The kids thought it was strange, but mostly funny.
At first I thought Katie was tapping her foot on my chair. I was about to growl at her, when I noticed that my podcasting microphone pushed out of the way, pointed at the ceiling was swaying.
It was a gentle wobble, so I was mostly amused. The kids were completely oblivious. But it kept going. And after ten seconds of shaking which, of course, seemed like an eternity it got stronger. The beams in the house let out little annoyed creaks. And I jumped out of my chair.
"All right, everyone, outside!"
A second later, and we were all in the backyard. I was about to call up to Jen, but by then the shaking had stopped. It was the strongest quake I'd felt since we lived on the Big Island, and the strongest I'd ever felt on Oahu. I was buzzing with adrenaline. The kids just thought it was strange to be outside, in the rain, in their pajamas, at seven in the morning. Alex and Zac were already chasing each other in circles, stomping puddles, shrieking with glee.
"Okay, back inside, guys," I said.
Jen came downstairs, having been roused by the quake. I jumped back online to see if the USGS had any information, and pinged HawaiiThreads to see if anyone else had felt it. Five minutes later, the power went out.
We wondered how serious it was, and whether there would be a tsunami, but there was no information to be had anywhere. The only radio station still broadcasting was KSSK, and it was a pre-recorded "public affairs" program. Since the civil defense sirens weren't going off, though, we mostly wondered what we were going to do with the rest of the day.
As it turns out, an old friend was visiting from Portland: Jaimee, the woman who's sudden departure from the islands was a landmark event in this online journal's early days. Her brother was getting married on Friday, and she was spending the week with her parents. I hadn't heard from her in maybe three years, but she had no excuse to not hook up with us now that she was in town.
We were planning on meeting up for lunch, but we didn't know if the power was out everywhere, or just in Mililani. And it was a bit early to be phoning someone on a Sunday morning.
Jen decided we might as well drive into Manoa for the early Mass. We were all up, after all, and we'd know for sure if things were okay in town.
"If there still is a town," I said. Jen rolled her eyes.
We piled into the van and drove into the city. It was clear that power was out everywhere. Residential towers in Aiea were completely dark. So was the airport. And all traffic lights were dead. Getting off the freeway at Punahou Avenue, it was clear some folks didn't know or didn't care about the four-way stop protocol for non-working signals. There were two fire trucks on Dole Street, and small crowds of people huddled outside every high-rise. But we made it to church on time, and filed into a candle-lit cathedral for an abbreviated Mass.
With only our voices, with no amplification or fancy PowerPoint lyric slides, and with the only light coming through the stained glass windows and candles on the altar, it was an unusually... real gathering. I couldn't come up with a single wise-ass remark. Especially as the occasional siren would echo from somewhere outside.
After the Mass was ended and we went in peace, I called Jaimee. She was still up for hanging out, so we drove up to her parents place behind Manoa Stream to pick her up. Her parents met our kids ("You have three now?" her mother asked. "Yeah, I know, we must be stopped," I chuckled.), the kids met their dogs, and soon enough we were heading back down the hill.
"So where are we going, exactly?" I asked.
Jaimee responded with her signature shrug.
We didn't go far. We pulled into Manoa Marketplace. Most every place was closed, but Safeway was still open. And people were filing in and out with some urgency. It was clear we weren't going to be lunching at a restaurant, so I suggested we do some shopping and have a little picnic.
The supermarket was dark, but buzzing with activity. It was surreal wandering the aisles of what felt like a closed store, passing refrigerated sections all covered up with plastic. We grabbed some cold cuts, bread, chips, and soda, and got in line. Safeway apparently had enough generator power for some lights and several registers, and shoppers were clearly relieved to have a source for stuff. I felt a bit silly with my basket of snacks, when everyone around us was stocking up on water, paper goods and batteries.
We climbed back into the van, and again paused to consider our next destination. It was a bit wet to hit the beach. Needing basically some cover and a place to sit, we ended up back at the church, outside the kids' Sunday School classroom. I popped open the van liftgate and turned on KSSK, which by then had returned from the dead with both Perry and Price in crisis coverage mode, and we listened to official updates and concerned callers. We spread out on a bench and ate our sandwiches, trying to catch up while simultaneously chasing down the kids.
A 6.6 temblor off Waikoloa on the Big Island. Some scary stories of damage were already circulating. The governor was there for a political forum, and Duke Aiona was covering for her in Honolulu (the horror!). Power was indeed out everywhere on O'ahu, and people were on the hunt for emergency supplies, claiming price gouging, complaining about lazy cops, and asking about the latest NFL scores. The radio station was clearly and quickly the sole source of information across the state.
Our appetites sated, we then pondered our next step on our most memorable day. Jaimee mentioned that she hadn't seen a beach in years. So we decided to drive into Waikīkī.
Navigating city streets without traffic lights kept things interesting, although police had already started directing traffic at larger intersections. Rolling down Kalākaua Avenue, it was clear the power outage had driven most tourists out of their dark, humid hotel rooms. I hadn't seen the sidewalks so crowded in years. And while the number and concentration of ABC Stores in Waikīkī is usually a source of some amusement, it looked like folks were wishing there were a few more, as long lines had formed outside of each one. People were able to shop, but only in small groups, and only after cashiers tallied sales by hand.
