Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
Grandma Henderson turns 82 tomorrow, and to mark the occasion, we had a small family gathering at Uncle Al's place yesterday.
As grandma's tolerance for any sort of excitement, particularly after sundown, has all but vanished, we made her birthday party a small, simple, and short lunch.
Things certainly weren't off to a great start. Immediately after we pulled up outside, Todd dropped his $179 cellular phone down a storm drain (the only one on the whole street, it turned out, with its manhole cover paved over). Both Jen and Katie, meanwhile, were in the throes of the same bad cold, and unusually grumpy.
So while everyone talked story and ate, Jen and I took turns walking Katie outside as she alternately whimpered and shrieked, squirmed and sneezed, covering her face and whomever was carrying her with slime.
"You know, you read about stuff like this in books," I began, then Katie shoved her sticky fist in my mouth.
Miraculously, though, Katie eventually seemed to come to terms with her sniffly state, and after angrily demanding (and of course getting) a cup of juice, she wobbled quietly into the house.
Inside, to our relief, she contentedly babbled between fistfulls of rice, chased after balloons, and basically did her cute thing. Jen and I then got to join the family chat, which of course revolved mostly around the little ones: our dear Katie and cousin Jennifer's kids, Trevor and Alyssa.
We marveled at how big and I mean big Alyssa had gotten in only her first five months. And of course Jen and Jennifer traded assorted parenting tips. (We're hoping to enroll Katie in swimming classes, either at the YWCA or at one of the Mililani recreation centers.)
Soon, perhaps inevitably, Katie and Trevor discovered each other. What followed wasn't exactly cooperative play as defined in The Literature, but it was several steps beyond the mutual snub play characteristic of younger toddlers.
Strangely enough, although Trevor is almost a year older and considerably more articulate, it was he that most often mimicked Katie, not the other way around.
At one point, Trevor had discovered a rather unhappy roach trapped on the rim of the drain of my uncle's pool. As is the trademark of three-year-olds, he proceeded to give Jen (somehow stuck with supervising the pair) the third degree. A million and one ways to ask "Why?"
As soon as Katie spotted it, she pointed at it and shouted, "Bug!"
So Trevor pointed as well, and shouted, "Bug!"
Katie beamed proudly, pointed again, and shouted again, "Bu-u-u-u-ug!"
Trevor, thereafter abandoning all attempts at complete sentences, once again followed suit.
This ritual was then repeated for the next twenty minutes, the whole neighborhood subjected to the echoing sound of two toddlers chanting "Bug!"
Watching them, huddled together over a hole in the ground like kids in a Norman Rockwell-esque postcard, my head spun. Suddenly I could see them five years from now, at some other family gathering, inseperable as they got into all manner of mischief.
I used to be the kid at these parties. Chasing my cousins, pulling their hair, getting locked in closets. We were lost in our own knee-high world, engrossed in a gripping adventure under the dinner table, oblivious to the endless, droning "grown up" conversation flying over our heads.
"So this is the view from up here," I thought. And some small and unknowable part of my childhood filed itself neatly away.
Mom joined us in town today and we all went down to the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall for the annual Food & New Products Show.
It wasn't quite as interesting as I remembered it being years ago. Actually, it was a little depressing.
There was a little food. But practically no new products. Instead, we got a poor man's run-of-the-mill trade show, rife with franchisers, MLMers, schemes and scams.
It must be a symptom of Hawaii's bad economy. Instead of showing off the latest and greatest, most of the people there were pushing off-the-shelf businesses, a hundred ways to "work from home," space age mops and eyeglass cleaners, trinkets and cheap jewelry, vacuum cleaners...
It was like two hundred late-night infomercials, without the benefit of an off switch.
We walked out with a free sample of "the last sponge you'll ever buy," a pair of "State Quarters of America" displays, and a suspicion that three-quarters of the vendors we just saw wouldn't be around next year.
The last week of April has been a strange one.
My car is still in the shop, and likely will be for a few more days. So I've been depending on mom to get me to and from work, or to shop for groceries, or to make our regular visits to Mililani. It's not easy fitting these extra stops in with mom's work and band schedule, as well as Todd's work, school and play transportation needs.
And on top of it all, mom's car was briefly incapacitated by a shorted battery last week, leading to two days of especially convoluted planning to get it to the shop, pick up a rental car (a Kia Sportage, the Korean-made wannabe SUV), get everyone where they needed to be, then pick up mom's car and return the rental all inside of 24 hours.
At home, Jen and Katie have been battling a bug for a while, both of them stuffed up and achy and frequently completely hoarse. It's weird, trying to make out your wife's raspy yell for a tissue over the raspy cries of a congested two-year-old.
Equally weird was the spontaneous decision by Jen's parents to fly her and Katie to Florida in two weeks to visit, at least through mid-June. After Jen's mother's trip here, I guess her dad felt especially bad about having to stay behind. So if he couldn't come out here to see his daughter and granddaughter, it was reasoned, they should go there.
I can't even imagine how empty this tiny apartment will feel. I'll probably be spending more time with mom in Mililani, where we'll all mope around waiting for their return.
At work, my coworkers have been scattered far and wide, in D.C., Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Brunei, Beijing. We're involved with a number of other conferences over the next few months, mostly lending our hard-won wisdom from our March conference to other organizations. Everyone returns, coincidentally, all at once tomorrow morning, which will make for a colorful few days of debriefing.
Foremost on my mind there, though, is the departure this Friday of David, my immediate supervisor, international business mentor, and friend. He hired me, kept me out of trouble, and together we reveled in assorted geekly exploits. He's been with our office for almost three years, and in my mind is one of the most irreplaceable staffers.
On one hand, I'm elated that he's escaping not to another job, but to get his MBA. (He got accepted into an accelerated program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland with a healthy scholarship.) It's something he's wanted and pursued for as long as I've known him, and I'm glad his hard work paid off.
On the other, we've yet to find a replacement. We've barely begun looking. And, albeit jokingly, nearly everyone is saying, "Ryan can handle it."
Of course I can't. I'm not sure anyone can. No one want to take on any portion of his many, many duties. I'm afraid that the remaining handful of us will just end up absorbing the work, and that the search for a successor will just stretch on into eternity.
At school? Two class meetings left, and next week is Finals Week.
What the hell happened?
Speaking of Hawaii's sad economy...
The other night we were watching a Disney movie, "Rip Girls."
The plot? A little girl inherits a chunk of land in Hawai`i, comes to the islands to sign papers to sell it, but falls in love with the place and its people she learns to surf, falls for a guy named Kona and decides to stay.
It was full of Hawaiian names, Hawaiian references. There were even several recognizable Hawaii actors and actresses, many of the same old faces cast whenever directors want an "exotic" non-White look.
But we couldn't recognize where "Rip Girls" was filmed. We scrutinized every natural landmark, every beach, every road and mountain.
Definitely not O`ahu. Maybe Maui? Maybe some remote corner of the Big Island? No.
Could it be California? That water sure looks green...
We ended up waiting through the closing credits, looking for the fine print at the end. And there it was:
"Filmed on location at Queensland, Australia."
How sad is that?
Disney, based on the West Coast, found it cheaper or for some reason preferable to ship a film crew and several actors some from Hawai`i thousands of miles past the islands. To tell a story about the beauty and spiritual draw of Hawai`i, they went to Australia.
What's wrong with this picture?