How to Be A Bo$$

My company is now monitoring “customer communication,” also known as all of their employee’s emails. When I was told this, I was in the middle of writing an email to my boss:

Bo$$-

Can you take a look at this project and let me know if it requires trenching and an MPU?

Mucho Aloha,

Big J

I looked at my co-worker, “wait who will be reading the emails?” She looked over my shoulder and shook her head, “Yeah, you’re going to need to fix all of that.” When my boss comes into the office,  I always shake his hand and we sit there shaking hands saying “Boss nice to see you,” “Nice to see you too Boss.” If I complete a task he’s asked me to do he says, “Thank you Boss,” and I reply “You’re welcome Boss.” All my emails to him are titled Aloha Bo$$, with the money signs. He will write back:

Boss-

Please have site techs complete an electrical re-visit for the meter main combo.

Mucho Mahalos

I have never had a boss address me as boss, and it makes me feel important, like I am the Beyonce of my specific role in the solar industry, capable of handling whatever is thrown at me, but if shit really hits the fan, I have the real boss to go to for backup and support. But this is because my boss is more of a leader than a “boss,” and there is a difference. There are certain bosses, I have certainly had a few, who wore their role as the boss like a sceptre, the symbolic ornamental staff that ruling monarchs used to hold as a sign of imperial insignia.  You’ll hear someone, usually with “Executive” or  “Director” in their title, call themselves “the boss”like they are waving their medieval wand over you, the dirty proletariat, and it does not make you feel like Beyonce, it makes you feel like a surf wearing a burlap sack with a hole in the butt. These people are usually someone who is capable and focused on climbing the ladder, someone who works hard, mainly for themselves, and who believes that the people underneath them owe them their time and hard work. Here on the Big Island we call that “mainland mentality,” and it is frowned upon.

Leaders seem to possess a sense of keen self awareness that allows them to be a quieter, more honorable type of person. Someone focused on a bigger goal which is bigger than themselves, and someone who views the people working for them as valuable assets, a team of dedicated individuals whom without, their dream or company would be unmanageable. The difference is one way of thinking is simple and easy and the other way is harder and much more work. And this is why:

Leaders have to know their people. People are complex, they aren’t just what is listed on a resume, or recommended by a professional reference. People have dreams, passions, skills, talents, they grow, they change, they need, they want. Leaders not only understand this, but they take the time to really understand the people on their team- discover who they are, which is a lot of hard work. It involves a lot of asking, and a lot of listening.  Leaders know that taking the time to devote to understanding the other people they are working with is important because life is not just work.

Leaders see the “big picture.” The big picture always involves more than just a single person. The big picture is that life is not just your one self, or your own personal work. The big picture is life- which includes many many other people. Life is family, it’s relationships, friendships, love, it’s exploration, it’s experiences, it’s a roller coaster, and work is just a part of it. A leader understands that each person they are accountable for is living their own unique, complex life- full of their own unique struggles, passions, disappointments, successes and hopes. This is important because when you lose sight of the big picture you end up shrinking your world when in actuality you want to expand.

Leaders lead by example. Leading by example doesn’t mean that everyday at work you are flawless, it means that everyday you are at work you are honest, you try your best, you are sincere, and never give up. A good leader can have a bad day, but won’t let those bad days get them down in the long haul, they never lose hope. A good leader admits mistakes, takes accountability, honors their word, and respects others. Respect is something that some bosses seem to believe their employees owe them instantly, just based off some hierarchy put in place to create a sense of structure. But leaders know that respect is not only a two way street and something that every person is owed, but also something that is earned and can be lost. Leaders don’t talk down, or shut down people working with them- they don’t use their authority to belittle others to build themselves up. They don’t see value in silencing people they may disagree with. Because the rare, intelligent, and talented people won’t follow a leader who breaks them down or disrespects them forever. People of value won’t stick around and let you beat them down, they will leave. And true leaders know that no one can accomplish anything alone.

Leaders know how to communicate. They can easily make their thoughts and feelings known to others who are looking to them for answers or advice in a positive and effective way. They don’t manipulate. They can explain things clearly. They know how to actively listen, they can make tough decisions, they can handle problems or concerns with sensitivity and awareness. They are direct, they are firm and they are never all-knowing. They are thoughtful and they are honest when speaking to others.

Leaders have imagination and can laugh.

Leaders have swept the floor, they aren’t above anything.

Leaders say thank you.

Leaders are FAIR.

Leaders reward hard work.

Leaders call bullshit.

Leaders take action.

Leaders appreciate.

Leaders observe and learn.

Leaders encourage, empower, and stand up for their team.

My generation is an entrepreneurial generation. We have a lot at our fingertips and plenty of ideas but that’s not enough, we have to learn how to lead. It’s inevitable that if you aren’t working towards your own dream you will spend your time and energy tirelessly working to make someone else’s dream come true. I think no matter what, we all need to resolve to learn as much as we can from people in power, really put thought behind what we experience and see, so when the time comes, we can get it right.

I looked over my email to edit it:

Chief- 

Thank you for being the leader of the tribe. Your solar warriors appreciate all that you do for us. 

My co-worker read it and shook her head again, “I don’t think corporate is going to understand the Hawaii branch.” I shrugged, “This ain’t the mainland,” I told her.

