Editor’s Page: What a year

Who knows what to expect out of 2009?

Photo by: Linny Morris

I don’t know whether to welcome 2009 or dread its arrival. Maybe a lot of you feel the same way. I know that our subscribers have typically lived in the Islands for 20 years or more, if they aren’t born and raised here, so you probably remember how the bursting of the Japanese investment bubble and the first Gulf War sent Hawaii into a years-long recession. Stay alive ’till ’95. Thumbs up, Hawaii! Ring a bell?

Back then, it added insult to injury that Hawaii seemed to be having its own private recession. For the Mainland, it was a boom decade, the go-go ’90s. Everything was X-treeeeeme. Everyone, it seemed, was having a party but us.

Not this time, but this only makes us feel worse. Now Cadillacs and Corvettes go to Congress to beg for cash. Factories are shutting down in China because suddenly stingy Americans are holding off on electronic doo-dads. Nihilists shoot everyone in sight in Mumbai. Pirates rule the high seas.

Pirates, for crying out loud.

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of eight little islands don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Compared to Somali piracy and Mumbai massacres, our local problems don’t seem so bad. There are bright spots, too, for us in the global economic slowdown. The beaches are less crowded. Used SUVs can be had for pennies. And we don’t have to memorize any new names in our political scene because we just reelected all the same people.

Looking back on 2008 we found plenty of absurdities to smile about, and gathered them for you in our annual Sour Poi Awards. Remember the golf course groundskeepers who stole a golfer’s dog so they could cook it?  Or the Go! pilots who fell asleep at the wheel, as it were, and flew past the Big Island? Or when PETA came out against Spam? We do, and the fun begins on page 34.

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of eight little islands don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Another bright spot in town and in this issue—our 25th annual Hale Aina Awards, in which our subscribers name the best restaurants in the Islands. The winners can be found on page 46. I can hardly believe these dining awards—the state’s first local dining awards—are now 25 years old. I worked the event connected to the awards before I even worked for the magazine, in 1992 or ’93, when it was a fundraiser for Diamond Head Theatre. Our dining writer, John Heckathorn, has been with the awards through all 25 years and writes up his observations on how restaurants, and the diners who love them, have changed over the years, on page 52.

The awards were given out in November. As chef Alan Wong accepted the award for Restaurant of the Year, he was grateful and humble as always, but this year, he spoke briefly about the economic climate and encouraged his fellow restaurateurs to hang in there. And then we opened the walls of the Waikiki ballroom to reveal the nearly 800 people who had come to celebrate with the winning chefs and everyone proceeded to do just that. Great food, good friends, cares set aside for a few hours.

Maybe that’s the best way to approach 2009. Hang in there. And don’t forget to celebrate the good things we have.