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Columnist says farewell

By Staff | May 19, 2016

LAHAINA – It is time to say goodbye in print – at least newspaper print. In this tenth anniversary year of my column, some 240 of them (about 135,000 words), it is time to put aside the pen and spend more time reading and on reconfiguring my fourth book.

My passion for Maui and curiosity about the culture led me to write the first column in September 2006. The learning curve has been steep. The curve included realization that we often forget that almost all of us are guests of the host culture.

A writer has favorite columns. Activist Charlie Maxwell confiding (as he had to few others) that he was called stupid in school and should marry a smart lady. He did. Gadfly Blackie Gadarian, who made the ironwork for the Hyatt and never met anybody he would not insult.

Slack key guitar master George Kahumoku Jr., who can tell a good story with the best of them. Queen Liliuokalani, who said she loved America before she was betrayed, and composed an anthem, “Aloha Oe,” we still sing today.

The 400,000 Mai Tai man at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, who has now probably poured 4,000 more. Concierge Malihini Heath, a mentor, beloved by visitors for her aloha.

Keali’i Reichel, who allowed the columnist the rare privilege of watching him teach at his halau, to write about the intricacies of learning hula… and so many more.

The ideas for columns came mostly from just meeting remarkable people. No column reached print that anyone else suggested, except one on the artist Davo, because it appeared the guy had a colorful life. He has.

The motivation for my books was to preserve the columns for the historical record, so they wouldn’t be lost in a newspaper file. Community leader Roselle Bailey once said that “it is wonderful to have stories in print with lovely photographs for posterity.”

Last year was a very good one for the column. In May, members of the Society of Professional Journalists named “Voices of Maui” the second best feature column in the State of Hawaii. (A groomsman, shall we say, but never a groom.)

A highlight last September was an appearance on WGN radio, a 50,000-watt Chicago station heard throughout the Midwest. The invitation came from a well-known Chicago Tribune cultural writer. Topics: books and the joys of visiting or living on Maui.

His final comment: “You are something, Norm.” (I try to be.)

A few times the column has expressed views a bit controversial or that lambasted organizations for doing things that either made no sense or showed little respect for the beauty of Maui.

Some of the writing has also been spurred from my strong sense of justice and what is fair or unfair, just or unjust. In younger days, you could hear me say, “But that’s not fair.” I now understand that life IS unfair, but I sometimes have a hard time accepting this.

When you get your picture in the paper most weeks, people start to recognize you and say, “Hi Norm.” One of my frailties is not recognizing faces. So, maybe half the time, it is unclear to me whether I know a person or they just know the column. My apologies to those I failed to recognize.

Special thanks to the many readers who have volunteered that they love the column (including 24 by actual count, who said they laughed at a recent April Fool’s Day column, apparently one of the most popular).

One of the characteristics of good writing is simplicity. So, the ending words here will simply be: MAHALO AND ALOHA.

Columnist’s Notebook: Check out my daily joysofkaanapali.com blog. There will be more time to add to the hundreds of photos of happenings on Kaanapali Beach over the last three years that are already there.