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  • jolwajda

Jim and Leinani

I met Jim and Leinani about a month ago. They had come to dine at the resort I work at in British Columbia. The restaurant in the lodge where I am employed is almost entirely made up of floor-to-ceiling windows. So when you are first greeted at the host stand, your entire view to the left, right, and straight ahead of you is a panoramic of the ocean, beach, sky, and waves. There are four tables in the large room that are closest to the water, two on the left and two on the right, separated by french glass doors leading to a walk-out balcony overlooking the topography. They are the most sought-after tables we have. That evening, Jim and Leinani were seated at one of them, which just happened to be in my section.

I walked over to greet them. As I picked up each glass on the table to fill with water, I asked how they were doing. Jim threw one arm over the back of his chair, looked at me, and said.

" Well, it doesn't really get much better eh?"

I agreed. I introduced myself by telling them my name and that I would be taking care of them that evening, then I asked if I could get them something to drink. Leinani ordered a glass of sparkling and Jim a Raised by Wolves I.P.A and a whiskey on the side.

I don't know why this has ever been important to me, but it is. When I serve a table and start customers with a round of drinks, I create an opinion about that person's character based on the beverages they ask for. Gaging if maybe we would get along outside this one interaction- one of me, serving strangers food, and these strangers- hoping for an exceptional dining experience. I try to determine if we would have anything in common solely on what they like to sip on. That might be strange, but I don't care. It's what I've always done. And Jim and Leinani ordered very well.

When I returned to the table with the cocktails, we started chatting. Jim told me they hadn't been back to Tofino since 2018..when they came here to surf for their honeymoon, if I remember correctly. So I asked where they lived. They replied Oregon.

" Oregon!! Man, I want to go there soo badly!"

I told them excitedly. We talked about the similarities and differences between the two landscapes we inhabit.

I was getting rolled on this particular night, meaning I was busyyyy. So I wasn't getting the chance to strike up much of a rapport with my tables. This is super aggravating to me when it happens because one of my favorite parts about this job is the dozens of stories you hear daily. Why the guests at the resort are there, why they choose this town to vacation in, what they are celebrating, or what makes this particular trip especially meaningful. I love getting a small glimpse into someone else's life. But like I said, that evening, I had little time to spare, not that it mattered, as every time I went over to their table to clear a plate or switch out dirty cutlery for a fresh set, I would get pulled into deep conversation. At one point, it came up about Jim and Leinani living in the U.S. Leinini looked at me and spoke.'

"Just know, we are not all like THAT."

We touched on heavy subjects like Roe v. Wade and gun control, all the while, in the back of my mind, I was thinking.

" Fuck, I have to get dessert forks to table 17 before the cheesecake is dropped."

I couldn't help but be slowed down. I was enamoured with the conversation.As Jim paid the bill, I asked Leinani what they planned on doing that evening.

Leinani replied.

"Oh, trying to find something to watch since we can't seem to stream Letter-Kenny here for some reason?"

This was hilarious to me.

" You came all this way, and you were going to spend your evening watching Letter-Kenny?!"

I laughed.

We started talking about how intelligent the writing on the show is. I told them both how parts of it remind me of where I grew up in northern Manitoba. Jim then brought up Trailer Park Boys and asked if I could help convince Lanani to watch it with him. I told him that when I lived in Halifax, on Barrington Street, in a little apartment above a laundromat, Mr. Leahy's office was practically next door. So I would pass him regularly, nodding our heads and saying hello.

" Whoaaa, you know you are like..celebrity status in Jim's eyes now."

Leinani said to me.

When they got up to leave, I told them it was a pleasure and that I hoped to see them again.

A few days later, I did. They had come back in for dinner. Once again, I served them, and once again, the exchange between the three of us flowed. I inquired how much longer they were in Tofino.

" Until Friday, we are coming in on Thursday for dinner one last time!"

Leinani said.

" Dammit! I won't be working."

I responded.

They both agreed that it was not ideal but decided that they would sit at the wood and spend the night with Fraser, one of the bartenders. We fell into a conversation about how fantastic Fraser and his girlfriend are. How good he is at his job, how engaging he is with his customers.

It pains me to read what I wrote in that last paragraph. Fraser and I have a ..unique work relationship, one of who can verbally rip the other person apart fastest when we work our one shift together a week. He is sarcastic, dry, full of wit, and almost as funny as me. So to give him such blatant compliments, written down on paper...well, it hurts just a Lil bit. Maybe I'll edit this part out.

As Leinani and Jim's night came to an end, I reiterated what a pleasure it was to meet them. This time though, I had written down my full name on a piece of paper. I passed it to Leinani and said something along the lines of.

" I hope this isn't weird, but you guys are so cool. I would love to keep in touch. If you have Facebook, add me."

They both agreed with my sentiment. I said goodbye and wished them well. The next day I worked with Fraser. I said to him at one point in the night.

