Category Archives: YMWW Blog

Young Man Went West #43: Why I Left

Take-off from Honolulu International Airport: Wednesday, 6/6, 7:15. Local time.

It has been two years, eight months, 20 days, 19 hours, and 35 minutes since I landed at that same airport to start my nomadic lifestyle. My initial goal was to make a year, but no more than two. My time in Hawaii stretched out even longer than that, not for lost ambition nor an addiction to beach-side living, but rather for logistics. If I had moved before my road trip–as I had originally intended–it would have been less than two years but I wouldn’t have had enough money to move. And I wouldn’t have met Jenn.

I’m glad I stayed as long as I did.

But now it is time to go. I had previously wanted to move to a new city every year to fulfill my fantasy of a nomadic lifestyle, hence the one-year-in-Hawaii time limit. After a few stabs at starting anew, I would have eventually moved to New York for my finale. As it were, I found myself in Hawaii for nearly three years and with a girlfriend who’s had a decade-long dream of New York. I’m ready to fast-forward to that finale.

Jenn and I left Hawaii to arrive in California just in time for my sister’s 30th birthday and my cousin’s wedding. I know meeting a hundred family members would be overwhelming, but she has been taking it with grace. My parents love her and she formed a bond with my sister within hours. The tables will turn during our second week in California as she reunites with some of her west coast-based friends and I try to live up to their expectations of me. At least it’ll be on my turf!

We will finally arrive in New York the following Wednesday (all my adventures seem to start on a Wednesday!), where my nomadic lifestyle will come to an end. . . as will this blog. It wouldn’t make sense to keep writing under “Young Man Went West” if I’m no longer in the West. . .

Hence why I bought the domain YoungManWentEast.com!  Go ahead and type it in, you’ll be redirected back to this home page.

Be sure to change your bookmarks to “Young Man Went EAST” (because “Young Man Went WEST” will become defunct soon) so you can keep up with my next big move the best big city.  No time limit this time, just infinite dreams for an indefinite future.

Young Man Went East [dot] com

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Young Man Went West #42: Just One More State

As we made our way from the snack stand to the fake river’s edge to watch the “Rainbow of Paradise” canoe pageant, a thought crept into my head: “I’ve done this before.”

This exactly? No. I had never been to the Polynesian Cultural Center before. I had never filled up on a meal of chili rice and mac nut ice cream. I had never squeezed in among tourists to watch a river parade.

But I have done “this.” I’ve explored the most touristy attraction of a region with equal parts admiration and cynicism and my good friend Ian by my side. Sure, our summer roadtrip had ended eight months prior, but apparently he and I had one more state to explore: Hawaii.

Ian came to stay with me during the second week of May. He had been talking about visiting since I moved here almost three years ago, but it wasn’t until news of my impending move reached him did he make plans to come. That, and his savings account had to recuperate after our cross-country adventure. I was excited to have him come. Ian and I went to the same middle school, high school and college. We have a lot of the same friends, interests, and opinions. We spent three months together in a Honda Civic. It was weird to think that something as familiar to me as Hawaii was something he hadn’t truly experienced before. I couldn’t wait to fix that.

I had played tour guide to a number of friends before Ian, so I knew what I was doing. Jenn and I picked him up from the airport ready with a couple containers of poke. In the span of six days, he also tried traditional Hawaiian food, shave ice, Spam musubi from 7-Eleven, Storto’s sandwiches, Kahuku shrimp, and a Zip Pac from Zippy’s. We did the requisite trips up to North Shore, around Waikiki, and into Chinatown. And even though I couldn’t go because of work, he got to visit Pearl Harbor, too. I’ve not only eaten, seen, and done all of these things countless times before, but I’ve also made a point of introducing them all to my friends.

But this time, it was different.

I realized that these mini trips and food experiences were as much for my sake as they were for his; he was exploring these places for the first time, and I was exploring them for possibly the last. At least, the last time as a resident. A transplant local. Universities say you need to be living in state for a year before you can claim residency; on my one-year mark I got a tattoo in honor of my first “kama’ainiversary.” Since then, I’ve transitioned from wide-eyed newcomer to indifferent local. I don’t go to the beach anymore. I no longer walk around Waikiki for the hell of it. I barely leave my neighborhood except to go to work. I decided to use Ian’s visit as motivation to rediscover my island.

