IMR: 2001: January: 03 — Wednesday, 9:01 p.m. HST
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

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New Year's blessings.
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Kayla and Katie at church.
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Newly-employed Wayne.
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Donica and Mio.
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Martha has a fan.
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"I love Hooters?"
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Examining the merchandise.
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Two times the love.
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Balloons: instant happiness.
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Wayne's famous jig.
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Everybody smile.
The year 2001 came in neither with a bang nor a whimper, but with a relieved sigh. It also marked the first New Year's midnight in perhaps twenty years that I essentially slept through.

No parties, no Buddhist chants, no fireworks shows. Katie — thanks to the magic of Children's Benadryl — was snoring soundly by 8:30 p.m., and after some pleasant cuddling, Jen and I shuffled off to bed shortly before 11 p.m.

Whether due to new permit laws (unlikely), or perhaps lazy-slash-poor neighbors, there were nowhere near as many pyrotechnics this year as last. Apart from the crescendo at 11:59 p.m., things outside were positively mild. There were some hotspots, I'm sure, but it seemed as if everyone was still partied out from the big Y2K bash.

Maybe it just seemed that way to me, but the halfhearted celebrations of my fellow islanders seemed fitting. The last year wasn't exactly bad, but it was a wild ride. All I want from this next trip 'round the sun is a moment or two to catch my breath.

My family temple in Waipahu, having recently concluded that making senior citizens drive through smoky Waipahu after midnight was a tad risky, moved it's New Year's service to 9 a.m. on the morning of the first.

(Previously we'd start chanting at about 11:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and the calendar would flip somewhere around the seventh "han nya ha ra mi ta shin gyo.")

Jen had to work (and she had to work the night before, too), so only Katie and I made the pilgrimage to the Waipahu Soto Zen Taiyoji. Much of my dad's family was there, including little Kayla, who was quickly passed over the pew to sit next to Katie. The two of them snacked on bean-filled pancake snacks while everyone chanted, then went up to get their new year's blessing.

Katie watched in bemusement as members of the congregation got thumped on the shoulders and head by the minister, and didn't fuss at all when it was our turn. I realized that we didn't get blessed last year (we crossed into 2000 in our spiritual home of Hilo), and wondered for a moment if it made a difference.

I'll take any good omens I can get.

After Katie gave everyone hugs and family members went their separate ways, Katie and I then went over to Mililani. We hung out with mom for a bit, popping out to pick up some snacks, then headed down to street to Wayne's place for our other New Year's Day engagement: a party at his sister Vivian's house.

(But not before Wayne showed me his collection of rare, vintage '70s porn movie posters.)

So, because Vivian was careless enough to invite us, Katie and I crashed a big Akiyama family shindig, a pair of out-of-place Ozawas meeting Wayne's assorted relatives and eating their food. Katie was in a great mood, hugging complete strangers. I ate more than a polite share of sashimi.

There were, of course, a few "small world" moments. Vivian's husband David was a Mililani High graduate. And it turned out one of Wayne's young cousins was now a UH student studying — of all things — journalism.

It was weird to be talking about Professor Gerald Kato with someone who seemed barely half my age.

It was downright depressing to admit that at least two full "generations" of journalism majors have entered and graduated from the program in less time than it's taken me to officially begin my senior year.

As it came time for us to head back into town to pick up Jen, I joined some of Wayne's kin in wishing him well in Los Angeles.

Yes, Wayne — who spent the last couple of months relishing life as an unemployed slob — got a job. His whole family was happy for him, and some of them said they might even miss him.

But none of them know exactly what job it was Wayne landed.

Last night, we hooked up with Donica, Martha, and Mio at Aloha Tower Marketplace to give Wayne his official sendoff. (He leaves for California tomorrow.) Because of the nature of his new employer, the venue for the gathering was Hooter's.

Now, Wayne's family knows he's going to work as an editor and writer for a prominent monthly trade magazine. Which his true.

But more specifically, he's going to be an Associate Editor at AVN. And that doesn't stand for Audio-Video News.

"You're living proof that dreams can come true," I said.

"We always knew you had it in you," Martha said.

"You'll never work in legitimate media again," Donica said.

"That's okay," Wayne said.

As far as I'm concerned, there couldn't be a more perfect professional match. He's a good writer, and a freak. Selling cigars (his previous job) only utilized only the latter of those natural talents.

Anyway. We were at Hooter's.

Jen was somewhat troubled with bringing Katie to Hooter's, which doesn't even seem to believe itself when it describes the chain as "family dining."

Frankly, I wasn't sure how often the place dealt with toddlers. But as it turned out, they were pros. They had crayons and coloring sheets, stickers, even balloons for Katie. And the staff — besides their other assets — seemed at ease playing and talking to her.

The food was only okay, but no one ever said that was why you went there. No one at the table seemed particularly interested in studying the establishment's prized features, but fortunately "Who Want's to Be a Millionaire" (the celebrity edition) was on TV, as was the UF/Miami bowl game.

