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Trip to the South Side
February 5, 2008 - Rick Chatenever
After living in Kihei for a decade and then moving Upcountry in 2001, I don’t get around much on that side of the island anymore.
The visits are so rare, in fact, it feels like a safari whenever I have to venture over for a dentist’s appointment. Things have, um, changed, I notice, since I was last here a few months ago.
The first time I hit the construction bypassing the familiar Mokulele-Piilani intersection, I was heading in an altogether unexpected direction before I even noticed.
What island am I on? was my first reaction. What planet?
Last weekend was more like a Wailea vacation. Four Seasons Resort Maui was launching its expansive, and very cool, new art collection, and invited the press and a bunch of the contributing artists over to celebrate.
We’ll have a more extensive tour of the collection in coming weeks in the Currents section of The Maui News. As curated by Julie Cline, a fine- arts specialist who grew up in the islands but now lives in Santa Barbara, it’s an exciting new addition to Maui’s cultural scene.
For one thing, it’s real art. True, there are plenty of works that qualify merely as beautiful, but there are also abstract pieces and edgy pieces and works that challenge the senses, rather than anesthetizing them with the usual images of benevolent whales and soothing sunsets.
For another, every picture — and sculpture, ceramic, basket, assemblage of twigs and more— tells the story. It’s the story of the islands, largely since statehood in 1959, as interpreted by the contributing artists in all sorts of ways.
It helped to have Cline and the artists on board letting us into their heads for a few minutes during the exhibit-launch tour. Their words were invaluable for some of us art-impaired types, leading to all sorts of aha! moments when a piece of art turns into something it wasn’t a moment ago, and you suddenly realize you’re actually seeing it.
The artists have left, but visitors to the Four Seasons can still take an audio-guided tour provided by the resort. It’s like tours offered by the world’s great museums. It’s free, it’s open to the public and Four Seasons is extending an invitation for the local folks to come over and take a look.
The podcast is also available online at www.fourseasons.com/maui/podcast/art.
As if that weren’t a great enough way to start a new year, I rolled out of bed Sunday morning to partake in another annual south side ritual.
It was the Polar Bear Fin Swim, the ninth annual, at South Malu‘aka Beach in front of the Maui Prince Hotel.The course goes out to the Pu‘u Olai, the cinder cone at this end of Makena Beach and then back, a distance of 1.2 miles.
It’s a mixed metaphor — a polar bear swim in the Pacific tropics in which swimmers are invited to use fins, appendages which of course, have nothing to do with bears.
Organizers describe it as the only sane polar bear swim on the planet. I have my doubts.
Actually, it reminds me of the silly old joke about the Fuquarwi tribe.
The Fuquarwi are bush people of small stature — so the story goes — who live in a land of broad plains and high grasses. They run along in single-file lines behind a leader, who, every once in a while, leaps up so he can see over the grass as he yells, “We’re the Fuquarwi!”
Replace the tall grass with a mouthful of salt water and you get the gist of open-water swim racing. It’s about the buoys. Those bright orange and yellow inflatable triangles that look so enormous when they’re sitting on the beach, have a way of becoming real tiny, if not disappearing entirely behind the swell, when you’re out there trying to find the next one.
Three buoys mark the triangular course, but you’ve got to swim about a quarter mile just to get to the first one. You’ve got to go round it again, before you can head back for shore.
From the air, my course looks less like a triangle than a lopsided trapezoid or maybe a hairball, zigging and zagging in hopes of happening onto the next buoy.
It takes long enough to get from one buoy to the next to make up names for them. First is the point of no return; then the why-am-I-doing-this-again?; followed by I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can; until finally, Oh, Lordy, free at last!
And then you’re back on the beach, a finned polar bear in an endorphin haze as to what kind of creature you might truly be, but secure in the knowledge that you’ve gotten yet another year — the Year of the Rat this time — off to a truly crazy start.
Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org
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