IMR: 1998: May: 27 -- Wednesday, 2:38 p.m.
University of Hawai`i Press, Manoa, Hawai`i
I finally have a moment to write, setting up my PowerBook next to the overworked Centris 650 on my desk, which is currently giving its all to scan the cover of Frank Chin's latest, "Bulletproof Buddhists." And I still have quite a stack of jackets left to go.

Work work work. I'm up to my ears in it.

I've been going insane bringing some of the journals pages up to date. They hadn't been touched for months, since there was a time when the future of the journals department was in doubt. By the time everything was sorted out, some were almost a year behind.

Updating is tedious work, especially when you're dealing with articles with titles like, "Phylogenetic Analysis of the Hawaiian Damselfly Genus Megalagrion (Odonata: Coenagrionidae): Implications for Biogeography, Ecology and Conservation Biology." Meanwhile, of course, the books side of the site started falling behind.

So this week, with only three of twelve journals all fixed up, I'm webbing up a few books. Unlike journal contributors, book authors get a little antsy if their masterpiece isn't online before yesterday.

Work work work. I've even been dreaming about work.

This schedule's a killer. Being a full-time dad -- though a priceless experience I wouldn't miss for the world -- seriously wrings me out. And since afternoons are now reserved for Katie, I'm actually working fewer hours now than I was during the spring semester (even though student help are allowed to work full-time). So while the amount of work to do hasn't changed, I've got less time in which to do it.

It doesn't help that we're short one student assistant at my morning job. Now in addition to the website, newsletter and mailing list, I'm helping out with general office work just so Eric, the other student in the office, doesn't up and quit too.

And I'm behind schedule on the EHSO site. They gave me all summer to do it, actually, but I really wanted to be done with everything by the end of the month. At the rate I'm going, it'll be sitting in my mental inbox for at least another month.

Thank god the Parking Office never called.

You know, I've been seeing a lot of mom lately.

I went up to visit on Saturday and on Monday while Jen was at work, trying to get a better handle at this "primary caretaker" gig. I thought the weeks we spent living in Mililani was parental training for us both, but perhaps only Jen benefitted from my mother's tutelage. Either way, after handling a few teething tantrums alone, I definitely needed a little coaching and company.

Then, Jen and I went up last night to raid the pantry and catch a late movie (Tuesdays and Wednesdays now being our "weekends"). We saw "Godzilla," and came home with two bags full of soup and frozen meat.

And tonight, we're headed out that way once again, this time because mom needs a ride home (Todd's borrowing her car). With my dad skills properly sharpened and with our fridge nice and full, for once I think it'll be a purely social visit.

Todd, I should mention, is slowly accepting the whole "uncle" thing. And Katie definitely likes him. He's carried her and helped change her and entertained her with toys and his distinctly Todd-esque commentary on the ways of the world. We won't be asking him to babysit anytime soon, but I think he's getting the hang of it.

He also got a twenty-dollar tip at work the other day, just for being especially helpful. "Magic" enthusiasts are indeed an unusual bunch.

The past few days, though generally unremarkable, did have their moments. Scary, freaky moments.

On Monday, I had just picked Jen up at work and we were heading home on the freeway in unusually heavy traffic. She was fawning over Katie, and I was trying to figure out what we could fix for dinner.

Then, as we came over the rise by the King Street exit, I saw a pair of taillights go bright ahead. By the time my eyes focused on them, four, then six, then every car was braking. They went off in a wave, fanning out from the first car in the center lane.

Suddenly cars were veering left and right. The drone of wheels on concrete was punctuated by the distinct pop of metal against metal. Then the screech of brakes, and more crunching noises.

As I slowed and tried to figure out where to go -- it looked like most of the lanes were now blocked -- I got a lump in my throat the size of a tennis ball. I instinctively started chanting "oh god oh god oh god," terrified not that I'd hit anything, but that someone coming over the hill would slam into us from behind.

I thought about my wife and daughter in the back seat, about how much they meant to me, about how infant seats are little help in rear-end collisions. I thought about how I'd been hearing all week about how Memorial Day Weekend is the most deadly for drivers, and how I'd spent that weekend traveling hundreds of miles back and forth between town and Mililani.

And all this happened in an instant.

I scanned my mirrors and swung into the far right lane, the only path -- apart from the long offramp on the left -- still clear. I held my breath as we passed the thick of it, too petrified to look and see what had happened.

One thing I did see was a local guy, wide eyes scanning oncoming traffic, trying to scramble up the concrete divider.

I hoped he'd escape injury. I hoped no other cars would crash. But most of all, I was glad that we'd survived. Glad for whatever improbable moment of fate earlier in the evening delayed us three, maybe four seconds in our drive home.

I fumbled for my phone and dialed 911. By the time I got through, the dispatcher already knew why I was calling.

I was so freaked out, I drove 45 miles an hour the rest of the way home. And I don't think I blinked again until the car was neatly reversed into its basement stall. I felt as if I'd never been happier to be home in my life. I called mom, then William, as if to simply verify that the world wasn't ending.

After my adrenaline had subsided, I spent the rest of the night lost in thought. Contemplating destiny and karma and luck. Coupled with my distant involvement in the Oregon school shooting last week, it seemed as if some omnipotent force was trying really hard to make sure that I took a long hard look at my life, and -- despite the recent scars -- that I was properly thankful for it.

Said omnipotent force hadn't played its last card, either.

Last night, heading home from mom's, I was stopped at the light waiting to make a left onto Meheula Parkway. I glanced in my rear view mirror, and saw a distinctive square headlight.

I thought to myself, "That's a mid-70s Oldsmobile," proud that I could recognize so simple a feature.

The light turned green, and after the turn, the car behind me took the next lane and slowly passed us. I glanced over. I nearly choked.

The tennis ball was back in my throat, but Jen was thinking the same thing. "Honey... is that your old car?"

Maintaining a respectful distance, I studied it all the way down the H-2. First from behind, then from the left. For a moment I accellerated to get a look at the front-left fender, but something in me went cold and I held back.

The license plate was different, but everything else -- the top-notch white-and-gold paint job, the rare emblems, the Oldsmobile Club of America decal in the rear window -- confirmed her identity. Like a fleeting Shakespearian apparition, my once-prized Hurst Olds W-30 was back on the road.

I didn't know what I was feeling. I still don't know. It had been five months since I'd even thought about that car, and more to the point, why I'd lost it.

I do know part of me was glad that the Olds had a good home; that it didn't go to some scrap heap. She was a collector's car, one of 1,100 or so ever made, and frankly I wasn't really qualified to own her.

From what I saw, she was in the hands of someone who knew she was special. Still stock -- no lowered chassis, no balloon tires, no gold-plating. Clean, shiny, and all fixed up. The driver held a modest 50MPH all the way down the freeway, eventually taking the H-1 westbound offramp and disappearing into the night.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 21 May 1998 · Last Modified: 29 May 1998