Once upon a time decades ago, going to town meant traveling to Wailuku. In the first years (1903-1905) of Maui's existence as a county, Wailuku was picked as the county seat. Its competitor was Lahaina, a more vibrant town at the time.
Wailuku soon became not only the governmental but the commercial center of the island. Want to buy a car, an Ikeda original shirt or go to the Iao and King theaters for a movie? Go to Wailuku.
The town built around Wailuku Sugar Co. hit its zenith in the 1950s. Then Maui became fascinated with the automobile. Not long after, shopping centers were built down the road in Kahului. Big parking lots. First the Kahului Shopping Center and much later the Maui Mall and the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Wailuku snoozed over its law books and stacks of governmental regulations.
There's a crescent moon hanging in the inky sky. Peaks forming the back of Iao Valley frame a bit of the dying day. The light gray patch is vivid against the black sky.
Baby purrs across the bridge made of cut coral rock and swings right on Central. The task at hand is finding a place to park the motorcycle - the usual for Wailuku during the day but not at night when the town goes sound asleep. Cars occupy every parking stall.
A set of diagonal stripes marks a spot in front of The Bungalow on Vineyard - just right for a motorcycle. Don't try this during the day up around the county and state buildings. A parking ticket will surely ensue. Just ask how I know.
Banyan Park is wreathed in grill smoke. Several food stands are cranking out local favorites. The place is awash in a sea of the hungry.
Despite earlier intentions, I'm a First Friday virgin. The number of people is startling. Haven't seen this kind of crowd since the last County Fair. Market Street is packed from Main to Vineyard. Benches installed in connection with the rebuilding of Market Street are appreciated.
Moving through the crowd requires skills and reflexes long gone rusty - dodge and slide sideway while keeping forward momentum. My effort is more stop for fear of a collision and then start.
The main stage is empty. It's late. The crowd - young, old, in between and local with many Hawaiians - has turned into a congested clog.
"The Makaha Sons will be playing in a little while," says a woman through the stage PA system. "They came over just for First Friday." The crowd applauds. The woman asks the crowd to let the stream of walkers get through. One-person-wide gaps appear.
The specialty shops are all open. A few go in to check out the merchandise.
At the Main Street end of Market, a good cover band plays 40-year-old rock 'n' roll. There is jiggling and jiving in the crowd. No one takes advantage of a large area set aside for dancing. Most of the appreciative crowd were teens when rock still rolled.
One of First Friday's 12 off-duty police officers stands where Market has been blocked off. He's relaxed, an old hand ready for trouble but not expecting any. Another, much younger officer scans the crowd. He appears tense and is unwilling to respond to small talk. Maybe this is his first crowd-control job.
Sandell's Art Works beckons. David is a friend dating back to the '70s. The shop is a floor-to-ceiling riot of paintings, prints, T-shirts and antique this and that. We talk about the old music being pumped out just across the street.
Sandell says his best-sellers are T-shirts and prints showing The Beatles.
Back into the throng. Go by a pawnshop with windows filled by a comment on Maui's construction industry - all manner of power tools. Find a doorway that is out of the flow but allows the music from the Makaha Sons to be easily enjoyed. They wind up the performance with renditions of hits recorded in 1976 and 1978. The crowd loves them.
First Friday, a celebration of Wailuku, is held on the first Friday of each month, but you probably figured that out on your own. It's more than worth a look.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.