50 Shades of Graywater

My writing teachers always said: when in doubt, go for immediacy and specificity and scene.  It’s strange, in writing and in song lyrics; visual art too; the more general something is, the less interesting.  The more specific, the more interesting.  It seems like it would be the opposite, somehow — people feeling excluded by unfamiliar specifics.  

The Menzingers:  

And now the hotel maids are banging down the door as if they came looking for some answers

when you gonna leave?, where you gonna go?

will you get your shit together?, when you gonna marry her…or maybe you don’t deserve her  

maybe this whole thing was doomed from the start; this inquisition’s tearing me apart

could a diamond in the rough ever be enough, I’ve been mining for your love

since the day that we met, I’ve spent every second in your mine field digging it up

could you strain your memory back to the time, when trouble wasn’t always on our minds

could you strain your memory one last time, when trouble wasn’t always, always on our miiinds.

I’m confused about what to say, today.  I should be fresh for writing, after several days of not.  Getting to a new fire, all that.  I almost don’t know how to pin the feelings tail on the events donkey, anymore.  It seems worth sharing because maybe others feel that way too, but then I reflexively imagine a whole world full of everyone, everywhere, feeling super well-adjusted to what passes for current events right now, and somehow it’s only me that’s struggling.  

Luckily (for me) I’ve never been much of an overarching-plan kind of gal (I’ve blogged before about only seeing a blank space in my mind’s eye when people ask me where I see myself in ten years) but I’ve always taken it for granted that the world runs on, you know, most people investing their capital and their energy resources over time to establishing business interests that function as this variety of lovely carousel horses I can enjoy hopping onto and hopping off of, as I please, while the carousel basically goes around.  The music stays on, the lights stay on, there’s popcorn for when you get hungry, lemonade when you get thirsty, that kind of thing.  Commercial driving (my field, per se) remains this industry that thrives in both good times and bad, as well as audiobook narration actually, so that’s no issue.  Writing has never made me any money, so no hiccups there either.  

It’s actually occurred to me, relative to our upcoming move to Hawaii at the end of the fire season, to collaborate with some peers on starting a little truck school, since Hawaii’s tourism industry has been wiped out and it might be a good time for people to consider new strategies.  A lot of people are considering a CDL and gun ownership, right now, who never have before, and I’m feeing rather proud of myself to have already nailed both of those down haha!  I adore teaching people trucking — I adore teaching, period, but trucking is an extra fun curriculum, almost like learning to play a musical instrument.  Most people don’t realize how much physical finesse and coordination is involved in shifting unsynchronized transmissions, plus all the other layers of attention and awareness, in traffic, and I would say it’s very much like playing an instrument in a band, but with more physical danger to everyone involved lol.  

So, by moving to Hawaii this fall, I’m unfortunately closing the book on the best truck school job I ever had, at the community college in Albuquerque — teaching online M-F and hands-on maneuvers Saturdays and Sundays, total dream job for me — but maybe I can recreate something even better.  Ironically this is the last time on earth I’d expect anyone to have faith in the return on investment of small business ownership, since it’s apparently a national priority right now to make sure they’re all run into the ground one way or the other; but truck schools mainly need trucks, and trucks can always make money, hauling shit around if courses don’t work out.  Maybe I’m just feeling sentimental, because it’s been five months since I got to teach anyone anything, about a truck — since I got laid off, in other words — and I could get my old job back but I’d have to teach in a mask, gloves, AND face shield so thanks but no thanks.  Good lord.  

Anyway, I don’t know what’s coming down the pipe for the US and I certainly don’t know if Hawaii represents a better or worse place to self-sustain, but like Nick said yesterday: “I’d rather die in Hawaii than live in Alaska.”  Real talk.  Oh, the other thing you can do, in trailers or shipping containers, is set up hydroponic grow systems, and I’m interested in that as well.  I inherited my totally-not-green thumb from my mother, who killed all houseplants, and so gardening has never been my forte.  But if gardening could somehow be this thing involving a trailer and a pump and PVC pipe and, like, a digital monitor thingie, somehow that sounds more like operating, you know, the DOT version of a ventilator.  I bet I could pull that off.  Anyway; I’m stalling.  I need to send an email back to my employer saying, no, I will not be available to teach classes (in a double-layer muzzle for the fake pandemic) this fall, but I’m just dragging my feet because dang, it was such a good job.  Sad.  

Meanwhile, fire season is going well.  From where I sit now, at my makeshift desk in the air conditioned trailer office, I’m looking out at our six enormous astroturf pieces which skirt the mobile shower’s business side, currently anchored down by bright orange Home Depot 5g buckets full of water.  We can’t stake anything down in this deconstructed pavement aerie.  It’s hard to describe — not a single level spot anywhere, so our trailer is all cattywhompas on various shims and interventions, in order to make it level enough to drain.  The astroturf skirting looks exactly like you’d expect, if you draped a quarter acre of tough green cloth over the least level surface you’ve ever seen, which makes it extra odd that at some point it was all paved?, enough that stakes can’t work anyway.  Nick had a heck of a time pounding in the ground rod for our generator.  There’s a derelict old logging truck jalopy abandoned right beside us, surrounded by a sad punctuation of discarded rims and tires.  We’re high up in the mountains of Southern Az, so it’s just rolling iterations of Junipine forest and fluffy cloud dotted baby blue skies.    

