Monthly Archives: May 2010

YMWW #19: Side Projects

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Due partially to a busy schedule but mostly to a lack of computer, I was forced into a small hiatus from writing. But now, after acquiring some free time and a new laptop, I’m back. And, boy, do I have some things to share with you!

The Wedding Photographer

Over a month ago, I met an amateur photographer on a tiny island off Lanikai Beach. He asked if I could take a picture of him (because “photographers are never in their own photos”) and we started talking a bit. You know, general small talk nonsense. He asked me to take a look at his website and tell him what I thought. So I checked it out and, well, let’s just say it screamed “amateur.” And that’s sugarcoating it. I told him as nicely as possible that it was crap and suggested a new webpage designing site through which he could create a better website. I eventually helped him design it and, about a week later, found myself tabling at his booth at a wedding convention in Honolulu. Now, this guy has the motivation and the people skills—and the dough—to start a wedding photography business, but I think he’s a few photography classes short of making a real name for himself. With that said, I’m not sure if I will continue to help him with his business, but I at least got paid for my work at the convention!

The Artist

In the #17 blog entries, I related my experience of working on a week-long photo shoot set. Well, in an attempt to hunt down some payment for my effort, I eventually got into contact with the photographer Amit. After settling my payment, he offered me a part-time job helping him complete some art projects he’s been wanting to finish. Since I’d been doing almost nothing with my days but wait around the house until my shifts at Bubba Gump’s started, I happily agreed.
For the past few weeks, every free morning I have is spent in Amit’s house on Diamond Head Crater, doing one random art project or another. So far, I’ve put photographs into an album, sorted through and separated literally thousands of photographs, stenciled poems letter by letter onto fancy paper and photographs, used a typewriter to transcribe his poems onto fancy paper and photographs, and glued random images into a book. Sometimes the work is interesting, sometimes it’s tedious, but no matter what, it makes me feel productive, which is exactly what I was looking for. Also, I get paid $7 an hour in cash every week. You can’t argue extra income.

The Article

In an attempt to pursue my writing opportunities, I contacted FLUX Hawaii Magazine and expressed interest in writing for their magazine. That eventually led to an interview, after which nothing happened for a good while. Then, one day, I was deep into an art project at the Diamond Head house when I got a call from FLUX Hawaii’s Creative Director Cody Matsukawa. He offered me a trial assignment: to interview a band from Maui at their first headlining concert in Honolulu. The interview and concert review would be published on their website and, if they like the result, they’d offer me assignments for the actual magazine.

Well, here’s the article.

The assignment was amazing. I was kind of nervous doing my first ever interview, but as soon as I met The Throwdowns, it was fun as all hell. The magazine paid for my drinks, got me backstage to hang with the band, and gave me access to the VIP section to watch the concert.

I’m still waiting to hear back from Cody to see if this will lead to another assignments. Of course, as soon as I know, you’ll all be the first to hear about it!

The Grand Reveal

Not too much to write about this latest update because, well, you’ve read it all before. Literally.
Check this out:

Later days!

Jarah Mariano also apologizes for taking so long to see you again.


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YMWW #18: Pain of the Return Home

Monday, April 19, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

I started a completely different note last week. It was about how I’d describe my living situation: somewhere between being too comfortable to be “living on the edge” but not comfortable enough to be “stuck in a rut.” I would have called it “fringe living.” I got half a paragraph in and then lost interest, which is a shame because that note was my attempt to make an excuse for not writing as frequently.

Oh well.

Instead, you’re getting an unplanned rant, a nostalgia trip that hasn’t been thought out. I’m free-writing right now, hoping that by the time I get to someplace that looks like the end, I’d have made a revelation. Or, at the very least, a point. Let’s see where this goes.

Not more than an hour ago, I finished rewatching the student film Prince Movie by my friend Corey Bridwell. I can’t describe it as anything other than ridiculously ridiculous. . . which of course made it the talk of town during my senior year of college. It took place in familiar apartments and starred familiar faces. By the time the credits had rolled and the bloopers came on, it hit.


We welcome the feeling as though it were a refreshing stroll down memory lane, but the truth lies within its poetically dark translation: pain of the return home (it’s Greek, look it up). Those happy feelings don’t exist within physical places and reoccurring events, only in the memories of situations we know we can never relive. That’s why it’s painful. If you really dwell on it, it’s painful.

During the holiday season I went back home to California and during my stay, spent a day in Berkeley. College was the best four years of my life and I wanted to get a little taste of it again. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. College as I remember it wasn’t the campus or my old apartment building or my favorite restaurants. The City of Berkeley is a fantastic place, but it alone did not bring back those familiar feelings. What I missed were the people: my roommates, my older Rally Comm buddies, my newer film studies classmates. If only they were here with me, I thought, it would be the same.

After watching that student film and seeing my old friends in recognizable dorms and apartments, I realized that wasn’t the full truth. Even if all my favorite Berkeley people were there with me in the Bay during my return, it wouldn’t have been the same. My college experience was that exact situation in that exact time. It was me as a student with my old roommates as roommates and my old apartment as mine and my film friends as classmates. That again can never happen. That’s when I realized what true nostalgia was.

So now what? Did I turn emo? Did I just enter a state of depression? Hell no! If you know me at all you know that’s not how I do things.

