Not So Sour Grapes

In Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Grapes, written it is presumed about 520 BC, this Greek slave and story teller, a/k/a Aesopica tells the tale of a hungry fox who tries unsuccessfully to gather grapes hanging high on a vine, but cannot reach them no matter how hard he tries. Rather than admit defeat he suggests the grapes are unripe and too sour to eat, anyhow. (So there.)

In modern times, this term has been used to refer to someone who adopts a negative attitude to something because they cannot have it themselves. In truth, I’m not sure how many people today really invest in the sour grape doctrine one bit.

There are so many confusing aspects to being “stuff happy.” Where I live in the San Francisco Bay area there are garage sales and thrift shops galore, and folks often put nice items on the streets with a “free” sign on them as well as posting them on the local Nextdoor social network.

But, it costs a small fortune to buy a home here, and rents are sky high so it’s a real conundrum as to where all the “stuff” can go. And of course, homelessness is at an all-time high across most of the country, so that limits acquisition of material goods at a heartbreaking level.

The world of wine can have a lot of snobbery attached to it, with some aficionados believing cost represents quality, but if you do a little research you will find much evidence to the contrary. We living here in “wine country” can buy delectable wines made from top notch local (and anything but sour) grapes at the Grocery Outlet for a fraction of the retail price, or join scores of discounted wine clubs.

I know that one-percenters like to shove their high wealth inequality around but I suggest those elitists are not near as happy as the rest of us because they don’t get to adapt and discover how to enjoy life one affordable moment at a time.

Take Melania Trump’s infamous jacket that she wore when she went to Andrews Air Force base to learn first-hand the situation to which her husband’s immigration policy was separating young children from their parents at our border. In order to feel like “one of the people” she donned a $39 bargain from Zara rather than from one of her normal exorbitantly pricey designers. But in the process, she insulted everyone, including her clueless self — and she could not pull it off. No way.

I think “sour grapes” is a doctrine in need of an update — a beautiful visage of simple contentment and thankfulness.

Novato Block Party

Letters to the Editor, Nextdoor

A Different Sort of Riveria

If you travel down to the state of Nayarit, Mexico, the last in that country to accept colonization, you will find several worlds. There are luxury resort hotels such as the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, gated and secure. There is the world that the elite magazines tout as well as sleek websites, celebrating the rebranded Riveria Nayarit, a 200 mile stretch of purported immaculate surf and sand from Puerto Vallarta as a starting point, to San Blas at the north end, with the surfing town of Sayulita in the heart of things.

For the most part, the people living and working in towns like Sayulita who are natives, are poor, living underneath buildings, almost always as a family, in what we would call hovels, or in half destroyed old buildings with their laundry hanging off make-shift balconies. The roads are not paved, just dirty old cobblestones, which the locals hose down in the morning to clean the soot, creating mud to transverse. Wild roosters, birds and monkeys screech all night long in the jungle above, and hundreds of stray dogs that roam the streets by day, bark all night as well, creating the most plaintive and loud symphony I’ve ever heard.

Some folks are surfing but most are not, as raw sewage is dumped into the ocean all day through a filthy stream that some local children play in and a stray donkey or horse enjoys. Trash is dumped in large green bags everywhere on the streets, then burnt by individuals who dump from their trucks directly on the side of the road, or dropped off at the dump, which burns trash several times daily, usually with copal incense to offset the smell.

Yet, I’ve never seen such happy people in all my travels, smiling, in the present, the here-and-now. Their Huichol art is exquisite, their music uplifting – folk art and street performers with songs and crafts from their indigenous roots, such as the tribe who come into town from high in the mountains above.

There are no homeless people here. Everyone works, young and old, selling what they have made, some up and down the beaches all day, some with small shops where they paint or sew or cook. Everyone seems to have a special niche, painting “Day of the Dead” skulls or corazon earrings and hundreds of other creations as well. The colors throughout the town are vibrant yellows and blues and reds; their faces are vibrant too and they always are talking to each other or to tourists in buoyant tones.

There are serious problems in a repurposed state like Nayarit, which is of course thrilled to get a piece of the tourist pie from other, once popular destinations now being shunned because of the crime and drug cartels. There is much that needs to be done, but seemingly not much being done to address their modern era dilemmas.

But I have also seen first-hand, the phenomenal joy in abundant creativity as a vital factor of daily life.

It has brought me back to my community and my work with new appreciation and vigor.

Finding Maluhia

Kauai is the oldest and most remote of the major Hawaiian Islands. It is where Pele, the goddess of fire, fell in love with the mortal prince Lohi’au, and where the mythical Menehune people live in the hidden forests and valleys above the taro fields. It was the last holdout when King Kamehameha sought to unify (a/k/a take over) the islands, and I think it is the most magical and serene place on earth.

