Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Mishmash of Meanderings

When I finally decided to stop saying "I hate Austin" and  I "hate this f__king hot sunny weather" I was surprised to find I had a really great week being in hometown. (God, I can't wait til I start travelling again so I have something to really write about!). I was utterly sick of hearing myself say this to every single person I met - I would insist they know this about me in the first few minutes. I had turned into someone I heard complaining all the time about something they could easily change by moving! But the truth is...I don't hate Austin. I love/hate it. So, on Monday I made the decision I would not tell everyone how much I hate Austin & the weather here. I am usually semi-panicking about how to fill all the hours of the day so I signed up for 3 volunteer shifts at three different places. All were really fun & I felt like I'd been at "work," and the places are so grateful to have you there. I felt myself wanting to complain about the sun (it has been what 99% of people of the earth would describe as "gorgeous" weather here these past two weeks- 80's, breezy, sunny, cloudless skies) but I would stop myself and just agree that is was nice or not say anything (no reason to LIE & say I like it). What I realized after a few hours of this was that I wasn't really saying anything, and miracle of miracles, I was enjoying some peace - I seemed to sort of recede into (a usually unwelcome) ordinariness when I wasn't complaining, and this wasn't as dowdy a place as I thought it would be. And then something even stranger happened: I walked outside & didn't immediately say "fuck" under my breath when I saw the sunshine, and I didn't just endure the pain of it, it actually was sort of pleasant. And then I saw my biggest fear wasn't that I would never be able to find a cool cloudy place to spend my down time, but that I might have to accept the parts of me that are like everybody else. Horror of horrors! 

And then it rained. It rained for so long and so hard for one full day that I did not leave my apt. I laid in bed & drank coffee & read two books and felt a joy beyond imagining. I love rain so much. Then the sun came out the next day & I decided not to act like I was in the seventh circle of hell.

One of my volunteer gigs was at the local food bank warehouse. I was on a crew with the IT department of the Whole Foods flagship store here. Our job was to take giant triwalls (they call them "tubs") of baby diapers and feminine hygiene products and separate them into 10 lb. boxes & stack them on pallets. We got a little assembly line going and the IT girls were giggling as the men looked shell shocked trying to discern all the different types of fh supplies. The food bank get donations of tons of this stuff from stores & individuals. The stores can't sell any package that is torn, so about half our products were torn and this one macho guy's job was taping up all the torn packages of maxi-pads, tampons, and panti-liners. He humbly & caringly taped every little tear, and the girls were taking photos of them with their cell phones. This one guy was holding up a triangular box with a perplexed look & went over to inspect & it was a box of panti-liners for thongs. Even us girls are overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of choices of these products, so we got a kick out of seeing all these guys handle all this stuff so graciously. Another part of the shift I had to package baby diapers with  this 17 year old boy. I was as confused by the diapers as the men were about the thong liners with wings, and there was a point where we realized we'd screwed up our tasking as we'd been told to write the weight on the packages (the boxes were torn so we packed them in their cellophane wraps) & we had been writing the weight of the box and not the weight of the CHILD the diapers were intended for. I've spent about 3 minutes of my 48 years around infants so I didn't think anything when the packages rolled by me all saying "5" or "3" on our team leader came by & said, no "it's the weight of the BABY you write!", so we spent about 10 minutes trying to find that information on the box. Sheesh! (all along I'm thinking, where's the giant "tubs" of birth control people!) Then we had to do adult diapers. I tried to make a joke that we'd covered the human secretion needs from infancy to decrepitude in our shift, but no one laughed, as my crass humor is not universally appreciated. I had so much fun at the food bank I decided to volunteer at the Reggae Festival Saturday night. I stood & took thousands of peoples money as they poured into the show. I got a free t-shirt out of the deal, then buzzed home to meet a childhood friend who took me to an avant-garde theatre piece late night. It was called Tennebrism, and was a two person show about Jesus, Joy Division, and Caravaggio. Local avant garde theatre always makes me love living here so much, that I realize I have to live in a city that has culture. Aside from the reggae festival (which I can hear from my apt right now!), and all the music & theatre, the Hot Rod show was in town too...there is just always so much going on here. 

I also saw two great movies this week: "Adventureland" and the Swedish film "Everlasting Moments." I've never seen a bad Swedish film, and this one had the enveloping gorgeousness of say "The Best Intentions," that incredible film about the relationship between Ingmar Bergman's parents. I also saw one terrible flick (Observe & Report) and one mediocre one "State of Play." Every time I went to the movies this past week my intention was to see "Gomorrah," but no one wants to see it, and when I went by myself to see it today, the projector was broken...hmmm...

So, I figured out a way to make life in Austin not only bearable but enjoyable: do volunteer work, and stop complaining. Seems like I'd have a lot to do as I have a 5 week trip to Europe coming up, but travel is so easy now there's really nothing to do. I bought the tours, the airline tix, some of the hotel rooms...and the rest I'll just wing. I will also be visiting the Motherland: Scandinavia. Yes, I have recently discovered that Kendall, my last name, is a Viking name (Kindahl), which then became Kendal (an ancient English name) when the Swedes settled in the Lakes District of England (WAY before 1066) where the town bearing my surname is located. I plan to visit this town on my way to Helsinki. So, keep reading, exciting stuff is coming I promise!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

"explaining your nomadic lifestyle to annoying parents"

