Monthly Archives: February 2012

Young Man Went West #35: Playing House

I haven’t said a word to my roommate since I got back from the Big Island. This is less due to the fact that I’ve given up all pretenses of civility and more due to the fact that I simply haven’t been around; for the past ten days, I had been staying at my girlfriend’s place. With her parents gone on vacation in the Philippines, she invited me to a little retreat from my own residence. I gladly welcomed the chance away from my awkward living situation.

I hesitated in writing about this experience for two reasons: 1) I don’t want this blog to get all mushy and Jenn-centric (says the man who posted his Valentine’s poem); and 2) not much happened, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Living with Jenn was simply. . . simple. Uncomplicated. Comfortable. We cooked meals together and washed the dishes afterward. She dropped me off for work and I picked her brother up from martial arts class.  We passed the afternoons watching movies on her projector screen and spent the evenings walking her dog. We fell asleep in each other’s arms and woke up to each other’s smiles.

(Sorry, that last sentence was cringe-worthy.)

Though our cohabitation stint was only ten days long, it gave me a good look into the future, cooking cheap meals together in our tiny outer-borough studio in New York. It didn’t erase any doubts I had about living together because I had none to start with. If anything, it made me anxious to go, and now seven months never seemed so long. Good thing I have a few big distractions ahead to help my time left on O’ahu move by swiftly.

For one, I did manage to find a new place to live. Shortly after coming back from the Big Island, I discovered that one of my new coworkers will have an open spot in her place at the start of March. Finding that out was almost serendipitous as she was the second person I randomly asked. The place is only a few blocks away and within my budget. I will be sharing a room with her brother, which Jenn isn’t too psyched about, but the back patio, kitchen, and living room are all pretty spacious. Plus, it’ll be interesting living with and getting to know three new people, even if they are all under the age of twenty. There is a downside: the place is only until the end of June and then I’m going to have to find a new place for my last few months, but that’s a problem for Future Anthony. Present Anthony’s problem is having to pack up everything for the move.

Another great distraction to help move along the seven months is my Cousin Jen’s wedding in June (congratulations, Jen and Dean!). Not only are trips back home a wonderful change of pace, especially for big family celebrations like a wedding, but this time, Jenn is coming with me to California! My family is excited to meet her and she. . . well, she’s gearing up for a lot of new faces and names to remember. I have no doubt that my fantastic, gigantic family will make her feel welcome, just as I have no doubt that Jenn will dazzle them with her smile. And if a family wedding wasn’t enough excitement, I get to show her around the Bay Area before and afterward. Berkeley, San Francisco, LIVERMORE! Oh, man, is she in for a treat!

Between those distractions, I’ll still be having fun working at Bubba Gump’s, even more so now that I’m a server trainer. I became a trainer not just because I felt our new hires were getting sloppy, but also because I want to transfer to the Times Square location and being a trainer would make that easier. It will be nice to have an immediate income while I apply for grad school in New York.

I couldn’t think of a poignant observation about life to thematically tie up this post. I’m surprised I even wrote as much as I did. Tune in next week when I will again attempt to make my life more interesting to you than Facebook.

My favorite picture of Jenn from this week. Her initial attempt to find a poking stick on the Maunawili Falls Trail was a failure.

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Young Man Went West #34–BONUS POST: A Valentine’s Day Poem

Jenn and I returned from the Big Island on the 12th (my birthday), skipped doing anything on the 14th, and celebrated Valentine’s Day on the 16th. Here is the poem I wrote in her card (which, by the way, took me exactly one hour to write):

Though alone on the path
With the sun sinking low
Onward we marched
To the rumored red glow.

The daylight was dimming
And my camera was dead
But stubbornly I made us
Keep moving ahead.

The sun had gone down
My flashlight, not bright
My phone, it was dying
So I did what was right.

By the light of the moon
I turned us around
No lava for me
But I did not frown.

What mattered the most
To me in that minute
Was getting back to that car
And putting you safely in it.

We backtracked and stumbled
From marker to marker
Our one light was swallowed
It couldn’t get darker.

I could tell you were scared
But you wouldn’t show it
Your bravery got us back
And I want you to know it.

Because I had you
Steadfast at my side
There was no doubt we’d make it
Back to our ride.

If I can hike blindly
I can move to the City
I can do anything
Just as long as you’re with me.

I love you.

