Tahiti, French Polynesia


100 years ago in 1919, my mother’s father, Gage Frick, departed Kansas City at age 21 to live in French Polynesia for an entire year. He took a tramp steamship from California along with a chest of books that he read. He lived in a hut on beach property owned by family acquaintances. My mother and aunt have at least one photo of him on the beach of Tahiti with some topless female locals. He stayed on Tahiti for an entire year. He had family business obligations and was probably eager to start his life and career, so at some point it was necessary for him to return home. 65 years later at age 85 he returned to Tahiti. Apparently he was surprised and somewhat disappointed that the island had changed so much since his departure; he had been accustomed to riding a bicycle, and suddenly cars were everywhere.

Throughout my childhood I remembered my grandfather as very old and somewhat of a curmudgeon. He was in his mid 80s when I was old enough to realize who he was. Many of my...