03 December 2008

minnesota moments.

I had one of those lovely MN moments yesterday. I was in a small coffee shop in Pequot Lakes, visiting with a dearest friend and her new babe. The day's special was veggie chili, which, depending on the ingredients, had the potential to do some damage to my system. It's funny how easy it can be to assimilate mediocrity into one's life; for example, when it began to appear that Obama was going to win the election, I realized how little I'd actually allowed myself to hope that anyone other than a Repube was going to snatch it (though I did allow myself to fear the vacuousness that lies behind Sarah Palin's eyes). Yesterday, at the coffee shop I experienced a similar sensation of hope. When I asked the barista if she knew what was in the chili, the only response I expected, after months in Louisiana (aka customer service hell), was the LA standard: blank stare, (maybe) proceeded by a quick look around to see if anyone more knowledgeable is in the immediate vicinity, followed by an uncomfortable "I don't know." She surprised me however, and ran in the back to check, even coming back with a packet of the seasoning mix used in the chili. So sweet.

I don't feel like writing much these days. I spontaneously realized while talking to a friend a few days ago that I'm simply having an inward experience of late. I don't feel like talking about myself, or what's going on in my life, or any of it.

I would, however, love to hear all about what's going on with you ;)

20 November 2008

time again.

2 more days and I drive away from Louisiana. At least for a few weeks, which nicely coincides with that lovely holiday of no obligations, save eating too much and being immobile for hours in front of the television: Thanksgiving. I'm not sure where Christmastime will find me, but I'm pretty excited to be back in Minne for turkey!

I'm in the last 2 days of ROV training with Oceaneering. The curriculum: 1 week Safety/First Aid; 1 week intro to ROVs; 2 weeks Hydraulics Theory; 2 weeks Electronics Theory; 1 week Piloting; 2 weeks practical (hands-on, in the yard) training. There haven't been any updates here because I haven't felt like writing. Still not sure where the hell I'm headed, and this job is most certainly not the ultimate destination, but I'm here and looking for the best in the situation, but don't really feel like writing about it much.

11 October 2008

mini break.

Just a quick note. I'm in Florida this weekend! Gary invited a couple of us back to hang out at his place for the weekend, and to head out overnight on his boat. Unspeakable joy is my basic sentiment at this point, not to be spending another weekend in Morgan City.

I was remembering a story instructor Geoff told us once about how, when he was working offshore, he would come back from a long hitch and treat his girlfriend to a weekend in Florida. One of the guys in the class, a California native, queried how a weekend in FL could be much of a treat. Geoff, in his infinite wisdom, responded that, after living in Louisiana, FL was definitely a treat.

At this point, I would have to agree.

05 October 2008

highest common denominator.

Here are some good things about being in Morgan City:

1. Oceaneering: is an amazing company that really, really takes care of its employees.

2. Gary & Will Ferrell (real name, Christopher): are 2 amazing guys in my class. Gary is ex-Air Force, originally from Michigan, lives in Ft. Walton Beach with his wife and son. We go to the gym weekday mornings at 6. Chris is ex-Navy (but only sort of), originally from somewhere in the Mojave Desert, more recently of San Antonio. He is the class clown, and looks like a young Will Ferrell. I think most of our class doesn't even remember his name because we only call him Will Ferrell.

3. The gym: is one of the few places I venture to outside of work and the hotel (other places are the grocery store and the laundromat). Since I have little else to do, I typically spend at least 45 minutes here before work, and at least an hour both days of the weekend. This is another perk of working for Oceaneering, as the company covers membership costs for employees.

4. Close proximity to FL: is nice because Gary has invited Will Ferrell and me out for a weekend on his boat! Plus, we'll get to meet his wife and 11-month old son, plus other friends. Need I say this will be a heavenly respite?

5. Time: is on my side, yes it is. And it's kind of awesome. I do get a bit stir crazy on the weekends, but it's nice to have so few distractions. It's been a bit of an adjustment to get back to a 5-day a week, 8-5 type schedule, but it's also nice to have some stability for a while. I'm continuing to feed myself a daily dose (or 2, or 3) of personal development/ motivational materials, and it's helping to keep my motivation high, and to keep my brain focused.

03 October 2008


I've become a complete recluse, but in the best possible way.

I arrived safely in Morgan City, just over 2 weeks ago. The drive from MN took a bit longer than I had anticipated, but I arrived in plenty of time. My first stop in LA was to empty out my storage unit in Robert, where everything was dry and untouched by Gustav and Ike. Everything I own here fits nicely in the bed of my baby truck, so I packed up, hit the road, and headed south. Though it wasn't as easy as that sounds. There was a moment, several of them, in fact, after my truck was loaded and everything covered and bungeed down, where the rover in me (and the part of me who, prior to my departure from MN, was struck dumb and scared at the thought of not only returning to Louisiana, but to Morgan City, no less) couldn't help thinking about getting back in the truck and keep driving... out of Louisiana... But, in the end, I couldn't think of anywhere to go (except to Chicago, of course), so toward Morgan City I headed.

As you may know, Louisiana recently weathered a few bad storms. After the water rises during flooding, it obviously returns to more normal levels at some point, and what's left behind is real, real smelly. So on that day, when I was already one foot back out of the state (or, colloquially here, "one foot out the state"), driving my little truck with the windows open because my air-con doesn't work, and it's still blazing hot and humid here, I kept smelling some very. bad. smelling. funk. and the smell lasted for most of the 2.5 hour drive. The best part was that, through only some fault of my own (I'd explain, but it would take much too long), I ran out of gas along the spillway, which is the smelliest of smelly. So then I had to wait for close to 2 hours, in the heat and the smell to wait for AAA to arrive.

Anyhoo, eventually I arrived, unpacked, and spent the following day getting to know my classmates in the various waiting rooms of the Occupational Medicine clinic where we took physicals and drug tests. Online training modules began the following day at the training facility, and last week we were occupied with safety/ certification classes.

16 September 2008

rest stop.

I'm increasingly impressed with the rest stops I've been finding along my route. I may have mentioned in a previous post that, during the drive up from Louisiana a few months back, I stumbled upon a rest area in Mississippi with a 24-hour security kiosk allowing rest stoppers to sleep in their cars, without fear of being mungled by ill-doers or harangled by the po-po. Today, an even awesomer discovery: an Iowa rest area with WiFi. Amazing, no?

So, I'm on my way. I awakened this AM round about 4:30, after a fitful sleep of about 4 hours. One last DBC latte got me motivated though, and now I've covered about 130 miles (a scant 1,200 more to go!!).

I noticed something last night, some kind of portent, perhaps, because you all know by now of my belief in such things: the moon is just about full, probably will be full tonight. The sky was crystal clear last night, and the light from the moon shone down bright in the yard, and I remembered that the moon was also full the night I left Louisiana. I'm not sure the symbolism, but I'm sure it must have something to do with completion. Because even though I'm a bit apprehensive about heading back south, I do know that it's time for me to move on. Time for the next big thing ;)

[And here I'll quote a little Tom Petty, because the song always pops into my head at times like these:

It's time to move on/Time to get goin'
What lies ahead/I have no way of knowin'
But under my feet, babe/The grass is growin'
It's time to move on/Time to get goin']

14 September 2008


My eye has started twitching. Just today, or maybe yesterday, but it's twitching regardless, which is never a super-duper positive sign, because my eye only twitches when I'm stressed, agitated, etc. It's funny, because the past couple weeks have been some of the most emotionally draining I've experienced, and yet the twitching only commences now that the worst is past. Do you know what's making my eye twitch? It's the same thing that triggers an extremely virile urge to comfort-eat, the same thing that's given me the slightest sensation of panic in the pit of my stomach.