 

“Those Guys”

In fourth grade every girl in my class liked a boy named Tyler Rogers. In fourth grade, Tyler looked like Jonathan Taylor Thomas, but looking back now, Tyler had a bowl haircut that kind of made him look like one of those dancing mushrooms in Fantasia, but he was tan. I believe tan people always give off the illusion of being much better looking than they really are. Some pigment gives off a slight glow that sets them apart from everyone else, and kind of blurs or covers up imperfections like natural airbrushing. Everyone else must believe the illusion too or else why would people drop eighty dollars to stand naked in a room while they get spray painted orange. Tyler was naturally tan and that combined with his brown eyes, height and dancing mushroom haircut made every girl in the fourth grade swoon. I liked Tyler too, but I wasn’t one of the pretty or cool girls and I don’t even think he ever once noticed me. The pretty girls were small, wore training bras from Limited Too and painted their eyelids with gel roll on glitter- a dangerous fad of the 90’s. I never walked around all sparkly and smelling faintly of petroleum jelly. I hovered around, three feet taller than everyone else, wearing purple stretchy pants with green high socks and an oversized wolf t-shirt. Tyler Rogers liked the glitter though. Those girls wore mini bras, and were sparkly, and he could pick whichever one he wanted and hold their hand, or whatever fourth graders who like each other do. He could push them down the slide- an act of affection I tried when I was thirteen, it didn’t work out as well as a thirteen year old, then it’s simply classifed as harrassment, but I figured it out, I’ve always been a late bloomer.

One day during a math test I was at my desk staring across the way at Tyler and I saw something shocking. Tyler was picking his nose and then playing with his crotch. He’s a weenie picker. As I watched him use one hand to dig around in his nose and the other to play with himself I realized something. This “it” guy was doing two very frowned upon, gross, bodily acts- or frowned upon to perform in a public setting. Obviously all the attention had gone to his head and he had just completely lost his grip with reality. In retrospect, I should have sent him a note that said:

With great power comes great responsibility. I saw you pick your weenie. Don’t do that during math tests! Don’t you know who you are? You’re THE guy of the fourth grade. This could ruin you. Come back down to Earth, just because you have all these sparkly girls doesn’t mean you can pick your weenie in public, they will turn on you SO FAST, don’t you know what they are capable of? They ROLL glitter down their arms and across their eyes.

I looked around to see if any of the glitter girls were witnessing this too, but they were all completely oblivious. I watched in horror, trying to process what to do with this info. I decided to do nothing with this information I now had on Tyler, until decades later as a twenty-something who is now writing about it. Writers are creepy freaks, we observe and remember everything, and are able to recall things buired deep in the past when we can finally connect them to a concept or idea. But at the time I kept my mouth closed. I just went home, got my journal, climbed up the pine tree in my backyard and sat in my “treehouse,” which was really just a piece of wood my dad nailed in between two branches- more of a tree seat really, and scrawled across a page:

Feb 3- Why do boys pick their weenies and nose in class? I don’t get it and it makes me want to cry.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve dated quite a few fourth grade Tyler Rogers. I say fourth grade Tyler Rogers because Tyler could have very easily grown up to be a great guy. But in fourth grade he was the equivilant of “those guys.” Those guys that are tall and handsome, they have just the right amount of chest hair, and they wear leather watches- they have the receipe that makes all the grown up glitter girls go crazy, and they cruise through life that way until  something wakes them up. In LA every bar was packed with these guys, all wearing pinstripe button downs and holding whiskeys in one hand, positioned like statues around the bar with their bros- usually they travel in pairs, a tall bro and a small sidekick bro. Basic. I think the problem is, I trick them by dressing like a glitter girl, but the glitter wears off real quick once I open my mouth and reveal that inside, the wide eyed, purple stretchy pant wearing Punky Brewester is alive and thriving. What I’ve learned about these guys is that if you reveal a truth or call them out, like hey, I saw you pick your weenie in public, why’d ya do that? They suddenly want to discard you, because now you’ve become trouble to them, you’ve woken them up and made them grumpy. You’ve threatened their ego, and people with egos are fragile, they march through the world viewing everything as a power play, because it’s much eaiser to view things as wins and losses, and they completely fall apart when criticized.

Life is not a power play, it’s not a score board of wins and losses, not in work, not in friendship, and especially not in love- it’s all too complex to be so black and white. What life is, is completely humiliating. And what most people don’t understand is that you’re never going to really find happiness in work, friendship, love, ect, if you don’t learn how to come to grips with your own humanness. This means considering others, having an unshakable sense of self so you can catch life’s punches instead of dodge them, being tolereant of what is different or unkown to you, honoring your word and your actions- even if it’s off stage and no one notices, or is there to applaud you. Because that’s how you earn character, and understanding, and empathy, and depth- it’s the human condition and there is no point in having any sort of God complex. It will shrink your world down to just you, and the goal of this one life we have is to make it as big as possible. The goal is to eventually wake up, so you don’t spend your whole life asleep, at a bar, taking shots with your short sidekick bro. Or picking your weenie.

 

 

Saturday

My car needed a good car wash. The dirt and salt air had turned the windows grimy, to the point where it impares your vision when you’re driving, the bright white color had turned grey. Instead of taking it to a car wash, or washing it myself, I decided to drive to where it was raining on the island. See, that’s a real freedom that I will never have again, being 27 and living on a beautiful and mysterious island. But it’s a freedom I actively seeked out, and now that I have it, I have to enjoy it, appreciate it, in the awareness that I won’t always have this.  Because that’s life- it’s constantly in flux, I don’t know where it’s leading, but here I am, right now, on a beautiful and mysterious island. So I went. It was Saturday, I had worked my 8-5 job all week, it’s not like I blew off any responsibilites or commitments, I just made a choice of how to spend my time that day, my day off. I could have just gone to the car wash, marked it off as an errand accomplished, and gone onto the next errand right? Laundry maybe? But why, that’s not where my life is right now. I can choose the other option. I love to adventure with friends, and I really love to adventure with significant others, I love to see and share the world with the people I love, but there’s something about the solo adventure, exploring new places alone that shows you what YOU see, and builds up a certain self love within yourself that no family member, or friend, or lover can fufill within you. You discover that you enjoy your own company, you are capable and completely fine on your own, and you feel free, because you know your happieness isn’t dependant upon anyone else. It’s just you and..the world, and you’re free to look and experience it the way you want to. And all your choices become your own- it sounds selfish, but it may be something you need to experience because it’s a kind of true power that establishes you, one that keeps you standing during storms, unable to be knocked down by anyone.

