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.


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.

Are You Bummed Or Stoked?

Having a car in Hawaii has changed my life. Not only because I am no longer wandering around on the side of the road with all the wild turkeys, or lugging a backpack full of groceries up a hill, but because I’ve now been able to discover Hawaii’s radio stations. One in particular which has a talk show called “Bummed or Stoked,” that airs every morning around seven. Each day the host picks a topic and asks listeners to call in and explain why they are either bummed or stoked on it. “Today we are talking about……online shoppinggggg!” The male voice says, “Call us now and tell us if you’re bummed or stoked!” This caught my attention because for some reason I thought the topic may be something like social media, or Michelle Obama. But online shopping? “I’m bummed!” A woman said. “It’s so expensive to ship to the island and it takes so long!” “She’s bummmmmed!” The host confirmed. The next day it was T.V. “Are you bummed or stoked on T.V.?” “I’m bummed! Cable has so many commercials!” I haven’t listened to enough of these morning shows but from what I’m hearing the only people who call in are women, and they are all bummed about everything.

No one is very creative or inquisitive either. Like, I had questions about such a broad topic. T.V. as in the invention of the television? If so I am stoked that there is television. The ability for people to create shows and air them, what amazing creativity and storytelling! Not to mention media in general, a way to control all of society- true power! If you are wondering if I’m stoked or bummed about what’s on TV right now, I would have no idea because I am in a comitted relationship with Netflix and I’m a faithful partner. If we are talking about genres of television programming, I am stoked on all reality television except for Cops. “Let’s take another caller!” the host exclaimed.  “I am bummed on commercials,” another lady listener agreed, and not in a firey, passionate way as if you were on the phone with your bank trying to fix an incorrect charge, or ordering a pizza. In a friendly, pleasant way, like you were returning a call from a potential employer who wants to set up an interview.

Oh come on, I thought as I crept along behind a truck going 15 miles per hour. I want more! What about commercials? Be specific. What about the Carl’s Jr commercials with a hot girl eating a hamburger in a silver bikini? Does that bum you out? Because it bums me out. Or what about Adam Levine’s Pro Active skin care commercials? Those are a real bummer too. Just calling and cheerily announcing “I’m bummed about commercials!” and then hanging up? You were on the air, you had people listening to you. You missed your chance to voice your true opinons and thoughts to a wide spread audience. That’s all I want, the ability to be on the air reading my opinionated, whiny and complainy blog posts to people forced to listen because they are waiting to hear Jennifer Lopez’s “If you had my love” that was going to play right after.

Another interesting thing about Hawaii’s radio stations is the songs they play. I have heard The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” on multiple radio stations almost everyday. I’m not bummed about this, but it raises more questions. I have also heard Britney Spear’s “Toxic,” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” Fifth Harmony’s “Worth It,” R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” and a number of Taylor Swift and Phil Collins songs all on the same station. It’s basically my iPod, but being broadcasted. I’m stoked. Other things I’m stoked about:

I’m Stoked:

My jungle shanty. My new home is one of the most beautiful places I may ever live in my life. Complete with Koki frogs, beautiful sunsets, rainy nights and sunny mornings, I look forward to going home each night. Every moment spent there feels like a quiet escape from reality.

I’m Bummed:

Parking in my jungle shanty. My white mainland Mazda is zippy and small but not equipped for the jungle roads its now enduring everyday. It now lives in the middle of wet jungle grass underneath a tree that splatters juicy berry innards all over it. When dried, the berry juice looks exactly like blood and I drive around the island looking like the roadkill Queen. I will stare at it sitting there in the middle of an open jungle feild worrying the humid air is going to make the engine erode and waiting for the tires to fall off from constantly driving over uneven rocks, until I remember how for a year I parked it in a dirt alley behind an abandoned house in Hollywood that may have been a potential meth lab. It survived all the homeless squatting near it/sleeping under it so I’m sure it can handle it’s new exotic enviornment.

I’m Stoked:

Everywhere you look in Hawaii, there are magical couples. I always meet the best couples in Hawaii. First it was my beloved Alis and Jeremy, now I’ve met Leah and Roland, and Jolene and Dr. Head, all people who make an incredible team with their significant other, and who make me believe that, (along with my parents), we may be lucky enough to find a friend who you love and who you can create and live in your own special world with, a true partner to enjoy life with.

I’m Bummed:

I am literally on the highway to spinsterhood. Minus all the hope these couples are bestowing upon me, the cold reality may be that my life partner is my jungle shanty. Out of curiosity one night, I browsed Tinder- only to meet Koko, who in his picture is shirtless, has a tattoo of the Hawaiian islands across his chest and is wearing a crown of Hawaiian flowers around his bald head. The picture looks professional, like he got it done at a studio, because he is posed with his arms crossed in front of a muted backdrop. Maybe he dances on the beach with fire, I thought. When I mentioned this to my friend she said, “Maybe you are in Hawaii to just love yourself.” “But what about Koko?” I said, confused, and wanting to love Koko.

