Maui Connections

Hi, I’m Bob. I wrote this song 50 years ago, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

Bob Dylan didn’t actually say these words – he didn’t say much at all – at his concert with his band in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s A&B Amphitheater Saturday night, but the sentiments were definitely there for audience members of a certain age.

Just being in proximity to this music maker for whom the words “living legend” are woefully inadequate made the evening historic. Not quite decipherable (being able to understand the words to the songs might have helped), but historic nonetheless.

Enigmatic could have been Dylan’s middle name, from the moment Robert Zimmerman made up the name in the first place. That was a half-century ago. Being the voice of his times, he segued from folk conscience to rock consciousness back in the ’60s. Now at 72, in his Renaldo and Clara hat and a brocade band uniform like a gringo mariachi, he’s our poet laureate disguised as a roadhouse boogeyman.

“Now” being the key word in that sentence. Dylan has always been in the now – he just gets there ahead of everyone else, leaving the rest of us wondering in the shadow of his Gemini shape-shifting.

His Saturday concert was no exception. On the way in I caught glimpses of friends in the crowd: David Johnston, Sally Sefton, Cynthia Conrad, Katie McMillan, Doug Rice, Christine Andrews.

We want to own our icons. We want to think we’re part of their lives the same way they’re so essential to ours. Dylan isn’t buying it. Never has.

“People are crazy and times are strange,” he sang in the opening song. “I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range. I used to care, but things have changed.”

Unlike Willie Nelson, with whom he toured minor league baseball stadiums across the heartland a few summers ago, Dylan doesn’t do greatest hits. Standards like “She Belongs to Me,” “Tangled Up in Blue” or “All Along the Watchtower” get new tunes. His sound mix makes the trademark voice even less comprehensible.

Even for someone who loves his new albums almost as much as his classics, his lyrics Saturday floated in and out of consciousness in fragments of phrases – “Sometimes the silence can be like the thunder/Sometimes I feel like I’m being plowed under/ Could you ever be true? I think of you/ And I wonder/ I’m sick of love; I wish I’d never met you/I’m sick of love; I’m trying to forget you/ Just don’t know what to do/I’d give anything to be with you.”

More faces in the crowd: Debbie Turner, Larry Schildmeyer, Eric Gilliom, Maya Rivers, Dan and Wendy Sayles, Colleen Cochlin, Rick and Cindy Knox, Yvonne Biegel, Mike Crall, Jon Woodhouse . . .

You heard the voice, if not the words. Beginning with the name, the entity called Bob Dylan has, more than any other artist of our times, been both product and victim of his own genius and prodigious imaginings. For its raspy edge there’s something soothing in the voice. It makes irony strangely comforting. The voice is just another mask that he wears, one on top of the other.

He had played a month of gigs in Japan before the Maui show. His schedule is called the never-ending tour, with almost 200 dates last year. Why? He could be richer than Midas on royalties alone. It reminds you of the legend of delta bluesman Robert Johnson, who supposedly traded his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his mighty talents – except Dylan is almost three times older than Johnson was when he died at 27.

Now, Dylan’s lyrics, which still hold the power to summarize or pulverize a relationship, or puncture his own mystique with a handful of words like arrows, ponder one man’s loneliness and mortality with the same laser vision he once focused on wayward America in its totality.

“The Cuckoo is a pretty bird, she warbles as she flies,” he sang. “I’m preachin’ the Word of God/I’m puttin’ out your eyes/I asked Fat Nancy for somethin’ to eat, she said, ‘Take it off the shelf/As great as you are a man/You’ll never be greater than yourself’/ I told her I didn’t really care/ High water everywhere.”

He concluded the show where he once began, with his mournful harmonica on “Blowin’ in the Wind.” In the ’60s, the song asked how many years would it take . . . now it’s more like, how many years has it been?

It’s always been about time for him. Even when you don’t catch all the words.

* 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

Springtime in the Rockies is colder than the darkest day of winter on Maui.

