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.


Wearing Scrubs In Hawaii

When I got to Hawaii, I had no idea what kind of job I would get. I, like usual, had no plan. If anyone asked I would tell them, “I plan on teaching….or working in hospitality.” The two are not related in any way, and all it really revealed to anyone was that I had no plan at all. I applied to almost every hotel on the Big Island and got absolutely no call backs, but I did however have a few interesting teaching interviews:

“And what did you do at David LaChapelle?”

“I worked on photoshoots. On set I would do all sorts of things. Run errands, cater to the talent. I worked with all sorts of people, like Amanda Lepore.  I also was responsible for making chains of life out of photographs of naked bodies.”

“Chains of nak-who is Amanda Lepour?”

“A transgender pop singer. One of her big hits is ‘I don’t know much about clothes but my hair looks fierce. Wait, I think it might just be called my hair looks fierce, but that’s the hook.”

“I am not why do you want to work with…special needs children? Is that why you moved to Hawaii?”

I paused, because it had all become very unclear. One day, after another awkward and confusing teaching interview, I received a call from a veterinary hospital asking me to come in for an in person interview. My in person interview ended with a follow up working interview the next day. “Do you like animals?” My friend asked me once I got home and told her. “Of course! I like cats in theory but I would never actually want to care for one. Feral cats are cool, I think I like cats because they are so bitchy and to themselves, ya know? Although, I think everyone should be the kind of person their dog thinks they are. And I am very fond of sea turtles.” My friend was quiet, and we sat together in silence, but a blaring silence, one that screamed impending disaster, hopefully one that didn’t involve death or lawsuits.

I had never really given animals much thought before. I love to look at cute pictures of puppies wearing funny hats as much as the next person, but other than that I never really… reach out to them. If I see a dog in passing on the street, I never pet it, I just smile at it and keep my distance, because animals are unpredictable. That dog could sense my fear and weakness and just go for my jugular. I have no idea. They are wild and have really tamed them? These beasts we walk around on leashes and buy fake stuffed squirrels for?  I mean, who do we think we are?

When I was a child I was scarred by three incidents involving animals. The first was involving snails. When I first learned to walk I would toddle around my grandmother’s garden stomping on snails who were eating her plants. “Smash them!” My grammie would instruct, pointing at one, slowly trying to escape the pathway leaving a trail of shiny, fluorescent slime behind. I would toddle over to it, wobbly and unstable in a way that made it look like I was dancing over it’s body, smooshing their gooey guts all over the sidewalk while my grandmother cheered me on. Later in life, the guilt of this would lead to me becoming an advocate of shelled slugs. When I saw a group of kids at recess, all gathered around an overturned snail, slowly sprinkling salt all over its boneless body and squealing as it bubbled up in pain, I would go a-wall. Tattling on them and calling them killers. In retrospect, I probably scarred them more than they scarred me, but I had a debt to repay.

The second, was my friend rolling her hamster, who was trapped in it’s “hamster ball,” down a flight of stairs. The hamster lived, but I don’t know how. I also called her a killer, even though she didn’t kill her hamster, and I’m not sure what her intention was. Some sort of sick enjoyment, rolling a tiny rodent down a flight of stairs in a plastic neon pink ball. Senseless. The last was when my friend’s older brother shot a cat with a bb gun. The image has been burned into my memory forever. The cat was white, it’s fur stained with red blood, running away from my friend’s evil older brother who was chasing it with a gun. I ran home screaming to my mom about blood and dead cats and I wept for days. My so-called safe, suburban childhood was full of animal abuse. Before going into my working interview I contemplated whether or not I should share any of these stories with the veterinary technicians or even the doctor- perhaps they would make me memorable or set me apart from the other candidates. I decided it absolutely would. “Don’t just offer that stuff up,” my friend told me, adding, “no offense.” I was offended.

