Maui Connections

A group of “old ladies” is heading to Hilo, looking for some action this weekend.

None of them is past her mid-20s; and the action they seek is on the volleyball court.

They are Hawaiian Style Volleyball’s Women’s Open Team, and they’re off to Haili’s, or more formally, Hilo’s 57th annual Haili Volleyball Tournament.

I got the lowdown on this contest from Kaimi Rocha, a member of the team who happens to live in our cottage with her mom, Georgie. She and her teammates, Kela Lau Hee, Dreanne Shaw, Yacine Meyer, Kalia Yasak, Brittany Awai, Sayble Bissen, Cassye Friel and Stephanie Dunn, have known each other since they were girls growing up on Maui.

“A lot of us were rivals at one time. Now that we’re back together, we decided to make a team,” says Kaimi, noting that all the girls went on to play in college before coming home and getting back into club volleyball. Under the coaching of Al and Sheryl Paschoal, the team members are now coaches of the younger players.

The “old ladies” played club volleyball as girls. The last time they competed in Haili’s, “we were playing the 12s (age group),” she said. “That was 12 years ago.” Playing with the club in high school also got them to a tournament in Las Vegas, where college recruiters could see them. Many of the girls got scholarships from that exposure.

They recently presented an exhibition match between BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific University in the King Kekaulike Gym as a fundraiser for the upcoming tournament. Haili’s has nine teams competing Thursday through Saturday. It’s pool play, then it goes to brackets. Gearing up for tournament play, a lot of local male players have shown up to scrimmage with them.

These former rivals are now “best of friends,” says Kaimi. She wasn’t making predictions for the tournament, other than to say, “We’re a pretty competitive group of people. We’re working hard.”

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A different sort of competition grabbed my attention Saturday night when KHET presented a live telecast of the Hawaii State Spelling Bee. How do you spell heart-pounding? Fourteen extremely poised students in grades 4 through 8 not only demonstrated their way with words, but put on a very entertaining show in the process.

Maui had two competitors in the contest – Kamalii Elementary School 4th-grader Paul Yamane was the youngest in the field. And Emmanuel Lutheran 6th-grader Ameera Waterford was the most fun to watch.

Spelling bees have yielded some memorable movies in recent years, and Saturday’s contest played out like one. I was not only cheering for the home team, but appreciating the cinematic mix of tension and comedy, too. The kids demonstrated remarkable composure and concentration – especially for some of us older watchers (not to mention English teachers) who would have been eliminated in an early round long before “punctilio.” But then the contestants would do something reminding us they were still kids, after all.

The funniest moments were when they would finish spelling a word on a question mark, or would stand at the mic for a few beats after finishing, as though waiting for the hook. The eventual winner couldn’t crack a smile, even after winning the whole thing.

Paul, 9, wearing a shirt and tie at the mic stand that dwarfed him, made it to round 8 with aplomb. Ameera, 12, survived considerably longer. With a spring in her step and a happy smile under a big halo of hair, she had personality to spare. She made it to the final four before being eliminated in round 16.

Considering that she’s got two more years of eligibility, we may well be seeing her again. As they say in the biz, the camera loves her. She can take inspiration from KHET President Leslie Wilcox, who was hosting the telecast, who got her start competing in the state spelling bee, too.

* * *

And in yet another form of competition, island-style, Brian Evans recently emailed from the Big Island to announce he’s running for Hawaii’s seat in the United States Senate this year.

Although he now lives in Orchidland, lots of us remember Brian from producing the Celebrity Series in Lahaina’s Maui Theatre a few years ago. Brian displayed his talents as a Frank Sinatra-style crooner, sharing each bill with a long list of headliners, most notably William Shatner.

Now he’s throwing his hat into the political ring, with the rallying cry, “People don’t like to be told who their U.S. senator will be, and it’s time someone just like them ran for office.”

Let’s see how that one goes.

* 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.

