IMR: 1998: January: 15 -- Thursday, 6:40 p.m.
Our Apartment, Waikiki, Hawai`i
Timing is everything.

Today was the first meeting of my Journalism History class. I got to Crawford Hall early, so I sat in the Journalism department office and started reading the latest Honolulu Weekly.

Keever walked in.

Right off the bat, she gave me a couple of story ideas that any campus journalist would kill for. She also fed me follow-ups to stories we discussed last year; stories that the 'Venue hadn't yet covered for lack of space.

She also said she spoke to a local media figure about us -- a free speech advocate and a reknowned critic of the mainstream media. Keever said he was very interested in what we were doing, and that he might consider lending substantial financial support.

"Great," I thought.

Class time came.

The instructor is Helen G. Chapin -- B.A. and M.A. in English from UH, Ph.D. from Ohio State University. She's an author, a veteran English professor and a recognized media historian. Like me, she was also once editor of Ka Leo.

She walked into the class with a 'Venue in her hand, apparently given to her by Sharon. Interesting.

Our first task of the day was to interview a partner and introduce them to the class. My partner, Broc, recognized my name immediately.

"Man, I love your paper -- I think what you guys are doing is awesome," he said. He even pronounced "University aVenue" correctly. "I watch for it, whenever it comes out."

"Great," I said. "Thanks."

He asked about our fight with the UH administration (or rather, Campus Center and CAPS). He picked my brain about newspapers and the web, and the future of the media in general.

When it came time to present, I put on my best radio voice. Broc Sanford... grew up here and in California, did some radio in West Virginia, now in his last semester at UH and working his tenth year at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Then -- although I never told him my name -- he began, "This is Ryan Kawailani Ozawa..." He even named the other two partners. He shared a glowing review of our operation, a play-by-play of our First Amendment fight, a thought or two about online newspapers. I blush.

Chapin, meanwhile, was intrigued. When Broc mentions the 'Venue, she held up her copy for the class. After he's done, she led the class in a short round of applause, and followed up with half a dozen comments, including, "As you all will learn in this class, alternative newspapers play a key role in the evolution of the media."

After everyone finished, she said she was excited to see so much real-world experience in the class. "We have everything from HNA to an alternative campus paper," she said, gesturing at me. I guess that means we're at the low end of the spectrum, but at least we're on the spectrum.

The rest of class wasn't quite as embarassing. Chapin was articulate, with a distinct "English professor" manner. She sped through the history of communication from grunts and petroglyphs to Gutenberg. I take no notes, except for the quote:

"The death of the afternoon daily is a given. Someday, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin will no longer be with us."

Boy do I hope she's wrong.

After class, we talk. Jenny Duhaylonsod, the welfare mother and student we profiled in our third issue, introduced herself and showed the article to Chapin. "This is great," she responded.

"Great," I thought. Praise, story leads, money thrown at us in the same day.

Yes, timing is everything. Too bad fate has no sense of it.

I had to explain to her -- as I did to Broc and Keever -- that as much as we agreed that the 'Venue was a good thing, it has reached the end of its full, controversial life.

Late Tuesday night, William -- still fuming over the recent turn of events -- made a motion to dissolve. I seconded it. Micheal grudgingly accepted it.

Of course, there are several matters to tie up -- the disposition of our website domain and account, in particular. There are also a couple of advertisers with outstanding advertising invoices. But the simple fact is, we're closing up shop.

Broc was disappointed. Keever was too, but seemed to harbor a hope that we'd come back. Chapin, though, was very philosophical.

She said alternative rags generally have short life spans. She said that while shutting down could be seen as a failure, the significance of the 'Venue will become clear over time.

"Experimental projects never last long," she said. "But I think you had an impact; you changed things."

She's right. And that's exactly what the press release will say.

But I'm not exactly all smiles.

The 'Venue was one of the greatest things I've ever been involved with, so naturally it's hard to see it end. Of course, there are plenty of other things I need to be involved in right now, so you could say it's just as well. You could say, if it was going to end eventually, now's as good a time as any?

I guess I'm more bummed about how it ended. Sure, we accomplished a lot. And it's abundantly clear that the three of us have other things to worry about. But that's not how it's going to look. At least, that's not how it's been interpreted by the people I've told so far.

We were making waves. Fighting the power. Now, William has to concentrate on graduating, I have to concentrate on being a father, and Micheal wants to work at Ka Leo. Which of these things is not like the other?

I guess I can take solace in the fact that while I may be called a failure, harsher words will be reserved for the legacy of another.

This afternoon, on my way home, I was stopped at a red light at the infamous intersection of Kapi`olani and Date streets. Rush hour was beginning, and cars were roaring every which way.

Now, this intersection has always intimidated me. It's a huge, five-way junction of several major streets, two of them more than four lanes wide. With all the weird traffic islands, crosswalks and no-turn signage, it's one of the most complex, ridiculous and dangerous intersections in the state.

You have to live here for years before you memorize the green-light pattern. Knowing when it'll be your street's turn to cross the vast, star-shaped expanse is the sign of a true kama`aina.

I've almost got it down.

I was on Date, heading Diamond Head toward Kapahulu. I tapped my fingers to Björk's "Homogenic" and stared blankly at the heavy Kapi`olani traffic passing in front of me.

All of a sudden, a guy on a dirt bike slowed suddenly, scaring the crap out of the car following behind him. He then kicked himself along with his feet, and messily scampered across the three other busy lanes and stopped on the sidewalk.

Traffic picked up speed again; passers-by gave him the evil eye.

His eyes were fixed on the ground in the middle of the intersection, right about where he slammed on the brakes. I follow his gaze and saw squarish black things scattered in the street.

A motorcycle part? A broken walkman?

Without one bit of trepidation, he hopped off his bike and skipped straight into traffic, into the path of rush hour as if he was taking a stroll in the park. Lane by lane, cars skidded to a stop. He waved an apology, but I doubt it was enough to appease impatient commuters.

He bent over and picked up the objects. There were three of them, one about the size of a stick of butter. Another was sitting right on the divider line, and when he lunged for it, he scared drivers going the other way.

He waved again, and jogged back to his bike. The steady, organic flow of traffic has been thrown off, perhaps for the rest of the afternoon thanks to the "inchworm effect."

I watched as he examined the little black boxes, and fit them together.

It was a cellular phone.

He pushed a button, and a moment later, he jumped up and yelled, "Woo!"

Then he sees me and a dozen other baffled observers.

"Yeah, Ericsson!" he shouted, holding the phone over his head. "I love it! It still works!"

And he hopped back on his bike and sped off.

I shook my head. Part of me expected some amplified voice to say, "Cut!" I mean... you couldn't pay for marketing like that.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 15 January 1997 · Last Modified: 17 January 1997