Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Alea Iacta Est III

Alrighty, hopefully I can finally wrap all of this nonsense up.

Detracting for a second. After reading over some of these, my syntax and spelling is downright atrocious in some of these posts. Why didn't anyone tell me? I guess it's no surprising that most of these are produced in a single go, with very little backtracking or editing to speak of. I get lazy. It's word vomit to me. Oh well, perhaps I'll pretty up this one or some of the others a bit more. No promises.

So. I left off with the new gang convoying out to coal country. I remember being a bit apprehensive in the morning, but quickly setting into that uncomfortable ease that takes over your body as you submit yourself to an adventure. We were told we'd be there at least 2 weeks, most likely 3, since that's the limit for FEMA deployments. Timelines are nice. There's a simple comfort in finiteness. When you know something will end, at least you know something, which is quite precious in this crazy life.

We arrived at the Presbyterian Church in Welch, WV after dark. It was a decent day's drive and though we weren't excited to be getting up at 5am the next day for at least a 12hr day of work, the adventure hard begun.

I already did a 20-30min stand up routine of the day-to-day activities in front of all the other teams when we went back to Maryland for the second transition period. Also did a hell of a presentation in front of a bunch of FEMA and Americorps higher ups, much to the NCCC admin's chagrins. Perhaps I can try to recreate it.

Around 6am you wake up on the church rectory floor. Sticking to the mattress some morning, freezing your ass off others. Weather in WV is quite finicky in the summer. Get in line to take a piss. Put on your sweat and shitmud crusted uniform. Eat breakfast downstairs amongst the hateful Christian literature. These were the Presbyterians that had books everywhere discussing the "disease of homosexuality." Always good for a laugh in the morning.

By 6:30-7am we were in the van and on the way out of town. It was usually about an hour's drive through the switchbacks. I usually drove home at night and dreamed of riding my motorcycle through these pristine roads. Seriously, I might go back to WV just to ride. Forget Deal's Gap, MacDowell County is the destination. Back to the task at hand. Our work sites in Mingo and Wyoming Counties were only about 30mi away, but anyone who's lived way out yonder knows how easily that can turn into an hour, especially with washed out roads and the National Guard directing traffic.

Around 8am we'd meet at in the parking lot of a former diner and get our daily assignments. Usually this was one or two trailers in the area that had anywhere from a couple inches to a couple feet of water/mud/shit flowing through it 3 weeks prior. Yeah, we didn't get out there until well after the floods had happened. Most people were quite surprised and dumbfounded that we had even shown up. Most of the Christian Men's organizations had shown up to do immediate relief and they didn't think anyone else would show up. They were skeptical to say the least. But after our second week word had gotten out about the kids in gray shirts cleaning out houses for free.

So we'd get our assignment and sometimes we'd have directions, sometimes we'd have to find it ourselves. This part of the country doesn't really have maps and no one has street addresses. There's places like 'Steel's Hollow' and 'Buffalo Creek Hollow.' These places aren't on maps, you have to ask around.

Once we find our houses we go to work. I think by the third or fourth day of work we had our routine down. The people who went under the house to rip out the moldy, wet insulation and ductwork knew who they were and the people who went inside to tear out drywall, paneling, insulation, floors, furniture, etc, they knew they were. I was inside man. I dubbed myself far to large for squeezing into the foulness under the houses and trailers and no one disagreed. And everyday I tried to remember to thank everyone who went under the houses. The mud under there smelled like that time you went to the bathroom. Then you left the bathroom. Then you had to go back into the bathroom about 10 minutes later and you're just about gagging from that ghastly creation that you can't believe you bore. It was awful some days. But, if you ask anyone on my team, it was the prolonged highlight of our year. We worked our asses off in the heat in the rain. It was direct service. We'd take long lunches and sit out in the sun next to the river, or huddling in the van away from the rain. Then we'd barrel out and tackle the job of the day. We'd work til around 5 or when we all decided the job was done and make the trek back to Welch. A small example of team enjoyment: music in the van. Up to this point my old team's van had been pervaded with an onslaught of Miley Cyrus/Kelly Clarkson/every other shitbag from American Idol/the shittiest rap imaginable and a dash of NPR. No one could agree to like one thing. My new team in WV would find bands we all loved on a daily basis. On a given day we would be listening to and discussing the likes of Interpol, Kings of Leon, The Clash, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Devendre Bearnhardt, country so bad it was great. It was amazing. Smiles for miles in our van "The Beef Bus," complete with 'stank bag' full of dirty coveralls and uniforms. We'd get back to the church and most people would just chill. This was a huuuuuuge difference from normal "corps life." Usually you have meetings, PT, reflection time and other nonsense after work throughout the week. It's complete bullshit. Luckily none of that dumbness was expected. Lots of day I would work out anyways, but because I wanted to. I found a sweet set of about 50 stairs behind the police station across the street. When I ran up and down it, prisoners in the jail transferring to "the yard" would yell and spit at me. Fun times. And reflection was a constant thing, how could you not talk about the crazy life of mucking out a moldy, dilapidated house all day and then the nice old lady who really had nothing insisted on making grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone? And it was the best damn grilled cheese ever.

After dinner most people would gravitate to the ping pong table where epic matches and tournaments were held. While I did not participate, I somberly revelled in a stress free life surrounded by fantastic people caught up in a bizarre situation and making the best of everything.

This all feels a bit scattered, but it was 6 months ago and I'm picking the memories as the neurons are firing. The big family meals were a great time to talk about the day with the other teams and just relax, laugh at life and amaze yourself at how18 people can suffice with one refrigerator and a handful of decent cooks. I made a variation for my mom's chicken divan a couple nights for everyone and it was quite a hit. In a rare MIRG moment, here's the recipe, as requested from a former WV disaster teammate.

um, let's see......

-large can of cream of chicken soup, could use cream of mushroom or really cream of anything...
-cooked, shredded/cubed chicken, a few breasts worth
-cooked broccoli, large frozen bag of
-juice of orange/lemon/lime--roll the fruit hard on the board before you cut it
-half cup of mayo
-a ton of shredded cheese, a cup or two
-salt and pepper, any other spice you might think tastes delicious, tony c's is fantastic

-cook the chicken and broccoli beforehand, cut it up and throw it in a baking dish
-mix together the soup, mayo, juice, 3/4 of the cheese, spices
-mix together everything in the dish
-top with the cheese then crackers
-bake at 375 until its bubbling and smelling delicious
-broil the top so it gets brown and sexy

This recipe guarantees mucho "mmmmmmmmmm's."

There's far more minutia I could recount if asked in person, but I'll try to squeeze out a few more important themes.

We never had enough tools, even when the Americorps higher ups asked us what we needed and we replied, they said they would "try." Obviously complete bullshit when FEMA was paying for everything. Whatevs, we still got every job done because we were awesome.

At the beginning I was labeled as threat to the milieu. The first of work I was asked by the supervising Team Leader to ride with her so we could have a "chat." The whole conversation felt like a long winded one-bad-apple-spoils exercise. I get it. People are influenced by me. I'm supposed to be happy and nice all the time because otherwise people will feel the need to express emotions that aren't happy and nice and positive. Fuuuuuuuuck. I used to be such a nice guy. Americorps made me an asshole. Sometimes.

