Girlfriends and Kill Jars

If I had one wish, it would be to be a twenty-one year old girlfriend for the rest of my life, repeating my senior year of college over and over again, never growing old, just waiting in line to get into a bar with my boyfriend, forever. Twenty-one year old girlfriends can be carefree and fun, the types of girls I think men imagine the topless ladies on the covers of magazines to be like- “dream girls.”

As you get older you become introduced to yourself. You think you know yourself, but you don’t, it’s a slow and gradual process that takes life experiences that (sometimes painfully) introduce yourself to you. As the years tick off your twenties, you are able to identify the types of girlfriends your mid-twenties turn you into. There’s the twenty something year old girlfriend that will get black out drunk and skinny dip in front of your friends, there’s the twenty something year old girlfriend that wants you to propose and have your babies, and then there’s the twenty something year old girlfriend who wants to travel the world and grow gracefully into an old wise Yoda with you.

When I was twenty-one, I was dating a talented singer in a band who was taking entomology and was never without a butterfly net and a kill jar. You’d be talking to him outside while walking to class and a butterfly would float by and he would, mid sentence, take off after it, waving his net in the air in front of him, other pedestrians frantically moving out of his way at the sight of him charging towards them with a net, afraid he might be coming after them. I would stand there, falling in love as I watched him off in the distance, opening the lid to the kill jar, signifying the end of the pretty butterfly’s life. Once, we stayed up all night with his dead insects, removing their lifeless, delicate bodies from tiny glass containers that were all over his room, and pinning them into the little wooden box he would turn into his professor for his final exam. The bugs intrigued me, but his gentle spirit, beautiful singing voice, and ability to be kind to every single person he encountered (he stopped killing bugs once he passed the entomology class) made him completely perfect to me, and then college ended and the world became a hopeless place.

Real life has a way of screwing everything up because the simple joy of just existing, or staying up all night sticking pins through dead insects, is replaced with burdens such as jobs, money, and surviving in a what I would call a creuler than kind society. When you are forced to fend for yourself, you are in turn forced to define yourself, and you may discover new traits that must have been hiding, deep rooted and suppressed, within the depths of your soul. You pick a career, but what do you pick? What is so important to you that you wouldn’t mind spending the majority of your time here working towards? You discover people’s motivations- money, fame, attention, power, adventure, art, giving back, taking from, winning, exploring, etc, etc. And you discover what motivates you and how those motives align with others, and it’s not as simple as differing hobbies or differing tastes. You can’t just order the veggie burger and enjoy it alongside someone who’s eating steak. The way people choose to live their life is very important, the way others treat people is very important, the way people deal with setback and failure is important, the way people choose to behave after finding success is even more important. And they are all choices that introduce ourselves to…ourselves.

The two most important choices we have though, is the way we think (or choosing to think at all) and the way we love. While most people live honest and normal lives, people who have one appropriate thought that corresponds to an appropriate event, or people who live isolated and in ignorant bliss of anything else going on outside themselves, I find myself having at least three thousand at a single given moment, almost all of them inappropriate and having nothing to do with what is going on around me, and almost always starting with something that leads me down a twisted and soiled path that looks like this:

It’s the first of the month, rent is due. Is Rosie working at Target today or is it her day off? I wonder if her brother got time off from his job to take that vacation to the Philippines. I hate that celebrities get paid more than teachers. I got a new snapchat. I can’t remember how the minimum wage is set. What time is it in Africa? I’m so hungry.

“What are you thinking?” someone will ask. “Why are you so quiet?” “Uh…” I say, trailing off into silence. I have people in my life who I can, without any hesitation, rattle all that off to and as it falls on them, like droplets of water, they catch them in a bucket, they absorb them, signaling to me that my thoughts have not only been understood, but they have been protected. That is the best feeling in the world. I’ve also rattled off thoughts to a blank face, one void of any emotion except annoyance or judgement- that is the worst feeling in the world. There is no easier way to make someone feel smaller than to dismiss their thoughts as nonsense, because whether you know it or not, you are taking away their voice.

The way people love follows closely behind the direction of their thoughts. Love can be many different conversations, but it is never silencing. It is not one person standing tall and mighty above the other, if anything it is two people down on the ground, and at an equal level, sharing their most vulnerable fears, and listening to one another, reassuring one another, building trust. This is hard for people, we seem to live in a world full of alphas, and love is disappointing to an alpha in so many ways because it is a blaring reminder that they, like you, are imperfect, at times dishonest and ugly, and at times regular human beings. We spend so much of our time trying to hide our own humanness from one another. But what’s the point? We are human, and with that we are also each others greatest teachers, especially when it comes to love.