Luckily, I don't have annoying parents, but if I did, thank god for the internet so I could find out how to deal with them. Think of all the poor sods who had problems before google existed. What did they do? My StatCounter(tm) embedded in my blog shows me the google searches that pull up my blog. This (the title of this posting) was one of the funnier ones, and unfortunately they would not be able to get help from my blog, as I am too old to have to explain my lifestyle to anyone! But I remember those fragile years fresh out of college when you have no effin' idea what is going on & what you are going to do with your life. I felt blindsided by reality; I thought my college degree was going to get me a "job" of some sort, but I quickly saw I was utterly on  my own to figure out what kind of life I was going to have. Because I started off in office work, that's where I was 20 years later when I finally got the 'nads to live my dream & quit secretarian' to go work grueling long hours outdoors in Antarctica. I just saw a Springsteen show & he was singing about the working class and moving up out of the "cold lumberyard," and how ironic it was that I went from a cozy office life TO the cold lumberyard. Literally, my last and most badass job on Ice was in the lumberyard at McMurdo, trying to pull out 16 1" x 4"  x 20"s in 40mph winds in negative 5 weather and figuring out how to unstrap the load without it falling over the hillside for the whole town to see - doing more physical work in two weeks that I can remember doing in a whole year. And the best part was how fulfilling it was at the end of the day. There was a notion when I was growing up that the "trades" were for people who didn't go to college & were somehow less valued, but I think the secret I've seen is a trade can open up the world of work possibilities for someone. I have mechanic, electrician, plumber friends who are doing very high paid work in exotic locations all over the world & seem to be resistant to layoffs. Earning a college degree was heady and exciting and full of hard work, but it taught me nothing about the world of work. My work ethic was engrained in me early in my life, and that is why I've had success at my jobs. Luckily, there are a handful of jobs at McMurdo for non tradespeople that are not desk jobs - and that is the place I find myself having the most fun.

Working seasonally has changed everything for me. I no longer own property. I am allergic to buying stuff because I have to move it around so much. My "down time" in Austin is spend trip planning because nothing else makes sense anymore. I bought art supplies & tried to do some arty stuff now that I have my own apt., but it was only entertaining for an hour or so, and because I know I can do anything right now, sitting in my house making stuff isn't as much fun as it used to be. When I painted for years I knew I was on a work/pay mortgage track. Now I on a 1/2 year of freedom track...I have a big trip coming up: London, Scotland, Finland (a bunch more Baltic countries), ending up in Berlin. It is written in some people's DNA to be adventurous or nomadic or to do artwork in a cozy home environment. If you "go with what glows" (Natalie Goldberg) for you, you don't have to explain anything to anyone - and besides, if someone is uncomfortable with your lifestyle, it has nothing to do with you - it is all about them.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

And if this wasn't enough, I get to see Springsteen this week

Closing week on Taos Mountain has surprisingly good weather for this time of year - cold with lots of snow. I have never skied powder before so it was thrilling and challeng
ing. But the skiing is only a fraction of why this past week was so amazing: there was hardly anyone on the mountain, lots of single people at the hotel (I'm usually tacked onto meals with families), and the friends I made this week I will never forget. I was just at the ABQ airport feeling that pulsing, incredibly centered feeling one gets after a powerful life-enhancing event, and wondering why this ski week was as mind blowing as the painting workshop that I also go to in Taos - and it must be because of the incredible positive energy and genuine happiness radiating from the people I am around. My whole being felt like a crotchety old caterpillar bursting from it's cocoon with high tech quick dry fabric wings, black & glossy like my budget ski costume. Almost floating (instead of tumbling) down the steep terrain without effort as the week went on. (I actually saw a video of me skiing this week and I looked more like an armadillo than a butterfly on my turns). And this transformation is mirrored in the bonding aspect of the intense social connections as well. The hugs goodbye are filled with moist eyes as we've gotten so close having had every meal together, running into each other on the mountain, and sharing about our jobs (?), romance status, travel goals, with a bit of gossip thrown in as in this small a community their tends to be a lot of drama going on. But my non skiing transformation during this week was in my perception of myself of a slacker, addled type person, to someone who people find interesting & worth talking to, worth inviting to their homes in countries that I love (an am about to visit). I tend to think people are going to find me obnoxious & self-absorbed, but this week I felt true respect radiating from my new bffs...skiing seems to elicit an Antarctic-like camaraderie, and as if God himself was hitting me over the head with the physical manifestation of my deservedness, a beautiful pair of skis was given to me by an incredibly lovely family from Chicago, a gift so generous I was speechless. They had bought a new pair in Taos & didn't want to hassle with taking the old ones back & selling them, and they knew I didn't have any and so now they are mine. I felt so ridiculously unworthy of such a gift, yet I said thank you and stored them at the St. Bernard for next season. It feels like a sign. Like I should move there for the next season & embark on yet a new career: ski-bumette...and there was one special young man: English, just graduated from Oxford, there with his whole family: mom, dad, two younger siblings...he was going to extend his trip & travel to the Grand Canyon, Vegas, LA and San Francisco. He told me of his plans & I encouraged him to alter some of the logitics (absolutley NO hitchhiking!) and gave him my BART card with about $10 left on it. To be able to advise someone just starting out in life, and seeing that open-eyed, youthful eagerness to explore foreign places is just so much fun. My French Canadian gal pal Val, Toni - the amazing fashion goddess, Rex from Amarillo, Tex from Japan, Mike from San Diego...we were the bawdy dinner crew. I didn't think any week could get more amazing than my first one. The second one was. I didn't think there was ANY WAY my 3rd week could get more amazing than my second - it was WAY more intense. I keep waiting for the goodies to stop flooding it but they won't stop. 

And I get to see Springsteen this week.

I talked to Will on the phone today & was breathlessly reporting my exciting time skiing. He is settling into what I hope will be a very rich experience for him at Palmer Station. I said "I may not go back to the Ice but may go work in the ski village instead!" And later I thought, oh he might be disappointed if I did that, but then I realized if I hadn't met him, I would've never learned to ski at all...ah the ironies of life.