One Dust Storm Closer

It’s looking more and more like we’ll sell our house in Flagstaff this fall, or put it on the market at least, and rent something big enough for all of us in Hawaii, the first year or 6 months, just so we can get the lei of the land haha.  “All of us” being myself, my boyfriend Nick, my brother Abe, and our dad.  Abe is already out there and fresh off a 14 day quarantine.  Imagine, spending 14 days locked inside your first time in Hawaii.  His host left for a CONUS trip shortly after Abe arrived, so he didn’t even have help getting food, and apparently the food delivery situation is not on point, in Kona at least.  He had to subsist on vegan prepackaged shelf stable, and not leave the house, in Hawaii, for 14 days!!  Gah.  Anyway, so now he’s zooming all around and looking at things and making inroads for the rest of us.  

Nick and I just found out yesterday that the estimated containment date of this incident we’re currently on is Oct. 30, which sounds FANTASTIC.  If it could be anywhere around there, that would be just great.  We have *beyond* paid our dues, this season, getting shuffled around from short roll to short roll, all over the gd place, having them tell us they’re about to demob everyone *as* we’re still getting set up, in some cases.  This mobile shower unit is a lot of set up and tear down and just stuff, and it’s all so majestically worth it if we can just get on a fire and stay on a fire for a couple weeks, ideally a couple months, which has not, thus far, occurred.  No fault of ours, just luck of the draw.  But this one is burning, like, a bazillion acres of old downed wood from a beetle infestation 20 years ago and threatening an area of super millionaire homes at the same time, and the wind is crazy in the afternoons, fluffing the fire back up, so we’ll see.  We have to move to a different camp today, which was initially bad news — just a lot of work — but given how many flies in the day, mosquitos at night, and dusty gritty windstorms there are in the afternoon, at this country fairgrounds, I think we’re ready for a change.  

I remember telling Nick, shortly after we met — which was shortly after a season where I’d worked 152 days straight — “honestly, I’m pretty stoked to be inside, on purpose.”  Nick is very outdoorsy, and so am I in a weird certain way — I like to have a metal and glass buffer between me and the elements, specifically.  Being outdoors for a hike or a weekend camping trip is totally different than this chronic outside-ness we’re subjected to.  I’m not complaining, it’s better than working at a Sam’s Club dungeon or something omg.  But in between fires, when we relax in the hotel, it is really just so magical to have control over the temperature, everything clean, nothing gritty, no flies or mosquitoes landing on us, control over lights.  There’s nothing like the outdoors to make you appreciate the indoors.  

Interestingly, though, Nick’s beach-raised frustration with the Southwest has made me more critical, too.  I can afford to be critical now, because we’re moving to effing Hawaii, where being outside is almost like being inside, in the best way.  We were sheltering in place, yesterday, during the afternoonly 100 mph sideways dust apocalypse, here.  Shower biz was slow, I’d just woken up from a nap, Nick was trying to get a lift in, and I was smoking the nub of a min-cigar and trying to become alert, sitting in a lawn chair on the sloping ramp of the chase trailer.  We were talking about cryptos or something.  Buffy was curled into a tiny comma below my lawn chair, and Milo was flitting around Nick happily.  The sideways dust storm unleashed itself between one breath and the next, and pretty soon we were picking our way along on the lee side of the trailer to get more officially inside, trying to herd the dogs along and hold on to our possessions as lawn chairs and disposable towel boxes tumbled sideways.  Buffy’s face was like “d’er mah gerd” and Milo had his confused smile on, briefly, and then defaulted back to his normal radiant smile.  We sat inside the little office, fortunately positioned with the door on the wind’s downside — when you first set up for these things, you just go by the sun and the level and hope for the best, so it’s a wind and bugs lottery — and just watched the wall of sideways dust shriek.  