-Anthony

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Young Man Went West #34: Marker by Marker

I was waiting to be picked up for my birthday weekend on the Big Island when my roommate called me into the living room. With a deep sigh, I got ready to hear another passive aggressive lecture about dirty dishes or having Jenn over. However, that wasn’t the case.

“I’m going to be having family stay over for about a week in mid-March,” my roommate began, “so I’m going to need your room.”

Before I could process that statement, she continued: “And then I’m just going to hold onto the room after that.”

I was too amused by her passive aggressive way of kicking me out to be angered, and I had sensed an uneasiness between us for too long to be shocked.

Before my summer roadtrip, my roommate worked days and I worked mostly nights, so our paths rarely crossed. It was common for a week to pass between mutual sightings, even though we slept under the same roof. We were never friends and she never tried to be, so it was a perfect living situation.

When I returned in September, three things happened to drastically change that situation. First, I discovered that her boyfriend had moved in. I got along with him well, so I didn’t mind at all. I even welcomed the addition. Second, she started school again, meaning she’d be home during the days to study. And lastly, I got a girlfriend. Since Jenn lives with her parents, my place naturally became our de facto hang out spot.

She never directly told me that Jenn was coming over too often, though I suspected that is how she felt. All she would say is, “When you have guests over, please be considerate of those who are home.” My feeling was, if she couldn’t tell me straightforward to stop bringing Jenn over, I wouldn’t. Besides, she invited her boyfriend to live with us without running it by me first, so she didn’t have a leg to stand on.

But now I don’t have a room to sleep in.

“I feel like we’ve outgrown our relationship as roommates and it’s time for me to take over the room again,” she continued.

I inwardly snickered at her diplomatic phrasing of the situation, then said, “You know I plan to move off the island in September, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Whatever.” And with that, I walked back into what is, at the moment, my room and waited until Jenn and her dad picked me up for the airport shortly afterward.

In line at the security checkpoint in Honolulu International, I told Jenn what had happened. She felt horrible, like it was her fault that I was kicked out. I told her if either of us were to blame, it’d be me. She wouldn’t have come over if I didn’t let her. I also told her not to worry, because I didn’t. I had a birthday to celebrate and an island to explore. This housing situation was going to stay on O’ahu.

I must say, I did a pretty good job of pushing the news to the back of my mind. I barely thought about it. In fact, I didn’t have time to think about it with so many new experiences to be had!

I wasn’t thinking about it when Jenn and I discovered that our cabbie Ian–who drove us from the airport to Downtown Kailua-Kona–had quite an amusing London accent. We asked him questions to keep him talking. Our run-of-the-mill small talk eventually evolved into Ian giving us advice on how to best get to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, what to see, and–most importantly–what to eat along the way. We took extensive notes.

I wasn’t thinking about it during my lovely birthday seafood buffet dinner. Jenn had booked our meal at the King Kamehameha Hotel for the night we arrived. I knew a seafood buffet was not cheap, so I made sure to eat enough crab legs to get Jenn’s money’s worth. My pile of deconstructed shells was mighty epic.

I wasn’t thinking about it when the friendly staff from our hostel, Pineapple Park, agreed to pick us up from Kailua-Kona and drive us south to the hostel in Captain Cook. Bobo, the man behind the wheel, told us the story of his drunken Christmas adventure while the rest of the staffers talked loudly in the bed of the truck. When we finally arrived at Pineapple Park, we were warmly welcomed by Annie, the sweet old Korean lady that owns the place. Without asking us to check in, or even show ID, she ushered us into our private room and let us get ready for bed. I felt more like a friend staying in her house than a guest staying in a hostel.

I wasn’t thinking about it when we found out after breakfast the next morning (at Fish Hopper, one of Ian’s suggestions) that our car rental place wasn’t actually in Kailua-Kona, where Annie graciously agreed to drop us off, but rather back at the airport. Good thing we kept Ian’s business card. When I called for a ride back to the airport, he remembered us and our fare was a wee bit cheaper than the first. Hertz had no problem with us arriving an hour and a half late for our car rental reservation, and so ten minutes after Ian dropped us off, I was the one behind a wheel, taking the 19 towards Hilo.

I will admit that the thought of having to find temporary housing did creep into my head during the drive, but it was a two-and-a-half hour drive, so any thought bouncing around in one’s head is bound to float to the top. However, it suddenly disappeared right before Hilo when we came upon Tex Malasadas, another one of Ian’s recommendations. These malasadas were big and tasty and left a better impression on my palate than did Leonard’s. Our English cabbie was two for two.

