Room 201, Hawaiian Studies Building, Univ. of Hawai`i-Manoa, Hawai`i
First it turns out Margaret, the sole midday server at the Coco Ichibanya Curry House, actually knows my dad through a mutual friend. She didn't know my last name, but she said our faces are incredibly similar.
(Not our heads, though. I'll get to that in a moment.)
I was just tickled that Margaret and I now greet each other by name, and chat about life on occassion. Honolulu is no Hilo, and it may take longer to register as a 'regular' in the city, but it's still nice to cross into that friendly category.
She expects me every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:10 a.m., and hasn't asked me what I want (the "student house special") for a couple of weeks now. Last week I missed my bus and had to grab a sandwich at Blimpie's instead, and I don't think she'll ever let me forget that.
I really do hope I don't tire of curry.
Secondly, as I stepped out, I spotted the infamous Panther coming up the street.
He had a grin on his face, and a smoking cigarette in his hand. He too was on his way up to campus.
He looked great, and I told him so. He said he was still impatient and annoyed that he hasn't completely fully recovered from his long hospital stay, but I had to tell him he still looked ready to take on the world again.
Panther also mentioned that he's yet to try the food at the curry house. I'll have to treat him to a big bowl sometime.
Finally, as we stood there chatting, he pointed out the huge blue "Jelly's Music" sign above my head. I hadn't even noticed.
Panther, of course, is always wired into anything involving music, and gave me the 411. The sign wasn't even there yesterday, but word is they were hoping to open tomorrow.
Even though the lot they're taking over is all but cursed six or seven nightclubs have been through there in half as many months it should work for Jelly's. College kids, cheap comics and cards, and used CDs are usually a good mix. Ten times bigger than the closet-sized Rainbow Books across the street, and much closer that big, bad Tower.
Heck, I should be able to squeeze some random browsing into my carefully-crafted campus commute...
I managed to avoid calling him "Auntie Greg" the whole time. I wasn't about to make that mistake (i.e. nearly outing him to his dad at the airport) twice!
Greg's sister and parents were there, so they got their first introduction to Jen and Katie. Greg was fighting the ill-timed onset of a cold, but still talkative. Katie ran amok, of course, flustering Jen and I but entertaining the crowd.
He boarded his plane shortly before 10 p.m., to arrive in Austin in the middle of the day. He'll have at least a day to rest before going back to work, but of course I vowed to nag him for his promised travelogue updates to 9 79242-2.
Fortunately, while he was here, we were able to hang out, and on Saturday, we got to hook up with some old friends, too.
We planned a little picnic at Magic Island, as usual at the last minute, and at first I was worried it was just going to be a day at the beach for my family. Two bags of chips, two bags of cookies, a bag of ice, and four liters of soda, and the three of us.
But soon enough I spotted Greg's tall, black-clad figure and called him over.
Katie dragged Jen off to the beach, and when they returned, Katie dragged me off. The rest of the afternoon was spent chasing her to the ocean, keeping her from drowning until she started shivering, then hauling her back to the picnic table squirming and grumbling.
A little while later, Jason Soeda showed up, sporting a football jersey and with a fishing pole in hand. It was the first time I'd seen him in three years, and he looked exactly the same as he did when he first joined the Ka Leo features desk as a bright-faced new writer.
I meant it as a compliment, but he didn't look too impressed.
He told tales of his days in Japan as a JET tutor, and more interestingly subsequent adventures as a "black market" English conversationalist. He brought his photo album, as I'd asked him to, and flipped through pages and pages of exactly the kind of pictures you'd figure you'd get on the JET program.
"Who's this?" I asked, teasingly.
"A girlfriend," he said, shaking his head. "Actually, a JET Girlfriend."
"Ah, a JET Girlfriend," I said.
"There's a difference there," he said.
"Absolutely... a whole different category of associate," I laughed.
We talked and talked and talked. Jason marveled at Katie and the absurdity of my parenthood. Jen and Greg continued to deconstruct popular culture. And Greg and Jason discovered a common obsession in Japanese music and recommended obscure albums to each other.
Curiously, Jason had thought to bring a football. Convinced of the totality of our physical ineptitude, the rest of us initially declined. But feeling goofy, we eventually gave it a shot. Katie was just thrilled to discover a new kind of ball with a very funny bounce.
Of all people, Greg demonstrated the best initial skill in tossing the pigskin. But in time, even I was surprised to find that I didn't always end up dropping the football on my foot.
As the sun dropped and turned a rich golden yellow, we packed up and zipped over to Kahala Mall. First stop, of course, was Tower Records, Jen's old workplace. A few familiar faces were still there, so they traded gossip, while Jason and Greg attacked the J-Pop rack.
Greg bought some import CDs on a whim, I reluctantly bought Katie the new Teletubbies video, and we set about to wander the mall.
We spent a great deal of time in toy stores. And not just because of Katie, either.
Eventually we walked across the street to the Zippy's, our meeting place of choice even though we were just there last week.
Just when we thought we'd see no one else that day, Greg spotted Donica and Jason at the door. We signaled them over, ended up not having enough room at our table, and played musical chairs the rest of the night to give everyone a chance to gossip with each other.
As Greg (Austin American-Statesman) and Donica (Star-Bulletin) shared the juciest stories from their respective newsrooms, I think Jason and I both realized at the same time that we've been out of the biz for a while. All we had to talk about was everyday life.
Before wrapping up the evening, the bunch of us headed back to the mall to browse Barnes & Noble. Donica and Katie gravitated naturally toward the kids' section, while Greg gravitated naturally toward every cute guy in the place.
"This is still the crusiest place on the island," he said, beaming, as we finally walked out to say our goodbyes. Hugs all around.
"Greg's disappearing for an eternity again, but the rest of us here really should hang out more often," I said, then sighed. "And yes, I know I say that every single time we get together, and then another six months go by."
It's amazing to me, sometimes. That our friendships persevere sometimes despite ourselves.