IMR: 2000: April: 15 — Saturday, 9:08 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

[ Lorraine, my mother in law, and Jen's aunt Reggie. ]
[ It didn't take me long to warm up to Nana. ]
[ A bunny from Nana! ]
Jen's mother, Lorraine, and aunt Reggie arrived right on schedule this afternoon.

Of course, we expected them to arrive fifteen, twenty minutes late, taking our time picking out a pair of plumeria and ginger leis. Instead of a picturesque reunion at the gate, we ended up catching them in the baggage claim.

TWA flight number 1, eight hours from St. Louis. They met at the airport there, Lorraine coming from Florida and Reggie from Boston. They reported a pleasant enough flight, as air travel goes, but with a final descent that was a little more exciting than they'd preferred. Kona winds, perhaps, or a new pilot.

Katie was a little grumpy, having had a long morning (we met up with mom at Pearlridge and hung out in Mililani most of the day) and missing her nap. Although she was in no mood to be held by anyone but Jen, she knew who Nana was.

We piled into my little car, rolled down the windows ("Hawaiian air conditioning," I explained), and headed straight for their hotel. I pointed out what few landmarks there were along the way, otherwise answering Reggie's interesting queries about day-to-day life in Hawai`i. Although it was her first trip to the islands, she's traveled a fair bit, and compared what she saw here to things in other locales, notably the Carribean.

I briefly brought up Elian Gonzales, just to make small talk, but abandoned the topic fairly quickly when it became clear opinions among my passengers differed greatly. (I wish someone would just hire a bounty hunter to ship the kid back FedEx, but I'm clearly ignorant of the depth and intensity of feelings some people have for all things Cuban.)

They're staying at the Hale Koa Hotel, the main "armed forces recreational facility" in Honolulu. It's where Jen's parents stayed during their previous two visits, and with good reason. It's a very nice, true "resort" hotel located right next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, but offers prices less than half that of the Waikiki average (their room is $79 a night, versus $199 or so at the Hilton).

We just hung out in their room, on a low floor overlooking the roof of the lobby, catching up. Of course Katie got a small bundle of presents, including clothes and a pink stuffed bunny.

As the sun went down, we headed for one of the Hale Koa's restaurants: Biba's. Lorraine and Reggie ended up ordering appetizers, understandably unsettled by travel and airline food, but Jen and I loaded up. Katie got fish nuggets and fries, but not surprisingly shunned the fish for the potatoes. And after discovering I had rice on my plate, she ate most of it.

Reggie, reportedly a more adventurous diner than most, ordered a plate of kal-bi ribs, armed only with my poor attempt of describing it. I doubt she expected a plate just piled high with meat, but she nonetheless gave it her all.

Soon enough, time began to catch up with the travelers. Determining that they'd been awake for about 25 hours, we called it a night, and vowed not to start too early tomorrow.

I'm still not sure what's on the agenda. We're all play-it-by-ear folks. I've plotted out three basic O`ahu tours — Central/North Shore, Town/Waikiki/Pearl Harbor, and Windward/East Honolulu. I suspect we're going to attempt the longest trip, North Shore, first.

Jen's itching to get online. She's picked up yet another addiction.

Yep. Besides Dan's Screen Shot Movie Quiz, the Hollywood Stock Exchange, and all things Noth, she's now nuts about Epinions.Com.

I stumbled onto it a short while back. It's a consumer ratings site, like Deja.Com, but different in two major ways. One, a substantial, colorful community has developed there, with cranky old-timers, ridiculed newbies, celebrities, outcasts, cliques, and self-policing possés. Sounds familiar, ne? Two, you get paid — albeit only a cent or two — for stuff you write, if it gets read.

I wrote a few reviews (comparing UH-Manoa and UH-Hilo, for starters), recycled a few older movie and music reviews, joined the burb (of course), giggled at my $0.72 commission, and just enjoyed clicking around to see some of the incredible, and incomprehensible, writing.

Then Jen tries it out, and the next thing I know, she's written more reviews than I have. She starts fretting about how people are rating her pieces. She lies awake at night wondering what else she can write about.

Addicted I tell you.

I'm afraid to tell her about The Sims. Now that, I'm not even sure I can resist.

