Maui Connections

People ask,”So how’s retirement?”

I answer, “I don’t know.”

Since leaving my editor’s desk, things have been – as the cliche says – awfully busy. Between teaching English at UH-Maui College, freelance writing, filmmaking and never-ending home improvement (let’s hear it for drip irrigation systems), I didn’t retire so much as change jobs.

This column is the latest one. It’s nice to be back.

Many of you know me from my previous column in Maui Scene. When we launched Scene in 1992, I remember a neighbor commenting, “Wow, that’s great. Now what are you going to do next week?”

In those days, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center was just a gleam in the eye of Pundy Yokouchi and an impromptu army of creative local folks who thought the island worthy of such a magnificent dream. It wasn’t even a hole in the ground yet.

I was there for the groundbreaking, standing with Maui Philharmonic Society head Sandy McGuinness at the horseshoe pits overlooking Kahului Harbor. It was pau hana with a pastel ocean in the background as they handed out T-shirts embossed with Maui Community Arts & Cultural Center. There were hard hats, artists and community leaders in the group to whom Pundy introduced “the young haole guy from the Mainland” who was going to run the construction project – Art Vento.

Everything old is new again, says the song. When my classes write research essays at the end of each semester, I tell them about primary sources. A primary source is someone who was there, and lived to tell the tale. A witness. I’ve been a primary source for cultural life on Maui for a long time, and on the Mainland a long time before that.

Like the old environmental bumper sticker, “Think global, act local,” Maui’s culture in the digital 21st century is where global and local meet. My inspiring buddy, the late Ed Tanji, used to ponder the ramifications and responsibilities of trying to communicate in the media age in this space. I’ll carry on that discussion from time to time.

But most of what will be here will be closer to the ground. And sea. (Shark tales are a recurrent theme these days in conversations with fellow ocean swimmers and surfers like Dan Schulte. We’ve always known we were entering their realm. Our smiles are just the tiniest bit more uncertain now.)

Vento’s still running the show at the MACC. I’ll check in with him, and staff members including Barbara Trecker and Neida Bangerter to keep tabs on what’s going on over there – like Oliver Mtuzudzi’s joyful musical anesthesia from Zimbabwe on Saturday night, followed by Keo Woolford’s made-in-Hawaii hula journey of discovery, “The Haumana,” on the Castle Theater screen Sunday afternoon.

That screen is also a link to Maui Film Festival directors Barry and Stella Rivers, who have kept scoops on the festival, not to mention interviews with larger-than-life stars, coming my way over more happy years than I can count.

Two decades doesn’t qualify me as an old-timer, but it’s been enough time to watch the island change. I arrived in the twilight of the plantation era, and learned about the multiethnic threads woven into strands of local culture, where family trees often resemble mini-United Nations.

In a sense, a lot of us are still working on the plantation. Only now the owners now are media moguls and high-tech gazillionaires. Maybe a fortune can buy you paradise. I don’t think so. Just sayin’.

I rely on friends like Clifford Nae’ole and Keali’i Reichel to keep reminding me that the true value of this place isn’t the illusion you can own or control it – but the thrilling honor of being a tiny part of it.

My old column was usually about movies. Although it picked up occasional prizes for film reviewing, I never thought that’s what I was doing. Instead, movies provided the segue – the connection – to the “Big Picture” of what being human is about.

Just as I evolved from writing about movies to writing film scripts myself, this column is following a similar path. There won’t be reviews here, although I’ll keep track of local filmmakers like Brian Kohne, Eric Gilliom and Jonathan Yudis or Stefan Schaefer, all of whom have new projects in the works.

Hopefully, the column itself will be a movie, adding a new scene of island life each Tuesday. I’ll provide narration and occasional comic relief but there’s an open casting call for co-stars. Pass along your tales and tidbits – be part of the movie!

As my old pal Liz Janes-Brown used to say, Let’s talk.

* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and Emmy-nominated scriptwriter. Contact him at or 344-9535.