IMR: 2000: October: 26 — Thursday, 11:28 a.m. HST
Third Floor, Social Sciences Building, University of Hawai`i–Manoa, Hawai`i

With beauty like this in my life, how can I complain?
Katie ponders the mysteries of the universe, as depicted in a rock.
Still a student. And resigned to remain one for at least another year.

Oh, did I enjoy the melodrama. A good 72 hours of seething and stomping and hating the world. I questioned my sanity, my committment to finishing school, my basic outlook on life. Jen questioned whether she could take the rock fever much longer, whether she could take another "someday," whether she could wait for me, for her vision of the future to begin.

But then we went to the beach. And then we went shopping. And then we went to the beach again. And while Jen and I lounged on the sand and Katie rolled in the surf and shrieked with glee, I sighed and said to no one in particular, "There are probably worse places in the world to be stuck than this."

So the plan for now is for me to continue my slow crawl through higher education, tediously picking up three core credits here, six non-introductory credits there, until I graduate (and I'm not venturing any more guesses as to when that'll happen).

"There," I should note, potentially including community college and/or night classes, either of which would speed things up a little and certainly save some money. But I'm going to make damn sure from now on that every class I take is certified by an Arts & Sciences adviser.

In the mean time, of course, life goes on. And how.

Our top stories this week? Katie is going to start school. And Jen has a job.

Where to begin?

The Friday before I left on my cross-country trip, Jen — on a whim — walked into Liberty House, Katie in hand, and asked for an application. They asked her if she could instead just sit down for an interview on the spot.

And just like that, she walked out with a job, and a training schedule, beginning the next week.

Of course, that was the week I was going to be out of town. Which would have been complicated enough, without the little matter of a daughter to deal with as well.

The subsequent panic wasn't pretty, with Jen stressing over the prospect of returning to the workforce after two years, me stressing over my trip, and both of us stressing over finding daycare for Katie in a span of 72 weekend hours.

And we learned very quickly a very basic lesson of parenthood: when contemplating employment, you should secure child care before you get a job, not vice versa. Every place we called   even those places where we wouldn't dare send Katie anyway — had long waiting lists.

So greatly embarrased, Jen called Liberty House back and said she couldn't take the job. I went on my trip, came back, went back to work. Jen half-heartedly filled out applications for three nursery schools, and I dropped them in the mail (on my way, in fact, to that infamous advising session). We didn't know what we were doing. We were dazed, slipping into autopilot.

I think I've established that wasn't a very good week.

Well, before we were anywhere near ready to deal with more massive shifts in reality, Montessori called a couple of days ago to say they had an opening, beginning on Monday. And, I guess figuring things still weren't colorful enough, Jen checked in with Liberty House, and this morning she learned she got the job (again) and has in hand (again) a training schedule that begins next Friday.

And that's where things stand as of 90 minutes ago. But right now I've got to shut down and listen to GSO President (and former co-rabble rouser) C. Mamo Kim tell my journalism class why we should vote "no" on the UH autonomy constitutional amendment question on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Thursday, 10:51 p.m. HST
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

So Jen and I have an orientation and form-signing meeting with Montessori Community School tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. We'll have to talk tuition (some $6,000 a year — owowow!), acclimation, curriculum and philosophy, and everything else.

(And no, the absurdity of having to deal with tuition for Katie, my daughter, while I'm still a tuition-paying student myself hasn't escaped me.)

Of course scheduling for the next several days is also a major concern, what with Katie starting school through most of next week, with Jen starting training next weekend and working full-time the week after, and — I may have neglected to mention — with me traveling to Singapore for work, right in the middle of all this mayhem.

Like things weren't challenging enough as they were.

I can't believe it.

I can't believe it'll be November next week. And that since it's November, my office is flying to Southeast Asia to run the second of its two annual international conferences... something that always seemed so far off.

I can't believe that Katie — my sweet, little, darling baby — will be a student next week. And that Jen — after over 30 nearly uninterrupted months as a stay-at-home mommy — will be a working, taxpaying American again.

And I can't believe I could potentially be coming back from this trip and landing in a nation that has inexplicably voted a dimwitted Republican into the White House.

Oh my aching brain!

I need some fluffy stuff to think about.