By about the 11th straight day of 13hr days a lot of us wanted a night of beer. Not just any beer, outside beer. We had already investigated a local tavern called the "Executive Lounge," which really is the perfect name for a strip club. This was met with a lot of peculiar locals and not so locals who were very amused in our presence and bought us lots of beers and gave us job offers of building prisons and stories of the like, which was nice, but my lungs are still recovering from the ambient smoke. And I'm pretty sure it was just a gambling front. We wanted to work hard and just have a beer outside. Americorps has a fairly reasonable rule that you can't drink within 25 ft of housing. And since housing was a church rectory, that didn't seem prudent to begin with. So my good buddy and interim team leader Ethan and I decided to mosey on over to the gaggle of police officers across the street. After a decent amount of predictable ball busting, we explained to the good ol' boys that us volunteers just wanted to dink a six pack outside semi-legally. The cheif of police was even there and told us of a secluded parking lot up the hill that overlooked the valley. As long as we kept quiet and cleaned up, there'd be no problems. The cops told us this. It was a great night. Very Shawshank-tarring-the-roof. Sometimes it is the simple pleasures. Even one of the cops came up there to give us a little shit and check up on us. A week passes and we thought nothing of it. But we were in a small town, bullshit spreads. It got back to the supervising team leaders that we had been drinking on the church steps. Amazing. They freaked out, locked down the church until the truth was found blah blah blah. Ethan and I and everyone who had been there immediately stepped up and told them what was what. The fucking chief of police told us where to drink. Then we got a silly lecture about how they were still "disappointed" in us. Another word that gets thrown around NCCC like it's going out of style. Silliness.

There were many more fantastic singular moments, like finding cock fighting is alive and well in rural WV and watching the Pens take the Stanley Cup while drinking corn whiskey from a jar with my new best friends. But I think I'm exhausted on talking about WV for now. It was simply fantastic. Some the most physically arduous and odorous work I've done and probably the best. It's amazing what being surrounded by fantastic, like-minded people in the same situation can do to your moral. I smiled a lot in WV.

my team, The Home Wreckers

Next up, the supreme dumbness of DC and Obama and The Moose and The Motorcycle.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alea Iacta Est II

Round Two, Fight.

I'm wracking my brain right now, trying to find something that will tie the not so amusing events together, rather than hop scotching from big moment to moment, but it might just have to be that way. Take what you can get.

The Sunshine State became the destination. I remember this initially being met with reluctant exuberance, especially when we began researching where we were actually going. This whole time we'd been built up to believe that the Gulf Coast was still in shambles and needed a fuckton of help. Staying in MD first round and working at school compounded our frustrations and I can't say they were helped when we realized we were headed to extremely affluent, Atlantic coast Vero Beach, FL. But you're not encouraged to ask reasonable questions like, "Why aren't we building in the Gulf?" The line that must be towed seems to be "shut-up-and-do-a-consistently-mediocre-job-while-maintaining-a-creepily-positive-attitude." I'm the idiot who thought bureaucratic government system would function in another way.
Some source of the reluctance came from the fact that 2 of my team members were from Florida and a lot of people on the team had been there. Yet, the reluctance was met with some motivation by the fact that we were finally building--one of the primary reasons why I joined.
Vero Beach has a lot of money. Oslo, FL and Fellsmere, FL don't. That's where we worked, but lived in Vero. The drive down was a little annoying with my team leader giddily forcing us to stop at state lines to take pictures, but what can you do, except stew?
For the week and change I was in Florida it was pretty great. Even though we were staying in old FEMA trailers behind the Habitat warehouse, basically submarine quarters, there was a fantastic lounge with TV/DVD, full kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, etc. The days on the jobsite were decent. New skills didn't come so readily as the Indian River Habitat for Humanity like to build. A lot. Everything was quite rushed and there really didn't seem to be a lot time for questions or teaching moments on the jobsite. They were doing 60 homes a year and trying to ramp up to 100. The other Habitat affiliates I worked with were lucky to do 10. This is due to a ton of money and huge volunteer population with all the retired snow birds. In all, it was pretty great just being exposed to that environment. 2pm thunderstorms and fire ants and all.
Easily, the best part of Vero was the proximity to water. We lived 3 miles from the beach. I've never been a beach guy, that's how it is with fat kids. You end up swimming in your t-shirt because it helps with your self consciousness, but you end up looking worse. Coming out of the water you end up looking like a plastic bag of milk. It sucks, so you just don't go. Or you just don't go until you finally lose a bit of weight, stop giving a shit and decide that one of the fantastically simple moments of your life is finally discovering the sensation of how sunburned back feels. Or could that even be a base tan? Either way in the 9ish days I lived in FL, I think I went to the beach 5 times. Amazing. We'd put up hardyboard siding on houses(a concrete based vinyl siding alternative used a lot in the south) all morning and into the afternoon, pack up during the 2pm thunderstorm, drive home and hit the waves. That life is none too fucking bad. Until there was a phone call from Maryland. Mother nature decided to piss on the Mountaineers.
In mid-May there were some terrible rains in West Virginia and consequently quite a bit of flooding. So much so that parts of West Virginia were declared federal disaster areas. You didn't hear about this because it was in fucking West Virginia. We didn't hear about it either, not even that it was water based, at least not until the day after two girls and myself got off the plane back in Maryland.
Obviously I was really enjoying Florida, but at the time my adventure bug was biting. My working and social relationship was tenuous at best with my team leader, not made any better when she would essentially steal the van without telling to go on "manatee hunting missions." Leaving really seemed like right path to choose.
In the span of about 19 hours we were alerted to the fact that there was a disaster the 3 of us would be responding to in WV and put on a plane back to MD. They did this with 2-3 people from the other 16 teams from our campus. It was weird though, the day after we flew back we had the day off, which obviously prompted us to ask "Was this that bad of a disaster?" This was done with internal monologue or hushed voices in dark corners as to not alert anyone that we were using our cerebral cortexes independently.
4 composite teams were formed. Vans and support trucks were assigned. Some tools were checked out. Extra coveralls, gloves and paper masks were issued. After a pep talk we barreled to the mountains. Then the story gets good. And smells slightly of shit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Alea Iacta Est

April 17 - present (oof)

Obviously you all have a lot of well earned "What the fuck?"'s to deliver to me. The primal one is to the main reason I stopped posting. Well, in the interest of retaining my puny education award, all I'll say is that I got in trouble what I wrote in this blog. Uh huh. In fact 4 days after I made my last post, I believe. You might be expecting a diatribe on free speech and obviously I've been verbal about it to those around me, but this electronic medium seems to be under special scrutiny. Look back at my older posts and see what could possibly make Americorps look objectively bad to a possible NCCC applicant. Could it be the ones where I talked about all the great people I was meeting and working with? Maybe it was the part about all the moments of true happiness and enjoyment I experienced? You be the judge. But, seeing as I'm short with my time in the 'corps and I've developed a decent sized case of the "fuck-its," I've decided to reactivate story time. It won't be expose style, so there's gonna be some decent holes as I recount the last 7 months. This is in the interest of keeping headaches in the next 3 weeks in to minimum. Buuuut, there'll probably be some decent reading material once I get back home...

Moving on.