In his typical bombastic fashion, Nick rhetorically demanded, “Who the fuck LIVES here, on purpose?!”  We’re high up in what I now realize to be a totally unprotected, wind-scoured town.  It’s not even like piney, per se, just high up and reasonably desolate.  “‘I’m gonna move to Colorado’”, he parodied.  “WHY.  This is a place where you come for a backpacking trip, you appreciate the rugged beauty, and then you get back on your airplane and get the fuck out.”  Having recently run across some tweet claiming “Moving to Colorado is for  white dudes what getting bangs is for white chicks,” I thought this was especially funny.  Every dude I know from Flagstaff wears a beanie, smokes a lot of pot, eats meat, considers himself an environmentalist with no sense of irony, worships Colorado, and aspires to live in a van.  I’ve aspired to live in van, historically, and sometimes currently, so I don’t say that disparagingly, but I’m just painting the picture.  

“Yeah,” I shrugged.  “Imagine being the fucking caterer right now!”  We peered over in that direction and saw their collection of trailers and walkways and tanks and handwash stations, just drenched in sideways dust.  It can’t have been 100 mph but it felt like it.  “They’re trying to make dinner for everyone in this!”  

Nick shook his head.  “God DAMN.”  

I really couldn’t argue.  It’s not my scene either but I remember walking home from school on the reservation through the sideways wind, and having a lot of trouble with the gas-permeable hard contact lenses I wore at that time, and wanting to be warm, hating being cold, stepping over new sand dunes just to get into my parents’ teacher housing compound, and gratefully closing myself inside with my mothers’ vegetable soup and homemade whole wheat bread and my little boombox and the hairbrush I would sing into, pretending it was a microphone.  “Outside” was just, you know, often not a good proposition.  

I just haven’t had much exposure to what could be my scene.  I never met anyone, or not meaningfully anyway, that grew up on the beach and had that form their sensibilities.  Moving to Tucson, years ago, was the most aligned movement I’ve ever made towards at least one criterion of importance to me: warmth.  That seemed as good as it could get, for the longest time, and is of course where I found Buffy in the road so #worthit, and then life interrupted my trajectory there and I had to come back to cold, beanie-wearing, van-life-aspiring, Colorado-worshipping Flagstaff.  I am seeing more and more clearly every day why my social life there never worked out.  I think I might be, at heart, a conservative — I just never knew that was a thing you could be.  I just always had a really hard time explaining my sensibilities, to others or even myself.  I wrote a whole blog about this but got interrupted and now it’s too much work to fix it up and post it.  

I always knew Hawaii, like, existed, but that was where well-to-do people went on vacation.  That was how it was framed for me.  Not that regular people live there, not that I could live there, and not even that I could vacation there.  I think like a poor kid to a degree that’s sometimes aggravating to realize.  It was honestly the most hysterical chain of events that led Hawaii to be on our radar.  Basically Nick and I broke up in February, after a series of events that cannot possibly be described but which did at one point involve a call to 911, and my good friend from my first truck school job was like, “Hey, I’m out in Hawaii for work and company’s paying for friends and family to join us, you wanna come out?”  He’s this just phenomenal guy who has tried harder than anyone I know to make it work with his kids’ mom. They got married twice and divorced twice, if that’s any indicator.  God — I feel for him.  Really good dude.  Anyway, long story short, I flew out, ‘Rona shutdowns started rolling through the country, Nick did some soul searching and praying and felt inclined to come back my way, I hadn’t wanted to break up in the first place, or not in a while, it looked like we might be separated indefinitely based on how ‘Rona stuff was going, and he chose to fly out to Hawaii and join me there.  This was awkward with my friend having flown me out on his company’s dime, obviously, but I was just honest and, man, if anyone on earth understands what “figuring it out” looks like, it’s him, and so it transpired on day that Nick arrived in a shiny white Mustang convertible and picked me up under the palm trees.  We spent two weeks there, and it was like my friend had said: “If y’all can’t reconnect with yourselves and each other in Hawaii, you can’t do it anywhere, because this place is magic.”  It is magic.  We drove to the other side of the island where I had chosen a tiny home Air BnB at random, which should have been booked solid but all inbound tourists had cancelled, obviously throwing the entire tourism-based state of Hawaii into conniptions of stress — you can’t claim unemployment on that shit, you know?  I was still teaching remotely and uploading videos for my students without any comment on the dramatic bird song and palm fronds in the background, and grading an already pain in the ass final project which was rendered pain x10 due to digital submissions rather than hard copy.  It’s a team trip logbooks projects, involving an excruciatingly eventual and detailed week-long run back and forth across the country, with loads and drops and time zones and appointments and weight stations and accidents, and they have to log it all legally to show that they understand how to.  When I first inherited this class, I was like “holy shit I’m not sure I even know how to log this legally” because it’s set up to not be legal unless you realize this one kind of obscure thing at the outset — anyway, it takes almost as long to grade it as it does to do the project in the first place, even under the best of circumstances so I was, you know, really earning my friggin money the whole time.  

