Afterthoughts: Forget Meditation, Give Me Destruction at Honolulu’s Only Rage Room
All the Rage.
W ith music and lights pulsating in the back rooms of a former recording studio, I reached down and wrapped my gloved fingers around the neck of a wine bottle. This is for the past two years, I thought, feeling the weight of it in my hand as I lifted it over my head and chucked the bottle against the concrete wall as hard as I could. Glass rained down on the already shard-covered floor, a few sharp pieces spinning back toward me. Thank goodness for my safety coveralls, helmet and impact-resistant face shield. I turned to my friends, giddy from the rush brought on by uninhibited destruction: “Who’s next?”
A writer friend with two young kids—a stressful existence even in the best of times—had suggested over a dinner of hummus and spanakopita that we get our frustrations out at Honolulu’s only rage room. I said yes, if only to see the mild-mannered mom go full smash. 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.
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The rage room opened quietly, ironically enough, last summer. After signing safety waivers acknowledging that “Break’N Anger is a place of entertainment only and does not in any way claim to be a mental health service or a place of anger therapy,” we scribbled our names on the black-light-bathed neon-painted walls, suited up and stocked our shopping cart with a few dozen smashable items.
The rules are simple: Only break things facing away from the door; aim for the concrete wall, not the particleboard ones, which will get damaged; only one person at a time should unleash their inner Hulk. I picked an Ariana Grande song from the playlist (how about “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit or some screamo next time?), tossed a plate like a Frisbee into the concrete wall and watched it explode. It felt liberating to just let go.
We took turns recording each other with different weapons: golf clubs, crowbars, steel pipes, sledgehammers. Glass after glass, bottle after bottle, I tried to conjure everything that had been bothering me lately and channel my frustration. Rejected column idea? Obliterate that mug. Something I was looking forward to got canceled? Decimate an angel statuette. Finding out people close to me caught COVID-19? I picked up an aluminum baseball bat and went to town on a wire rack, sending sparks flying, the smell of hot metal seeping into my mask.
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By the time we were done, almost everything had been reduced to powder. My hands shook. But I felt exhilarated. For me, meditation and therapy got nothin’ on the release that comes from physical exertion. When I’m overwhelmed, stressed or pissed off, I need to push it out: onto the pavement through my sneakers, through my lungs and throat in screams that make my body shake, or, apparently, by swinging a sledgehammer.
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It’s been a rough two years. And though many of us have learned to live with the way things are now, I think a lot of us are still looking for healthy ways to deal with this roller coaster of the unexpected. It’s not practical to head down to Break’N Anger every time something doesn’t go my way, but during a particularly stressful moment a few weeks ago, I had an idea. Instead of silently screaming at my desk, I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and imagined the weight of the sledgehammer in my hands, remembering how I missed the foot-tall ceramic tree on my first swing and twirled around in a complete 360, laughing. I took a step closer, and my second swing connected right in the center of the tree, blowing it apart where it stood.
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