Geographically unique, the Big Island boasts everything from black sand beaches to snow-covered peaks, from hardened lava deserts to steamy and lush rainforests. So at 10 am, in my neighborhood, it could be sunny and hot, exactly like your perfect picturesque summer day, and two hours away it could be raining hard, sixty degrees, so not exactly cold, but a total different landscape and experience than the one that you currently are inhabiting. To someone who enjoys constant change, this ability to be close to something so drastically different than your everyday routine is not only welcomed, but a huge blessing. Driving around the island takes around 8 hours (if you stop at places), but when you do, you will feel as though you just traveled for at least a week. I drove in and out of clouds, through fields of desolete lava rocks that looked like a graveyard, spanning all the way out until it met the ocean where it all blurred together. I drove through rolling hills of gold, hills that feel familiar to me because they remind me of California, of home. I drove around bends and turns underneath a mountain of green, dense jungle. I drove through fog that consumed everything, the road, the scenery, I couldn’t see anything in front of me or behind me. You could pull over and wait for the fog to clear, but you get out of it much quicker if you cautiously creep forward-moving forward doesn’t have to be wreckless or not thought out. Even if you move slow, if you’re eyes are open and you’re present, moving at all means you make your way into something new.

I stopped at Waipio Valley, one of the most beautiful places on the island, in my opinion. When you are standing above it, at the lookout, you are peering down into a place that looks so complex, the depth of it looks like you will never be able to know it all in it’s entirety. That there will always be something unexplored, unknown and mysterious. It draws you in to come back to it over and over again, you’ll never tire of it. Tourists are always gathered at that lookout, taking pictures in front of it and I wonder if they truly are looking at the valley. They are on a schedule I can tell, they have four more spots to get pictures in front of, so they have to rush the moment. They may return back to their family and friends and show them the picture, and everyone will remark on how beautiful Hawaii is from a distance. But I hope that some of them really look. I hope they stand above such a beautiful creation, rapt in awe of it, and they realized suddenly, the simple fact that they’re alive and they get to look at this, witness it, really see it, breathe in the air around it and be thankful that they will be able to take such a moment, a memory, to their grave with them. Because that’s what we really take with us right? Those rare moments in your life where you collide with Earth-and also the moments where you collide with others also inhabiting Earth. Those are the things I’m most interested in collecting, in filling up my soul with, because that’s what I want to take with me when I leave. I feel like when this is all over, those are the things that will matter- not the material things, the shallow things, the surface things that people create to make life easier to live. It’s easier to rush moments, snap pictures and say you saw it than to really truly look at it, and wonder what it means in relation to you.

I stopped in Hilo, which is a very foriegn place to me, known to me really only as “the other side of the Island.” It’s the rainy side and I love the town in Hilo because the city is so run down and dark that it looks like it has a secret history, one that no one will know or write about, it will just remain there in it’s buildings and streets that are slowly decaying and one day may just get lost altogether. Every alley I walk past I would look down because there’s always a random window with someone’s clothes hanging in it, or some mural someone painted on a wall and I wonder about that wall when it was brand new and the person who painted that mural and what it must have looked like before years of rain and weather slowly began to wear it away. I went to the farmer’s market, where I walked down asiles of local food and art and the people who work hard everyday to produce it. I didn’t talk to anyone, or make any new friends, or hear anyone’s story. I just walked around and looked. There was one small Hawaiian man selling sunflowers, and I caught his eye when I snapped a picture of a bucket full of them. I was embarrassed I took a picture and wasn’t buying any and I blushed and said “Thank you,” like he had given me a sunflower for free. The truth is, I would have loved to ask him, “Do you have fields of sunflowers where you live?” I would have loved to know all about them. But I didn’t ask and I don’t know why. Possibly because I don’t want to know if he bought them at Costco and drove them out here to re-sell to tourists for a much higher price.

I ate lunch at a little cafe I stumbled upon, it was one of those gluten free- vegan-organic-everything places with three million trash cans lined up against the wall for all the specific types of waste to be dispensed in and recycled and composted and re-used. Always the biggest stress at the end of the meal because you know the employees are watching you and if you throw your biodegradable plate into the wrong bin people will know you are a phony balogna “earth concious” advocate. I ate some sort of hot dog that wasn’t made of meat (I don’t know what it was made of) and had beets and sweet potatos on it and it was delicious. I went into book stores, I spent my time in the cultural history section and read a few chapters about Japanese calligraphy.

I drove home, in the pouring rain, watching as the water from the clouds washed all the dirt off my windsheild. I drove out of the rain and into the clouds, and out of the clouds and into blue skys and the sun, which was about to set, and yeah,my whole day had been spent wandering around aimlessly to some. But I’m not sure it was entirely aimless.

And my car is so clean now, so mission accomplished.

The Manoa Valley Inn

I spent a week staying in a haunted mansion on Oahu. It was called the Manoa Valley Inn and online it lead you to believe that you would be spending the night in a wealthy grandma’s house complete with doilies, scones and cats. What it actually was, was The Shining, but with a slight setting change, instead of an isolated mountain, an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I’ve gone on three trips for my new job and my hotels have stayed pretty consistent, the swanky Downtown Grand in Vegas and The Park Waikiki right in the middle of downtown Waikiki, both of which were new and exciting to me, and came with fancy soaps and hotel amenities that I piled into my carry on to take home with me while subtracting the cost of toiletries from my budget for the month. The Manoa Valley Inn was the type of exciting caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat, and by far the most memorable of the three, and you didn’t want to take the soap or toilet paper home with you.

