IMR: 1999: December: 06 — Saturday, 9:59 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

[ Katie and Family with Santa ]Despite my many reservations and protestations, yesterday afternoon found me at Pearlridge shopping center, waiting in line to give Katie her first introduction to St. Nicholas.

Jen had literally been dreaming of the historic occasion since the first retail Christmas displays went up shortly before Halloween. But knowing Katie's intense dislike of strangers that lay their mitts on her person, I was convinced it would get hairy. A ready-made disaster, right up there with giving any young kid a helium balloon.

Of course, I always knew it was going to happen this year. I only barely talked her out of it last year.

"Well, I'll take you to the mall, and you can take her to see Santa," I would say, the coward I was. "I'll wait around the corner, and you can come back when she stops screaming."

But yesterday, during a visit at mom's, grandma put "Walker: Texas Ranger" on the tube and I was willing to do anything to get away. It didn't take long to decide on the mission for a spontaneous excursion.

Terrified as I usually am of the kids that prowl around Pearlridge Downtown, we decided to visit the Uptown Santa. Mom and Jen stood in the long line as I held Katie stood behind the camera and watched the jolly man in red do his thing.

He was a surprisingly good Santa, actually. He clearly liked kids, and seemed to have almost inhuman patience, even with the tots that cried themselves purple. (Of course, I covered Katie's eyes to prevent their undue influence.) There were people who wanted him to take pictures with their pets, and people with too many kids who insisted on taking half a dozen photos with their own cameras (and then buying the cheapest photo package). But all the while, this Santa was cool, joking and going, "Ho ho ho."

From ten feet away, at least, Katie seemed to pick up on the fun of the scene, smiling herself whenever the "elves" would coo and shake their rattles and set off the flashes.

But, well, when Jen grabbed her to plop her on Santa's lap, she suddenly clung to Jen's shoulder tighter than a vise. Jen could have started breakdancing, and Katie would still remain attached. I mean, I have never seen her go from happy to horribly petrified so fast.

She was almost eerily quiet, though. At least until I tried to pull her free. Then the shrieking started.

As I braced myself for one last pull, I told Jen to quickly sit on Santa's left leg. I sat on his right. Then I counted to three, and with all my strength, I pulled Katie off her mother and sat her quickly on my lap.

Just as she took in a breath to wail, I tickled her, and the elves furiously rattled and rang and danced, and in that moment's hesitation, the shutter snapped.

You can still tell, if you look closely, that Katie is not the happiest camper. But despite the moment of terror, I was surprised at how non-disastrous the photo turned out. In fact, since Jen and I ended up in the picture, the shot can double as the long-overdue family portrait for this year.

Out of the blue, old friend Mitchell Dwyer sent me a wonderful essay inspired by the closure of the Cinerama Theater last week.

Mitchell is — along with William — one of the most remarkable people I ever had the pleasure of working with during our days at the Ke Kalahea newsroom in Hilo. He now teaches English at Hawaii Baptist Academy.

Turns at he and Jen were there that same sad night, just one showing of "The Insider" apart. But Mitchell, born and raised in Hawai`i, appreciated the theater's history more than most, and I'm glad to see he fully celebrated its passing.

[ Kaiser Hospital ]Bizarre discovery of the week:

The boss was flipping through a copy of Manufacturer's Digest, a very specialized trade magazine out of Singapore, when he came across an ad for Columbus IT Partner, an accounting company.

"If you aren't Y2K ready you may as well do this with your factory," the ad read, with a photo of a large building collapsing.

The boss chuckled and handed the magazine to me. He thought it was neat that Southeast Asian companies also had a sense of humor about the Y2K bug, which actually poses a greater threat to them than to the U.S.

I thought it was neat that the photo was not of an collapsing factory, but rather, of the demolition of the old Kaiser Hospital in Waikiki.

Yep. If the palm trees didn't give it away, the blue clouds painted on the adjacent building did. It was part of "Hawaiian Humpbacks" (1985), a whale mural by famed marine artist Wyland. It was number six of his "Whaling Walls" series of murals (there are now 84 around the world), and there was quite an uproar when the lot's new tenant — the Hawaii Prince Hotel — decided to paint over it.

The bringing down of the hospital in 1987 was one of the first major demolition projects in Honolulu. The whole city was riveted. Footage of the implosion was even worked into the series finale of "Magnum P.I."

I was born in that hospital. I still remember paddling barefoot along the tiled halls during childhood checkups.

I also remember being very sad when it was destroyed. I remember comparing it to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm... you know, the place where Snoopy was born? He returned years later full of memories and dreams, and found only a parking garage.

My birthplace is now an overpriced Japanese hotel, now known mostly as the site of one of the more scandalous incidents in local politics.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 06 December 1999 · Last Modified: 09 December 1999