I'm driving back to Louisiana tomorrow.

I've been doing a lot of thinking in these 2 months since I've been back in Minnesota, I guess the generic term would be *soul searching. I've been reading, and writing, thinking, meditating, a lot of the things I haven't really kept up on since last I lived in Minne. I've arrived at some interesting truths, and not many of them bode well for my staying in the south, or working offshore.

1. I'm a different person now than I was when I made the decision to go to dive school.

I'm fairly certain that the person or entity who made that decision was an alien visitor briefly inhabiting my body, or maybe not so briefly. It seems to me that this particular decision, and many of those preceding it (namely any decision I made in my 20s), were based on the need to prove something. Initially it's easy for me to say I needed to prove this mysterious something to someone else, but I'm actually starting to realize it was me I needed to impress. Maybe it's the product of low self-esteem, or an over-active ego, or blah blah blah, but it feels sort of finished now. I don't feel like I need to be interesting, or unique, or brave, or whatever other quality I so desperately needed to have attributed to my person/exploits/adventures. I've done a lot. And I still do want to do a ton more, but I also want to be happy, and I think that has gotten lost along the way.

2. I want to be surrounded by people like me, and by friends and family who love me.

I feel sometimes like a dancing bear when I'm out on the rig, like a horribly obvious novelty. And you know, it's not that fun, and it's not super comfortable. But at the same time, I've made the decision to be there, and I knew what I was getting into, right? It's a confusing riddle I've riddled time and again, to no discernible solution. What has been amazing about these past 2 months is that I can dress like a girl, and I look like lots of other girls around me. I can get dazzled and dress like I want to, without worrying about my pants being too tight, or my tube-a-boob sports bra not being restrictive enough. It's lovely to just be myself, exactly how I want to be, without having to run the butch-woman mind interference.

Additionally, the offshore bunch are not, not surprisingly, the most interesting bunch you might come across, primarily because they work offshore, which can be extremely monotonous. Some are very nice, with families, and pictures of their kids, kind words to say, advice to give, [offshore] stories to tell, but, by and large, not the type I'd choose to hang out with. Back here, on the other hand (and don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to move back to Minne just yet. Rather, it makes for a nice contrast), I'm surrounded by my girls (and this is a big part of it- I have FEMALE friends and relatives here to talk to, and listen to, and open up to, and share with). Again, I think it really comes back to just feeling normal, and being with people who are like me.

3. I'm pretty sure I can find what I'm looking for in another, more suitable, profession.

I hate to say it, but I think a force majeur in deciding to throw myself at the feet of the burly gods of commercial diving was money. I do like diving, I love diving, in fact. I love to be underwater, even when it involves a heavy-ass dive helmet, and being verbally abused by my salty instructors via crappy comms. I love doing stuff underwater. But what I really liked about commercial diving was the possibility of diving and making decent, and eventually even good, money. And this, of course, is never appropriate motivation, especially for someone as flightly as me.

There are other things too, like working in an international industry, and being scheduled on rotation (though this has become a glass-half-empty issue: a month off is awesome, but that month on is brutal), and even working in this industry (though I think I still romanticize this more than I need to). But it's such a boy's club, and I don't think I'm the woman to infiltrate. Geoff, one of my dive school instructors, put it to me this way once, that to become a diver, you really have to want it, and I think that probably applies to working in the industry too- you have to really want it. I really want some of what comes with working in the industry, but I also think that what I want could easily be found somewhere else.

4. I don't want to work for someone else.

It's amazing the stuff you can learn and accomplish when you don't need to worry about going to a lame job every day.

I think this understanding can be directly attributed to my dear dad, who, in the movie of my memory, is often seen extolling the perceived benefits of working for oneself. I guess it sunk in, or maybe it was that my stubborn and independent nature has just always had a natural bent in that direction. After all, I'm a hard worker, and I was raised by folks who worked for the same company for years. Yet, somehow, even during those early high school years, I just could not get behind the idea of going to the same lame job (whether that job be hostess at the local Perkins restaurant, or my OJT class), even when, clearly, I really should have kept going (eventually I got *fired from that Perkins job, and OJT class was the only class I ever failed). Fortunately, over the years, the urge not to go to work has magically transmuted itself into a love of comfort eating, which has happily sustained me for these many years, in many unhappy jobs.

Note, though, that I'm not quite ready to say "I want to work for myself," though it is, of course, implied. Baby steps and minor gradations from one to the next.

5. And finally, the idea of service...

I'm starting to think that life has a whole lot more meaning than anything I've been getting out of it. I mean, aren't we all just trying to find ways to feel happy, and fulfilled, and connected to the world around us? Of course, all the above statements are simply arguments to myself to justify that, once again, I might have to look the career horse in the mouth, and move on.

But the more I turn my attention toward the learning most compelling to me, the more this idea of service keeps coming up. I won't say too much more, because ideas are still incubating. But I think what I keep looking for in my work is to find the best use of who I am, and my guess is that an industry where I feel I need to keep myself under wraps most of the time is not a place where I can let my strange and girly light fully shine.

31 August 2008


I've been reading up a little on Gustav and Katrina. I'm a little in awe that, on the 3rd anniversary of Katrina, which came ashore as a Category 3 hurricane, and claimed 1,800 American lives (1,500+ in Louisiana alone), the state is again declaring a state of emergency and calling for mandatory evacuations. Gustav is scheduled to arrive Monday morning as a Cat 4, and this time, not even the SuperDome will be available for refuge. The city is evacuating, and if you choose to stay, you're on your own. It's disconcerting to read that there are people planning to stay, due to limited financial resources. I make no bones about LA not being my fave place in the world, but still to see so much damage from Katrina, and to talk to people who lived through the ordeal adds another dimension.

I may not love the place, but my heart goes out to all those who are experiencing this for the second go-round.

25 August 2008

word (i.e. god knows).

I just started reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by a lovely woman whose name escapes me right now, and I'm too lazy to go grab the book out of the other room, because god knows I'd probably get distracted and end up not entering an entry into my bliggity blog. And we all know how hard it is for me to get to this point in the first place, so let's not push it, shall we? Anyhoodle, about a million people have mentioned this book, but I've resisted attaining it because, after my traumatic -though-necessary pre-move purge [of so much lovely, lovely stuff] in Santa Barbara, I don't really want to buy things only to have to haul them around. After all, I'm still essentially homeless (though god [also] knows, this really can't last for much longer, right?), and anything I buy is yet another thing I'll need to move from 1 storage unit to another, and then eventually, someday, to some semblance of housing unit, somewhere, though god knows where, because for the life of me, I cannot bring myself to any kind of acceptance, try as I might, to the idea of living anywhere in Louisiana. Which would explain why, after practically 6 weeks in Minnesota, I'm still planning to stay for yet another 3. My point being that I'm house-sitting, and the book is here in the house, so I'm free to read it without having to purchase it. Ahem.

In the first section of "Eat, Pray, Love" (which Kathy Pope described as "really your kind of book, Angi"), the author and friends discuss the idea of finding one word to describe different cities (Rome=Sex, Stockholm=Conform, NYC=Achieve, LA=Succeed, etc.), which I thought was a fun little exercise. Like if you expanded that, and could think of a word to describe your life, or maybe the different phases of your life, which words would you choose? I used to do this with boyfriends: The one-legged Divemaster, The Malaysian, The Lobbyist, The Bartender, etc. In retrospect, it doesn't seem the best idea to attach the labels to people, actually. It's somehow really objectifying, or something, which probably explains why I no longer do it (except to distinguish one from the other, as in the case where 2 love interests have the same name, for instance.). But it really made me think, how would I describe this strange, yet seemingly very necessary, hiatus I've undertaken? Or do I need to describe it? Maybe it's better if I don't label it as one thing or the other verb, or noun. I suppose it just is. No matter how confusing and conflicting it feels.