I’m Stoked:

My new cat Figs. I hate cats, and the night I moved into my jungle shanty a scrawny black and white one showed up on the porch, howling. I drew the curtains, turned off all the lights and hid until he went away. He showed up again the next morning and every night after. “He is your spirit animal,” my friend said once I told her. “He showed up in your time of self discovery.” This prompted me to open the curtains and take a closer look at this cat. His face was scowling, but in it, I saw myself. “You have resting bitch face too,” I said. He purred. I pet him. He let me pet him for awhile and then he left, disappearing into the darkness. When I realized he just wanted to hang out for a few minutes and then do his own thing, I named him Figauro. After I started to get to know him I shortened it to Figs. Figs is wryly and has a lot to say. When we sit together he meows constantly and I just let him let it all out. “You’ve seen some weird shit,” I tell him. From the sharp pitch and depth of his howl I can tell he’s pretty observant as well as opinionated. He climbs trees and chases chickens and enjoys shredded cheese and all these things endear me to him. Almost every night I come home he’s sitting on the porch waiting for me. There are nights when he’s off having adventures but that’s fine, his mystery is intruiging and I understand not wanting to get stuck in a routine. We hang out on the porch for awhile, sometimes he comes inside to meow and case the place and then he leaves. “Goodbye Figs, stay out of trouble,” I say as he swaggers off. I know he will get into trouble, mainly because he will show up in the morning with all sorts of shit in his whiskers. If Figs is my spirit animal, I’m ok with that. He’s kind of an ok cat.

I’m Bummed:

Figs is wild and now I’m attached. You can’t tame wild things and if he gets eaten by a jungle boar I will be bummed.

I’m Stoked:

Island life is great because when driving you can pull your car to the side of the road, jump out, and hack away at a coconut or banana tree with the machete you keep in your trunk. Drive around the island and keep your eyes open, you’ll see it everywhere.

I’m Bummed:

Apparently I stole a lady’s mangoes. The tree looked like it was up for grabs but it was not. She came out of nowhere as I was gleefully filling the trunk of my car with wild produce. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I kept saying as I unloaded it all, piling mangoes into her arms.

I’m Stoked:

Poke. So delicious.

I’m Bummed:

Spam. Even disguised as sushi and wrapped in seaweed and rice, it’s unidentified mixed meat that came from a can,

Throughout my day there are a million things that bum me out, but also that make me stoked. It’s a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. But sometimes it’s simple, you’re stoked to watch Cops, but bummed there’s a commercial. And the commercial will end and Cops will come back on. And that’s it. No big deal. Life doesnt have to be lived wading through the grey area all the time, it’s ok for it to be black and white. And always know that when you’re bummed, there’s usually always something coming up to be stoked about.

Riding The Bus

There is probably a semi-large staff of bus drivers on the Big Island, all assigned to different routes, but the one that drives the bus on my particular schedule is a real life Ogre. When I have, well, if I ever have children I won’t read them fairy tales, I will tell them tales of their real life mother who rode a broken down bus on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean which was driven by a lumpy, slightly grey, toothy Ogre. My children will be tough, they won’t yell at me to stop or have nightmares, they will be intrigued, just like I was, with this bus driving Ogre. “Mommy, what do you mean lumpy? Were her teeth sharp or just missing?” they will ask me, enchanted and fearless. “One was kind of jagged, pretty sharp, pointy,” I’ll say.

The first day I rode the bus, I was an hour early. My jungle shanty is a bit off the gird and to get to the bus stop requires a mile and a half journey through coffee fields. My job begins at 7:15 am, and the first bus into town is scheduled at 6 am, the next one arriving at 8 am, which would be too late meaning I would miss my job and be unable to live in my jungle shanty, so you can see how in preparation, I left my house at 5 in the morning. I can run a mile in around six and a half minutes so obviously if I am walking a mile and a half I must allot myself an hour. As I walked in the darkness down the path with roosters and chickens crowing and rustling in the bushes I kept feeling like someone was behind me. I used the feel this way when walking back to my Hollywood apartment from the grocery store at night. Only there, someone was usually behind me, and they were usually talking to themselves or pushing a shopping cart full of old bottles. Here, I realized I was being followed by a gang of weenie dogs. Now that I’ve worked with animals, I fancy myself some kind of female Francis of Assisi. “Hi weenies,” I called out to them, just as they began to show all of their teeth. “Weenies?” I asked as all four of them began to take off in a run- straight towards me. I stood there watching them charge towards me, just kind of preparing myself for the scenario of what was about to happen. “Vicious weeeeenies” I whispered creepily to myself as I took off down the road, turning to look behind me as they kept following me. They were kind of small, but they out numbered me. Can I kick them? I thought. No, just keep running. I can run a mile just shy of five minutes and fifty seconds when a pack of evil weenie dogs are chasing me.

