IMR: Entries: 2001: June: 27 — Wednesday, June 27, 2001


I don't think my heart can take much more of this.

 [ Generic Sidebar ]
In the News:
Liberty House will become Macy's, Cayetano vetoes a bill to raise Hawaii's age of consent, a Houston woman drowns her five kids, the Patient Bill of Rights heads for a D.C. showdown, and a solar eclipse is observed in Zambia.
Reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" for Children's Lit; hearing "Blessed" by Elton John; eating pork chops and garlic mashed potatoes; browsing CAS adviser profiles; watching Limp Bizkit on MuchMusic; wondering if Miss Cleo can find lost TV remotes.
Three Years Ago:
First Father's Day, CompUSA opens, a disastrous dinner, a Ka Leo vet pool party, and X-Files the movie.

Two Years Ago:
The Real World Hawaii, a Ka Leo vet beach picnic, Father's Day 2 at dad's, and work woes.

One Year Ago:
Katie and Jen return from Florida, and mom's health prompts a karma recharging on the Big Island.
Will "Generic Sidebar" ever appear again? You tell me.
Friday, at work, a coworker discovered a horrible mistake in the just-completed project I was being pressured to complete, but only after it had been shipped to the far corners of the Pacific Rim. I was busted for a similar screw up only four months ago, and I was literally dizzy with frustration, disappointment, and embarassment. But, the boss was out of town until Monday, so I had all weekend to send panicked e-mail to my colleagues and to worry about a sudden career change.

Then Monday finally came, and I slinked into the office, but the boss ended up delaying his return another day. Which meant I had to worry for another two days, because I was taking a rare day off today.

Why was I not going in to work? Because I had something else that I'd been dreading as of late — another GRAD session. The mental scars were still quite fresh from the last disastrous evaluation of my academic progress. And frankly the thought that I might lose my job and require even more time in school prompted me to visualize creative ways one could die in an apparent accident.

On top of that, Jen and I found out this week that Katie finally got into another preschool (actually her third — the last one jerked us around and ended up making us cancel but kept our $200 deposit). She starts next week, and Jen switches to full time at Liberty House (soon to be Macy's — more on that later) the week after that, requiring some fancy footwork as far as day-to-day scheduling is concerned.

So this morning, it felt like my heart was dancing a caffeine-inspired ballet in my chest, and I felt more out of control than I have in a while. True or not, I'd whipped my brain into a frenzy, believing everything was suddenly shifting under my feet.

"Calm down," I told myself, I chanted to myself, as I zombied my way through my morning classes. I stopped at home to join the girls for lunch, but found myself unable to carry a conversation beyond three or four words. As I headed back to campus and started walking toward Keller Hall, I thought to myself, "Whatever happens, at least I'll know. One less unknown is a good thing."

I walked into the little room, already packed, and the advisor asked my name. I told her.

"Oh, Ozawa," she said. "You know, with yours..." And she started flipping through a stack of papers.

I had a mild smile on my face, but inside I was climbing the walls and screaming.

"Here," she said, pulling out the old forms I filled out last time, bringing back the bad memories in living color. "I think you have your non-introductories covered this summer, so all you need is a Humanities..."

"Whoa, what?" I said, barely restraining an incredulous holler.

Turns out I didn't. She didn't see that I took American Studies 202 earlier this year. Okay. Remain calm.

"I'm not sure, but I think we're okay," she said, and I noticed a very reassuring Post-It note on my file that sported nothing but OKs, "But instead of sitting through this again, why don't you just sign here, and here, and leave this for me, and I'll let you know."

"Great," I said, signing there and there, and walking out.

It sounded like good news, but, now... I. Still. Don't. Know.

Will I graduate in August or December? Was there another mistake and will I still have to take another 100-level class in an auditorium full of freshmen? Are the three classes I'm taking now helping at all? Are they even needed?

I walked back into the apartment just as nervous and distracted as I was when I walked out. (Bless Jen for putting up with my worse-than-usual flakiness and limited patience.) I was so preoccupied, while I remembered that I needed to go to the library — and Jen and Katie enjoyed the day-off outing — I only remembered after we returned home and settled in for the night that I went because I was supposed to pick something up for class.

I don't know when I'll find out about my graduation application. But I know tomorrow I'll have to finally face the music at work. (Wait'll they hear about the lack of progress on my other project.) And I can safely assume that, no matter what, the world in July will be considerably different from the one I'm living in now.

So yeah, Liberty House was bought out by Macy's. As soon as next month, all its stores will be overflowing with the Macy's brand. It represents the largest one-time invasion of the local retail market in decades.

By all accounts, Jen and her coworkers have little to worry about. They might be re-interviewed, but with the new owners going out of their way to save the jobs of three employees at a little specialty shop on Kauai, only upper management (made redundant by Macy's mainland management) face unemployment.

I'm intrigued by the hugeness of it all. And I know Macy's carries a lot of the same brands Liberty House does, and features considerably lower prices (given greater buying power). But still there's a part of me that greatly laments the passing of another local institution.

"A Tradition in Hawaii" is the Liberty House slogan, and for all its financial problems and for all the gripes about being too expensive, it is an icon of island shopping. It's no small fact that it monopolizes the image of the Hawaiian department store — you don't think to go to Sears or Penny's or WalMart for good aloha wear, Hawaiian-patterned housewares, and Hawaiian jewelry and gifts.

Liberty House — founded in Hawaii as H. Hackfeld & Co. in 1849 — is in fact older than its new owner corporation. And in retail circles, given almost universal consolidation nationwide, it was somewhat known as one of the last surviving small independent, regional retail chains.