[ The Hawaii Convention Center, generally unused by local groups, hosts the auto show. ]
[ It was an elaborate and attractive setup, the entire Kamehameha Hall carpeted and decorated with an automotive theme. ]
[ Katie gets a little too attached to the bed of a pickup truck. ]
[ Katie, sitting pretty between mom and dad and a Lotus. ]
[ Jen takes to the new Volkswagen bug. She likes the '70s original better, but I think she'll settle for one of these. ]
[ Easily the hit of the show for the suburban set, the Chrysler PT Cruiser at under $16,000. ]
So last weekend, we went to check out the First Hawaiian Auto Show.

No, sorry, the First Hawaiian International Auto Show... a bigger, better, more important event this year, because it supposedly had some Mainland auto-industry muscle behind it, and because it was held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

When I heard it was moved from the Blaisdell, I was convinced it was going to be a disaster. The only way the state could build the Convention Center where it did was by promising to limit parking — it would be used by visitors, tourists, brought on buses, not commuting locals.

Indeed, only 400 or so residents attended the opening session of our conference there last month, and even that tied area traffic into knots.

But fortunately, the city went into traffic-control overdrive for this thing, setting up more than twenty traffic cops and half a dozen big electric signs, and taking over an entire floor of parking at Ala Moana Center. We parked there, and walked over with a crowd of other curious locals.

The show was set up on the huge, 200,000-square-foot Kamehameha exhibition hall, easily the largest enclosed area in the state. But they did an incredible job filling it, carpeting the entire place, decorating it with road signs and traffic lights and the like.

Nearly every variety of vehicle was on display, from the quirky GEM electric carts and the state's Vanpool vans to the Lexus SUV and a pair of rare Lamborghinis.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. You really know you're getting older when you walk straight past the sports cars to check out minivans. I did stop for a moment to admire the lipstick-red Lotus in the corner, but Jen and I spent most of our time checking out stodgy vans and "sporty family sedans."

Jen loved the monstrous Lexus RX 300 SUV ("It's like sitting in a big, warm, leather puddle of happiness!"), but also found a good match at the other end of the scale, in the turbo edition of the new Volkswagen Beetle. While I enjoyed the gadgets and bells-and-whistles of the latest Mazda MPV, I preferred the Chrysler Town & Country.

The star of the show, at least for the suburban family set, was the eye-catching "pie wagon" design of the Chrysler PT Cruiser. It really does look like they decided on a whim to actually produce one of those unrealistic "concept cars" you usually see only on rotating platforms in a factory showroom. Functional, sure, and surprisingly priced ($16,000), but like the iMac, its unique look is what'll win hearts... and sales.

[ Ford Focus Hatchback ]
[ Nissan Maxima ]
[ Chevrolet Monte Carlo ]
[ Chevrolet Impala ]
[ Cadillac ]
I also realized something as we wandered the floor.

Guys, they say, have their 'part fetishes' when it comes to women. You know... you have leg guys and face guys and breast guys. (Me? I'm into hands and necks.)

Well, when it comes to cars, I'm definitely a butt guy.

I think for most people, a car's looks is judged by its nose. Or maybe it's profile. But while I can appreciate the occasional front — the new lines on Dodge and Chryslers worth particular mention — I really demand a daring derriere.

When I was a teenager, I wasn't into Camaros and Toyota MR2s. I was such a dork, one of my first automotive fixations was the first Ford Taurus. Not only that, but the Taurus station wagon.

Sure, now, everyone's grandmother owns a Taurus. But when it came out, it was the weirdest looking thing on the road. All... round and stuff. Well, I liked it, and I really liked the back end on the wagon. I saw an ad once selling stretch Taurus limousines, and thought for a moment it would be cool to drive one.

(Only for a moment, though. My dream car has always been, and still is, a 1969 Mercury Cougar.)

We've had almost a decade of square back ends that were completely indistinguishable from one another. But car designers are getting creative again. It seems folks in Detroit and Japan and elsewhere finally realized that they don't have to limit their most unique designs for their top models.

The tail lights on the new Nissan Maxima are winners. Two of Chevy's new designs, the bubbly Monte Carlo and the sharp Impala (my current fixation), also stand out. Even the design of the Ford Focus, their smallest, entry-level car, has personality.

With risks comes a few disasters, certainly. The Toyota Echo, which looks like it was just kicked from behind, and the ugly bug look of the Oldsmobile Alero.

But I wouldn't exactly turn any new car down if one was offered to me, either. I love my 16-year-old Datsun, but she's got her limitations, as we'll no longer discover over the next few days of trekking all over creation.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 14 April 2000 · Last Modified: 24 April 2000