That was some fun we had last week. First the Boston Marathon got bombed, which killed three and wounded more than a hundred. Then a fertilizer plant exploded in the tiny town of West, Texas, killing dozens and wounding hundreds more. Then a massive manhunt in Boston for the suspected bombers ended Grand Theft Auto-style, resulting in more death and destruction but finally ending that city’s terror.
These are awful, horrific stories, regardless of whether you live in West or Boston. In fact, online video streaming and social media can make the stories appear a lot closer and more vivid than they appear. Online, I was able to watch minutes-old video footage of the explosions, listen to live police scanner transmissions and watch–in real time–a mix of journalists, scared citizens, yahoos and outright racists tweeting their comments on all of the above.
Look, I don’t know if “crowd-sleuthing”–the attempt by online sites like Reddit to post all sorts of security camera footage online and let people at home sift through it, looking for clues–will play an active, vital role in solving crimes in the near future. I do know that, in the case of the Boston terrorist acts, it led to the names and faces of innocent people thrown about cyberspace furiously (mainstream media sources like the New York Post, CNN and the Associated Press also made major errors), in a terrifying example of what a frightened mob can do at the speed of light (on April 22, Reddit posted a public apology for its actions).
Oh, and those who think the vastness of the Pacific Ocean protects serene Maui from such insanity are kidding themselves. Ask those who wanted a few relaxing (or exasperating) rounds of golf at the Maui Country Club in Spreckelsville on Sunday. There, according to a dramatic, front-page, April 22 Maui News story, angry golfers confronted some guy with a pellet gun who was allegedly shooting at them near the 8th hole.
“[T]hey didn’t seek cover in a sand trap,” Maui News reporters Brian Perry and Chris Sugidono wrote in the story. “Infuriated and armed with golf clubs, they charged their assailant instead.”
As of press time, the pellet gun guy–who wounded one of the golfers–hasn’t been identified, though Maui Police tased and arrested him. What’s more, the cops didn’t shoot pellet gun man multiple times with real bullets, even though the paper reported that the guy allegedly fired his pellet gun at one of the officers.
Now that is totally crazy.
And now I’d like to indulge in a purely personal moment. This Saturday marks the fourth annual 4 the Luv of Arts benefit in Lahaina (see Picks, page 19, for more info). As always, it’s held in honor of Gianna Mitchell, an artist, surfer and writer who died in a single-car crash in Makawao on Nov. 1, 2009.
Gianna was a friend of mine. I met her in 2003, not long after I started working as MauiTime editor. Back then, the paper’s office was located at 505 Front Street, in Lahaina. One day, Gianna walked in and asked if she could write for us. I was still very new, and very green, but I needed writers and gave her a shot. She ended up writing an arts & entertainment piece on the Rebirth Brass Band, which was then doing shows around the island. Her story ran in our Oct. 23, 2003 issue.
According to our online archives and my memory, that was her only story for us. But we kept in touch, mostly to talk about her painting. Like most transplants to Maui (Gianna was born in Tallahassee, Florida in 1978), she was working service industry jobs when I met her. But art was always very important to her, and she began finding ways to make money painting the waves and seascapes that she loved so much.
In 2007, when she took over the Breakwall Cafe in the 505 Front Street complex, converting it into a combination painting studio and cafe, I wrote a story about her which ran in our Feb. 22, 2007 issue. In that story, I asked her about encounters she had with strangers when painting:
“That’s what I like about painting,” she told me. “Someone will see a painting and talk to you, say something they’d never say to you otherwise. It’s a very cool way to make a connection. I don’t know what it is that gets them to tell me what’s on their mind, but I like it. I get that a lot with the surfers. I painted under the Banyan Tree one time. Even though I was listening to music and had headphones on, people were not shy about coming up and talking to me.”
Gianna ended up not owning the cafe very long, but she stuck with painting, eventually securing wall space on at least a couple Front Street galleries. In fact, I even contemplated purchasing one of her surf images when I was preparing to move to Northern California in the spring of 2009, but moving expenses ultimately kept me from buying anything.
And that was the last time I had any contact with Gianna, until the fall I guess, when I was hanging out at a friend’s house in Roseville when I randomly decided to check The Maui News webpage to see what was new. That brought me to a story on how Gianna had died shortly after a Halloween night car crash.
I say all this not because I’m trying to get people to attend the Lahaina arts benefit (though it would be nice) but to show that, for a brief moment, Gianna was able to make at least part of her living doing something she loved–something creative that brought enjoyment to those around her. There aren’t many who can make the same claim.