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Simplicity

Two of each

Two of each

Hilo features no extravagance or excess, though some might argue it’s too rainy. I’d reduce the bugs, but the geckos would go without. Here less is not so much more but what is.

On the first day, the landlady opens the cabinets to reveal a sparse assortment of cans, pouches, little boxes. There is a handmade bag of potato pancake mix, checkered cloth tied up with ribbon, the instructions on a little tag with a well-done drawing of a rooster. You are welcome to all this, she says: the French-cut green beans, the Stove Top stuffing, the bottle of molasses. Only later do I realize this is her food and she is leaving it for me.

I have the run of the upstairs, a space plenty big for me. But it is her house, the space that she has maintained and earned, with me a paying interloper.

Much later, when we are at the point of drinking tall ones together, we talk about needs. What does one really need to be happy and complete? You need a simple life and a house, she says. Two forks, two spoons. What is the point of more?

On arrival the kitchen’s sparseness shocked me. Over time I realized this was acculturation: we expect kitchens to be configured this way, possess those artifacts. The full set of matching silverware is an unexamined assumption. When you eat, do you use more than one fork?

Numbers on the screen are all red, the paid talkers yammer. The talkers talk more talk because numbers no one understands decrease. This is the talk that believes a lawnmower in every garage is a sign not only of prosperity but moral advance, that a thing intended to last a handful of years and used a few hours a week is worth spending money on. This is the talk of new economy, tranches, CDOs and other glimmering shell-game abstractions. It is poison fraud talk. It is what isolated people with too much education say when they have too many forks.

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