The final days have come...i leave the island in 3 of them. Tomorrow, I'll travel to Polihale for the night. One last open ocean adventure, and I'm contently happy about it. Polihale means "house of the dead" - fallen kings are buried in the mountain that overlooks the long, winding beach of the southern coast. The water is crystal clear, like glass. I've been there once before, but this time will be different - not as much whiskey. We'll leave at 10 am tomorrow, well, i guess it's 'today' now. Then, on Saturday evening i'll return to the yurts. The San Pedro cactus drying on our kitchen counter will be gone and our minds will, with any kind of luck, still be in tact, still capable of reasonable thought - or they won't. Either way, time won't stop and before I realize it i'll be back in California. Sweet, wonderful California. Kaua'i just a memory. I'm going to miss it, terribly - i'm sure of that, because the strange, gossipy, sexual world they've created here is nuts, but it's a good kind of nuts - the kind you store away for cold winters. I'll be back.
Today, for some reason I was particularly curious about my family's past, our history, so i dived deep into the archives and investigated where I came from. Czechoslavakian, Magyar speaking, divorce, immigration, Oscar & George are both men in my family like i'm some kind of 'Bluth'...it's insame. Same. I've yet to uncover much on my grandfather, Robert Charles Kuster - he's the pirate of the family - but I know i'll find something. To me, the most intriguing person in my family is my other grandfather, Martin John Stassel, everyone called him Marty, though. He used to be 'Sr.' and would have been 'I' (the first) making my father the 'II' and me the 'III', but his tragic, untimely death in about 1965, when he was in his early thirties and the father of three (My father, his oldest son, was 7) scared my mother and they decided to break the long lineage of Martin ' s in my family - Chad Martin Stassel, they chose instead....that's what the C.M. stands for. My father's name is Martin, his father's name is Martin, his father's name is Martin and so, too, was his father named Martin. I've uncovered some old yearbook photos of my grandfather in his college days. He went to Ohio State University and then University of Detroit - he was a very smart man, studying to be a Veterinarian. I found a picture of his intramural basketball team...they were the champs...and the name of their team was "Slo-Mo-Shun". I'm pretty certain Marty came up with that one. I also found an old fraternity photo of him at Ohio State...he's wearing a suit and he looks so much like my father, right down to their hands. They have the same hands. It may seem difficult to know that just from a picture, but my dad's hands are giant, dry creations, and they move elegantly with tigerish leaps. They're unmistakable. Seeing photos of my grandfather, the eerie similarities churn my stomach a bit ... not in a sick way, but more of a pioneering way - unearthing photos and records of a man that died many years ago, a man I wish i knew, a man who played basketball, my father's dad, my grandfather. You start to think of how you'd get along, and, just from seeing his face and the shape of his jaw, I can hear his voice. I can hear his laugh, too. He talks like my dad. He looks him.
I guess I never told you how he died. Driving home one night from work at Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan, Marty was hit by a drunk driver. The crash killed him instantly, crushing his VW Bug like a tin can - they say he would have lived if he had been driving a car with an engine in the front, a bigger car. My grandmother, Joan Smithers, was widowed with three boys in Detroit. The death of Marty prompted her to move my Dad and his two younger brothers across the country to Southern California. First, Glendora, then Corona Del Mar. Joan Smithers is an incredible woman.
The story of Marty Stassel and Joan Smithers is a tragic, beautiful love story. I'll tell it to you some time.
Rest in Peace, Marty.