God help me, I do not want to go back south though, not back to Louisiana, even if the best job in the world is waiting for me. I can't say I necessarily want to stay in Minne, and maybe I've just turned the whole state of LA into my personal bogey (put a little boogie in it) man. Dunno. I've been really tuned in to how lonely I've been for the past couple months- maybe even the whole time since I left 2 years ago. California was good- I had friends there, people who looked out for me, invited me to BBQs and Superbowl parties, good people I could lean on. There even were/are a few in Louisiana, but because we all work offshore, there's no guarantee that we'll be on the beach at the same time, and I don't even know where to begin looking for people to know in Louisiana. The thing is, of course, that it's not my girls (actually, this is a big part of it- none of them are girls at all, they're all men), it's not the people I've known forever. Another big realization is that I think I've entered a different part of my life from the one I was in when I made the decision to go into this line of work. I don't need to bust anybody's balls anymore; I don't need to prove anything to anyone (read: myself). I've done plenty. Really I have. I don't need to rattle off all the amazing adventures I've had, or all I've accomplished in my round-about jill-of-no-trades way. Because it's a bit like what I was talking about earlier: pigeonholing myself by applying too many labels, a sort of shield no one can ever look behind.

I sort of just want normalcy, to be able to live a normal life, where I can cook my own meals, live in my own home, and have a normal relationship with a guy of like interest/background. Normal stuff, I mean, relatively speaking, right? It's still me in here, after all. I don't want to be bored, but maybe just a bit more constancy, stability. Maybe it all just has to break down before it can be built back up. Maybe I'm just finally getting to the bottom of the pile of shit my mind has identified as the "interesting life I want to live" and getting down to what I really want, what I've really wanted all along. Because it seems to me that the stuff my mind comes up with never really gets me to where I want to be.

So maybe it's time for something else, something deeper, to start calling the shots.

12 August 2008


A few pictures to share, from the weekend:

Michaela & Paul, wedded.

the bridesmaids.

rockstars ;)

One of the best things about the wedding was meeting and getting to spend time with some of the people I've heard Mic talk about for so many years: Beth (above, with her fiance Tim and yours truly) and her sister, Lisa, both from Baltimore, were amongst my faves. Because it stands to reason that someone I've been close to for so many years also has some amazing friends I would probably also adore.

04 August 2008

anywhere I roam.

Ha! It's been almost 2 months since my last entry. I guess I was taking a summer vacay from my bliggity-blog. Not that it's all that stressful, but I did have some stuff I was trying to figure out, and that kind of introspection is never really conducive to writing, at least not publicly.

I think I mentioned that I went back to Cali for a long-weekend type visit in early June. While visiting one of my MDT instructors, I was offered the opportunity, by a company rep who was visiting the MDT facility, to hire on with Oceaneering, a much larger offshore ROV company, based out of Louisiana. Upon my return to life and work in NOLA, I was sent out for a week to the DB16. But when the job ended earlier than expected, I was promptly placed on (unpaid) standby for a shipwreck job. Standby is job limbo: you can't really do anything except wait around for the job to go out, but there's not a ton for you to do while you wait. Here's what I did during that week.5 on the beach: I recuperated from a redux of the same bizarreness I suffered last year; I worked on evening out my tan for to look awesome in my bridesmaid dress; I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and was sort of blown away; I called Oceaneering to set up an appointment to sign papers and secure my place in one of the upcoming training sessions.

I'm not sure if it's my MN upbringing, or having worked for the nonprofits, or something instilled in me by the Benedictines, but for some reason, I always have the idea in my wee brain that working for a smaller company/entity/organization is better than working for a large corporation. Now, I'm sure in some instances this is absolutely the case. But, I think I'm mostly done with believing that. I've had far more bad experiences than good, actually, and I could enumerate them all here to prove my point, but I won't bother. The thing about working offshore, for me, is that: I'm a woman > I can't go out on some/many jobs (due to lack of sleeping accomodation) > small company has limited jobs > I can't go out on any of these > big company has more jobs > I can work more. Also big company offers training, whereas small company offers... not so much training. Strange that I should feel more invisible at a small company than at a larger one, no?

Anyhoo. 2 weeks ago I quit SeaTrepid. 7 weeks from now I'll start training with Oceaneering. In the meanwhile, I'm in MN hanging out and enjoying the last of the summer, which I've been missing for the past couple years.

19 June 2008

bad moon rising.

It's been a weird couple of days out here on the DB16.

We're getting close to the end, so the momentum has increased a bit, and we've been working a ton. We've had a few 18-hour days, to expedite what remains to be done, but also because, due to equipment failure, the divers aren't diving, and we're trying to make up for work they would normally be doing. The days of work aren't terribly strenuous so much as just plain long. They also have a terrible habit of waking us up around 6am, which doesn't particularly suit me, but it's the only way when we're a 2-person crew.

It will be good to finish with this job. There hasn't been a ton of opportunity for training out here, and even less in the office, to the effect that, after 3 months with the company, I don't know a ton about our ROVs (though everyone tells me there isn't much to learn). Hopefully the next job I'm assigned to will offer more hands-on time flying the 'bots. Until then, we're slowly inching our way forward til we're de-mob'd and back on the beach.

13 June 2008

friday the 13th.

I'm back out on the DB16, after a lovely break. I went back to Santa Barbara for a visit, and to mail some packages I'd left when I moved. It was good to be back, good to be in a place so beautiful again. Chris and I went for a good hike on Sunday. On the way back down from an amazing vista, I kept slipping and sliding on the scree on the path. I was laughing at myself, and remembering how Molly Zins loved to tease me about my clumsiness. Chris bet me that I couldn't get back to the car (about a mile downhill) without slipping fewer than 10 times. Needless to say, I nearly lost the bet (in reality, I did lose, but he was good enough to pretend he didn't hear me slide a few times). My old roomies threw a bbq for me and per usual at those gatherings, I drank a bit too much plum wine, and had a blast. It was great to see everyone, good to ease back into some old routines, like coffee at Red's, and Sunday breakfast + LA times at the Cajun Kitchen (which, it was pointed out, was kind of silly, considering where I now live!).

I spent the rest of the break at the bunkhouse, working in the office. I went out on a quick one-day job at a paper mill, a place which smells worse than your most horrific nightmare (though, I suppose I've never really smelled anything in my dreams?), a bit like rancid sulphur. We were subcontracted by an inland diving company just down the road from our office, because they sometimes dive in the bubbling, smelly pulp pond at the plant. We were hired to crawl a little ROV down one of the pipes that connects the pulp pond to the extraction reservoir, to look for an obstruction in that pipe. They backflushed the pipe though, and then the obstruction was gone. Not soon enough though, we were at that plant, inhaling that putrid smell for around 7 hours. The scent burned its memory into my nostrils too, and the ghost of sulfur dioxide haunted me for hours afterward. Blech.

But now back to work offshore for a few weeks. This job is supposed to be finishing up pretty soon, so I'm hoping to stay out til the end, hopefully a few more weeks before heading back to the beach. It's good to be back out here, and back to work. We aren't doing too many dives with the ROV, but I feel comfortable out here, where I don't have to make too many decisions, and the days are simple and mostly pretty easy.

We're working on one of the last jackets, and today, instead of using a cutting apparatus like we have been... DYNO-MITE! They decided to blow up the jacket legs instead. It was pretty cool.