Family matters brought us back to Montana over the weekend where I discovered that late April in Big Sky Country still has snow on the mountains and occasional ice on the windshield in 25-degree mornings. Our arrival coincided with crisp blue skies after months of snow, ice, sleet, weeks of unending grayness, unbelievable wind chills and even a recent avalanche in the city of Missoula.

The avalanche made national newscasts after neighbors and first responders had to dig three people – an older couple and 8-year-old boy – out of the wreckage and drifts after snow had roared down the west face of Mount Jumbo at 120 mph, according to news reports.

Our 4-year-old granddaughter doesn’t understand what an avalanche is exactly, but the site was still the high point as she took us on a tour of her neighborhood. She showed us an excavated hole in the ground where wreckage and splintered furniture had been a few weeks ago.

Nature provides periodic reminders of its limitless powers in this college town tucked into the convergence of five mountain ranges. For all the signature big skies in the state, Missoula always feels on the edge of darkness to me, with its mining history and sturdy brick architecture of downtown bars and cafes as haunting train whistles echo through the long nights.

This is a place where spring feels hard earned, especially on Easter morning. Green grass was creeping across lawns that had been barren and brown for the last five months. Tiny leaf sprouts and pink and white buds like jewels were just beginning to fill in the veiny brown skeletons of tree branches lucky enough to have made it through the winter.

Easter is a holiday of magic. For the littlest kids, there’s the Easter Bunny, a lightweight Santa Claus stand-in, unleashing exciting backyard treasure hunts for colorful eggs. When they get a little older, there’s the lesson of Jesus, forgiveness and rebirth.

In Missoula this year, Easter was the reminder that after the avalanche come the blossoms. In this celebration of magic, life itself is the greatest miracle and wonder of them all.

* * *

This was the first Easter in two decades we haven’t spent at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. The Ritz’s 22nd annual Celebration of the Arts has been pushed back to May 9-11 this year, offering a minifilm festival amidst its symposia, hands-on art projects and other presentations exploring the soul of Hawaiian culture. This year’s theme is “Ko Makou Alanui Kupuna – Our Ancestral Paths . . .”

The films begin May 9 with two documentaries taking audiences “Above and Below Maui.” At 7 p.m. waterman Richard Roshon will show “From the Eyes of a Kayak,” followed at 8:15 p.m. with the preview screening of “The Quietest Place on Earth,” which I collaborated on with co-producers Dr. Tom Vendetti and Robert C. Stone. The Celebration concludes May 11 with the 4 p.m. Maui premiere of Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier’s “Aunty Nona Beamer – Malama Ko Aloha.” At 3 p.m. May 10, the Ritz will screen “The Haumana,” produced and directed by Keo Woolford. All three screenings are free and open to the public. (For details, visit

Woolford’s film brings the culture of hula to the screen, following the progress of an unlikely kumu hula as he molds a halau. The touching production had its Maui premiere at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center a few months ago, and since that time has been blazing a new trail for Hawaiian regional cinema across the U.S.

Maui filmmaker Brian Kohne, producer/director/writer of the Maui-made “Get a Job,” says, ” ‘The Haumana’ is as great a movie as we’ve produced in the islands (about us, by us) to date.” It’s also being seen by wider audiences, which Woolford built by working directly with halau on the Mainland. In the interconnected little world of making movies in the Hawaiian Islands, Kohne has cast Woolford as the lead in his new film production, “Kuleana.” Subtitled, “What We Do Here Matters,” it’s groundbreaking in its own right – but that’s for another column.

And “When the Mountain Calls,” the first film I scripted for Vendetti and Stone, will have a hana hou screening at 9 p.m. Thursday on KHET Channel 11. KHET was the sponsoring station for our film, leading to screenings on some 200 PBS affiliates and an eventual Emmy nomination.

The film chronicles Vendetti’s treks over 30 years in the Himalayas. Unfortunately after I began this column, one of its subjects, Sherpa Dorjee, was one of 13 people killed on Mount Everest on Friday, tragically in an avalanche.

