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It's starting to get seriously hot out here. It hit 100° F today, not a cloud in the sky, and everyone says it's just starting to warm up. I got my initial training on using GPS units and conducting tortoise surveys. It was rather enjoyable; sure beat sitting in the office or picking up stray dogs anyway. And I got quite a few lessons on ambrosia, whiptails, ephedra, rattlesnakes, and other desert wildlife. It's a rather fascinating place out there, for a wasteland. But I was baked through by the time we got done. This might be fun after all.
I had to take my "range safety training" class yesterday. It was basically a class on all the horrible ways that you can get blown up if you pick up, or get too close to, unknown objects on the range. There was also some stuff thrown in about venomous snakes and spiders, the ease of flipping a vehicle over in the sand, dust storms, and of course heat stroke and dehydration. Like the desert wasn't dangerous enough, they had to go and stick an army out here. Sometimes I wonder how the hell I let myself get talked into this.
Russ and I went out to the landfill today to talk to management about the coyote problem. Apparently the fences aren't keeping them out because parts of it have barbed wire on top, and parts have it on the bottom, but never both. So they can either dig under or jump over. Then they eat the garbage and scatter it all over. We're supposed to solve the problem, but they aren't willing to spend any money to, say, do the fence right. So they just want to shoot them. I'm not sure they'll even listen to any less violent ideas.
I hate the DMV. I went in at 8:00, when they opened, and still had to stand in line for an hour before being given paperwork to fill out, then get back in line. When it was my turn again, I was told that I had to pay for my car registration now ($157), but I couldn't actually get my plates until I had a smog test done. They didn't even tell me where to go for that. Then I had to go set up an in-state checking account, which took forever in a non-air-conditioned building. Days off are rough.
I spent all day doing absolutely nothing. I was rather bored, but I didn't like the thought of going anywhere, since there's nowhere pleasant to go in this city. And anytime after 7:30 AM or so, it's just way too hot to voluntarily get in a car. I was tempted to ride my bike around, but I have my doubts about how bike-friendly this city is. So I called my parents and some friends and killed an hour or two. And I did my best to clean and prep my bike after its nasty trailer ride. A day well spent.
People keep telling me that I'll make new friends here, re-establish my roots. The thing is though, I'm not sure I want to. I'm perfectly happy with the ones I have. I see so many people here who ran away to California to escape their old lives. Bitter old people with no past, no close friends. Just empty, superficial, moment-to-moment entertainment. Distraction from misery. I don't want to end up like that. I want to keep the rich history I have with my home and the people I shared it with. Otherwise, the past 22 years will have been worthless.
We got our computers switched around at work. We got the field crew's and they got ours because theirs was supposed to be better and we have more computer work than they do. Problem is, you actually need an account and password to log onto theirs. We never needed that on ours, because it's old and doesn't care. So now we can't use a computer at all. Right now we're sharing our boss's account, but I'm not sure how long that can last before we get caught doing non-work-related stuff. I might have to break down and buy my own.
This environmental/army thing is such a joke. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the military (at least the people in charge) doesn't give a shit about the environment, but the corruption involved always upsets me. There was a big survey the other day to make sure that no desert tortoises – an endangered species – would be harmed by the construction they have planned. If so, construction would stop. After everyone spent 5 hours in the blazing desert sun looking for them, we found out that the paperwork was already done, saying "no tortoises found, go ahead with construction."
We got a call to go deal with a coyote at the landfill that was "acting strange." When we got out there, he was just laying down. Thin, lethargic, weak, apparent intestinal bleeding. He most likely had parvo or a parasite, both of which are treatable. The thing is, nobody cares about treating wildlife here, they just want it out of their way. So we took it to the vet. There are no facilities for wildlife rehab here, so they did the best they could and just euthanized it. It wouldn't have survived untreated. I just keep telling myself: experience.
My life has taken on a definite boringness. Granted, it's kind of nice for the moment, in contrast to the chaos of the past few weeks. But work takes up so much of my day, 11 hours during the week, that by the time I get home and have dinner and watch a little TV it's almost bedtime. Weekends I just sit around the apartment because there's nothing to do here and I'm not yet up to battling traffic all the way to Victorville. Seems like there's no happy medium. I hope my friends visit soon and restore some normality.