03 June 2008


I was going to name this post something to do with patterns, or maybe just simply, "patterns," because patterns have been on my mind these past weeks, specifically my own patterns, drawn out and perfected in these 32 years. The idea that no matter where you go, there you are. The word patina came to mind though, and it sounds so much lovelier to my ears, that I decided on it instead, not really even knowing what the definition of patina was. I wasn't too far off:


\pə-ˈtē-nə, ˈpa-tə-nə\
1 a: a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color b: a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use
: an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character
3: a superficial covering or exterior

I haven't written in a few weeks, obviously. Not a ton to say. I've arrived at that inevitable point in the journey wherein the newness and novelty I seem endlessly to crave has worn down, and I realize I'm where I've found myself so many times before: far and away, somewhat isolated, starting over, wondering what the hell I'm doing, questioning whether I've made the right decisions. I suppose we all wander into this little corner of hell from time to time, no matter where we are, or what we're doing, regardless of where we are on life's wondrous little path. The circumstances may vary, but we wind up at the same crossroads, over and over. It reminds me of a recurring dream: the theme is always the same, and you feel the same panic when you're in the dream, the same relief and confusion when it's through, and even though there's some little synapse in your brain, or phobia deep within your psyche that keeps bringing that theme to the forefront, it's such an out-of-control feeling, you'd swear that you, yourself, have nothing to do with that dream.

I feel that way now, like I keep finding myself at the same point, the same crossroads, asking myself the same questions, even though the path is always different (and in my case, sometimes whole continents away from the previous path). Don't get me wrong, I'm not in crisis mode or anything. I suppose I'm just finally at a point where I'm so damn tired of myself, and my patterns, and wanting to shirk the responsibility for this spot where I've always landed, that I'm assessing the best way to sidestep this little rabbit hole in the future. Maybe the problem is that, instead of embracing that I keep f*cking up in the same ways, I swear to myself that this is the last time I'll end up here, that next time I'll make better decisions, I'll think things through more thoroughly, and then I push it all out of my mind, never having learned a damn thing from my mistakes. I mean, isn't there a process of learning from one's mistakes? Because I think that's probably the kernel of wisdom here, figuring out how to live with less of the repressing of the badness, and more of the what can be gained from the badness.

Still so much to learn...

21 May 2008


Don't feel like writing at the moment, but thanks for continuing to check in. I'm back on the DB16. Nothing much is happening right now, nothing worth mentioning anyway.

But here are some pics for you to look at, from NO and my visit to MN while back on the beach:

enjoying Mr. Stevie Wonder with the masses, at JazzFest.

with my beautiful little niece, Emily, on our way to
catch poppies (aka fish).

the lovely Mrs. Jeannie Kenevan, with the newest
addition to their household, Porter.

30 April 2008

DB16, day 20: going, and gone.

2 things of note in the past few days: my supervisor almost lost the ROV yesterday, and we're heading back to the beach tonight, late.

We moved to a new rig the other day, due to weather and also, I think, because we weren't really getting anywhere with that particular portion of this job, and the higher-ups were getting antsy. We arrived at the new site early yesterday morning, and were awakened at 5:30am to attend a briefing with the dive crew and company reps. We got in the water shortly thereafter, with less-than-optimal, though still within acceptable, limits. The long and short of it is that the tether may or may not have gotten snatched up into the barge's thrusters, and soon I was pulling up a tether without an ROV attached to the opposite end. I ran to the port side, as high up as I could get, to stare off into the distance, in hopes of seeing the ROV pop to the surface down current. After 10 minutes I walked back to the ROV shack, knowing that if the current had taken the wee-bot, it would surface far and away, long outside the reach of my gaze.

Happily, back at the shack, members of the dive crew were gathering in the other end of the tether. Fortunately the ROV had gotten fouled inside the structure, and didn't float off. We were left with enough tether for the divers to follow inside and around the platform jacket, allowing for a timely retrieval.

And even though I had wanted to stay out here forever and ever, tonight I'm on my way home (which is really such a relative concept at this point in my life...). We had been expecting to leave sometime tomorrow, but apparently the weather is about to turn to 9' seas (big, bad waves), so they scooted up the time by about 12 hours. The crew boat is expected in about 30 minutes, and after the new crew arrives, and their orientation is completed, and the arriving and departing gear is swapped out, and the several grocery crates are unloaded, then we'll transfer over and begin the journey back to civilization.

26 April 2008

DB16, day 16: roll call.

For some reason of cosmic non-understanding, we've been roused from our beds the past few mornings to get the ROV in the water. Yesterday, the time was 7:30, but this morning it was 4:30. Too early, I say.

My new supervisor is a good guy. He's a bit more abrasive and cavalier than the last one, but overall, the conservative-politics, slightly-cynical kind of guy I've become accustomed to having in my life, in one form or another. Another reminder to roll with the punches.

I'm starting to have minor cravings for certain foods, which is funny, because there's a ton more variety here in the galley than I ever have at home. The biggest craving right now is for Indian food, a good curry, a little naan. Mmmm. Delish.

DB16, as seen from the heli-deck.

dirty diver boys.

650-ton ST160E platform being lowered onto materials barge.

24 April 2008

DB16, day 14: sh*t falls apart.

Crew change today. The supervisor I've been working with for the past 2 weeks headed back to the beach, and a new guy came out. My buddy, Rob, also went back to the beach, leaving me without the safety blanket I've had in place since we came out. It's actually not so bothersome, I've gotten to know a few of the guys out here pretty well, so I'll be far from alone. It does leave me without any *girls to talk to about anything personal, so if I hit you up with a long, emotionally-charged email, oblige me, ok? I have no intent to send any such email, but you know, just in case ;)

It's been a funny day, and the energy on the boat is a bit different. Certain things aren't going as planned, and the dive crew just lost 2 of their number: 2 tenders (i.e. low man on the totem pole) came out to replace a couple of guys who were leaving, but because there's a no-contacts-lenses-on-deck policy, they got sent right back. Other stuff is going on, too, communication breakdown, slight confusion, just little things here and there.

My friend Carlo told me once that right around the 12th day offshore, you start to feel like you've been out there forever. I guess I sort of feel that, although we don't work every day, so I don't think it translates exactly the same. It does feel like I've been out here a long time, and maybe some of the charm is wearing off, since we're looking at several days without any work to do. But kind of like the tide, things can change pretty quickly out here, and tomorrow's always a new day.

23 April 2008

DB16, day 13: human sacrifice.

I've now experienced the first relational victim to life offshore: the boy broke up with me via email tonight. Doubtful it will be the last time. It's almost like a badge one wears out here, as most have experienced it at one time or another.

I'm upset, of course, but not exactly surprised. We've broken up before, after all. Though this time is undoubtedly the last.

22 April 2008

DB16, day 12: taco night.

I would never have guessed it, but taco night makes the divers drool.

The food here is basically cafeteria style, and considering the limitations of an offshore kitchen, it's pretty tasty, with some pretty good options, and even some grilled meats from time to time. There are always desserts and sweets available, all hours of the day, which both pleases and frustrates the crew, who can be heard alternatively praising the day's goodies, and complaining about gaining weight offshore. Tonight was taco night, Saturdays and Tuesdays are Steak Nights, with lots of fish (for the Catholics, on Fridays) and chicken thrown in.

We've been making progress on the project we're working on here, and after a week of the ROV being out of the water, we've been asked to dive the past 2 days. This morning we were even roused from our bunks to get in the water. The rig we're decommissioning has pipes driven into the sea floor (called conductors), which measure about 120 feet from top to bottom. Two of these have been pulled in the past 2 days, and we were there to take video of the cuts as the pipes were lifted (to ensure the pipe had been fully cut).