Today's in-class "press conference" with Mamo was interesting. She's definitely a more energetic and passionate speaker than her counterpart, UH Senior Vice President for Administration Eugene Imai, who spoke to us on Tuesday representing the "yes" side.

(Some background: The public will vote whether to put UH's control of its own affairs into the State Constitution, as right now its powers are enumerated by — and can potentially be revoked by — the Legislature. But the wording of the amendment leaves a loophole that some say voids UH autonomy or even increases Legislative control. The administration and most of the community supports the bill, but the faculty union and most student groups oppose it.)

Imai's advantage was an intimate understanding of the technical aspects of the UH autonomy issue, related matters of constitutional law, and autonomy's likely affect on the day-to-day operation of the university. His disadvantage, of course, was being a UH administrator, and having a UH administrator's priorities and a UH administrator's personality.

Having a well-dressed, middle-aged, articulate paper pusher tell you to vote "yes" is probably the best way to get a college student to vote "no."

By contrast, Mamo had a firm grasp of the facts as well, but she also had the fierce, burning passion of both an activist and a poli-sci graduate student... a dangerous combination. She got a much stronger response from my classmates, who — like most students — were just hungry to get excited about anything.

After Imai's presentation, most of the class was going to vote "yes." Now that Mamo's chimed in, I think most of the class is going with "no" or no vote at all. (I have a sinking suspicion that if we had Imai back, the pendulum would swing the other way again.)

Me? I'm voting "yes." Yeah, just call me a pawn of The Establishment. But I decided weeks ago, after reading the propaganda and legal interpretations from both sides on the web.

Speaking of voting, I wonder when I'm getting my absentee ballot. It'll be my first election by mail. I'm strangely excited by the prospect.

Police, fire crews and scientists in space suits crawled around a building down the street on Saturday.
The annual Food & New Products Show at the Blaisdell.
Across the way in the arena was the 'food' portion.
Renowned chef Alan Wong ranks as one of Jen's greatest idols.
A school for dogs was in session at Thomas Square.
This past weekend got off to a weird start, various family upheavals notwithstanding.

On Saturday, walking in the door to our apartment after our weekly drive to Mililani to visit mom, we immediately smelled something.

Dirty diaper, I thought, or rotting food buried under one of the many piles of books and toys in Katie's room. Jen and I put on a video for Katie and immediately set about tidying up.

As we reunited to put Katie to bed, however, we noticed two things: that the smell didn't get better, and that there were suddenly a number of police cars converging on our street. Then a fire truck. Then another fire truck. Then even more cops.

Now, we live a block away from the fire station, and across the street from a surprisingly rowdy church, so sirens are nothing new for us. But when they closed of most of Keeaumoku above Wilder and people started flowing out of buildings onto nearby sidewalks, we knew we weren't looking at just another parking lot catfight.

When the scary white HazMat truck rolled up, my curiosity got the best of me. I headed out to check things out for myself.

I was too tired to play journalist, so instead I just followed a wandering TV cameraman for a while, then mingled with some neighbors. The focus of attention was the three-story walkup apartment building on the mauka Diamond Head corner of Keeaumoku and Heulu streets (the "death cookie" intersection). Everyone was outside, and firefighters — some of them in "spacesuits" — were wandering around with flashlights.

And the smell was intense. Chemical. With strong hints of fertilizer.

Sadly most of the interesting stuff was happening inside the building. And eventually the spacemen and various cops came out, reopened the road, and everyone — including me — went home.

I never did figure out what happened, although I watched all the various and often insipid evening news broadcasts hoping for the scoops. I can only imagine someone's gardening cabinet caught fire or something.

On Sunday, Jen, Katie and I wandered down to the Blaisdell to check out the semi-annual Food & New Product Show.

Actually, I'm not sure it's the same product fair as the one we went to in April, but if it was, they got a much better slate of vendors this time around. There were only a few get-rich-quick and work-from-home scams (although there was the usual crunch of cellular phone and pager dealers), and lots more free food.

In fact, the "food" half of the "Food & New Products" was set up in the old Arena across the way. We had to work our way through the massive munching crowd twice for Jen to get the hang of the snatch and dash, but sure enough we filled up on chips and assorted things on toothpicks before checking out all the booths back at the exhibition hall.