The Macy's folks are saying they greatly admire the niche Liberty House occupies, its history and its carefully cultivated Hawaiian image. They want to use the Liberty House name somehow (perhaps renaming Hackfeld's Restaurant?) as a tribute. But I wonder... will Liberty House have the same local draw with that name? (No doubt visitors will come in droves.) Will the buyout be the most logical thing given Liberty House's recent emergence from bankruptcy, or will it be threaten a still-teetering corner of the market?

Honolulu Book Shops. Kam Drive-In. The Cinerama Theatres. Columbia Inn. And King's Bakery, and Kelly's Coffee Shop, the Kuhio Theatres, the Marina Twins theatres, the pineapple water tower (how sad!), Wyland's first whale mural where Kaiser Hospital used to be... I know change is inevitable, and things come and go, but again I wonder if there'll be anything cool left by the time Katie's old enough to enjoy them?

Lately I've been wishing I was a clever business analyst like many of my coworkers, so I could figure out what the hell is going on downtown.

Most everything is clean and shiny, and from a distance I'm sure Honolulu looks like an urban jewel in paradise. But you just need to walk through it, anywhere, to know something is wrong. There are beautifully remodeled historic buildings, but they're all empty. At a major intersection, all four corner business lots and storefronts are papered up with "For Lease" signs. Properties that you'd think would be prime real estate are occupied by trinket stores, card tables covered with junk, and sorry excuses for galleries and museums.

On Friday, Sylvia told me the Burger King on Fort Street has shut down, which explained the long lines just about everywhere else that day. That follows the sudden departure of Tanioka's and Kyotaru from our building, and before that, closures of other high-profile, popular eateries in the area (like the venerable Yong Sing Restaurant on Alakea).

None of these places were lacking for business. Kyotaru, as an example, would always sell out it's entire inventory every day, down to the last mini salad. I suspect Burger King's departure might have something to do with the somewhat frequent incidents involving cops and the area's more colorful inhabitants, but it too saw long lines daily.

The streets still seem crowded. Parking is still impossible to find. But at the same time it feels a bit like a ghost town — and a town whose ghosts are rapidly running out of places to eat.

I swear this would make an interesting study. What would happen, in a bustling business district, if all restaurants pulled out? And more importantly, why are they leaving?

I personally think the answer is simple: property owners are still overly optimistic about the local economy and the real estate market. They're holding rents at boom-era levels, satisfied to have 50 percent occupancy by tenants who are paying through the nose than 90 percent occupancy at more realistic rents. (The rent our office paying is ridiculous, especially considering a tea stand now occupies the ground floor space that was once a bank lobby.)

But long term, I can see business spreading out, moving away from the "CBD" (Central Business District), which is more or less anchored now only by a few banks. Suddenly the Second City at Kapolei doesn't seem like such a ridiculous idea — several high-profile companies recently moved their headquarters there. Low-margin businesses like restaurants just can't afford to stick around downtown. No place to park, or no place to eat, cheaper rents and newer infrastructure elsewhere... I just can't see things getting better from here. I think commercial property owners are painting themselves into a corner.

Meanwhile, now we have to hike out to Dillingham Boulevard if we want a Whopper.


***MACY'S***??? The BK on Fort Street Mall??? Nooooooooooo! (Gee, you no t'ink da lack of one ECONOMY get anyt'ing fo' do wit' dat, hah?) cg /s
Lusus Naturae (June 28, 2001 10:48 AM)

Heh. If Austin can have a half-assed outlet store called "Last Call by Nieman Marcus", then Honolulu can certainly have "Liberty House by Macy's". (Not to imply Liberty House is half-assed by any means, nosiree.) It's all in the branding, babeeee. *cough* Not like I heard about this entry on the notify list. *cough*.
NemesisVex (June 29, 2001 4:34 AM)

Oh, yea -- the university run-around. At Wayne State in Detroit, we had English AND math proficiency tests to pass before graduating. English proficiency -- no problem. But there was NO WAY I was going to pass a math proficiency test. When I found that the final for my Algebra class would count for the math proficiency requirement, I rejoiced. But man, my files got moved around and I really had to stay on top of that fulfillment. How can one important requirement get lost THREE times? Aaack!
Denise (June 29, 2001 6:59 AM)

Dear Sir: My name is Kathleen Severini and I am assisting my professor in collecting historical and interesting pictures of Liberty House/Macy’s. We are interested in old pictures of any interesting pictures/events/building fronts of past or present. Bob Sigall is a marketing professor at Hawaii Pacific University and is writing a book about little known facts and stories about Hawaii’s well-known companies. Liberty House/Macy’s is one company that he speaks about in his book. The book will be published sometime next spring. In order to have more definition we will need at least 150 DPI for all pictures. We are looking for color pictures to put into the book however black and white is okay. Since it is difficult to loan out archive pictures we would like to request to have them scanned and emailed or if you can spare some pictures have it mailed to us. We need at least 150 + DPI if you email to us. If you have any suggestions or recommendations of where I can go to or an email address of someone who may have additional pictures I would greatly appreciate it. This would be a great help to us. I have two-email address: My address is: Kathleen M. Severini 1031 Nuuanu Avenue, #2708 Honolulu, HI 96817 Thank you. Kathleen
Kathleen Severini (December 31, 2001 2:51 PM)

Kathleen... do you have any idea where you are? I wouldn't recommend posting your home address publicly to a web page, as important as your mission may be.
Ryan (January 1, 2002 12:51 AM)

E kala mai! Comments have been disabled due to overwhelming abuse by spammers. Please click through to any of the video hosting services linked above to leave a public response, or feel free to send an e-mail. Mahalo!

© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: [ PGP ] · Created: 13 November 1997 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008