Posts Tagged ‘107 Years Old’

Book 3. Sula, The Mountain Dove

December 22, 2009 2 comments

Book 3. Sula, The Mountain Dove

I had an unusually enjoyable visit with Sula  this morning, I put three of my last six dollars in the tank so that I could go up to see her. It was a beautiful morning and the views round this that and the next corner were crystal clear. The” surf was up” outside Hull Bay, Tortola, Jos Van Dyke and islands of the Thatch Key archipelago were a majestic blue in the distance, and the”Plums were up” in Sulas “Hog Plum” tree too. The shutters are flung open in her little wooden house and the voices of the choir at the Cathedral of Saints. Peter and Paul come pouring out of her little radio, each utterance aspiring to sanctity and  sounding like they are hitting awfully close to the mark, to me.

I have come to love the shaky but sincere leads and rough harmonies of one singer after the next and one  Choir after the other. Sula’s  sister the long departed “Tantan Bertha’s” son, Ashford is in the other room, with his radio also tuned to WSTA and he is playing his alto saxophone along with the music. He plays in the old “Quelbay” style, a high wavering vibrato, a full beautiful tone. He is one of the very best but does not play in public, he is very shy and is waiting until he becomes a better player. He is really very good already, and I very much delight in listening to him play.

Ashford and I connect through the music and we have interesting music related conversations just about every Sunday. Conversations about music books that he orders through the mail, scales and intervals, theory and improvisations. He honors me by presenting thoughtful questions about these things as though I were (because I am a recording artist) a  knowledgeable maestro. God bless him, I’ve actually been able to answer a few of his questions and even add a little info on top of that, but it’s  a fluke,  small bits of knowledge I’ve picked up by osmosis. My storehouse/library of academic information in this area is embarrassingly sketchy, my own musical gifts are more like a wild rolling eyed confidence, married to a series of semi spontaneous heartfelt polyphonic outbursts through an instrument that continually surprises (among others) me, with it’s power and purdyness.

What the heck that has to do with knowing anything, is a great mystery. But if Ashford (or anyone else) wishes to be kind to me because of it, I’ll take it and try my best to return the same. 

The music of sincere people in reverential worship fills Sulas world every Sunday and it is a beautiful thing

 Sula’s Hog Plum Tree is weighed down with golden-yellow and  soo very sweet plums. She was hoping that I would be able to pick a bag full for her “other” boy friend Desooka” (really Desouza but Sula has decided to call him Desooka and so it is)

 My first question to Sula is always “Sula have you been behaving your self?” and she answers sweetly in a proper lilting creole, “Yes Scott, I am always well-behaved” My second question is “But Sula, how can a woman who has not one or two or even three or four but maybe five or six or more boyfriends at the same time, claim to be behaving herself?” And she will throw her head back and laugh out loud..

I ask her if she has gotten all dressed up for me this morning, because she looks so sharp.. She denys it, but her dress was especially pretty, a royal blue with little heart wreaths filled with flowers all over. She looked very pretty and I told her so. She had a red kerchief on, but took it off to re-tie, as she did I noticed her hair, a wild confusion of snow-white curls with perfect little plaits and braids. I said “Sula, don’t you ever leave the kerchief off? Your hair looks so pretty and the kerchief must be so hot.

To my surprise she did leave it off..she looked great and comfortable and cool.

 Breaking into a more colloquial calypso accent, she said, “Scott, Ah wan yu tu git me ting dem frum de box dare fo me, ah want a candy, because my mout is soo dry, an ah wan yu put me oy drop dem in me oy”

I teasingly say “Sula yu wan me put yu oy drop dem in yu oy? In yu oy? She laughed at my exaggeration of oy,  then I said “but Sula yu have tu open yu oy so I cou put in de drops” She said “But, What do yu mean? I thought they were wide open already? Yu know yu poor girlfren is as bline as a bat, de poor ol girl kee-an see a ting!

 “Scott yu know what I heard on de radio? Some boys who went to college  say that there is no God, Who de hell dey tink made the heavens and de Eart, de moon and de stars? Dey mus-ee tink red pea soup could cook it self. How de hell dey could tink there is no God?

Sula then spoke a loud the sequence of the angel of the lord visiting a young virgin Mary and God placing his only begotten son in her womb, to grow there like every one else. She recounted the angel of the lord coming to Joseph in his sleep to explain what was happening with Mary, and she noted that in those days for a young man to be engaged to be married and discovering that his young bride to be was having a baby, was a difficult thing, but Joseph over came that and they had the little baby Jesus. And the little boy grew up playing and going to school just like all the rest, but then gave himself so that the rest of us could have life everlasting, could be relieved of our sins..”Oh yes!” she said “I know there is a God and I know my God is a good God.”

