IMR: 1998: August: 30 -- Sunday, 11:45 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
I've got my PowerBook back. All is good and right in the universe again. It wasn't dropped or stepped on during its leave of absence, and everything's working fine. I learned my lesson though. Right now a handful of Zip disks and Dantz's new Retrospect backup utility are on their way to my doorstep.

So Jen decided to quit.

Okay, so I didn't exactly discourage her.

Okay, so I might have encouraged her a little.

Okay, so it might have been my idea. But she liked it, obviously. She told them she had to leave because I got a new job, which is partially true, and they were surprisingly unpissed.

Her last day at Tower is Monday, September 7, unless her boss takes pity on her and lets her go early. Since she's already getting off with only one week's notice (instead of the standard two), any further mercy is just icing on the cake.

It's not like they're letting her go easy, of course. One of her last acts as assistant video manager will be coordinating tomorrow night's midnight video premiere of "Titanic."

She already helped set up the posters and cardboard boat and even arranged for a string quartet to come down and play period music. (She also banned me from coming down to gawk at the violinist, which of course makes me all the more curious...)

KQMQ will be there. KGMB will be there. Hoards of Sanrio bag toting, baby-tee stretching, five-inch jelly heel wearing, silver lip-liner sporting Leonardo DeCaprio fans will be there. Forget Blockbuster's last minute ad campaign, it's still going to be utter chaos down there.

But it'll be worth it.

Jen and I debated the decision intensely for over an hour. But when it was finally made, we didn't feel nervous or unsure about what would happen. We both said we felt ten pounds lighter, immediately happier, relieved... we know things are still shaky, but they always were. This way, though, just feels right.

After dropping Jen off at work, I phoned Gayle from the parking lot to ask what she and dad were up to today. She told me they were going to be helping out at a Ben Cayetano fundraiser in Palolo Valley.

I told her I'd be happy to join them. I can't help enjoying political events, even if it's just for the snide-comment factor, and I had already missed the Al Gore shindig last week (at which an uncharacteristically passionate Gore pounded the podium so hard the presidential seal fell off).

Besides, anything beats watching daytime television programming on a Sunday.

They were still setting up when I got there. Having had politics in my blood since an early age, I couldn't help but want to be there as more than a simple constituent. I gave dad unsolicited advice on everything from the position of the sign-wavers on Palolo Avenue ("have them direct people to the parking lot!") to the speed of the ceiling fans in the cafeteria ("too hot!").

This is why I won't go in to law, no matter what dad says. If I did, I'd have no choice but to end up a politician.

Dad introduced me to some of the volunteers, who of course went nuts over Katie. Dad carried her around much of the morning, to my back's relief, and despite her usual shyness, she just loved the attention today.

At one point, dad introduced me to a fellow who immediately asked, "So, are you a Ben supporter?"

"Er, I'm not sure," I said.

It was definitely not the answer I should have given with dad standing beside me, but on the other hand, it was the truth, and it was also a different answer than the one I would have given anyone two weeks ago.

Let's just say I'm now a little less than impressed with Lingle's campaign.

[ Katie, Dad and Ben ]Soon enough, Governor Cayetano showed up. Honestly, with nothing more than future blackmail in mind (of Katie, that is), I immediately asked him if he'd take a picture with my daughter. As usual, when it mattered, Katie started to cry.

Having snapped the shot, I trotted off to hide before I started giggling. I was amazed at how big a dork I can be when I put a little effort into it.

I thought for a moment about that guy in New York who had carved the word "Love" in wood. He painted it in hippy shades of yellow and turquoise and pink and orange with flowers and everything, and all he would do -- day in and day out -- is ask complete strangers and the occasional celebrity to hold it while he took a picture.

He eventually put out a book with this gaudy "Love" block being held by senators, homeless children, nuns, Japanese tourists, rock stars, restaurant mascots, what have you.

I thought for a moment how crazy it would be to start a similar project, except with Katie as the theme. How many people and places could I get pictures of with her before she grew out of her infant stage?