I guess I'll try to illustrate everything in order based on locations. Keep it simple. There won't be that much emotional word vomit, unless it's from current events in my brain; so there might be a decent amount, it's me.

End of round 1: Still in fucking Maryland.

So I'm starting off on a side note, but I think it's important. One of the main reasons I joined this program was to travel. I really really like to travel. Really. The whole concept of bouncing around the country, helping people, learning new skills, meeting new people, this sounded fucking fantastic. It was figured out during conversation with a friend a few months ago that myself and 2 of my former teammates(yes former, that complete story will be aired at a later date) will have spent at least 21 weeks out of the total 40 weeks in the program at Perry Point, MD. Yup, the majority of our time will have been spent at our home base, simply because of luck and other currently unnamed factors. And there is one team that has spent 3 of the 4 rounds in New Orleans. Their other round was on Florida. Just saying.
I think when we last left our hero, he was gearing up for fantastic reunion with some old friends and now I remember he crushed yet another PT test. One of those last Fridays in April we had a PT test after work and I ran my fastest mile time to date: 6:53. Flying. And to top it all off, none other than Paul Zippel himself was there at the finish line. What a sight. After a quick shower and some sly comments about my newly svelte figure, we bombed down to Baltimore for a free Orioles game. My soul brother Aaron Faust had acquired tickets from his buddy Ace who received them from his very generous college. We thought we would be meeting Faust, Ace and Ace's girl. Serendipity shakes her fierce booty and what happens? We meet Faust, Ace and Stamatis fucking Zeris. So basically three of my best friends and roommates from college and a new friend decide Camden Yards is the perfect venue to surprise the shit out me and make me the happiest boy. The night was everything I needed after many, many weekends of working extra volunteer hours, no sleeping in, no beer, no guitar.....etc. It was a night of nights for our crew: almost getting thrown out twice for heckling and screaming profanity laced insults in Greek, delicious shitty ballpark food, one scrumptious beer, realizing you're in the middle of the ghetto about 2 blocks away from the inner harbor (we made the mistake of rambling into a McDonalds that was bumping the loudest rap over the sound system, and we were far to white for how late it was), and of course, lots of incredibly meaningful, insightful and ridiculous conversation with this group of guys. I was smiling inside and out all night. I think the theme for this blog might well turn out to be the fantastically random and beautiful days and nights I've had this year. Fucking serendipity how you charm me.
As far as the rest of the round, I remember everything going reasonably well. School was alright. We started to do a lot more landscaping as the weather got better, which my teachers were none to happy about. This is understandable, I am great after all. My final masterpiece in the medium of butcher paper came with the construction of 30 foot castle/dungeon set piece for a production of Rumplestiltskin. An obnoxious amount of fun. By this time the other grade had caught on and soon my teammates were stretching their creative tendons and amazing wall art was popping up all over the building, including, but not limited to: an 8' 3-d bee, a 3d jungle motif and a 5'spaceship complete with aliens popping out of the moon craters. Arts and farts and crafts.
Near the end of time at the school Rebecca, Dan and I volunteered with the preschool kids again and were on a field trip to the Baltimore Science Museum. Overall a great time. One little boy, who looks like a 4 year old version of a member of Bone Thugs N Harmony told me I was his favorite teacher. Feather in my cap. But. Why parents don't just let toddlers run away sometimes is beyond me. Trying to keep up with two 4 year old girls was insane. Fantastic passive birth control for myself. One little boy pooped in the kids' play and learn room. He covered it with a candy wrapper, and it was discovered by smell. Good times.
About a week before the project ended we found out the destination of our next project. NCCC does this, for fun suspense?, also apparently housing availability falls through sometimes and isn't shored up until right before teams leave. After much build up and scavenger hunting, we finally found out were going to do Habitat for Humanity in Vero Beach, FL. Florida baby. Right at the beginning of the summer. Yup. And right where I leave you for now. I start traveling and things in my life get crazier and crazier. This is about the first week of Mayish. Stay tuned sports fans.

*Current sidenote: I recently had some ridiculously good(re: jacked) beers with a very old and good friend in Boston a couple days ago. Indispensible advice was given that I am incredibly gratelful for. This was produced on whim, at the last minute, and at the mercy of the MBTA in a restricted timeframe. Serendipity you are quite a cunt.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It's been the longest it's ever been. Whatevs. This'll be short, I post a longer one soon. Here's the abridged version of the past 6 weeks.

-Helped out at a drag queen show that showcased plenty of artificial phalli and merkins, and it also raised $40,000 for charity!
-Disciplined? I'm still not sure. I could try to explain, but it wouldn't make sense to you and it still wouldn't make sense to me. I guess I'll just say that this is one of the very few jobs where specific moments of social interaction are graded from a single pov. Or so it seems. Still unsure.
-Still keeping up with the working out and eating right. Not sure if I'll hit he 50lb weight loss or 6:30 mile byJuly, as previously hoped, but I'm doing damned good.
-Was working on an awesome habitat for humanity project in Florida, 3 miles from the beach. Now I'm in West Virginia, trying to save mudded out homes in a federal disaster area. Look it up, there's not much press.
-All I can think about is a motorcycle trip to everywhere. Specifically Nova Scotia and Possibly Newfoundland during the first week of July. I just want to ride.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

one and half stone

March 30-April 16

Yikes. Far too long. I've been feckless. Mea culpa. Anywho. Life is still good, I'll try to see if I can remember everything from the last couple weeks and condense it into something that makes sense.

Work: Work still very livable. The bulletin boards make the time go by and let the creative juices flow. Today Dan and I finished a 12 ft "stage" complete with ruffled butcher paper curtains, scalloped footlights and 3d spotlights for "3rd Grade Spotlight on Talent" papers. It's all part of our beautification process of the school. Two days last week we pulled weeds and spread mulch around the school while the kids were on vacation. Then we got a little break of our own. We worked for two days at Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware. It's down near Rehoboth Beach, if people know where that is. It was definitely nice to get away from the Point and do some "work" somewhere else. The work was repainting a nature center and a chapel, but with 8 people, painting a building really isn't that much work. Highlights include excellent beach weather, day and night, and burritos cooked on a campfire for dinner one night. Scrumdiddlyumptious. And now I finally have kid stories that will produce some heartwarmth and maybe a half-smile. Obviously I'm gravitating toward the crazier kids in the class, cuz thems what I know, or at least attempt to. One kid has been completely unresponsive and difficult the whole time I've been there. Fairly certain he's seen his fair share of abuse. But he finally started talking to me of all people during math when I showed him a few tricks and he's slowly revealing himself to be a really sweet and smart kid and not the asshole that the first impression gave. Another of the crazys is legit crazy. Kid clearly has serious social and cognitive issues and I don't envy his case worker. The teachers get frustrated with him easily, and for good reason, some days he'll just wander and ramble like a vagrant under an overpass. But sometimes you just have to let a crazy person get the crazy out and they sometimes reveal a nugget or two of sanity that gives you hope. And sometimes they're still crazy. As for the good time, I've figured out this kid has moved around quite a bit and loves looking at maps and talking about traveling. So when he gets his work done I let him point out states and tell him about them if I've been there. It's fun. Other times he'll go off on a tangent and you won't know how to come back. For instance the other day he decided that I should be a fighter of some kind. He couldn't decide between karate, tae kwon do and boxing, but he decided that after I left the school I should go to Japan and become a fighter. When I alerted him to my pacifist ways he came up with a contingency plan. I was to go into Baltimore, find a painter--cause there must a hundred of those guys there-- have a portrait of me created and sent back to this kid. Neat, huh. Maybe I'll get my portrait done all sweaty and scarred up a la Bruce Lee. Well, I suppose Chuck Norris would make more sense with the beard et al. Work. Indeed.