Tonight we pulled the top deck of the rig. Words can't really convey how crazy it is to see a crane, on a barge, pull the top deck of a rig, weighing in at about 600 tons (approx. 1.2 million pounds.), keeping it lifted for more than an hour, and then dropping it onto a materials barge (about the size of a football field).

16 April 2008

DB16, day 6: walking in circles.

The ROV’s been out of the water since yesterday afternoon, due to thruster failure on the barge.

Here’s some (very simplistic) info on the vessel I’m currently calling home. The DB in the name DB16 stands for derrick barge. A derrick barge is quite large, and pretty useful for lots of different operations. This particular barge is navigated by use of Dynamic Positioning (DP) meaning that equipment on board receives a GPS signal telling us where we should be, and the thrusters, which are connected to that system, keep us correctly positioned, and can be accurate within a foot. Considering this barge is about 400' long by 100' wide and located somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, that kind of accuracy is pretty amazing.

The aim of this particular job is to decommission a rig for British Petroleum (BP), a feat accomplished by way of disconnecting the top deck of the rig and sending it to salvage back in Morgan City, and then lifting the underwater portion (the jacket) via a HUGE crane (imagine it- attached to a barge, capable of a 750-ton lift! It's gi-normous!) and towing it elsewhere to become an artificial reef. There's a chance I might be able to stay out here for a few months, and able to witness all of this happening with my own 2 eyes, which is sort of necessary, because I really can't fathom how any of it is going to work, or even what they're doing for that matter. It's been explained to me a million times, but I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all.

In the interim, there's not a lot for the ROV staff to do, except stand by, and be ready when we're needed. Sometimes I'm in the shack on the internet, or trying to study a bit. I also like to spend time walking around the barge, getting a better idea of who everyone is, and the what/why/when/where of their jobs. I like spending time with the divers, not only because my roommate is over there most of the time, but also because I've gotten to know the guys a little bit, and have a good rapport with them. I actually miss it a bit, watching them do their job. I chose to work with ROVs partially because I was intimidated by the idea of working for a diving company, of working with all those guys, of starting out as a tender, of everything I've heard about working for a diving company. I guess I wonder a bit if I might be happier actually working in diving, rather than what I'm doing. But I also think there's plenty of time to explore the industry, and that I'm learning a ton just being here.

13 April 2008

DB16, day 3: productivity.

I'm not sure if it's being on the open water like we are, or the too-much crappy coffee I drank this morning, but I've been feeling only so-so all day today. It could also be the heat + air con, and the constantly going back and forth between the two. Most likely it's just a mild case of sea-sickness, nothing to worry about (but let's never mention it again, shall we? But speaking of which, we're now taking on rougher seas, so says roommate Rob).

We've been slowly working toward a 6am-6pm workday, moving our start time up one hour each day, so today we assembled in the control shack around 7am to begin work. We'll arrive at the site tonight, but we're not sure how much or how little the ROV will be needed for this job, or what hours we'll be needed. Since all other operations on board are 24 hour, we might be needed to fly the ROV anytime, day or night. They want us available, and they want us rested. Most likely though, we won't be needed during the first day, so tomorrow we'll test the equipment and test drive the ROV.

Once again, I'd love to write more, but I'm exhausted, and must sleep.

I'll end with this: walking toward the galley today, I spied something yellow. When I lost sight of it, I assumed it was a piece of warning tape gone astray, and went on my way. Later in the day, however, I spied that same shade of bright yellow in the form of a wee chubby bird, flitting about the deck (perhaps chasing the abundant dragonflies?):

yellow warbler.

12 April 2008

DB16, day 2: dragonflies.

Last night, at the dock, I braved the twilight mosquitoes to talk on the phone for the last time until we return in a few weeks. Today I discovered a million lovely dragonflies on deck.

We shoved off today at noon and, despite having been out to sea for a scant 10 hours, somehow I’ve already lost track of time.

We had a busy day, organizing the shack, and arranging our equipment on deck. We learned a bit more about the scope of the project we’re out here to do, and got a sampling of what our daily meetings will consist of. My supervisor, Alex, and I talked about SeaTrepid’s procedures while going over the daily logs we’ll fill out, and met with the superintendents who will guide our steps once we’re on the job site. I’d like to elaborate, but we are 4 now in my room, all on different schedules, and I worry the tippity-tap of my keyboard distracting to those who are trying to sleep.

11 April 2008

DB16, day 1: Miss Yvonne

After a few days of chaos and uncertainty at the shop, we finally left today for the DB 16 job (DB stands for Derrick Barge, the type of vessel we're on). It’s pretty commonplace for details to shift, and dates to migrate in this business, so the state of craziness in the shop this week was simply another part of the learning curve. Because this job is longer term (60-90 days), and because the tasks we’ll perform could potentially require specialized tools, ours was a heavy load-out (meaning more equipment, more inventory, and more work). In addition to our heavy load-out, another heavy load-out left this morning, with far more specialized tools and equipment (including an 8’ x 6’ ROV sled designed and built specifically for that job, to track pipeline beneath the sea floor). It was a relief to get on the road.

Normally our driver, Kip, delivers us to our jobs. But today, James, our boss and SeaTrepid’s Project/Personnel Manager, drove us to the site. I love Kip, but it was way more fun to have James drive us out. Kip simply gets us from point A to point B, arriving at the appointed hour; when driving with the boss-man, there’s a little wiggle room, time to stop off and run errands, time to have a little Wendy’s salad and a vanilla frosty, time to stop off and buy some FRCs (fire-resistant [retardant?] clothing) that fit a girl.

We arrived in Morgan City (one of LA’s bigger offshore port cities), and came to the J. Ray McDermott… facility? complex? I’m not sure what to call it, because it’s huge. Boats live here, on a river I don’t know the name of, but McDermott also designs and builds very, very large structures, like oil platforms that will eventually be set out somewhere in the Gulf. And you can’t possibly imagine how massive they are.

We came aboard and directed the welders where to cut and what to burn off. On vessels like this one, we have our own little shack on the deck, and our own small crane, or LARS (Launch And Recovery System). The LARS sometimes needs to stick out over the edge of the vessel, which requires the removal, by oxy-acetylene burning, of 6” diameter round steel railing. The shack and the LARS are lifted onto the deck by the on-deck crane, and then welded into place.

I am bunking with 3 other ladies, which makes our number 4, out of approximately 150 people. We have our own little area, with a private bathroom. One of my roommates is Miss Yvonne, who gave me her own little orientation to [a woman’s] life offshore. For as much as I’ve already learned about my job, of diving and platforms, and of offshore existence, I’m glad for the wisdom Miss Yvonne had to share.

08 April 2008


Sometimes I marvel how different one existence can be from another, like how opposite my life here is from my life in California.

I'm waiting to go out on my first longer-term job, which should last 3 weeks. Originally, we were slated to go out early this morning, then it was moved back to Friday. Today we learned that we'll be leaving Saturday, at the earliest. Since I don't quite have my own vehicle just yet (one is arranged, just waiting on documentation [not as questionable as it sounds]), and because my workplace is just over an hour from where I'm staying, I caught a ride with one of the guys when he came up on Monday. Robert is a pretty small town, with one major intersection. Not much here besides a grocery store, a few eateries and a post office. So, at the moment, not much is happening. It's good to be near the shop, so I can be there during the day, getting to know more about the equipment, and talking with other operator/techs, and earn a little moolah. Eventually we'll get called out on the job, but in the meantime, it's pretty low key here at the bunkhouse.

Fun-ness about the job I'm going out on: the diving company we're working with is the one my roommate, Rob, works for, and by some bizarro twist of fate, he's going out on the same job with us.

06 April 2008

the ABCs of cajun living.

