IMR: 1999: November: 08 — Tuesday, 11:16 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

Ryan Kawailani Ozawa. Celebrating a quarter century of bringing quality disservice to the world.

Since 1974, that is. Yeesh. Sure, 25 is still young, but... Hell, Jen thought I was 30 when she first met me. (She only went for older men — imagine her surprise when she discovered I was still a teenager!) I've definitely aged a few lifetimes in the last two years, so lord knows how lost in old farthood I must seem now.

[ Keiki Kove ]Mom, Jen, Katie and I spent my birthday at the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park in Kapolei.

Now, ordinarily, I'd scoff at the idea of spending money to frolick in water when the entire state is surrounded by the stuff. When the place opened, I boldly predicted its quick demise. But after several reports that it was doing even better than expected, I was curious about the place. I just wasn't $29.95 curious.

But as luck would have it, Tina — neighbor and friend — was helping plan a big Girl Scout convention there, and had half-price tickets.

The place opened to Girl Scouts and their guests at 8:30 a.m., giving them free run of the place until opening to the public as usual at 10 a.m. But a lot more people showed up than I think they expected. When we got out there at 9 a.m., the parking lot was already full and they were directing us to park in a nearby muddy field. And there was a long line of Girl Scouts, flustered looking parents and a few extraordinarily happy looking brothers waiting to get in.

Turns out the one thing they're dead serious about is the "no outside food or drink" rule. Or so you'd think, with all the signs and the thorough bag inspection at the gate. But when the big security guy discovered a stash of snacks in our backpack, he just shoved them deeper.

"Just don't let them see," he said, and ushered us in. Cool.

The place was packed. Wet kids everywhere. Very flustered staff everywhere. Ear-splitting, prepubescent screams everywhere.

I was surprised at how big it was. Or rather, how much stuff they managed to squeeze onto the lot, sitting on the hillside overlooking the beautiful H-1 freeway. There was something going on everywhere, pools, slides, tubes... All the water was blue, and all the plastic was a very non-intrusive brown, giving the place a very unnatural "natural look."

We spent most of our morning at the Keiki Kove. Wide, knee-deep pools with scattered fountains, water guns, and properly mild slides. The water was freezing cold, but Katie charged right in, leaning down and splashing herself for good measure.

Jen had more luck taking her down the slides than I did, since I was wearing my overtly unfashionable burlap-esque shorts and they slid about as smoothly as sandpaper on gravel. I ended up on perpetual catcher duty, positioned at the bottom of each friendly flume to make sure she didn't laugh too hard and flop off the end unprepared.

[ Last Shot ]The good news is, I'd never heard her laugh so loud. She came down that thing with the speed and shriek of a jet. The bad news is she did get a bit too worked up, and while I did catch her despite a particularly vigorous fit of squirming, the rescue required the tragic sacrifice of my digital camera.

Yep. About two seconds after this picture above was taken, my fairly new Canon PowerShot A5 went for an unscheduled swim. Despite extensive resuscitation efforts and days of intensive care, it hasn't beeped or clicked since.

There was no time to grieve at the scene, of course. There was fun to be had.

When Katie started shivering and needed a break, we wrapped her up and headed up the hill to look around more. Jen was hungry for a little adrenaline, so while mom, Katie and I stood by, she got in line at the first big slide we passed. It was the Surfslider, three slides winding down from a four-story tower.

There was a long line, like those at every other attraction that morning, and it took her a good fifteen minutes to wind her way up the stairs to the top. Finally we saw her duck into a tube high in the sky, and six seconds later, she popped out next to us.

"It was fun," she said, "But after that kind of a wait, it was a little anti-climactic."

Turns out that might've been the point. The Surfslider was "designed especially for kids."

While she went off in search of greater adventure, mom and I returned to Kiddie Kove. Kiddie Kove, we learned, was presented by Bank of Hawai`i. In fact, every square inch of the place was sponsored — Pepsi, Tesoro Petroleum, Fujifilm, KFC, and more. With all the corporate logos, it was even more a wonder to me that they charge people admission at all.