Play: There really hasn't been much play for our hero. In the last 40 days I've had 2 days off. And I really like to sleep in. Woof. You should see the bags under my eyes, but I feel fairly decent. I did get to play a little last weekend when my teammate Rebecca and I went to my teammate Dan's home in Albany, NY for Easter. It was nice to be in a lived in house and have lots of mom prepared food around. And it was fucking fantastic to be able to sleep in 'til 10:30. I also bought a new shirt with an LL Bean gift card. I'm officially an XL now. Fuck Yes. Getting fit feels and looks damn good. I will play more soon since one of my best friends from college, Aaron Faust, is coming to visit the east coast for a few weeks and I predict lots of well deserved binging on excellent food. I also really need to get to Ohio to see meet my nephew, it will happen sooner than later.

Maitinence: The big news. My workout and eating regimen is working. Running 5 miles twice a week, core training twice a week, a day of weights, along with subsisting on $4.50 a day for food has helped me lose............................32lbs! Yup yup. I'm pretty sure I have been this weight since like junior high. Easily 10 years ago. Fuck. It feels good. I hope to lose 50 more over the course of the year. That's a goal, 30 might be more reasonable, but how fun would it be to have a picture of a Wood boy with abs? Or at least really jacked. Maybe I'll finally be able to fit into those cars I dreamed of owning. Yes, just like every chubby boy born in the 80's, I couldn't fit into and always wanted to own a Volvo 240 turbo. You too? Awesome. Nerd.

The Future: Lots of neurons have been firing on this topic. I think I have it figured. I'm going to give myself a date to decide. Choice A: Buy a newer bike and go on a year/two year motorcycle odyssey across the 49 states and probably a lot of provinces, working for room and board on organic farms through WWOOF, maybe write a book afterward or figure out how to do again in Europe, probably the rest of the world. Choice B: Apply again and come back as a team leader next year. I could bank 10 grand, build the old resume and dodge the recession and then do the bike trip. I'm kinda leaning towards B, but who knows how hard the travel bug will bite come a few months. The obvious drawback of both plans is the lack of benefits of putting roots down somewhere: my bed, my kitchen, my guitars & amps, girlfriend, friends, familiarity. But honestly, all I see is stagnation when I look at that and it looks awful. It's gonna take at least a few more years of roving for me to want to stay, so either way I think the plans hold water.

Media Review: Since I last updated, I've read No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy and A Prayer for Owen Meaney, by John Irving. No Country read way too quickly and the movie script is so close to the book that I couldn't picture anything, maybe I'll pick it up again in few years. I like the style though and I will read more McCarthy in the future. As for Owen Meany, it's definitely pure Irving, but I just didn't connect with the story like I did with Garp. Oh, and I've been listening to way too much Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown lately. So good. Check out Whiskeytown if you think you don't like country but want to listen to good music.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

terminal case

March 23-29:

Life is good. It's been a bit strange to have worked that past 20 days straight, but there's a feeling of accomplishment along with this exhaustion. To clarify, I've probably mentioned that we have to do an additional 80 hours of independent volunteer work over the course of the year. Well, some of my teammates and I decided that it would be best to grind a little and try to knock out most, if not all of that time while we're still here in Maryland. It makes sense to us: we don't have a particularly taxing job during the week, we have weekends off, we have personal vehicles here to use, we know the area, after spending all week inside it's nice to get out and get dirty working outside and when we're at a cool location we won't have to worry about passing up something fun on the weekend because we're scrambling to get hours in. After yesterday's beach and trail clean up at Elk Neck State Park, I have 40 hours on the books. It feels pretty damn good. We were supposed to get another 10 hrs in today, but the site sponsor flaked. Whatevs, I'm not complaining about finally having a day off to sleep in, be lazy, do some laundry, buy some books and collect some thoughts.
There's not much to not about work. It's still work. The teachers are appreciative, the kids are fun sometimes, occasionally I'll do something neat like make a 10 ft banana split out of butcher paper, but it's mostly business as usual. I've decided I can't be a public school teacher by choice/passion. Too much damn discipline, it angries up my blood and I wouldn't be happy doing it. Other teaching, we'll see. I won't starve.
I guess the past few days and weeks of my life could be compartmentalized into lots of: working(at and away from school), exercising, reading, cooking and thinking. If we could add an electric guitar and a motorcycle to this mix I'd be the happiest boy, but I'm content with maintaining happy to happier right now.
The exercising has been fantastic. I've been staying with a super heavy core workout on Mondays and Fridays with the rest of the team. On Wednesdays we go to the giant YMCA 20 minutes away and I do heavy duty circuits with a 55lb bar. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I've been running/walking about 5 miles, much more running than walking lately. This week I'm going to start waking up early to jog a couple miles and do a little yoga before breakfast. This has definitely been paying off. I forgot to weigh myself, but I'd guess I've lost about 10lbs since I've been here, but I don't really lose weight, I just lose size. I gone two belt holes in since I've arrived and I expect to have to buy a new belt in a month or two. Good times. I also crushed another PT test on Friday: 44 pushups/min, 43 situps/min and a 7:07 mile. That's 56 seconds better than 2 weeks ago. Fuck yes.
So far, I've been reading about a book a week. Reach of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, The Driver by Alexander Roy, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and The World According to Garp by John Irving. The Kundera and Irving books have definitely been the most enjoyable and have made the most impact. Unbearable Lightness is the first philosophy book disguised as a novel I've ever read, and liked. Lot's of insightful and thought provoking nuggets about life, relationships, love, cheating set in 1970's Czechoslovakia. I would definitely recommend if you want to dive head first into some terse, but dense material. Garp blew me away. I've always wondered if I would find an author that I thought could accurately write by biography and make it interesting. I'm confident John Irving could do it in his sleep. Garp is one of my new favorites and I can't wait to read the rest of Irving's books. It's a ridiculously well told story that provides incredible ideas and insight about family roles especially fatherhood, the impact of love and lust and just about life in general. I'd recommend it to anyone. I've heard the movie is decent and I could definitely see Robin Williams as Garp, but I won't watch it for a while. I don't to ruin this latent joy.
A few weeks ago I wrote that long diatribe about my romantic life and ant first I'd say it's a bit premature. But really, I've thought more about it and I'm more content with where that part of my life is. I'm transient for a reason, I like it. I've always had a bit of a grass is greener mentality and I don't think that's such a bad thing. Not that I'm constantly hating current situations, but usually things could be a little better and that leads me to new wonderful places and the people there. Sounds like a decent life. It might also have to do with the fact that I really can't think of anything I want to do after this than get a motorcycle and ride around the continent for awhile. I'll settle eventually, once some certainty comes. Perhaps when I figure out place/job/person that really holds me and I want to be held at that point. We'll see, for now I like things the way they are.
When I start experiencing cooler things, I'll write about them, but for now you get access to my diary from my hope chest, next to my ballerina jewelry box.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


