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.

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