We arrived at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the early afternoon with the goal to stick around until sundown to see the lava glow. With hours to kill, we checked out the big yet brief Thurston Lava Tube, then set off down the Chain of Craters road, a 40-minute drive that takes you through a desolate landscape forever changed and changing by the major lava flows from Mauna Loa. We got out of the car often to see how different ways we can take pictures of the black, seemingly post-apocalyptic wasteland. That number, by the way, is too many.

The Chain of Craters led us all the way down to the coast, which we hit by late afternoon. By evening, we made it back up and to the start of a hiking trail that leads to a cinder cone from which you can spy on that rumored glowing lava. All the guides warned us to bring a flashlight per person if we were to hike at night. I had my bike light with me. I figured it’d be enough.

It took us a while to actually find the head of the trail since there was no clear-cut path across the black lava rock. Instead, there was a row of reflectors, each approximately twenty feet apart, marking the trail. Along the way we passed by several groups of hikers heading in the other direction. I should have taken that as a sign, but I was determined to see the lava at night. After all, we had pretty much rescheduled our entire trip to make sure we were in the park by this time of day for that specific reason.

The further we trudged along, the darker it got and the harder it became to see each subsequent marker. Clouds blocked the moonlight from illuminating the land, and the blackness of the lava rock swallowed any residual light. By the time we had reached the base of the cinder cone, there were no more reflective markers. It became evident that we were definitely alone in the middle of a vast, black landscape. The lure of the glowing lava was overshadowed by my lack of confidence of getting us back safely, so I decided to turn us around before attempting to ascend the cinder cone. Besides, my camera battery had just died, so I couldn’t even take a photo of the lava had we seen it.

It turned out that while my bike light shines brightly down a city street at night, it barely makes a presence in true darkness. It hardly produced enough light for the markers to reflect back at us. Nearly blind and arm-in-arm, Jenn and I stumbled from one marker to the next. Sometimes we’d see two or three markers at a time; sometimes we’d have to pause at the last seen marker and look around until we spotted the next. We stepped quickly and lightly, tripping over rocks and bushes the whole time. I laughed with each misstep in an attempt to make light of the situation, though we both knew I had put us in a position where a safety wasn’t a guarantee. We were still a good thirty minutes from the parking lot and my phone was just about dead.

Though I didn’t know if we’d make it back to the car, I was sure we would. I was sure everything was going to turn out alright, because in my experience, that’s what happens when you just stay calm and keep moving forward. I moved to Hawaii without a job or a residence, but I kept moving forward and found both of those markers. I quit my job at Whole Foods before I got my job at Bubba Gump’s, yet I reached that marker safely. I was getting kicked out of my place with a month-and-a-half to find a new one, yet something in me told me that I’d be alright and I needn’t worry; I’d find that next marker.

After almost an hour of searching in the dark, we reached the parking lot. Though I still couldn’t see our car, I hit the unlock button on the key ring and the interior lights shone out in the distance like a beacon of hope. Jenn’s sense of relief was almost visceral. I was relieved, too, but I never worried that we wouldn’t reach it. Like I said, if I keep calm and move forward, I’ll make it out safely. . . one marker at a time.

 

Imagine this landscape at night. . .

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Young Man Went West #33: Someone’s Been Checking You Out!

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you may have noticed that Jenn is the first girl I’ve ever really written about. It is not because I had nothing to write about on the subject of dating until now, but rather because none of it was positive. To do so before would have been an exercise in self-pity, most likely devolving into woe-is-me, Nice Guy rants. There is enough of that on the Internet; I thought I’d spare you.

Needless to say, I suck at dating. I hate “the Game.” I mean, give me some face-to-face time with a person and I could pique their interest with witty repertoire and a smile, but that’s not how it works. Nobody gives you that time, you earn it by throwing one-liners and free drinks at any pretty thing on two legs. Eventually, you end up buying a meal for someone who looked better in the dark and sounded smarter before they spoke. I couldn’t operate in that system.

That’s why I signed up for OkCupid, one of those free casual dating site. I figured you would come across as many undesirable people as you would at a bar, but had the added bonus of screening them for potential before wasting your money on their drink. Also, you’d have all the time in the world to figure out what to say.

