Thursday, November 27, 2014

People who help people, and the rest of us

The Irish Rose in Waikiki is surprisingly hard to find at eleven in the morning on a Tuesday. I've only ever gone there on my way home from other bars on payday, when it's very dark, very late, and it seems like a very good idea to eat too many Louisiana hot links with spicy mayonnaise.

"Yeah, I'll eat the street meat from here." ~ Rachel making good decisions.
Mum seems to have been secretly drinking there--with MY friends!--in the years since I left, because like a homing pigeon, she walked us right up to the stairs and into the only bar in Honolulu where it's still acceptable to smoke. The blackout curtains were drawn to keep away the sunlight and the shame, and we were the only women in the place. It was Veterans Day, so Mum bought a round of drinks for a biker gang that came up to the bar after one of their bikes broke down on the street outside.

Dean mixed us his famous bloody marys, which we felt okay ordering because there weren't that many people there on Tuesday morning and he had time to mix specialty cocktails for us. He even brought out his special stash of super-spicy olives, because it was my birthday week and he expresses his affection through alcohol.

For you, my friend.
 Dean and I had worked together at Honolulu Weekly, back when newspapers were still a thing. The Weekly is gone now, as is the magazine I wrote for when I moved to New York. So now, I work at a college and he works in a bar. There's an odd symmetry to our career choices. We're catching the youth at both ends.

He's also going to open a bookstore, the natural habitat of the misanthrope. We came up down a lot of possible names for the store for him, each funnier to us than the last, on account of the bloody marys. We laughed for an embarrassingly long time about "Hard Backs and Soft Covers"--or maybe it was "Hard Covers and Soft Backs." We also liked "Book 'Em, Deano," "Books on Beretania," and "Hana Hou Books," though I think he'd stopped listening to us by then.

I get along with Dean because he's one of the very few friends in my life who, like me, doesn't much like other people. I'm not saying we don't have friends. Dean actually has a very wide social circle, with many people who love him enough to come down to his workplace and tell stories about their worst, sleaziest acts ever done in theme parks. He'll even officiate at your wedding, if you're dying to have the officiant read the most violently misogynistic parts of the Bible during the ceremony.

I myself am moderately popular, especially in Honolulu, where the slower pace of life made it easier to nurture human relationships. But while I like individual people, humanity as a whole kind of freaks me out. I dread meeting new people, and even having people I know over to my home makes me nervous. What if they want to use my toilet? What if they want to spend the night? What if they never leave? 

So I was surprised, on my whirlwind of visits to Honolulu friends and colleagues, to learn how many of my loved ones have careers in health care and social services. Sunday night, I ran into the old president of my college hiking club, who teaches high school science. Monday, we spent several hours visiting with a good friend who does social work in an oncology unit (though she's taking time off for her new baby). Tuesday night, after spending a few hours day-drinking with Dean and then wandering through Ala Moana Mall trying to make bad shopping decisions, we had dinner with a high school friend who's studying nursing. Friday night I met up with college friends, one in nursing and the other busy preserving watersheds with an environmental non-profit. (Mum and my sister had no idea how close they came to being dragged out into the wilderness for a guided hike with him. I love hiking.)
My feet hurt, I'm tired, I'm getting sunburned, can we take a cab?
The BF preserves neighborhoods, my brother-in-law is a drug abuse counselor,  a college friend teaches high school English, another high school friend is a psychologist for troubled teenagers--all these people in my life are Pinky Thompsons, and I can't take a cab home without wondering if I should have the driver drop me off a block away so no one will know where I live.

And then we have Dean, who has alienated every employee at Disneyworld, though they should have known better than to put "Sit On My Face" on the karaoke machine. There's just something about his black and shriveled heart that calls out to my own and reminds me that it's okay to be a private, anti-social asshole.

On Saturday, Mum, my sister and I were drinking at the airport bar, surrounded by our luggage. The vacation was over and it was time to bring back souvenirs and Liliha Bakery coco puffs to our respective partners. My sister looked at our heap o' crap and worried aloud that no one would be able to sit at the table next to ours.

"Fuck em," sneered the person on her way back to New York City. 

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