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Tourist on this planet
March 6, 2012 - Rick Chatenever
After two weeks traipsing through exotic, faraway worlds, I knew I was back on Maui when a baby whale breached off the side of the boat as Marty Dread sang, “It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”
The sun was sinking into the sea in the vicinity of Lahaina. Assorted baby whales and their mothers played lazily in the water as Marty did his weekly gig on behalf of Pacific Whale Foundation. His sunset cruises during whale season (www.pacificwhale.org/ content/island rhythmsstarlight-cruise-marty-dread 2) are one of those things that make me glad to get visitors from the Mainland each year because they give me an excuse to go and impersonate a tourist.
The “Marty Party” is way up there in my own unwritten tourist guidebook. Mai tais at sea are way better than beers over the bar, and Marty Dread is a consummate showman. In his assorted Rastafarian headware, he knows how to play the room, er, vessel, as he deftly gets the boat dancing and works nearby cetaceans into the act.
As opposed to other reggae artists who make Maui stops on their world tours, Marty is homegrown. With visiting reggae headliners, just trying to get press information or a current photo of the artists is always challenging. If you do manage to reach their publicity office, chances are a puff of smoke will billow out of your earpiece.
Marty, in contrast, is a solid citizen … along with possessing a great voice and lots of charisma. With his bare feet on the deck and his “band” in a computer and a speaker, he is funny, personable and absolutely accessible as the space in front of him fills with dancers.
The spell he casts out on the bounding main —enhanced by the mai tais and the pastel twilight known to Hollywood cinematographers as magic hour —produces Maui’s answer to the love boat, or at least a very jolly cruise, as the sun dropping into the Pacific silhouettes Marty in its golden glow.
Having guests every winter —the word “winter” has an entirely different definition on the Mainland —always provides a welcome excuse to experience Maui’s greatest product: tourism. Having been around a while, we’ve learned how to differentiate between the true, and the tacky. But it’s also always an annual refresher course, to rediscover the way things we take for granted in our day-to-day lives may be exotic, curious, eccentric, intimidating or charming for those unfamiliar with them.
For us, “The Descendants” was a home movie … well, at least of our neighbors up the street. For visitors, the Oscar-winning picture is more anthropological, an eye-opening, tragicomic look at problems in paradise … with a great soundtrack.
It’s an introductory class in concepts like “haole,” or the legacy of the missionaries.
Invariably, our guests always find their way to a well-worn copy of “Maui Revealed” on our bookshelf, left by a previous visitor. We keep meaning to throw it away, but keep forgetting to.
Our guests find it very useful, especially for things like driving around the Kahakaloa side of the island to Kapalua. This usually leads to a diatribe on my part about why the very things that make it seem so hip and cool —the disregard for private lands, the insensitivity to cultural protocol, the sense that Maui is just a big show for their benefit, and especially their smug attitude about how not to look like tourists — are the most odious to the locals.
“Don’t leave it on the dashboard when you park at one of those secluded, secret spots,” we advise. Wouldn’t want to return that rental car with a big crack in the windshield.
Some tension is inevitable in the tourist trade. But as industries go, tourism’s not a bad one. Especially when compared to alternatives like, say, coal mining.
Graciousness, grace, generosity and hospitality are integral parts of island life. Cutting across ethnic lines in the rainbow hues of the population, these qualities —inadequately encapsulated in the word “aloha” —are more valuable than the palm trees, sunsets and drinks with umbrellas in them, in the memories tourists take home with them.
Tourism pays the bills, one way or the other, in most of our households, so it’s great when you get to experience it from the other side for a change.
Especially if that means getting to hang out with Marty Dread for a couple of hours.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at email@example.com.
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A whale shows up for the music during Marty Dread's weekly starlight cruise. The Maui News/RICK CHATENEVER photo