I may have to start sending out care packages for all those who've visited NO, and miss this or that about the place. Ya'll love this place. When I have my own apartment, please come visit. We'll find some crawdaddy chips, or a crawfish boil, or a wall to paint a mural, or au laits and beignets in the qua'ta.

Almost a month now since I've been here. This past week felt a bit dramatic, inwardly, but I attribute that to my own (very special) chemical makeup, and nothing more. At the end of the day, nothing really dramatic has happened, and here I sit, on a quiet Saturday night, enjoying my drive-thru daiquiris (btw, have you ever tried to spell that word, daiquiri? strange.).

I drove to Louis Armstrong Int'l airport tonight to pick up Josh, the roommate whose car I've been driving since I arrived (bless his heart, that Josh). While driving back home, we talked about things uniquely New Orleanian, like mid-block u-turns, meandering crescent-shaped roads, and the fore-mentioned drive-thru daiquiri. Half of our education in Dive Camp was about diving; the other half pertained to life in this back-assward state of Looziana. Geoff, instructor and bevy of information both great and small, told us of many things: of ports and rigs, of saturation and inspection, of coon-asses and rednecks, all of which we readily accepted and believed. But the idea of drive-thru alcohol was too much for us. But it's true. Here in the great crescent city you can find drive-thru or take-out alcohol several times in any given block.

redneck, or coon-ass? you decide.

I came across this video by chance, but it describes pretty well the flavor of Louisiana. What I particularly like about this video is that these ladies are kind of scrutinizing the drive-thru place, while seated in the back of a pickup truck, with a 12-year-old, and then later driving past the double wides representative of where they're probably staying for vacay.

Hit that last 2 minutes of the video, and you'll get a pretty good idea of life in LA.

25 March 2008


If the trouble in Santa Barbara was cost of living, the problem in New Orleans is finding decent quality. I've been looking for a car for the past week, and keep running across decent cars with major mechanical issues, especially where CV axles are concerned. After driving the city for only a few weeks, this comes as no real surprise (the roads here are terrible-more potholes than MN after the spring thaw). There's a funny character trait I've noticed though, talking with people about their cars for sale, and maybe it would be the same anywhere, but I've experienced it at least 3 times now, with 3 different cars. When asked if anything is wrong with the car in question, I'll get no for an answer, unless it's an obvious physical flaw. After I drive the car, hear whatever clicking, whirring, pinging noise the car offers up in the few minutes I drive it, and go back with questions, they'll readily admit the problem. It's strange, it doesn't necessarily feel dishonest, per se, but I don't understand it. It doesn't help that I'm pretty limited in how much I can spend, because I'm obviously scraping the bottom of the Craig's List barrel. My co-workers have been really helpful though, keeping their ears open for something good, and I'm sure I'll find something in time.

Today is the 2-week mark since I arrived in New Orleans. I'm spending time in the shop this week, reading up on ROVs, tomorrow I'll learn some basic trouble-shooting techniques. I'm spending time with the engineers and shop techs, learning the dos and don'ts of the trade. There's so much to learn just about the ROVs, and then so much more to learn about flying the wee buggers, and even more about the actuality of working in the oilfield.

Saturday was my first day out in the Gulf. We were only out for a day, but it was a really good intro. We left the shop at 2am for the 3-hour drive to Fourchon (pronounced FOO-shon), which was a little like the Holy Grail. Many times I'd heard the name of Fourchon, from the stories Geoff would tell us in class; I could only hope for the day, so quickly!, when I, too, would set sail from the place.

Robert, LA to Port Fourchon: the stuff of legend.

We loaded the boat and set out, arriving 2 hours later at the rig. We tied off, and waited for the company man to transfer to the boat from the rig (via Billy Pugh basket, maneuvered by crane) to meet with us, and give us more info on the job. When we had a decent grasp on what to do, we put the ROV in the water, swam it around the rig for a while, got some video of what they needed to see, and landed the bugger back on deck. Once the ROV was traken care of, we hopped in the basket and headed up to the rig for lunch. This was a first, but it felt sort of familiar in a way, having seen so many pictures of barges and jack-ups, and having listened to so many stories from instructors and friends. I mean, obviously it's bizarre, being on this production platform in the middle of the wide, blue gulf, with no land in sight, and eating lasagna in a construction trailer-type mess hall, but I was more acclimated to it than I thought I'd be.

us, and them.

personnel transfer.

ROV console, plus Jim.

ROV's eye view.

21 March 2008

good friday.

I guess I wasn't quite clear in my last entry. The helicopter simulator videos were similar exercises to the ones we performed in class this week. Underwater helicopter egress is necessary because crew is sometimes transported to the rigs/ worksite via helicopter, and in the event of a controlled or semi-controlled emergency landing, I'd need to escape, which I'd be able to do, having completed the helicopter underwater egress training (HUET). Does that explain it? It all makes sense to me, so I'm never sure if I'm explaining things adequately.

I finally finished my offshore emergency/procedural training today, and left Houma, LA early this afternoon. I was meant to leave after yesterday's class, but the office called as I was driving away to let me know they'd scheduled one more class: BP's own offshore safety training, a prerequisite for working on a BP rig, which I'm leaving to do in just a few hours. So, tomorrow's the big day! My first time offshore. I'm curious and excited and a little nervous and freaked out, but I'm basically too damn tired to really feel all of it, which is good, because if I could sense emotion, I probably be over-thinking and mind-f*&king everything. As it stands, I'm getting up at 1:30am to drive to the dock, to take a boat to the rig. The job tomorrow is a one-day inspection, most likely no more than a few hours on the rig, then back to the dock. A good intro, I think. Good to have a look around, but not too intense.

Fun Louisiana tidbits from this week... Apparently the whole of LA is Catholic, or enough of it that Good Friday is a holiday, and everyone takes the day off. And everyone has a crawfish boil on Good Friday, which sounded kind of gross (boiled. crawfish. Huh?), but is actually extremely delish, and totally addicting. I don't know if you've ever seen a crawfish, they're just wee little clawed lobsters, that grow in the rice patties and in the swamp (on my way back from Houma, I kept seeing groups of people with nets, near the marshy roadside ditches. I finally realized they were huntin them up some mudbugs, mmm-hmmm.) Since they're not so big, you need to eat a lot of them to get a good meal. So you put a lot of them in a pot, with some boil seasonings (which are cajun flavor, mais oui), and maybe a little sausage and maybe a little corn (I'm not sure if it all goes in together? It all gets served together, though.). Then you serve a huge pile of them with some dippin' sauce. To eat, you sever the tail, suck out the cajun-flavored juices from the head (best accomplished by sucking whilst biting down on it), then peel the tail and eat the meat therein. You can also eat the meat in the wee claws, but it seems more trouble than it's worth. Also, you must always roll up your sleeves when eating crawfish, says Miss Margaret, my crawfish tutor and dining companion.

18 March 2008


Did I forget to mention I got a job?

Actually, I didn't forget, I just wasn't ready to make mention of it. I didn't want to jinx it, or just wanted to get comfortable with the idea, and celebrated it a bit myself before I shared it with anyone. I'll be working for a little ROV company called SeaTrepid. I've gotten some mixed reviews, but mostly no one's ever heard of them down here. I like the company because it's small, so I feel like I'll be able to gain experience, plus it's not so scary starting out as it might have been working for a bigger company. They also sound to be heading into new and bigger applications (bigger ROVs, also potentially designing and marketing their own ROVs). That it's a smaller company also puts me a bit on edge, as my experiences working for smaller companies haven't all been great. But, it's a good start, I think.

