Afterthoughts: A Few of My Favorite Things

I heart HONOLULU Magazine.


Published:

One of my favorite moments of working for HONOLULU Magazine was that sunny day in the summer of 2010 when I got a tour of the H-3 Freeway Control Center for a story I was writing, “Places You Can’t Go.” (The unspoken subtext of the headline was, “…But I Can.”)

 

SEE ALSO: 10 Places You Can’t Go in Hawai‘i

 

Two state Department of Transportation employees took me up to the roof level of one of the exhaust-fan buildings clinging to the side of the Ko‘olau Mountains on the windward side of the Tetsuo Harano Tunnels, a spot that initially looked like a plain concrete rooftop, until they walked over to one of the walls and swung open an unassuming gray door. Oh, man. The door opened up into thin air, nothing but a stunning panoramic of the Ha‘ikū Valley beyond. It might as well have been a view into Narnia, for the jolt it gave me.

 

H-3 Control Center

PHOTO: MICHAEL KEANY

 

My time at HONOLULU has been full of days like these. I’ve sat shotgun in a helicopter with no doors and buzzed down the Kāhala coastline, just yards above the water, so we could shoot photos of otherwise inaccessible mansions. I’ve rambled along Moloka‘i back roads, reporting on a controversial proposed development that the island’s residents would eventually shut down handily. I’ve interviewed infamous local graffiti writers to ask them why they spray up city walls. (The thrill, mostly, and the fame, it turns out.) I’ve eaten, on the magazine’s tab, a prix fixe extravaganza at Chef Mavro that to this day ranks among my top gustatory mind-blowers. I’ve gotten flown out for an overnight stay on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier while it was parked far enough off Hawai‘i to be out of sight of any land. The sheer G-force of landing and taking off from that tiny floating runway, with the help of hooks and catapults, is probably as close as I’ll ever get to feeling like an astronaut.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the in-office days just as much as the outdoor adventures. It’s such a pleasure to work with talented, witty, creative people, especially when we’re in the middle of assembling a kick-ass magazine story. I’ve always loved getting to be first eyes on a fresh, raw draft of a feature, and then, by editing it, helping to make it even better. And then brainstorming a pile of groanworthy puns in search of the perfect headline. And then seeing the amazing photography and illustrations that take a story to new, unforeseen levels. Even catching a tiny typo in proof or arguing about the singular they—it’s a thing, look it up—is great. It’s all so satisfying!

 

Dang, as I recount all these perks of working for HONOLULU Magazine, I’m almost starting to second-guess myself. But, no, after helping to put together 15 years of this wonderful publication, I’m moving on to a new adventure, in a new office just a few blocks down the road. I’m hanging up my position as executive editor to work as a writer with the Hawai‘i state Office of the Auditor. It’s exciting to look forward to novel and different challenges, but I’m also taking a look back and feeling grateful to everyone I’ve worked with along the way.

 

There are too many to list, of course, but I do need to especially thank my editors. There are few things as precious to a writer as a good editor, and I’ve been lucky enough so far to have had three. John Heckathorn hired me straight out of UH Mānoa, and shaped me into a writer, and I’ll forever strive to even get close to the impossibly high bar he set. A. Kam Napier, with his wit, skepticism and genuine love for the city, showed me what a really great magazine story could be, not to mention the joys of a sharply worded, solidly grounded critique. And Robbie Dingeman has brought to the magazine such an influx of new wisdom, energy and skill from her varied career in newspapers, television and elsewhere that I’m still learning from her on a daily basis.

 

Farewell columns are tough for writers—there’s an urge to bring them to a rousing finale that encompasses your entire career and pierces the hearts of readers. Fortunately, I get to wrap this one up with an anticlimax: I’ll be writing a few more Afterthoughts, to help with the transition. So, on that note, aloha, and I’ll see you next month!

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MICHAEL KEANY 

 

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