March 12-22

I apologize for not updating in a while, but there hasn't been much of note. Not even any deep thoughts. I've been working everyday for the last two weeks straight, either at the school or hard labor on the weekend for independent service hours. I've basically been on autopilot. Just trying to keep myself busy at school, mainly being patient with the kids that clearly need one-on-one. I've also been exercising a lot, running and walking five miles on days when not doing circuit training. Clothes are feeling a little looser, so that's always nice. Overall I've been coasting. No real highs or lows. Physically I feel a little worn out, but it's the good feeling. Mentally I'm not wracking my brain over anything, other than the occasional what-if session for what I should do next year. But that usually just ends in me wanting to just ride my motorcycle for awhile. I bouncing between wanting to be planted and constant motion.
After getting a real taste for public school education, I'm pretty certain I don't want to teach. I have a ridiculous amount of respect for teachers, but I don't have "it" in me to be happy and teach. So I'm not so sure if the TEFL thing in Asia will happen. Whatevs, time to think about other options and locations.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here it is

March 11: Day 3

Same ol', same ol'. Business as usual and such. Mostly hanging paper and coverings on the walls to prevent the kids from cheating on their assessment tests next week. And I'm sure next week I'll be up and down the step ladder to take it down again. I suppose I should be cynical and complain but when it comes down to it, I'm taking a load of these ladies' minds and helping them breathe a little easier and that's really all that counts.
One little girl finally said I looked like Santa Claus, I was waiting for it. Of course I had to shoot back a "What makes you think I'm not him?." Messing with kids is a decent time. And this is a great age, at 8 or 9 they're starting to get fairly intelligent, but they're still innocent and sweet. They still skip everywhere. They also sit in the tiny chairs that I'm sure make me even more of a comical giant when I sit down to do filing and stapling.

Soul exposure time: Obviously during lunch period the other teachers interrogate me with get-to-know you questions and inevitably the first question is always "Are you married or single?." And then it's immediately followed with a "Why are you single?." It's happened with most jobs in the last few years and this one is no different.
It's a topic I've thought about a lot and I've always had different answers for the why. I suppose I've always been single and for different reasons. Sure, I've dated, had romances and lovers and trysts. But nothing long term and official. In times past my excuse has been a heightened self-awareness(my term for low self esteem from growing up a fat kid) coupled with being a late bloomer. Then it was that stupid crippling anxiety thing and general awkwardness, but I suppose alcohol sortof helped with that. Then it was really a problem trying to find a cool girl who didn't have a boyfriend. Which, because I'm such a nice guy, led to a lot of emotional cheating. I'm a douche. Then it was a proximity issue by living at home with rents. This was good and bad; it forced me to get out and try the craigslist dating scene and those of you who've heard the stories know the rediculousness, others might hear about it if you asked nicely in person with a beer or three in hand. Now it's because I have been and will be a transient for a decent while. While this trait seems to be initially endearing to some women, the whole traveling for really good reasons things, it doesn't lend well to the long term. And rightly so. It'll be a good 9 months before I could even start to date someone in a legit way and even then I'm thinking about taking a few years to teach English in Asia. Oh me. Yet at the same time, if a special lady said "hey, move here, let's make it work," I'd probably give it a shot. But I think the singleness will remain for a bit. Does it sadden me? A bit, from time to time. But at the same time I've kinda figured out my life thus far, so I'm at peace with it; especially when I have some form of an object of affection around, because I really like doing cute boyfriendy shit. I'm king of the subtle, meaningful, "yeah, i was listening" gift. Blah. Brain sponge has rung dry. Maybe this only made sense to me. The gist: hey questioner, way to make an always single person remember they're still single. Hah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Old Hat

March 10: Day 2

My first full day at the school. It was decent. Quite fucking familiar. I did a fair amount of the grunt work for the teachers: putting up posters, reaching for high things, covering bulletin boards so there's no cheating during the state assessment tests, grading tests and entering them on computers. I also helped out where I saw fit with the kids, showing a math or computer trick here and there and perfecting my teacher/parent "look." The look that will stop a kid immediately when they're doing something they know they shouldn't. It's a fun part of growing up I guess.
Point of ponderance: Kids are really growing up fast. These 3rd graders are doing probabilities in math and learning about onomatopoeia in english. Madness.
Final note: Fitness is going swimmingly. I took our first of 7? PT test yesterday and did pretty damn well. We were timed a minute each for pushups and situps. I did 37 pushups and 39 situps. 100% completion for pushups is 36 and situps 40. I hope to raise them both to 45 for the next test. We also did a mile run. I came in at 8:03. It was the first time I've ever run a timed mile in under 10 minutes. The boy is proud. And today I went for a lovely 5mile jog walk along the water. I'm trying to up the wow factor when I see everyone again.

People aren't really commenting and I'm wondering if I'm writing interesting enough stuff, I'll write about anything as long as people ask.

Monday, March 9, 2009


March 9: Day 1 of actual "work"

Today was the day we actually went to the school, got a tour, met the kids and teachers, and got a taste of what we would be doing. And what we're doing is a little surprising. We all thought this would be a needy school with lots of work to be done and they just needed the warm bodies to fill vital roles. Not so much. It's a Title 1 school, which means at least 40% of the kids have free and reduced lunches, this school has somewhere around 80%. So there's obviously a deficit in the kids' home lives. But since they're Title 1, they get an enormous amount of funding. A ridiculous technology budget and classroom with teachers, aids and interns from local colleges. Which leads to us. Obviously we can help, but is this the right place? We're expected to make lasting, tangible changes, especially in the areas of creating a newsletter and getting the parents involved in the school. There's already a newsletter and the parents quite involved, especially for such a poor and transient population. Right now the desired tangible effects are a bit dubious. I see the tangible effects being our presence in the students' lives and that won't be seen until they get a little sad when we leave and maybe some of them will join Americorps in the decades to come.
I'm gonna be bouncing between the four 3rd grade classrooms as a resource person. Somewhat similar to my last job, and all the Collaborative people will understand, especially with the age group/maturity level. I think I'll have a decent amount of fun. The teachers definitely have their shit together, almost to an intimidating degree and the kids seem to like me. One boy called me handsome in front of his friends and quickly followed it with a "no homo," so as not to emasculate himself in front of his chums. It'll be a quick and dirty and fun 7 weeks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Satis - Enough

