IMR: 1999: December: 09 — Thursday, 10:10 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

  [ Duck! ]
[ Sharon and Pal ]
[ Journalism Greeks ]
The UH Journalism Department Party was today. That's Holiday and not Christmas Party, Brislin noted, in deference to the politically correct.

I don't even remember if I attended last year, but thanks to IMR I know I was there the year before. (It's scary and wonderful how much things have changed since then.) But something happened at today's gathering that has never happened since I joined the department in 1995: I was presented with a journalism award.

I found out a while back that I'd placed, but when I found out I was alongside Dawn Sagario and Alice Keesing — the latter already a staff writer at The Honolulu Advertiser — I was quite comfortable with my likely standing at third place.

I've been out of practice for nearly two years now, after all; I knew Alice could write circles around me. And as a long-time "reluctant journalism major" I've always been a black sheep in the department. Heck, when I was running Ka Leo, my relationship with the Crawford Hall set occasionally bordered on adversarial.

So I know I was not the only person genuinely surprised when Brislin said "she" when introducing the third-place winner, and in introducing the second-place winner, too.

When my name was called I didn't know if I was flattered, simply stunned, or maybe a little disgusted. I had a hard time keeping control of my face as I went up to get my certificate, and I tried to scurry back to my seat as quickly as possible. But Brislin held me a second longer to present an additional "award" for Katie.

It was a snowman Pez dispenser, to recognize "the youngest member of the movement to preserve diverse editorial voices on Honolulu." He was, of course, referring to Katie's front-page debut in October.

There was one chuckle (from Sharon), and maybe three hand claps. I shrugged.

Fortunately the awkward moment passed quickly, as my peers were most interested in getting to the delectable spread. I congratulated Alice and Dawn, scarfed down a heap of char siu and sushi, and fought the urge to say to anyone what I'd been saying ever since I heard about the award: There must be something seriously wrong with the journalism program at UH if I can take first place in a writing competition.

The Carol Burnett Fund for Responsible Journalism Writing Competition, to be exact. Deserved or not, I knew to not be too self-depreciating. It'll look absolutely, positively beautiful on my resumé...

Today was a gold star day all around, actually, as far as my protracted education is concerned.

I got my goldenrod.

Now, getting "the goldenrod" is one of only a handful of formal, final steps one takes before graduating. The name refers to the color of the simple form that has to be filled out by a department to prove a student has done what needs to be done in their major.

It sounds routine, and it is, but semester after semester I'd see other journalism students sweating over it. As I've technically been a senior for two years now, its also something that I'd avoided for a while. In my mind it had become an almost mythical rite.

I met with Professor Kato. He took me into the department library. And by the time I'd filled out the informal "what will you do after graduation" survey, he was done with my goldenrod.

Six credits to go. One class in Spring 2000 in my "discipline of choice," for which I've already registered: Hawaiian Studies 390: Issues in Modern Hawaii, with the illustrious professor Mililani Trask. Then one last class in my major — Journalism 415: Advanced Reporting — in Fall 2000.

On the bottom line of my goldenrod, after "Expected Graduation," was scribbled, "December 2000." It seemed so... real.

The world better not end on New Year's Day, goddamn it.

Feeling on a roll, I ran over to Hawaii Hall to make an appointment for my GRAD session, which is another of those Final Steps for the up-and-coming graduate. They were booked through the rest of the month, but they said I'd be able to call after Christmas for an early January spot.

Hopefully that'll be just as painless as "the goldenrod." While GRAD sessions are notorious for finding that one required World History 151 credit you missed as a freshman, I'm confident I've got my core all sewn up. I mean, I've accumulated over 120 credits across two campuses — everything has got to be in there somewhere.

If all goes well, I will graduate from college before Katie does, and half the members of my family will owe me five bucks a piece.

On Monday, at Todd's invitation, we attended the Winter Concert of the UH Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Wind Ensemble at the Neil Blaisdell Concert Hall.

When we arrived, Katie was very restless, and anticipating major squirmage, I opted to let her run around in the lobby while Jen enjoyed the first piece: "Armenian Dances" by contemporary American composer Alfred Reed.

I knew the piece inside out, anyway, as Todd had played it before and rehearsed it endlessly a couple of years ago. While Katie ran up and down along the wall-length mirror, smiling and giggling, I hummed along to the clarinet part.

Fortunately Katie calmed down a bit, so we went in to enjoy selections from "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff.

While the signature piece reminds most people of movie trailers, it will always remind me of a warm afternoon more than eight years ago, when Nate and I were spelunking in the sewers beneath the UH campus. We were marveling at the eerie echo in the huge concrete pipe, and I decided to start chanting the words.

It was perhaps the only time I ever genuinely spooked the otherwise unspookable Nate.

Katie loved it. Loved it. She waved her arms along with the conductor, danced and wiggled and stomped. I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, if her little footsteps turn up on the recording of the performance.

When intermission came, mom, Todd and Heidi joined us, and we all took turns chatting and wrangling Katie. She was starting to get tired, so when the second half began we decided to hedge our bets and sit out for most of it. We were interested mostly in the last piece: "Symphonic Suite No. 2 from the Star Wars Trilogy."

The wait was worth it. While they played almost annoyingly slow, and horribly mangled the "Cantina Band" segment, at least they played a lot of the themes that usually don't make it into the high school band repertoire. I still maintain that Princess Leia's Theme is one of the best melodies ever written.

And the grand finale was a very recent addition to the score: "Duel of the Fates," the signature piece from the latest "Star Wars" film. The symphony, conductor Henry Miamura and the UH Concert Choir was clearly saving its best energy for last.

Considering that "The Phantom Menace" only opened earlier this year, and given how long iron-fisted rights managers usually hold onto film scores, we probably got to hear one of the first live performances of "Duel of the Fates." It was spectacular, stirring, downright breathtaking. (And these are just college musicians!) Now I know that even the special edition, gold-plated CD doesn't do it justice.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 09 December 1999 · Last Modified: 13 December 1999