Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Go West, Old Man

The bus tickets are purchased, the motel rooms are reserved, and 4 weeks from now I'll be on my way west. The plan is for 5 nights in Duluth, 3 nights in Bozeman, and 123 nights in Yellowstone. The plan has also always been to ship my 9 or so boxes o' stuff to Duluth and put them in storage there to wait for my return. As a friend there wrote, "it's a handy central location for storing stuff, continent wise." I think that should be the city's new slogan!

Of course, there wasn't any guarantee I'd actually wind up back in Duluth in October--I might try for a winter job in the park, I might fall in love with Montana, I might get eaten by a bear (more on that later)--but I wanted the stuff under my control and in a location where I could sell it easily if needed because I'm sure not going to get rich working in Yellowstone for minimum wage with lots of deductions. And trying to coordinate shipping time, my travel time, the weekend, UPS's limited open hours for picking up boxes, and getting them to a storage place were all among the reasons I planned to stay so long in Duluth, along with the good feeling of being home and seeing the Lake. Not to mention the complications of doing all this while not having an address or checking account!

Now it turns out I may just be putting my stuff in storage here in Massachusetts until things become a little simpler and settled. My grandfather's house has just been sold (I've often been missing both him and my time there even though it drove me crazy at the time), so although nothing is certain, I should be able to escape selling plasma, Thoreau, or Abbey for food this fall. Having to come back here at some point to get my stuff doesn't thrill me, but it seems like it will be much easier. It also has the advantage of freeing me from extra things to stress about in the next few weeks, including my time in Duluth. Not being particularly an adventurer or embracer of change, I'll be doing plenty of stressing about the basics.

I know there are going to be some things I'll miss while I'm at Yellowstone. I think the biggest one is going to be a library. Along with the books I review here, I read (or at least look over) a lot of others--mystery, fantasy, literary fiction, nonfiction--and libraries are my means of doing so because they aren't books I want to own. I already know of 9 books coming out during these next few months which I'd normally be getting from a library. So for the next few months I'll just have to hope there will be good free books available through Amazon's Vine program. Incidentally, my review of McKibben's new book has been raking in votes and has pushed me into the top 2500 reviewers for the first time. Not bad considering I've seen people ranked over 6,000,000, but I think I'm going to drop right back down because I'm getting negative votes for not liking a book about Martin Luther King's assassination.

Along with libraries, I expect to be missing a lot of good food. Although vegetarian options are said to be available at all meals, my expectations for what those options are going to be are pretty low. That's one of the reasons I'm spending a few nights in Bozeman--so I can eat what I want when I want. I've made a list of restaurants there, along with a place which sells many varieties of single malt Scotch. I'll be having a Laphroaig to salute the big sky.

I'll be missing my long hair and bushy beard, not only because they present a more accurate picture of who I am, but because at the moment, hidden by my hair, I'm growing what I presume is a new cyst in the same spot in my neck where I had a large one removed 30 years ago. I'm not concerned about it medically--over the years I've had lumps removed from arm, leg, and foot, along with the one from the neck, and have been carrying around at least four more for years. Maybe they're from all the mercury I played with as a kid. Anyway, my bigger concern is whether this small new one is going to keep growing to the point where I'll get self-conscious about it and an employer so concerned with hair length will have a half-Frankenstein on their hands instead of a hairy old guy.

Privacy, yep, forget about that one. I'll have at least one roommate and a bathroom down the hall. And related, but maybe even worse, is solitude. I'm someone who needs alone time to recharge and recover after dealing with people. Not sure how much luck I'll have finding any of that in the area where I'll be which is why a couple other locations I considered better suited for quick get-away walks were higher on my list of where I wanted to work. But there were places lower on my list also.

And finally, I expect to be missing oxygen way up there. Another reason to stay in Bozeman for a few days to start getting used to the altitude. And according to the NPS site, most of the tourist spots in my location don't open until a week after I get there, so I'm hoping for a semi-relaxing week of training and exploration before the crowds arrive.

Of course, I'm hoping to not miss a lot in Yellowstone also, such as bison, elk, cougars, and a variety of bears and canines. And if I do get et, consider this my suicide note and last wishes. Don't kill the critter; I made her/him do it.


Jackijo said...

What will you be doing? Good Luck!

greentangle said...

Thanks. Quite a few internet people have asked me what job I'll be doing, and I'd rather not answer. It's just grunt work, not a naturalist or ranger or anything, so I won't be writing about the job just like I wouldn't write about any other job I was working.

But here are some programs from last year in the area where I'll be--I'll probably be attending some of this year's.


There is also an employee recreation program which does hikes, trips, etc. but they don't have a list online yet. So I hope that I'll be doing quite a few fun things to tell everyone about.

Allan Stellar said...

Michael Yates, editor of the socialist Monthly Review did sort of the same thing you are doing in Yellowstone (work for low pay). He wrote about it in his excellent: "Cheap Motels and a Hotplate".

You are in good company!

greentangle said...

Allan, I'll check out that book when I get my next library card. I looked up the book and found this about his employer in one of the reviews. Let's hope things have improved a little during the intervening 9 years, but it all sounds pretty much like what I expect. But the job isn't the reason for going there.

"It's enough to make a would-be tourist balk at the idea of putting any money into that profit-obsessed company's pocket. The working and living conditions of the company employees are pathetic to say the least. No benefits, lousy food, cramped quarters, long hours, indifferent managers and a stressful environment would dissuade all but the desperate from working for . . . at any of their national park locations."

Allan Stellar said...

Oh, I think you will have fun. One of my colleagues spent his summers driving a bus in Yellowstone. Thirty years later he is still talking about the experience. You'll love it!

My advice: bring a tent for some real solitude...