When I arrived it was dark, and I lugged my bag up a series of cobblestone steps and across a dark porch, opened a creaky screen door and entered a room that smelled like what the inside of a coffin must smell like. Musty and slightly sour. The first thing I noticed were three stuffed frogs wearing medieval pointy hats and weird smiles that made them look like they had just been shouting “oo-da-la-ley” in the streets of Nottingham like in the cartoon version of Robin Hood. The frogs were sitting on the edge of the stairs, their long legs and feet hanging down the wall. As I passed them I entered a lobby that had a table, some couches and of course a piano. Pianos are always somehow involved in horror, or hauntings, or all things paranormal. There was no front desk, bell to ring, or a even a person around, so I just sat down on the couch. I looked next to me and noticed the lamp. The base was a chubby baby angel, but if you looked closer its face looked distorted. Its eyes two big empty circles, its mouth kind of drooping to the side, like it was screaming. Oh my God. I took out my phone and began snap chatting the entire lobby when I realized I probably should figure out how to get my keys. I called the number to the Inn and what sounded like a friendly elderly man picked up. “Hello, I’m trying to check in,” I explained to him as I knelt on the rug, my butt raised in the air, zooming in on the possessed baby angel’s face and adding it to my snap story. “Oh yes, one moment,” the voice said and then hung up. I sat back down on the couch. I looked at the sign sitting on the table:

Wifi Network: MIVI HOUSE

Password: happeniss 

Do they know happiness is spelled wrong? I looked at the frogs whose heads looked like they had turned slightly. The MIVI HOUSE, where you check in but you don’t check out…..

Twenty minutes and seven thousand snap chats later, a small Korean man came through a door that I thought was a closet with a set of keys. “Hello,” he said grabbing my bags and beginning to drag them up the stairs past the frogs. “Uh, my name is Jennifer, I have a reser-” I trailed after him standing at the bottom of the stairs, peering up at him as he marched up the stairs like a robot. I looked at the frogs and began following the little Korean man. At the top of the stairs was a floral wallpapered hallway and a row of wooden doors with gold placards on the outside each reading a different name. When we got to M. Moore, the Korean set my luggage down and unlocked the door. As it opened and I stepped inside I was blasted by freezing cold air. I didn’t even get a chance to ask who M. Moore was before the Korean man nodded, an accomplished look on his face, he had successfully taken me to my room- his job was finished. He marched away without another word and I was left alone. I closed the door and looked around. The bed had a huge wooden frame and above the bed spread, which was covered in little blue birds, there was a series of wooden heads, small heads, carved into the headboard. When I looked closer their faces looked youthful, but pained. I shuddered, wooden…child heads. Next to the bed was a statue of a naked male wearing a Grecian looking skirt and feathers around his ears. He was embracing a horse that looked like it was being branded from behind, its eyes fierce and its mouth open and all it’s horse teeth showing. A chill went down my spine.

I walked across the room passing a massive wooden dresser which contained a lamp with a base of copper men, clothed and in top hats, playing different string and horn instruments, and a stack of books. I picked up one of the books, Tender is the Storm and put it back down, unable to look at the rest of the collection. I opened the bathroom door and was met by a drippy sink, pink cheetah towels that were crusty to the touch, and a toilet that I can only describe as ancient looking. It wasn’t not clean, it just looked rusted over and like it may fall apart on you somehow. Like if you sat down the seat might shift and if you tried to flush the handle would break off. I turned to the corner of the bathroom and looked at the shower. The rope shower head was attached to the ceiling and was wrapped and hanging in a way that made it look slightly like a noose. The shower curtain was nice though, it was purple and had a chain of smiling cartoon cats across the top. It was then I noticed the soap in the shower. It was an unmarked bottle of yellow liquid, on the outside of the plastic bottle was a picture of a psychedelic toad. I sniffed it. It smells like salad dressing. 

I took my phone out and had started to take a snap chat of the rips in the wallpaper, drawing REDRUM with the paint tool to send to my parents when my phone started buzzing. It was Dakota, who was going to meet me in Oahu the next day. “How’s the Inn?” he asked. I didn’t even know where to begin, “There’s wooden heads on the bed and bluebirds, REDRUM, romance novels, I didn’t bring soap, statues of naked men, trumpets, horse teeth!” I said. “Ok, ok, I don’t need to know anymore, is it cold at least?” “Freezing…like…like HELL,” I stuttered. “Hell is hot Jenn, are you going to be ok?” I had opened my suitcase and was covering the statue next to my bed with a shirt. “Yeah, yeah, of course,” I said as I draped my underwear over all the wooden heads above my bed. “I’ll sleep,” I said.

Sleep, sleep, sleep I repeated over and over to myself later that night as I lay in my blue bird wooden head bed, smelling like toad salad dressing soap, trying to will myself to sleep. I imagined the statues coming to life in the dark and crawling onto the bed to possess me and I finally understood why people don’t enjoy scary movies. I looked up and could see the lace from my underwear dangling above me, but it didn’t help, I knew what was underneath…a wooden head. I wondered if I should try reading, but I hadn’t brought a book with me. I went back to the dresser and looked at Tender is the Storm again. “Headstrong heiress Sharisse Hammond wants no part of the New York society marriage that has been arranged for her. So she heads west across a vast and dangerous land — with no intention of honoring her agreement to become the mail-order bride of a rugged Arizona rancher.” I put it down and looked at the other book, a Bible. I climbed back into the bed and turned the TV on. I put HGTV on and felt slightly reassured as I watched a man refurbish a couch. Then my mind started wandering and I started thinking about how I was on an island, far away from all the states on the mainland, and how if I became possessed, I would probably just sink into the ocean and die alone, but this was not an unfamiliar thought. I’ve contemplated this before while safe in my own home. I finally fell asleep underneath the series of heads to the complaints of a newly wed couple that the bathroom their realtor showed them only had one sink, but they did like that the appliances were upgraded. Surprisingly, the only nightmare I had was that my car was getting repossessed because of neglected payments.

