You know you’ve got big plans when you start to refer to a day as a Day. It’s like the whole 24 hours become encapsulated, and you look forward to it like you might once have for Santa Claus. Recently, I had such a pleasure. But the worst thing about inaugurating Gazing Day is that it will be hard to ever top these first-year festivities.
Stars aligned and worlds did collide, for in a single afternoon my itinerary included experiencing both Braco, the healing-gaze mystic from Croatia, and Zac Efron, the squeaky-clean teen dream from Hollywood.
The assignment was clear: Who has the more mesmerizing gaze?
Through their look alone, both of these guys are purported to have the power to amass hundreds of thousands of followers. Known the globe over, droves of devotees flock to these men. Yet somehow, I hadn’t heard of either of them.
Thank goodness for Google! A quick search and I was privy to a peach-colored Web page with more than I’d ever care to know about Braco’s “paranormal ability to heal with his gaze that is as impressive as any X-Men or 4400 ability.” As for Efron, someone said he’s “that High School Musical guy,” and that was all I needed to know.
Brah, Gazing Day was on.
The morning-of struck like a gong, the belly of the day reverberating with my anticipation. Wrapping up my keyboard clickety-clack, I had just enough time to drop a Jackson in the gas tank and haul my trusty Toyo to Haiku for the 2pm Braco Gazing Session.
I’d never been inside The Studio Maui on Haiku Road, which is weird/not weird because not so long ago I called that sundrop-drenched town home and would frequent the adjacent Haiku Grocery. Often, I’d see groups of linen-clad lankiness float down to a far corner of the cannery. As I paid for my grinds or folded towels at the laundromat next door, I would wonder what the lanky might be doing but never bothered to seek or think up an answer. (OK. Sometimes—if the line was long or there were lots of towels—I’d think up something just to pass the time.)
But, I discovered, that far corner is more intriguing than could ever be imagined. Through an archway and across a gravel lot I found a colorful cubbyhole in which to put my slippahs and a nice lady in a nearby tent selling Chinese 5 Spice chai tea. Colorful flags flew above the doorway flanking a glimpse of the foyer, which reminded me of a timeshare sales lounge at the YMCA.
Since Braco’s gaze is said to “defy scientific explanation,” I prepared duly. Studying his Web site (braco.net), I found one particularly informative article titled, “How to Gaze Back: How can I make the most of my gazing experience?” A session with Braco is only $8, but what with the economy and all I wanted to get maximum bang for my gazing buck.
Web site suggestions included freeing your mind and “simply mak[ing] your wish, your request of the energy and Braco.” OK. Free my mind. Easy enough. But make my wish? One wish? Three wishes? The article did not specify, so I prepared three, just in case.
Also informative were the bullet points outlining the Gazing Session format: 1) “…tickets are collected at the door”; 2) “Those in wheelchairs, on crutches, with mobility impairments, the elderly or people of shorter stature may be invited into the first three rows”; 3) “…the gazing room doors are closed…”; 4) “A 10-20 minute introduction… a basis for understanding what is taking place”; 5) “asked to stand for the gazing and Braco will be introduced”; 6) “a special music is played for the gazing and Braco will take the stage to silently make the gazing for 5-8 minutes. As he gazes at us, we may gaze back at him”; 7) “…silence to continue to integrate their experience”; 8) “…exit the gazing room to ready it for the next session.”
And, because “Braco is anchored in this boundless energy,” from his silent gaze “even skeptics can walk away sometimes with miraculous physical healings taking place.”
You know what? I’ll just be out with it: While I’d really love to think this sort of thing is possible, let alone real—it is not. Especially with Braco.
I mean, some dude wearing a button-up shirt, dark-wash skinny jeans and flashy gold rings walks silently onstage and stares at the crowd— slightly cross-eyed, I might add. Nine rows by 15 seats, at eight bucks a head. (Oh, and the books and DVDs and “powerful” $302 gold charm necklace. No joke.) Meanwhile, the most ridiculous music you’ve ever heard in your life is bumped on the PA and people gaze adoringly back at this con. Then the music stops and Braco stares at you in dead silence. It is weird. Then he leaves.
All the while I am indeed overcome by a feeling, but it isn’t miraculous physical healing. It’s the pain of restraining uncontrollable laughter.
The room remains quiet for seemingly longer than Braco “made the gaze.” Event promoters peek repeatedly from behind a bamboo curtain, down from a glass-windowed office on the open floor above. They don’t seem to think anyone can see them. Of those who have gazed at Braco, some are crying, others are immersed in meditation. Then a bell chimes and everyone leaves. That was my favorite part.
OK. Maybe I’m not giving Braco enough credit. It was miraculous that within an hour after my session at The Studio I’d sought, bought and squeezed myself into a jade-colored Calvin Klein sheath dress, off the clearance rack at Ross, grabbed a new tube of red lipstick from Longs and was on my way to the opening night of the Maui Film Festival—and a one-on-one interview with Zac Efron.
Honestly, at this point, Efron had won my gaze competition by default, but he would go on to earn it. Forbes “Celebrity 100” lister though he may be, he hustles for his stash. From a Wailea sunset photo shoot to a videotaped beach-view interview to another photo shoot to more interviews to a screening of an awkward clip-homage to his budding career and a final, even more awkward onscreen interview, set to the soundtrack of hyperventilating pre-teens.
Sure he’s cookie-cutter, but damn if he didn’t hold his own. Asked my silly, Pidgin-style questions, he was too trained and too clever to stray off topic but also seemed to genuinely mean well. His handshake was firm and his interest jovial, which gets a thumbs-up from me any day. And he posed for a MauiTime BUSTED! photo.
More than his gaze, I was fascinated by how he automatically, almost unconsciously stopped to spit out his gum and wipe his face before approaching the press. Or the way he’d flash a response in a very movie star way, but would otherwise cast his eyes down and to the side. When I observed him during other interviews and the same ol’ question was asked, there rippled under his Proactiv-perfect skin subtle signs of strain. That was most mesmerizing of all, so I decided he should win the non-gaze award, too.
Reflecting on my first-annual Gazing Day, I thought about the four Japanese aunties I’d met at Braco. I felt akin to the lot, thinking we’d stuck out like sore thumbs in all the swaths of linen. Afterward in the parking lot, I asked them what they thought of the gazing.
“We drove all da way from Kahului,” one aunty said, adding that they’d read about it the paper. Then she whispered, “Eh, did you feel anyting?” I scrunched my nose and shook my head, and we all shared a giggle. Parting ways, I headed to my car and they made for the Haiku Grocery, perhaps even the laundromat. Who knows?
At least we’d made a Day out of it.