Feb 27-March 8

I apologize for not being in attendance lately. I haven't really felt like writing and besides, you got two quality posts back to back, and this one will probably be fairly long, so hush. Over this period of time there have been a few "yays" and a few "blahs," but nothing too terrible.
Yay #1 is obviously the arrival of my nephew, Weston Charles Arbour. My mom is out in Ohio right now to help and reports that Wes is a hungry lad who having a bit of trouble burping, hopefully he learns or his uncles will have to show him what's what.
At this moment I'm trying hard to think of what else happened, but right now it's just a blur of banality. Meetings, an induction ceremony(because up to this point I guess we weren't actually doing what we were doing?) and random chanting from various teams and units that made it seem like rush week. Or should I say rush weak. Ho ho, I'm a PUNisher. Anywho.
Another positive moment came in the form of the events Wednesday night and into Thursday. It was "Americorps Night" at the local bar, so the 18+ kiddies could come and dance, but not drink. A fair amount of bumping and grinding took place, along with a fair amount of imbibing spirited beverages. Almost too much imbibing. Why do I have to wind up with a gorgeous lady at the end of the night and have a ridiculous conversation about existentialism with her?
Early Thursday morning turned into later Thursday morning after only a handful of winks. The induction ceremony went by surprisingly quick, with a couple nice motivating speeches and a snickers bar to combat my overhanging senses. After some forced team "reflection time" the beauty began. We had clandestinely arranged a brunch for select awesome people. I needed to use my new griddle to its fullest potential. (the griddle and the crock pot have turned out to be the purchase decisions i've made in awhile, i love my growing collection of cheap and functional cookware) Everyone chipped in with eggs, bread and pancake mix. I added the hardware, the passion and some pumpkin pie mix. Yup, my pumpkin pancakes will make you swoon. Swoon. We figured I made around 50-60 flapjacks, about 20-30 pieces of freedom toast and not nearly enough bacon. Everyone was sated and I received hugs. I like my life.
To top Thursday off, we were treated to a pizza party by our awesome unit leader. We had tied the lovely ladies up the street in a cleanest house competition and our unit leader generously bought enough pizza for all of us to get our binge on. Brunch of brunches and then Pizzafest. Fantastic.
That night revealed one of the better hangout sessions so far. Everyone else was leaving the next morning so quality time was precious. I spent the evening, with my glucose levels cradling me like muscle relaxers, on the couch with a guitar, randomly spurting out ridiculous, humorous and borderline offensive verbiage. I think at one point I suggested another of the wolf unit teams use "We'll eat your grandmother" as they were pondering a team motto. I'm not sure why people listen to me sometimes.
Friday was alright. I slept through everyone leaving. I'm not a fan of permanent goodbyes, because they rarely are. The conversations will continue when you get back. I'll see everyone in 7 weeks and I already made pancakes. Friday morning was spent at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. This is were they test all the stuff that the military uses to kill people, or keep Americans safe. I guess it depends on your perspective. I would have loved it if I was 10, not so much. Tanks are neat, especially all the WW2 era Russian and German ones, but not enough to mask the taste of silly little things like carnage. I guess this is healthy cynicism. Though it was really neat to go to a government installation, in a van with government plates, flash my government ID and bomb right in. Maybe bomb wasn't the correct word to use right there, but I'm sticking with it. The weekend thus far has been lazy, relaxing and a little boring. Everyone's gone, so lots of reading has been accomplished and now you get to hear from me as well. I'll type more very soon since work at the elementary school starts tomorrow.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Reveal

Feb 24-26: I don't think the witty titles will last much longer

When we left our hero he promised us news, but he'll let you wait a little longer, at least until the end of this post. Tuesday was greeted with high hopes after an enjoyable evening with quality persona. The team drove about an hour south to the Grove Point Girl Scout camp near Cecilton, MD. Yup, Maryland has its hick parts as well. We stayed at one of the cabins with two bedrooms, a large cement floored living area and a decent kitchen. We got to work around noon and started painting. Remember when I said that we were going to do beach cleanup and woodsplitting? Yeah, not so much. We painted a white, concrete brick pool house white. It was hard to tell where you had already painted. Then on Wednesday and Thursday morning we painted the camp caretaker's house with 2 rollers and a bunch of 2in trim brushes. Slow going indeed. I'm really trying not to be cynical, but barely anyone had any painting experience and we received absolutely no training, not even a pamphlet and we were expected to handle ladders and paint a house. Hilarious. And where were to girl scouts? What was preventing them from painting? Why wasn't I painting a private citizens house instead of a private company? Especially when we were told that the paint on the house at the entrance would better attract customers? Questions that won't be answered in the next 9 months. I'll complain a little more later, and probably get a talking to because they monitor all the "blogs." Lick one big brother.
And now for the big news. For my first of four big trips I'll be going tooooooooo.............drumroll.............MARYLAND!111!!1!111 Yup. Joppa, Maryland. A half hour away from here, so we'll be living on campus. All of my housemates are going to Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to do Habitat and such. I can't say I'm not incredibly jealous. I'll be a hall monitor and reading aid at an elementary school. Cushy. The silver lining is that our Unit Leader is trying to get a team to the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico and I know it's fleeting and futile, but I really hope I end up in a shack on St Thomas. I just want to work and collapse at night. I'll complain later about personal growth. I'm still happy, just lots of little inconsistencies and frustrations and it doesn't help that the guy I hang out with the most has liquid cynicism in his veins. But most, if not all is mollified but late night cuddle chats with a nice young lady. Good thing they give us just enough time to get to know people and then everyone departs. Cynicism: you can clean your oven with it.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Feb 16-23: Weekness

So it’s been exactly a week. And tomorrow I’ll have been here exactly 3 weeks. Wowzers. Things are still pretty decent, but there’s not a whole lot to report from the last week. There’s just been a bunch of fairly boring lectures that could be summed up in about 15 minutes. Though some high points include learning how to run a disaster shelter and going to “Black and Decker University” in Towson. We basically got to play with reciprocating saws, impact drivers and nail guns for two and half hours.
And now for a little meat that people have been asking for.
1) I can now give you a small idea of something that I’m doing. Within our 8 person teams we have specialized roles. These include independent community service organizers, recruiters at large events, and team trainer. My buddy Dan and I are the team trainer. We’ll not only lead the team in physical training, but I’ll also be heading up “life training” for the team. I’ll basically be a life coach; helping people with their resumes, helping them with “life after Americorps,” organizing team building and workshop activities. Those last two things might sound a bit out of the ordinary for me, but this is supposed to be a learning experience.
2) I know where I’m going for my first journeys. I’ll only tell you about the first one to hold some suspense for my next post. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for 3 days to go to a girl scout camp somewhere in Maryland on the banks of the Sassafras river. Indeed. All I know for sure is that we’ll be cleaning up a beach, repairing screen doors, painting and possibly splitting wood. And I’ll big cooking for everyone, overall not a huge change. It’ll be a good primer for the rest of the year. Oh, and in case people were wondering, yes, finally after 3 weeks, I got some boots. They’re not the right size, and the insoles don’t come out, so I can’t put in the orthotics for my flat sasquatch feet. But at least they're boots and I'm fine with tasks, I just I hope other people are fine with me bitching a little bit cause my feet hurt. Whatevs. At least I finally get to get some fresh air and split some wood.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Good Life

Feb 13: End of the Sadness

Finally the cold is subsiding. By Friday I was about 95% back to normal. PT was much better in the morning but the rest of the day was fairly weak. It was spent in an 8 hour diversity training session, that I really didn’t see the point of at the end. The tag teaming presenters kept bouncing back back and forth between preaching tolerance, showing horrifically shocking images, incredibly outdated Nazi marches and teaching us new hate speech. Not a whole lot was accomplished. That night I went to the bar, but took it easy. I had to get up the next morning for van driver’s ed. I drank a little gin, shook a little booty and hit the hay before midnight.