What I found out was there are a great number of undesirable people on this island, and those who aren’t rarely respond. So many of the profiles I browsed showcased unflattering photos, weird interests, and/or deplorable grammar. Apparently, social networking sites are where sensible syntax and necessary punctuation go to die. So my account, like my real world love life, lay dormant for a long while.

That is, until I came back from my road trip. It were as though the life points I racked up by being awesome and exploring the country returned with me to Honolulu and spread out into my normal life. I got my place back with lower rent, I got my job back with awesome new coworkers, and I found an e-mail waiting for me that, little did I know, would change my life.

“Hey Anthony, someone’s been checking you out!”

That’s the subject line OkCupid uses in the e-mails they send you to inform you that another user was browsing your profile. I’d get those every once in a while, but the links often brought me to those aforementioned profiles. This one, however, this very first one I received upon returning to Honolulu linked me to the profile of a recent college graduate with modest photos, a keen interest in arts and social issues, and impeccable grammar. I figured I’d send her a message.

The messages I’d previously send to other users were often long, witty, over-edited speeches about common interests and our potential for compatibility. I rarely received replies. So, in a jaded, carefree manner, I kept it short and to the point. You’re interesting. Let me buy you dinner. And wouldn’t you know it? That worked. This girl replied, first asking to know more about me, then later asking where we should eat. I had only just started back up at Bubba Gump’s, but I figured I had enough dough for one date.

Now, as I mentioned, I was in a somewhat jaded state about dating at this point. I had always looked for a relationship and got nowhere. I figured, with this Internet girl, I’d just enjoy myself and expect nothing. I wasn’t even expecting her to be all that attractive; few of her photos revealed her body and all of them obscured her face somehow, save for a great smile. Apparently, that–and her interest in foreign films–was enough for me.

So there I sat in a small wine and tapas place I’d never heard of but lived close to, looking forward to promising conversations with an average looking girl. Suddenly, a stunningly-dressed, petite young woman with eyes as gorgeous as the smile I recognized approached my table.

“Anthony?” she asked.

More like Jackpot Winner, I thought.

She sat down and conversation started to flow naturally. Still, I stayed within my self-set guidelines:

  • Ask her questions about herself. Show interest, sincerely or otherwise.
  • Smile and make eye contact.
  • Don’t talk about myself too much. If she asks, answer completely and briefly, then turn it back to her.
  • Mention, but don’t talk in great length about: my road trip, why I moved to Honolulu, studying abroad, how much I love my family, and how I was a camp counselor for young children with juvenile arthritis the past three summers. Spark the interest, leave it alone, then let her ask.
  • If it fits in the conversation, also offhandedly mention volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.
  • Forget that last guideline; that’s too much. Way too much.

My guidelines seemed to work. I was having a fun time getting to know her and I didn’t feel like I was babbling on too much, like I tend to do. We talked about college, film, future plans. All the normal things. We also talked about OkCupid and how we each used it. Unlike me, who signed up over a year prior yet reaped no benefits, she signed up only a few days before and was already on her first date. She consciously chose unflattering photos to ward off shallow meatheads, and wrote about her senior thesis in length on her profile wall to ward off idiots. The photos didn’t faze me and the senior thesis was a turn on. Things were going well. . .

Until the check arrived.

I guess I wasn’t used to higher end places because I figured a fifty-dollar bill would cover it, backed up by my debit card. Little did I know, three glasses of wine, my escargot, and whatever meal she got added up to nearly $80. Secretly shocked, I told him to use the cash first and put the rest on my card. Why did I only bring a $50?!

I continued on with our conversation, but the waiter came back with a look on his face that carried no good news. The card was declined. No worries, I thought, I’ll just try the debit card from my mainland account. However, my finger found emptiness in the slot in my wallet where that card should be. I riffled through my wallet several times before thinking, “Look, I have literally have no more money to give and I’m sure she does. Why shouldn’t she pay for part of it? I mean, we both ate and drank, and this is the 21st Century!”

Untimely progressive ideals clouded the spot in my brain where shame should have been as I asked her with feigned embarrassment to cover the rest. Without hesitation nor the slight inclination of disapproval, she did. Covering the rest of the check didn’t bother her at all, or at least she didn’t let on that it did. That was when I was hooked.

We carried on with the rest of the evening as though I didn’t just perform the biggest date faux pas, and within the next few days, she had agreed to a second date.

Meeting online and splitting checks? A new age of dating had emerged, and I was top dog.

Our first photo together, taken a few weeks after that awesome first date.

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