I think the people who are the best lovers are the ones who are courageously unafraid of their vulnerability. These people do not lock it away to age in bitterness, they embrace it and use it to be a more compassionate, tolerant, and empathetic member of the human race. They are the ones who won’t allow their ego to block their vision, or the ones who find words of kindness to build others up. In college I thought most people in the real world would be like this, but as I grow up, I’m discovering people are too damaged. I’ve heard people refer to someone as “damaged,” meaning someone who has had their fair share of heartbreak, but I don’t think that holds any clout. I think you only become damaged when you give up, and you stop searching for good in others, or reminding others that they are good, when you just lie down and accept that it’s easier to laugh at people’s expense, or point out the flaws in others, or judge someone else. The second you cut someone else down to feel more powerful, or to feel better in your situation is the second you become “damaged.”

Unlike in college, the real world forces you to stand for something, and not to be a buzzkill, but one day you’ll be dead, there’s not a lot of time to waste being an asshole. So you have to stand up, this is the life I want to live, these are the things that make me happy, these are things I believe strongly, this is how I want to spend my time, this is someone who I can look at and be proud of, this is how I want to be remembered. I clearly am not still dating my college boyfriend, but I remember him so fondly, I remember him as goodness, and that matters. You start realizing that every single choice you make, is who are you becoming, so your choices start to matter, A LOT. Otherwise, you’ll spend your whole life fluttering all over like you were being chased by a college student with a net and a kill jar.

I miss being in college, full of freedom and spirit, disillusioned with the notion that curiosity and imagination won’t turn you into a big weirdo, and equipped with a cafeteria meal plan. But mostly I miss how college froze time, I miss being able to date people without worrying, will twenty years fly by with this person and suddenly one day I’ll wake up fifty-four, realizing this isn’t the life I wanted, left only to ponder what now? Kill jar.

It seems like every week there is some new heartbreaking news reminding us how fragile life is. And the reality of this is heavy, I feel it in my heart and on my shoulders. When the world needs so much it can make you feel small and insignificant, swallowed up by the injustice you see, the violence and terrorism, deciphering the 2016 Presidental race, the media…..Pokemon Go. It seems as though you really have to seek- really hunt for the hope, until you realize you are responsible for those feelings of hope. You have to be the good in the world, you must figure out how, because life is too meaningful and much too short not to. When life blasts your heart into a million pieces, you need to be brave, you will need to put it back together using others and the world- the very same things that shattered your heart to pieces in the first place. The smallest acts of kindness, of empathy and tolerance, of keeping your eyes wide open and investigating, listening, taking responsiblity, engaging in everyone and everything around you, being present in the world and continuously seeking out your greater purpose for others, even if it is as seemingly small as holding your loved ones closer, that is what the world needs the most. And you can do that.

Happy Father’s Day Dad


As I grow older I discover more and more ways my Dad truly honors what it means to be a father:
Thank you Dad for loving Mom with thoughtful care and protecting her heart.
For a childhood of “Daddy Daughter Dates,” dancing to Step N’ Time, singing Raffi, and treking up mountains.
For being at every track meet, school event, birthday, award ceremony, graduation, but more importantly, for always being there every seemingly ordinary day, even when you were working full time.
For sitting at the dinner table every night throughout my high school years and patiently trying to help me understand Algebra (and thank you for celebrating and being proud of my eventual passing C- grade…even though it was possibly given to me out of pity by my compassionate senior math teacher).
For teaching me to drive.
For threatening to kick boy’s asses.
For reading every piece of writing I’ve ever written.
For watching Audrey Hepburn movies with me.
For golfing, cooking, and camping with Tim.
For keeping the faith in us, always.

You once described parenting as being a gaurdrail as we (your kids) traverse the foggy road of life. I may have rolled my eyes as a thirteen year old (the meaning was lost on me as all your other it’s-always-darkest-before-dawn-isms you used to tell me were, because as you said them, I would begin imagining you holding a quill and having hair and a mustache like William Shakespeare). But I get it now, and I wouldn’t imagine you as Shakespeare anymore, you would be wearing Pope Francis attire. I see how life gets foggy, and I see how you have always been a great guider, teacher and protector throughout all of it (and life is always darkest before dawn). I am so happy/lucky life gave me you as my Dad. No one will ever compare to you.

Dad, your kids feel the love and support- it’s ingrained in us. You win as a father, now celebrate (I wish I was there)!

Happy Father’s Day! #luckytohavelenny

P.S. Your card is in the mail and will arrive Aloha style…probably next week.


How to Be A Bo$$

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


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

Mucho Aloha,

Big J

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


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

Mucho Mahalos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaders have imagination and can laugh.

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

Leaders say thank you.

Leaders are FAIR.

Leaders reward hard work.

Leaders call bullshit.

Leaders take action.

Leaders appreciate.

Leaders observe and learn.

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

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

I looked over my email to edit it:


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

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


“Those Guys”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Manoa Valley Inn

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

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

Wifi Network: MIVI HOUSE

Password: happeniss 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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