Then Dan Inouye walked in.

[ Katie, Dad and Dan ]I knew I probably wouldn't get this silly again in the near future, so I figured what the hell. I grabbed dad again and had him introduce us, and he introduced Dan to Katie, who smiled a big smile and charmed the senator in no time. Sure enough, I had another picture to add to her "prom night surprise" album.

(In the interests of equal time, I guess I should now take Katie to a Lingle fundraiser. Though we'd probably be the only Asians there...)

A Japanese fan dance troupe performed a couple of numbers, and breakfast was served. Modest plates of portuguese sausage, eggs, and rice were prepared, and the kitchen staff came around to give a number of folks seconds. Then, it was time for the audience to pay for their "free" meals in the time-honored fundraiser currency of patience.

That is to say, the speeches started.

Matt Matsunaga started off, introducing the other politicians in the room, Among them my old councilman Duke Bainum and former councilman Lee Wai Doo, against whom my father unsuccessfully ran a few years ago. Then Lieutenant Mazie Hirono stepped up, sharing the first of many wistful tales of growing up a public school student in old Hawai`i.

Dan Inouye followed, giving glowing testimony of Cayetano's achievements in times of hardship. "All the governors that came before had it easy," he said, pointing out that Cayetano was the only one to see the economy slow and the sugar industry wither and a whole slew of crises previously unknown to the state.

Hearing that, I had to wonder whether Cayetano's administration merely coped with the problems, or at least in part brought them on. Poor parallel thought construction on the part of Dan's speechwriters, I guess.

Finally Cayetano took the stage and rambled on about his many accomplishments. He made some good points, but of course he glossed over a couple of things fresh on my mind, namely the state payroll lag (trust me, it's a major pain) and the poor treatment of the University of Hawai`i.

Most puzzling was his repeated position that the economy is getting better, that the signs of recovery are there. "It's not about the economy," he kept saying, to which my brain instinctively responded, "Like hell it isn't." I got seriously annoyed at this particular campaign mantra.

Now I don't doubt various indicators may have turned in the last year, but I can tell you that the average guy on the street, the average business owner, doesn't much care about what the chief economist of Bank of Hawai`i has to say about points and interest. Until profits grow and smiles replace scowls on the faces of people downtown, no one is going to believe it's not the economy.

I could throw a rock in San Francisco and hit three decent-paying webmaster jobs that probably don't even require a high school degree. Here, folks with MBAs are shift managers at Arby's. The economy's the first thing on my mind, and I know I'm not alone.

Ultimately, I guess I'm still not officially part of the Cayetano camp. I've grown to doubt some of Lingle's ideas and abilities, but for various reasons Cayetano still isn't too high up on my list.

On the other hand, my opinion of Sen. Dan Inoyue is a much more stable, if only reluctantly positive. That is to say, I don't know a hell of a lot about his politics, his ideals, or his vision for the future, but I do know that he's one of the really really big names in Washington, and it's because of him that this state consistently gets bargeloads of money from the federal government.

Bringing in the Mighty Mo? Thanks Dan! Only a couple of military base closures? Thanks Dan! The H-3 freeway? Thanks (er, I think) Dan! Capital improvement funds, special grants, super ultra special trade zone thingamajigs... we're talkin' money.

Yep, these islands are home to a pork barrel wider and deeper than Diamond Head, all thanks to Dan.

Much as the arrangement conflicts with my ideals, frankly I can't help but love the guy. In part because of his background, but mostly because of the big bucks. If it wasn't for his relentless courting of cash to shovel back to his hometown, lord knows where our economy would be today.

Of course, this begs the question of where our economy will be when Dan's no longer around to help us. "Hawai`i A.D.," if you will.

In this case, I'll join our many wonderful elected leaders in sticking my head in the sand and chanting, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." For now, grab a few thousand construction workers and let's get cracking. I want another freeway from Kane`ohe to Kihei, stat!


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 29 August 1998 · Last Modified: 7 September 1998