[27 April 2021> Flashing back to Portsmouth, Sept 1997, picking up from post #869...]
September 7, 1997 — Portsmouth
My temp job as a systems operator is over. I was starting to get stressed towards the end of last week. Had an interview with this geotechnical/environmental company and they hired me on the spot, but it was only for $9/hr (sort of field tech position) but I was getting weird vibes from the guy who interviewed me. Seemed like a sketchy place. And my benefits wouldn't go into effect for 90 days... though it would be good experience to break into the environmental field. But my gut instinct tells me to hold out so I stalled and postponed my start date til next wednesday. So now I have two days to get a better offer and if I don't I'll probably take it. I have a couple of temp jobs cooking, which would work out better because then I could shop around more and not make a commitment right away. Sucks being unemployed like this.
[Our bedder-½] has started her classes, both teaching and receiving. I am really proud of her, that she is going to get her PhD. At least one of us is somewhat focused. I'd like to get focused on writing but it's hard until we have a steady income. Have been working on "Shadow Puppet" some. Didn't go anywhere this weekend except to Hampton to see the infamous seafood festival. What a joke. Louie the Lobster skydiving out of an airplane. Greasy fast food sea food, stalls and tents crammed with tourists, lame crafts, etc... But the beach was nice. Things will get nicer as the tourist season dwindles and it slowly is. We also went to Durham, our bedder-½ studied while I wrote in her office. Then I got a membership and we worked out at the gym, they have a climbing treadmill which is really cool.
Lots of death going on in the world. When Princess Di died, I made some comment to our bedder-½ like— "what's the big deal, what did she do besides marry a prince? Now if Mother Theresa died . . . " and sure enough she died the next day. Evidently George Clooney made the same prediction. No surprise, it's only natural to think of Mother Theresa, the next most famous woman in line after princess Di, and far more respected, I would think, but I guess not, because Di got all the attention. People, westerners in particular, are obsessed with death. They're also obsessed with taking pictures. The paparazzi and the media are eating this all up, and so are the people. I was looking at a picture of the funeral procession and I'd say 80% of the people had cameras glued to their eyes rather than just watching it with their own eyes. As if they're isn't enough professional photographers snapping pictures. Everybody secretly wants to see the grim details in the coffin, yet they criticize the paparazzi for taking pictures of her dead. Hypocrites.
[... not sure if it was intentional or not, but the next journal entry (w/ filename "J19970908 WITHDRAWL.txt") was as follows... seems like a text we were working on that eventually went into Marsupial:]
Hotel St. Jean, Paris, October 27, 1994. 22:51
ACT 8: SCENE 1
circa 12th century B.C.
Crawfish (7:5): To withdraw from an undertaking (Informal)
and agrees to the duel with Menelaus. The victor will win Helen and the duel will be followed by a treaty of peace."
"Menelaus is the superior crawdad with the bigger claw. He inflicts a wound on Paris, chopping his claw off." John pulls the claw off Paris. The pincer continues to move after he has pulled it off. Paris continues to wave a naked dangling tendon around though there is no claw attached. "The trojan prince is taken captive, but while Menelaus is dragging him to the Achaean lines, Aphrodite intervenes to rescue her favorite. She conceals him in a mist (John waves a wad of Spanish Moss) and carries him off to his home in Troy where she brings Helen to join him."
September 13, 97 — Portsmouth
Things are looking up. A little. Monday I didn't go work for that PSI company. I got a call from Watts and they wanted me back. Still part time on a week to week basis. So I went back. It's good for the time being. I also got a call from Opus and they wanted me back for a second interview. I was getting really excited. Couldn't sleep I was thinking about the job so much. I went out and bought a book on Delphi so I would be up on it. Interesting stuff — "visual" programming, object oriented. You spend more time playing with objects, in windows, rather than writing code. The logic of the programming flows with the windows you're creating. I was wanting this job so bad that I was getting nervous for the interview. I met with Bob Betts and Mark Burton, project managers of sorts. I guess it went well except I have this sweating problem. Like my face gets glazed with sweat. I've gotten to the point where I just don't care and just let myself sweat whereas I used to fight it and let it stress me out. There's nothing I can do about it, I'm just a freak of nature. Like a tea kettle boiling through my pores. I have one more hoop to jump through, assuming they call me back for yet a third interview, which they said they would. This one will be with the president and vice-president. I guess the coolest thing about this job is that it's so close, I could walk there and even come home for lunch, and they're casual, and I would have a stable job with insurance and stuff. But I don't want to think about it too much as it will only lead to disappointment if I don't get the job. I am finally getting calls on resumes I sent last month. A few things sort of pending. Hopefully something will pan out. Watts kind of sucked the last couple of days. I have to inventory all the PC's in the whole company. So I've got to bug everybody in the middle of their work and mess around to find all the specs of what kind of processors and memory their computers have, and then pull it out (knocking over all their stuff) or crawling under their desks to try to pull serial numbers off the backs of their computers, printers and monitors. It's not a glamorous job and it's not making me popular with all the Watts employees. Nevertheless I am learning all the different types of computer hardware. Speaking of computers we got the 540 back, they fixed the broken screen, so now our bedder-½ has a computer, and I can also utilize its modem and superior power than this one (maybe link them up in a little network). I love this little computer though. He's been through a lot of finger pounding. I haven't been writing in my journal enough. I'm not writing about the lobster fisherman who cruise by in front of our window, the foggy days, climbing on the treadmill wall at the UNH rec center, the huge Russian ships unloading sand on the dock below us, the kiss our bedder-½ gave me this morning, and many other things that are just, are just.
