Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 2 comments

The first time Ted and I came to Maui together we went out for dinner at 9 p.m. That was the first and the last time we confused Maui with Europe. The only kitchen open at that hour in Kihei was a Chinese restaurant where the food was mediocre at best, but at least it was food.

That was 16 years ago and we have returned to Maui every year but one, content to meet the familiar. So when I heard the phrase “the exquisite pleasure of the familiar,” it resonated with me.

Each morning, starting before dawn at about 6:10 a.m., I head out the door in my bright pink t-shirt, equally pink sneakers and swim shorts. The pink is not making a statement. Rather while walking through The Bay at Market Mall one day, I spotted a Sale sign in the shoe department and discovered a hot pink pair of Saucony sneakers, sitting there all by themselves and just the right size. The price was $8, which is about $100 less than the cheapest pair of sneakers I’ve ever bought.

Karma, I decided. They matched the dragon boat races t-shirt I had somehow come to own and curiously only wear in Maui. So the shoes and the shirt are reserved for the beach around Ma’aleaa Bay. I am always nonplussed by so many other beach walkers who, like me, find such pleasure in the familiar. They must, else why would the same people be out at the same time in the same clothes?

Each year the same faces return to join locals such as Bob Jones, a retired advertising manager of The Maui News and who knows, I swear, every person on the island; Cindy the lithe runner who works at the Fairmont Hotel in Wailea and Carol with her ink-black lab Makapo and her two foster children, A.J. and Johnny. It always takes the longest that first day, when people recognize the pink shirt and shoes and stop to talk and we remind each otter what our names are. If Bob is with you, your circle of acquaintances expands exponentially as he clearly loves people. His “BlackBerry” is a small notebook in his shirt pocket and his “business card” says he is “a master in the art of living, draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation.”

He generously arranges for the Maui News to be delivered to us each morning and lets us try to repay him with a dinner for him and his wife, Becky, and leaves such treats as avocados from his son’s tree on our front step.

That is the kind of pleasure of the familiar that is seductive, to know that everyone on the beach at that hour is a potential friend even if only for a few weeks. It’s the same at the resort — the same yearly friends gather around the barbecue pit and at the pool. It’s little wonder we don’t wander far.

Until I heard the phrase I had merely put our comfortable and boring habits down to our own personalities. Then, while listening to Richard Russo’s 2007 novel, The Bridge of Sighs, I heard the “exquisite pleasure of the familiar.”

I fill my iPod with audiobooks along with a couple of our favorite CDs because the reception on the beach of Hawaii National Public Radio is iffy at best and, depending on the state of the tides or the curve of the beach, nonexistent. Over the years, because I’m eclectic in my choices, I’ve listened to some dreadful trash. But occasionally something resonates, and when the voice talked about familiar pleasures I finally realized why Ted and I are so set in our ways

One could blame our ages, but that’s not the whole truth. We like the familiar, not that we are adverse to surprises or to adventure, but those are different pleasures.

And while there’s lots to do on Maui, we choose not to: not to drive to the top of Haleakala at sunrise, not to drive to Hana, not to snorkel or windsurf or wander around Lahaina.

Well, I can hear you asking, what exactly do you do? Pretty much nothing is the answer, if getting a year’s worth of Vitamin D the natural way, or reading all those trashy novels no one has time for at home and, of course, the ritual art of eating and drinking and the guilty pleasure of the afternoon nap.

It’s impossible to go hungry on Maui if one has the money to eat in restaurants or buy supplies at the myriad of local stores. I am told that the Costco outlet right next to Kahului airport on Maui is the highest-performing outlet in the chain, a claim easily believed if a single visit is any proof. If anyone thinks the south Calgary Costco is busy, crammed with too many people and too much stuff, try a trip to the one on Maui where, this being the United States, you can also buy liquor, one of the more civilized aspects of life in America. If we were here for the entire winter, it might make sense — to me — to shop at Costco where everything comes in extra-large or extra bulky, including the people it seems. Why those who are here for only two weeks would be moved to shop at Costco and then have to leave half the amount of the stuff they buy behind them escapes me. If you only use half the giant box of detergent for example, haven’t you paid double for the amount you do use? But all that is moot, as one trip to Costco a number of years ago convinced me that life was too short for that kind of shopping, bargains or no bargains.

So we shop for groceries at Safeway — curse the too-icy air conditioning — and marvel at the cost of everything. (Maui ain’t cheap and a pineapple costs more here than in Calgary, but the flavour is incomparable — that kind of ripe sweetness one doesn’t find at home.) As for liquor, you have to love a store that not only has two aisles of wine and spirits and a separate section (with the butter and cheese) for cold beer. Being Canadians we can only dream of a Safeway in Calgary selling not only liquor in with the food but offering a 10 per cent discount for buying a six-pack of liquor or wine — cardboard carrier case provided.

While it’s almost impossible to go hungry on Maui it is possible to be badly fed and badly treated. What most guidebooks don’t tell you is how easy the latter two are — bad food and bad service. Luckily the two usually don’t go together.

We normal confine ourselves to Kihei restaurants although we have in previous years eaten upcountry at the celebrated Hali’imale General Store, and at restaurants in Lahaina, a town not unlike Banff — being loved to death. Like Banff Avenue, Lahaina’s Front Street is always chock-a-block with aimless tourists and features such standard tourist fare as t-shirt stores and overpriced gift items in garish colours that look just right under Hawaii’s hot sun but merely garish in Calgary’s cold northern light.

I must admit to a certain chagrin, though, when the tourist in me didn’t immediately buy a t-shirt in one of those Lahaina shops that proclaimed: Will Trade Husband For Chocolate. Even Ted laughed. Alas, I didn’t buy it and haven’t seen it in the years since. Instead, I talked one of the men at the barbecue one night out of his t-shirt that said: Will Golf For Food. Actually, it was his wife who convinced him by saying he had two of the same shirt and he could certainly give me one. She fixed him with one of those familiar wifely looks and he acquiesced.

When not haunting the barbecue pit, we are usually assured of a good meal at Stella Blues, Buzz’s Wharf or Antonio’s, all in Kihei, or Tommy Bahama’s in Wailea known as the high-rent district. How “high rent?” Consider in Andrew Doughty’s book, Maui Revealed, he writes in his list of Best Of: “Best Example of What Should Be a Misplaced Decimal Point . . . But Isn’t — $250 to use a cabana chair for one day at the Grand Wailea.”

There is literally something for everyone on Maui, including a good laugh for those able to appreciate irony.

NEXT: Home, chilled out (literally) and off again soon.


Written by Catherine Ford

February 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. If you have time and the incliniation to drive north of Ka’anapali (sp?) – venture to Merriman’s for a divine cocktail. Surrounded on three sides by ocean with Maui breezes wafting through the folding windows at sunset . . .it is beauty unequalled . . . and Tex knows how to mix a divinely spirited refreshment.
    See you soon

    Jennifer Diakiw

    February 26, 2010 at 6:29 am

    • I actually got car sick on the road to Hana and I know someone else who got out to take a picture of a waterfall, slipped on a rock and got a concussion (Maui healthcare is apparently excellent), so you are wise to avoid alternate activities Catherine.

      Celia Posyniak

      March 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

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