* 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

In spite of missing airliners, global warming warnings and other chaos elsewhere in the world, a whole lot of laughing was going on Sunday afternoon in Wailuku. It was the concluding matinee of “The Worthmores,” a rollicking farce that felt like it could have been penned in 18th-century England where it’s set, but is actually a zany contemporary creation by Maui playwright Tom Althouse. Lisa Teichner directed its world premiere run at the Historic Iao Theater.

I caught up with Maui filmmaker Brian Kohne in the audience and enjoyed Kathy Collins in the cameo that has been played by other “stars,” including Mayor Alan Arakawa. She took her place in a stellar comic cast that included the brilliant playwright.

Before the show, Tom brought me up to date on his other work in progress right now – a $300 million lawsuit claiming that Warner Bros.’ hugely successful “Matrix” trilogy of films was taken from his original screenplay called “The Immortals.” His suit asserts that the studio rejected his script but kept it in its files; his lawyers are citing almost 200 uncanny similarities between his work and the studio’s final product.

Although the studio is dismissing the case as frivolous, and Althouse – an award-winning local playwright and longtime teacher and performer of children’s theater on Maui – as an opportunistic hack, coverage of the suit has been picked up by national media including The Associated Press and The Huffington Post.

The case is proceeding. Tom’s timeline and version of what happened makes for a way better movie in its own right than the one that finally made it to the screen (which, I can now finally admit, I never quite understood in the first place).

* * *

My former student Sterling Seaton has released a new guitar CD. It’s called “Simply Sterling,” and it is.

Sterling was in my English 100 class at what was then called Maui Community College. I’d like to claim I taught him everything he knows – but actually George Kahumoku Jr. did. Sterling was still a student at Lahainaluna High School when he started jamming on gee-tar with his ceramics teacher, Uncle George.

Sterling went on to be part of the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key show, which has added Thursday nights to its ongoing Wednesday series, hosted by Kahumoku and featuring most of the best slack key artists on the planet. (For more information, visit or call 669-3858.) Sterling never mentioned it in class, but when he was absent on any given day, he was probably off somewhere playing music or winning another Grammy.

The temptation is to call the new CD slack key, but that’s just the beginning. There’s Latin passion on “La Cancion de los Paniolos,” silky jazzy smoothness on “A Minor Setback ” and “Da One Wit da Minah,” a rollicking calypso vocal on “Down the Road” before he wraps things up with “Jailhouse Rock.”

“It’s Hawaiian, I swear,” he says into the mic before launching into the undiluted boogie of Elvis’ classic, adding a “hana hou!” in the last refrain.

* * *

We’ve all seen the black-and-white photo of John Lennon in the white sleeveless T-shirt that says New York City on the chest. It’s iconic, for oh so many reasons.

Tonight you can meet the guy who shot the image – Bob Gruen – in a reception from 6 to 9 at Celebrites Gallery in the Shops at Wailea. Bob recently wrote about his muddy trek to Woodstock in 1969. He started shooting rock stars before that label was in our vocabulary. Youthful images of 20-somethings, including Elvis, the Rolling Stones, a baby-faced Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and on and on, still make eye contact with us from his contact sheets.

It’s hard to believe that he’s been on the job for a half-century now. Under the direction of colorful French artist Gerard Marti, Celebrites Gallery is the place where 15 minutes of fame can last forever in our celebrity-obsessed times.

* * *

TEDxMaui speaker liaison Emma White tells me the third annual forum for new ideas and good ideas has announced its first five speakers for this year’s event, which returns to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center Sept. 28. Tickets go on sale today via the MACC box office and website.

Taking the stage will be Maui surf icon Dave Kalama; peace activist, educator, children’s book author – and Barack Obama’s half sister – Maya Soetoro-Ng; community mobilizer and peace builder Kerrie Urosevich; Maui-born-and-raised champion spear fisher, free diver, artist and chef-hunter Kimi Werner;; and senior scientist and cultural adviser at The Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i, Samuel M. ‘Ohukani’ohi’a Gon III.