It was unbelievable how well Hawaii suited us, though.  Being inside or outside almost didn’t matter, both were so nice.  Our shower, at the tiny house, was entirely outside in a little vine-y, floral area, with green grass and large, flat flagstones to stand on.  The air wasn’t harsh on wet skin.  Can you believe that?  I’ve never lived anywhere, in any season, where I’d want to be outside with my skin wet on purpose, but it was just kind, gentle.  It makes me realize how harsh the climates are, that I’m accustomed to, that I’ve accepted as unavoidable.  A random funny thing is that some part of my psyche has been preparing, in vain, to live at the beach for years, despite having no plan in place to do that.  All my clothes are beachy and flowy, my furniture preferences are wicker and bamboo, my color preferences are beachy, and my temperature/humidity preferences are most definitely beachy.  As insane as it sounds to actively accumulate clothing that’s uber-femme and beachy WHILE living in Flagstaff half the year and driving trucks around the other half of the year, overlappingly at times, that’s what I did.  I think I’ve been yearning for a different home climate since before I can remember.  

Anyway, as much as we wanted to just get stuck there and not come back, and use the Coronavirus as our reason to “shelter in place” in paradise, we couldn’t because of our bugaboos.  We didn’t have Milo yet, but we had Buffy and the cat, Kimp.  They were being babysat lovingly but I was receiving photos nearly every day of Buffy hiding underneath our bed and looking glum.  It breaks my heart to be separated from her, especially when I can see she’s missing us.  She mostly ignores us when we’re around, so it’s easy to think she’s above it all, but she’s really not. 

So, we returned, every single goddamn thing since then has been a story too long to tell — I mean, even trying to get back to our physical house was an ordeal, because the governor of New Mexico mandated a 14 day quarantine for all air travelers arriving in the state, LITERALLY between the time our first flight departed and the time it landed.  We had no intention of quarantining, for any amount of time.  I mean, we somewhat suspected it was a fake pandemic?  And if so, then fuck quarantine?  But we acknowledged it could be a real pandemic, and if so, we didn’t feel we had nearly enough firearms and ammo to be locked in Albuquerque in an actual emergency scenario.  Albuquerque crime didn’t even spike after George Floyd’s death because it was already at its normal baseline lol, incidentally.  We got ourselves back to New Mexico not on an airplane, ultimately, and then got ourselves all the way across the country, and x y z, and I started this blog, and realized every single person that sucks on my Facebook feed is, coincidentally, from Flagstaff, and you know, just all kinds of things. 

Hawaii got further and farther away, but never left our minds.  I think, without even intending it, a new template had formed in both our hearts, and nothing but Hawaii would do.  I mean — after an experience like that, you just can’t go back to not knowing how happy you could be, showering outdoors etc.  