I took this revelation as reaffirmation that what I’m doing is right. Maybe people stay in familiar places in hopes of reliving the past, in hopes of re-feeling those nostalgic memories. If that’s the case, all we can really do to stay happy is experience new things and make more memories. That’s what I’m doing in Hawai’i. I have new roommates and new friends and a new job and I love them all. They didn’t replace everything I had in Berkeley. Nothing will. That situation in Berkeley was special, and I’d be damned if I didn’t try to make my current situation special as well. I can’t do that by pining for the past. Maybe, in the future, when I’m living in New York with my model-doctor-artist girlfriend, I will look back on my time in Hawai’i and feel a little painful nostalgia.

One can only hope.

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YMWW #17-C: Photo Intermezzo, Part III

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

In music and theater, an intermezzo is a light, short composition between two major bodies of work. It means “intermediate.” I first came across the term during an enormous, multicourse meal courtesy of Ian’s parents in Reno last year (that intermezzo was a tiny glass cup with sorbet and champagne, which arrived after the appetizers and before the main dish). As I saw it, the photo shoot gig was my work intermezzo, nestled between a job at Whole Foods Market and a job at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Day Five, February 18th, Hidden Trail on Diamond Head Crater

View of Diamond Head from the parking lot where I picked up the actors

As I biked through the chilly morning air to Amit’s house once again, my mind was not on my task ahead as a production assistant, but rather on my obligation later that afternoon. It was Thursday, and that meant I had an orientation at Bubba Gump. The orientation was originally scheduled for the previous Thursday, meaning I would have had to miss out on most of the photo shoot that followed. As luck would have it, the orientation was postponed and I got to partake in all the wonderful adventures described in my previous notes.

It was another early call time. Maybe too early, as I arrived at a sleeping house. Most of the lights were off and all of the rooms were still. So, I used the side entrance to the kitchen and just read my book until things got going. Slowly but surely, old friends and new faces began filtering in to the kitchen searching for a morning pick-me-up that only coffee can give them. And, like always, I drove to the nearest parking lot to pick up some of the actors. Well, at least I think I did. These days were kind of blurring together.

Thursday’s shoot was on a trail on a fenced off side of Diamond Head Crater. Yes, we were trespassing again, but no one was going to kick us out of this place. It wasn’t a Lost set, so no one would care. The beginning of the shoot, for me, involved a lot of running up and down this trail, transporting equipment and leading the actors to the location. Once everything was in place, though, the crew had little to do. We began playing get-to-know-you games. We guessed each others’ ages, ethnicities, and even middle names. No one guessed “Vanderlipe.” It was another one of those revealing campfire moments that brings people closer together, if not just merely keeping them occupied.

I left the set a bit early to make it to my orientation on time. I could have left several hours earlier as the crew was just sitting around doing nothing, but I didn’t want to miss out on the sitting around. Just because you are doing nothing does not mean nothing is happening.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawai’i

I got to Bubba Gump on time and met the other newbies. There was another Anthony; he had moved here from St. Louis a few months after me. He was the only one in the group who got a job as a dishwasher. I had met Katie a week earlier when I had gone in for my not-then-aware-it-was-postponed orientation and she was there for her interview. She is a UH student who moved here from San Diego a few months before me. She has a pretty eyes—and equally impressive other parts. Harry was the freshest immigrant, having moved here from somewhere on the East Coast maybe a month or two ago. His last name is Johnson. Yes, that makes him Harry Johnson. “Middle school was awesome,” he informed us with a deadpan stare.

Neither Katie nor other Anthony had the proper forms with them, so only Harry Johnson and I were left to go through the THREE-AND-A-HALF HOUR orientation. We read through the handbook, sampled some food, and got our homework. Yes, homework. Bubba Gump is known for their gruelling, four-stage training program. By Stage One, we were to have the appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks memorized, not just what they are, but their ingredients and garnishes, too. We also had to memorize the “Top Ten” employee creed, the table numbers, and sections. To be honest, I was a bit glad to have homework. Too often I’d come home from work with nothing to do but watch a movie or surf the Internet. Having a goal to accomplish would give me a sense of purpose, no matter how small or temporary. The cherry on top of my sundae of responsibility: my Stage One was scheduled for Saturday evening, meaning I could still work Friday’s and Saturday’s photo shoots.

Day Six, February 19th, Reservoir Clean-up and House Party

Abandoned Reservoir with Diamond Head in the background

I biked to Amit’s place with a backpack full of training materials and empty index cards. My downtime now would consist of menu memorization. Of course, I had to start studying on the biggest production day of the shoot: the house party. Fortunately, the house party would not start until that evening. Unfortunately, I had a major task to do that morning.

Up near the trail of the previous day’s shoot was an abandoned reservoir, which has been taken over by graffiti artists for some time. This huge concrete bunker is set in the side of Diamond Head Crater, an industrial ruin hidden by natural beauty. The walls are covered with graffiti pieces and the ground is carpeted with empty beer bottles and spray cans, rusty tin roof panels and rotting wood. The threat of tetanus lurked near every step. Our major task was to clear that ground for the following day’s shoot.