Maui Connections

It’s tax time. After the holidays, New Year’s Day, the Super Bowl and the Oscars, this doesn’t even pretend to be a season of happiness. It’s a time of laboriously poring over bad-news numbers on slips of paper of all shapes and sizes. It’s taxing just trying to sort it all out, especially when you know you’re going to pay at the end.

Still, every now and then you find a silver lining as you fill in the blanks. When you’re a writer, everything’s a story – even tax documents. Going over my eccentrically organized file folders last week with my accountant Gene Simon in his converted backyard garage in Pukalani was as much talk story as it was number crunching.

Lots of tax returns get filed from converted garages on Maui. That’s our style when it comes to high finance on the Valley Isle. A little funky, a little laid-back, tropical plants outside the windows.

But the sad sum of the numbers filling the blanks also added up to a happier narrative of how the year was spent. Literally.

Turns out, a lot of my 2013 was spent in hardware stores. “Retirement,” after all, is

pretty close in the dictionary to “rebuild” and “remodel.” In Upcountry Maui, hardware stores double as cultural centers. Kula Hardware with its glorious nursery and Kula Community Association baseball hats on sale at the cash register. Pukalani Ace, where they take that “helpful hardware man” motto to heart – the female staffers especially. And Miyake in Makawao for 2-by-10s and other long lists of lumber.

Oh, sure, Lowes and Home Depot are also well represented on the year-end credit card statement, but it’s the neighborhood stores that you count on in a pinch. Especially considering that you’ll be back in a few minutes to get what you actually needed the first time. By the third visit, for sure.

A great thing about hardware stores in our complex world is that they’re one place you can find answers. By the third visit, for sure. They offer the promise of actually being able to fix things. That’s an elusive pursuit for us humans.

As more and more modern technology goes digital – a mysterious, invisible alchemy as far as most of us are concerned – hardware stores still have nuts and bolts. The laws of physics are still in effect. And the employees behind the cash register at Pukalani Ace usually manage to work a little cheerful encouragement into the process, which never hurts.

Upcountry cultural centers aren’t limited to hardware stores. Pukalani Superette not only always has just what you need foodwise, but also has 50 years of history, stretching back like roots into the culture tending the farm fields of Haleakala’s fertile slopes. And you may run into Neida Bangerter or Keith McCrary in the checkout line.

Pukalani Foodland offers not only great poke, but chances to catch up in the aisles with Teena Rasmussen from the Mayor’s Office; or Kula Hospital head, Dr. Nicole Apoliona, who updates me on progress in the state Legislature to transfer public hospitals to a private nonprofit.

Once at Foodland, I ran into Lisa and Kris Kristoferson, on their way to town from their home in Hana. They were just back from a White House concert, televised on PBS, where Kris was the guest of honor as an all-star lineup chimed in on his immortal “Me and Bobby McGee” for the first family and guests.

When I told Kris I had just seen him on TV playing for the president, he said, “Yeah, I can’t believe he stayed for the whole thing.”

With horses on the hillsides, cattle occasionally dotting the slopes of Haleakala Ranch, farms growing everything from persimmons to proteas, Surfing Goat Dairy and the new Ocean Vodka distillery, fertile Upcountry feels worlds away from the tropical postcard, palm tree-lined beaches visible on both north and south shores from this altitude.

It’s a place that has always been about agriculture, but the ethnic mix of families who have worked its lands for generations – the Chinese, the Japanese, the Portuguese, the haoles and the rest – have produced a rainbow-colored society in the process.

One reason I love going to Kula Community Association meetings is to be reminded that as spread out and rural as things feel up here on the mountain, it really is a community. A vibrant community that makes things grow from the earth below our feet, under that huge, hopeful dome of sky above our heads.

It’s a hardworking place, but healthy, happy and mostly sane.

Even if it takes tax time to remind us.

* 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.

Maui Connections

Maui Film Festival Directors Barry and Stella Rivers are nailing down plans for this summer’s festival, whose dates have moved up to June 4 to 8 in Wailea and at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. A definite highlight will be the Hawaii premiere of “Supermesch,” a comic documentary by Mike Myers about Maui’s own Shep Gordon.