On Ian’s first full day here, I swallowed my pride and participated in a full day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. For the past three years, I’ve been told to avoid this tourist trap, but before our day at PCC  was even half over, I was legitimately enjoying the entire experience! Unlike Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove, PCC isn’t just a luau–which by today’s terms means a low-quality Hawaiian food buffet with a cheesy dancing and an even cheesier host–it’s a theme park as well as a stage show with high production value. I mean, it does have that aforementioned type of luau, but it’s sandwiched between two much better experiences.

Even though the layout of the 42-acre collection of “villages” looks as fake as Disneyland, it’s more of a living museum than a theme park. There are demonstrations at each of the six main villages every half hour. Each village represents a different major Polynesian culture (Samoa, Aotearoa a.k.a. New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, and Hawai’i), and each is run by natives from those places who are dressed in traditional garb, demonstrate dances and instruments, and drop some first-hand knowledge of their respective cultures. I learned a lot from the demonstrations, and not just about the characteristics of those six cultures, but also about the distinctions between them. This came in handy for the evening show, which was an awe-inspiring spectacle that told a legendary tale while exploring the six major cultures through song and dance.  Ian and I were equally impressed with our time at the PCC, especially since this was supposed to be our ironically touristy day in Hawaii.

While Ian’s first full day at the PCC was an experience most locals don’t partake in, his last full day was something we almost all do: spend a day on the North Shore. It was his first legitimate Hawaiian beach day. We jumped off the rock at Waimea, got shave ice in Haleiwa, and ate shrimp in Kahuku. To top it off, we spent that Friday night barhopping in Chinatown and Waikiki with Jenn and her friends. It was typical and it was perfect at the same time. I’d never seen Ian lament over leaving a place as he did the next morning. He did just enough of everything in six days to realize that six days wasn’t enough. While I think nearly three years was plenty of time for me, I can expect that my last day here, much like Ian’s, will still be filled with a similar sweet sorrow.

The week Ian came to explore one last state with me was not only a good epilogue to our summer road trip, but also a good ending to my time in Hawaii.

My hat: the past. My shirt: the future.

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Young Man Went West #41: Jump Cuts 2 – Return of the Lazy Blogger

I’ve missed my last few blog post deadlines. This is due in part by 1) the lack of an obvious and easy story to tell, and 2) the fear of having to live up to the length and/or poignancy of my previous blog posts. But a writer’s gotta write, right? So, instead of failing to turn in an awe-inspiring post, I’ll instead successfully turn in. . . words.

Here they are.

  • Two Sundays ago, I spent the entire day with my girlfriend’s dad. He asked me to help him record the audio of his Filipino organization’s bamboo band. It was just me and him on a mini-roadtrip to Waipahu, eating Filipino food all day, and playing around with a lot of expensive recording equipment. He seemed more at ease with me, and in turn, so was I around him. We ended that day by going out to dinner with the rest of his family.
  • My transfer to the Times Square Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in New York is pretty much set. It turns out, my manager had trained the person who is now manager at that location. He shot her an e-mail about me, giving me full stamp of approval. She said I just had to walk in and ask for her. Immediate income will be nice to have for the big move.
  • The last Sunday, I spent the morning with Mr. Bautista again. We finished covering the rest of his roof with reflective coating. Not only did the job flow more easily since we were seasoned pros and well-equipped (I bought a paint roller), but our conversation flowed more easily as well. I was less concerned with trying to impress him, and he seemed more comfortable around me. Even Mrs. Bautista seemed a lot less awkward talking to me. We ate out for lunch at a dim sum place, just me, Mr. and Mrs. Bautista, and Sam. Jenn was still at work, so she missed out on the deliciousness.
  • Now that it’s May, I have to focus on how to deal with all the stuff I’ve accumulated in Hawaii. I have to either pack it, sell it, or give it away. I really don’t have too much junk to deal with, it’s just that most of it is too insignificant to deal with in the first place. What am I going to do with my collection of cool beer bottles, for instance, or my worn out shoes? Eh, I guess I’ll be forced to figure it out eventually.
  • As a server trainer, I get to know almost every new person that starts working at Bubba’s. Lately, most of them have been really cool, and I’m a little sad that I won’t be spending much longer working side-by-side with them. It is somewhat rewarding turning newbies into fellow coworkers. Pretty soon, I’ll be the newbie.
  • Right now, my buddy Ian is crashing on my couch. This is the same Ian that roadtripped around the US with me last summer. I guess he wasn’t done couchsurfing in other states. It’ll be fun playing host and tour guide one last time; I’ll get to re-explore this place before I leave.
  • Bullet points are easy ways to convey ideas without needing to organize them.

