Tag Archives: Forrest Gump

Young Man On The Road #17: And The Southern Girls With The Way They Talk, They Knock Me Out When I’m Down There

July 30-August 5

Folly Beach, Charleston, and Columbia, SOUTH CAROLINA; Atlanta and Savannah, GEORGIA

In an effort to get caught up to speed, I’m combining several destinations into a single post and driving the stories by photos.

Photo Mash-up No. 2: The South

Folly Beach and Charleston (July 30-August 2)

I was feeling less than ecstatic about our trip ever since leaving New York, and worried that the remaining month-and-a-half—that wasn’t going to be spent in New Orleans or California—would be a drag.  Ian felt the same.  Throughout the East Coast, we traded (mostly) joking remarks about calling it quits and flying back.  The Big Apple was just too sweet.

If we weren’t enthusiastic about the progressive big cities of the East, how would Ian and I–two minorities–feel about a region steeped in a history of prevalent racism?  I felt a tinge of paranoia about my driving speed as we crossed into South Carolina.  Didn’t want to see if stereotypes about racist Southern cops held up.

We stopped for gas at a dinky gas station somewhere in South Carolina after nightfall.  I was a bit wary of running into a shotgun-toting redneck with a distaste for brown folks, but I paid those prejudice thoughts no heed.  I had to go inside after filling up to get a receipt, and there I found an old, black gentleman congenially carrying a conversation with the counter boy, a meek-looking white high schooler.  The older man, if I recall, was informing the counter boy of the importance of higher education, and the young kid ended each response with, “sir.”  My wariness of prevalent racism relaxed.  When it was my turn at the counter, the young kid kept calling me “sir,” too.  Southern hospitality: not all stereotypes are negative.  It was comforting to know which ones I found to be true.

I made it a point to refer to every person thereafter as “sir” or “ma’am.”

We made it to Charleston in the dark of night. . . and then kept going, following the robot voice of our GPS unit over a bridge and to the island of Folly Beach.  I learned three things on that drive: 1) Charleston is on the coast of South Carolina, 2) there are many islands right off that coast, and 3) our island destination was a beach town with a drinking problem.  No, not problem.  That would suggest that drinking is detrimental to the town.  Folly Beach thrives on it.  It’s a beach town with a drinking infatuation.  We met up with my friend and former Bubba Gump coworker Kylene at her work.  Quite appropriately, she is a bartender at her dad’s restaurant Loggerhead’s Beach Grill.

When Kylene said she lived only two minutes away from her bar, she wasn’t exaggerating.  We found her at her bar and, after a few free drinks and socializing with some friendly strangers, followed Kylene to her place. . . about half a block away.  I found out the next morning that the beach—an actual beach!—was just behind the bar in the other direction.  I never considered myself much of a beach person.  Even though I live in Hawaii, I rarely felt inclined to take the ten-minute bike trek from my place to the ocean.  However, after a month of long drives and city-hopping, I was surprised by how much I missed the beach.  The waves were cloudy and brown, but nonetheless refreshing.

We couldn’t lounge around Folly Beach the whole time, however.  Despite Kylene’s relaxing porch, her air-conditioned house, and the nearby beach, we owed it to ourselves to drive back over the bridge and explore Charleston.  Visually, it was just as refreshing as the feel of the ocean.

The buildings were straight out of the French Quarter in Disneyland, gorgeous and grandiose.  A cobblestone path led us from the Battery into the heart of Downtown Charleston.  The huge, colorful houses with their balconies and porches were giving me a tease of what I knew I’d find in New Orleans.

South Carolina definitely looked like how I imagined the Old South.  But even more so, I felt a vibe of care and pride emanating from the city.  The smiles and friendly small talk we received from the locals was a welcome change from the tight lips and rolled eyes of the East.

We spent our last night in Downtown Charleston with Kylene and her coterie of friends.  I remember mircobrewed beer, delicious fried green tomatoes, and ping-pong in the back.  But more than that, I will not forget how welcoming Kylene’s friends were, how interested they were in our adventure and how willing they were to share their stories with us.  Folly Beach, and Charleston to an extent, may be removed from the “true South,” but Southern hospitality spread out far beyond those borders.