Back in Ohio, I used to talk about doing "epic" bike rides. By that I meant finding a high-mileage route that I had never seen before and setting out to explore for most of the day. Today I found a whole new meaning for the word epic. Brian and I started out on a leisurely road ride to Calico, 15 miles away. I hadn't considered that it was 15 mountainous miles at 3,000' elevation. Then we got lost and spent 3 miles riding cross-desert. Almost killed me. It was kind of fun, but I definitely need more practice with this.
The only thing I did today was go to the library. For such a strange town, it's a pretty nice place. I mainly went to use the computers, but figured I might as well look at some books while I was there. I read about 15 pages of "The Grapes of Wrath" while sitting on the floor. Thanks to an idiotic teacher, I never read it in high school. Now that I'm living in the city where it was written (at least partially), I figure I should. One of these days I'll get a card and actually check it out.
Sometimes I hate computers. For no good reason, as far as I can tell, I have absolutely no internet access today. I can't check my email (which sucks because I really need to get in touch with Colette and that's the only avenue I have) or read my comics, but I can't do any work either. All my files were recently transferred from another computer and are now floating around in the shared folder in cyberspace. I haven't gotten any animal calls yet (fortunately), and feeding tortoises will keep me busy for maybe an hour. What a boring, wasted day.
There have been rumors flying around since I've started working that we're all going to get laid off. But there have also been rumors that people say that every year and nothing happens. So I wasn't worried. Today, though, the big boss, "the client," told one of my co-workers that we'll all be losing our jobs come next Monday. After I uprooted my entire life to move out here a whole 3 weeks ago. I don't even qualify for benefits yet. I have leases and contracts to fulfill. And no job. No friends or family to stay with. Now what?
The longer I'm here, the less I understand people who join the army. Not that I ever pretended to understand them particularly well in the first place. Some of them were cleaning out their barracks today as I walked to my building from the bus stop, and I could see inside. They looked horribly uncomfortable and sardine-can-like. The soldiers don't get paid well, they exist as government property, and they get put through the most miserable, dangerous, exercises every day. Then there's the whole getting sent to war and killed thing. What kind of lives do these people come from?
Well, apparently I get to keep my job for a while. And I finally got a hold of Colette, and she told me she is in fact coming to visit in two weeks. I was very relieved to hear that. I had half-convinced myself that she was going to back out on me. I'm really looking forward to this vacation. There's so ridiculously much to do around here that there's no way we could see everything. I don't know if we should cram in as much as possible, or just pick one thing and really explore it. A wonderful dilemma.
Sharing a cubicle sucks. I opened this file to write my words a few hours ago, but decided against it because Russ was resolutely staring over my shoulder. He does that when I'm checking my email too, and when I'm writing to friends. I mean sure, this stuff isn't exactly work-related, so if anything I should find someplace else to do it, but computers are hard to come by here. And the point is that this boy (44 years old, but yes – a boy) shows absolutely no respect. Would it be so hard to move me into an empty cube?
Today was certainly productive. I went and got a smog test done on my car, and it passed! Then I went to the library and got a card and The Grapes of Wrath. I sifted through my files and found Honda's address. Then I went back to the DMV, stood in line for only about half an hour, and got my California plates. I took in my recyclables and made 91 cents. I went to Wal-Mart (ewww) and bought a grill, charcoal, and lighter fluid. I did laundry. I paid insurance for the next year. What should I do tomorrow?
One of my friends commented on yesterday's "ewww" regarding Wal-Mart. Allow me to explain. Wal-Mart is evil. It, as my sister aptly put it, has no soul. It does not care about quality or it's customers; only making a profit. Of course, there are many big soul-less evil corporations around, but Wal-Mart is the one that has taken over my city. It kills small, honest businesses. It eliminates choice. It assimilates commodities and eradicates culture. It holds monopoly and it knows it. With shitty service and low standards, it caters to and cultivates all that is bad in small-town America.
I am a slacker. There's no escaping it. I've been sitting in this office for almost 5 hours and I've done practically nothing. I fed the tortoises, which took maybe half an hour. I've done some personal stuff: writing this, balancing my checkbook, writing emails. Meanwhile there's a big proposal waiting to be researched and written up, and a log waiting to be transferred from another computer and brought up to date. I could also write some warning letters and standardize our regulations. I could go help the vet. But no, I guess I'd rather sit here and be bored.
