IMR: 1998: August: 13 -- Thursday, 8:16 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
[ Thot ]Today's Jen's birthday. Although she got everything she asked for (a nice dinner and ice cream), I'm saving the biggest gift for tonight.

I'm not giving her anything, though. I'm taking something away.

For the last four years, I've had a special bracelet on my right arm. It was a chain from an old mountain bike, put there by Nate when I wouldn't stop admiring the one he had made for himself. I thought it was pretty unique, but months after I got it I heard that similar items could be found in goth-type catalogs.

Unlike those trinkets, though, this bracelet couldn't be taken off. At least not easily. It required a special bicycle tool to put on or remove, a tool any bike store had but I didn't.

So for four years -- in the shower, attending formal dinners, interviewing politicians -- I've had this scary-looking metal thing wrapped around my wrist. It's scratched cars, gotten caught on branches, and set off literally every metal detector I've ever walked through.

I've been wearing it exactly one week longer than I've been with my wife.

And she hated it. Oh, most of the time, she kept it to herself, only making the occasional snide remark. But now and then it would get tangled in her hair, or knock her in the head, or cause all manner of injury, and she'd demand I march to the nearest bike shop and have it removed.

Last year, even my dad got in on the act, providing our wedding rings on the condition that the bracelet would be gone before we exchanged vows.

Of course it didn't. It continued to make appearances. In pictures of the wedding. In pictures of Katie's first minutes of life. At my triumphant job interview last week.

I don't know why I hung on to it for so long. Well, I can guess. Maybe because I got it back when I had a great tan, hard muscles and bricks. Because it was a memorial to my mountain biking days. Because, basically, it reminded me that I once raised hell, ran amok, climbed walls, got harassed by cops, and never had to plan anything any further than four hours in advance.

And that's probably exactly why Jen wanted it gone.

So it's gone.

After dropping Jen off at work, I went down to the cleverly-named The Bike Shop on South King Street and asked the mechanic to free me. He laughed and after the chain slinked off my arm he said, "I've done my good deed for the day."

It's sitting here on the desk, pathetically curled up like a comatose steel worm. It might weigh only a few ounces, but now that it's off my whole body seems unbalanced. I feel naked. Like I'm missing something. For the next few weeks, I'll probably stop cold every time I walk out a door, convinced I've forgotten something.

But I can't wait to see the look on Jen's face.

It's hard not to attach all sorts of symbolism to the act. But the thoughts that are running through my head -- of shedding the artifacts of the past and moving toward a new life -- are the same ones I had when we bought the Nissan in April.

Sniff sniff. Now I'm going to have to start wearing a watch again or something. My bony arms just look creepy with nothing on them.

My boss at the press is an eBay addict.

It's a web auction site for people to sell their stuff, providing all sorts of neat features for a tiny commission off the final sales price. She's been particularly active there in trading Beanie Babies, but she also puts up odds and ends dredged from the backs of closets and the random trinket or two given to her by friends and coworkers who haven't the time nor inclination to mess with the eBay system.

Today, though, she came in with a particularly interesting item: a Japanese phrase book published by the U.S. War Department in February 1944.

It's a little orange booklet with cryptic codes and scary warnings all over the cover. One warns that the contents can only be disclosed to "any person known to be in the service of the United States and to persons of undoubted loyalty and discretion who are cooperating in Government work."

The table of contents lists sections for Emergency Expressions, Personal Needs, Location and Terrain, Roads and Transportation, Communications, Reconnaissance, Landing a Plane (!), and other fascinating topics.

(Strangely enough, the Personal Needs section doesn't mention geishas at all.)

Considering that the phrasebook is over half a century old, its arrangement is pretty intuitive. The listings themselves have four columns: English, Pronunciation (EE-koo-ra dess-ka?), Hepburn Spelling (ikura desu ka?), and "Japanese writing."

I guess it would have been pretty useful during World War II... particularly if Japan had won. Included phrases include "Don't Shoot!", "Surrender!", and the like. My favorite, though, has got to be, "Are there soldiers near here?" (or, "Chikaku ni heitai ga imasu ka?").

I imagine the next question is, "Are you telling the truth?"

Big surprise. Even when the university is churning along at top speed, it's still absurdly slow.

Remember the cracked window at work? The one they said they'd fix as soon as possible so it doesn't fall out and decapitate someone three stories below? Well, a full month after my boss reported it with a sternly worded memo, things finally started happening this week.

Before they could get to the window, though, they had to rip out the huge wooden desk that runs the entire length of the office. Meaning we had to move everything -- files, computers, dozens of boxes -- out, relocating temporarily to another office two doors down. In order to keep things running, we had to use extra long cords so that our phones, printers and network cables could remain plugged in.

So yesterday, Contractor One got to work pulling apart a desk so massive, I was convinced it was load-bearing. After a full days work, they'd managed to yank out a bucket's worth of six-inch nails, rip off the expensive polished top and drag the whole mess about three feet away from the window.

[ Window ]Contractor Two came in this morning to do their thing. It was quite fascinating to watch, especially since the aforementioned desk -- even after being seperated into half a dozen pieces -- was still too huge to be moved outside. The workers had to scramble under, over or through its skeleton of two-by-fours any time they wanted to move around the office.

And you'd think the procedure to remove the broken glass would be a little more complex than jamming a screwdriver into the cracks and prying really hard. The problem, I overheard, was that the pane had been overcaulked, making it impossible to simply slide the pieces out.

My boss was very entertained by the process, particularly when all the cracked glass had finally been removed. "I should have asked you to put in a window that opens," she remarked, explaining that the CBA building is either meat-locker cold or brain-boiling hot, depending on where the sun happens to be at the time.

Contractor Three made his appearance after lunch. Fitting in the new pane took all of 30 minutes, but he told us we'd have to wait a while to move back in. It would probably be a few days before the smell of the adhesive disappears, not to mention however long it will take to for Contractor One to come back and reassemble the desk.

It wasn't the most exciting show, I admit, but it was much more interesting than my usual form of workplace entertainment: the phone conversations the student worker in the next office has all day. I swear, if she's not surfing the Gap website or reading a paperback, she's systematically calling every friend she has to talk story.

"So you went Oceans? Oh, nothing, I'm at work, I'm so frickin' bored... Yah, she was telling me about this one guy, choke money, kinda ugly though... So what, Brandon got one Acura now? What's up with that?"

She's from Punahou. What else needs to be said?


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 13 August 1998 · Last Modified: 16 August 1998