I arrived at the bus stop drenched in sweat and an hour early. As I sat there watching everything around me begin to glow in the morning sun, I noticed a turkey that had wandered out into the middle of the road, trying to cross it- just as a huge lifted truck came barreling down the highway. Oh my Go- Turkey’s scream, it is one of the most ungodly and terrifying noises I have ever heard, but the cloud of feathers that burst into the air was strangely, and darkly beautiful as they floated around in the soft morning light. The whole thing haunted me all week long. As I sat at this beautiful bus stop in the middle of the jungle, turkey feathers and death hanging in the air, the bus finally arrived. As the doors opened I stood at the bottom of the steps peeing up at my driver. I realized I looked like I was wearing tie dye scrubs because some patches of sweat had dried leaving random sweat spots all over my top – I’m sure on my butt as well. Wearing scrubs always makes my butt so uncomfortably hot for some reason, it may be the material, or lack of air conditioning in my office, or island climate- swampy scrub butt is how I describe it to my boss, as he cringes in disgust. “Good morning!” I squeaked as I pulled dollar bills out of my pockets and shuffled myself up the steps of the bus. As I shoved my money into the money compartment I realized this woman was staring at me like the weenies had. Their faces just full of agitation that I was in their territory, intruder. I smiled at her, my dopey smile where I don’t show any teeth that instantly turns me into five year old me again. “Sit down..please,” she said and I realized I had lingered too long, staring at her and smiling. She said please, how polite, maybe she is kind and grandmotherly. I turned to look at the bus. There were three people on it- all hunched over, asleep, although I can’t really be sure. In retrospect, they may have been dead, I never witnessed any of them wake up or get off the bus while I was riding it. I took a seat in the front, right behind the Ogre- because I have absolutely no common sense.

As she drove she silently grunted. At first I found it comical, and then I was afraid. The grunts were not normal sounding. Not like an overweight person just shifting around, the grunts were of a different time, like the medieval ages where people jousted one another for sport. Her grunts were loud enough to be heard over the sounds of the bus, which sounded like at any minute the wheels would fly out from underneath the Ogre, me, and the three dead passengers, leaving us pummoling off the cliff and into the abyss of the jungle and joining the turkey in heaven.

My jungle shanty is approximately eight miles away from my work. By car it takes less than ten minutes with no traffic. By bus, it takes thirty minutes. Thirty minutes of stop, go, grunt, stop, grunt, stop, grunt, stop again. I was studying my bus driver in the rear view mirror. Her face looked hardened and cold. What kind of life has she had?  Suddenly she noticed me and our eyes locked in the rear view mirror and I dopily grinned at her again. She stared back, ice cold. Grunt. I looked outside and realized my stop was coming up. I was looking around for a line or button to push to let her know I needed to get off but I didn’t see one anywhere. It was still just me and the dead people, we hadn’t picked anyone up at a stop so I had no one to demonstrate how to get off the bus correctly. I grunted. In unison with the Ogre.

Left to my own devices, I have no street smarts. I seem to get by because no one really notices me, I’m not very threatening, so I can usually just bounce around under the radar and I survive. But when traveling on a bus and needing to get off, I have to be a presence, a presence on the bus that needs to ask for the bus to stop. This may seem like no big thing for most people, but to an awkward human being, this is a challenging and exhausting task. I stood up in the bus and the Ogre’s eyes turned sharply towards me in the rear view mirror. I inched into the aisle and the bus lurched, causing me to half fall over. “Can I get off here?” I asked from the floor. “Wait,” the ogre told me. “Ok,” I said watching as my work passed by the window. Now, I was standing next to the Ogre, holding onto the pole by her seat to balance myself. I wish I had a picture of the two of us, me standing by her wearing sweaty scrubs, we were so close that if we both smiled it would look like we were friends. But her scowl, and my wide, frightened eyes would reveal the truth- we were strangers.

“Um how long do I have to wait to get off the bus?” I asked timidly as we went flying down a hill, all I could see was the hill I would have to walk all the way back up to get to work. Suddenly the bus darted to the side of the road and stopped. I looked behind me at my fellow passengers who still were hunched over comatose in their seats. The doors flew open and I looked at the Ogre. “Thank you,” I said falling all over myself as I stumbled down the steps. “Have a nice day-” I whispered as the doors slammed shut and the bus took off. I stood there in the cloud of dirty bus exhaust looking up at the hill that lay before me. If I was younger, I would look at the hill and the Ogre the same way. I can climb this hill, and charm this monster, my younger self would have thought. But now, I know. You will always have to climb the hill and it’s always worth it because it feels damn good once you get to the top all by yourself, but don’t waste your charms on Ogres. There’s only so much energy you can give of yourself.