The north shore of Kauai is home to an eclectic mix of folks; celebrities and vacation homeowners from every state on the mainland, tourists who aren’t looking for high-rise hotels or condos (no building on Kauai can be taller than a coconut tree), and locals who choose the ultimate laid-back lifestyle to surf and coexist with the land of aloha spirit. It is here, in Hanalei town, I meet an artist who paints with his mouth. I have been walking the beaches of Hanalei and riding waves by the iconic pier for days. I am looking for a way to slow down deeply after a year that hardly bears recollection. Na ke Akua e ha ‘awi mai I ka maluhia … God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …

Completely disabled, he is not physically a pretty site, however, he is anything but a sad man. He tells me God closed one door when he was paralyzed after a car accident in 2002, but opened another. What might sound cliché is his simple reality. He tells me he did not take his art seriously enough and spent most of the time surfing, but that has all changed now. He earns his living with his mouth – not by songs or words, which seems a profound irony. His name is Moses and I find its spiritual significance interesting: his art astounding. His painting of the Hanalei pier is a fusion of light and sea. It would be very difficult for Moses to go out there on the pier now, to see the sunlight and clouds play together in the shadow of the vast Napali cliffs. Perhaps his mind, his eyes, his heart and at final turn his mouth, have bonded with spirit of Lohi’au, because I can see so much fire and passion for this island in his painting. Most importantly, it is filled with both the aloha and maluhia he has found in his life and art.

I am home now. My resolution for the New Year is working well, something I would have formerly thought impossible. Each morning I look at the painting Moses created with his mouth and find inspiration in his reflection of a place I was honored to experience. I move more slowly, savoring a bit more of the moment: my life, my love, my family, my work, my friends. I vow to chuck away just one stupid and needless stress each day and move one more tiny step toward maluhia. I think it is working.

Mahalo Moses!

Why A Cocktail Orange, Shaken and Stirred?

There sure is a lot of negative news out there today and after a while, the ad nauseam rhetoric really gets to the inner spirit. We here at Zan Media took a look around and thought, why not refresh that spirit producing a documentary about just that – spirits!

Some names associated with alcoholic beverages are terse – like booze or hooch. Some sound romantic and old school, such as a cocktail or highball. Then there’s the whole world of wine too. Our prior documentary films, A Passion for the Vine and The Routes to Roots, Napa and Sonoma address a lot about vino but we found even more to explore with wine cocktails and the story of sherry, and even a fun tutorial on how spirits are actually made.

Initially we set out to follow Ernest Hemmingway and some other authors that were known to enjoy a drink or two. But it turned out a lot of them were drunks and there’s nothing uplifting about that. So we turned instead to perusing some gorgeous locations in California and Hawaii with bars and saloons that create unique concoctions using fresh, local ingredients, presented by proprietors and professors, bartenders and professional mixologists.

What we found was passion; so many of our participants were so excited to share their stories, histories and recipes. Just as they would if they were talking to you in person across the bar on a Saturday night or Sunday buffet.

Uplifting indeed!


In June 2012, Oracle Corporation co-founder and one of America’s most auspicious moguls, Larry Ellison, bought the island of Lana’i Hawaii from David J. Murdock for 300 million dollars. Murdock acquired the land as a result of his purchase of Castle & Cook in 1985, the then owner of Dole Food Company and the world’s largest pineapple plantation. The fifth richest man in the world according to Forbes 400 – 2016, Ellison spoke initially about great plans to improve the company housing he now owned, while creating an environmentally friendly agricultural industry.

I traveled to Lana’i in December 2013 and again in December 2016. It is a very different island now and much closer to Ellison’s actual vision to welcome the 0.01% billionaires and Hollywood elite only. In 2013, one of Ellison’s superyachts was anchored off shore, too large for Manele Harbor. An island bus transported us to the lush upcountry retreat, The Four Seasons Lodge at Ko’ele, and after an exquisite lunch, back down the only road, to Ellison’s Four Seasons Lanai overlooking Hulupoe Beach

Larry Ellison's yacht docked off the island of Lanai'

Larry Ellison’s yacht docked off the island of Lana’i

On Christmas Eve day, 2016, things are very different. The Lodge at Ko’ele has been closed for eight months to house construction workers from Oahu, to give the Four Seasons Lanai one of the most costly upgrades in history upping the ante of the luxury billionaire.

Four Seasons Lanai

Four Seasons Lana’i

Today, nothing is grown on Lana’i. The pineapples are gone; the shanty shacks of Lana’i City have scant improvements if any. Lana’i City is desolate; there are only a few locals and a handful of tourists at the plebian eleven-room Lanai Hotel, once used to house visiting Dole businessmen, now also owned by Ellison. There is no longer a public bus. I am directed to a funky grey shuttle van of sorts and there I meet Ike, a native born Hawaiian of Filipino descent, Vietnam vet, and a landowner, one of a scintilla who now hold less than 30 acres of the island’s 89,600. According to Kepa Maly, Executive Director of the Lana’i Cultural & Heritage Center, King Kamehameha III promulgated the law of western-style ownership, kuleana land in 1848, but by 1922, Dole secured clear title to 99% of the island. (Some suggest Ellison’s grab is a mere 98%.)