So many moons later, it just so happened that my brother was trying to pick a new home town at random.  He’s been in Seattle since 2012, and has become very successful in two different endeavors there, and has gotten himself up into the tax bracket where you pay more in taxes than either of us has ever even earned, gross, in a year, and suddenly found himself in a city running the “grand experiment” of defunding the police.  Can you imagine?  I’m sorry, but can you fucking imagine.  Writing big big checks, BIG checks, to pay for infrastructural stuff you expect to just be there, and it’s not like all this liquid cash and you’re just splitting off some of it.  My brother maxed his fucking credit cards out to get this business up and running, and it was touch and go for a while, and even when it did well, which was generally because he and his partner are both excellent, it was always a gamble.  All these employees, all this overhead, all this risk, all this liability, years of planning, and then writing these big ass tax checks from the standpoint of all that being new!  Brand new.  None of it feeling secure yet.  Not fully out of the woods on that liability for sure being an asset, long term.  But a wonderful passion project, nonetheless.  And then they defund the fucking police, after weeks of rioting, right around his fucking business, defacing it for no reason.  Fuck that.  I have zero empathy.  This whole thing jumped the shark for me real early.    

So my brother is like, “Yeah I’m gonna GTFU” (biz can function without his direct presence, at this point) and was considering a return to AZ, because our dad is there, and Nick and I were both like, “HAWAII!”  Abe is so laid back, lolllll, he was like, “Alright then, why not.”  He’d never even been there.  And even once he got there, he still wasn’t there, because 14 day quarantine.  By the way, I *hate* that we’re still using the term quarantine, as if it’s justified.  You quarantine sick people; you house arrest well people.  There’s a difference.

Anyway, so Nick and I doubled down on money-making efforts we’d by then aligned ourselves with, notably withstanding violent dust storms in the middle of various nowheres, having flies and mosquitoes constantly land on us, traversing canyons with rockfalls actively on fire, etcetera and so forth, and started bemoaning in earnest that our dad would probably, like 100%, never be willing to move with us.  I just don’t want to be separated from him now, of all times.  He’s worked to make the house a bit of a disaster bunker, with stores of kerosene and dried foods, and he loves to sit outside and smoke his pipe.  He’s been unhappy since some very low-quality neighbors moved in, with understandably barking, neglected dogs they don’t pay any attention to, etcetera, but when Nick and I floated the idea out a couple weeks ago, he was like, “Active volcanoes and surrounded by sharks?  Noooooooooope.  No.”  

I said, “Well, you’re kind of obligated to be where your kids are.  I mean, you’re our dad and we need you, so…”. Somehow, probably with the influence of the general national instability, he’s decided to make the move with us, but he’s a bit anxious about the logistics of it.  I mean, none of us has ever moved off the continent before.  We’ll figure it out and I’m sure dumber people than us have made it happen.  That’s always my mantra, when in doubt: someone dumber than me figured this out.  

I’ll wrap up the blog now — we’ve gotta tear everything down and head for the new camp, and I need to see if I can squeeze my 18 wheeler into an RV place here in town, on the way out, and top off my propane tanks.  I learned the hard way not to just call and have it delivered.  Last time I did that, the guy came, said he couldn’t give me a receipt, the office would bill me, and then next thing you know my boss is texting, asking why there’s a near-THOUSAND DOLLAR CHARGE on my card.  74 gallons of propane.  A thousand dollars.  I’ve been on the phone with them off and on the last two days, and they’ve been lobbing out lower and lower numbers with increasing explanations and apologies.  None of it was low enough so I finally sic’d my boss on them, which I’m sure went well.  The only explanation is that they saw us getting a piece of this sweet ass fire season and decided to grab what they could and see if we’d notice.  You notice 74 gallons of propane costing a thousand dollars, it turns out.  So anyway, I had a real heart to heart with the lady at the RV park here, over the phone, and I’m feeling really clear about what she’s going to charge me, and fingers crossed for a good outcome, both in terms of fitting into their yard and being charged fairly.

Well, time to start breaking down.  We’re in that magical hour between it being too cold and too hot.  It doesn’t last long.                              

2 thoughts on “One Dust Storm Closer

  1. Grisham is the worst. The rona is practically non existent in NM now, but the zombies are all walking around with their masks and the f’ing guv is ignoring her own baselines for getting back to normal, all of which have now been met. We the People have become so divided the elite assholes know they can ring a bell and make us salivate or some such analogy as that. I’m glad your dad is going with you to the islands.

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