Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
Turkey Day, and indeed the entire Turkey Weekend, was relaxing, and yet chock full o' fun. Even though it started off with a little gray cloud.
We spent Thanksgiving Day proper at dad's, a fact that somewhat miffed mom, whose someone unspoken expectation was that we'd do as we did last year and celebrate the holiday in Mililani.
Ruffled feathers were quickly smoothed, but it was a surreal sensation. I don't even expect that kind of internal conflict any more being torn between parents familiar and content as I am with the arrangement. I guess I wrongly dismiss it as the stuff of 12-year-old kids and afterschool specials, when the feelings and anxieties are no less real to adults.
Of course we made the right decision. Given how hard dad and Gayle work, and given my own crazy schedule, it seems Katie only gets to see her grandfather every few months. And, as wonderful as any Thanksgiving Dinner with family would be, there's just no beating the spread Gayle pulls together.
The food, as usual, was incredible. The monstrous turkey was golden and tender, the homemade cranberry sauce (courtesy a recent episode of Emeril Live on the TV Food Network) was delicious... pasta salad, sushi, sweet potato, sashimi, gau gee and noodles, and so much more that I can't even remember.
Katie stomped about, shrieking and laughing and making very decisive, assertive noises. She made Gayle read her Dr. Seuss' ABC book, showing off her command of what is now more than two-thirds of the alphabet. Most adorably, she couldn't get enough of great-grandma Ozawa, bringing her things and leading her around the house by the hand.
Gayle's family hung out, chatting, eating, watching football and the local news and Japanese television. Jen and Katie took a very brief dip in the pool. And basically we talked and relaxed until night fell and people started heading home.
We were sent home with heaps of leftovers and, absurdly, belated birthday presents for Jen and myself. (Absurd because we'd forgotten Gayle's birthday only two weeks ago.) The drive home was quiet and reflective, and I found myself in awe of the almost too many things in my life I am thankful for.
On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we continued our insane tradition of throwing ourselves into the maelstrom at the mall.
We never do it to shop. (Although this time we did pick up a pair of cute cotton pajama sets for Jen.) We do it just to see human nature at its worst. The consumption-mad, frantic feeding frenzy that is the biggest shopping day of the year.
We hooked up with Tina, her beau Kevin, her daughter Alyssa, her niece Selena, and notably her sister Nina. Selena's mother. She was out and about for the day, to shop for and bond with her daughter, the two of them still somewhat intimidated by each other.
It was crowded, but not anywhere near as badly as it would sometimes get a few years ago. As we followed Tina and her family around the mall, there were few lines, and surprisingly few shoving matches were witnessed. Jen spotted a few things she wanted to get for Katie, but all she ultimately got were more entries in her collection of "my husband is such a cheapskate" anecdotes.
Eventually we split up from the Carangans, planning to rendezvous later in the day, and while Jen futilely tried to get Katie down for a nap, I popped up to see Nicky and got a very overdue haircut.
After I lost a good five pounds on the barber's chair, I met up with Jen and a very grumpy Katie and we headed home for what turned out to be a two-and-a-half hour nap.
There's no question. The single most cherished commodity in my life is the nap. In part because I have little free time, of course, but also because usually I'm so wound up and preoccupied I can't let myself relax.
In no time, we had to head into Waikiki for the next adventure: the annual parade that officially kicks off the Christmas blitz.
Tina invited us to join her, as Alyssa and her Girl Scout troop were participating. We were thinking of going anyway, because mom was going to be there supporting the Kaimuki High School Marching Band.
Sadly, there was some miscommunication as to the meeting place, and while Jen, Katie and I were waiting at the Honolulu Zoo, Tina was at the other end of Waikiki at Fort DeRussy.
Fortunately, as we wandered the tourist mecca waiting for the parade to start, we bumped into Tina anyway, and dined together at a little underground ramen shop.
The first band rumbled by as we paid the bill, and we grabbed a spot of asphalt directly in front of the Waikiki 3 Theater to watch everyone go by. Despite the loud drumming and blaring brass, Katie enjoyed the scene immensely, waving and clapping along with the crowd.
Soon enough Alyssa's troop came by, jingling and blinking in reindeer costumes. Then the KHS Bulldogs, and mom scurrying ahead and around them, with a camera in one hand and bottled water in the other. I caught up with her for a moment to give her a hug, then returned to our spot to watch the rest of the show.
There were local bands and bands from Canada and Colorado. There were bagpipes and trolleys, Shriners and dancers, and clowns and Jeremy Harris (redundant?). It was a surprisingly short parade, though perhaps not for one held after dark down one of the busiest streets in the city.
We were lost in the crowd as we made our way back to our car, and Jen and I reminisced the whole way about our days as Waikiki residents. The allegedly historic surfboard stand next to the Moana Surfrider Hotel was gone, as was the Waikiki Police Substation, but other than that, little had changed since we moved out of our dusty studio apartment the one with the scenic view of a busy Kuhio Avenue bus stop.
In a way, we missed the whole noisy, tacky mess. But mostly we didn't.
We arrived at mom's early Sunday morning. After some ribbing from grandma Henderson over our absence on Thursday, things settled into our regular weekend visit routine. Katie and mom played with a new wooden alphabet set, Jen read the Sunday paper, and I dove into the laundry and fixed yet another quirk on mom's computer.
Todd wobbled downstairs before noon, but could only spare a wave before taking off for work, taking off to charm tourists aboard the Ali`i Kai Catamaran.
Eventually we were on the road to tackle the day's more serious business. We stopped at Pearlridge so mom could do some quick shopping, and lunched at Arby's, still a favorite for us despite the way the food shortens our life expectancy.
