My friend Barry said to me the other day, “Your paper is delicious, even though I don’t eat every bite.” I was a bit stunned to be honest, knowing that this person actually teared up after Mitt Romney’s NAACP speech, so I asked him what exactly he meant. “I don’t agree with half of what you guys write, but I love knowing what’s going on in this town.” He told me he plans his weekend by our paper, “And then I vent on your website.” I love that.
That single conversation pointed out a lot of important things to me. Barry picks up his paper at the Alakea bus stop every Wednesday after work, thanks to our Distribution Manager, Kate Paine, who’s been with the Weekly for over a decade, and who could write a survivor’s guide to traffic (and ticket!) dodging.
I don’t mind saying that this chronically right-wing, fabulously frank friend of mine reminds me of why the Honolulu Weekly is such a unique part of this town, and why celebrating its 21st Anniversary is a big deal.
Imagine a city with no arts districts, a dying Chinatown, mostly empty retail hubs, and street corners lacking in little red boxes. That was Honolulu in 1990, the year before a giveaway paper called the Honolulu Weekly crawled up from underneath park benches and drainage ditches, and tore itself off of limp, lifeless fish. Some might say we’ve never strayed to far from where we came from (badumbump!) but I’ll suggest that wading in the gutter these days, one will find massive investigative reporting on sweeping urban development, breaking news about the epic rail controversy, original and provocative film reviews, biannual books issues and yes, an occasional poetry contest.
As the Weekly’s Arts & Culture editor, I’ve made a commitment to bring back some of the things we started with, including a showcase of readers’ creative voices, whether through non-fiction essays or works of local fiction. Reviews of products imagined and made here in Hawaii, and profiles of the people we wonder about, but rarely introduce ourselves to, are also making their way back into the paper. And as Barry refreshingly pointed out, we consistently offer our readers a glimpse of what not to miss each week, from live music performances and theatre productions, to botanical shows and fringe festivals that are rarely a priority for other publications.
This week marks another year of our rebirth, after a two-decade rollercoaster by which a black-and-white rag turned into a successful alt-weekly, and ultimately a link affording other non-daily newspapers the courage to take the daunting plunge into unchartered waters.
At 21, the Weekly finds itself young again, its entertainment coverage ever-morphing into a hybrid cast of young writers who are finding their voices, and those whose voices date back to our first issue (thank you Curt Sanburn and Bob Green). After sifting through volumes of back-issues, I’ve realized one thing–it isn’t our story that seems that compelling, it’s yours. Here’s a look at some of our favorite arts issues from the last decade, some predictable, others not so much. To Barry, and others like you, we’ll continue to annoy, exasperate, provoke and scandalize you. It’s our pleasure to live on your street and entertain your senses. b