When I got to the hospital which was surrounded by banana trees and in a huge blue house  that has been converted into an animal hospital, making it seem cozy and safe instead of sterile and scary, I was met by a group of girls who all looked around twenty-five, and all wearing scrubs. I was given a pair of scrubs to wear and told to change in the bathroom. In the bathroom, I stood looking at myself in my new uniform. My scrub top fit ok, but my bottoms were a little too short, and too wide around the waist, resulting in them sagging down my butt, but still awkwardly hovering above my shoes. I did not look like a doctor, I looked like I was wearing an ill fitting last minute Halloween costume. I had also been instructed to wear my hair up, so I fashioned it in a bun. When my hair is in a bun on top of my head I look like a ballerina, but when worn with ill fitting blue scrubs I look like a lunch lady. I gathered up the waist of my pants to hold them up and went to join the others.

I was immediately put in front of a phone and told by a vet technician to “do the recall list.” In front of me was a long list with names and numbers. “These are pets that we need to check up on, some of them have had surgery, some of them had vaccines, and so on and so on. Look up their records here.” She started clicking boxes on the screen, pulling up medical records. “And ask them the basic questions, are they eating and drinking normally, are they vomiting or having diarrhea and what their bowel movements are like. Any questions?” She sat down next to me, “I’ll be here if you need anything.” I looked at the list and realized residents in Hawaii name their pets interesting things- “Elehu, Pounder, Bijox, Moo, and Spit” were all cats. There was a “Bo,” a “Beau,” and a “BoBo,” all dogs, five “Konas,” also all dogs, three “Coco’s” two of which were cats, and one was a dog, another dog named “Kevin,” and the last name on my list was Hitler- a male cat, not neutered.

The first name on my list was “Zaboomafoo Leons.” When I looked at Zaboomafoo’s record it stated that Zaboomafoo was a male cat, who had just gotten neutered. I looked at the tech sitting next to me, who smiled at me encouragingly. I picked up the phone. In Hawaii, when you are making calls you begin with “Aloha!” and you end with “Mahalo.” “Aloha!” I squeaked, “This is Jennifer, calling from the Kona Veterinary Hospital. I am just calling to check on Zaboomafoo and see-” “Oh I was just about to call you!” the voice on the other end of the line said. “We noticed Zaboomafoo has been having watery poop, is this normal after the surgery he had?” I started to sweat. “Watery…waste?” I repeated, I somehow couldn’t bring myself to say “poop.” “Yes, yesterday it was hard but today its much softer. He’s been eating a little more than yesterday, but why is his poop so watery? What does that mean? Also we are having a hard time giving him his pain meds, what do you suggest?” I could feel myself clench my butt, something I do when I’m nervous. “Um, you could try putting the pill in cheese,” I said, who am I? Does cheese kill cats? Put them on hold! “Cheese? Really?” I looked at the tech sitting next to me, who was nodding, like she could hear the whole conversation on the other end through the phone, and then gave me the thumbs up. “We also sell pill pockets in different flavors, cats like the salmon flavored ones,” she whispered to me. “Yes cheese, and maybe that would harden up his waste?” I said, half like a question. The tech frowned. “We also sell pill pockets that taste like salmon,” I added. “Has Zaboomafoo been drinking water?” I asked. “Oh yes, yes. You know what we will try the cheese and get back to you, we’ll keep you updated, but if you could ask the Doctor about the watery stool that would be great. Also if you could ask the doctor if we do a fecal test, does sunlight affect the stool sample?” I paused, “Like if it’s been sitting out in the sun?” I whispered. “Yes, would it mess up the results in any way?” I paused. “I will ask. And then…I will call you back about the runs I mean watery stool and sunlight..”I trailed off. “Ok great thank you!” “Um, mahalo,” I hung up. The tech smiled, “Great, now I’ll show you how to record what they just told you.” Inside, I was panicking.

