Clearing out my desk in May when I semi-retired from The Maui News yielded all sorts of treasures. Along with the bullwhip and Indiana Jones posters, the two decades' worth of press passes and the drawers stuffed with professional Reporter's Notebooks, there was a little box of microcassettes.
Each tiny plastic cases bore my disreputable handwriting identifying the voice on the tape. Kris Kristofferson. W.S. Merwin. Bill Maher. Ram Dass. Patricia Clarkson. Many predated my arrival on Maui in 1991: Robin Williams Bette Midler James Stewart
I don't know how many actual microcassette recorders the tapes had outlasted, but the latest palm-size recorder has seen plenty of action lately, between phone interviews and the Maui Film Festival last month.
Filing these latest interviews, I realized I needed to replenish my blank tape supply.
That's when I experienced what used to be known as a rude awakening.
Longs doesn't sell the tapes anymore. Neither does Office Max. What started as a simple errand was quickly becoming a wild goose chase. My growing frustration led to the fairly desperate step of setting foot in Walmart but no luck there, either.
I finally found the last three-pack, in its little plastic bag, on a Radio Shack shelf in Kihei.
Were they going to get more? I asked the clerk. "Do they still make these things?"
"Let me show you the digital models," he said.
I know, I know - it's time to get with the program. I don't even need a new recorder. New smart phones have them built in.
But the thought of replacing those funky, clunky little plastic boxes with their hand-lettered names with digital MP3 files left me with a wistful sensation similar to the one I have for the newspapers the interviews eventually appeared in.
You remember news papers?
As smart, efficient, better-sounding and tree-friendly as the new technology so clearly is, it still brings trepidation to those of a certain age. 1984 came and went, calming fears of George Orwell's fictional version of a society constantly rewriting its own history. Now you can just erase it with a technology upgrade.
Screens you work with your fingers are so much now than inky paper products you hold in your fists. One-year-olds have already mastered the screen swipe. You just have to keep the faith that simply because something - say a taped interview with Olivia Wilde - is now invisible doesn't mean it no longer exists.
Unfortunately, trying to keep that faith adds one more invisible stress to modern life. Not only do those stresses have a way of adding up, but I think they may help explain why the end of the world has been such a popular movie theme lately. Oh sure, advances in special effects help - the apocalypse is lots easier to create onscreen than it used to be, and looks more convincing, too.
But lately the comic-book superheroes who arrive at the multiplex just in time to save the world for another week have had to make room, in the smaller auditoriums at least, for more human human beings. For them, thoughts of how the world might end aren't all that entertaining and are, in fact, kind of sad.
Last week, it was the unlikely pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in the surprisingly appealing "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World."
This week, the world doesn't literally come to an end - it just feels like it might as well, in the 12-year-old minds of the couple at the center of director/co-writer Wes Anderson's eccentric, wonderful "Moonrise Kingdom."
Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play the dorky, precocious, troubled young Romeo and Juliet whose disappearance together sends the New England island where they live into emergency mode.
Set in 1965 and co-starring Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Edward Norton, Anderson turns the sylvan island into an enchanted place. Church pageants become magic epics. Boy scouts, acting like boy scouts, are heroes, surrounded by painted canoes and pup tents. This is a plot where, when a thunderstorm starts, you know someone's going to get struck by lightning and shake it off in the next scene.
For all Wes Anderson's bittersweet cleverness, "Moonrise Kingdom" is really about simpler stuff: Innocence. Kindness. And how pure love can be for those not old enough to know better.
In other words, just the cure for the end-of-the-world blues.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org