IMR: 1999: August: 23 —  Monday, 10:20 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

First day of classes — class, I mean — tomorrow. Journalism 460, or ethics, taught (appropriately) by the esteemed Dr. Thomas Brislin.

It's weird, but despite having done this for almost eight years, there's still a tiny part of me that's nervous. Not for any rational reason, as far as I know. It must be some psychological echo of the last two decades of institutionalized education — a hazy image of back-to-school jitters burned into the CRT of my mind.

My class is smack dab in the middle of the morning, so I'll have to go to work, stop everything to dart up to campus, then scurry back to work, somehow managing to feed myself during the return trip and picking up where I left off before enduring an hour and fifteen minutes of "thou shalt not take home promo CDs."

After working eight- to 12-hour days all summer, it's going to take a while to adjust to having big hole in the workday, if even only twice a week. I'll need to reintroduce yet another ceremonial Post-It into my routine, marking exactly where I was and what I was doing when I had to leave for class.

And thanks to Anne, a former intern who has returned to save the day on a variety of levels, I think the whole transportation problem might be worked out.

See, although I was entitled to one, I didn't pick up a semester parking pass. Firstly, I forgot to even reserve one, but secondly, I once worked out that it would actually be cheaper to pay the $3 daily parking fee if I'm only going to be on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays.

But at 10 a.m., the parking structure has been known to be full and closed, and by that hour students are fighting for street parking in the next ZIP code. What to do?

Enter Anne and her secret weapon: the new CityExpress!

The CityExpress! — yes, the exclamation point is part of the name, a la Yahoo! — a special route of TheBus focused in the town area but stretching as far west as Pearlridge.

Sure, it's often packed coming into downtown. That's where most commuters work, after all. But the thing is, we're starting downtown to hit the university. While it'll no doubt fill up on the way, Anne's previous observations have been that the King-and-Alakea stop is an ideal place to board. Even though things will be skewed by the back-to-school jam and a weeklong free fare promotion, we're figuring we could still easily score seats.

I know I'm looking forward to the bus ride a little more than anyone really ought to, but it's just been so long since I've patronized Honolulu's public transportation. There's a ridiculous stigma attached to TheBus in this city of car-worshipers, but frankly the system is damn near the best in the nation.

(It better be... how many places could one need to go on an island?)

Back before I joined the motoring masses, I depended on "Fasi's Limo" to get me from one mischievous episode to the next. I knew the routes and times by heart, especially Route 8 (Waikiki) and the notorious "circle island" Route 52. Ah, many a clean pair of underwear was soiled as those maniacal drivers roared down and around Kipapa Gulch on narrow Kamehameha Highway...

And hopefully the last few years of desk jobs haven't drained from me an appreciation for the cast of characters one meets on TheBus.

Never will I forget, for example, the man who'd board along Dillingham Boulevard, grab the arm of a hapless passenger (usually a woman, and especially if she had a cast), proclaim her cured by the power of god, and shuffle back onto the streets of Chinatown.

Jen and I made it out to see "Mystery Men" (ooh, a review!) over the weekend.

She really wanted me to see "The Sixth Sense," which she saw last week with Tina and had been raving about ever since. But the movie has a "surprise twist ending" that I already heard about, and I knew the magic just wouldn't be there.

Take a lesson from "The Crying Game," folks — see it before the secret is blown on every late-night monologue. And if your friends start talking about it, shove your fingers in your ears and sing Beethoven's Ode to Joy as loud as you can until they stop.

As it turns out, I still might've been happier with Bruce Willis and a kid whispering for two hours. Although "Mystery Men" had its moments, it was a great disappointment given all it had going for it.

Saturday found Jen, Katie and I tooling out to Waimanalo for the sorta-annual Hawaii National Bank family picnic.

It's almost always held at a Shriner's compound just beyond Bellows, for a reason no one seems to remember, in the shadow of the Ko`olau mountains and overlooking Rabbit Island. A good many of the children's games were already done by the time we got there, but I did get to participate in the Mad Dash for Stuff, nabbing exactly four potatoes and a roll of toilet paper.

We discovered that Katie had managed to dump an entire cup of orange juice on herself during the drive, so Jen walked her over to the showers to clean her up.

Big mistake.

[ The Irresistable Shower ]She had no problem with the cold water pouring out of the pipes, or the nearby hose. Once she touched, tasted the water, she was hooked. A good majority of the day was spent chasing her as she ran back to frolick in the sandy puddle.

The only thing that seemed to divert her attention from the water at the shower station was the considerably larger Pacific Ocean. She could barely contain her excitement when I set her down on the sand. She continously marched undaunted into the sea, barely missing a beat even when a wave would topple her, laughing and shrieking the whole time. I think she would've tried to march to Australia if I didn't repeatedly pick her up and "reset" her back on shore.

If anything, Jen and I were shaking our heads over how Katie was too fearless. As we held and spun her in deeper water, she would occasionally attempt to break free of our arms, as if she could just get down and walk on water.

We partook of an impressive spread of picnic fare, from musubi rice balls to teri chicken, from hot dogs to poke. We topped it off with some strawberry ice cakes and thick slices of watermelon.

There were "balloon artists" on hand from Balloon Monsoon, so Jen stood in line to get something for Katie. They were making everything from the complex Blu (from Blu's Clues) to the refreshingly quick Pokemon, and it was hard to decide on one.

The balloon boys weren't exactly overflowing with personality, but they were fast, frighteningly precise in their latex-based art. Soon enough, Jen had to choose.

She ended up with an abstract balloon structure instead of a commercial cartoon character. It was a simple pair of balloons twisted like a Zippy's pastry, but the thing was, within each was a tiny, grape-sized balloon that rolled around inside. Terribly fancy.

Now, I'm not a fan of balloons, at least when children are concerned. That's why Jen stood in line, and I only paced nervously. Combining balloons and sentimental little kids is, to me, a disaster waiting to happen, and I wanted no part of it.

Once the thing was in Katie's hand, I quickly grabbed mom's camera and snapped as many shots of her smiling face as I could. It was a love that couldn't last.

Sure enough, Katie soon decided to take her balloon out onto the grass. She swung it about, probably admiring how it stood three times as high as she did, and in an instant, pop! Instead of a proud spiraling scepter, Katie was now holding two seperate blobs of rubber that looked more or less like wrinkled wieners.

Fortunately, that was just fine with her.

She seemed just as happy to march around with those limp rubber carcasses as she was with the original work of art. We let her hold them until every last breath of air was gone, quietly dropping them in the trash when she was distracted by the chili cookoff.

We were just lucky.

A few months from now, I swear to god, Katie will have even Jen and I in tears when she laments the first untimely detonation of an innocent, smiling balloon buddy. I swear, it's almost as heart-wrenching as a dropped ice cream cone.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 23 August 1999 · Last Modified: 24 August 1999