The clean-up crew consisted of me, Simran, and Bean Dip—the only Mexican I’ve met in Hawai’i. Despite our small group size, we got the middle of that ground cleared in no time, and we had fun doing it. Nothing is more gratifying than physical labor, especially the kind that involves chucking huge pieces of metal, jumping on wooden beams, and smashing glass bottles against concrete walls. We returned to the house by late morning, grinning through dirt and sweat.

Close-up of one of my favorite pieces

The hours between the reservoir clean-up and the house party were spent studying. Well, at least, that was my aim. It’s hard to study in a house filled with over a hundred interesting people. I got to talking with some of the newer people, as well as with some returning ones. Fortunately, a lot of the conversations included a discussion of my new job and the homework that went along with it. Several people even quizzed me, which was nice. Remember Lauren with the nice smile? She came back, and we started talking again. We discovered we both like to travel and started discussing where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. I told her about my study abroad trip in Mexico. She told me about her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. I went back to studying.

As the sun sunk lower in the sky and the energy of the house rose, I studied less and less frequently. I eventually packed up all my material and switched to full production assistant mode. Once everyone was dressed and all the shots were more or less planned out, Amit gathered everyone around—roughly 120 people—and gave a breakdown of the evening. Once again, he asked the crew to raise their hands. Once again, I smiled proudly on the inside.

By now, I was a trusted member of the crew, and all night long I was right in the action. Granted, I was only carrying one of the four lights they needed, but that meant I was right behind the photographer the entire time. The actors mingled, sang, danced, and carried on as though it were a real party. The crew moved through the crowd, taking pictures of this group doing one thing, then another group doing something else. We kept working after most of the crowd was allowed to leave and all that was left were a couple actors and a skeleton crew, of which I was a part. It was definitely the longest day, but also the most interesting. I got home pretty late that night, but continued to study until I passed out with a pen in my hand and my head on the desk.

Day Seven, February 20th, Abandoned Reservoir

View from the top of the ladder

Saturday was my final day on the set, as was most people’s. I felt as though I had come full circle, starting off as an inconsequential lackey to and evolving into a top crew member. It took a few hours to get all the equipment and actors into the reservoir. Though, because of all the time and hard work I put into that place, I almost felt like it was my reservoir.

On top of the ridiculously revealing clothing and sharp edges everywhere, the set was made even more dangerous with the presence of kids and animals. Some of the kids had trouble climbing into the reservoir, but once they were in, they were running and jumping around. The animals we had on set, colorful birds of every size, were squawking and pooping everywhere. Add a blazing sun and little water and you have yourself the most difficult production day. Well, if you were an actor. We crew members were off to the side, in the shade, out of the shot. I eventually got into the mix holding the giant reflector or supporting a leaning photographer. Once I ran back to the house to fetch Daeja her memory cards, returning with some food and water for her. She said I could be her assistant on any project. I am going to hold her to that.

Though the day was nearly done by early afternoon, I left the set early to get ready for my first day of training. Nearly everybody on the set was aware that I was studying to be a Bubba Gump server, so they wished me luck as I climbed out of the reservoir. I paused halfway up the ladder to look out at the people I was leaving behind, the good friends I had made during the week. I stood there reflecting on my wonderful experience on the set of unique photo shoot.

“Run, Forrest, run!” yelled Amit to me, “You’re in the shot!”

I quickly scuttled up the ladder and ran off to my next great adventure.


Here is the last photo I’ll be sharing from my friend Daeja. You can see more at

Roxy models will return next week.

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YMWW #17-B: Photo Intermezzo, Part II

Thursday, March 11, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Day Three, February 16, Waimanalo Horse Ranch

Waimanalo Horse Ranch

I had a later call time for Day Three because they didn’t need a full crew for their morning shoot. Although being able to sleep in was a nice treat, the fact that they didn’t need me in the morning just added to the drop in importance I felt after the previous day’s equipment guarding session. No worries, each day is a new day, and as it turned out, the experience I gained on the Waimanalo horse ranch would lead to a positive shift of my gopher status.

The shoot called for only four actors and slightly more crew, so it was a more intimate set. It was also another beautiful location, the lush ranch tucked beneath the gaze of the iconic green hills of Hawai’i. Only one of the three actors scheduled to ride the horse had ever done it before, and his task was to fall off it in slow motion. The other two—Blaze and female lead, Chante—took a crash course in horseback riding—bareback, nonetheless. And while Blaze was responsible for steering the horse, Chante had to sit behind him while playing a harp with no pants on. Modelling ain’t as simple as it seems.

While the cast didn’t have it easy, neither did some of the crew, e.g. me. My task was to stand in the meadow holding the lights. Simple task, save for the fact that I was wearing shorts in an insect-infested field. My bare lower legs were soon covered with so many bug bites that if one were to connect the dots, the resulting picture would be a spider web design. Or maybe shattered glass. Standing still was never so hard.

The shoot progressed and I was able to move around a bit, lessening only slightly the frequency by which my legs were attacked. Nonetheless, it was enough relief for my mind to focus on something else, namely, how to assemble and operate the lights. It wasn’t difficult at all; open a tripod, attach the head, flip some switches. However, the fact that I was one of maybe three or four people on set who could do this with confidence elevated me to a higher gopher status. Maybe even, dare I say, some sort of “assistant” status. I’m sure my ability to fold a spring-open reflector solidified this ascension.