" Like, how fucking cool is that couple from Oregon?!"

He looked at me and replied.

" They. Are. Amazing"

I told him I was planning to jump on a cleanse.

" But I have tomorrow off, and I kind of want to message them to have some wine or something. They just seem really fun."

His response was

" There is quite a big difference between enjoying a few glasses of wine with people you feel connected to, rather than drinking a whole bottle to yourself on the couch while watching television."

I really didn't need much convincing, but that decided it for me. Because really, what's the point of any of this if you don't allow yourself the opportunity to connect with people you feel could help you learn and grow? So the next day, I messaged Leinani. I asked them how the rest of their trip had been, if they were free that eve, and if so, would they like to meet for a drink. She thanked me for reaching out, told me they were having dinner at Shelter that night, and invited me to join. She told me Jim and herself both had a pretty crappy surf session that morning but that they would be over it by the time we met up. I accepted the invite and was looking forward to a night with new friends.

Nani and I messaged back and forth throughout the day. She told me that her day had gone from bad to worse, Jim forcing her to play golf because 'one time in another dimension, she agreed to that.' She thanked me for being the light at the end of the tunnel. I told her she had a big ol 'glass of wine to look forward to.

Six-thirty rolled around. Nani messaged me and said they were at Shelter and had secured three spots at the bar. I said I would be there shortly. I opted out of driving and had a friend drop me off instead, thinking there was a pretty reasonable possibility of more than just one glass of wine that night.

I was a little nervous as I walked into the restaurant.

" What if I had read Jim and Nani wrong, and we really didn't have much to talk about?"

I spotted the two of them at the far right of the bar, sitting on the corner stools. When Nani noticed me, she waved me over.As I approached,she got up from her seat and wrapped me in a long close hug,a hug that felt like we had known each other for years, not just a few days. Afterwards I walked around her and hugged Jim as well. as I sat down, Nani said,

" Jo,meet your bar mate, Jo!"

I looked to my left and said hello to the man beside me.

"Jo just published a book about making hand-carved wooden canoes."

Nani told me.

I was in good company, obviously.

" You wrote a book? That's incredible."

I said to this man with the same nickname as I. We talked about it for a few minutes, him telling me what bookstore I could find it in, in town. Then he told us a story about how he had just finished carving and raising a totem pole on one of the islands nearby. He pulled out his phone to show us some pictures. Jim and Nani got up from the bar, walked over, and stood behind where Jo and myself were seated. The three of us stared intently at the images he was showing us. Jo told us the meaning behind the carvings as he swiped. It was a story of pandemics, one in the late eighteen hundreds, one in the early nineteen hundreds, and the current one we are living through. In the middle of the totem, there were three skulls representing the atrocities that have happened within residential schools in Canada. Jo showed us how to read the totem like a story. We thanked him for sharing some of his wisdom. We chatted a little more before his dinner arrived. I told him I grew up in Thompson, Manitoba.

" Do you know where that is?."

I asked.

" I know Winnipeg!"

He replied.

We laughed as his waitress put down a meal in front of him, and so I turned to Nani and Jim and settled in. Any fear of not feeling comfortable around the two of them quickly dissipated. I ordered a glass of wine and picked at the Calamari Nani offered to me, already on the bar sitting in front of her. We started talking about everything. I told them about my life, things from my past, and why I picked Tofino to venture to and make a go of. I didn't tell them the whole story of why I chose a place so far from where I had just spent the last three years. I haven't actually told many people who I know here, because it is too long a story, and I never feel like I can just tell the significant parts without wanting to say all of the little details about it to someone as I feel like it's the only way someone could really understand it all. That's an entire night, and a whole bottle of Whiskey kind of conversation with a person, or a fifty-page blog series, and that series isn't entirely done yet. So I chose not to spew absolutely everything about my past verbally. I did tell them about where I grew up though, and somewhat about how my life brought me to the West Coast.

I asked them about their home in Oregon. They told me about their house and how they have a large backyard where they often throw get together's. How they don't want to have to move, but the forest fires that happen every year are getting just too close for comfort, the last one being only five miles from the town they live in. How they plan to downsize soon and move further north, so it is not a constant worry, every single year. Nani told me about her two boys, both teenagers. We talked about how long she and Jim had been together.

We talked about the state of Canada, the state of America, and the state of the entire planet. We talked about how our religious views (or lack of) have somewhat formed our opinions on our political views. We talked about going through the pandemic, how isolating it was at times, and how seriously the three of us took it. Nani told me a story of how Jim and her had, had a social distance hang out in the backyard of their home when it was finally ok to do so. Sitting around a fire, so close to people they cared for but could not touch, She talked about how hard it was, that she just wanted to fucking hug someone. So after a night of drinks, she came up with the idea to put a sheet over her and a sheet over her friend ( a full body mask, if you will). And when the two of them embraced for a moment, she cried. Because how could you not, right? that feeling of physical touch with someone you love after months of restraint. Man, what a feeling.