Columbia (August 2)

On the drive from Charleston to Atlanta, we stopped by Columbia, SC, to peak around the University of South Carolina, the other USC.  In the merchandise shop where I bought my obligatory keychain, the folks inside were quite engaging, expressing their interested remarks with the thickest Southern accents I’d yet heard.  They spent a while excitedly telling us where to eat and giving us directions.  My initial apprehension about the South had all but dissipated.

Atlanta (August 2-5)

I once heard of a girl who would tell people she was from the South.  When other Southerners asked where exactly, they scoffed when she said Atlanta.

Georgia is definitely a Southern state.  Atlanta, Georgia, on the other hand, is a widespread metropolitan city that has moved past its Southern roots to embrace modern city-planning and architecture.  In the vein of LA, there is no true center of the city; neighborhoods are spread out and linked by freeways.

Even our hosts for the first two nights were far from Southern.  Michael (from somewhere in Canada) and Halef (from somewhere in Asia) are a middle-aged gay couple that have hosted over two hundred Couch Surfers in an effort to expand their cultural understanding whenever they aren’t traveling themselves.  Needless to say, they were amazingly caring and interesting hosts.

We spent most of our time in the ENTERTAINMENT? District, home of the Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center, and—most notably—the World of Coke.  Ian and I seriously had a fantastic time in the World of Coke.

The building is divided into multiple rooms featuring interactive museum displays, theaters, and a tasting area where you can try 64 different sodas from around the world!

I might not be a soda-drinker, but the World of Coke is definitely worth the price of admission.

No one told us to go to the World of Coke, and we had a blast.  On the other hand, everybody told us to go to The Varsity, a fast food restaurant and staple of Atlanta.  Boy, were we disappointed.

I don’t know what I’m more confused about: how this disgusting excuse for a restaurant became so popular, or how their product passes for acceptable food in the minds of the locals.  The burger I ate doesn’t even pass for acceptable fast food.  White Castle tastes like gourmet deli cuisine compared to this pile of flavorless crap!

We were fortunate enough to be in Atlanta when my buddy Harry—another former Bubba Gump’s coworker—came back from his own adventure: a two-month trip around Europe.   Although he hadn’t been home for more than a couple of days, he was willing to show us other parts of Atlanta, a younger, hipper, more diverse neighborhood.  Basically, where all the college kids live.

We even got to stay with Harry in his childhood home on our third and final night.

It was a freakin’ huge house.

A trip to the Sweetwater Brewery and Mellow Mushroom pizzeria with Harry rounded out our trip to Atlanta.  We had a great time, but I felt like we barely tapped the South.  It was a good thing we stopped by Savannah, GA, on the way to Florida. . .

Savannah (August 5)

I will admit, the initial draw of Savannah was its place in cinematic history: the bus stop bench from Forrest Gump was set in Downtown Savannah.  Although the bench has been removed from Chippewa Square, I was hoping the setting itself would bring me into one of my favorite movies.

The secondary draw of Savannah was its purported beauty.  Whenever I’d mention how beautiful I found Charleston to be, the usual response was, “You should go to Savannah!”  Now, I’ve never called a city beautiful and literally meant it.  Rather, when I said San Francisco or New York were beautiful cities, I really meant that the idea of such exciting metropolitans was beautiful.  Savannah was, simply, aesthetically beautiful.  It were as though somebody stole the charm of Rainbow Row in Charleston and spread it out over an entire downtown area in Georgia.

Gallant statues stood proud in the centers of numerous squares that proliferated the town.

Colorful buildings lined streets older than the country itself.

People in the streets would excitedly exclaim, “Hi!  How are y’all doing today?” as though they were waiting all day for us to pass by.

The Riverwalk, with its cobblestone paths and centuries-old storefronts, brought me to a place and time as foreign to be as the cities I saw on the British Isles.

Savannah was truly a sight to behold, but honestly not much more than that.  A sight.  We were not spending the night and had no inclination to do so, but I was glad to have caught a glimpse of the old South.


I’m accutely aware that our destinations in the South might not have been exactly representative of “the South.”  Rather, Folly Beach and Atlanta live on the periphery of the culture that claims “will rise again.”  Florida is not a Southern state, and we would be hightailing it through Alabama and Mississippi to get to New Orleans, which has a subculture of its own.

At first, this seemed like a lost opportunity, a missed chance to spend quality time in the United States’ most distinct subculture.  And then I remember certain facts, like 46% of Mississippi Republicans believe interracial marriage should be banned, and feel content with the Southern spots we hit.


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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 Sparknotes.com. 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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