IMR: 1999: March: 19 — Friday, 11:21 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

Sometimes my job makes me nuts. Any job does. I think we spend more time stuffing envelopes than any office should, and as the least senior member of the "permanent staff," I'm still called into action for the most mind-numbing of tasks if all the interns are working on something else.

But it's rare that a day goes by that I'm still not thrilled to be a full-time webmaster (and pseudo network administrator) in Hawai`i.

I earn just enough to support my family, yet still have the luxury of remaining in college. I'm being paid to do the sorts of stuff I do for fun. All my coworkers have distinct, interesting personalities. The travel prospects can't be understated. More than anything, though, I'm learning. About computers, politics, international business, and food.

Yes, food. Since starting this job, I've been to more different restaurants in this town than I've been to my entire adult life. These people know how to eat.

On Wednesday, to celebrate my coworker Steve's birthday, we went to "Don Ho's Island Grill" at Aloha Tower Marketplace. The place only recently opened, and everyone was curious about it, so steve wore The Hat and the office picked up the tab.

[ Don Ho's ]I'd read that the atmosphere is the attraction, but sadly I didn't find it all that great. To do a "theme restaurant" in this town, you've got to have a little more than a few Elvis movie posters and wall-mounted surfboards. The food was okay, thankfully, though we were intrigued by the frankness with which our waiter told us how much certain dishes sucked.

Just today the boss took everyone out to Indian food — "Zaffron" on the corner of North King and Smith streets — just because. My hunger outweighed my sense of adventure, though, and I just ordered the first thing on the menu I recognized: chicken curry. Fabulous, and definitely worth a return visit with Jen.

"Indigo" is another favorite. The commercials make the place look horribly trendy, but it's just nicely set up and the food is pretty good. (The daily salad specials are guaranteed winners.) Lacene loves Vietnamese food, so I've been to probably every Vietnamese restaurant downtown. David is a sandwich guy, and also doesn't mind short drives, so thanks to him we're regulars at "Kua `Aina Burger" at Ward, "Andy's" (down the street from the Pagoda), and "Ted's Bigger Burger" on Monsarrat.

To think, when I first went wandering around downtown looking for a place to eat that didn't have a value combo, Liberty Grill — a charming hole-in-the-wall that reminds me of the old King's Bakery — was to me the peak of the culinary arts.

Although Makiki doesn't have a reputation for anything besides Koreans and churches (and Korean churches), our building was a little hub of excitement earlier this month.

The family two doors down from us had moved out, and two weeks later, a young man moved in. He was friendly enough, inasmuch as he always said "Hi" and would hold the elevator for us.

Aside from being in his twenties, he was also black, and in our building of generally older Korean families, he obviously made our neighbors nervous. (African Americans in general, sadly, are rare sights in many areas of this supposedly progressive state.) For this reason, Jen and I confessed from the beginning that we hoped he would turn out to be the best tenant the place ever had. Just to show 'em.

Unfortunately, things started looking pretty suspicious pretty quickly. He rarely closed his door, even at night, and didn't have a single piece of furniture. He had dozens of visitors (of varying colors), and it wasn't uncommon for us to walk past the door to find five or six men in the apartment, curled up and sleeping against the walls. It seemed as the days progressed, the occupancy of that little one-bedroom unit was increasing exponentially.

As the population increased, so did the noise level, and the woman who lived between us repeatedly (and futilely) asked them to keep it down. Suffice it to say, it wasn't long before the police had paid them a couple of visits.

One night, an enormous row broke out, apparently between one really big man and however many scrawny little guys happened to be in the place at the time. They were hollering at the top of their lungs, their voices filled with the kind of fury you would expect to be punctuated by a gunshot. Jen was terrified, and I was ready to call the police, but not surprisingly a few of our neighbors beat us to it. We fell asleep before finding out what became of it all.

Our property manager was there the next day, ordering the group to leave. She was there a few days later with the same demand, and a week after that, too. Obviously a small Japanese woman with a cel phone didn't carry the kind of intimidating bulk needed to motivate uncooperative tenants.

Eventually, she had the power turned off, and when the guys were out one day, the locks were changed and a steel bolt was put over the doorknob. We came home to find the group sitting on the front steps, looking morose. They said "Hi," we said "Hi," and went in.

That was the last we saw of them.

The clean up of the apartment lasted several days, and it looked like they needed every carpet shampooer in town to get the job done. Our neighbor was quite happy for the whole ordeal to be over, and later stopped Jen in the hall to review it all.

Everyone's assumption about the nature of business next door was drugs. But Jen said our neighbor said the cops said (to establish the reliability of this information) the ragtag bunch of young men were in fact a well-established posse of male prostitutes.