I caught up with Stella and festival staffer Dana Langseth recently at Paia’s new Rock & Brews. With picnic tables and long wooden benches under rock posters and lots of buzzing big screens, it’s the north shore’s hip hamlet’s newest way to have fun. There’s a big beer list, family-oriented comfort food, an indoor-outdoor ambiance, concert lighting and room to dance. Considering that its high-profile co-founders are former rockin’ masked men Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, it will probably become known as the place to KISS and tell about.

Just setting foot in the reinvented space reminded me of another evening, years ago, when it was still called Jacques Bistro and I discovered my secret powers there . . .

It was a Saturday evening in August.(Cue the flashback music on the soundtrack.) I know the month because Rinzai Zen Mission on Baldwin Beach was having its obon dance, which always falls in late summer. Friends were visiting from Santa Cruz, and we told them that they needed to add the colorful, spiritual swirl of an obon dance to their postcard memories.

We were to meet at the temple. My wife, Karen, and I got there early, which left time for a Baldwin Beach swim in the golden glow of late-afternoon sunshine.

I’ve swum that beach hundreds of times. I observe major holidays by swimming its length. Some of my dad’s ashes are out by the reef. My swims are like personal bon dances at sea, communicating with lost ancestors . . . and the powers that be.

Which in this case was probably a Portuguese man-of-war. I say probably because I never saw it. Its kiss felt like a jellyfish bite, except instead of subsiding, it kept intensifying. Like an organic vise grip. It suddenly seemed like a good idea to swim for shore before any of its buddies showed up.

When I came out of the surf, Karen, along with Barry Rivers, was watching the whole scene. “What’s with your neck?” they said. “Ugh!”

It was swollen, with a long sting mark. From gorgeous future Maui Film Festival honoree Malin Akerman in “The Heartbreak Kid,” I later learned one remedy for a jellyfish sting is for someone to urinate on it. Better yet, have some vinegar in your gear bag.

I didn’t. And so by the time we left the beach and headed for Jacques for drinks and dinner, I was the one with the goiter neck. The swelling eventually subsided, finally turning into a faint necklace scar like former Maui guy Clint Eastwood’s in “Hang ‘Em High.”

Long afterwards, I read a scientific study about jellyfish. Considering that they don’t have stuff we have, like eyes or brains, their nervous systems are pretty sophisticated. They have a 360-degree sense of what’s going on around them.

I mention this because that night at Jacques, as I was sitting at my table, a waitress behind me tipped her tray and a drink fell off. Seeing it from the corner of my eye, my arm flew out and caught it in midair.

Alas, it didn’t last. I was back to my normal klutz mode within days. But it always struck me as screenplay material in the “Spider-Man” mold – middle-age guy bitten by wild creature, suddenly imbued with supernatural powers: it’s Jellyman!

More recently, several fellow swimmers, like Paul Meyer, have gravitated to cycling. This isn’t always such a great idea, huh, Doug Rice? And Janet Renner, who has taught a whole generation of Mauians to swim, reports that she’s mending fast and will be back in the water soon, after her own bike mishap. You go, girl!

Another super swim coach and awesome aqua-man, Malcolm Cooper, offers a fresh theory about the recent uptick in shark encounters. He points to an increase in spearfishermen, and reports of sharks following them. He ventures that the sharks are learning from the humans, which kinda makes you rethink things like food chains . . . or which species is the smartest of them all.

Also at sea, artist George Allen and wife Janet emailed recently from Singapore where they were boarding an 18-day cruise to South Africa. Janet called it “our ‘Around the World in 40 Days’ dream trip, thanks to good friend Gage Schubert.”

Bon voyage! On a cruise, what you sea is what you get.

* 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.