But then we headed out to Kailua, so I could pay a long-overdue visit to Panther.
Panther was in the Critical Care Unit at Castle Medical Center, the small hospital nestled in the lush green mountains on the Windward side. It was the first time I had been there, and I wandered the hall for a while before tracking down the elevators.
As with most hospital ICUs, children under 12 were verboten to protect the patients, not the kids so mom, Jen and a sleepy Katie waited in the car.
Everything I knew about his condition came from odd notes I'd traded over ICQ with Kory. That he'd had a serious heart attack and was also battling pneumonia, that he was barely responsive and only recently was able to have visitors. I was nervous, but having once volunteered at the ICU at Queen's, I figured I was prepared.
But nothing can prepare you, really, when it's a friend of yours buried under those wires and tubes.
Panther was awake, very alert, and I dare say actually happy to see me. But with everything plugged into his body, with all the monitors and boxes hovering nearby blinking and beeping, and all the bandages and braces, he could barely move. With the tracheotomy, he couldn't talk.
Liz Kane was there. Although we'd met before at 'net events, we confessed we'd forgotten each other's names and reintroduced ourselves. Liz had been Panther's most frequent visitor, even when he didn't even know she was there, and knew every detail of his condition and slow but steady recovery.
Navigating the tangle of medical equipment and deciphering Panther's attempts at communication was already old hat to her... it was incredibly comforting to have her there.
Liz tied the balloon I brought to the foot of the bed, and I taped my card on the wall alongside many other notes of encouragement.
I also passed along well wishes from Jay, veteran escribitionist, and "Teddy," a.k.a. Journalism 460 classmate Allen Yadao, who also relied on Panther's street sense for his story package on the homeless. (Panther named him "Teddy" in his web tales, comparing him to a teddy bear.) That twinkle in his eye was still there.
Even with just his eyes, his face, and limited use of his arms, Panther was very expressive. He'd try and try and try to speak, and you could tell from everything else that it was clearly something witty or wry or profound, but sadly, infuriatingly, we simply didn't understand. To get an idea of what he wanted or what he was feeling, we could only ask him endless questions, looking for an affirmative or negative signal.
It was an ordeal just to determine that he wanted lemonade, an apparently frequent request that was invariably denied by the hospital staff. Or that he wanted to wear his glasses, and later, to have them taken off.
One thought he regularly and easily conveyed, however, required no words: rolling his eyes and lifting his hands in exasperated resignation.
It was so frustrating, surely moreso for him but definitely for me as well. I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing, upsetting him, or staying too long, talking too little, or even too much. Having us there might have lowered his blood pressure, but it sure raised mine.
Most upsetting was the fact that I was standing next to one of the most articulate, philosophical, poetic, colorful people I'd ever had the honor of knowing. Someone whose gift was observing life and telling stories. Someone who now definitely had a few things to share. And suddenly, he's silenced.
"Hurry up and get well," Liz said. "Your fans out there miss you."
Indeed. His last entry was posted Halloween weekend, after which he took a break, writing, "Intermission extended until this wretched flu goes away."
As another incentive for a speedy recovery, I also showed him my special contribution to his hospital room: my old PowerBook laptop. It was slow and clunky and held together with tape, but I'd spent the week making sure it could at least minimally run Microsoft Word and surf the web.
Clearly it was going to be a while before he would be able to use it, but he was definitely eager to do so. Unfortunately, after crawling all over to find an open power outlet and begging the staff for an extension cord, I discovered the AC adapter was broken. It wouldn't run for more than a minute or so.
I promised to bring yet another spare laptop with my next visit. By then I bet his fingers will be limber and ready to furiously document this latest adventure.
With a few more gestures, Panther let us know he wanted to sleep, so Liz and I left together. Absurdly, she thanked me for coming my one visit, almost two weeks after I'd found out what had happened. I thanked her for everything, for being there for Panther when things were at their worst.
We ended the day, and our long weekend, with a bittersweet brush with history.
It was announced barely a week ago that the Cinerama Theater, the last old-style movie house in the state, was closing. Its last night was Sunday night.
It was the biggest theater in town, bigger than the old Kapi`olani theaters and even the famous Waikiki Three (temporarily saved from its own scheduled shutdown), but unfortunately it was rarely able to fill even a quarter of its seats for the last few years. The Cinerama, located across the street from Washington Intermediate School, was also the first moviehouse I went to sans parents. I think. "Star Trek IV," in 1986.
I knew we should pay one more visit it was almost a tradition, after we went to the Kam Drive-In before it closed last September and in fact mom had the same thought.
So I decided to give mom and Jen a special treat.
I dropped them off to see "The Insider," which fortunately I'd already seen with Wayne a couple of weeks ago, and relaxed with Katie at home while they enjoyed the last picture show.
They did, and soaked up as much history and character as they could at the same time. As we drove home, we bid a sad farewell to yet another local landmark that Katie will never know.
Dad was in the news over the weekend.
There was a shortlived flap over "desecration" of the World War II memorial on King Street near City Hall.
Passers-by noticed that someone had sprayed black paint across every stone panel, obscuring the names of Hawaii soldiers who had died in the war. Police were called, TV stations buzzed, and a special investigative team was summoned. People were quick to recall a shameful episode years ago when several veterans' cemetaries in Honolulu were vandalized by thugs who, unfortunately, still remain at large.
As it turns out, it was just a "cute misunderstanding." The black paint was merely part of an incomplete middle step in an ongoing restoration of the memorial. After it dried in the grooves of the carved lettering, the rest was sanded off, making the names sharp and clear again.
Why the crossed wires? An unexpected rain that sent the restorer home early on Saturday, and of course the scarcity of state employees over the long Thanksgiving weekend.