Normally we have three EZ ups providing shade all day, but they were destroyed in a blink.  We’re supposed to be here, ready to run out and hold them down or fold them up, if a big gust of wind threatens them, as has happened on frankly every fire so far.  I don’t know why the company doesn’t install some kind of permanent awning situation or at least mount, bolted to the side of the trailer.  Would have already saved hundreds of dollars.  Anyway, we were just down the hill — it’s all downhill from where we are — fucking around with our portable pump and the catering kitchen’s leaky potable water tank, attempting a transfer of water from the tank mounted on the back of our tractor to theirs.  Big gust, we looked up, and all our EZ ups were swept against the junipers, like giant crushed mechanical spiders, having dragged their anchoring buckets of water with them.  

This was extra irritating because it wasn’t our job to supply the kitchen with potable water — it’s our job to run this shower unit and be available for whatever that means, including high winds — but the potable water driver assigned to this fire didn’t want to work.  I don’t know how else to put it.  He was sitting in the shade of a tree while all this was going on.  I’ve never showed up to a fire before (this is probably my hundredth incident or so, I’ve lost count over the years) and seen a key resource simply refuse to work, and for the management team to accept that.  His name is Harlan, and his name shall go down in infamy.  Harlan, the potable water driver who wouldn’t work.  #neverforget.  He said it was too much work, back and forth, because the kitchen’s potable tank was leaking.  

Their tank was leaking, because the management sent them down an absolutely fucked 14 mile single track dirt and rock road, and it broke a bunch of their stuff.  Nick and I were lucky to have shown up on time, not early (took us two days of ribboning all across the Rez and through the night and steep twisty mountains to get here), because they would have sent us down the same road, and we’d probably still be stuck there, given the low clearance of the trailer’s undercarriage, with its numerous storage boxes.  

So the incident team was like, “Well gosh, it’s too much work for Harlan.  Let’s continue paying him thousands of dollars per day, order another one, and meanwhile make that shower gal do all the work, despite her much smaller capacity tank.  That sounds perfect.”  Unbelievable.  

Nick recommended they demob Harlan and just have us haul water for the whole fucking incident, with our small capacity tank, if it’s gonna be like that.  But no, Harlan’s still under his tree.  What a jackass.  

Meanwhile, our gray water driver realized how gullible this team is, and that it represented an opportunity to work much less than even the extremely low bar already set, and convinced them that the kitchen’s gray water is actually black water, but the shower is gray water, and so the same truck should not haul both away, due to the risk of cross contamination.  If kitchen water is “black” water, then what the fuck is raw sewage?  Threat Level Midnight water?  DefCon Delta water?  Nine-eleven times one billion water?  Anyway, so she got herself a sweet deal doing a fraction of the already easy work this camp would have represented, while necessitating this poor guy whose gray water truck is stationed way out, down the 14 miles of very poor quality road, come in every day to suck out our gray water bag, while she also sits in the shade of a tree.  And again, the management team was like, “sounds legit to me”.  

I guess you can just show up to fires these days, refuse to work, sit under a tree, and get paid.  The only thing stopping you is, like, an actual work ethic.  How do these people sleep at night??  

Nick and I were just incensed that $500 worth of EZ ups got destroyed while we were otherwise tasked with some shit that shouldn’t even be our job, as evidenced by the people whose jobs it should be relaxed under trees, but we got over it.  I was so happy to see the replacement potable water driver, several days later, but he’s quite the talker and not the listener so now it’s more about disengaging several times a day.  Anyway, it’s all rolling along okay.

We can’t really put up our teepee tent here, without stakes, so we’ve been sleeping in the tractor.  It has bunk beds, like Stepbrothers.  Buffy sleeps up top with me, seemingly not even scared about the drop, and Milo sleeps downstairs with Nick.  We take turns sleeping in, while the other gets the generator started and the lights and hot water heaters on, at 5am.  Since water hauling ops came to a thankful close, we’ve been able to barbell in the shade of the trailer at around 4pm, and walk down the little hill to get our dinners at 6 or 6:30.  The caterer here is hands-down the best fire food I’ve had in my life.  They just slay, every meal; it’s been a real treat.  They speak vegan, too, and have been making us power food salads and chia puddings.  I think they appreciate that we hauled water for them when it wasn’t our job and Harlan was under the tree.  They like our little dogs, too — Buffy ambles up to each customer to get obsequiously petted, as a matter of course, and Milo gets frisky and starts Tokyo drifting around corners at the sheer notion of other living beings seeing him and just, you know, existing.  Life outside the basement continues to amaze him.  It’s so full of things that aren’t basement.

I’d love to be here for a long haul, but the firefighters are usually too good at their jobs for that.  

Nick shared one of my more barbell related blogs with his Starting Strength community and they offered to publish me on their site, if I’d like to write something more targeted, and that’s really nice.  When you’ve got lots of PhDs and experts writing content, I think it’s nice sometimes to just showcase an ant’s eye view of what barbell can do for a person.  Nick put it best, I thought, chatting with the main camp’s fuel tender last night (they come for the showers and stay for the unexpected barbell gym, tucked behind the trailer): normalized fitness and personal training is essentially a gigantic conspiracy.  It doesn’t work, and all you have to do to confirm that for yourself is to look at people’s bodies, clients and trainers alike.  There aren’t many things in this world that actually improve the things they claim to, but a progressive overload program of complex barbell lifting is one of them.  

So that will be a fun article to write.  It’s just so nice to finally lay down the burden of worrying about calories and body fat and cardio.  People with strong musculature look great at nearly any body fat percentage, so all that just becomes about personal and inter-relational preference.         

Back to mood, attempting to pin the tail of feelings onto the donkey of reasons, I’ve been self-critical and pessimistic lately, and I’m not sure why.  I’m also out of time to write, so I guess it doesn’t matter lol.    

2 thoughts on “50 Shades of Graywater

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