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.