And speaking of food, one of the celebrities on hand was noted chef Alan Wong. Jen got so flustered you'd think she just spotted Madonna. I snuck behind the stage to snap a picture, and he was gracious enough to stop chopping green unions long enough to not-quite-smile.

Of course Jen and I filled out forms for any drawing we could find, knowing full well that we'd never win and that we were just getting ourselves added to a junk mail mailing list. (I love junk mail, though Jen despises it.) It's fun, if even for a moment, to imagine winning a Ford Explorer, or a cheesy Vegas vacation.

On the way home, we walked around Thomas Square, a nice park in the middle of the urban jungle that unfortunately becomes one of the creepier places on the island after dark. Fortunately the sun was still up, and a dog training school session there kept Katie enthralled for several giggly, "ooh" and "ahh" minutes.

Lacene's last day was last Friday, news we learned only two days prior. Indeed the end of an era.
In less fluffier news, last Friday was Lacene's last day at my office, her last day as the Executive Secretary to the Secretary General — a post she held for six years.

Lacene in many ways was central to the heart and soul of our small office, and certainly had one of the strongest personalities. She had a hand in just about everything, and basically kept things running — a job description not uncommon among "executive assistants."

She was the person with whom I got along the best, second only to David, who left for school in Cleveland in April. She's the only one with whom I hang out socially outside of work. (Hopefully, that won't change.)

I'm sorry to see her go for those and many other reasons, not the least of which being that we'll now be going into this Singapore meeting with one fewer veteran to help hold things together. (I never thought I'd be considered a "veteran.")

But on the other hand, I'm happy for her, probably happier for her than I've been for any of the other coworkers who've outgrown our office.

Her departure, to say the least, was both something that was a long time coming and incredibly sudden. (I learned she was leaving two days before her last day through "the grapevine," and apart from a farewell luncheon I nearly bungled in scheduling, there was no official notice of such.) It definitely marks the end of an era, and more clearly heralds the "new and improved" management of our small, once intimate little team.

Changes are being made, by all accounts, for all the right reasons. But it hasn't been easy adjusting to it all. And now we're going into this meeting short one staffmember and with no interns (budget limitations). It'll be a scene.

Other random acts of reportage...

One of the (other) big crises that befell my little universe in the past couple of crazy months has been the untimely demise of my mom's car.

Now, mom's 1994 Buick Century is much newer than my 1984 Nissan Maxima, but because she lives in Mililani and because she and Todd regularly drove all over creation, it had racked up 150,000 miles (42,000 miles more than my more-than-two-times-older vehicle). Although it was tragic for it to pass away at the moderate age of six, no one was surprised.

Mom had only a year ago finally paid it off, and the plan had always been that she'd just start the cycle over again with yet another new (or almost new) car. But as I alluded to a couple of months ago, mom had to do a big of belt tightening, and getting a $17,000 car loan was no longer an option.

Grandma decided to come to the rescue. Since mom often borrowed her car when Todd had to be elsewhere, the solution was ostensibly for mom to just adopt it outright... except when grandma needed it to go shopping and for other odd errands.

A great plan in theory, but absolute hell in practice. Grandma needed her car more often than she expected, and even when mom could borrow it (Todd was, not surprisingly, absolutely forbidden behind the wheel), there was... shall we say, also lots of questions and commentary.

Over time, I got sucked into the whirlpool. Since only mom could drive grandma's car, but Todd continued to have a demanding work and social schedule, I — or at least my car — would have to pitch in. Once a few weeks ago, in this mad tangle, Todd and his girlfriend ended up spending the night in Katie's room. This weekend, mom's borrowing my car over Saturday night.

Suffice it to say, this arrangement is simply not tenable in the long run.

So now we're hunting for a car for mom. Not a new car, not an almost new car, not even a remotely new car. A work horse, one that can take abuse, and one that costs less than $4,000.

We were this close to getting her a car almost exactly like mine last week. I've since (finally) enlisted the help of dad, who has a much better sense for automotive things. In the meantime, I can only hope my car — which up until a week ago was leaking a quart of oil a week — holds up.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 26 October 2000 · Last Modified: 29 October 2000