[watching the ships go by]
September 17, 1997 — Portsmouth
The Shipping News:
There's a ship that's docked right outside our window
The Nikaia Valetta.
We watched as the tugboats guided her through
The sirens gave warning,
traffic is backed up in town,
there's a hole in the bridge.
The tugboats pressed against her sides blowing
billows of black smoke—
You can tell how hard they work by how dark the smoke is
They guided the Nikaia Valetta up to the dock at
Granite State Minerals,
where she still is.
The cranes have been plodding endlessly scooping
salt out of her hull.
Scoop after scoop of unrefined, brown salt.
The ship is revealed as her hull is emptied.
The men from some foreign country, Russia
or an obscure Eastern European country
lean on the rails smoking.
Their work is done.
They have brought us the salt from their land,
That we will spread on our streets in the wintertime.
Salt that will melt ice, be acquiesced in solution
and be returned to the sea.
But in the process the ice is melted
and our roads will be clear.
It is still fall now and I have yet to spend a winter
in New England
The tugboats pressed against the laden ship's sides blowing here in the mouth
between Maine and New Hampshire
Where the Piscataqua sucks in and out like a giant
living beast, that lives between
Maine and New Hampshire, like when the draw
bridge is up and you can't get there from here.
The piles of salt grow like sand in an hourglass
More of the hull is revealed.
We saw a marmot laying under a boulder where our bedder-½ works
as if he sensed the impending winter.
We were watching a frog and it hopped by a boulder
a snake leaped out from under and snatched the frog
I still haven't found a job,
it's hard enough to find a place to park the car.
But Portsmouth stockpiles salt to keep the roads clear
and that is reassuring.
The salt silently on the dock in piles,
the weight is off the ship's chest
and she can breathe a sigh of relief.
Just like when we unloaded the U-haul, load by load, upstairs and into our apartment.
Storing all the potential energy,
stockpiling for the winter.
"We'll have to come back in February and see
if we see him come out and see his shadow."
I've been calling our bedder-½ my Lil' Tugboat and yesterday
She asked why. This is why. All that residual salt
that has been left in the undrained basin, all the sweat
caked on my field hat,
the inland valley with no outlet to the sea,
years in the desert, where water and sweat evaporate
into the endless sky, leaving the minerals behind.
We'll need that salt to keep the roads clear.
We make love in the loft, we can see the harvest moon
through the open moon-roof,
and she guides me through her drawbridge
pressing against my sides,
the drawbridge over the outlet to the sea,
from the Piscataqua that runs from the White mountains
then sloshes back and forth before it reaches the sea
inevitably more goes out then comes in
and it just keeps going,
the salt pile,
the moon cycle,
I am starting to get more calls for interviews. I have two on Friday in Boston. One is with a company called AER that get all those GIS images, satellite maps and weather maps and all that, they do environmental research. And another with Gamera, that do bio-technical stuff, building centrifuge things for the medical industry. But both are in Boston. I don't have a job yet just as the salt is piled up.
September 22, 1997 — Portsmouth
My job with Opus 2 is almost secured. I'm trying not to get too excited until I see it in writing. I tried to get a hold of George on Friday morning to no avail. Friday afternoon I took off early for my interviews in Boston. My first was with AER in Cambridge. They do research in environmental atmospheric research. Traffic was hectic, but Cambridge is unique and beautiful. Stoney bridges over the river, people lounging on the grassy banks, rowboats in the river— reminds me of how England would be, or Christchurch, New Zealand. The first person I interviewed with was this woman that went to Santa Cruz a few years before I did. So we had something to talk about and she knew some of the professors I had, such as Al Kelly. She seemed pretty impressed, but then she went and got the president. From the beginning he seemed like he didn't like me. He didn't look at me at all and would ask me technical questions than interrupt me before I even answered them. I felt very uncomfortable and had a panic attack, breaking out into a sweat. I am such a freak. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.
