You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief Monday, as Maui County took another cautious step toward returning to normal. Or, I guess I should say, establishing “the new normal.” Mayor Michael Victorino’s decision to reopen most businesses and services has allowed many of my friends to restore, at least partially, a pre-COVID routine: going back to work, getting pedicures and haircuts, visiting favorite restaurants and coffee shops. My best friend and I enjoyed dinner together for the first time in nearly three months, and although we were seated at a picnic table in a food truck court, it felt like a celebration. Both of us are looking forward to resuming our cherished custom of talking story while stuffing ourselves, a couple of times a week.
My professional life, however, is nowhere near normal. Most of my livelihood is tied to public gatherings, and it’s going to be a long time before we’re able to resume Friday Town Parties and Polynesian shows. Income stream aside, what I really miss is interacting with an audience; laughing together, dancing together, just being together.
Now, hosting virtual gatherings is my new normal. Fortunately, having worked in radio for most of my adult life, I’m quite comfortable performing alone in a little room, talking to a machine. At least with Facebook Live, I can actually see whether anyone is watching.
On Fridays and Saturdays, I host the “Shelter in Place” concert series on the Maui Coffee Attic Facebook page, sponsored by The Buzz 107.5 FM. Maui musicians and singers perform to an empty house at the Coffee Attic while online viewers enjoy the music from the comfort of their homes and employ virtual tip jars through PayPal and Venmo. The next show will feature Dr. Nat, starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
This Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m., I have the honor and pleasure of emceeing a tribute to the great Willie K. Most agree that Willie’s greatest legacy is his music, but he was, just as importantly, a generous philanthropist and a passionate mentor to many. One of the talented musicians Willie loved and supported is Kaleo Phillips, who has organized this concert as a benefit for Willie’s family. Kaleo, Amy Hanaiali’i and Kalani Pe’a are among 20 or so artists who’ll perform live or by video. Friends and colleagues beyond our shores will also deliver remarks and remembrances, and viewers may contribute donations through PayPal and Venmo. The show will be streamed on the Willie K Facebook page and at williek.com.
Then, on Tuesday, I hope you’ll join me for a virtual event of a different type. It probably won’t include any singing . . . but then again, stranger things have happened, especially in these changing times. Based on the posts I’ve been seeing on social media, the COVID-19 pandemic has stirred greater interest and involvement in politics, at both the local and national level. Here’s an early learning opportunity: The Just Transition Hawaii Coalition will present a Maui County Council candidate forum from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on the coalition’s Facebook page. The forum will also be broadcast on Akaku Red (Channel 54) and as of press time, 14 candidates have confirmed their participation. You can join the Zoom session by registering at bit.ly/2zuOaKe.
The coalition is a nonpartisan, statewide effort, focused on building a Hawaii-grown food security infrastructure, but candidates will be asked a variety of questions. If you register at the link above, you may submit questions of your own.
In the new normal, social distancing does not have to mean social disconnection.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.