WEDNESDAY, May 28
Mokulele Highway is now open! Mokulele Highway is now open! After six years of construction and $87 million, Mokulele Highway is now four lanes instead of two. What a magnificent triumph of human engineering. Why, even the majestic Parthenon in Greece and the Great Pyramid in Egypt pale before such a feat. Did I mention that the highway now has four lanes? And that it goes all the way from Kihei to Kahului? What is that, seven miles? Astonishing! And to think that it took just six years to do all that. For obvious reasons, state officials–including Her Majesty, Governor Linda Lingle–were on hand at the opening to convey all the wonder and splendor of such an achievement. “The benefits of this project will enhance the overall quality of life for our Maui communities,” state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said at yesterday’s official road-opening blessing, according to today’s Maui News. “Travel times and traffic congestion will be reduced, allowing motorists to spend less time on the road and more time at home with their families.” Yes, our families will win because Mokulele is now four lanes.With all this fanfare, I too decided to see the road—I had to experience its new pavement and wide-open lanes for myself. So I drove the road, from Kahului to Kihei, all by myself. It was thrilling! It was amazing! It was… kind of surprising to see, at the end where North Kihei Road merges with South Kihei Road, two telephone poles sitting in the middle of the highway. Apparently during the realignment of that intersection workers just paved around the poles and left them where they stood, which is now right in the middle of traffic. Sure, they’re wrapped in yellow caution tape and are surrounded by orange plastic barriers, but their presence somewhat detracts from the overall magnificence of the road.
THURSDAY, May 29
You know they built the giant Mackinac Bridge in Michigan in just four years? What? I’m just saying.
FRIDAY, May 30
This column has long focused on what doesn’t work—not only because it’s important, but because it’s fun to write about—but right now I’m going to talk about my lunch, because today, unlike most other days, my lunch actually served to better the island. I ate over at Class Act, the ritzy second floor restaurant at Maui Community College (MCC). I gorged on a heaping plate of mac & cheese, rice, salad, grilled vegetables, mahi, roast beef cut so thin it wilted beneath a breath and rich, thick chocolate cake. The hook was that 13 Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC) inmates did all the food preparation and service. They were part of something called the Maui Culinary Boot Camp, a week-long class sponsored by Maui Economic Opportunity’s BEST Reintegration Program that seeks to give professional skills and experience to MCCC inmates. And I’m telling you—if they’re being graded on taste, then cut those inmates loose right now because they can really cook.
SATURDAY, May 31
Leave it to The Maui News’ Harry Eagar to provide Hawai`i Superferry, Inc. (HSF) with a boatload of super publicity. “The ferry Alakai has enjoyed calm seas for several weeks, and her owner Hawaii Superferry, also has enjoyed a peaceful period since getting Alakai back in service,” was how Eagar started his massive story yesterday titled “Smooth sailing at last.” Based pretty much exclusively on an interview with new HSF President Thomas Fargo, the story paints a stunningly rosy picture of Superferry’s last few weeks in operation: calm weather, new deals with commercial shippers and rental car companies and rising passenger loads—“between last Friday and Memorial Day, the ferry carried more than 5,500 passengers and 1,500 vehicles,” Eagar wrote. There was even this little boost: “Fargo said that the Superferry can be profitable even when selling only half its 866 passenger seats.” Unfortunately, Eager didn’t dig into the numbers Fargo gave him, because even if that profitability statement is true, times are still very tough for the Superferry. According to a May 28 post on the Hawai`i Superferry Unofficial Blog (hisuperferry.blogspot.com), those super Memorial Day passenger and vehicle numbers aren’t all that super when you break them down. ‘[T]here were 14 one-way trips over that weekend,” the blog wrote, “so they averaged: 393 people per one-way trip and 107 vehicles per one-way which is Enough to cover just their fuel costs for those 4 days, NOT the rest of their expenses.” While definitely an improvement over what the ferry had been carrying, numbers like that—which remain below half capacity—are hardly smooth sailing.
SUNDAY, June 1
Woohoo! The Associated Press says May had the lowest number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq in the last four years. So that means we’re winning and can bring the troops home. Right?
MONDAY, June 2
Oh, joy: the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports today that a new Italian study has concluded that sunscreen is potentially bleaching 10 percent of the world’s coral. Of course, this is far from a universally held conclusion: “At this point, in terms of issues hurting the coral reef in Hawaii, I wouldn’t put sunscreen in the top three,” University of Hawai`i Professor Robert Richmond told the paper. I don’t know if that reassures me or not.
TUESDAY, June 3
And that’s that. Seriously: this is the last entry I will write in Coconut Wireless. That’s because this issue is my last as Editor of Maui Time Weekly. After nearly five years scrambling for dining stories, fielding angry phone calls, thinking up at least partially witty film photo captions, spotting far too many typographical errors after the paper went to press and occasionally succeeding in getting a story into the paper that I was not only proud of but also elicited positive reader interest, I’m hanging up my official editing hat (it’s sponsored by Monsanto!). I’ve enjoyed the job, and will always appreciate the opportunity Publisher Tommy Russo gave me, but it’s time for me to move on. So I’ll be going to Honolulu to eek out an existence as a freelance writer. No word yet on who’ll be taking over here—I gave two months notice, but you know how hard it is to find good people on Maui—so Associate Editor Starr Begley will now be Interim Editor. Both she and Calendar Editor Jessica Armstrong have tough jobs ahead of them, and I expect you to treat them with all the respect you gave me. Because trust me: they deserve it.
Anthony Pignataro will still be available in Twitter form. Go to http://twitter.com/apignataro or text “follow apignataro” to 40404. MTW