Feb 14: I Choo Choo Choose You

Valentines Day is usually a solitary and unfulfilling venture, but this year things were pleasantly different. Driver training was dumb but necessary, and it went quicker with the lovely texts from the ladies in my life. That afternoon our house joined forces with 2 other houses on the street, which conveniently contain the majority of the cool people here, and had a BBQ. I assumed the grill master position and cooked meat for about 40 people. Everyone ate pretty well. I seem to take charge of the cooking missions out of a selfish and untrustworthy motives. I guess I just have little faith in very few people when it comes to my food, and like any job you want done right…Later that night I bathed(because I smelled like a brisket) and went out for some drinks with few cool people. There was a cross dressing party at one of the houses, but I forgot my slinky black number in Maine, so I just crashed it later on when I was feeling fuzzy. Once again, like a lot of great nights, it ended with ridiculous conversation, a little guitar and some laughs.

Feb 15: Lazy Sunday

Sleeping in is one of life’s truly great solitary pleasures. Especially when you’re free from basically any expectations or duties for the day, like when you repent on your death bed. Yikes, no more talk of morbid metaphysics. Sunday was populated with random conversations, a little “everyone’s ‘it’” tag on the “quad” between the houses, card games, back massages, a bit of bland Chinese food and capped off with some episodes of Mr Show. Nothing anyone couldn’t be happy with.

Random thoughts:
Lately my internal demeanor has been improving exponentially. My initial reactions to the summer/boot camp experience are fading into memory. It’s amazing what proximity can do. Just the knowledge of what’s nearby or possibly close has a ridiculous amount of power. The knowledge that I’m a breath away from a ridiculously crass lunchroom conversation that could easily turn to polarizing political diatribes completely rules. Not that I’m really for dogmatic spouting, but sometimes it’s fun to see what you can squeeze out of people. It’s doing me really well to be around a fair amount of capable youngins. And let’s be honest, after 2 years in the woods, just a fleeting smile from a sweet young lady can smash any negativity you tricked yourself into harboring. So far I’ve really been shirking my goal of learning Spanish. For some reason, right now I can’t bring myself to not hang out with people and listen to my mp3 player while talking to myself. Mike's ongoing list of things necessary for happiness: passion, serendipity,proximity.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Here’s the massive update. Since I got my slick, little laptop, I’ll try to update a lot more frequently. But in 6 weeks I’ll have no clue when I’ll get the internet again, so you’ll probably be getting a bunch of big ones like this.

Feb 3: The Arrival
- Of course I should fly first class on my way to a year of volunteering. These days, the ferrying of you bags isn’t factored into the cost of you ticket. Lot’s of airlines charge by the bag, but the nice airlines count that towards the cost of the upgrade. The very nice lady at the Airtran counter in Portland at 5am informed that it would only be $9 more to fly first class. Yes please, m’am.
Flying into BWI, spirits were decent. I had a great conversation with an old baggage handler who thought I looked like Ben Roethlisberger. I met up with a few other corps members and soon realized that we’d be a waiting awhile for out ride. My first introduction to government efficiency. I’m trying my best to keep my cynicism under wraps, but getting up at 3:30am, flying in at 8 and finding out we wouldn’t be leaving the airport until at least 10 made me feel GREAT. Especially with the promise of a day of in processing and a mountain of paperwork. Fun fun.
Maryland struck me as fairly boring in its commonness. Each town looks exactly like the last. It’s like the semi-nice, boring parts of New Jersey threw up around the Chesapeake.
I don’t think I’ve written my SSN more in the span of 4 hours, it’s probably imprinted on every folding table owned by the Perry Point VA. Oh, and they didn’t have my boot size. They still don’t and it’s over a week later. Efficiency. They never bothered asking for our sizes over the course of the 20 odd correspondence exchanges in the last year, even for just a rough estimate.
Anyways, not a whole lot to report for the day. Got my uniform (cargo pants, logo t-shirts, sweats, you know, clothes with the Americorps logo). Met my roommates. All seem to be pretty decent so far and I’d say we’re one of the few houses where everyone gets along , I think our relatively advanced ages help.

I’ll take this time to address the simple questions.
- We’re living on a VA campus. It’s right at the point where the Susquehanna meets the Chesapeake. I can see Havre de Grace across the bay from my room. There’s 8 of us in a 4 bedroom house, most of which are near falling down. Luckily we have one with a decent roof and plumbing, other can’t say the same. Last weekend a couple of guys had to bucket brigade a foot of backed-up sewage from their basement.
-I have breaks and I’m allowed to leave. Anytime we’re done for the day, which means meetings right now, we’re allowed to be out of uniform and leave campus. As long as we make it back for the next scheduled meeting, we’re not considered AWOL. I have all federal holidays off and a couple randoms here and there. My biggest break is this summer from July 1-12. So people should lobby now for a visit, because I really miss motorcycle right now and she might need to flex her legs for a week or so.
-I don’t know where I’m going for my first Spike. They don’t tell us until about a week before. I will be spending 2 of the 4? Spikes in the Gulf Coast.
-I quit fire team, but I’ll explain that later.

Feb 4: Meh
- Turned out to be a bit of a nothing day. Probably a couple meetings? I don’t remember much, other than asserting myself as cook and therefore one of the permanent shoppers in the house. We went shopping that night for food for the house. I did this partly out of lack of trust and partly selfishness. I don’t trust a lot strangers, especially dudes my age, to buy and cook for me. I also like to have a little, okay, a lot of control over what I’m eating.
Don’t get too shocked, but they allotted $5 a day for food for us, since we won’t technically be payed our $90 a week until next week. This sounds ridiculous, but when you get to the grocery store and say that you have $200 to buy food for 8 guys for 5 days, it doesn’t sound that bad. Cheap stew meat, frozen veggies and PB&J are the names of the game and so far they haven’t fired me. It’s all in the preparation.

Feb 5: Wasting Tax Dollars
- Just know that on this day, at least 12 15-passenger vans spent 5 hours of stop-and-go driving all on your dime. It was all in the name of a “scavenger hunt” to find local points of intrest, to get familiar with the area. But we were so turned around, nobody but the driver knew where we were. Time and resource waste central. I’m really trying not to be cynical. But it’s so haaaarrrrddddd.
That night I was reacquainted with the taste of Yeungling on draft. $.75 draft. That was nice. Anytime any of you catch me pulling this, “Wah, I still hate summer camp,” crap, just remind me that as a camper, you’re usually not allowed to stumble back to camp in a happily fuzzy state with new friends.

Feb 6: Touch Me
- Not the worst day. Having to ride to Delaware to get a physical seemed a bit odd, especially since we live next to a hospital. But, nothing new. My vision and hearing is still pretty damn good and a nice lady touched my nuts.
I took it pretty easy that night because of the firefighting pack test the next morning. I think I made beef stew and played board games at some girls’ house.