When we weren't answering TV trivia or dissing Florida, we caught up and gossiped. A major topic of conversation was Donica's pending nuptials to longtime beau Jason in July. She'd just chosen her dress, and was starting to think about post-matrimonial living arrangements.

We also talked about the future of the Star-Bulletin, which now employs both Donica and Martha. (Martha, in fact, already has a secret admirer in the newsroom, who sent her flowers last night via Donica.) Come mid-March, the afternoon daily must be settled in new offices with a new press and print both a morning and evening edition. It's a tumultuous time, to say the very least.

As the evening wound down, we all pitched in to buy Wayne a Hooter's calendar, which featured lots of flesh (and silicone) and — as Donica discovered — had all its months out of order as well as two extra months: Babeuary and Iowa.

Then the staff came out, sang Wayne a song, then tied balloons to his head and made him dance on his chair. A good time was had by all.

We wished Wayne well, and those of us remaining behind once again vowed not to let another six months pass before hanging out again. We made tentative plans to dine at The Willow's restaurant, a historic, landmark eatery that none of us has ever visited.

Behind the scenes, things have been wild.

First of all, the cold (or whatever) I came down with at the end of November is still with me. Four, soon to be five weeks of congestion, headaches, and achy joints. If it goes on much longer, I just might actually consider seeing a medical professional.

Secondly, after struggling to adapt to the great upheaval that was Katie's entry into school and Jen's return to work, we ultimately decided to give up, go back to square one, and try again.

Montessori is too expensive. And Jen's not earning quite enough. So as of next week (it's now Winter Break), Katie is "dropping out" and Jen returns to stay-at-home parenthood.

I'm bummed. And even Jen's bummed... at least a little. She missed Katie, but she liked working (or at least spending time with other adults). And Katie was definitely developing by leaps and bounds. We've put ourselves back on the waiting lists of a number of other preschools (notably a couple of KCAA campuses), and we'll cross our fingers.

School in general is good, as is having Jen employed. But we have to at least come out even, financially, not lose money. We were overdrawn by nearly $200 a couple of weeks ago, for the first time in at least three years. Montessori was great, but I think we were paying in part for the brand name. Everywhere else we've seen is notably cheaper, and actually provide more services and cover more calendar days.

Finally, a series of crazy incidents this past week nearly drove me to the nut house.

On Friday night, we were driving out to the airport to drop our Christmas thank you cards in the mail (record turnaround!), and my car started smoking. It ended up spraying steam like a fountain when we pulled over at Lagoon Drive. We had to call mom to rescue us, and both she and Todd came down in separate cars. Our three-car convoy crawled along Nimitz to Lex Brodie's (my car looking to passers-by like it was on fire), where I took mom's car home while they went back in grandma's car.

The next day, I got my car back — miraculously it was only a gasket, for a total bill of $42 — but in the rush to get home and back out to pick Jen up at work, I locked myself out of the apartment. Katie and I had to go down to meet her by bus, and of course I got off at the wrong stop and had to walk an extra two blocks. Then it turned out Jen left her keys at home too. We had to bus back to the apartment, then find a locksmith... which was harder than it sounds, since we didn't have access to a phone, phone book, or more than a pocketful of change. I eventually found one who didn't speak English who fiddled with our doorknob for ten minutes and charged us $50.

On Monday — New Year's Day — I get a frantic call from mom, whose car died on Likelike Highway on the way into Kane`ohe... at the infamous intersection with Kahekili Highway. First I had to find her, at a friend's house in a ridiculously well-hidden neighborhood, and then we had to go back to her car — a terrifying task, given the way the intersection in question is set up. Eventually we gave up trying to start or move her car, and drove into Kane`ohe to find a service station with a tow truck. Of course, with it being New Year's Day, they were all closed. We ended up calling the Kane`ohe police station to let them know where mom's car was and that we'd get it moved the next morning. Mom took me home, then took my car home for the night.

Yesterday, mom had to babysit Katie, so she got to join her on her automotive adventure on the Windward side. She got her car fixed (worn alternator, $300 including the tow), but she had to pick me up from work early to go get it. As I drove my own car back over the Pali, I heard the distinct sound of a cylinder misfiring, which seemed to explain the strong gas smell that had been following me around for the last few days. So I've got to take it in again tomorrow or Friday.

And there were lots of other convoluted predicaments I haven't bothered to mention, which all add up to a rough patch. Fortunately there's still a part of me that sees a sliver of humor, or at least adventure, in all this. But mom's having doubts about what all this means about the year to come.

School starts again next week. In the interests of not taking another two years to finish, for the first time I'm taking a night class at the Outreach College, in addition to a regular Spring semester course.

It'll be interesting. All thirteen outstanding credits from here on out are lower-division core courses, and shouldn't be terribly challenging. The toughest part, I think, will be restraining myself from strangling clueless freshman classmates.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 2 January 2001 · Last Modified: 6 January 2001