Maui Connections

Whenever I see that TV ad about the “ingredient first discovered in jellyfish,” it reminds me of my own up-close-and-personal experience with a Portuguese man-of-war.

The product in the ad is supposed to help the memory in people of a certain age. People of my age, actually. I can’t remember the product’s name, but the jellyfish part strikes a nerve every time.

It was a Saturday night off Baldwin Beach. It was almost two decades ago, but I know it was a Saturday because a bon dance was happening at the nearby Renzai Zen Mission later that evening. That would put the date in August, since that’s that traditional spot on the island obon schedule.

It was twilight under a pastel sky when I set out swimming from the cove toward Baby Beach a mile away. I had barely begun when I felt a sharp pain in my neck.

When we examined the wound later, it looked like a tentacle had left a welt like Clint Eastwood’s noose scar in “Hang ‘Em High.” Of course, I didn’t know that in the water when it was actually happening. It felt a lot stronger than a regular jellyfish sting and convinced me it was a good idea to exit the water — pronto — especially since I didn’t know what had hit me, or if it had a bunch of pals nearby.

By the time I got to shore, the scar was like a crooked black line on a map, and the area around it was swelling like a goiter. Later that evening, my nervous system receptors were picking up signals like 360-degree radar . . . but the sensation was gone by the next morning.

I’m still not fully convinced the ingredient that particular jellyfish shared with me didn’t forever change my life. For a while I toyed with writing a movie script about a middle-age man who gains super powers after such an encounter. I called it “Jellyman.”

Luckily, the encounter didn’t leave lasting effects aside from the faint scar you can still see on my neck. The whole experience was pretty benign, and I got a funny story out of it. I’ve told the story many times over the years, and even wrote a column or two about it.

But this week I was reminded how memories of an attack can remain razor sharp decades after lesser details have been forgotten . . . even for people not sitting in front of a panel of patronizing interrogators questioning their character, their sanity, or claiming it never happened at all.

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Speaking of good ideas for a movie, award-winning Maui filmmaker Ken Martinez Burgmaier is editing his footage of Aretha Franklin for a tribute project for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Washington, D.C., and the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Ken produced and directed two film projects with the Queen of Soul at the Kennedy Center and Dolby Theatre; his footage includes her performing her signature “Respect” backed by folks including Madeline Albright, Herbie Hancock, Chris Botti, Helen Mirren, Terrence Blanchard, Wayne Shorter, Colin Powell, Diane Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ron Carter and Kevin Eubanks.

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And live, from Wailuku, the “Good Ol’ Days” rolled into the War Memorial Complex last weekend with the 96th Maui Fair. The trade winds made it comfortable, report Jerry Labb and Cynthia Conrad, who enjoyed the informative community service booths, crafty Maui-made product tents, amazing horticulture displays, art and photos along with livestock up close.

After filling up on local ono grinds selected from over 40 nonprofit food booths, they caught Kanekoa and The Exiles on Maui showcasing music of the Rolling Stones on the main entertainment stage Friday. Nils Rosenblad brought together some of Maui’s finest musicians, getting an exuberant Paul Janes-Brown and Kathy Collins moving on the grass dance floor. Others enjoying the fair included Cindy Paulos, Rita Ryan, Neil Warring and Mana’o DJ Bill Best.

On Saturday night, Jerry and Cynthia report Grammy and Na Hoku award winner Kalani Pe’a captivated a sold-out McCoy Theater crowd. The purple-loving, snappy dressing, ex-teacher introduced his second album, “No ‘Ane’i,” translating each Hawaiian song for everyone’s further enjoyment.

He charmed the audience with tales of his youth and emotional tributes to his beautiful mother and beloved grandmother. He later introduced “Na Wai Eha,” four young falsetto singers who brought the audience to their feet with their perfect harmony, as talented hula dancers and impromptu guests from the audience joined in.

Karen Fischer reports Kalani will be touring Oregon and California soon. Enjoying the show were Barry Sultanoff, Laurelee Blanchard, Teena Rasmussen, Sunny Jordan and Bob Flint.

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning columnist and former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com.

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