* 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

“SuperMensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon” has been delighting audiences and critics on the festival circuit, recently adding the people’s choice award at Idaho’s Sun Valley Film Festival to its accolades. The Mike Myers-directed comic documentary about Maui’s iconic entertainment manager, producer and restaurateur will be one of the opening-night selections when the Maui Film Festival returns to Wailea June 4-8, inaugurating a new open-air venue at the Grand Wailea.

* * *

Shep isn’t the only unlikely local movie star on screen these days.

Haiku’s Wilfred Souza, who’s still winning rodeo belt buckles well into his 70s, is one of the interview subjects in “The Quietest Place on Earth,” the documentary I’m currently finishing up with co-producers Tom Vendetti and Robert C. Stone. A preview screening is set for opening night at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Celebration of the Arts, May 9-11.

Wilfred joins an eclectic cast of mostly Maui folks, from Clifford Nae’ole and Dr. Gary Greenberg to poet W.S. Merwin, authors Ram Dass and Jill Engledow, musician Keola Beamer and many more. The title refers to a specific location, but the movie journeys to a more metaphoric place where each of us can find tranquility in our hectic lives.

Among its spiritual and artistic voices, Wilfred’s the guy who makes his living on horseback. With his cellphone tucked into his jeans, he gallops along the line where Hawaii’s proud paniolo past meets the present.

We shot Wilfred’s segment on one of those narrow, windy Haiku streets snaking down a hill past houses with vehicles in their yards, big farm equipment behind their gates, and dogs lounging in the road that think a while before getting up to let you drive by.

Turned out, Wilfred owns all the houses on the road – and all the land nearby. His father bought it when Haiku real estate was going for $125 an acre. With raindrops smearing the truck windshield, Wilfred shared glimpses of history as we rode to the meadow to shoot his segment. He talked about his horses. The lucky ones were literally “out to pasture,” thanks to one infirmity or another. But most of them, like Wilfred, were still working, often in Haleakala Crater.

We wanted Wilfred to talk about the mountain’s silence. It was simple. Silence is what happens when there’s no one else around, he said.

There was paniolo poetry in his spare words. “If there are cows, you need cowboys,” he said. The horses could sense the peace of the mountain, he went on. When they were in the crater, they weren’t in such a hurry to get back to the barn at the end of the day.

* * *

On the other hand, you can make a joyful noise. Paul Janes-Brown reports Maui opera lovers recently gathered at Douglas and Janet Chun’s Kula home for a gala glimpse of Hawaii Opera Theater’s – some call it HOT – production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado,” coming to Maui on June 18. Pamela Andelin Cameron, a Maui member of the HOT board, along with Maui Arts & Cultural Center CEO and President Art Vento, hosted the Bev Gannon-catered evening, with Sandra Florence, Bernard Foong and Walter Bisset, Matt Gurewitsch, Leslie Granat, Anna Wynn, Earl and Sandy Stoner among those getting on board to raise $45,000 for the Maui run of the comic opera.

Also attending were fashion designer Anne Namba, whose costumes will evoke visions of “Hello Kitty,” along with HOT Artistic Director Henry Aquino, Executive Director Simon Crookall and Director of Development Elisabeth Case.

* * *

We all sing in different ways. Shannon Wianecki, who has an inimitable way of mixing words and science, says, “I notice that a lot of people go to Baldwin Beach to collect things. Some wade out to collect limu in big mesh bags, mostly wawae’iole, the thick green seaweed known as rat’s foot. Others spend hours sifting through shells. Young ladies like heart-shaped pieces of coral. A few guys stroll the beach with metal detectors; one even takes his into the pounding surf to find other people’s lost jewelry. Dogs collect perfect throwing sticks, then abandon them to the tide. Not to toot my own horn, but I collect trash. Every day I fill up a bag with tiny bits of plastic. It’s amazing how much there is, even on this relatively clean beach. I know it doesn’t make even a tiny dent in the massive Pacific Garbage Patch swirling out there in the deep blue. But I think to myself: This piece, this particular piece will not go into the belly of an albatross or petrel. That makes me feel good.”

