IMR: 1998: August: 03 -- Monday, 1:40 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
Angels and ministers of grace, defend us.

Look out. Jen and I have started Katie on a modified "Ferber Method." That is, teaching her to fall asleep by herself, but not by abandoning her outright to cry her brains out.

When she gets really drowsy, we put her down in her crib. Of course she starts crying, but we just whisper our good nights and leave the room.

But unlike the infamous procedure recently depicted in a "Mad About You" episode, we don't just sit and wait for her to pass out from exhaustion. We check in and comfort her regularly, but after longer and longer intervals. First we check in every five minutes. After three visits, we check in twice every ten minutes. Then, every fifteen minutes until she's out.

We started (or rather I started) it yesterday afternoon. Even though she screamed like a banshee at first, she was napping within 40 minutes of being put down.

Then we tried it again last night. But unfortuantely she hung on considerably longer -- just over an hour -- and the ever soft-hearted Jen eventually gave in and picked her up.

I'm trying again right now, as I type. She's crying away, over the classical music I'm playing here in the living room. Deep breaths...

I wonder if last night's breakdown will make starting over even harder?

[ Bon Dance ]Friday night's Obon Ceremony was... interesting.

Right before I left the apartment, dad -- who had politely nagged me over the past few weeks to make sure I would attend -- called to say grandma Ozawa was feeling under the weather, so they wouldn't be going after all. So, as far as I knew, Katie and I would be the only clan representatives there.

I swung by campus to pick up William, and we headed into Friday rush hour with a grumpy Katie whining in the back seat.

During the trip, I warned William that the formal ceremony in the temple was a little long, and that we'd probably have to leave as soon as the dancing got started. Fortunately, a student of Japanese religion, he didn't seem to mind the prospect of endless chanting and bell ringing. Indeed, he explained a great deal more about Buddhist sutras than I was prepared to absorb behind the wheel.

As we passed the airport, I pointed out to William that were were coming up on where the much-anticipated contraflow "Zipper Lane" would begin. The two far left lanes were coned off, and as we inched forward in traffic, I wondered if they were conducting a test or something.

I thought I'd found my answer when we reached the area where the Zipper Machine was to be housed. It was outside its half-built garage and actually sitting a few yards along the fancy movable concrete barrier. It was huge, oddly shaped, and painted a brighter shade of yellow than any fire truck I'd ever seen. It wasn't, however, moving.

Then we saw why.

Maybe a hundred feet past where the Zipper Machine gleamed in the afternoon sun, there were cops and firefighters milling around the scene of an accident. And what an accident! Three badly banged-up cars, one of which was sitting on its side.

Because the wreck apparently ended up in the two lanes that were already closed, it wasn't affecting traffic save for the Rubbernecking Factor. I realized, though, that the Rubbernecking Factor probably had something to do with why the accident happened in the first place. That Zipper Machine was about as hard to miss as a neon-pink cruise ship.

Despite the accident, the commute was actually better than usual, and we arrived in Waipahu a good hour early. We wandered the temple grounds, William picking up some paper omamori and reading various plaques explaining the history of the church. (Specifically my grandfather's role in it, which I was unable to satisfactorily explain.)

I asked him a few questions about various Buddhist sects and he pointed out a few elements of the temple's architecture, and in the end I was pretty confused and even more convinced I was a defective Japanese American.

Several longtime church members stopped by to marvel at Katie, and to some extent at me as well.These were people who have known me since I was a tornado of a toddler, and here they were looking at a father.

City councilwoman Rene Mansho was there too. She recognized me immediately, and also couldn't get over the fact that I was a dad... or rather, that my dad, who she knew well when he worked for the city, was a grandfather.

When it was time for the ceremony to start, we ducked in and took a seat in the front row. (Whether or not it was proper of me to sit there, it was the only place I could keep the stroller nearby.) It was considerably warmer inside the temple than outside, but the little fans kept things almost bearable.