The best part of the day, however, came in the late afternoon when we waited around an hour or so for the sun to sink behind the hills. During that time, we, the crew, and the principle cast just hung out. We got to know each other a little better. We traded jokes, tried out tongue-twisters, spoke in several languages (okay, that was mostly the stylist, Patrick, who could speak French, German, Italian, Spanish, and a little bit of everything else). I even got to crack a whip! By the time the lighting was just right and we set up for the last shot, I felt to be on equal status with the rest of the crew.

Day Four, February 17th, Paradise Park/Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls

Day Four was a big shot that called for heavy transportation of about twenty cast members (I still cannot decide if I want to call them models or actors). I revived my role as head of the shuttle service, picking up seven people—and a dog—on three separate outings. We had started early again and by 7 AM, had a full house ready to move out. Amit explained to the crowd that we would be caravanning to an abandoned wildlife park known as Paradise Park. It was closed to the public so we would essentially be trespassing. There shouldn’t be any problems, he assured us. Amit then asked the crew members to raise their hand so the cast members could indentify us should they need help. Dispersed amongst the model-actors, we crew members indentified ourselves accordingly. I stood with a proud hand high, my inside smile unknown to the sea of gazes. Yes, I thought, I am special.

My elite status continued as the crew all rode together in one van while the cast was split up in the others. We drove to a parking lot near the park and from there, shuttled people one vanload at a time to the final destination. The reason? Our destination was a loosely-locked chainlink gate off the side of the road. We had to squeeze through the narrow opening, trek through some heavy foliage and uneven ground, and cross a huge ditch by way of a wobbly wooden plank—all while carrying the equipment. I walked toward the clearing on the other side, wondering if the cast knew what they were getting into, when my thoughts were interrupted by sheer elation. In the middle of that clearing was a giant, rusty cage recognizable by some as Kate and Sawyer’s prison during the third season of ABC’s Lost. I was on a hit TV show’s set! Admittedly, I knew beforehand that they had filmed part of Lost in Paradise Park, but I did not expect the set to be instantly recognizable. I mean, the friggin’ Dharma Initiative symbol was plastered on the canvas tent right in front of me! It was going to be a good day. . .

Paradise Park
(you can see Kate and Sawyer’s cage on the left and just barely make out the Dharma Initiative symbol on the canvas tent through the right cage)

. . . Until we got chased off by some park officials. We had just gotten most of the cast to the rendezvous spot (one could not cross the bridge, while several others needed much convincing), when two women caught us and sent us packing. With full equipment on hand we trudged back across the bridge, through the foliage and uneven ground, and back through the gate.

Plan B: Manoa Falls. Right up the road from the chainlink gate was a legitimate entrance to a legitimate park. Manoa Falls is a lush, green forest area snuggled in Manoa Valley, famous for its hiking trails and, of course, the waterfalls. We moved our entire production to the cool, shaded area surrounded by trees. It was perfect for our shoot, better than Paradise Park would have been, claimed Amit. Yet, even though I was surrounded by breathtaking nature, my good mood was due to my increasing feeling of importance. Daeja trusted me enough to instruct me without supervising me. “Set up a light over there,” “Move the head when he crosses that point,” “Can you make sure he sets up that light correctly?” I was needed. I was happy.

By the end of the day, most of the cast and some of the crew took off while a skeleton crew stayed back with two cast members, shooting the last few scenes of the day. I was a part of that skeleton crew. We wrapped up by mid-afternoon and Amit treated us to Boston’s Pizza. We split a large spinach garlic (restaurant’s creation) and a large pineapple jalapeno (Amit’s creation). Both were tremendously delicious. Sitting at the large, round table, we traded more jokes and stories. One of the cast members that stayed with us was a girl named Lauren, a UH student with a nice smile.

We got back to Amit’s house around sunset and I started packing up to head home. “You want to hang out for a while?” Amit asked. “You’re part of the family now.”

So I stayed.

Part III will include the forbidden trail (promised for this part but not included), the house party, the abandoned reservoir, and my attempt at working this gig while studying for my Bubba Gump job.

By Daeja Fallas, from her album “Gen and the daises.” Double exposure of San Francisco and Hawaii.

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YMWW #17-A: Photo Intermezzo, Part I

Sunday, March 7, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Firstly, apologies for the hiatus. My wireless card had crapped out around the time I became busy with this project, so I had neither the ability nor time to write.

I’ve been lucky as hell with the timing of my work opportunities on this island. Prefacing my old cook job at Whole Foods was only four days of unemployment, and snuggled between that job and the next was an adventure of comic proportions.

Of course, like all great adventures, this one started on Craigslist. After scouring the job listings for an escape from my kitchen job of horrors, I resorted to checking through the “gigs” section for temporary relief. What I found was an ad seeking crewmembers for a ten-day photo shoot production; the photographer wanted to capture a narrative story through digital photographs and publish them in comic-book format. Picture panels and speech bubbles adorning fine art photography. Models, comic books, and a chance to exercise my Production Assistant expertise? This was more than an ad, it was a calling.

I promptly replied to the listing, emphasizing my film set experience. All one of them. I soon got a call from an Elliot, who later interviewed me in a beautifully spacious house imbedded within the side of Diamond Head Crater. It was the photographer’s place, Elliot informed me, and the meeting spot for each day of shooting. It didn’t take long for me to convince Elliot that I belonged on that set.