While Katie splashed about, Jen jumped into Hurricane Bay. Though smaller than similar wavepools elsewhere in the world, it was still pretty impressive. The waves coming out of the thing were frighteningly perfect, and even surprisingly fast. The entire surface was crowded with people in bright pink tubes, and when the wave machine came on, the sight was surreal.

When she came back, she was on a mission: get her cowardly husband to go down a real slide. The Big Kahuna, to be exact.

Maybe it was early onset senility, or just a moment of clarity in which I realized resistance was futile, but it didn't take long before we were hiking further up the hillside to our grand adventure.

The neat thing about The Big Kahuna, and its sister attraction the Wai`anae Coaster, is that you ride them in rafts. Two or three people on each. We miraculously walked up during a lull, and in no time we had our raft and climbed the steps. From the top of this ride, you could see the entire water park spread out below. I listened to the shrieks from the folks ahead of us and swallowed hard.

As nervous as I was, Jen was convinced I was terrified. As we waited, she kept saying, "You don't have to do this if you don't want to... really, you don't!" She also swore that one of the Big Kahuna's two slides was milder, without sudden drops and the like. I assured her that both rides were equally harrowing.

I was right, too. I yelled the whole way down.

As soon as I got my stomach pushed back into place, we headed back to the Kove, picked up mom and Katie, and tracked down the free lunch that was set up for Girl Scout guests. It was just a hot dog, bag of chips, cup of soda, and an ice cream sandwich for dessert. But it was also free. So of course it was delicious, and the ice cream made the perfect finale to our morning.

We headed out just as the sun hit high noon, each of us surprised at how much fun we had.

Katie ate an astonishing portion of mom's hot dog, and took a bite of everyone's ice cream too. With all the excitement and a full stomach, she was passed out before we snapped her into her car seat.

A water park in Hawai`i. Who woulda thunk? I can see now how you could spend an entire day there without getting bored. I still don't think I'd pay $30 to get in, but if the opportunity again arose to ride on the coattails of a Girl Scout for a half-price ticket, I'd do it again.

I might even take another turn down The Big Kahuna.

After relaxing at mom's for a bit, we headed back into town when mom headed off to do her Band Mom thing at Kaimuki High School. We were barely home an hour when the phone rang. It was Wayne.

Next thing I knew, I was heading out the door to meet him at Kahala Mall.

We were just catching a flick. "The Insider." But as I drove over, I realized — to my great amazement and horror — that it might very well be my first independent social outing since some time before we were married.

Me, going out with friends, without Jen. You know, the sort of thing normal people do.

It's not that I don't like being around Jen. It's not like she keeps me on a short leash. (It's a pretty long leash, really.) It's more like... I don't have all that many friends left in Honolulu, and I'm a pretty lousy friend to those that are.

A rather harsh epiphany for a birthday, but an important one.

We bought our tickets and wandered the mall, and as usual loudly discussed and debated anything and everything. I'd forgotten how great it felt to revel in political incorrectness, and how wonderfully deranged Wayne was.

We reminisced about the good old days, the crazy shenanigans that peppered our Ka Leo tainted lives so many years ago. Like when Nate puked on him in the back seat of my car. Or when Rich "Under the Stars" Walker refused to tell us where he lived, forcing us to wrestle his driver's license out of his pocket. Wayne and I still remembered the declaration Rich made that night, the words echoing through the sleepy 'burb of Mo`ili`ili as we circled, lost: "You will never understand the complexities of Fern Street!"

Before heading back to the theater, we stopped at Barnes & Noble to see if they had a copy of William Shatner's infamous "Mr. Tambourine Man" performance. (They didn't.)

"The Insider" was terrific. Al Pacino was perfect, his portrayal of Lowell Bergman a new screen hero for the muckracking set. Right up there with Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein, as far as I'm concerned.

The "60 Minutes" tobacco industry flap was no Watergate, to be sure, but director Michael Mann made the plot no less compelling. And as Wayne noted, when you get right down to it, "The Insider" is not about the tobacco industry anyway. It's about principles in journalism. And certainly about the unseen side of the life for the prized source, the insider.