In the morning light, the first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes was a used bandaid stuck to the wall across from where you lay your head on your pillow. This is the second most hanis thing I’ve ever seen in a hotel room next to my pillow. Once when staying in a hotel in Northern California, some hostile guest had carved the word bitch into the wall. I guess this is a common area to vandalize if you feel the need to. I sent my mom a snap of the bandaid to which she responded, Jenn is that yours?, and then took another shower using the toad soap and crusty towels before running out the door to go to work. On my way down the stairs I noticed some porcelain dolls wearing petty coats that I had missed last night and I stopped to snap them. Snap chat has completely ruined my life because I cannot just live without feeling the urgent need to document not just all the weird things I see, but me being weird and sending it out to everyone I know, which if explained using legal jargon is probably just simply defined as harassment. I imagine my old boss from the mainland who I never talk to, but am still “snap chat friends” with, opening snaps from me of creepy dolls and weird lamps, or me lip syncing Mariah Carey songs while driving, and just wondering why I’m haunting her and why she hasn’t deleted me out of her life completely yet.

When Dakota got to the hotel, I followed him around watching his face, waiting for his eyes to widen or his expression to change, but he didn’t even raise his eyebrows. Instead, he chose to focus on how pleasant the temperature was. It’s always hot and humid in Hawaii so it’s true, you do appreciate concealed rooms that are cold, but his ability to block out everything else was a testament to his ability to see the light at the end of the darkest tunnel. “Wow, what is this system?! It’s so cold in here!” “I know,” I said tapping my foot on the floor, “I’m suspicious of it to,” I added, looking into the eyes of the angry horse. “No, it’s great!” he said. “Just wait until you meet the toilet,” I advised, “You want to talk about how cold it is, that old can will freeze your ass off when you sit down on it,” I told him. He stared at me expressionless. “Ice cheeks,” I whispered, placing my hand on the dresser and realizing it was resting on top of the Bible.

Dakota and I survived the Manoa Inn without becoming possessed, unless the possession hits you randomly, weeks after your stay. There was one night we returned and the bathroom door was shut, but the light was on, casting an eerie glow. “IT’S HAPPENING,” I said, turning to run out the door. “Stop, we probably left the light on,” Dakota said turning on the other lights and opening the door. We peered inside. “They gave us new towels,” Dakota pointed out. I ran my hand down the new brown cheetah towels. “Still crusty though…” I observed. We saw not another soul the entire week, it was like we were staying in our own private haunted house with tiny Koreans living in the walls. We checked out in a similar fashion to checking in, only this time a tiny Korean woman  came out of the closet door and took the keys from not me, but Dakota. She either wasn’t aware, or she didn’t seem suspicious or phased that a different person returned the keys than the one that checked in, but again, no questions asked. Just a polite, “Thank you, see you next time,” and then she disappeared through the magic door. Overall, I would recommend this Inn to everyone and I’m hoping to copy and paste this entire thing to the Manoa Inn’s Yelp page while also rating it five stars. I’d add that you should defiantly go in the fall, right before Halloween, it’s the only appropriate holiday to spend at the lovely Manoa Valley Inn.

Small Town Gossip, Fleeing the Island, and Requesting Britney Spears at Pirate Taverns

Living on an island is like living on a small planet separate from the rest of the world, especially the Big Island, which lacks a Chipotle. You are either off the grid in the ocean or jungle, in your office or place or work, your home, or on Alli drive, which is “the downtown,” there’s nowhere to escape to. I don’t mean to sound like a tavern wench, but I am still young, and going out is fun once and awhile. LA is full of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, concert halls, museums, etc, it was a constant over stimulation of people and activity. New happening places opening all the time, places named “M Bar,” “The Bungalow,”  “SevenGrand,” or “Tigerheat” (guess which one was a gay bar). Here on the Big Island, you have only a handful of places to go out if you are young. Places called “Humpys,” “Dolphin Spit”, and one of the most popular, a place called “Laverne’s.”  There was a popular bar called “The Frisky Seal” but it was shut down, or turned into Laverne’s, I’m unclear as to what happened to The Frisky Seal except that it does not exist anymore because it just got too out of hand.

If you go to Laverne’s you will find the leathery, salty island elders who still get drunk and dance on the weekend, and the entire young staff of the Four Seasons Resort. The Four Seasons is like the hub of the Big Island. If living on the island was a futuristic adventure movie, The Four Seasons would be most closely related to The Capitol in the Hunger Games. The utopia that rests in its own secluded paradise amongst the lava rock, an institution belonging to the elite people. It employs almost 1,200 people, so most likely anyone you encounter has some connection with the resort. That being said, being inside of the resort itself, is kind of like being back in high school, absolutely no boundaries or understanding of when to be intentionally unobtrusive. It must be some sort of universal law that any big establishment in a small town cultivates a strong desire to gossip even if that establishment is not forcing you to learn Algebra, but is giving you money every two weeks along with dental insurance. For the three months I worked there, I found myself doing it. You’d be sitting down with someone from a different department at lunch and it would be like a cosmic pull, a witchy spell was put over you and all you could discuss was everything wrong with everyone you work with, who is dating who, and who you saw out at Lavern’s the night before. “She was totally grinding with some black guy she had just met at Humpys,” I’d say casually, my inner self screaming  I HATE MYSELF SO MUCH, WHO AM I?