I got a call to pick up a wild jackrabbit that somebody had found on their porch and put in a kennel. So I went and picked it up, put it in my kennel, took it out to the desert and released it. I love jackrabbits. When they run, it looks so effortless. Two giant ears gliding over the ambrosia and creosote bushes, propelled by furry pistons. It was out of sight in a matter of seconds. I stood and watched for several minutes. Sometimes I wish I could run from my own fears so far, so fast, so gracefully.
I've been writing about my job an awful lot since I've been here. The reason is obvious: it's all I do. Work used to be such a small part of my life. Wedged in among school, biking, road trips, family, and friends. Now it's everything. I've ridden my bike once here, and the only other non-work things I've done have been necessities: grocery shopping, laundry, DMV, etc. Somehow though, it's kind of nice to have such a simple routine. Nothing to worry about, no scheduling conflicts. No life either, but I'm working on that. It's good to take a break.
I had my first experience being downrange by myself. On my way back, I missed the Barstow MSR and ended up on some other paved road that I couldn't for the life of me find on the map. I checked my GPS, realized I needed to go east, tried to cut across on dirt roads and ended up stuck in the sand at the bottom of some canyon. Fortunately I managed to spin my way out and get back without killing the truck. When I told Brian about it later, he said I was "like a homing pigeon… on crack."
I've got to go pick up Colette at the Ontario airport this evening. I'm really glad she's coming out. As comfortable as I've gotten with my new boring life, it'll be awesome to see her and actually do some fun things. Of course, that's going to make me the host, and truth be told, I'm not all that familiar with this place myself. I guess we'll just wing it together. I'm leaving here around 2:00, and leaving for the airport at 3:00. I'll probably be there way too early, but better that than to hit L.A. traffic and be late.
I still can't believe that I live this close to places this wonderful. We drove down to Joshua Tree National Park this morning (in a mere hour and a half), climbed some rocks, visited the gift shop, hiked to the top of a mountain and to a swampy dam, made camp, watched an incredible sunset, and stared at the stars for hours. It's finally starting to cool off now. During most of the day, the water we had brought got almost too hot to drink. It was torture. We didn't even need the stove to cook dinner. Now, sweet sleep.
Somehow, no matter how much I exhaust myself during the day, I can never sleep through the night in a tent. Colette and I were both awake at 3:30 this morning. Probably because it was so damn cold. Cruel irony. I didn't mind though. I was very content to lie there looking at the silhouettes of Joshua trees and the belt of the Milky Way through our tent mesh, talking to one of my best friends in whispers about life, the universe, and everything. Near dawn, the coyotes howled and we got up and hiked to an oasis. Absolutely beautiful.
As I'm sure anyone who writes these words is aware, some days finding 100 words to put down in difficult. Other days I can't possibly condense everything I want to say into so small a space. The past two days have been so full of experience that I've found myself deleting every other sentence just to make room for a fragment of my thoughts. Today though, there's nothing. On a related note, I'm at work today. Colette is here with me, and I've tried to show her around, but everything is closed on Sundays. Nothing to see, nothing to say.
A poem stumbled across:
We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams
World-losers and world-forsakers
Upon whom the pale moon gleams
Yet we are the moves and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth
Built Nineveh with our sighing
And Babel itself with our mirth
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth
For each age is a dream that is dying
Or one that is coming to birth
Another incredible day. We left Barstow around 9:00 this morning, made it to Visalia by noon or so, and from there made our slow and winding way up into the Sierra Nevadas to Sequoia National Park. The trees did not disappoint. Nor did the mountains. I was ecstatic to breathe the thin, clean air and to see lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and rock cliffs. We stopped at Moro Rock and climbed to the top. What a view. Then we went to our campground, checked in, had dinner, and relaxed the rest of the night. I haven't been this happy in months.
I never have been one for guided tours. I'd rather set off and explore at my own pace; go where I want. You can't do that in the Crystal Caves though, so we paid our $9 and took the tour. I was impressed before we even entered the gate. I've seen lots of pictures of stalactites, flowstones, etc., but I never realized how beautiful it can really be inside a cave. The newer calcite, the stuff that hasn't been dulled by years of kicked-up dust, sparkled like diamonds. Blue marble shimmered beneath crystal-clear underground rivers. Maybe geology can be interesting.
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