Editor's Page: And Then

Digging through the past, looking to the future.
Honolulu Magazine's editor A. Kam Napier.

Photo: Adam Jung

I was out of the office through the production of half this issue, spending entire days at the library working on a book project for this magazine’s 125th anniversary. At the urging of our owner, Duane Kurisu, we’ve been borrowing, transporting and scanning some 350 or so covers to be presented in a collectible hardcover book by our sister company, Watermark Publishing, due out before Christmas. The state Library kindly loaned us years worth of individual copies, as did Brett Uprichard, who was on staff when this magazine was owned by Honolulu Publishing Co.

The task of writing captions for the book fell, naturally, to me. The whole project was like a massive installment of our From Our Files department, which I’d assembled many times over the years since I joined the magazine in 1994, so it seemed easy enough (right!) to call out an interesting point or two from each issue. The covers we’ve selected are visually appealing, but we hope it adds something deeper to touch on what the magazine wrote about, and especially what the city itself was like, as seen through its eyes. We’ve been an eyewitness to this city’s history, and a regular prophet about its future.

In a compressed period of weeks, I dug into issues from every year of publication since 1888, until the experience became surreal. Sitting in the main state Library at King Street, next to Iolani Palace—buildings generations of our predecessors at HONOLULU and Paradise of the Pacific knew well—I was transported. So many photos. So many articles. So many editors. So many versions of Honolulu itself, each version of the city seemingly solid in its moment but made of smoke. Districts, buildings, streets, monarchs, revolutionaries, governors, mayors, controversies, all rise, fall and recede. History.

I can’t think of a better project on which to have spent my last days as editor of this magazine. It would be hard to articulate how I made the decision to move on except to say that, after 19 years, eight as editor, it just seemed like it was time.

My walk through the archives reminds me that 19 years is a pretty rare length of tenure. By my rough count, I will have written for 231 issues, including a couple as freelancer in ’94. That’s more than enough me to go around, even for me.

Anyone who wants to reach me—and I look forward to some person working on our 200th anniversary issue finding this in the archives and snickering at how primitive this sounds—can find me on LinkedIn.com.

The list of people I’d want to thank for supporting me all this time is too long to include here. The readers who took the time to tell me they loved or hated something I’ve written. Family who suffered through my deadline pressures.

The colleagues I’ve worked alongside. The art directors, photographers and illustrators who made my articles look appealing. All the ad sales people who made sure there was a magazine for which to write.

I hope you’ll all understand if I single out the late John Heckathorn, the editor who brought me in as a freelancer, then a staffer, 19 years ago. He invited me to this party and I’m sorry he had to leave it so soon.

In my archive-induced delirium, I see a HONOLULU Magazine extending endlessly into the future, until no one could possibly attempt to edit it down to a coffee table book. I wish I could walk up to the librarian right now and ask to see the 2113 bound volume, or data molecule, or whatever form the magazine will take, and see that future as finished as the past. But that’s an illusion of course. No one writing for the magazine, no one the magazine ever wrote about, really knew, in the moment, what would happen next.

That’s what makes a story interesting.