The few times I went to Lavern’s I was with friends who all work at The Four Seasons and like usual, I found myself separated from the group and lingering around the DJ booth. The DJ is always an enormous local Hawaiian, who fills up and sometimes spills out of their booth, smooshed behind their computer. I’ll pace back and forth in front of them, glancing up every once in awhile until I have enough courage. “Can you play Britney Spears?” I’ll shout and they will look at me in disgust. At first there was a DJ who I think felt sorry for me. His kind eyes looked at me, wearing cowboy boots and a long dress, my eyes all buggy standing before him and I thought he might reach out to pat me on the shoulder, poor white girl, alone on the island, lost and confused and at Lavernes. He played “Gimme More,” by Britney Spears and I went behind his booth and gave him a hug. A one sided hug, more like I wrapped my bony arms around his girth and he went rigamortis . Once he realized I was the only one on the dance floor, screaming at people “he’s playing Britney! Dance with me!” the DJ stopped listening to my requests and I think spread the word throughout the DJ community because now when I approach the DJ booth, no matter who it is, it’s like they all go instantly deaf and blind. “Can you play Oops I Did It Again?” I’ll scream over the music and they will stare idly through me like I’m a ghost.

While you would think having the dance floor all to yourself and dancing to Britney Spears circa 2007 would make you feel like a star,  it actually just makes you  feel very feminine in the most ridiculous way, like you were in Vegas at a bachellorette party wearing a glowstick penis around your neck and celebrating the last night of your single sisterhood. If I were to be joined by a Hawaiian brah, it might give me some sort of clout, but I think that might just be a fantasy of mine. Seeing a large local Hawaiian man dance to Britney Spears, it would be such a juxtaposition, a dramatic culture clash, one of those moments that makes life exciting and beautiful and I just wish I could make it happen. Capture it in an Instagram video and hashtag it to death. Maybe then I would feel like I have accomplished all I can on this island and venture on to a new place to have new adventures.

“Leaving the island,” is a term you will hear often as there always seems to be people preparing to leave the island. Being someone who finally just settled down on the island, it is a term that panics me. I’ll meet someone I really like and then hear about their plans to “leave the island.” I never thought that in casual conversation with my mother on the phone that I would say things like, “it’s not possible to date him, he may leave the island.” It sounds absurd. “Jenn one day you will want to leave the island…I hope..” my mom will respond. “Of course I will leave the island! One can’t live their whole life secluded in the jungle, talking to a feral cat and spending weekend nights at pirate taverns with four star resort employees, but that’s where I am right now and honestly it’s not that bad!” The phone will go silent, as it always does, and I’m sure my mother is silently questioning her role as the woman who brought me into the world. Where did Steve and I go wrong? 

I imagine myself on first dates, inquiring innocent males about fleeing the island. “What are your hobbies?” they will ask and I will respond prematurally, “Woah pal, I’m not giving that up until you answer me this. Do you plan on fleeing the island in the next year to two years?” They will feel pressured to not only have their life mapped out into some contrived timeline, but also weirdly have me now included in this plan. Me, this random stranger. “Maybe don’t use the word flee,” my mom, who hopes to have grandchildren one day, will say trying to help me.

The truth is, the island is a nice place to be in love. Besides being beautiful, it’s geographical vastness and the smallness of it’s population allows you to really get to know someone and develop a meaningful relationship through not just the daily grind of life, but through adventure. Snorkeling, jumping off cliffs into crystal clear water, jungle rain, off roading, these things were all fantasys to the city dwellers in Los Angeles.It’s a very sacred place. With the wrong frame of mind though, I do see how the island can quickly turn into Shutter Island, completely isolated, full of spooky things like jungle boars and wandering hobos hitchhiking, and feral cats that aren’t actually your best friend, but just waiting for you to die alone and eat you.

Figs

My second or third night after I moved into the jungle shanty, a small cat showed up on my porch. It was black and white and scrawny with a protruding chin that made it look more like a baby tiger than a house cat. I looked at it through the screen door and it let out a howl, a screetching, deafening howl and I quickly drew the blinds. I am not a big fan of cats, I actually don’t like them at all, and I didn’t see how this one would be any different. I was on the phone with my friend when I peered out the window and noticed it was still sitting there. It’s eyes were big but slanted, they looked half open, like it was stoned. “Ugh, this cat looks like Satan, I don’t know who he belongs to,” I told my friend on the phone. “Jenn, that might be your spirit animal,” she said. “Spirit animals find you when you are in distress or misguided. You should embrace him,” she advised. The next time I saw my landlord I asked about the cat. “Oh he’s a shop cat, he was here when we moved in and he just hangs around, we feed him but he really just roams free.” A he. A boy jungle cat. 

The next day he showed up again but this time I didn’t turn off all the lights and pretend to not be home. I opened the door and waited. He didn’t come in or approach me but instead we sat there looking at each other until I pet him on the head. He started to howl again, and I studied him more closely. Besides looking perma-stoned, because his eyes were half closed, he also looked mean, similar to how I look when just idly staring off into space. Resting bitch face, he has it too. I have always envisioned my spirit animal to be some sort of fragile insect, like a grasshopper or moth, but I guess a demonic semi wild cat made sense too. His paws were all muddy and he was kind of scrawny. If he was a human I imagine him to be one of those underweight, artsy loner hipsters, his hair always slightly messy, a wanderer unable to settle down anywhere. He had a strange walk too, kind of a sideways strut, like a muscle man who trains on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Because he was black and white I decided to name him Figuaro like the cat in Pinnochio. It seemed classy and somehow ironic because he was a ferel jungle cat, not some aristocat who lives inside and sleeps in one of those carpet cat towers. After knowing him for a week I shortened his name to Figs. Now, months into our relationship sometimes I call him just Fig or Figlet when he’s causing trouble. True to my style, I welcomed Figs into my shanty, my life, and most dramatically, my heart and I can’t help but have learned a few things from him…from this ferel cat. And here are the things:

It’s ok not to roam with a pack. Most cats are independant souls, but in the jungle all the animals seem to unite- the dogs and cats will kind of hang out with each other. Figs doesn’t really hang with the neighboring animals, he prefers the company of humans and really only a few humans, and on his terms. It’s not that he is unfriendly, or unlovable, he will cuddle up to me when I’m asleep and he likes to sit by me when I’m out on the porch. He’s just selective with whom he gives his time and attention to. If you don’t have an initial connection right at the beginning, Figs ain’t gonna be fake and pretend to be your friend.