Everyone's using everyone else, sure, but some get a raw deal. No doubt about it.

The dramatic liberties Mann takes in depicting the very real events have prompted just as much commentary as movie reviews. It's pretty hard not to ruffle a few feathers when everyone depicted in a film is still alive. And I admit, as rousing as some of Pacino's speeches are, there's no way anyone was quite that loud and yet eloquent in a cold CBS boardroom.

That said, I don't really care that some of it is made up. Mann never said he was a journalist, after all. He crafted a rich, thoughtful story and the actors vividly brought it to life. As a print journalist at heart, I have to rag at broadcast guys. But "The Insider" painted such a noble soul in Bergman, it was hard not to be in awe.

It is a long movie. Mann takes his time setting the scene, the mood, definitely taking some style cues from "All the President's Men." I liked it, but clocking in at well over two hours, "The Insider" is not a quick study.

Both Wayne and I walked out reaffirmed, but convinced "The Insider" wasn't going to be a big hit. We dissected the film over sweets from Bubbies. I figured Mann's subdued presentation would turn people off. Wayne figured the average American was just too stupid to get it.

A part of me wanted to suggest that we go somewhere else, get into some variety of trouble. Just like the old days. But the fuddy duddy that I was, I just went home.

I was amazed, and in no small way relieved, to discover how quickly the Xerox shootings fell off the national radar. Hawaii's black eye was forgotten by most of the country the very next day, mayor Jeremy Harris' moment of fame thankfully cut short.

The Xerox incident broke well past deadline for most mainland news agencies, after all. And the next day brought general elections in several states, more news from the EgyptAir Flight 990 crash, and — most prominently — another multiple shooting in Seattle. The day after that, the Microsoft ruling dominated the headlines.

So quickly did people elsewhere not care, in fact, that Wayne's story for the Washington Post ultimately didn't get anywhere. Fortunately, they're still paying him for his trouble, and he asked with glee, "So does it bother you that I'm profiting off a major tragedy?"

Of course, it's a whole different story here.

The Xerox shooting, its aftermath, and suspect Bryan Uyesugi's slow descent into the criminal justice system has dominates the news in Hawai`i. The Nov. 3 editions of both papers (and how wonderful to still be able to say "both papers") had several full pages of coverage. Even today, almost a week later, the story still runs front page, above-the-fold.

This is a major tragedy. And the case will run for a long long time. But I hope hope hope that the Xerox shooting isn't going to be the top story six weeks from now. No community deserves to have something so horrible stand as the signpost for the new millennium.

In lighter news, it's been a week of great advances for Katie.

The 8,000 or so times Jen and I have each read her "Dr. Seuss' ABCs" have paid off, as she now knows the letters "B," "P," "F," "S," and "Z" (and daddy's lucky number "6," too). Adorably, since I taught her the letter "Z" by tracing a huge "Z" on paper with my finger, she will invariably make a Zorro-esque hand gesture in the air every time she sees or hears it.

The letters "K" and "T" are next on our hit list, with which we figure we can trick her into saying her name, too.

She throws kisses spontaneously, usually in response to the phrase "love you" or simply seeing our puckered lips. Of course, it just might mean we've got bad breath or something.

She has a new hip-swinging dance that looks remarkably like hula, and it comes out whether she's listening to Vivaldi, Ricky Martin, or an Oldsmobile commercial. She sings the chorus to "Close to You" by The Carpenters. You know, the part that goes, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah..." And now, a week after Halloween, we discovered that she's developed an addiction to Smarties. She's mad for the tiny tart candies like Bob Dole for Viagra.

Finally, she made her first deposit in her Playskool Magic Reward™ potty seat. (Although she clearly needs more fiber in her diet, at least we get plenty of warning that something's on the way.) Only time will tell, though, if the subsequent cheering and praise heaped upon her will result in successful potty training or some sort of poop-related complex.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 08 November 1999 · Last Modified: 16 November 1999