My Future Workplace

And there you have my latest blog. Don’t worry, these will get more interesting when I move.

Until next time, Internet people!

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Young Man Went West #40: Meet the Bautistas–Part Two

Note: This note got pretty lengthy, even for me, so to spare you a dauntingly dense field of text to tackle, I split this post into two parts. This is the conclusion of the story that began with #39. – AR

As soon as we arrived at their single-story Kahala house, Mr. Bautista and I got straight to work. One section of the roof needed a layer of white reflective roof coating. We shared one broom-turned-paintbrush, two buckets of coating, and a partially cloudy morning sky. Jenn’s younger brother was on the rooftop, too, but he spent more time enjoying his rare vantage point than being our assistant. I couldn’t blame him; the mix of a young boy’s imagination and great heights is far more interesting than watching older people talk about grad school, writing jobs, history books, and martial arts movies. Actually, I take that last one back, Jenn’s brother came in and out of that martial arts movie conversation.

We reached the bottom of the second bucket before we reached the last corner of the roof. Though there is still some work to be done, Mr. Bautista and I made great advancements that morning. The same can be said of our relationship. And just like a far-fetched analogy, we left the unfinished job behind us and promptly moved on to the next part of our day.

By the time we had finished washing up, lunch was ready. Jenn’s mom prepared char siu, bok choy, and rice. Had I prepared such a lunch on my limited funds in my limited kitchen, I’d have been proud enough to post the whole process on Facebook. I complimented her cooking, but she brushed off my praises. To talented cooks like Jenn’s parents, this was just some random, last-minute, no-thought food. That, or they just thought I was sucking up.

Jenn’s brother, again his attention elsewhere, scarfed down his portion of lunch and retreated to his computer game. He left me and his two parents discussing family histories, a topic at which we arrived after I asked how each of their families found themselves in Hawaii. My plan was to segue that conversation towards a hilarious anecdote about one of my first memories of Hawaii (a story I can relate later if you all so wish), but the ensuing discussion took such a different turn that I forgot about my original intent. Nonetheless, it felt good to get both parents talking at length, and although they were just relating information more than interacting with me, I saw that lunch as a positive step with both of them.

After lunch, Mr. Bautista gave me an old camera lens and taught me how to use it, then we sat down to watch a three-hour Taiwanese film titled Yi Yi. While the slow pace of the film would have tested the attention span of an average moviegoer, I actually–and thankfully!–enjoyed all three hours and tried my hardest to convey as much when we discussed the film afterward. My film studies degree had finally paid off!

Jenn came home from work during the last half hour of the film and after it was finished, the three of us started cooking dinner of steak, salmon, and pasta. Jenn’s mom and brother joined us and eventually everybody had a task in the kitchen. . . myself included. I cut the fish and the vegetables. Everything was perfectly spiced and even though I had no rice to go with my two types of meat, the pasta with fresh, home-made sauce was quite a worthy substitute. This time, the table was quieter, but I think that spoke more of the meal than anything else.

With each event of the day, I felt progressively more comfortable around Jenn’s family.  While I cannot say that I became a part of the family that day, I will say that by the time I we started to eat, I felt like I had finally earned a spot at their dinner table.

Maybe I should have taken a picture of the dinner spread.

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Young Man Went West #39: Meet the Bautistas–Part One

Note: This note got pretty lengthy, even for me, so to spare you a dauntingly dense field of text to tackle, I split this post into two parts. The story will shortly after with #40. – AR

Before last week, I’d never spent quality time with Jenn’s parents. Before last week, I’d only met up with them a handful of times for brief small talk over casual meals. Before last week, that small talk was always awkward.