Speak your mind, even if no one is listening or if everyone is telling you to shut up. At the crack of dawn, Figs will appear on the porch, sticks and dirt hanging off his whiskers, after a night of raising hell in the jungle and he will howl like he is telling you an incredible suspensful and entertaining story.  You could feed him, give him water, he’s not interested, he just wants to speak his mind. At first I found myself trying to silence him. I’d lie in my bed and yell “you’re the worst, you’re the worst!” And then I realized Figs just has a lot to say and someone needs to listen. Now I lie in my bed and scream, “No way Figs, really what happened, yeah I think that too sometimes!” Sometimes I hear him from afar and realize he’s just howling while hes walking through the grass. Kind of like a skitzophrenic homeless person walking down a city street. I don’t know what Figs sees but I wish I could understand him, because obviously it means a great deal to him.

Don’t apologize for the things you like, even if others think they are weird. Figs really enjoys cleaning his paws in my toliet bowl. It’s strange, but I also take it as the highest compliment in regards to the reputation of my toliet bowl. I’ve tried giving him normal water dishes but he chooses the toliet everytime. I’ll find him in there teetering on the rim, dipping his paws in and after careful observation it seems like he genuinely enjoys something about the whole experience. I’ll wait until he’s done and then clean his muddy paw prints off my toliet seat with bleach. “Figlet, you little bastard, most people would not be so kind to let you happily bathe in the toliet, but I understand. Most everything I like is particulary odd, and people will bring this to my attention and at times I feel deep shame. My favorite President is President Bartlet of Aaron Sorkin’s serial political drama The West Wing, but you can’t tell people that,” I’ll say while scrubbing the toliet and he will look up at me with those droopy half closed eyes and I can just tell, he wouldn’t give a shit what people thought.

Go bravely into the unknown with confidence that you will be ok. The property I live on is so big that you can hike all around it and once on a hike with a friend, I realized Figs had followed us. He looked so cute walking up the mountain, his odd little side strut combined with his bitch face, roaring as he went. He’s a tiny cat, in a big jungle, but he doesn’t seem to fear anything. Once, I found him down the street in the coffee feilds when I was driving home. I stopped the car and unrolled my window, “Figs?” I said as his little bitch face popped out of a bush. “Figs the gang of jungle boars hang out down here, what is wrong with you, do you want to get eaten?” I said out the window to a cat in a bush, confirming my status as craziest cat lady in the land. Figs just stared at me blinking and let out a small howl. Figs doesn’t care, his adventerous and brave spirit isn’t afraid or anxious of impeanding doom. He is obviously capable of handling whatever gets thrown at him, he has thus far.

Stand your ground, especially if it’s literally. Dakota enjoys petting Figs but with such force that its almost like gently beating him. Dakota will tower over Figs and run his hands over and over Fig’s body, fur flying everywhere. Instead of trying to run or scurry away like a puss, Figs just stands his ground, his body kind of scooting across the hardwood floor from the force, his ears all the way back and his eyes narrowed even more as he focuses on not falling over. And he never does. When Dakota stops, Figs just glares up at him and then struts away slowly and he kind of resembles Beyonce walking off stage.

Pay no mind to the haters. Figs may look like a bitch, but chickens actually are bitches. A group of them will strut by squawking and swarmning the porch, pecking at Fig’s food and shitting on my porch and its almost like Figs becomes blind and literally cannot see them. They will be causing a fuss and trying to invade his space and he will casually lift his head, look at them and continue napping. He’s such a G.

Be bold. Everyday when I come home, I am greeted by tiny Figs, emerging from somewhere in the jungle and prancing across the grass screeching. He will rub up against my legs and honestly I look forward to going home because of this. Pathetic maybe, but such a consistent bold gesture cannot be undermined.

In all honesty, I mostly like Figs because he relieves himself outside and I don’t have to keep a disgusting, creepy litter box in my house. I realized this after Dakota decided he wanted to get a kitten. “Ew but you’ll always be buying litter..” I pointed out. “I know, but you love Figs,” he reminded me. “Yeah but Figs is wild, he comes and goes as he pleases. Figs isn’t like a normal cat…” I said trailing off deep in thought. Figs is my mystical spirit animal, sent from the ansestors to be the Mushu to my Mulan. I can never move now, I’d have to take Figs with me, and that would just never work. When I got home that night and watched as he bounded across the lawn I kneeled down and gave him a pat on the head. “We’re jungle dwellers you and I,” I said and Figs let out a low growl, like he cosmically understood.

Da Dump

Shortly after I moved to Hawaii I learned that residents of the Big Island are responsible for taking their own trash to the dump. At first I was enchanted by this. The thought of being my own garabage woman was somehow thrilling, but after some consideration, I quickly realized that being a garbage woman only seemed inticing to me because of my curiosity to see what’s in other people’s garbage. The damning reality is I don’t want to dispose my own garbage, I just want the authority and opportunity to snoop through people’s trash in hopes of finding something shocking and interesting, like discarded dental records.

