Suite 1080, Pioneer Plaza, Downtown Honolulu, Hawai`i
Knowing how in demand they are with their families and friends, and how lousy we were at keeping in touch, it's heartening to discover how close we still are. Cliché or not, when we're hanging out, it feels as if they never left.
I got a bit of a shock when we first hooked up, as Jaimee had gotten a perm since we last saw them . It was, in fact, the second hair-related surprise of their visit.
Though I didn't mention it earlier, Nate also had a major change of hairstyle in the last week. His infamous, carefully-nurtured thick rug of dreadlocks yes, dreadlocks was suddenly and completely shorn off a few days before the big Pang clan Christmas party.
He was very sad to see the dreads go (the decision being, he says, the second argument he and Jaimee have ever had in their four-year relationship), but he was already getting used to the new look by the time we saw him last night. He's had a long history of severe hairstyles, and in a way, his nearly bald head (courtesy his mother and her electric shears) continued that tradition.
We dined, for the benefit of Nate's nostalgia, at "Hotrods" the Zippy's on South King known for attracting street racers and their legions of adoring shoyu bunnies.
It was once a regular haunt (located as it is next to Washington Intermediate School, where Nate and I endured adolescence together), but Jen and I hadn't been there for ages. Our favorite waiter left long ago for a better gig at Denny's, and the cigarette smoke would occasionally get thick enough to chew.
But it was where Nate and Jaimee first held hands, and they were feeling mushy. Nate was jonesing for a ZipPac (Spam and all), anyway.
So we got seated in our usual booth, ordered our usual food (Zip Min for Jen, burrito with chili and a side order of fries for me), and talked about life, and the universe, and everything.
Katie was charming, as usual, dancing to the Muzak and stuffing her face with spaghetti. She also conducted more tests of gravity with napkins, utensils and very nearly a plate, a rather distressing hobby that is the benchmark of a soon-to-be two-year-old child.
On a whim, we decided to take a spin up and around Tantalus. I was rather embarrassed to discover that Jen had never been up there (meaning that I'd never taken her). I was also rather embarrassed to discover halfway up the mountain that my car was almost out of gas.
Every few turns, the little yellow light would come on, and she'd warn, "Fuel level low!"
Thankfully, there were enough fumes in the tank to round the top, and we coasted quietly down the dark side. We stopped at a few points to admire the lights, and mused aloud about various New Year's armageddon scenarios that might play out in the city below.
We returned to our apartment only a bit past Katie's bedtime, and after she was snoring in our bed, everyone stretched out to watch "Apocalypse Now."
The DVD was my Christmas gift from Wayne, who was appalled when he learned I'd never seen it. I was very well acquainted with various parodies, of course (including that great "Animaniacs" episode), but I was very happy to finally see what all the fuss was about.
The word "surreal" could have been coined to describe the film. I was at a loss when it came to distilling the message, apart from "don't get out of the boat!" Most fun was spotting all the future Hollywood superstars, like a very young Harrison Ford, and a very un-Morpheustic Laurence Fishburn.
The word "long" also applies. I dropped Nate and Jaimee off at her parents' place in `Aiea well past midnight.
Believe it or not, there's a good chance we're going to see the two of them one last time tonight too. After that, we'll sadly go our separate ways: they leave for Portland on Thursday, the same day Jen, Katie and I leave for the Big Island.
It's so great having them here, having them home. I'm already starting to miss them.
We went to visit grandma Ozawa in Manoa Valley the day after Christmas to drop off a few late presents. It was pouring rain, and we were in a hurry to meet up with mom at Pearlridge, but as soon as I saw the look on her face when she saw Katie in the car, I knew we couldn't just drive by.
We went into her building, and basically let Katie run amok. She zoomed around the lobby, stomped around in grandma's apartment, and patrolled the community gardens grandma in tow out back.
Despite my protestations, grandma also picked Katie up a few times, risking a strained back to stroke her hair and coo at her in that unmistakably great-grandmotherly way.
Our 30-second drop off turned into a full-fledge 40-minute visit. But although we were horrendously late, it turned out to be a very special morning.
More and more, my dad, my family and I worry about grandma's health and age, and by the basic laws of nature I know (but try not to accept) that she won't be with us all that much longer. Seeing Katie, her first great-granddaughter, is clearly one of the special joys she has at this point in her breathtakingly full, long life.
And truly, the very least I can do for her is to give her the opportunity to experience that joy more often.
That is one of my very few New Year's resolutions.
So yes, less than 72 hours before Jen and I depart for the wet, slow, recession-mired town of Hilo. We will be ringing in the new year on the Big Island, our spiritual home.
Sure, Hilo has a lousy reputation (somewhat deserved), but we're really attached to it. It was where Jen and I first met five years ago, where I designed my first web page, and where I started my first business. And compared to Honolulu, I've always found the island's thick, almost eerie air of history and spirituality to be rejuvenating.
Besides, we're going there in part to get away from people. We're counting on that bad reputation to spare us the major throngs of revelers and warzone fireworks displays that will overwhelm O`ahu.
While the crowd in Waikiki threaten to plunge the city into the ocean, and while screaming tourists cheer the planned laser light show on the face of Diamond Head (ugh!), we'll be sipping champagne and admiring the stars on the flank of a volcano.
Or maybe sleeping in a cool hotel bed, depending on how much of a handful Katie turns out to be on New Year's Eve.
Simple. More things in life should be simple.