We settled on Queen's Beach, where we sat on a low rock wall and just watched the waves for a while. Now, if there's anyone who's got quiet contemplation down to a science, it's Jaimee. So after half an hour of silent appreciation, soaking in the sand, the ocean, the people, and the Waikīkī skyline, it was time to move on.
Our final stop on our surreal blackout adventure was Ala Moana Center. Of course, everything was closed, but considering how long Jaimee had been away, there were more than enough visible changes to make our walking tour of the mostly abandoned retail monolith worthwhile. We window shopped, talked, and chased the kids around, marveling at how odd it felt to be on the main concourse in the middle of the day on a weekend and see nary a soul.
Soon Jaimee had to get back home to prepare for a family dinner, so we transported her safely back to her parents secure enclave in Manoa Valley to the tune of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Trapped in the Drive-Thru." We hadn't seen Jaimee in maybe six years, and we only got to spend about three hours with her, but as far as time spent with friends goes? It was most certainly unforgettable.
Returning to Mililani, we found we were more fortunate than most, as power was restored to our neighborhood before 3 p.m. Most Honolulu residents didn't get electricity back until after 8 p.m., a few were without juice until after midnight, and about 1,000 folks went two whole days in the dark.
Since the quake and blackout, there's been a lot of talk about how prepared Hawai‘i was, and what we need to do to be better prepared for the next crisis... quite likely one much more serious than a 6.7 magnitude quake. Of course, this hand-wringing and commission-forming happens every time the wheels seem to fall off the government... the question is, will we do anything with the ideas flying around today, or simply forget them in a few months and find ourselves in exactly the same predicament.
Having gone almost a year without an update here (though of course the weblog, moblog, videoblog and podcast have been chugging along), please allow me to indulge in a brief "kid pictures" break. Here are the latest favorites of Katie, Zac and Alex, the first set taken during a visit to Bishop Museum, and the second at dad's house in Aina Haina. The latter features hand-made aloha wear by Jen's mother in Florida.
It's so cliché, but sometimes my kids seem so beautiful to me, it hurts. (They're also growing incredibly fast, and that hurts, too... particularly when they think they can still leap onto my back or stomp on my stomach.) It boggles my mind that such sweet, creative, energetic, and only mildly insane creatures could be my offspring. I'm sure they're just as mystified as to how a guy like me ended up as their dad.
Katie's halfway through another soccer season, and doing well. But her next adventure will be the Girl Scouts. Jen found a brand new troop forming in Mililani, mostly military moms, and is getting in on the ground floor. In fact, Jen seems to have volunteered as one of the cookie sale coordinators... making me fear we may end up with a pantry full of Thin Mints.
Zac started Sunday School at Sacred Heart this fall, and is enjoying it quite a bit. His teacher is very engaged and enthusiastic and it rubs off on all the kids. Now he comes home singing various songs about god, Jesus, and all that Catholic stuff. Once upon a time, this would strike me as a little creepy, but he's just so happy and unbearably cute, my snark shields go down instantly. He can praise the lord all he likes.
In fact, while Katie resists saying grace before dinner, he loves to volunteer. But in addition to thanking god for family, friends, and food, he'll always include whatever brightened his day. A balloon, a basketball hoop, a new Matchbox car... Again, the cute factor is so great, resistance is futile.
Alex? What can I say. From the moment he was born, he's had a twinkle in his eye that said, "Here comes trouble." I used to think I was imagining it, projecting on a helpess ball of flesh all kinds of wisdom and perception and cleverness that's not really there. But as he storms resolutely into his terrible twos, it's now clear to me that he was destined to be a brilliant but stubborn soul from the very beginning. Zac is a rascal, no doubt about it, but in a very carefree, light-hearted way. Alex could be doing the exact same thing Zac's doing, but he gives you a look that lets you know he's got your number. He's only playing nice, playing along, as a courtesy to us. He's smiling, but he's scheming.
He's frighteningly observant, and picks up on habits and routines that even we don't know we have until we see him mimicking them. How we line up our silverware on the dinner table. Where we put our spare change. Doing dishes, taking out the trash, sorting laundry... he knows what we're going to do before we do. He's like a 20 pound FBI profiler.
And he holds his own against his older and larger siblings. Alex gets his way, not just through brute force, but also through startling "psychological warfare" skills. I swear, he can wander into a peaceful, happy room, spur Katie and Zac into a spat over some toy, then wander back out to enjoy the fireworks from a safe distance. And, of course, he'll have escaped with another toy, the one he was after in the first place.
You know how older kids always try to blame the hapless baby when a scolding is brewing? Well, I've come to realize that Alex may not be inherently blameless in those situations.
Don't get me wrong. He's loving and friendly and has the best, throaty laugh of any toddler ever. He's not a bad kid. But he wants us to know he could be bad if he wanted to... and that if he indeed turned to the dark side, we'd be toast. So here's hoping he only uses that razor-sharp mind for good.
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© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org · Created: 13 November 1997 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008