Gathering up your trash every week is like being forced to go to therapy. You are constantly confronting truths about your continued survival that you have tried to literally throw away from the rest of humanity. Chicken skins, three empty pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a dozen Q-tips full of ear wax. Used tissues, old lettuce and empty yogurt cups. Bacon grease, leftover spagetti thats gone bad, expired milk, and eggshells. On the mainland all your unusable remains or byproducts of something are just thrown in a bin and wheeled to the end of the sidewalk, privately concelead and lugged away to disappear forever by someone who more closey shares the qualities and descriptions of a knight, rather than a person employed by a public or private enterprise to collect waste. The whole experience leaving you with the peace of mind that you do not create any sort of debris or bad smell in the air. But out here on the island where most people own a machete,  you have to shove your trash into the back of your car and drive it all the way to the dump. You sit with your trash, you know what you’ve created, and you can’t help but feel like some sort of monster. This.. odor that repulses me, my own existence smells foul and is making me dry heave, you think as you drive. How do I give up, but keep going? 

I go to the dump a lot with Dakota. Living on the island means that at some point in a new relationship, or friendship, you will consalidate all your garbage and sit with it, together, for however long it takes for you to drive it to the dump. A type of horrifying intamicy that I don’t think even my parents, who have been married thirty two years have ever expirienced with one another. We will be driving down the road, the back of his Jeep full of grabage bags with mysterious brown liquid seeping out from the bottom. “Turn the air off it doesn’t help,” I’ll whine, my eyes watering. Dakota will look at me, his face pained, hunched over the steering wheel, and begin unrolling the window and trying to hold his breath. In LA I used to notice all the women doing their makeup in their car while driving, poking themselves in the eye while trying to change lanes, and dusting their face with concelar while stopped at a red light. Here in Hawaii, I notice all the people on their way to the dump, casually gagging inside their car or hanging their head out the window as they drive above the speed limit.

Because everyone has to dispose of their trash, the dump is a really busy, happening place on the island. There’s always a line of frantic looking people waiting in their car with heaps of garbage. I envy people with trucks, sitting in their seperate fresh air conditioned space, their trash in a pile in the back safely away from them. Trucks are hard to buy or find on this island and really, the reason must be because people want to create that important boundary from their waste every dump run. When it is your turn to fling your trash into a large metal chute gleefuly realeasing it from your responsibility, you back your car up for easy access and get out as quickly as possible. I will fall out, my face streaked with tears from my eyes watering and Dakota will jump out on the other side, sucking in air because he’s been holding his breath the whole time. We will run around opposite sides of the car and join up at the back and swiftly begin to throw trash into the air together.

The last time we were there, we had shuttled the trash in my Mazda, and we were parked next to an old man in a pick up truck who was throwing away chopped up wood. He was eyeing my trunk and as he flung what looked like a table leg into the abyss of trash he said, “That’s a nice sized trunk you got there.” I looked in my trunk, and back at the old man, who was really just a pile of bones held together by a bandana around his neck. “Thank you,” I said trying to be polite. “You could take a nice bath in that size of a trunk,” he continued, and I thought I saw a twinkle in his left eye. I peered in my trunk and imagined it full of soapy bubbles, the old man in the middle, covered in suds except for his foot which he was scrubbing with a loofa. I cringed. Once after having a conversation with a midget who was inside of a frozen pizza freezer in the Ralphs on Sunset Blvd (it was summertime, he was hot, and conviently fit inside the freezer. I was hungry and buying a Digorno and that is the story of how we met),  I asked my father if things like this happen to him and he very calmy replied, “some people just attract these things.” I felt complimented and insulted at the same time and now at the dump in Hawaii, I realized this was simply just another lucky moment in my life. I looked at six foot six inch Dakota and my brow furrowed. “An elementary school sized child could absolutely take a bath in my trunk but,” I said, patting Dakota on the back, “not all of us could.” The old man’s mouth kind of sagged open but the silence that ensued signified there was nothing left to say about bathing in the trunk of my car.  I looked behind us at the man as we drove away. “That looked like nice mahaugony he was tossing,” Dakota commented. “I would love to dig through his garbage” I said. Dakota looked disturbed. “I bet it’s so spooky,” I tried to explain. “I bet that wood used to be something scary, like a rocking chair he chopped up.”

People sometimes ask me what it’s like to live on an island and I usually brag about how it’s paradise, but now I tell them it’s only paradise as long as you have a secret dumpster. When they look confused I have to explain that sometimes the dump will surprise you and be closed for no apparent reason and you will be left sitting outside of it with all your trash. In that instance you can’t just simply bring it home, what a cruel and merciless defeat. It benefits you to keep your eye out for dumpsters around town that you could possibly dump all your trash into inconspicuously and without being arrested. Dakota actually taught this to me and it’s been one of the most benefical pieces of knowledge I have gained since moving here. This being said, sometimes I find myself in the middle of the night, throwing my garbage away in an unmarked dumpster behind a nail salon owned by a family of Thai immigrants.

When I grocery shop now, I only think of the waste it will leave behind and what might end up dribbling out into my car. Lucky for me, Mac and Cheese is acceptable because all that is left behind is an empty clean cardboard box and a sprinkle of odorless cheese dust. The benefit of living in a jungle is that if I find forgotten parsley in my fridge I can toss it’s slimy, pungent remains, guilt free into a compost pile behind some palms and feed the earth.

Da dump is not advertised often about local Big Island life, it often gets lost in the stoke of da waves, da jungle and da Poke shack. But da dump is one of the things that makes me feel like a real islander. I’ve experienced it enough times to tell my grandchildren I truly lived on an island. Instead of heckling them about walking nine miles in the snow to school, I will heckle them about trash. “You see that package of six sausages you just bought? You think you’ll just eat those up but what if you dont? What if you tire of them and one goes left uneaten only to be forgotten in the fridge? Back when I lived on an island you had better eat all of those within the expiration date. Not unless you wanted to personally transport that rotten weiner to da dump, which is what I used to have to do. Respect me.