Maui Connections

After the flags of Veterans Day, the historical revisions of Columbus Day, the masked revels of Halloween, the nerve-racking tensions of midterm Election Day, Thanksgiving marked the last turn before the homestretch of the holiday season.

Here on the Mainland, the holidays come amid shortening days and dropping temperatures. It’s been beginning to look a lot like Christmas on store shelves since well before Halloween. With new “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the calendar, my current home base of Tucson, Ariz., moves to a soundtrack where beloved carols morph into catchy jingles, and the dollar sign is the most used letter in the alphabet.

Against this backdrop, not to mention 6 o’clock news revelations each night, simply remembering to be thankful seems more essential than it ever has before.

Being a long way from home, with none of my usual sources checking in last week, I had to check Facebook to catch up with friends doing Thanksgiving, Maui-style. Bryan Berkowitz and some friends hiked across the crater — under a full moon — as part of the holiday weekend.

Clifford Nae’ole spent time with family — including Rhyden, who’s inherited the movie-star looks from his grandpa — along with the crew of Maui’s ocean-voyaging canoe, Mo’okiha O Pi’ilani.

For his feast, Harry Donenfeld deep-fried two turkeys in a setup that looked more like a NASA launch pad, and lived to tell the tale.

It wasn’t stuffing but purple haze on menu at Mulligan’s on the Blue Saturday, where Bryan Debris and Kathy Collins were among the happy throng celebrating the “Jimi Hendrix 76th Birthday Bash” benefiting the Jimi Hendrix Foundation.

There’s a lot to be said for not needing winter clothes to celebrate winter holidays. Before I started spending this season with family on the Mainland four years ago, I used to observe as many of those special occasions as I could — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — with a commemorative swim off Baldwin Beach.

The Maui Pink Cap swimmers have their own variation on the theme. They spent last Sunday morning, as they do almost every week, frolicking in the happy waters off Makena. You don’t even have to get wet to share their wonderful adventures, thanks to their resident cameraman, Don Bloom.

With the ocean swimmers more than happy to strike synchronized goofy poses unda da sea, Don has created his own genre of underwater photography somewhere between Jacques Cousteau and Busby Berkeley. One of his Pink Cap prints hangs proudly in Washington, D.C.’s, Smithsonian Institution.

In another of those only-on-Maui rituals, religious and spiritual traditions East and West merged Sunday at Makawao Union Church when Haiku spiritual author and teacher Ram Dass once again offered his annual Thanksgiving Satsang, with his his pal, musician Krishna Das, as a special guest. It benefitted Maui Food Bank.

There’s no place like home for the holidays, but being fortunate enough to be a resident of a place often mistaken for paradise can lull us into a false sense of bliss. Sometimes it takes a hard challenge to remember the real meaning of gratitude. Sally Sefton posts that a month after receiving a liver transplant, her husband, Maui Academy of Performing Arts Artistic Director David Johnston’s journey “is slow and often painful. . . . He recently had to increase his anti-rejection meds because his body showed signs of rejecting the liver. The doctor said it was a good thing, because it showed that his body is working.

“He is determined to make his way back from this, and that is everything,” writes Sally. “We are grateful. Ever grateful.”

And Lou Diliberto, all-around video wizard and the guy in the booth keeping all things technical running smoothly at the Maui Film Festival, expressed his own gratitude “for all my family and friends who sent their aloha and prayers to me this past year. One year ago I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. One year later I am tumor free. What a difference a year makes!”


I didn’t realize when I began compiling the column that writing it would itself become an act of gratitude. Staring at an empty inbox on Sunday afternoon doesn’t exactly inspire a sense of equanimity. But chalk one up for Facebook for putting me in touch — well, virtual touch — with so many friends I’m realizing mean so much to me. I hope no one minds being included without being asked.

The rules of the road are still being written on the social media highway, and the jury’s still out on whether or not Facebook is a force for good.

That’s for another column. This week it was a lifesaver.

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