That’s because, before last week, Jenn’s parents did not know of our plans to move to New York.

Being a more recent college graduate, Jenn was still juggling her post-college life decisions, e.g. teaching abroad, applying to grad school, figuring out what she’d want to study if she were to go to grad school, and so on. Every time an opportunity opened, closed, or altered, she’d also have to figure out the time and manner in which to let her parents know. I, therefore, did not want to be the messenger before she was ready to send the message, so I kept my conversations with her parents short and off-topic.

That is until last week when she finally revealed to them our awesome plan. Overall, it went pretty well. They were fine with her not teaching in Korea, postponing grad school, and moving across the country. They only thing they weren’t sure about was me.

Jenn’s parents didn’t dislike me, they just didn’t know me. How could they? The few times we had met, we both avoided real conversation. Now that the New York plan was out in the open, we could communicate freely. Or so I hoped.

Shortly after Jenn told her parents about New York, they invited me to join them for pizza at a nearby restaurant. Along the way, I practiced my responses to their probable questions about our plans, but the dinner turned out to be the normal stilted talk of before. There was a little discussion about New York, but it came and went with a fleeting speed. Mostly we just chewed food.

I found out afterward from Jenn that her parents just simply didn’t want to interrogate me over dinner, a notion I appreciate but would not have minded. I mean, I was prepped and ready! I had a cache of well-formed reasons, motives, and plans. Instead, all they asked me was if the Times Square Bubba Gump really needed another server.

I guess Jenn’s dad felt as unsatisfied with our pizza dinner as I did, so he had Jenn ask me if I’d like to help him repair his roof. Though Jenn thought it an insulting request, I was ecstatic! I’d be doing manual labor, which I actually like to do. . . on occasion. We’d also be having lunch and discussing photography as well. What’s more, Jenn wasn’t even going to be there; she had to work from nine to four that day. For the first time during my relationship with Jenn, I felt like her family wanted to get to know me. I jumped on the invitation to spend some quality time with them.

Mr. Bautista picked me up around ten in the morning on Sunday. Even though this was the first time I’d seen him without Jenn around, it somehow already felt less awkward than all of our other encounters. It may be because we had something to talk about besides me and my relationship with his daughter. It may be because I felt needed to fill a void his children couldn’t, i.e. walking on rooftops and lugging buckets around. Most likely, though, I probably felt comfortable right away because I knew I had all day to make an impression instead of just a single meal period.

I know that feel, bro.

To be continued. . .

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Young Man Went West #38: HNL to OAK, SFO to JFK

And so it’s official: we have tickets.

We bought our first set of tickets–Hawaii to California–a couple weeks ago one lazy morning from my kitchen table. That wasn’t a hard decision; we needed tickets to California for my cousin Jen’s wedding anyway, so we knew we had to jump on the cheapest ones we could find. Buying one-ways gave us the ability to back out of our New York plans and return to Hawaii after the wedding.

Not that we thought we would.

6 June 2012: Honolulu International Airport –> Oakland International Airport

The more daunting decision came later. After trying to plan out what we’d need to do when we got to New York, it became apparent that everything hinged on our arrival date. We couldn’t set anything into motion until we settle that date first. So, while studying (read: eating lunch near our books and laptops) at one of Jenn’s favorite restaurants, town, Jenn started browsing the Internet for tickets from the Bay Area to New York. Much to our surprise, we found some for under $200 each. Great deal, right? We had to jump on it.

As we were filling out the plethora of information forms needed to fly through the air, it slowly dawned on us: this is it. This is the start of the Big Move. Our one-ways to California allowed us to chicken out of those plans, but buying this second set of tickets meant there was no turning back. . . without paying cancellation fees. A second before hitting “Purchase,” I paused. We looked at each other and attempted to contemplate the gravity of the decision, but laughed it off and I clicked the button.