In order to go offshore in the near future, I need to have a bunch of new certs (more cert cards- yipee!), so today through Thursday, I'm in Houma, LA, at a training facility. Today was Offshore Water Survival (for sure the funnest of the classes), tomorrow is Rigging (useful), and Thursday is Safe Gulf (which I've heard is a snooze). Half of today's class was in the pool, and this gives you an idea of the day's last drills, to simulate an underwater helicopter egress:




Per usual, I'm the only woman around who's not working admin, but I'm meeting a few good guys, learning more about being offshore. Surprisingly, I feel ok holding a conversation with these guys, like I actually picked up a thing or two during my MDT training. Admittedly, most of it was from Geoff's rambles, but still pretty useful.

I was also issued my very own hardhat, and bought my first pair of steel-toe work boots. I am my parents' child after all.

Red Wing 1170: steel toe, waterproof.

14 March 2008

elysian fields.

I was just thinking that it's not even been a week since I left Santa Barbara.

My first couple of days in New Orleans were a bit jarring, but I'm slowly coming around. I'd been here once before- for Mardi Gras 1998, for a long weekend. But most of what I saw then was seen whilst a bit tipsy, or in the dark, so I actually didn't see a whole lot. I'm certainly seeing a whole lot now.

I've been doing a ton of thinking, and processing, and I'd love to share my thoughts with you; however, it's Saturday morning, and I would really like to get out and see some stuff. There are historical plantations here, and parts of the city that I'd like to see, and I want to do some shopping. So, a quick update will have to do.

Wednesday I laid around, went to Target, then later for drinks at a local bar with Rob. Thursday we ventured into the French Quarter, which was so cool to see, and parts of which were ridiculously obnoxious even on a post-Mardi Gras mid-afternoon. We wandered around and ate at a hotel restaurant (we wanted better, but we were getting HUNGRY!), where the bartender suggested that New Orleans is a city that grows on you (which I'm already noticing- I reach my threshold for the post-hurricanes desolation, and have to retreat, but something pulls me right back the next day). Friday I had an interview, and drove around a few areas of town.
Today I might go buy some steel-toe boots (a necessity in the offshore environment), and drive the river road to look at the plantations.

I had a funny thought while I was driving around town yesterday. Up to this point, I've not been so great at committing to things. This endeavor to work in this industry is the hardest I've worked to get anywhere, to do anything. And the follow-through, that's also new for me. Previous incarnations of myself would have finished the program, but might have flitted off to Peru for a few months, rather than actually finding a job. And though amazing in its own right, living in SB was no walk in the park. But yesterday, as I was driving down Elysian Fields Ave., the idea occurred to me that maybe, after everything is said and done, maybe it was all worth it.


11 March 2008


Happy to say I've arrived in New Orleans, safe and sound. Everything went well with the train and luggage and getting picked up at the station. I have lodging for however long I need, a car to use for the next month, and some cash in my pocket.

This is definitely a change from SB.


My train chronicle, from Sunday leaving Santa Barbara, til Tuesday nearing New Orleans.

On the train now, running parallel to my favorite stretch of the PCH. I’ve driven it a hundred times, but have never seen it by train. The scenery’s not much different, it’s just that I’m not driving, as is usually the case.

Long week, this past. Finished working my temp job a week and a half ago, then went to Death Valley with Chris for a long weekend. 4 good days in the desert was enough to steel me to prepare for the move. A few weeks ago, someone suggested taking the train to NO, and at first blush it seemed completely implausible. As time wore on, however, the idea grew on me, and I started realizing I could make it happen. My ticket cost $138 with my AAA discount- that’s 3 days by train, Sunday morning at 9:30 until Tuesday at 4pm.

Somewhere in the desert now. I met my neighbors, who are lovely, and who help break the trip up a bit. Jerry, from Tucson, seems to know everything about the train, and is an excellent ambassador for the Amtrak brand.

Feeling better after a snooze this afternoon. The week has been stressful and wearing. It’s good to sit back with my feet up and nothing to do.

The trouble with being on the train is never being sure of your exact location. We came upon such a beautiful valley, but I have no clue where it might be located on a map. I only know that it’s somewhere between Ontario and Palm Springs.

Nearing Palm Springs we’ve come upon fields of power-generating turbines.

My neighbors suggests that the fruits and veggies I’m carrying with me for snacks explains my attractive figure. I muse that living in southern California for too long warps a person’s good sense of body image.

I’m getting excited to make a new start. So much attention has gone to getting ready for the move, I’ve not thought much about arriving, and what comes next. But, here’s what I decided a few days ago whilst being gripped by the assumed futility of purging, organizing and packing my way-too-many belongings: deal with it as it comes. Now, I realize I already mentioned this idea, by way of AA reference in an earlier post. But the idea struck a note at exactly the right moment when I could apply it, right when I was feeling debilitated by the magnitude of the task at hand, as well as the myriad tasks to come, and once having applied the philosophy, I carried on, rather than turning unproductive circles, wondering where to begin. Not the most original idea, per se, but it’s been helpful in being prepared, on time, to get on the train and go.

The sun just went down, and it’s a soft twilight over Palm Springs. I've tried to stare out the window for as long as possible, leaving until later the reading and other busy-ness that distracts from the lack of view out the dark window. The sunset is beautifully pastel, soft, with white fading to pink fading to blue.

It’s my first morning waking up on the train, and I actually feel like I slept pretty well. My seat mate disembarked in Tucson early this morning, leaving his seat for me to stretch out on. The seats are surprisingly comfortable, with a decent amount of leg room. I may treat myself to dinner this evening in the dining car, though I have quite enough food to sustain myself for the next day and a half.

I spent last night reading a travel guides about New Orleans. It strikes me, even just being on the train and seeing the people headed in the same direction, how very different a place I’m going to. It’s funny, I loved California when I got there, was always sort of in awe of it. I don’t know how or why or even when I got over it, because it was never a very forceful, obvious sense of not liking the place anymore. Maybe it was money, or wardrobe, or being brunette, or being more shapely than your average Cali girl, or living in a place as bucolic as Santa Barbara. It may have been all of it, or nothing. It seems I always felt just a bit out of place. It was beautiful, but I don’t think the stress was worth the beauty. A friend, who also travels, and is moving away from California, suggested that we’d been to far more beautiful places, where one can actually afford to live; that we knew there was more out there in the world to sequester ourselves in a place like California.

Other things, too. Like feeling isolated. Like not knowing very many people my age. Like feeling a bit old and ugly in a town like SB. Like worrying about money every spare minute. Like working my ass off for dodgy small-business owners. Like feeling stuck.

But good things, too. Like my boy, Chris, and friends Ale & Dada, Eric, & Claudia, Ruth & Sam, Deckhand Aaron, and the random people who’d come out of the woodwork just when I thought there wasn’t anyone authentic left to meet. Like driving home from work along the PCH as the sun sets. Like sitting on the beach, watching surfers in the afternoon. Like afternoon hikes. Like 80 degrees in February. Like riding my bike everywhere. Like seeing the Channel Islands in the distance. Like dolphins on the bow. Like sunrises on my way to school. Like all my stinky boys and my instructors.

Like having accomplished what I went there to do.

Yesterday was 100% desert, but today I find myself in the swamp. My first sight out the window was of trees and swampy trenches along the side of the tracks, immediately followed a huge expanse of water on both sides, which turned out to be Lake Houston. It’s grey and cloudy here, which reminds me that other parts of the world have weather, unlike Santa Barbara. It looks like it just rained here perhaps, the trees have little green buds on them, There are puddles in the fields. It’s a good thing, I think. It was weird living in a place where the weather conditions never coincided with the season. For example, summer in SB was foggy, and kind of dismal; autumn was sunny and beautiful; winter was cooler, with rain sometimes, but also with 80-degree days; spring was… I’m not even sure. There was also a lot of sun, maybe a little too much sun. It’s exhausting when there’s so much sun, like you never have a reason to lay on the couch and read a book, or you always feel guilty about sitting around watching TV, because, even when the weather is bad, it’s never so bad that you’re forced to stay indoors (except for the 3 days a year when it rains). I don’t think I’ve made a very good argument here, but then again, I’ve only just woken up.

