Dana Kent is one of the liveliest storytellers I know. I love going to her house in Montecito, sitting in her living room, and hearing her tales about travel adventures around the globe, from scuba diving to golf stories, including her hole-in-one.
So it wasn’t surprising to hear that, decades after leaving her career as a journalist in 1959 to raise a family, Dana recently penned her first book. Called Brussels to Beirut to Bali, the memoir chronicles the intrepid trip she undertook in 1958 with three equally adventurous young women through Europe, Turkey, and into the war torn Middle East. Their journey begins with the purchase of a used car, but turns more perilous when they must sell it in Iraq and continue their travels by any means possible. Altogether, their journey takes them through 26 countries and countless escapades.
Dana will be doing a book-signing on August 12 at Chaucer’s bookstore at 7 p.m. But today, our fearless adventurer answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your most treasured possession?
My 2010 red Chevrolet Camaro, which I won for having a hole-in-one in a golf tournament. It is not only a treasure but my entrée to talk with folks from all walks of life whom I might never meet. They approach me almost daily to tell me what a good looking automobile it is and then I can launch into my explanation of how I got it.
I received a big cheer one day when I was delivering food to the homeless shelter and a crowd gathered around to admire my car. After I told them the whole story they all shouted, “You go girl.”
What is the quality you most like in people?
Their interest in other people and curiosity about the world in general. I most like the people who do not rest on their laurels but turn their thoughts and efforts to new interests. I really like those who continue to grow in intellect by seeking out new experiences.
What is your current state of mind?
Excellent! I am enthusiastic about what I am doing and what I hope to accomplish in the future. I feel I have reached a great age where I am still learning but able to much better assimilate facts and judge situations than I could in the past. I am optimistic about the future and enjoy keeping up with the new world of my children, grandchildren, and all those little ones who brighten my life as a part of my extended family.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I think my most marked characteristic is my size. I have always been one of the smallest people in my circle of friends. I also believe that I am friendly, athletic, and substantive. I think that one of my characteristics is of having a wide range of interests and pursuits.
What is your greatest fear?
That I will not live long enough to accomplish all the wonderful things that I have not yet done. I know we all have a limited time on this earth but I find it gets more interesting every day and I hope it doesn’t end too soon.
What do you like most about your job?
That it’s diverse. My main job in life is that of a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I love the fact that each day presents me with new situations and new challenges. My most recent job is writing, which also presents diversity, uniqueness, and challenges. I love the fact that I can escape to my own little world and write whatever I wish.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It’s being in a sunny, warm spot, reading, writing, or spending time with the members of my extended family. My happiness can also be found on a sunny day on the golf course when my game is good or underwater in that wonderful quiet place where I can be found scuba diving and feeling a part of that magical life of the sea creatures.
Who do you most admire?
I most admire all the wonderful explorers who have spent their lives delving into new areas of our earth and sea and its many resources. I admire their courage, ability to weather hardships, and the imagination it must have taken to set out on these daunting feats. These brave people have endured years of hardships in order that we can better understand the world, its land masses, and its oceans.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Having licorice in my secret drawer and V8 in my refrigerator. Every once in a while I buy more plants for my garden than I deem really necessary.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Self-interest. I do not like to be with people who talk only about themselves and their miseries. Life is too short to dwell on bad situations and too valuable to waste by going in circles — step out of the box and I’ll be much more interested in hearing what you have to say.
The other quality that I abhor is that of language laziness. People misuse our wonderful English language in many ways and do not take advantage of the opportunity to better describe what they are saying. It has become popular to use a few four letter words to describe everything. It is so much better to describe a situation with accurate words.
The use of bad grammar is also far too prevalent today. It is just as easy to spend a little time and use correct grammar so that we will not lose our language. I wish our educational system would focus more attention on teaching grammar.
What do you value most in friends?
The quality I most like in people is loyalty. I most value those friends who truly understand and like me for who I am. I feel really close to the friends who see me more deeply than just my outer surface. I like those who are able to appreciate true friendship for what it is: an exchange and understanding that outlasts social mores and respects each person for his individuality.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Good job! It is my favorite expression when I feel that someone has really accomplished what they set out to do.
Which talent would you most like to have?
If I had my choice I would like to be a talented musician. I would very much like to be able to sing, not as a great star but just so that I would not horrify those around me. I would love to be able to play the piano for my own pleasure and read music.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would have curly hair. I have always admired those heads that have just the right amount of curl and thus require no styling what so ever.
What is your greatest achievement?
The book I have just published titled Brussels to Beirut to Bali. It is a tale that I have been meaning to tell for some 50 years and I feel a great deal of accomplishment in have achieved that task.
Where would you most like to live?
On a quiet, tropical island surrounded by clear blue seas that I could swim in every day. The island would be almost deserted but it would have to have access to food and indoor plumbing.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My oldest friends from school days. We can laugh for hours over silly meaningless remarks and memories we share about old pranks we played and silly things we did when we were kids.
What is your motto?
Never give up and never say no. I enjoy challenges and want them to keep coming.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
One of the creatures I most identify with is Henny Penny, the hen who determinedly planted seeds, watered and weeded and protected them and then knew that she had a right to eat everything they produced.
As far as human historical figures I most admire Gertrude Bell, an English writer, traveler political officer, administrator, spy, and archaeologist who explored, mapped, and spent most of her life traveling throughout the Middle East. As a young woman born in the late 1800s, she left her comfortable home and traveled throughout the desert of the Middle East having mastered all the local languages and dialects.
On what occasion do you lie?
The only time when I lie is sometimes when I reply, “Great”, when asked how I am. No one wants to know about my aches and pains so I just want to move on and share some conversation of interest.