As I settled in, holding Katie in my arms, they made an announcement: "Since we know most of you are just here for the Bon Dance, we'll keep this short."

Well, not exactly. Something about a younger church and shorter attention spans and getting the essense of the message out and stuff. Nonetheless, what used to be a 90-minute meditative marathon was essentially chopped in half.

"Great," I chuckled, looking down at my daughter. "She's going to have it easy."

Time flew, mostly because Katie got fussy then hungry and had to be taken outside for a while in the middle of it all. Eventually the chanting, despite being amplified over a set of antique speakers, put her to sleep, and I went back inside just in time to hear them read my grandfather's name.

It was then I discovered that two of my father's brothers and their wives were there as well -- Leslie and Yuki (who I hadn't seen for months), and Gordon and Jane (recently made grandparents by my cousin Mark and his wife Leilani). We all went up together, and I probably looked a little ridiculous trying to pinch incense and bow with a baby over my shoulder.

The guest minister's sermon was short and sweet (and, like more and more presentations at the temple, delivered in English). We were eventually dismissed to enjoy the fresh air and fried rice in the parking lot.

William treated me to a Pepsi and a teri burger, and we loitered around and people watched. There was a short dedication, and the dancing started, dozens of people in matching kimono and hopi coats moving in sync around the tower. Rene Mansho stood nearby, commenting on how our temple played considerably cooler (read: contemporary) music than the other churches in her district.

While the crowd was a good mix of old and young people, most of the older folks were doing the dancing while the whippersnappers (like us) were just watching and enjoing the food.

Lately, every time I go to church, I get a funny feeling. (It's a lot like guilt, actually.) I see all the issei and nissei (first- and second-generation Japanese) getting older and slowly dwindling, and the grandkids and the great grandkids hanging back and digging out early as if they wouldn't even be there if... well, if they didn't feel guilty.

And I wonder how much longer things like traditional bon dancing or sumi calligraphy or even sermons and lectures in Japanese are going to be around. How much am I seeing today that simply won't be around when Katie's all grown up?

Of course, perhaps it's a little early to be worrying about the demise of Soto Zen Buddhism. Or at least Buddhism. There are still lots of kids enrolled in "Sunday School," and there's certainly no shortage of nubile teens among the Taiko drum troupes. Most of the kids I grew up with at Waipahu, making arts and crafts in what is now Ozawa Hall, are still there today, chanting with feeling and helping out in the food booths.

(Maybe I'm the only one that "strayed"? In fact, I wonder what they think when they see me?)

It's just a strange shift of perspective. Going to church, to me, is a little like piano lessons. Today, I know how enriching and wonderful it would have been had I paid attention and concentrated and worked at it and thought deep thoughts about it. But, at age 12, I would have rather done anything else.

It's been fifty minutes. Katie's not crying, but she's definitely not asleep, either. She grumbles now and then, usually the split second I think, "Ah, she's out!"

I can't give up I can't give up I can't give up.

I can't. If I do, she'll know there's a limit, and if we ever try this again, she'll never never never go to sleep.

But boy it's frustrating.

I got a call out of the blue about my old resume.

I forgot that it was even online. In fact, it had my old address and the phone number was disconnected long ago.

(I updated it now, of course. But damn it's ugly.)

The fact that he didn't stop there, that he went through the trouble of actually picking up a phone book and tracking me down anyway is a little humbling.

So I've got an interview downtown on Wednesday.

Which is great, 'cause I finally have in my posession rejection letters for both positions at the press. One was on really fancy letterhead but it was mailed to the apartment. The other was rather plain and blunt but it was delivered personally.

I particularly like this line from the latter: "You have a lot of talent and impressive credentials that unfortunately suit you better for jobs now being newly created than for those created a decade or more ago."

I'm putting them with the letter I got in January. Now I've got the makings of an actual collection, hot damn!

Creepy coincidence time. And I'm talking creepy.

But I have to go back in time a bit.

