Inside HONOLULU: Life at the Smallest Park in Our City
The toughest stories sometimes come in tiny packages.
My job at HONOLULU is to write the big stories. Well, and some small ones. (And don’t forget the middle-sized ones: just right!)
Having done so many long stories might have been at the back of my mind the day I boldly pitched my boss what turned into this issue’s story on one of the city’s pocket parks. “Life at the city’s smallest parks,” was what I said in our weekly meeting, where we bring our best material and ideas and subject them to ruthless vetting and overt ridicule.
You can guess what happened next. “Thank God, he’s writing short!”
The smallest park in the City and County of Honolulu is at the three-way intersection of Wilder Avenue, Farrington Street and Metcalf Street; you may know it as that fire hose traffic conduit that feeds Punahou School. I found a parking space and, grabbing my notebook, hit the pavement.
Across the street from a 7-Eleven/gas station, Wilder Park rocks 0.04 acres. There was an immediate parklike quality to it: a square of grass, neatly and recently mowed if nicely wild at the edges; a single stately shade tree; and under that, a Costco shopping cart. A low chain on two sides did not make it feel inaccessible or unwelcoming, so I stepped over it and made myself at home. Ready to button-hole the first user who would appear, I put my pen to paper and waited. And waited.
Man, that’s a lot of intersection going on! Turns out there’s a fourth street, Clement Street, that feeds into Metcalf just above where it crosses Wilder. Add in the cars pulling in and out of the gas station and 7-Eleven and you have a real scene, practically a news event. Resisting the temptation to check it out, I paced off the park’s perimeter: In my size 11 shoes, 20 steps- by 30- by 30- by 30. I walked across it. I stood under the tree, looking over the Costco cart. It was empty and in good condition and, being from Costco, quite large.
I realized I had the opening of my story: The largest shopping cart in Honolulu is sitting in the smallest park in Honolulu, under a spreading shade tree. What else? Nothing. What else? More nothing. I looked around for someone to interview. There was only silly me.
Now a creeping dread settled over the park. OMG, I thought. Is my editor going to make me write this up anyway?
She did. This is that story. Friends, let this be an example to you. Be careful what you pitch in that meeting. It can seem like a good idea at the time.
As for me, back to writing long, I guess. I am saving that opening sentence for social media.