 “Didn’t God save me when I was only twelve years old and I had the Typhoid Fever? Scott, Doctor Knud Hansen was right here, he was white yu know, and He told Mama Lovie (Sula’s Mother) that he was going, and coming back that afternoon. Then he told Old Uncle George (one of the original of the three Moolenar brothers), he told him that he didn’t believe that it would be possible for me to live out the day, and George came down and told Mama Lovie what the Doctor had said”. “Sula” I asked, “Were you in the hospital in town whe you had typhoid fever or were you out here?” “Right here” she said “I was right here, and Knud Hansen called me his little girl and took care of me” “Sula” I said, “How did Knud Hansen come out? Did he ride on a horse or a carrage”? “No, Scott, No,” she said “Knud Hansen walked, he walked all the way from town. Knud Hansen came out here ten times to see me, and when he came back that afternoon and saw that I was still alive..he said it was a miracle. He told Mama Lovie that if he could, he would give her a Gold Star for how extra specially good she took care of me. It was God that saved me, my God is a good God. How else could I have lived when I gave birth two different times, to two little dead babies?”

 “Knud Hansen took care of me then too you know, even though I was a big and old and grown up woman, he still called me his little girl, and said that he would never let anything happen to me”. “How big where you then Sula”, I asked “any bigger than you are now?  I don’t think you were ever big Sula, I don’t think you were ever  any bigger than a Mountain Dove. And Sula, tell me, how old were you then?” “I was tutty one, tutty-two, tutty-three,” ” Wow Sula” I said, “all things considered that doesn’t sound very old either. Big and old?” She laughed..”You’re right, anyway, How can they think there is no God when God has always been so good to me?”

 As she spoke..I thought to my self, just listen Scott.. she doesn’t need, nor will she benefit from hearing your cockamamie comments on the old or new testaments, or you recounting current  theories on self-organization. you don’t really know any more than she does, or Knud Hansen did, about what came before or lies beyond the don’t need to show off how smart you are, at the expense of her comfort and beliefs, you don’t need to upset her and make her sad. She’s a good soul and a wonder in the world. Just dig it and be present..listen to the love in her and in the music all around.

I asked her if she knew my friend PK Hansen, (related to the Christiansens, a family that she has mentioned often) she ruminated a bit searching through a vast net of  direct and tangentialy connected names and relations, and then said..”But Scott, our friend  Jowers said he was going to bring Noreen to see me, but Alric says the house is too old and run down for visitors, that we should paint it first.

I said “Sula, we all love your old wood house, it doesn’t need to be painted before anyone comes to see you, we all expect to see, we want to see, we love to see the old house just the way it is, it’s like a national historic site, and you, Sula, you are a national treasure”

 Her face always lights up when I remind her of these things, her eldest son Alric has just moved back to the island after spending fifty-five years in the states, working mostly as a prison guard. He is a good and decent fellow, but he’s impacted by a stateside mentality that has not yet been recalibrated to the local culture. Further, he would prefer that Sula left her old house and moved into his brand new house, with he and his wife Florence,  on the other side of Crown.

Perhaps enough people expressed their shock and dismay with that idea, voicing their opinion that that would be the end of Sula, to have gotten his attention. However, He is still unfortunately quite verbal in his disapproval of her “old-time” environment as it is. at 107, Sula really is a national treasure. The shame is that more people are not aware of her, and have the opportunity to spend time in her home and company. She is a National Treasure is every way imaginable.

BOOK 3. Sula and The Music Of Morning, As Some Of You May Know, Archie Faringhy

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

BOOK 3. Sula And The Music Of Morning
On Sundays I make it my business to try and visit with Sula for two or three hours. I bring her a salt fish Pate (pa-tay) and two to four little cans of juice, depending on how much loot I have..
The pate is for her to eat, the juice is so that she has something to offer to visitors and guests during the week.
Sula is 107 years old and still pretty sharp (of mind AND looks) I am one of her “boyfriends” “de Whiteman who is a recording artist” she has three others (an ex policeman, and two Moravian Ministers) right off the bat, along with an ever-growing list of wanna be boyfriends. I have been her boyfriend for over twenty years now and she is yet another one of my sweeties that is hoping that I will make some money.

Sula lives in a little wooden house on the north side of Crown Mountain where she has lived all of her (amazing) life. When she was born (1903) the midwife took a look at her and told her mother that. “The best thing to do is to just leave her in the bush somewhere and forget about her, this little one is just too tiny and fragile to live”

Her Mother wouldn’t hear of it and eight days later, when little Sula was still alive, her grand mother took her in her arms (I tease her that her Grandmother stuck her right in her shirt pocket) and walked all the way to town (“In those days all we had was donkey and donkey cart yu’know and we did’n have none of dose”) to the hospital to see the Doctors.

When Sula was twelve she caught the Typhoid Fever and was not expected to live a single day. Her Doctor (The locally famous Danish Doctor, Knud Hansen) called her his little sparrow and said he refused to let her die. Somehow by the grace of the all-powerful, much prayer and the best medical treatment that the great Knud Hansen could provide, Sula survived Not only survived but thrived, she became a teacher at 13 in the Danish school system in 1915. She is now the oldest living Virgin Islander and may in fact be the longest lived Virgin Islander ever.