My first month on the job as editor of Ka Leo, the summer of 1995, I was putting some strange CD or other on the office stereo when someone stumbled in and told me there'd been an accident on campus.

Up on Maile Way, behind Crawford Hall. A bicyclist had been run over by a gravel truck.

Suddenly, my mind in a whirl, I was racing around, barking orders, trying to find a writer, photographer, notepad and tape recorder. We took off across campus like bats out of hell. It was my first spot-news "scramble," and I was totally pumped and feeling like some Vietnam correspondent on the front lines.

We got to the scene after Campus Security, but before the police. The guards were falling over themselves trying to shoo people away, and seeing a pack of panting, pen-toting kids probably didn't help their mood. A couple of them came over and shoved their big chests (or rather, stomachs) in our faces.

The photographer, of course, was already running along the perimeter of the 'scene' burning film like it was going out of style. I distracted the guards by thoroughly explaining who we were, promising that we wouldn't do this, ask that or go there, even though I knew I was lying.

And after they wandered away, I started chasing after the photographer, who had already started trotting back.

"Sick, man," is all he said, breezing past me, winding his camera.

And I slowed down as I wondered what he meant and just as I got an idea I stopped but by then I was already standing next to it.

On the roadway, lightly rippling in the wind, was a white sheet that completely failed to conceal the fact that it was covering a body.

At one end, for one, there was a partially exposed foot. And at the other, sprayed out on the pavement and on the side of a white van parked nearby, was a lot of stuff that really had no business seeing the light of day.

I blinked, totally expecting to faint or to get violently ill or something. Nothing happened, though, so I just said "oh" and went back to join my staff.

Eventually, it was concluded that the bicyclist -- a graduate student who had recently transferred from the Mainland -- had actually come up behind the truck as it was working its way up to University Avenue and tried to pass it on the right and nicked the rear-view mirror of a car and fell just so and...


I have two other vivid memories of that incident:

  1. A television news reporter chasing down the driver of the truck -- a trembling, older Filipino man -- and unleashing a barrage of questions that left him a blubbering mess, and actually using that footage in her segment.

  2. The Advertiser running a photo of the scene on the front page that was taken from a distance. While it's possible the photographer and the public didn't know those little lumps next to the bodybag weren't rocks, everyone at Ka Leo did.)

Anyway, I considered that day to be my official hazing into the world of journalism. And up until last week, the image was still clear in my mind. Not as a horrible memory, but more a pivotal moment in my life, frozen as if it were a plaque on my wall, proclaiming, "The insanity starts here."

So the creepy coincidence? The peculiar piece of trivia that dragged this lovely piece of history into my mind?

I just found out that the victim worked in the College of Business, in our office, with my boss. In fact, she was supposedly the last person to speak to him before his ghastly demise.

When my boss started wondering aloud who took his place, and who held the position today, I was about ready to freak out. Fortunately, she determined that the position no longer existed. Thank god for budget cuts.

But hearing my boss talk about him -- his background, his academic direction, his personality quirks -- was kind of an epiphany for me. All this time, although the guy held a prominent place in my memory, it was simply as part of my first Big Story, my introduction to raw journalism.

Now I was on the other side, and I was just a person, and I was hearing about the man as another person. And it was heartbreaking.

One hour, fifteen minutes. She's still crying. She sounds hoarse.

I give up. Okay, I give up.

Yes, it's true, my heart is no tougher than Jen's when it comes to Katie.

So now she'll know, without a doubt, that there is a limit, that there is a point where, ultimately, she'll get her way. She'll know mom and dad can hold out, but only to a point, and that she owns us. And how.

I give up. She can still sleep in our bed. She can still cuddle next to mom and just roll over and have a snack any time she wants. We'll still be right there to comfort her the moment she starts to fuss. When she cries, we'll ask, "How high?"

Katie's got Jen and I wrapped around her tiny little fingers. I have to accept it.

I'm diaper whipped.

Okay, I'm coming, I'm coming!


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 3 August 1998 · Last Modified: 6 August 1998