Instead, I reveled in my Ogre bus driver. I knew everyday when my bus arrived I could be unfriendly and silent, grunting to her as I shoved my two dollars into the money machine before taking my seat. I actually think she liked me better that way, I certainly did. It was almost as if we had merged into one soul, both risking our lives riding this broken down bus, both unsure of what we were doing, both upset and angry at the injustices of the world. Why must some have to take the bus and some never have to..and worse, why must some drive the bus, our serious faces told each other. Our grunts solidifying our sameness. I imagine myself telling my kids one day, “There are Ogres in the world, and you will encounter them, but you can’t believe they are against you, even if you feel they are. The minute you start believing everyone you encounter is against you is the moment you yourself will turn into an Ogre.”

When You Lose In Love

It really isn’t a surprise I guess, but Josh turned out to be untrue to me. The statement itself makes me sound like such a weepy ninneymuggins- I can’t say it out loud without the added drama of holding my fist to my heart in woe. But his mistake has cost him and myself any sort of stable or safe harbor to dock ourselves in as we navigate through this adventure we embarked on together. It is my fault of course, because I chose this, I chose him, carelessly, and recklessly. What he doesn’t realize is that when I look at him now, he appears to be the same. I don’t see him as smaller, or as a ninneymuggins himself. It’s myself that has changed to me. When I look in the mirror now, I see someone smaller and of less worth. Someone who is not enough. And this has turned out to be a dangerous feeling. It has overwhelmed me, and knocked me down into the trenches, and when no one is around, you can get left there, until you are able to pull yourself out- which can take some time.

When down in the trenches I often think of ninneymuggins things like how one of the most beautiful, rare and invaluable gifts of life, is this idea of love. Love reassures you that although you are capable of overcoming what may come your way on your own,  when you find yourself at your weakest, there is a person more courageous than you at the time, who will just be there. Humans are not perfect, and therefore nothing we do will ever be, but love highlights human beings and human nature at both our worst and our best. This courage that you can show someone else, is one of the most important and rewarding parts of love. But courage requires incredible risk, and this is why love is so fragile. If we fail in love, we ourselves risk breaking. Cowardice will leave you fully formed, unbroken and unscathed, and completely alone. But there is always hope, where there is weakness, there is always bravery.

Cowardice is loud. It screams, “I’m writing you off. Go away. You deserve worse and I deserve better.” It’s the Rihanna song “You look so dumb right now/ Standing outside my house/ Trying to apologize/ You’re so ugly when you cry/ Please.” Or the Beyonce song about packing up all the boxes to the left and “get gone.”  But courage is quiet and forgiving, it’s more of a soft and poetic James Taylor song or Stevie Nicks talking about how “rulers make bad lovers, so you better put your kingdom up for sale.” James Taylor and Stevie love and lose and learn and forgive and let go- they are ninnymuggins too. Celine Dion too, she’s the biggest ninneymuggins of them all- but my God how can you not realize the enormous capacity at which hearts can break and heal when Celine is wearing glittery gowns and declaring her heart will go on in a high falsetto while pounding her chest on stage in the middle of Vegas? Courage isn’t always dramatic or bold though. It can be as understated as not leaving when someone is upset, actively listening to someone else, reaching out to hold another’s hand, any small gesture that quietly tells another “you aren’t alone, I’m down here with you and I’m not leaving you here, because you are enough.”  I believe everyone is deserving of that feeling.

But sometimes you just won’t be enough or you will make someone else feel like they aren’t enough- and this is where you will get stuck. Either standing outside someone’s house trying to apologize while they call you dumb, or being inside the house packing everything they own in a box to the left and telling them to “get gone”- I’ve been on both sides. And both sides leave you completely dumbfounded, wondering what to do next and what to make of our relationships when we have lost in love. When you’ve made a mistake, do you put up your defenses, scatter eggshells around yourself so that anyone who tries to approach you has to tread so lightly that they will never be heard?  I have learned that defenses only build castle walls around yourself (and rulers make bad lovers), whereas admitting “I was wrong,” can be a very strong beginning.

Love can be many different conversations, but it is never silencing. It is not one person on a soap box, if anything it is two people down on the ground, and at an equal level, sharing and listening to one another. This is hard for people, we seem to live in a world full of alphas, and love is disappointing to us in so many ways because it is a blaring reminder that we are imperfect, at times dishonest and ugly, and at times regular human beings. We spend so much of our time trying to hide that from one another. But what’s the point? I’ve made mistakes, let me tell you about them, let me teach you what I have learned. We are each others greatest teachers, especially when it comes to love.

Maybe you can never lose in love for this reason, it is a constantly evolving and in flux dialogue that we will share with others (romantic or not) all of our lives- or as long as we are alive and part of the human race.