At the crew meeting the following week, I was initially attached to assist the lighting guy, but I expressed an eagerness to help out with all the physical brunt work and my “gopher” status was born. Amit, the photographer, found my fondness of manual labor “charming.” I was unsure if my inexperience with lighting would have been a help or a hindrance, so I was relieved to become a gopher.

The shooting was originally supposed to begin on my 23rd birthday, February 12th, but it was pushed back a day. I then found out that the 13th wasn’t a shooting day, but an optional equipment check and crew meet-up day. I optioned out of it to jump out of a plane. So, the project for me started on the 14th, Valentine’s Day, which was fine because it was not like I had any plans. . .

Day One, February 14th, Makalei Beach Park

Makalei Beach Park

Opposite the beginning of the photographer’s elusive and small street is an equally elusive and small beach park, which served as location #1 of the photo shoot. We started around 5:30 AM in order to capture sunrise lighting, which wasn’t horrible because I was used to rising before the sun to open at Whole Foods. Since I freefell through the skies over North Shore instead of attending the previous day’s crew meeting, this was when I met the rest of the crew. Daeja is a photographer and camera tech extraordinaire; she was responsible for all the equipment and made sure the cameras and lights were set just right. Stephen just got off a plane from Hong Kong, but knew Amit from New York; he was Daeja’s right-hand-man. Simran also knew Amit from New York; he came to Hawai’i to be a gopher, like me. It was great hanging out with Simran because not only was he a good conversationalist (bonus points for a slight New York accent), but also because his being a gopher legitimized my position on the crew.

After helping load and unload the equipment, I was told to help Daeja with whatever she needed. Apparently, she needed me to wear a backpack of camera accessories and stay near her. My task for the day was easy, but surprisingly important. Need a new flash card? I’m there. Need to clean the lens? I have what you need. Need me to stay near you and the bikini-clad models you’re shooting on a Hawaiian beach in gorgeous sunrise lighting? It would be my pleasure.

Given that I did not have a primary job, every task I did felt like an opportunity to show my initiative or eagerness to assist. I was quickly building the status of a dependable guy, which I began to see as a quite empowering position. Glass-half-empty: I’m just some photographer’s lackey; glass-half-full: these top-of-the-hierarchy people are dependent on my actions. They may tell me what to do, but they’d get nowhere without my help. At least, that’s how I saw it.

Day Two, February 15th, China Walls

China Walls

Since the photographer’s house was nowhere near convenient parking, my first task of the day was to drive actors from the closet parking lot up to the house. The previous day I was just legs on a backpack. Today, I was head of the shuttle service. Yay, promotions!

Once everyone was assembled at the house, we caravanned to the southeast side of the island and walked down to the smooth rock cliff ridges known as China Walls. It’s a dangerous yet beautiful natural location unknown to tourists (and even some locals). Again, as a gopher, it was my duty to carry equipment back and forth, this time across the slippery rock edges. The payoff, I thought, was to witness beautiful people photographed in a beautiful setting. Not the case. We couldn’t bring down all the equipment from the entrance of China Walls, so someone had to guard it. Guess who was chosen.

Apart from all the action, I had plenty of time to take a nap, check my e-mail and Facebook, and catch up with a few of my friends over the phone. At one point, the lead male actor, Blaze, came up and joined me because he was no longer needed. He told me about his unbelievable exploits in Seattle, which involved homelessness, long-lost relatives, and crazy landlords. It put my Hawaiian escapade to shame. It was great getting to know Blaze, but for the most part, I was alone up there. And although guarding the equipment gave me the opportunity to connect with friends both old and new, my self-perceived status on the film crew had dropped. The day had started out promising as they needed a responsible and licensed liaison. But as the day progressed, all they needed was a Keep Away sign. I was the next best thing.

Since it turns out I have a lot to write about each day, I will dived this post into three parts. Anyway, I’m sure you guys have more important things to do on that computer than read this right now.

Part II will include a horse ranch, an abandoned wildlife park/Lost set, and a forbidden trail.

I mentioned how photographer Daeja Fallas was working on this project. For the next few posts, I will be concluding with photos from her work instead of Roxy models. I know no one will mind.

This photo and the rest of her work can be found on

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YMWW #16-B: The Shrimpish Inquisition, Part II

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Six days ago, I held my breath as my boss walked up to me. How was he going to take the news? I could easily see him taking my resignation personally, asking a billion questions why I’d quit. As I scooped a bowl of brown rice, he said, “I heard you were looking for me.”

I took a deep breath. “Yes. I, uh, I have to leave.”
(‘Okay’?! He must have thought I was asking to leave the shift early!)
“The job!” I clarified. “I have to leave the job. I have to quit.”
“Okay,” he replied, still unconcerned. “By when?”
“. . . By the twelfth,” I stuttered, still bewildered.
“Of this month?”
“Okay. . . ”

My boss walked away unchanged. I’ve seen him become more emotionally vexed about my not changing the oil in the deep fryer. Did that really just happen? I continued scooping the rice in a mixed state of disbelief, doubt, and—more prominently—relief. All I had to do now was ace my interview the next day. . .

