A Little Time in the Desert

Fran Hezel, SJ, visits with friends in Las Vegas. From left: Fran Hezel, Bob Power, Bernie Helstrom, Chai Palacios, and Trinie Cameron

Not in the spiritual desert, but in Nevada–the home of rattlesnakes, cactus juice and casinos aplenty.? In response to a request to look through the papers of Chuck Helstrom, a former TT police head who died a few months ago, I spent a few days in Las Vegas with friends.? Browsing through his files was a flip through 20 years of island history during the 1970s and 80s: heroin drug busts on Saipan, investigations into the practice of ?crazy eight? handcuffing in Chuuk, death threats against certain congressmen for voting the wrong way, intrigues among the HiCom staff, and so much more. I?d almost forgotten how thrilling those days were.? How many times since then have police been sent into a village at dawn and kicked down doors to get men wanted by the law?

Fran Hezel Reviewing Files

Bernie, Chuck?s widow, hosted the four of us: Chai Palacios and Bob Power, Trinie Cameron, and myself.? With three ex-Mercedarian sisters from Saipan, an ex-Maryknoll brother and a Jesuit with a lot of years in the islands, we had plenty to talk about. The grand reunion featured lots of funny stories about the old days, songs, and reminiscences galore.? Naturally there was also good food and wine to spark the conversation, and even a Las Vegas show: Beatles music set off by acrobats and trapeze artists.? We concluded with an informal liturgy giving thanks for the wonderful opportunity to spend time with old friends once again.? The only hardship, apart from making time for my half-hour jog, was saying goodbye to everyone at the end of it all.

One cloud that hung over the time together was serious illness–Chai?s older sister, Carmen, who is still suffering from cancer, and Agnes McPhetres, another Saipanese ex-Mercedarian who has been discovered to have stomach cancer, and Bernie?s niece who died a few days before our arrival.? Those of you who pray might consider remembering these good people.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.