An Inconvenient Expiration Date

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - January 03, 2007

My daughter Erin is the family’s style maven. On the two occasions a year that I must wear a tie, I turn to her: “How’s this?”

“Too thin, plus stripes don’t work with tattersall,” says she.

“This?” - plaintively.

“Better,” says she.

Son Peter, confident about most things, always defers to his little sister on matters of taste. And my wife, the high-strung Filipina - classic and chic as she is - never leaves the house without asking Erin, “Does this work?” And she listens to Erin’s response.

So Christmas morning, over breakfast, we’re talking about the new clothing store in which Erin has found employment.

“Our men’s clothes are urban street-wise,” she says.

After pondering a moment, I say: “You know, I’ve been thinking about changing my style. It’s time for something new.”

“Daddy!” Erin replies in that voice of mixed disgust and what-planet-did-this-man-come-from bewilderment that has marked our conversations since she was about 11, “Your style is bland khaki man, and the expiration date has passed on your changing styles.”

Ah, yes. Those expiration dates. I suppose - at 63 - I can accept that I’m not going to be dressing urban street-wise in this lifetime.

I should not be surprised by this realization - 2006 marked the expiration date on a slew of old men’s fantasies.

On Nov. 7 the nation’s voters brought President George W. Bush and his handlers, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, to the realization that they could no longer - through fear-mongering or spin - sell their Iraq policy to the nation. In 2007, after a pointless but bloody surge in troops, the United States’ withdrawal from that tortured land will begin.

In 2006 the man who should have been president (at least from 2001 to 2005) told us - emphatically and convincingly - that the expiration date on our mindless burning of fossil fuels is upon us. With his brilliant documentary An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore showed us the dramatic effects of global warming that have already taken place - and forewarned us that we must act now to avoid climatic catastrophe.

This past week, the Interior Department’s warnings about the endangered polar bears indicated that at least a segment of the blindfolded Bush administration had recognized the crisis. It may be the polar bears’ habitat that’s now endangered, but ours is next - and “next,” according to Prof. Gore and most of the scientific community, won’t be long in coming.

Locally, 2006 marked the expiration date on our disregard for the state’s affordable housing crisis. Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s ham-handed expulsion of the homeless from Ala Moana Park in the midst of last spring’s deluge forced Gov. Linda Lingle to pay attention. By year’s end, emergency shelters for the homeless were going up in Kakaako and Waianae.

More importantly, Lingle’s proposed budget for the next two years called for the expenditure of $128 million to deal with the state’s housing crisis: for the renovation of public housing, more social services for the homeless, and the development of more affordable housing.

The governor’s proposals marked a clear departure from the assumption, long held by politicians in both major parties, that we were prisoners of the hot-house housing market price explosion of the last half decade.

Whatever his obtuseness regarding the homeless, Hannemann redeemed himself in 2006 by his steadfastness in pursuit of a mass transit system for Oahu. Certainly he was helped by high gas prices and the destruction of a pedestrian walkway over the H-1 and the ensuing traffic snarl, but Hannemann demonstrated his long-held - and politically risky - commitment to a workable transportation future for Honolulu and its citizens.

For the past 40 years, Honolulu mayors and councils have acted as if a tiny volcanic island could absorb an infinite number of automobiles, an infinite number of commuters, and an ever-rising level of traffic congestion into the indefinite future. Anyone who lives west of Red Hill knows that the expiration date on such thinking has long past.

Happy New Year, all ye urban street-wise and fellow bland khaki men.

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