Caramel-Filled Chocolate: The Third Interview with Tree

Caramel-Filled Chocolates are sweet and satisfying, but last forever. And while these sugar-centered treats share similar qualities with my third interview, I must admit it isn’t a perfect metaphor. Caramel-filled chocolates take a long time to finish; my interview took a long time to start.

My third interview was once again forty-five minutes after I got off of work. And once again, my gracious cousins let me borrow their car so I could get to Bubba Gump in time. I was ready for this one: I not only had practice, but I also was sporting my UC Berkeley t-shirt, a sure-fire way to impress someone named Tree. Avoiding the freeway, I actually arrived ten minutes early. . . then waited nearly an hour. Following the disappointing end to my last interview, I was ready to leave after half an hour of waiting, but I stuck it out. The bartender even asked me at one point whether or not the managers knew I was waiting for them. Right before my breaking point, a manager named Rick came out, apologized for having me wait, and told me Tree was giving an orientation and that she’d be right with me. That bit of acknowledgment of my existence helped me endure the next ten minutes until Tree was ready to see me.

I’m sure she apologized for having me wait, but all I can really remember was how she didn’t seem that sorry. I have no idea why I wasn’t more annoyed than I should have been, but I wasn’t and I’m glad I wasn’t. Once the interview started, it went very well and I actually liked my interviewer. She seemed genuinely interested in me, my life story, my outlook on life. She was also impressed by my love of Forrest Gump. When I told her that the film was tied for second in my all-time favorite movies list, she quizzed me. I had the answers before she was done with the questions. Despite her disregard for interview start times, Tree (real name: Teresa) is actually a sweet person. “I think you’ll fit in perfectly here,” she informed me at the end of the interview, “so I would like you to come back tomorrow to meet with the general manager Mark.

Le sigh.

Geneva: The Final Interview with Mark

Geneva cookies are thin, crispy cookies covered with chocolate and peanuts on one side.

My interview with the Mark was on Friday, February 5th. Since Fridays are my half days at my soon-to-be former job, I was in no rush to get to the restaurant. I had time to work out, eat a bit, and rehearse my responses. Psyche! I had three interviews worth of rehearsal! Mr. General Manager was just another person waiting to be impressed, and I was just waiting for that chance. In fact, I had done a lot of waiting during this process. I would never have guessed that my waiting days weren’t over.
Again, I was ten minutes early. Again, I waited an hour.

Luckily, I was so numb to waiting it did not bother me. I didn’t even shock me. That’s just how things go, I felt. So, I slid open my AT&T Samsung Propel, linked up to the Internet, and started reading The Iliad on Eventually, I had the host check in on the “manager situation” once again. A minute later, Mark comes briskly walking toward me, sincerely apologizing for the wait and wondering aloud where the communication broke down.

Mark was a understanding, honest guy, if not a little nuts. He was a fast-talking straight-shooter that was surprised that I had to do as many interviews as I did. He was also an effective interviewer, asking me the same questions I’ve answered before, but in a tone that made them new and frightening. Why should I work here? What can I do for the team? What makes me stand out above the rest? Somehow, these answers to these questions seemed made up on the spot instead of, say, refined over the past few weeks. I felt I was doing alright, but the result of the interview could go either way. Finally, Mark pulled out a brand-new obstacle for me to tackle: the drink menu.

“I want you to sell me on—” he flipped through the ping-pong paddle menu, “—Lt. Dan’s Pomegranate Punch.”

“Okay,” I said as I calmly scoured the ingredients list. Pomegranate liquor. . . pineapple juice. . . souvenir glass. . . I got this. Four years of BS-ing film papers was about to pay off.

“When people think of Hawai’i, they think of tropical drinks, like the pina colada, for example. Lt. Dan’s Pomegranate Punch is somewhat like the familiar pina colada, but with a little twist. The pomegranate liquor adds a unique sweetness while still retaining the familiarity of the tropical drinks people are used to. Plus, you get to keep the glass as a souvenir to remember the drink and this place.”


I wasn’t even done listening to myself BS the spiel before Mark gave me the job. He was pleasantly surprised I mentioned keeping the glass. “Souvenirs, whether they be a glass or a memorable experience, are what Bubba Gump is all about!” Mark exclaimed, blatantly impressed for the first time, “How did you know to bring up the glass?”

“Because last time was here, I really wanted a drink because I wanted the glass, but I was short on cash,” I honestly replied. He smiled, gave me the details of orientation, and shook my hand with a firm grip.

The interview was exactly what I was waiting for. It was an overwhelmingly satisfying experience with a gratifying end, if not a little nuts. Just like a Geneva cookie.

And that, that’s all I got to say about that.

I finally find myself walking on a new path in life. Hopefully, my path will be as pleasant as this one seems to be.

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YMWW#16-A: The Shrimpish Inquisition, Part I

Monday, February 8, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

If life is like a box of chocolates, my chocolates must be interviews. I went through four interviews in an attempt to join the fabulous team of servers at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Honolulu. Each time I returned to the restaurant, I didn’t know what I was going to get.

