Right through November, there was no question which place would qualify as Worst Vacation Spot in Maui County and, perhaps, also as bottom of the Bottom Ten Stories of 2011.
Nakalele Point, usually a quiet and very far out-of-the-way place, leapt to prominence in July when a tourist was swept into the blowhole by a wave and drowned; and again in September when a man was seen beating a woman, who was later found dead. (Follow along; the suspect breaks a record for getting in Bottom 10 twice in one year.)
But after Thanksgiving, Molokai, inscrutably nicknamed the Friendly Isle, moved to the front, or the back, according to the way you look at it, by raising a huge fuss and demonstration against a cruise ship that intended to deliver three dozen tourists to the island.
There were fears that all those tourists would overrun the island if they were let loose for 24 hours, and change Molokai forever. Really.
There is no set criterion for being a bottom story, but some just beg to be picked. For example:
KNOW WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE. In September, a long-distance swimmer was run over by one of the safety boats sent out by the organizers, nearly losing his hand. And in June, two 50-something watermen who were swimming from Mala to Lanai were pushed off course; their escort boat reported the problem three hours later. Rescuers scrambled but weren't needed. The men made it, although it took one of them nearly 12 hours.
CRIMINAL MASTERMINDS. This year, nobody stole a police cruiser with its engine idling while its driver chased a miscreant, but almost every year someone decides the long arm of the law doesn't want to get wet. Indeed, twice a suspect leaped into the ocean to escape arrest. It's cold and wet, and the police can wait in comfort for you to come back out. One of the two was the suspect in the Nakalele homicide (not yet come to trial), who spent an uncomfortable night clinging to a rock before being reeled in. The other was a naked man in a monkey mask.
JUST YOU WAIT. The County Council postponed, again, the deadline for itself to complete the Maui Island Plan. It is now four years behind schedule and won't get done until August even if there are no further delays.
Do not try this with your tax payments. The new system was set up to avoid the delays of the old Community Plan-General Plan method, which ended up about a decade behind schedule.
MISSING IN ACTION. It was a presidential campaign year - well, wait, that's this year, but unlike the Maui Island Plan, it's ahead of schedule. Somebody forgot to remind Dennis Kucinich, who was not reported campaigning on Maui even once.
ISLAND PRIDE. When Josiah Okudara was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a police siege, he sported a neck tattoo: 96793. That's the Wailuku ZIP code.
THE BIGGER THEY ARE . . . If you let a problem go long enough, it will become a crisis. Thus, the ocean has been eating its way toward Honoapiilani Highway for many years. Rather than move the road, the state Highways Division threw up boulders along Olowalu.
. . . the harder they fall, sometime this year, probably.
SAY IT WITH FLOWERS. Most overwrought contretemps of the year in Maui County: The upset over replacing real flowers with plastic ones at The Whaler. Second most overwrought: Predictions of calamity if Front Street was/was not closed off for Halloween.
BOOBY PRIZE. A Kula householder found what he suspected was unexploded ordnance, possibly left over from World War II. Before authorities could deal with it, someone stole it.
WANNA RACE? Stay in Indianapolis. A tourist from Indiana was collared after witnesses told police he was racing his Lexus up and down South Kihei Road at speeds up to 80 miles an hour. Officers testified he claimed to have a "message from God to speed."
The economy must be looking up. Ever since 2008, Bottom 10 Stories has been strapped to come up with 10 worthy entrants.
I cannot explain it, but it seems that the better off people are feeling, the goofier they act. Anyway, there was no difficulty in reaching 10 in '11.
* Harry Eagar is a reporter for The Maui News. "Off Deadline" offers staff members the opportunity to step back and reflect on issues of the day or to just talk story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.