the travelers, the ganja smoking, dread locked, "Hey man, you got any
or water, or food" scroungy and weather beaten kids out on their Walk
There are the flowing, sarong wearing, well styled and blown dry long
that come from as far away as Germany or Australia, or as near as Haiku
or "Hey man, are you going as far as Paia?"
These are the drummers, the musicians, the posers, the Ecstasy-esque trance dancers, and the organically blissed out "Kids" of the Island. These are the "Children," the Brethren, the Huggers and the Lovers, dazed out on the sunset, dancing in the waves, stumbling over the trail before it gets too dark, "Hey dude, like the drumming circle was awesome tonight."
"Yeah dude, like totally orgasmic!" innocents full of peace and love, wish they'd grown up or at least been born before the Summer of Love or sometime in the 60's.
Yeah, I actually hitched from my home in the San Fernando Valley all the way up to the Haight. Got one ride in a VW Bus from the busy Santa Barbara grass strip. With wanna be hippies that had no prototype. They wore awful clothes, go-go boots, their Dad's tie around their foreheads, Mexican sandals with tire treads, the fuzzy coat liners like Sonny and the ironed hair of Cher. We hitched and we hung, on the corner of Ashbury, in the Free Clinic, at the Digger's free food, or in the Pan Handle.
We went, we looked at each other, while the future "Umbrella People" took our pictures from their cruising old Studebaker station wagons, we rapped and smoked $10 bags of nasty leaf with sticks and exploding seeds, and we got naked for the first time outdoors. And like the other buzz phrase of 2001, "It's all good.," it was all too beautiful. The hair, the music, and the scene. We slept in Golden Gate Park and bathed in its ponds and fountains. In their cars and campers, the "Straights" locked their door buttons and gazed back, wearily. And the phrases heard around the world since man could utter a sound, "What's with these kids nowadays?". And later, "They've gone to pot. That Rock 'n Roll is just the Devil's music."
Returning now to the second type of people, the "Umbrella People," the straights and narrows who come loaded down with coolers and snorkel gear, boogie boards and paddle balls, sheets and towels and blankets and brewskies. Lots of beer, plenty food, soda pop, an assortment of Walkmans and paperbacks, magazines, post cards, lots of sun block, in rubber shoes, reef walkers to protect their tourist toes from the rocks and pebbles. They line up like in suburban neighborhoods, all square and in a row. They make little blocks of sheets with beach chairs and umbrellas. Got to have those umbrellas to go outdoors and not get in the Sun.
How else can they block a perfectly beautiful view? Where else can they come and talk loud in sexual, first time nudist innuendos, hide their pallor beneath #32 Sun Blockers, beneath their blow in' in the wind umbrellas? Where else can they make such a commotion and such a disruption, then turn around and tell the Children not to drum? This is the Sunday stand off. The old blue haired facts and fortieths hang in as long as they can stand the heat, then slowly get drummed out of the kitchen as one conga comes alive on the hill, then a didgeredoo blows in, someone plays a few riffs on their guitar, and one lone dancer gets up and chimes in on her finger cymbals.
The beach comes alive with sounds, overpowering the musings of, "Do they only know one God damned song?" The old guard pulls out and are immediately replaced by shiny, happy faces and colors, colors everywhere. Such is Sunday. The changing of the guard. Out with the old and in with the new. Surely all the beach-goers don't fit into one or the other category, you say?
What about the boys down the beach at Gay Bay. What about the local surfers and fishermen? And, hey, what about those Japanese tourists?
In these tales, they are basically fluff. Smudges of colors that add to the background of the scene. Essentially, those who wage this sometimes war of supposed sedate versus the drummers on the beach are the Hippies and the Umbrella People. Or the Umbrella People and the Hippies. One way or the other, I have to say it's quite a scene.
Now that I've had my rant about the peculiar sects on
beach... No, not Sex on the Beach. That's a bar drink, or a
sandy encounter. I must admit to once seeing real live hippies
or at least the closest thing to them. It was back in 1968, which
feels like a lifetime ago (and for some people is), that I have
proof that my much younger self walked on the sands of the little beach
and the big beach as well.
I was working, and I use the term loosely, for 'Sunbums', an alternative youth publication, a bi-monthly tabloid, run at that time by Mad Man Maddox, whom as an ode to Clark Kent/Superman's bossman Perry White, was a.k.a. "the Chief", a ballsy individual who would ultimately have a Major (HUH?), excuse me, make that a major effect on my life. Tales of Major (HUH?), a major fixture on the beach for more than a decade, will have to wait until we talk about the 90's. He's a whole different story, so I'll have to remember to keep that word in lower case lest we awaken him.
Anyway, working for the Chief usually involved my producing a page and a half of stories and/or photos, which I would trade for my half page ad, therefore filling two of the usual twenty-four pages and allowing me to publicize The General Store, a tiny "antique-boutique" that my then but now long since divorced wife and I owned. It was an idyllic time, when people could actually have small, personal businesses and still survive.
Actually we were doing quite well, and one might just say that we were prototype yuppies. We drove a brand new-showroom-floor VW Bus, lived in a three bedroom rental with a view of Diamond Head and the ocean beyond, and with the shared benefits of publishing a youth rag two times per month, had lots of good trades with little restaurants, clothing stores, head shops, surfboard shops, record stores, inter-island airlines, concert promoters and such that we were indeed living large.
That's why when I proposed the assignment of flying over to Maui, I said somewhat jokingly that it was my idea to "infiltrate the hippies", as I was certainly not one of them. Everyone who watched or read the news knew that after Manson had done his dance of damage in the media, flower power was now a thing of the past. And that the honest to goodness hippies were living their communal life at the end of the road on Kauai in a tree house neighborhood called Taylor Camp, since Liz Taylor's brother was supposedly owner of the land.
The biggest bunch who had gotten out of the Haight with their brains somewhat intact, had fled or flown to Maui and were living in the woods along a strip of beach which I myself had erroneously thought was called McKenna's Beach. Armed with this info, the staff photographer and I pulled two freebie tickets to fly into Kaanapali airstrip (I'll bet you didn't know that there ever was such a place), a drop off spot for our brave new's story and adventure of "Living With The Hippies."
In those days when the airstrip seemed a good idea, we had no concept of where Old Lahaina Town and its neighboring hotels were headed.
When there was one small movie theater on Front Street with a semi-attached candy and dried seed store next door, we couldn't imagine the hordes of whale art galleries and chic restaurants that would eventually clutter the town.
It was a time when one could hang a hammock in the great square block Banyan tree next to the Pioneer Inn, which was an expensive hotel at $16 for a double, and the Whale's Tale across the street was a flop house where you could crash in a cockroach room for $5 or better yet, sleep in the hallways for free.
We thought the old whaling town was being exploited when a trolley tram would run the tourists from the pre-Hyatt Regency gigantic hotels into one of the half-dozen or so upscale eateries and my then future and now former boss opened a new T-shirt shop on the ocean and had the nerve to sell printed T's with cute sayings like "KA MANA WANA LEI U" for the cut-throat price of $10. We had no clue of where the future and inflation would take the town. We didn't really care, we just wanted to get down with the real hippies away from this plastic town, and smoke some bowls of leaf.
to be continued...
Excerpts for revew puposes only please. Contact for other permissions: drleisure.com
To cite this article in a footnote, Dr.Leisure recommends the following format:
Welland, Carl J., "Some Call Me Oji (Others call me
Dr.Leisure Online Edition,
February 15, 2003
Copyright 2003, Dr. Leisure
2003 Dr. Leisure. All rights reserved.
Dr LeisureHome Page