A home in Lana'i city.

A home in Lana’i City

Another home in Lana'i City.

Another home in Lana’i City

Ike tells me the story of Lana’i today- about discrimination within the local population, rampant drug addiction and deplorable living conditions. But, Ike is also filled with hope – that the 3,000 residents of Lana’i of whom the overwhelming majority work for “Mr. Ellison” – will ultimately benefit by his largess. On neighboring Molaka’i, plans for a major resort were turned down and the developer shuttered everything and went home, leaving most of that island’s residents collecting meager unemployment. In late 2016, after thirty years of operation, the public ferry to Molaka’i also shut down.

UPDATE June 2017
The Four Seasons Lodge at Ko’ele remains closed. There is no public transportation on the island. The ferry still runs five trips daily from Maui.


Sad Man of Yosemite

Photo credit: Don Scioli


The sad man of Yosemite gushes a waterfall of tears.

For he sees rage and heartless hearts across the world,

across the country, across this land.

Beauty everywhere that does not penetrate empty souls

and their selfies.


Monday January 8, 2016, Chinese New Year, Valley Ford Franklin School Road.


There are new beginnings and new endings too. But all is entwined, all is connected, decay inherent in all composite things.

Lambent auras speak to life and the sea.


Photo by Niki Scioli
Poem by Christine Scioli


SJ2 copyForty-five years ago I met Don Scioli (’71) at a party at Barry Hall. Thirty-five years ago I started a film and video production company with him and a year later I married him. He told our three children quizzing him in How I Met Your Mother mode that there was a cotton candy sky glowing behind me when I walked in the door. (Do note he was an English major, with a penchant for fiction.) The years between constituted random acts of rebellion and adventure for both of us that look a lot better in replay. Luckily the fates interceded. Or the saints – or some combination of both.
Though we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area thirty-two years ago, last month Don and I found ourselves outside Barry Hall, in the rain, waiting for Vonetta Jones who had become our saint of the moment, apparently in cahoots with St. Anthony.
We had traveled back to Philly to attend to Don’s ninety-eight year old mother. An uneventful flight and drive to our hotel in Malvern became disruptive when Don realized he had lost his wallet somewhere post rental car check in. We managed to buy two bottles of beer and rotisserie chicken minutes before the 10 o’clock deadline at Wegmans and nursed them both room temperature, as we began cancelling credit cards until way past our bedtime. Another big problem: without his license, Don couldn’t get back on the plane in just two days time.
In the morning, our daughter back on the left coast was enlisted to find and send his passport as identification backup, and we set off to visit his mom, buy her clothes, and clean out her closet and drawers, at her assisted living facility.
In transit, Don stopped at the gas station where we tanked up the evening before, inquiring if a wallet was turned in. When he returned to the car he told me the attendant said no go on the wallet, but that he must pray to St. Anthony three times. I remembered the rhyme from my childhood and said: “Dear St. Anthony please come around, something is lost and can’t be found” the requisite three times and promptly forgot about it.
Later that day, cleaning out mom’s drawers, I found two St. Anthony medals, one silver toned and one gold. Odd coincidence I thought. I left one for her and took one with me to bring back home, which sits here in my office as I write this recollection.
Back at the hotel after a long day, another rotisserie chicken and this time a cold bottle of conciliatory California chardonnay and a plate of game day veggies with ranch dip, we caught up with our daughter who reported the passport was in transit for a two-day delivery. We thought that was cutting it mighty close but her tracking info bode well.
Next day, more of the same in visiting and cleaning, but nothing in the mail to ensure a place on US Air flight # 434 for hubs the next day. We called back to the hotel front desk again and again – no passport.
Then, a phone call from our daughter: American Express had received a call from one St. Vonetta Jones of Philadelphia, PA, who had found Don’s wallet somewhere on Delaware Ave. and left her phone number with them and they promptly called us with said info. (Yes, DO NOT leave home without your American Express card!) Don called St. Anthony’s female counterpart circa 2014, she answered, and we arranged to meet her somewhere midway, near St. Joes, late in the day when she got off work.
And so we found ourselves hanging in front of Barry Hall, in the rain, remembering the meet cute, while we waited. Finally, St.”V” showed up in her old blue pickup truck and the pass off was completed. Don leaned in and gave her solid frame an intense hug. Everything was intact except the cash. At that point, we would have given A LOT of cash, more than the meager finder’s fee we gave her, for that California license.
Back at the hotel, many hours later, we decided to check out in advance of an early drive to the airport the next morning. Coincidentally, with the room bill, the front desk clerk noticed a late delivery package for us from California. The now unneeded passport had indeed arrived.
Apparently, St. Tony was working overtime!