Milk Chocolate: The First Interview with Marci

Milk chocolate is sweet. Very sweet. Actually, milk chocolate is so sweet that by the time you’re done with it, you’re ultimately disappointed. That’s how my first interview was. I turned in my application on Wednesday, January 13th, dressed in a button-up shirt and brimming with confidence. I noticed another applicant: he was wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Loser. This interview was going to be sweet.
And it was, except for the fact that it turned out to be a small group interview. Didn’t matter; the two girls that accompanied me and Mr. Casual were—to put it bluntly—not sharp. And while Mr. Casual actually turned out to be confident and experienced, he was still wearing shorts. So, by virtue of relativity, I felt I came across well during the interview. At least, I thought I did. . .
Marci told us that if they were interested, we’d get a call by that weekend. The weekend came and passed, and I got no call. Like milk chocolate, the interview was sweet, but ultimately left me disappointed.

Shortbread Chessmen: The Call Back

If you get a Pepperidge Farm box of chocolates, they usually come with shortbread cookies embossed with chess piece symbols. These monochromatic rectangles are called Chessmen, and are often overlooked. However, try one you’ll be caught off guard by its deliciousness. These Chessmen are lovely surprises, much like my call back.
On Wednesday, January 20th—exactly a week after my first interview—I got a call from Marci apologizing for taking so long to get to me and asking me if I could come in the next day for another interview. I said, “Hells yeah!” Or something like that. I like surprises.

Rolled Wafers: The Almost Second Interview

Posing as edible straws with flecks of chocolate, rolled wafers seem like a delightful treat, until you bite into them and find you’re only chomping emptiness. There’s nothing there. . . not unlike the interview I didn’t have on Thursday, January 21st.
I borrowed my cousin’s car to make sure I got to Bubba Gump forty-five minutes after I got off of work at Whole Foods. I battled a late start and rush hour traffic (with the help of Brit’s navigational skills) only to be told that the managers were busy and that I should return the next day. All the hope of a delightful experience, and then nothing.
You can read about what happened in the last blog entry, #15: “Just Another Manic Thursday”

Raspberry-Filled Chocolate: The Second Interview with Jordan

It’s hard to resist chocolate-dipped fruit, but reverse the process and it’s a different story. Because of the artificial nature (oxymoron?) of the fruit paste smuggled inside, raspberry-filled chocolates are bitter, underwhelming, and make you want something else. You get what you’re promised, but leave indifferent.
I finally got my second interview on Monday, January 25th, just like I was promised. Jordan tried to play the “tough cop.” My eloquently improvised responses were met with a straight face and an “I’ll accept that answer.” I knew he was impressed, but the truth was, I had my eye on another opportunity (which I did not get). So, when he ended the interview with “Call me in exactly one week to schedule a third interview with the general manager,” I was kind of underwhelmed with the second interview. I was actually relieved to have a week to find out if that other opportunity would pan out.

Another Rolled Wafer: The Almost Phone Call

As dissatisfying as those hollow wafers are, you still go back in hopes that it wouldn’t suck again. Maybe it’ll be sweeter, you think. It’s not.
One week passed by and I gave the restaurant a call on Monday, February 1st. “Jordan is in an interview,” the host informed me. Ironic, since I was trying to contact him to schedule one of those. “I’ll call back in half an hour,” I said. A half hour passed: “Jordan is in an interview.” “Again?!” “Oh, is this. . . Anthony?” “Yeah.” “I’m sorry about that. I can give him your number so he can call you back this time.” He didn’t.
I called him the next day, Tuesday, and he actually answered. “I heard you were trying to call me. It’s being unusually busy here.” He chuckled, and I wondered what was so funny about stringing a guy along about a job. I bit into the wafer again, and was left sorely unsatisfied.


Later that night, I attended the first crew meeting for a fine art photography book production shoot. It will not only take on the themes of nature and fantasy, but also adopt a comic book layout: panels, speech bubbles, and all. Awesome, yeah? During the meeting, I learned of the hectic, nine-day schedule, but also heard first-hand the photographer’s passion for this project. Everybody in the crew was giving him everything they had, and I wanted to as well! I was so excited, the following day I—wait for it—told my boss at Kikka Sushi that I was quitting! Yes, that’s right, before my third interview for my next potential job, I officially put in my resignation for my current job. I told my boss that the twelfth of February would be my last day. What he didn’t know that the twelfth of February is my birthday, so leaving Kikka was kind of a birthday present to myself.
I quite my job. I had a temporary gig with an undetermined amount of pay. I possibly had a job to follow. Risky? Of course. Stupid? Probably. A mistake? Definitely not. I was leaving that job, whether I had financial security or not. My happiness is worth more than security. And besides, it’s been a while since I spat in the face of common sense.

So, did this gamble pay off? Find out in PART 2 of this blog entry!
(I promise it’ll come out tomorrow; I need sleep. . . )

Sorry to leave you guys in suspense!

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YMWW #15: Just Another Manic Thursday

Saturday, January 23, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Everybody has their ups and downs. Sometimes a good week is followed by a bad one; sometimes you ride a fortune roller-coaster in a single day. Thursday was one of the latter.

. . . However, I’m going to cheat and start with a point from Wednesday.


I got a missed call on my phone from an unknown number during work. Feeling no reservations about putting my current task on hold, I sneaked to the break room and listened to the voice mail. It was Marci from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. apologizing for not calling earlier and asking if I’d like to come in for an interview. I called her back right after work and said “Hells yeah!” Or something like that. . .