I went to Medford to this place, Gamera Biosciences. The atmosphere was far more laid back. The lab was like an art gallery. Very high ceiling with molecular biological photographs disguised as artwork. They were playing the Cure and Sonic Youth and the secretary was drinking beer. The guy who interviewed me, Greg Kellog's first words were "nice suit" (he was in jeans and a T-shirt). He took me to his desk and showed me what they did which was very nice. Most companies don't go through too much trouble to try to show you like this. They make these point-of-care diagnostic things for the medical industry. Plastic discs the size of CD's that had these intricate designs of capillary size channels and storage tanks. The idea being that you place a sample, such as blood into this one area. Chemical reagents or something in another. Then spin the disk around at certain speeds to have them go through certain channels and separate out and mix. Pretty cool stuff. It was a hands-on position helping this guy sort out the physics of this thing. He seemed to like me and I felt good about everything except the commute.
Saturday morning George called me and wanted to meet with me. He was going to Vegas all next week so it was good he called me back. He seemed to just want to reconfirm his thoughts about me. It seemed very positive, he said Bob and Mark had said our interview had gone well, and it seems it's just a matter of them checking my references. He said unless something went wrong, which he doubted, I would have the job. Starting at $30K with health insurance and all that. Which actually isn't that bad, because besides figuring the commute into my salary I also forgot that if you work in New Hampshire you don't pay state taxes. And hopefully I'll get raises quickly. Now it's just a matter of waiting til I actually get called in. The timing's right as this is my last week with Watts. And it's not like there's a lot for me to do, it's incredibly boring.
Yesterday we went to Pawtuckaway. The second time we've been there. Two weeks ago we went and did this 5.4 and a 5.5 on the upper slabs. It was all right. Very short climbs and very crowded with people setting up top-ropes everywhere. The coolest part was that we were admiring this frog and then this snake jumped out from under a rock and ate it. I blinked and missed it (saw it out of the corner of my eye) but our bedder-½ saw it. The setting is also very nice. It's right on these two lakes. One lake is more like a swamp with all these tree stumps sticking out of it. Looks like it should be named Dante's Inferno or something.
Yesterday our bedder-½'s friend, Carrie met us there, along with her partner, Chris and their dalmatian. Our bedder-½ and I had climbed the overhang (5.7) before they got there. It was a decent little climb. We went up to the upper slabs once Carrie and Chris arrived. There was this climb— Blah that was supposedly "the hardest 5.6 in the world", in other words it was more like 5.10. Total sandbag. Seemed like that to me anyway, but then again its' been a while since I've done anything hard. I hang-dogged up it in bad form. Then belayed them while they all tried it. Then we went back down to the lower slabs (we were dictated by what climbs were available, literally top ropes on every route). When in Rome do as the Romans. I set top-ropes on that first 5.7 we did so Chris and Carrie could do it. Then set up another top-rope on this other 5.7 which was not a bad little climb. I made cat sounds to confuse Alex the dalmatian while i belayed then set up another top-rope on The Dike that followed this black dike up some slabby face. Our bedder-½ got a few moves up and pulled her shoulder out. It popped out and back in and may have torn some muscles. She hasn't seen a doctor about it yet. I worry about her. It's hard to go climb with her and not worry about her hurting herself.
It's getting colder and rainier and the sun is coming up later.
[hordes of climbers in the White mtns]
September 26, 1997 — Portsmouth
Opus made me an offer! $32K! I start Monday. Hasn't quite sunk in, I don't think I will believe until I start working there. I haven't seen anything in writing yet. It feels great. So much worry and stress alleviated. I think that salary should easily tie us over and get us out of debt. It should allow our bedder-½ to complete her studies and I should have plenty of time to work. A third of the day is not much of a sacrifice to make to keep clothes on your back, food in your stomach, a car to drive and a great view when you wake up in a warm apartment. Assuming I don't get pressured into working more than that, granted I probably will at first.
I originally told Bob Betts (the guy I will be working directly under) that I would start Friday (today) but when I called Paula to make sure that was okay she was being lame and said they wanted to use me until the end of the week. I couldn't complain as her reference (they asked me for a Watts reference that Chuck, the CEO, called) was the final deciding factor. But I finished all the work she had for me (boring data entry and spread sheet stuff) and today I am just chilling. Poor bedder-½ had to wake up early after staying up late but I slept in until nine. Bought some writing journals and Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground" which I haven't read yet. Plan to do some reading and writing all weekend and just enjoy my last days before I am committed to a "real" job. Imagine that... I haven't really had a real, normal job, health insurance and benefits, 9 to 5 in an office, etc. It will be strange. But I think I am in a stage of my life where I can get into it. I have not had a travel itch really (though it will be nice to have the extra cash to take real vacations, i.e. maybe Nepal next summer to finally lay Kevin's ashes to rest.) I am looking forward to just being in this new funky town, getting into the lifestyle here, and doing a lot of writing and reading. Well, so much for talk, let's do it. Time to work on my personal Opus, though my computer's internal battery is dead so now I can only use it with the adaptor. Oh well, I'll take that as a hint to remain sedentary.
[... October—December, 1997]