Feb 7: Goal Met
- Back story. On the face book for NCCC, there was a discussion about the pack test to qualify for the wild land fire fighting team. As most of you know, I’ve never had a burning desire to fight fires(greatest pun ever), but over the past 2 years I’ve completely overhauled my exercise and eating habits. To pass the test, a person needs to walk, not jog, 3 miles in under 45 minutes, while weighted down with a 45 pound vest. For the 3 months leading up to my departure I worked in a training routine to help myself prepare for this test. I took a backpack and put two 25 pound plates in it, set my treadmill to 1.5 incline and intervaled between 3mph and 5mph. It was really hard. But it paid off. My best time for 3 miles on the treadmill was 44min, so I was a bit concerned for the test, but I developed a decent case of the Fuck-Its and signed up for firefighting.
That morning I wasn’t that nervous, surprisingly. I was a bit anxious, but nothing that affected my GI (this is a Wood family insidey). I did my ridiculous yoga stretches that elicited curious looks. This is understandable because half the time it looks like I’m fucking the ground. But they work. They worked. I worked. I put on the Cro-Mags and pumped my legs and never looked back. I didn’t acknowledge anything or anyone, until one of the leaders rode by me, well after I had passed the half way point, saying that it had only been 22 minutes! Holy shit Batman indeed. I made it in just over 34 minutes. Besting the time of the 1st place finisher of the first heat(I walked the 3rd heat because of limited weight vest availability). As a fat dude it’s fun to beat skinny kids in endurance and speed challenges.
To make the day even better, I got to spend some quality time with one of the bestest buddies from college, Paul Zippel. He and his girlfriend live in Elkton, MD which is quite conveniently only about 20 minutes from Perry Point. We caught up on the past year and a half that we had been vacant from each others lives and he fed me awesome food and beer. I know the best people. My life is good.
That night I went out to the bar again. Too bad it was townie night with a band that played exclusively shitty pop punk and 90’s shit rock. Good Charlotte? You bet. A Limp Bizkit cover? Surely I jest. Surely I don‘t. Even a mash up of Sublime’s “What I Got,” that “Feel like makin’ love” song and “Sweet Home Alabama” but sung as “Sweet Home Cecil County.” I wish I was kidding. I’m glad I didn’t pay a cover.

Feb 8: Off Day
- A perfect storm of events on this day leads me to where I am now. On antibiotics. One thing to note, almost every guy in the house has been sick so far. We’ve all had a chance to do our best Florence impressions to make life easier in the house. So I suppose it was inevitable.
Drinking the night before and getting chilled walking back wasn’t good. Sweating in my sleep with a cranked furnace didn’t help. Playing frisbee barefoot in semi “cold” weather definitely put me over the edge. Mr Virus took hold, conveniently the night before our first round of physical training at 5:30am. Bleh. But Frisbee was fun.

Feb 9: Bleh II: The Return
- 5:30 came early after a night of sweats and crazy virus dreams. Of course we didn’t have anything to do between 7 and 11:30, so it was completely necessary to get up that early. Sorry Cyno the Monkey got out of his cage. Later that day we had a super long meeting that basically said more about how awesome we all are and the 4th staff introduction in 6 days, but it took 4 hours. Cyno stop it.
The two important things to come from the meeting where the anouncements of the firefighting team our permanent Spike teams. My spike team is pretty decent. My roommate Dan is on the team, which rules, because we get along swimmingly. There's also another cook, which is great because when either of us is feeling lazy, the team will still eat well.

Feb 10: Bleh III-d
- 5:30 fire team PT came ridiculously early after another night of no sleep. But I was happy to have gotten some antibiotics the night before, thanks dad. PT was pretty horrible since I could barely breathe, not to mention the basic training climate from the ex-military instructors. You guys know how much I love undeserved authority figures.
Later that day we had another training/brainwash/teambuilding session that could have been summed up in 20 minutes. I was miserable.

Feb 11: Bleh IV
- Yesterday could have been terrible. But it wasn’t that bad. PT wasn’t that enjoyable but I made it. I thought the morning would suck, but the Youth Development seminar wasn’t half bad, mainly because the guy giving it was a great public speaker and I hosed everyone in the large group discussion. Sometimes I revel in the fact that life experiences and maturity affords you greater perspective. The day continued with more boring but necessary team meeting stuff.
For dinner I make dry rubbed pork tenderloins that I grilled and roasted. They went over pretty well.
I ended the night at the house next door where one of the girls from my team lives. She let me play her guitar for awhile and I felt normal again. It felt pretty good.

Feb 12: Bleh V: The End, hopefully
- Yet again PT came early, but for the last time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. By the time I went to bed last night, I had made up my mind that I was going to quit fire time. For the record, here are the reasons:
1) I never really wanted to be a firefighter. I just wanted to do the pack test.
2) I don’t fit in well with the military style training, or, well, I really don’t like it.
3) I know that the alternates who didn’t make the team really want to be firefighters, and it’d be really shitty for my apathy to take up a space.
4) I know I won’t get better from this cold if I don’t get to sleep in just a bit during the week.
5) I didn’t want to possibly give up all my break time to hump out to the mountains of Colorado to fight a fire, eat MRE’s and wonder where I’m gonna take my next shit. Some people would kill to do that, not I.
6) My mom worries enough about me riding a motorcycle, I don’t need to start walking into forest fires.
Sitting here at 6pm, I don’t regret the decision at all. Of course I received a few cryptically disappointed reactions, but it was an incredibly personal decision, made with a decent amount of maturity and perspective. I’ll still be waking up those mornings and working out, just at a more reasonable time, like 7am.
Today was an easy day. Caught a nice 2 hour nap after walking back from my pre-PT mini meeting. Went to CPR training. Had a nice lunch conversation and found I was exempted from first aid training, since it’s good for 3 years (thanks collaborative school). So I spent a lazy afternoon of tidying up the house, a little yoga, and typing out all of this madness. Tonight will be relaxing as well, since a couple of the guys have offered to make dinner, which is just fine since I know all the ingredients they’re using.
I have a long weekend that I didn’t plan for. If I had been wiser, I would have figured out a way to get up to NYC or see some other friends. But I committed to getting trained to drive the vans on Saturday, which will be good to get out of the way. I’m sure I’ll hang out with Paul at some point. Things are decent.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Update #1

Hola. Sorry about the tardiness, but as I'm at a government institution, internets is hard to come by. They have a computer lab with about 4 working computers for 130 people. Fun fun.

The meat:

I'm hanging in there. It's felt like summer camp since day one. A lot like summer camp. I didn't really like summer camp. But luckily I'm now an incredibly well adjusted adult and can handle things when they go a little sour. On the plus side, my housemates are pretty cool and eerily remind me former college roommates.

I nominated myself as house chef and it seems to be working out. This past week we've had to subsist on 5$ a day for food. Yup, you read that correctly. Luckily I know how to use a slow cooker and cheap meat.

Tomorrow, Saturday, I'm taking the fire team pack test. I won't pass, but it'll be a decent workout. Hauling 45lbs over 3 miles in 45 minutes might be attainable, but my stupid realism eliminates my anxiety.

I'll type more later. It's very different than what I expected but it should be decent once the summer camp nonsense somewhat subsides. I'll try to write more later, when there isn't a line of people waiting.

Point of Interest: It's been 4 days and I've been graced with 3 nicknames already. This is probably a sign of endearment from my roommates, or they just hate the name Mike. So far it's been Ox(my least favorite), Papa Bear and Muffin. Papa Bear seems to be the one that will stick.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Great Experiment

Here it is, your direct connection to my life, whenever I get a chance to use a computer. You'll be privy to all of my misadventures while in service of our currently mediocre nation.