Next was answering a phone call. “Aloha, Kona Veterinary Hospital, this is Jennifer how may I help you?” “My dog got hit by a car, his leg is bleeding, can I bring him in right now?” My butt clenched so hard. “Hold,” I said and pushed hold. In emergency situations, my natural reaction is to pass it on. Hold! Let me go find someone who can handle this, I yell as I run away my butt cheeks tightly pursed together. I repeated this info to the tech, who did not seem the least bit rattled, in fact she seemed calm, like aloha mucho calm, as she soothingly instructed me to get back on the phone and ask how far away they were, if they were a current client and if the dog was breathing. I tried to mimic her nurturing and soothing voice. “Alohahankyouforholding,” I said all in one monotone breath which made me sound like a sex phone operator. I could feel my ill fitting scrub bottoms drooping, and am pretty sure my neon colored underoos were on display as I hovered over the phone trying to scribble everything down on a piece of paper.

Whoever I was talking to was cutting in and out and I could barely hear him. “Eee-hoo is my dogs name, the last name is Kai. He’s breathing, we are about an hour away.” I typed Ehu Kai into the patient database and a client listing came up. “Ok we have your information, we will see you in an hour.” I said hanging up. I told the vet tech the information, and she told me to come with her while they alerted the other nurses and the doctor. “What kind of dog is Ehu?” she asked. I looked at the file. “It says a chihuahua,” I said reading off the computer screen.

Then it time for a prescription filling tutorial. “People will call with prescription request, just always look in the file,” she started clicking buttons on the computer as I stared into cupboards filled with animal drugs, needles and syringes. “This,” she said opening a cupboard below all the prescription drugs, “Is the dead binder. Anything that dies, the paperwork goes in here.” I cocked my head to the left, “Anything that…dies...” I repeated, trailing off. “Yes euthanasias mainly,” she explained. “Euthanasia…” I repeated. She then motioned to a large freezer, “And that is where the bodies go,” she said nonchalantly. “Next I’ll show you the exam rooms,” she said leaving as I stood staring at the large white freezer, half wishing she had opened it so I could stop imagining what lay frozen inside. As I followed her out into lobby we were interrupted by a large Hawaiian man who appeared on the lanai holding a sturdy drooling pit bull whose leg was covered in blood. He burst into the lobby a flurry of energy and chaos. “We are here, Ehu Kai is here!” he exclaimed, holding Ehu under one arm and fanning himself with his other hand. He was the first gay man I had ever encountered on the island of Hawaii, and he was holding… not a chihuahua. The vet tech looked at me. “That’s not,” I finished her sentence, “the right Ehu….”

Around 4 pm, I had experienced a work day so different than anything I had ever done, that I felt like I was on another planet. I had not shared any of my animal stories but I also imagined that “the girl who got the wrong Ehu,” surpassed memorable, and would create a legacy for others who would have working interviews. “Don’t worry, you are doing great. Let me tell you about this girl who got the wrong Ehu on her working interview,” vet techs would tell possible employees, laughing at how incompetent and confused I was. “Jenn,” the vet tech I had been with all day told me. “Our boss would like to talk to you in her office,” she said. I gathered my the waist of my scrub pants and walked slowly to the back office lurking creepily in front of my potential new bosses desk. “We’d like to hire you,” she said looking up. “Hiuh?” I said accidentily letting go of my pants and then gathering them back up as they sagged back down. “We really liked you,” she said. “Can you start tomorrow?” “Yes of course, thank you,” I said and started to wander out of her office. “Oh and Jenn?” she called after me. “Yeah?” I turned around. “We will order you some extra long scrubs in size small,” she said and smiled. These are kind, kind people who do good work here at the Kona Veterinary Hospital, I thought as I gathered up my pants again. And then, what did I just get myself into? 

If I have learned anything though, it is to go through doors that open for you. There’s always some reason and rhyme to why they do- if nothing you realize how much you can learn and do, how truly capable you are. I’ve gone through doors where I have been on set helping a transgendered pop star sit onto of a plastic life size unicorn, sending lunch meat via airmail to my boss in Utah for Sundance, posing as Katy Perry’s arm stand in on set, sitting behind John Legend as he played the piano for a commercial, made chains out of photographs of naked models, sat in a teepee at different music festivals gifting musicians tie dye tank tops and now taking fecal samples and handling animal emergency situations. Just, always say yes. Say yes and let life surprise you.