IMR: 1998: August: 16 -- Sunday, 9:47 a.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
The state's fancy new contraflow Zipper Lane opens tomorrow. Freeway lanes were blocked off in both directions yesterday as crews scrambled to put the finishing touches on it, ironically adding a good 30 minutes to my regular drive out to Mililani.

[ Zipper ]They formally dedicated the whole project on Friday. (I can only imagine how disturbing it must have been to watch a Hawaiian priest blessing a lane of traffic on an interstate.) The usual assortment of politicians were on hand, all vying to get between the television cameras and the big yellow machine that is to be the saviour of all Leeward O`ahu commuters.

It was quite a relief to see some of the councilmembers being less than subtle about being less than awstruck by the Zipper Lane. Seeing as how the last of three crossovers is at the H-1/H-2 interchange, it's completely useless to anyone who lives between Pearl City and the Airport. That's a heap of constituents.

And the Zipper Lane only aids morning town-bound traffic. The pau hana commuting nightmare -- particularly on Fridays -- won't get any better.

As a Makiki resident, the Zipper Lane is pretty irrelevant to my life. As an armchair engineer, it intrigues me a bit. But as a taxpayer, I'm really really cheesed off, specifically at our enlightened governor's latest hairbrained idea.

Ben Cayetano, who now seems to think he knows more about urban planning than he does about education, is all excited about new sources of federal funding and is proposing that we bring even more relief to commuters by digging a tunnel under Pearl Harbor.

This is getting ridiculous.

After spending over a million dollars on a fancy system that stretches seven lanes of traffic to eight (all of which still squeeze down into the same three at Fort Shafter), they're now looking into spending perhaps much, much more on an underwater thoroughfare that -- with only one entrance -- yet again alienates a good number of Honolulu residents?

This whole fiasco proves to me that the state will probably never succeed in making Kapolei the twin city of Honolulu, since obviously it moves much faster to coddle those who can't give up the bustle of Bishop Street. It also shows that the government is woefully unprepared for dealing with the growing hoards of cars on the island that all want to be within shouting distance of Aloha Tower by 7:55 a.m.

And when I see tons of money going into contraflow lanes and underwater pipe dreams... when I see taxpayers sitting in their cars trying to resist the urge to get out and slug the driver in front of them... I can only wag my finger in the air and proclaim in shallow vindication, "I'll bet you wish you'd taken rail transit now!"

I swear, I was the biggest fan of the light rail transit system that was proposed for Honolulu eight or so years ago. In fact, the idea had been bounced around as far back as the 70s, perhaps earlier, but in the late 80s we were this close to getting it built.

But, as far as I could tell, I was the only person on the island -- apart from a handful of forward-thinking politicians -- that thought it was a good idea.

I clipped every article, grabbed every brochure and regularly pored over collections of maps and artists' renderings. I had the monorail specs and proposed routes memorized, pondering whether it should run along the waterfront or under Chinatown. I jumped into every debate over the issue, but regularly lost, not because the idea was flawed but because of the sheer mass of the opposition.

Back then, speaking in favor of rail transit was about as good for my health as arguing for desegregation in the 50s.

I often wondered if rail transit was unpopular simply because then-mayor Frank Fasi was pushing for it. I mean, I agree with his critics that he's pretty much insane, but I also think he's done the most good for this city than any other government official in the last half century. He had the right idea. But the general populace was just too short sighted.

Eventually, quietly, it was killed, the window for federal funding apparently closed. Except for a few murmurs about an elevated bus lane, that was the end of rapid transit. The masses celebrated.

So I hope those who said a rail transit system would be too inconvenient feel the same way after staggered start times for Honolulu offices become mandatory. I hope those who said it would be ugly will feel the same way after they extend the airport viaduct and make Nimitz Highway a double-decker halfway to downtown.

And I hope those who said it would be too expensive take a look at our new Zipper Lane, and Cayetano's Underwater Fantasy, and state-funded ferries, and who knows what else they come up with in their futile fight against progress.

I hope they're happy. Because I'm thoroughly disgusted.

[ Stand ]As Jen has been saying a lot as of late, "Having a kid is a trip."

Katie can stand now. The darling still doesn't roll much (and only one way at that), and hasn't shown any interest in crawling, but stick your thumbs in her hands and pull her toward you, and zhoop! She's up and smiling.

I haven't looked at a developmental chart lately, but I think she's just a little ahead of the curve on this skill. She's been able to bear all her weight on her legs for a couple of weeks, but now she can stand and bounce and wiggle and look all around like a little meercat for fifteen, twenty minutes before getting tired.

Even more adorable is how she can get stuck standing. Eventually she gets tired but hasn't yet figured out how to get back down. She'll arch her back and growl and fuss, but until she eventually plops back onto her butt by accident, she quite reluctantly remains upright.

It's just amazing. It really blows my mind.

I look back at pictures from her first weeks of life, when she was a tiny, helpless little thing that barely acknowledged the presence of a desk lamp let alone her parents. When we were impatient to get a smile out of her, or any sound besides a frail, scared cry.

And now her face goes from bleak to pure joy the minute she spots Jen or I, laughing whenever she hears laughter, grabbing at our noses (or yanking off my glasses), picking up blocks and rattles and shaking them, and -- as of this week, thanks to my considerably thicker skin -- going to sleep by herself.

A little person. Like it's only hit me in the last month or so. There are three people in our household.

And she's just awakened from her nap in a sour mood, so my essay on the wonderful, beautiful love between a father and daughter will have to wait for another day.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 16 August 1998 · Last Modified: 17 August 1998