The train is quiet today. Only about 5 hours left to go now, as we are supposed to arrive in New Orleans on time. Per usual, I start to get a little uptight about the details and logistics of arriving: how to deal with all my luggage, will Rob be there to pick me up, will there be carts to move all my stuff around, etc.

I am getting a bit nervous, I guess. But then, I’m thinking too far ahead. If I focus on what’s happening only within the next few hours, I feel ok. If I think about the rest of the week, I get a knot in my stomach. Et voila, I’ll just focus on what’s happening now. There are fields and trees and lots of water around. When passing the water-filled trenches beside the tracks, I see disturbance at the surface, as if a fish has just nipped at an insect, or a gator has just submerged.

Passing through southern Louisiana now. Next stop is New Iberia, a town that is familiar to me because some of the diving companies are based here. It’s sort of the end of the world, mostly industrial, with trailer homes up on blocks scattered about. I kind of like these funny little towns.

I’m almost ready to be done with the train. The toilets are getting a bit funky at this point. I don’t think everyone knows how to locate the flush button (think of the toilets on airplanes).

For some reason, I’m finding a lot of solace in being back in the same time zone as friends and family. Strange I should find comfort in that, though it seems very strange not to have to recalculate the time at the location I’m calling.

Getting very, very close now. Feeling nervous about arriving, but also excited. New Orleans is a city I’ve been to, that I even speculated would be fun to live in for a while. Something about its history interests me, I’m curious to explore the place, excited to start over again, to see how what I can find here.

26 February 2008

a bit of progress.

I've been mute lately. For good reason: I've been trying to figure out what to do with myself. The plan all along has been to get to the gulf to get to work. When my car died, though, I had to reconfigure the plans.

So, here it is, the run down. I'll be brief, because my mind has little room for fluff and sentence formulation.

1. I'm kind of liking not having a car. I like not having to worry about when the car's going to explode, implode, whatever. It's kind of nice. Plus, I'm communing with my bike again.
2. Now, however, is not the most convenient time for me not to have a car, having planned the whole x-country drive to find work, and all.
3. Amtrak is a potentially plausible alternative to driving, by myself, for 25oo miles, for the second time in as many years.
4. I am blessed beyond belief by amazing relatives and friends and coworkers who offer little bits of help along the way, especially Rob, an MDT grad, who offered to help me get to the gulf, and housing once I get there, and Claudia, Ale, and CK + current coworkers who listen to my ramblings and sounding out of potential schemes, helping me to see reason beyond all the emotional nunsense in my head.

So. This is my last week of work. I'd love to say I've stockpiled loads of cash and am totally set to move, but you wouldn't believe that of me anyway, right? I'm glad to be getting out of SB before the sea swallows up the rest of my cash, and my tax returns. I thought it sounded like a good idea to stay, work full time for a while, but in reality, it's still not enough. This damn town eats a girl's money like an alky on a bender. It costs SO MUCH MORE MONEY to stay here than I'm actually making. I seriously don't know how or why people live here. For real, it's ridiculous.

My boy and I had planned to go to Death Valley for a last weekend together, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. If we do go, I'll start really packing/organizing next Tuesday. But (and this is the more probable possibility from where we stand at this particular moment) if we don't go, I'll just start packing on Sat., putting me on a train somewhere around Monday. The train takes 3 days, and I think I'll be opting for the:

Superliner Roomette

Superliner Roomette (Day)

Our Superliner Roomette is ideal for one or two passengers, with two comfortable reclining seats on either side of a big picture window. At night, the seats convert to a comfortable bed, and an upper berth folds down from above. Roomettes are located on both upper and lower levels of our double-decker Superliner train cars.

Which sounds pretty rad, and a very good way to begin a new phase in my life. I'm thinking of it as an adventure, because if I start to analyze and realize that I'm not totally in control of every phase of this move, I start to hyperventilate and freak out, which can only be cured by test-driving old 4runners or drinking leftover wine.

One day at a time, to bring it back to the alky comparison. One day at a time, grasshopper.

12 February 2008


I've been known to become quite attached to my vehicles. Not this one, however:

The go-kart, in Death Valley.

I can't say exactly why, it just never weasled its way into my heart the way the Saab 900, or even the Toyota wagon did. It was a less sexy, only mildly evil cousin of that rat-bastard Saab 9000 I drove- something was always wrong, but never so wrong I was actually forced to fix it. It smelled of gasoline the entire time I drove it, except for maybe 3 months after a friend patched the wee devilish hole in the filler neck; there were cracks in the windshield; an exhaust pipe got loose after a snowy off-road expedition in Yosemite last spring; the front door frames always leaked when it rained which had recently resulted in a car funk I could only compare to a bad man-smell like hockey socks, or forgotten gym shorts. A little of this, a little of that, but the damn thing started every time, no matter how loud or smelly she happened to be.

Yesterday though, she sputtered out on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, as I was driving to work. I left her there, and went to work, hoping the CHP would be kindly, and leave her there for me. Alas, when I returned in the evening, she was gone, which forced a decision early this morning to let her go, to let her complete this incarnation as a junky-ish go-kart, to be molded and pressed into something far more noble and majestic, like... like... I don't know where old cars go after they've been smooshed into a big square mass with other junky cars.

In any case, take a moment of silencio for the go-kart. She served me well in my last months in MN, on my cross-country journey, all the way through 1.5 years of California residency. She was a good car.

23 January 2008


Freedom is sort of intoxicating, though not conducive to writing entries in my blog, apparently.

I don't have tons to say, or maybe I have tons to say, but can't/won't/don't want to begin? Here's one thing: I'm still very much freaked out about figuring out what's next, about simply accepting what's next, about moving on to what's next. Like being stuck in the present, a classic image of the ostrich:

unfortunately, yes.

I don't know what makes this so difficult or scary, or so hard to just get started. Maybe if I stopped trying to figure it out, I might be clearer on what I want. On the other hand, I haven't gotten anywhere as yet, so I fear even worse stagnation if I don't try.

It feels like a big, giant hand is wrapped around my mid section, squeezing really hard, when I think about this stuff.

06 January 2008


Back in SB now. I've decided to extend my stay in Cali into February, staying in my apartment until sometime mid- to late-Feb. I hesitated to make the decision, having wanted to leave here mid-January, but I realize a bit of time to get my life in order, to actually feel somewhat prepared when I leave, will be welcome. It feels right.

If I didn't have the opportunity to see while I was in the cities, please know I was thinking of you, and wanted to see you. Each successive trip back to the midwest has become shorter, meaning less time to see friends, simply because the travel days are long and tedious, and in between them I want to relax, which means fewer social engagements, or asking others to come to me, which I'm really not so good at. So, my apologies for not having the time, but you were on my mind ;)

Being back has been good. I've decided to use weekdays to look for work (both interim and long-term), and make phone calls. But I've also decided to have dedicated time for relaxation and enjoyment, and it's been awesome. I spent Friday doing stuff (yoga, researching companies, looking for temp work), then took the whole weekend for hanging out, watching movies (Better Off Dead, Notes on a Scandal, Sweeney Todd), reading, eating, sleeping. And it was lovely. I suppose some people are really good at this, dividing their time and making the best of all of it. I feel like I'm just figuring out how important this is, and how much more productive.

bait dock, Santa Barbara Harbor.