The calendar might say that Fall is supposed to be in the air here on Maui, and the unrelenting heat did drop a couple of digits for a couple of days last week, but then it zoomed right back up there. Still, I hear the word “Autumn” and I start thinking about school supplies (I’m a stationery geek) and decorating for Halloween.
At which point, Mike just rolls his eyes… “Seriously, you’re going to decorate for Fall, and you live on Maui?” It is a bit incongruous, when it’s 90° out, to be hauling out gourds and pumpkins. But it’s just ingrained in me. And then yesterday I saw woman who was obviously jonesing for an Autumn fix here on Maui, but she just wasn’t going to find it…
We were at the movies, and she was ahead of me walking into the theater. The first thing I noticed were her riding boots, a shiny, high pair with her jeans tucked into them. Then a long-sleeved Navy blue shirt, and a blue scarf wrapped around her neck, just so. It was 87° out, people! Everyone else was in shorts and rubbah slippahs. I was trying to make sense of this… At first I figured she was from Upcountry, but quickly dismissed this, because anyone coming down to Kahului from Upcountry knows it’s going to be god-awful hot down there. Then for a moment I thought she was a tourist, but realized that a tourist would not bring shiny, high riding boots on vacation to Maui.
Then I got to her hair. A short, sassy, expensive cut. Aha! (Women here do not have short hair. Maui is the Land of Hair.) Final deduction: She has just moved to Maui, is missing Autumn, and is alone… which means she hasn’t made friends yet. (I have shared in past blogs how difficult it is to “break in” here. Harder than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. For the record, I was talking to a friend on the North Shore of Oahu, and she said she’s never been so lonely in her life as when she first moved to the North Shore. She just couldn’t make friends…it was “full of cliques”, as she put it. It took a few years, plus having children, for her to finally break in.)
Anyway, as a writer, I’m an observer. And I will say this: I never studied people in other places I lived, like I do here. The indicators, the clues, just scream on Maui like they never did anywhere else. It has to do with it being a tourist society. People are very attuned to when someone looks like, or acts like, a Tourist here on Maui. (The person who just cut me off in traffic, was it a Tourist? I look at the car, the way they’re dressed… do they seem insanely happy, like they’re on vacation? If it’s a Tourist, I find myself being more patient). It’s a small island, and people try to stake out their own bit of Paradise. Almost an “us vs. them” mentality, and not in a good way.
It will take a while, perhaps a few years, but this new woman will eventually realize that you just have to let go of the old ideas about everything (including those boots) when you move here, because Hawaii is a foreign land. And though the calendar says “Autumn”, it will be still be 90° outside.
In case you’re wondering, we were at the movies to see “Captain Phillips.” Mike is a boat Captain, and his dad was a Rear Adm. in the Navy, so I thought it would be a good fit. Instead, we found it uncomfortably intense. INTENSE in that it never let up for a second. If that’s your thing, by all means, go for it. Some might say it was good because it kept them on the edge of their seat. But good filmmaking, to me, must have highs and lows, it must give the audience a breather once in a while.
I learned this in high school when I was in a small traveling singing group (sixteen people:four sopranos, four tenors, etc.) called The Choraliers. We went down to compete in the State finals. We were good. We KNEW we were good (Hi, Randy!), but after our performance, our score was withheld and we were sent home for the day. We were crushed, as only high schoolers can be, trying to figure out why. The judge was kind enough to tell us: “The piece you sang was pitch perfect. You hit every note. You were energetic, smiling; in a word, Perfect. But the audience isn’t looking for perfect. They’re looking for a way to emotionally participate in the experience.” The judge sent us back to our hotel rooms, told us to think about the problem, and to return the next day to perform again.
So we did. We realized that we needed the song be loud in some places, soft in some places, emotionally gripping, yet subtle. (Like any good piece of music, a lone piano piece, on up to a full orchestra…) We fixed it, and we won.
To me, this must also be the experience in film. I have remembered this lesson for the rest of my life, and I apply it every time I write, specifically as a screenwriter. “Captain Phillips” was like a roller coaster ride. We got on at the top, and we just gripped our seats until we were allowed to get off. It didn’t help that the film went on about 15 minutes too long. It wrung us out, and made us grumpy. We were glad to get out of there.
So at the risk of also going on too long, I will stop here. Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying a beautiful, cool, crisp autumn day, as you wear your shiny boots and decorate your abode.
Excuse me while I go turn on the air conditioner.
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