So now we have this story to tell, instead of the one about the over-perfumed bar hostesses who live on the top floor.

I had to go down and request my first passport a couple of weeks ago.

I got my picture taken across the street at a place called "Passport Photo and Plate Lunch." I went up to the passport office and filled out two wrong forms before grabbing the right one. And I almost backed out completely when the woman behind the glass told me that they now take and ship your original birth certificate with your application.

I grudgingly handed it over, not comforted by the fact that it would be traveling via our celebrated federal mail system. I left just as an angry Filipino woman started making a scene.

Here's the thing. In an almost creepy coincidence, William had, on his own, spotaneously decided to get his passport renewed that very same day, getting his picture taken at the same weird store. We did these things about four hours apart, though, with William getting there after the agency closed... and apparently mere minutes before all the curbs downtown suddenly became tow-away zones.

(He was a much better sport about the subsequent Sand Island adventure than I'd ever be.)

Anyway, the flimsy, yellowing card documenting my existance on this Earth was fortunately returned to me intact earlier this week, along with my passport. It was a lot smaller and less official looking than I thought it'd be, but neat nonetheless.

So many blank pages, so little time...

I also just got my travel itinerary for the Hong Kong meeting. I leave the same day the final for my journalism class is scheduled, but fortunately Oshiro isn't giving one. Or at least, I sure hope not.

Even more nifty is the listing for my flight back. I leave Hong Kong a little before noon on Friday, and arrive in Honolulu at seven in the morning... that same Friday.

Bless that international date line. I'll be home before I've even left.

My wife is such a sneak.

We were kicking back, watching television, Katie asleep in the bedroom, when a commercial for the latest Microsoft ActiMates came on. They were Teletubbies, and Jen started panting and jumping up and down.

See, ActiMates are stuffed animals that have Intel inside. The gimmick is that they react to television shows, videos and computer games, laughing along or repeating whatever is said. They started with Barney and Arthur the aardvark, which didn't exactly impress us, but this latest breed was irresistible. Much as I hate to give into anything trendy, Katie really responds to the Teletubbies (which — thanks to Jerry Falwell — now need little explaining). We quickly agreed we had to get one.

(Besides, we already had the ActiMate-compatible "nursery rhymes" video.)

So, the cutting-edge, wired family that we are, Jen jumped on her computer and hit eToys and found the thing inside of a minute. Unfortunately, the price tag for little "Po" (and the required TV device) was a little hefty, so I told an earnestly crestfallen Jen, "Maybe for her next birthday."

"Yeah," she said, sulking and heading off to bed.

Of course, I'm such a sap, I knew I couldn't bear seeing Jen pout every time the commercial came on. So the next day at work, I returned to eToys and ordered it. Four, five days later, I thought, I'd come home to the two happiest girls on the planet.

Just as I was heading out to lunch, Jen calls and squealed, "You bought Po!"


"Honey, you bought Po! Why'd you go and do that?"

"Wha... hey, you sneak!"

"Oh, honey, that's so sweet! Katie's going to love it!"

"You sneak!"

"I can't wait for it to come! I can't believe you bought Po!"

"You sneak!"

Turns out she also went back to eToys that morning, but instead of just looking and sighing, she typed in my e-mail address and guessed a few times at my password and got a hold of my ordering history. "I had a feeling you were going to," she said, giggling uncontrollably.

"You sneak!"

So much for the big surprise. From that moment out, she neurotically checked the mail four times a day, every day. And when we finally got the delivery slip, she loaded Katie in the stroller and walked in the rain five blocks to the post office to get the damn thing.

It was still worth it, of course. Jen was beaming, Katie couldn't keep her hands of Po's blinking, beeping tummy (even doing a little baby-sized boogie to the songs it played), and even I was temporarily mesmerized by the technology.

Of course, I also changed my eToys password. The next time Jen tries to get in, and asks for my password hint question, it will be, "Nice try, spy girl!"

And it's 2 a.m. and I'm still awake and I'm really going to regret that fact tomorrow.

It's gonna be a busy day. At least busy enough for me to have to bow out of my regular duties at the library. (Not that I'd need much of an excuse.)

First, a wedding and reception for Charlie, a former coworker who sadly left us in December. Then, some big hullaballoo down at the Convention Center called "TIM Night." Apparently it's the shindig for those studying Travel Industry Management and the bigwigs in the hotel industry who will (hopefully) hire them.

We're not going down because we have anything to do with UH or the visitor industry, but because we need to observe how things at the Convention Center go for "real" events. Which is to say, even though it's being billed as a heap of fun (swing dancing! play-money gambling! gourmet food!), we're still essentially working on a Saturday night.

which is still no consolation to Jen, who's still convinced I'm going to have fun.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 19 March 1999 · Last Modified: 22 March 1999