* 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

Gas masks, fairy wings and costumes inspired by vegetables were in style Sunday as hundreds of marchers gathered at the War Memorial Stadium parking lot to make their voices heard on the subject of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, on Maui now and in our future.

Coconuts were handed out to help nourish and hydrate the crowd for the upcoming long walk up Kaahumanu Avenue to the Na Kai ‘Ewalu Canoe Club hale. A drum circle was the marching band. Signs were plentiful, including the one saying GMO should stand for Grow More Organic. The march went on for blocks; the rally drew an estimated 1,000 people.

Presented by the SHAKA Movement (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina), the anti-GMO campaign seeks a ballot initiative to prevent tampering with our food sources until the long-term consequences are known. An abundance of children in the crowd underscored one of the movement’s themes – it’s about the future, not our future so much as theirs, and the generations after them.

Remember that basic law of physics – actions cause reactions? Short-range solutions may become long-range problems. Yeah, mongoose – I’m talking to you.

The tone of the march was happier, healthier, less strident and more organic than I remember from my own protesting past, decades ago. But no less serious. It’s not a matter of certainty, yet, about the specific dangers and consequences of heading down the GMO highway, so much as a more pervasive unease about putting our faith in technology and the corporate forces behind it, considering where they’ve gotten us so far.

“The world is too much with us,” wrote English poet William Wordsworth. ” . . . Late and soon,/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; – / Little we see in Nature that is ours;/ We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

Wordsworth – which has to be the greatest poet’s name of all times – wrote his sonnet more than two centuries ago. George Kahumoku Jr. has a more up-to-date way of putting it. George was one of the musicians performing at the rally, but he shared some observations with me before going on stage. They were based on his experiences as a farmer, growing everything from pigs and goats to taro, amidst the array of talents that make his “Hawaiian Renaissance Man” label pretty literal.

Growing 80 varieties of taro, George says he did his own genetic modifying – it was called cross-pollination. Ditto for animals; he breeds for temperament, among other things. “They’ve gotta walk up to me. Chickens, dogs, if they don’t come when I call, I get rid of ’em.”

At one time he had 6,000 acres on the Big Island. He described the corporate cycle of using pesticides, then having to buy GMO seeds to resist them, not to mention all the heavy equipment. It drove him right out of business.

“Lucky for me, I had music. I paid my debt with music,” said the teacher and multi-Grammy-Award-winning slack key artist, who worked the rally into three other appearances Sunday. These days he tends his 2 1/2 acres “my grandfather’s way.” He doesn’t use equipment he can’t fix himself. “I’ve got a lawnmower and a weed whacker.”

Citing farmer friends from the Midwest to India, George sees the same pattern everywhere he looks.

“The corporate guys destroy local industry. The reason I came here (to the rally) is when you go GMO, you modify everything. It’s like you’re playing God, you know.”

Sunday’s march capped a busy weekend of races, performances, art exhibits and fundraisers. Maui’s Hawaiian Style volleyball team – featured in this column last week – wound up winning the women’s open championship at Hilo’s 57th annual Haili Tournament. Big bragging rights for this prestigious statewide competition, with Kaimi Rocha and Kela Lau Hee making the all-star team and Dreanne Shaw being named the tournament’s MVP.

On Saturday night, Cynthia Conrad reports that a large group of local theater supporters gathered on a Kihei beachfront lawn under hanging lanterns to enjoy a sneak peek of Maui OnStage’s upcoming season. Alexis and Stephen Dascoulias were honored for their community service and accomplishments, including improvements to the 86-year-old Iao Theater.

With costumed actors performing snippets, songs and scenes from the upcoming five-show season, the guests were invited to guess the titles. The correct answers were “Wait Until Dark,” “Elf,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and (exclusive rights to stage) “The Adams Family.”

Kathy Collins emceed the evening. Larry Feinberg provided a table for 10. And Cynthia’s husband, Jerry Labb, showed his support as Cynthia got in the act as a backup dancer behind soul singer Charles Cook.

* 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.