May 31, 2006
Dreaming of Hawaii
Palms on the Bayfront Hilo Hawaii
I am rushing into the shop. It is mid afternoon and the burning sun has turned the morning rains into steam. I am releaving the morning shift person who has been busy all morning and has not had a chance to set the alarm and lock up to go to the next building to use the bathroom. Shes in a hurry to get out of there. I settle my things as goodbyes and "good luck" is said. I am alone.
It is hot in the store. The open door is the only ventalation and the heat of the afternoon plus the 20 or so spotlights reflecting on the jewelry cases, turn the 16 by 25 foot space into an oven. Often the inside temperature was near 100 degrees. We were told that the historic building could not be converted into an airconditioned one. I found out later that was the lie of cheapskate store owners. It could be done if you wanted to spend the money.
I quickly did my "quick inventory" the daily count of the store inventory that prevents theft,verifying that my counts matched those of the girl on the previous shift. Then I would pull a flat stool up behind the case closest to the front door and the tropical breeze that blew off the sparkling expanse of the Hilo Bay. A nearly circular deep blue,mirror like on calm days. On blustery days the waves pounded against the breakwater sending a surging pulse that I could feel through the floor. I watched the water and the Palmtrees swaying in the breeze and listened to the pulse of life, the "Mana" of the Bayfront.
There would be many passers-by. Late afternoon shoppers getting last minute bargans at the Farmers Market a few doors down. Local people comming from work downtown at the County offices and tourists back from their adventures of the day. Surfer guys from the local "hui" that are still dripping wet, packs of schoolgirls, a hooker, a begger who sticks his head in wanting the bathroom key...I say, " No sorry,guy."...No customers, in fact as they pass, they do not even look in and few notice the haolie lady sitting near the doorway, watching Hawaii walk by...
As the sun sets crowds thin, There are walkers and a jogger, sometimes the runners are carrying a large backpack, Marines in training for Basic training, or triathletes preparing for the Kona triathlon. The homeless guys are staking out turf in the darkened storefronts to spend the night, and the quieting of the street noise allows me to hear the rush of the tradewinds in the fronds of hundreds of coconut palm trees that fringe the bayfront, and the roar of the deep ocean surf as it pounds the break water.
Every evening, I would watch in anticipation for the departure of the cruise ship. Brilliantly lit, like a float from Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade, in my minds ear I can hear "its a small world after all..." as the graceful vessel drifts by then swings sharply up and out of the bay and North over the top of the island on to Maui, or south to view the cascading lava pouring down to the sea from Kilauea volcano.
The evening breeze blows in strong caressing my face, drying the sweat on forehead.I breath deeply and smell the warm scent of the ocean, plumeria, overripe fruits from the market, mildew and rot, clove cigarettes, and suntan lotion, all combined to give me the smell that is uniquely Hilo, the Hawaiian dream in all of her misunderstood beauty and decay.
After the cruise ship parade and the darkening of the sky I would turn to my books my studies of gemology or my business plan. I also went thrught the days trash knowing that my boss would throw out catalogs and news letters from jewelry suppliers. That was how I was able to penetrate that closed insular world. As I worked on my plan to open my store that "dumpster diving" gave me connections I would have never gotten other wise.
I sigh, waiting for the phone call that would come from my boss where I would tell her that for the umpteenth straight day I had not had a sale...and I would think, "Gee, if I cant sell on the Bayfront, what makes me think I can do it at my own store two block up the street?" As she tells me I need to "focus and bring the customers in" in a tone I would not use on my cat, I think " I know I can do it, because the store will be mine, my dream realized, and no one, and nothing will ever make me feel the way I feel right now...beaten down and misunderstood, again. Like I have been on every job I have ever had....
"Hoku! Hoku! wake up! Boss Man just walked by and I think he saw you asleep at your desk again." My faithful support clerk is nudging me. I cant stay awake...I am so weary I fall asleep in meetings and after long periods of time at my desk. Its a problem for me to get up and walk around too much... Like a galley slave chained to my oar I must toil without a break... I look up and realize that I had been staring at the pictures on my wall of the Big Island...and dreaming of my Hawaii...
The year was 2002.I was working at the Black Pearl Gallery, a jewelry store on the Hilo Bayfront.It wasnt easy for me at that time, I worked the evening shift 19 hours a week at minimum wage. Any commissions that I earned went against this "draw" and often I would sell something, only to not make more than the draw. It was very unmotivating. I had studied, gained my certification with the Gemological Institute of America, and was certainly more qualified than any other employee.Then why did I get the worst hours and the lowest pay? I was asked to teach the others what I knew which I did not. And I was to find out that rather than give me the recognition I deserved they wanted as much as they could from me then were going to dump me as soon as they felt they had wrung what they could from me... It was a hard place to be. I felt the hostility... And as I finalized the opening of my own jewelry store, Azure Seas ,the evenings spent at BPG grew harder and harder. Once I purchased the inventory I quit, feeling it was unethical to continue working there.
I remember the feeling of carrying a secret inside of me. In a small town though this was a hard secret to keep in fact I was often stopped in the street and asked about it and venders and trades people would drop into Black Pearl hastily departing if I wasnt alone. I was told by my mentor that Azure Seas Jewelry was the best known yet best kept secret in all of Hilo. That turned out to be true
What happened at BPG wasnt new. What is going on at thisplace isnt a revelation. My unique self is exploitable but that vunerability also gives me empathy, creative energy and a unique view of the world. It is what I am. Woody asked me if my hurts were just that I am "thin skinned". I asked him to define that. And he could not. "Saying a person is thin skinned is a way to excuse your abuse of that person." I said. I am suffering abuse at thisplace. Weither HR will admit it or not. He agreed that was true.
Again out of suffering perhaps a great thing will come. It too will not be easy, but It will be my choice. And isnt that the greatest thing. To choose your destiny, and to grab onto it with both hands?