I asked them what they listened to now and what they grew up listening to. Nani told me about being a dead head for a decade, spending most of her earnings on every concert ticket she could get her hands on to travel to various Grateful Dead shows, which makes total sense to me. Nani is the epitome of a hippie who has grown gracefully. She is effortlessly stunning, with long, thick, straight brown hair that falls almost to her hips. Beautiful features. And, of course, no makeup. Jim too, salt and pepper hair, A snapback hat from a surfboard company which I have never heard of but I'm sure is rad, collared shirt, Patagonia puffer. They look easily hip. The best part though is they actually are. Anybody can spend enough money on things to make oneself look cool, but when you actually have the personality to back it up. Chefs kiss.

We started talking intently about songs we like, bands we were into at the moment, prime T.V shows, talking over each other, saying things like.

" Oh! I just thought of another one you two will love! I'll send it to you! Actually, I'm just going to make you a whole list!"

At one point, another server came over to say hello and hug Nani, and ask how their trip had been.

" We are just making friends all over."

Nani said while laughing.

Which didn't surprise me one bit. As I said, they are super fucking cool.

After hours of sitting at the bar, the night began to wind down. Jim insisted on paying for dinner, which I very much appreciated, but was also not surprised by-all class.

The three of us stood outside the restaurant, talking, laughing. Jim told me I was the highlight of Tofino for himself and Nani. I told him I walked into the night having high expectations. But I was blown out of the water at how they had been exceeded. They invited me to Oregon; we promised we wouldn't lose touch. We sat on a little wooden curb to take a selfie, our three pairs of legs relaxed in front of us, Jim looked down and said.

" Hey, look"

Pointing at our shoes, three sets of Blundstones, all different shades of brown. Like-minded people.

" So I'm a writer and I have a blog and I write stories about people that have made an impact in my life, and do you think it would be ok if I wrote about you two?"

Side note- I have no Idea If one can call themself a writer if none of their work has ever been published? but I call myself a runner though I have never won a race, so Imm'a roll with it.

Jim said


and that they would be honoured.

" That's what Jim did before he retired."

Nani spoke afterwards,


I replied as I whipped my head around to look at her.

" Ya, he was an editor."

As she said this, I threw my hands up in the air like I had a gun on me.

" Hollllllyyyy Fuck! I'm not a writer!! I'm just kidding!!"

We all laughed. But really, what are the chances of that? I don't think I have ever met an editor in my thirty-six years on this earth. It needn't be said, but I'll say it anyhow, I obviously have a high admiration for talented people in the literary world. It was surprising as well. Jim struck me as a tradesman, building houses or something along those lines. I don't know; perhaps he does that too. Regardless. It is fucking awesome.

We finally said our goodbyes. Nani asked me if I was heading back home. I told her I was going to mosey further down the road to meet some friends for a nightcap. Before we parted ways, all three of us reiterated just how incredible the night was. As I walked with a nice glow, partly from the wine, but mainly from the conversation, I heard Nani yell at me.

"Good night Jo!!'

Waving enthusiastically to me as the car she was in slowly drove past. I smiled and waved back and kept a smile on my face the whole time I walked to my next destination, Which ended up being a dive karaoke bar. I laughed with my two friends, while we waited in line, each of us drinking a little plastic bottle filled with Fireball to pass the time.

Pretty well-rounded night, if you ask me.

A few days later, Nani messaged me to tell me they had made it back home safe and sound to her boys. She told me once again how much their time with me had impacted their trip here. And how they absolutely don't want our experience and connection to fade. How they had already booked their yearly trip back to Tofino for next July.

" Before then..if you feel like coming this way, please fucking do!"

She wrote,and until then,to take care. I also got a message from Jim, Thanking me for joining the two of them for dinner, that it was more than just a highlight.He said that one of the bands Caamp I recommended so highly, showed up on his feed the next day, that he gave them a listen, and that they were good stuff.

"In other news"

he wrote.

"Leinani, and I are now four episodes into Trailer Park Boys (Thank you.)"

I wrote back to Jim and told him I was glad he was digging Caamp, and that I was so looking forward to sharing wine with both of them again sometime down the road. Then I attached a picture. One of me in Halifax about fifteen years ago. With a drunk Mr. Leahy's arm around my shoulder holding up the middle finger to the camera as I winked in the picture (for reasons unknown) and held up the punk rock symbol.Ending my message with.

"Just to up my celebrity status, in your eyes."

I feel blessed that the universe put Jim and Leinani on my path, I feel like I have made life long friends, it was serendipitous that they were seated in my section that first night, and just plain lucky it happened again a few days later. Those two encounters helped to cultivate a strong connection with people I feel congruent with. Even if for some reason, that ended up being my only encounter with Nani and Jim. Well , then I'm just glad the universe let me pass them on the trail.


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