20 June 2012: San Francisco International Airport –> John F. Kennedy International Airport

Now that the date is set, we can start contacting landlords about apartments, employers about job prospects, and friends about meeting up (and crashing on couches). Now that the date is set, we can also start planning what to do and who to see in the Bay Area for those two weeks. Now that the date is set, we can actually count down how long we have left on this island to say goodbye.

We’re ready for this move. Are you?

Aloha, New York.

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Young Man Went West #37: I’d Have Gone Anyway, a guest post by Jennifer Bautista

Since I was too lazy to come up with another post, I asked (read: begged) my girlfriend to do a guest post. It turned out much better than anything I could have thrown together this week. – AR

My obsession with New York began when I was twelve – that awkward age at which you first start to consciously define yourself. I blame this obsession on all the Law and Order I used to watch as a child. As someone who grew up in Hawaii, I felt unique knowing so much about such a vast, distant city (all the way on the East Coast!). Most of my classmates had never been there, much less had the ability to rattle off random details about it, such as the No Right Turn On Red rule or the fact that New Yorkers say “standing on line” instead of “standing in line.” For years I carried a map of Manhattan in my pocket, memorized the street names on my free time, and even designated a dream apartment (820 Fifth Avenue). Much to the shock of my family and friends, this obsession did not take me to New York for college; instead, I ended up spending my four years in Portland, which only confirmed my suspicions that I really needed to move to the City at some point in my life.

Like any typical recent college graduate, I had been encouraged to either enter the workforce as a useful member of society (apparently I had just been taking up space before) or to immediately continue on to graduate school. Uninterested in starting a professional career and burnt out from school for the time being, I spent a month in Southeast Asia instead. I road tripped up-and-down the U.S. west coast.  I played tour guide to two of my best friends who visited me in Hawaii. These temporary activities distracted me from the lack of specific future plans I had for the upcoming year. Besides living back home in Hawaii and applying to both the Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Korea and to grad schools in New York to study urban planning, I had no idea what to do with myself. I reluctantly applied to jobs for which I felt overqualified, while feeling extremely nostalgic for my college friends, Portland coffeeshops, and that general feeling of productivity that I felt at Reed.

Bored and nearly broke, I hatched a plan: join OkCupid, that free dating site that was so popular in Portland, and go on a string of first dates. Lots of free meals and cheap entertainment to pass the time – what a perfect way to try new restaurants! Since I had just created a restaurant blog a few weeks ago, trying new restaurants around Hawaii had become one of my new favorite hobbies. It wasn’t until later that I noticed how much my string-of-first-dates plan seemed to be taken straight out of a bad romantic comedy.

My plan began to unfold smoothly. I was having fun creating my profile and taking the personality quizzes the site uses to match you to potential dates. I described myself in the most pretentious way possible by immediately discussing my senior thesis about the perpetuation of inequalities in the public school system, and I made sure to only upload photos in which my face was covered by a hat and my body hidden under modest attire. I figured this would be the most efficient way to avoid spending a first date with someone who was a complete imbecile and would waste my night with non-intellectually-entertaining conversation, or someone who only cared about looks and would just make me feel uncomfortable the entire night.

Since online dating sites lay out everything about each user in front of you, they allow you to be superficially picky about every little aspect about a person. Thus, I immediately ruled out any non-Atheist/Agnostic, anyone who was not college-educated, who was under the age of 21 or over 28, and who was over 5’7”. I had been on the site for only a couple of days, and my inbox was already full of messages from the typical idiots and creeps I had so painstakingly tried to avoid. So much for my plan to sit back and let my filtering method magically bring only desirable potential dates. Not all messages came from idiots or creeps; some actually seemed quite promising. I even responded to a few, one of which came from a Berkeley grad who, according to OkCupid, was an 86% match for me.

The message was brief, but from those two sentences it was clear that “Berkeley” had taken the time to read my entire profile, as he referred to four things that were the keys to my heart (or at least to a first date): social constructions, trying new restaurants, foreign films, and my thesis. Even more exciting, he made it clear that he was interested in meeting up for dinner.

Who was this guy? I looked at his profile and recalled why I had initially written him off while previously browsing it. Although the depiction of himself was appealing (he was obviously smart, honest, and had a sense of humor), one glaring thing stuck out and had led to my immediate dismissal of him: he was too tall for me. He was 5’9”, a whole two inches taller than my height limit allowed.