We are sitting together on her old red couch listening to the choir and the priest at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul (Sula was born Anglican but joined the Moravian Church at Nisky after the Moravian minister extracted a promise from her mother to switch her if she survived the Typhoid Fever.)

The Moravians are a wonderful community with quite a history of activism here in the West Indies; they are the folks that snuck into the ‘cane fields to teach the slaves how to read and write and then provided the schools that delivered all of the education for centuries. My own childhood education at Nisky Elementary School was among the last echoes of their ‘cane field missionary work.

In any case, Sula is not particular about where her Sunday morning music comes from and together we will listen (in turn) to the choirs at Saints Peter and Paul, The French Town Evangelical Assembly, The Salvation Army, and The Anglican Church at Sugar Estate. I love the singing, Sula loves the songs.

As Some Of You May Know..
Some of you may know that I am a recovering person, for the rest of you, I’d like you to know, I’m a recovering person.
In addition to having a first class case of dipsomania, I am a child and grandchild of dipsomaniacs, by the grace of God, good luck and way too many good people to count on fingers and feet, I have been in recovery (as of this writing) since May 24th 1978.
Recovery was passed along to me at a New York City meeting on the upper west side called appropriately “Chock Full Of Nuts” (not the nice little coffee shops). I have been an activist for recovery ever since. I will write much more about it as we move along, but for the moment..

While living with my Bridey Annie and our twins Lelia and Archie up in the Mountains in San Diego County, it became crazy obvious that I had to do something to generate some kaboosh beyond my pitiful music royalties. consequently, I wound up spending two years and six months at UCLA (January 1987 to June 1989) for training and certification in Drug and Alcohol Counseling and Program Design and Management.

While there I designed and started a program called “BIZRAP” (The Music Business Recovery Assistance Program) “BIZRAP” in turn, divided into two programs “MAP” (The Musicians Assistance Program, run by Buddy Arnold, and “Musicares” (The NARAS-Grammys Program) under Michael Green.)
Since then, I have started or participated in the starting of a number of programs and non profits. I am telling you this because it is so and “things related” will naturally come up again and again..

While going to school in LA, I lived alone in a small residential hotel on Lafayette Street, in Culver City that I called “The Bombay Arms” I took city busses to work (at 4 AM I cleaned “The Kingston 12” a night club in Santa Monica, at 10 AM I took the bus to my second job, shipping posters from a garage in LA, at 4 PM, I took the bus to UCLA and after school, the bus back to the Bombay Arms.)

On Saturday mornings I would take the number 33 (Venice Blvd) to Union Station,in LA and take the train down the coast to Oceanside, then two more buses, (the first to Escondido and the second up the mountains into Ramona). There Annie and our little ones would pick me up in the little Datsun and on we would go to “Witch Creek” eight miles further out-of-town. Just before San Isabel, we’d duck off the old Julian highway, go two and a half miles down “Slaughter House Road”, over the bridge, across the Crik’ up the hill and under the Oaks, to the pad..ah Cabin..ah..pad.

When I think about it I don’t know If I want to laugh or cry, or tell it so you laugh or cry..I do believe that in this instance we could do both at once. It was the craziest juxtaposition of characters and circumstances.
The bright lights in this extraordinary mud pie were the children, our twins Lelia and Archie. Two of the sweetest most even keeled little people I’ve ever known, and there was not a single day or part of a day spent with them that was anything less than inspiring and beautiful. They were champions. We had much fun together. I love them completely.

Archie Faringhy
Annie’s Grandfather Archie Faringhy bought the 100 acre ranch (with cabin) in the late nineteen forties and had started two vineyards and orchards of Peaches, Plums, Apricots and Nectarines with a few Pear trees thrown in for good measure.
Maybe 10 15 acres were under cultivation and the rest of the ranch was still “wilder bush”.

We had (Annie, Lelia, Archie and I) come out from New York to California to visit Annie’s Grandparents a few years earlier, and came up to visit the ranch then. The living area consisted of four buildings three of which were original old-time wood slat constructions and a more modern one (the kitchen) that Archie had built himself in the early sixties. Grandpa Archie was quite a crusty and colorful fellow (and not just because he was a redhead)
He’d been born at Fort.Wachuka, (Thunder Mountain) down in Apache territory in Cochise County, Southern Arizona. His father was a Cavalry man and his was mother was a full-blooded Navaho lady. Archie’s Grandfather Faringhy, was a young man from Flanders who had stowed away on “The Mary” and wound up in South Africa, became a Doctor (medicine, not witch) shipped for America and came west as Kit Carson’s Medical Officer.

Kit and his crew participated in much wild west action and were big time good guys or bad guys, (depending on which side of the fray your people were on)
In any case they had passed this way with Gen. Kerney in the time of The Californios, and seen the beauty of these mountains and valleys. Somehow many years later, his Grandson Archie had found/made his way back and bought a small piece of it.
Archie loved this piece of wild world and so did his redheaded grand-daughter Annie.