O with music and pulsed lights in the back rooms of a former recording studio, I reached out and wrapped my gloved fingers around the neck of a bottle of wine. This is for the past two yearsI thought, feeling his weight in my hand as I lifted him above my head and threw the bottle against the concrete wall as hard as I could. Glass rained down on the already splinter-covered floor, a few sharp pieces turning back at me. Thank goodness for my safety suit, helmet and impact resistant face shield. I turned to my friends, dazed by the rush of unrestrained destruction: “Who’s next?”
A writer friend with two young children—a stressful existence even at the best of times—had suggested over a dinner of hummus and spanakopita that we vent our frustrations in Honolulu’s only anger room. I said yes, if only to see the mild-mannered mother getting screwed. But it also seemed like a fun way to release the tension that had built up over the past few years. A few weeks later, we grabbed a third buddy with destructive tendencies and headed to the industrial part of Kaka’ako and the auspicious red door of Break’N Anger.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Hale ‘Aina Award Winner: Istanbul Hawai’i Wins Best Mediterranean Restaurant Award
The rage room opened quietly, ironically enough, last summer. After signing security waivers acknowledging that “Break’N Anger is an entertainment-only venue and in no way claims to be a mental health service or anger therapy venue,” we scribbled our names on the neon bathed in black light. -painted walls, dressed and filled our basket with a few dozen items to break.
The rules are simple: only break objects that do not face the door; aim for the concrete wall, not the particleboard ones, which will be damaged; only one person at a time should unleash their inner Hulk. I picked an Ariana Grande song from the playlist (how about Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” or a scream next time?), threw a plate like a Frisbee into the wall of concrete and watched it explode. It was liberating to just let go.
We took turns checking in with different weapons: golf clubs, crowbars, steel pipes, sledgehammers. Glass after glass, bottle after bottle, I tried to ward off everything that had been bothering me lately and channel my frustration. Column idea rejected? Erase this cup. Something I was looking forward to got cancelled? Decimate an angel statuette. Find out that people close to me have caught COVID-19? I picked up an aluminum baseball bat and went to town on a metal grate, sending sparks flying, the smell of hot metal seeping into my mask.
SEE ALSO: Aftermath: Road Rage
By the time we were done almost everything had been ground to powder. My hands were shaking. But I felt elated. For me, meditation and therapy had nothing on the release that comes from physical exertion. When I’m overwhelmed, stressed, or pissed off, I need to push it: down the sidewalk through my sneakers, through my lungs and throat in body-shaking screams, or, apparently, swinging a sledgehammer.
SEE ALSO: Aftermath: I Can Never Truly Escape The Islands. But it’s a good thing
It has been two difficult years. And while many of us have learned to live with the current situation, I think many of us are still looking for healthy ways to deal with this roller coaster of the unexpected. It’s not practical to go down to Break’N Anger every time something goes wrong, but during a particularly stressful time a few weeks ago, I had an idea. Instead of screaming silently at my desk, I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and imagined the weight of the hammer in my hands, remembering how I missed the ceramic shaft by a foot high when from my first swing and spun a full 360, laughing. I took another step, and my second swing connected right in the center of the tree, blasting it right where it was.
Instantly calmer, I opened my eyes and got back to work.
Break’N Anger, 1008-A Kawaiaha’o St., (808) 888-2630, breaknanger.com, @breaknanger