But our messaging was going so well! I convinced myself that it was only a date – why was I so picky about his height for a one night event anyway?

After a few more online exchanges, I eagerly sent him a list of restaurant options (as well as links to their menus) for our date, and we made plans to meet the very next evening. Operation String of First Dates – ready for takeoff!

We met at Formaggio’s, a wine bar and restaurant in Kapahulu. I was glad he had chosen this restaurant because I was familiar with the area and had a friend who bartended there; if the date went poorly I had some escape options up my sleeve. I was pretty confident; I’d been on first dates before and, while they almost never turned into anything serious, they’d usually been pleasant because I enjoy attracting people for short periods of time, and I always get a free meal out of them. I expected tonight to be no different.

I arrived at the restaurant at exactly 8 pm and spotted a man in a white button-up shirt sitting at a table facing the door near the entrance. He certainly looked like the guy from the photos but was cuter in real life. Just to make sure, I asked, “Anthony?” It was him! Yup, he’s much cuter in real life. He stood up, shook my hand and hugged me awkwardly. Great, now everyone in the restaurant knows we’re on a first date.

Conversation flowed smoothly. It helped that we already knew basic facts about each other; now we could actually dig deeper. A lot deeper. In fact, we stayed at Formaggio’s for over three hours, discussing his road trip, my aspiration to study urban planning, our hero Anthony Bourdain, love for New York, shared interest in photography, and eerily coinciding plans to teach English in Korea. His English teaching plans were more up in the air as he hadn’t begun the EPIK application yet, whereas I had turned in my Fulbright application a few weeks ago. Apparently I felt so comfortable with him that, by the time our entrées arrived, I confessed to him that I had applied to teach English in Korea mainly because I wanted to live abroad, not because I was interested in teaching.

I was enjoying the date too much. He was a good listener, made me laugh, didn’t just blindly agree with every eccentric opinion I decided to divulge, and had that rare ability to laugh at himself. I knew even before we agreed that we were too full for dessert that I didn’t want this to be my last date with him.

I was certain he felt the same way until something happened that really made me question whether or not my life had somehow turned into a romantic comedy. When Anthony tried to pay for our check, our waiter solemnly returned and informed him that his card had been declined. Anthony tried another card, but apparently plastic just wasn’t working for him that night. He found some cash in his wallet which covered about half of our meal but had to ask me to help pay for the rest.

Just my luck. I try to date for the free meals and end up paying for my own on the very first one. I was so amused by the irony of my situation that I couldn’t have cared less about paying (trust me, $40 for a three-hour dinner with this guy was completely worth it), and my only fear was that he felt too embarrassed to ask me out to another date.

When I got home after our short post-dinner stroll, during which I gleefully decided that he didn’t seem too tall for me after all, I told myself I’d give him four days to contact me again; if he doesn’t, then I’d go back onto the site and reluctantly continue my string of first dates. Much to my relief, about half an hour after we said good night to each other, he called to ask me out for a second date later that week.

Operation String of First Dates had been officially terminated.

Five and a half months later, Anthony and I returned to Formaggio’s for the first time to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which we celebrated on the 16th because being a repulsively mushy couple on the actual day would have been too cheesy for us. Although we were sitting at almost the exact same spot as on our first date, we were both in a completely different place than when we had first met in September. It’s hard to believe that only a little while ago we had once been complete strangers and were now almost inseparable.

It had already been over two months since we decided to move to New York together. In December, around the time grad school applications were due, I finally admitted to myself what I didn’t want to believe: I was using grad school as an excuse to move to New York. Knowing Anthony wanted to move to New York with me if I got into grad school, I asked him if he’d come with me even if I wasn’t a student there. Apparently New York had really worked its way into his heart during his road trip, because, without any hesitation, he said yes.

In June we’ll be moving to New York, not because I’m heading off to grad school, but because, for the first time, I am finally doing everything I can to fulfill my dream, and the 5’9” guy I love is coming with me.

You can find more of Jenn’s writing at her own blog: self-indulging in hawaii

Jennifer Bautista, guest writer

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