Thursday morning. Early morning. Try, 4:15 AM. . . and I was up. I was up over an hour-and-a-half before my alarm would go off because my street is a wind tunnel and some unusually strong gusts of wind were pounding on the garage door next to which I sleep. Streams of screeching air blasted through the cracks of the door, which itself was violently shaking near my eardrums. I attempted to move to the living room couch, but my roommate was already snoozing on it, having passed out watching Season One of How I Met Your Mother. I returned to my bed and somehow managed to fall back asleep. At least, for the next hour-and-a-half.


I finally got my first full paycheck in over a month! See, what happened was when I got my first paycheck, they accidentally gave me $600 more than I was supposed to get. When they realized their mistake—a whole two months later, sad day—they started taking increments of “prepaid” money out of my subsequent paychecks; $150 over four paychecks. The last one was a whole $12 because of the days I got off to go to California. But on Thursday I got my first full paycheck in over two months!


That paycheck, though, was supposed to come on Wednesday. But even with it now, I still don’t have enough to repay the money I owe people. Like, my landlord.


I had an interview at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. right after work. Ala Moana Shopping Center (future workplace) is roughly a 40 to 50 minute bike ride from Kahala Mall (my current workplace). Fortunately, my family said they could lend me a car to drive there after work. I got off at 4 PM. The interview was at 4:45. The drive is ten minutes. Sweet.


Not so sweet: my cousin was later than expected dropping off the car. Not too late, but just enough to increase my heart rate a bit. . . and take away the slack time I was going to use to prep myself for the interview in the parking lot. It’s cool, I though, I’ll just take the highway and avoid all the stop signs.


I head up the on-ramp with about 20 minutes until my interview and—


—hit rush-hour traffic. So determined to make it there on time, I forwent the one exit I knew would get me there because it would take too long. I shortly realized that I didn’t know what other exit I should take. Traffic + lost = late. . . unless I could do something about it!


I decided to risk breaking the new cell phone driving law and called my friend Brit. While she seems to always get lost when I’m in her car, she knows exactly where to go when I’m driving and she’s on the phone. She led me through a chill, back entrance approach and I parked in time to walk briskly to the restaurant, approaching the doors 60 seconds before my interview time.
“I’m here for an interview,” I said to the hostess.
“Please take a seat at the bar and a manager will be with you in one minute.”
So, I grabbed a stool and reveled in my ability (read: Brit’s ability) to get me there on time.
“Um, Anthony?” some asked from behind me.


I turned around to see not a manager, but a server. “Hi, um, all the managers are in a meeting right now, so they won’t be able to get to you soon. I don’t want you to wait all day, so can you come back tomorrow, between three and five?”
Shocked and confused, I nodded and hesitantly walked out of there.


Not letting my trip go to waste, I went into Longs Drugs to buy some essentials: toilet paper, toothpaste, maybe some food. I just got a paycheck, I thought, I should go grocery shopping! After about twenty minutes, I had a basket full of boxed cereal and canned goods. I strolled over to the checkout stand very satisfied. The clerk was about to scan a can of sliced peaches when a thought flashed across my mind:


My paycheck would not have cleared by now; I don’t have the money for this stuff!
I stopped the clerk before she scanned my peaches to let her know I had to return everything. Well, almost everything. I left Longs Drugs with a 12-pack of toilet paper and a tuna snack pack.


Still in a slight daze of confusion, I walked to the car, sat inside, and pulled out the tuna snack pack. $3.29 for a premixed can of tuna, a stack of crackers, a cup of diced peaces, and a cookie. A cookie! This was a complete meal for half of what I pay in the mall for lunch! A huge smile spread across my face. Despite having no money, no groceries, and no interview, I was still able to walk away with this little package of hope. I savored every bite, starting with the cookie to jump start my taste buds, continuing through the small but hearty can of tuna, cracker by cracker, and ending with a refreshing cup of peaches, its juices-in-concentrate cleansing my palate. I took a picture!

Look for it in the canned goods aisle of your local grocery store!


After dropping off my cousin’s car and fixing my bike with zip-ties (see below photo), I went to Coffee Talk to hang out with Brit while she “worked.” I love keeping her company at her work, mostly because I get free stuff; Thursday’s freebies were a coffee shake concoction and goat cheese sandwich. Juvana showed up and Brit and I had fun keeping her out of the loop of a previous conversation; it’s our new favorite game. It was a fun ending to a roller-coaster of a day.

The screw that holds the rear rack to my bike keeps falling out. Not surprised, I shouldn’t expect two tiny screws to support the weight of the rack, a crate, and my backpack. I actually trust these two zip-ties more.

And yes, I cut off the excess plastic.


Looking back, I think Thursday taught me that no matter what happens on any given day, you can always find something to balance it out, whether it be a well-deserved tuna snack pack or the company of good friends.

PS: When I realized that the server at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. must have mistaken me for someone just turning in an application, I called the restaurant back. The manager apologized, telling me that it was not my fault at all and that the servers “don’t know anything” sometimes. I have an interview with him on Monday, and he will be there. Guaranteed.

Later days!

You have your ups, you have your downs, but if there’s a Roxy model involved, there’s always something to smile about.

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