Maui Connections

Aging baby boomers have been lining up at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center box office to buy tickets for Bob Dylan’s April 26 show in the A&B Amphitheater. But Karen Bouris, executive director of the Merwin Conservancy, reminds us that another writer with a unique way with words – Dr. Abraham Verghese – will get here first. He’ll be speaking and signing books at a dessert reception beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday in McCoy Theater.

The Addis Ababa-born physician and Stanford med school professor will speak on the relationship between literature and medicine. Verghese’s writing includes the best-selling novel “Cutting for Stone,” as well as “My Own Country” and “The Tennis Player,” works stemming from his response to political unrest in his home country and subsequent work with terminal AIDS patients.

Proceeds will benefit the Merwin Conservancy to preserve the legacy – and the palm forest – of Haiku’s two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, W.S. Merwin.

The former poet laureate of the United States, Merwin told me in 2011 that on Maui, “Nobody knows who I am. They just know I’m a guy who plants trees.” He’s one of the local interview subjects, along with author Jill Engledow, musical artist Keola Beamer, Maui Dharma Center’s Lama Gyaltsen and others in our new documentary about Haleakala Crater, “The Quietest Place on Earth.” It will screen at 8:15 p.m. May 9, opening night of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s 2014 Celebration of the Arts.

This year’s Celebration will be a micro-film festival, amidst its other presentations and hands-on arts projects. It will screen Richard Roshon’s “From the Eyes of a Kayak” at 7 p.m. May 9; Keo Woolford’s “The Huaumana” at 3 p.m. May 10; and Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier’s documentary on Aunty Nona Beamer, “Malama kou aloha . . . keep your love,” at 4 p.m. on Mother’s Day, May 11.

Speaking of Bob Dylan, MACC Box Office Manager Jason Carbajal reports that after tickets went on sale to the general public Saturday – drawing a crowd of 50 to 70 before the box office even opened – seats are still available in all four price ranges.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that everyone is still interested in seeing Bob Dylan,” says Jason. He expressed amazement at the energy level of the iconic 72-year-old artist whose MACC appearance follows 23 concerts over 30 days in Japan.

The genius poet folk-rocker whose lyrics rewrote the course of American culture for the last half century is also known around the MACC as the guy who introduced reserved seating for outdoor shows. Doing lots of honky-tonk, roadhouse-style rock and blues on his recent recordings, Dylan remains an inspiration for his generation for just being able to remember the lyrics.

We can take heart from a recent NPR report saying that people of a certain age – around Bob’s age, give or take a decade – may not be losing our memories after all. It’s just that the longer we live, the more memories we’ve got to sort through.

If you think of memory as a tape recorder that’s always turned on, we just keep accumulating more filing cabinets, kitchen drawers and cardboard boxes in the attic to go through, trying to find them. It’s related to that sensation of walking into a room in your house, then trying to remember why you came. Glasses? Coffee cup? What was I looking for again?

It’s just a matter of time until everything’s fitted with an LED blinker and/or beeper to aid addled minds. But technology comes at a price. One reason I resisted getting an iPhone for so long – no matter how cool, sexy and essential Steve Jobs made them – was I didn’t want something in my pocket reminding me it was smarter than I am.

When one of my students mentioned texting her grandma, another student replied in disbelief, “Your tutu texts?”

But there are bright spots on the tech horizon. Dropping into the first Supply and Service Expo presented by the Maui Food Technology Center at Hannibal Tavares Center in Pukalani last Wednesday, I saw friends including John and Matt Heid of Maui Mac Firewood; Maui Macaroon goddess Lori Steer; and “Edible Hawaiian Islands” publisher Dania Katz. I got an Aloha Shoyu Magic Grip Jar Opener, I munched on flavored mac nuts and kept circling back to the Uncle Louie Sausage table. I marveled at how fresh Maui Printing Co. makes vintage Hawaiiana look, I caught up with new developments from Maui Culinary Academy, Maui Farmers Union United and lots more.

Maui’s a place where technology springs from the earth, as we seek to create a healthy, creative, humane and caring future. Lucky we live here, eh?

* 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.