Canyon Cures

11 08 2013

My Yellowstone experience has definitely picked up since transferring to Canyon. I’m now working at the corrals which are 12-hour days that go fast because I’m so busy. I enjoy being around the horses and wranglers. It can get a little hectic, trying to get our guests on a scale to be weighed, but I manage without too much protest. For a fleeting moment, I considered doing this again next year. Another year in the park would be much different, provided I had a vehicle.

Surprisingly, I’ve been given a company car since the corrals are a mile up the road. It’s an old, white Chevy Cavalier. So old it still has a cassette player. Nevertheless, it gets me from point A to B just as my very own Cavalier did not too long ago. At one time in my life, I drove a 1999 silver Cavalier. It was the first car I ever purchased on my own and it was a damn good one. I bought it in Dothan, Alabama while working as a sports writer for the Dothan Eagle. I remember my dad coming to town to help me with the process, but refusing to co-sign despite prodding from my mother. I also remember being slightly aggravated with this decision. Still, I bought the car with help from a local bank and, years later after I paid off the loan, dad’s decision made perfect sense. He wanted me to establish my own line of credit.

And then greed crept in.

Not satisfied with a car that ran fine and was paid off, I sold the Cavalier and used the money to make a payment on a brand spanking new Honda Element. Along with greed it was an obvious overcompensation for something and I wish I knew what. I was in a problematic relationship at the time and trying to play the “Big Daddy” role — ultimately failing miserably. About a year and half after foolishly parting with the Cavalier, the Repo Man came calling for the Element, taking it in the middle of the night. It was early 2009. I had not quite hit rock bottom yet. But I was falling fast.

Four years later and I’m in Yellowstone — driving an older model Cavalier than the one I once owned — to a corral where I sell horse rides by the hour. Much poorer, much wiser, much happier.

Canyon life has been much better than Old Faithful for several reasons, none of which pertain to lodging or food. Old Faithful has the amenities, but Canyon has the charm. It’s a closer knit group here, far away from the over-regulated geyser basins. At Canyon, the atmosphere is laid back and easy going. We’re thick in the woods here. On my first night, I heard howling wolves in the distance. I’ve seen bear, bison and moose while hiking on nearby trails and we’re so deep into the wilderness, the news of the day (USA Today) doesn’t arrive until noon. Two of my colleagues from training are also here — Ashly and Kirk. Ashly is a quiet girl from Indiana who recently graduated college. We split the hours at the corrals. Kirk is from Georgia, in his 50s and comes from a distinguished Atlanta family. He’s a Tea Party supporter so we do not discuss politics much. Thankfully, Kirk gave me a crash course on the Canyon when I arrived. The area is incredibly diverse with towering waterfalls, a huge canyon with yellow stone walls, hidden lakes, scattered thermal features and wildlife abounds.

I’m rooming with another Asian, a nice kid from Taiwan. My previous roommate in Old Faithful was a gay 22-year-old Singaporean graphic artist with an obsession for Pokemon. He left without saying a word. I transferred to Canyon the following day.

I was definitely wounded when I arrived in Canyon. The summer has been challenging, at times it has been downright cruel.

And then I met Ann.

It was a difficult time for both of us, one might even say we were brought together by depression. I had signed up for the recreation center’s trip to Gardiner to see the Montana Shakespeare Company perform “Theater in the Park.” I did this not so much out of a strong desire to see theater, but more of along the lines of enjoying the drive to Gardiner and the incredible scenery of Dunraven Pass. There were nine of us on the trip. I was the only male. I noticed Ann’s accent right away and for a second presumed she could be French. Even better, as it turned out, she hails from Italy, a beautiful country which I visited for the first time this past January.

Theater Goers in Gardiner, Montana

Theater Goers in Gardiner, Montana

We talked the entire way to Gardiner. Once there we learned that thunderstorms had forced the outside performance to be moved into a nearby school cafeteria. The play was “The Recruiting Officer,” a peculiar work by Irish writer George Farquhar. Ann said she did not understand much of what was said. The accents were “Old English” and much of the theatrics were over the top with the obligatory gender bending roles that one comes to expect from a Shakespeare troupe.  All and all, it was a pleasant evening. Ann and I talked all the way back to the Canyon. Two days later we would go on our first hike together — learning more about each other. Step by step.


Holiday Hibernation

13 12 2011

I’ve been sleeping a lot lately. Much more than even I am accustomed to. I’ve always had a passion for sleeping, which has aggravated my mother to no end.

“You’re sleeping you’re life away!, John!!,” she would declare when I would come home from college and stumble downstairs around two in the afternoon.

One year I spent the holidays with my aunt Tammy and uncle Doug in Montgomery, Alabama and took a job at the neighborhood Winn-Dixie, working the “graveyard” shift. I was part of a stocking crew that would arrive at the store as they were closing the doors to the public. We usually worked from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and, as I remember we had a supervisor who was a real joy to be around. Sarcasm fully intended.

Looking back, I can understand why he was such a jerk to me. I was the college kid, working a few months to have some spending money for the next semester. And he was a small man in stature, and having found a smaller person to boss around was surely a delight for him.

I do not remember his name, only his chain smoking habit and coke bottled glasses. This will be the last I write of him.

So after working the graveyard shift, I would come home and eat breakfast and then go to bed. This seemed to aggravate my aunt Tammy, who was pregnant at the time and experiencing the lonely housewife blues.

My uncle Doug even gave me the nickname “Rip” — short for Rip Van Winkle.

When people often remark how young I look for my age, I usually credit the complement with my many years of sleep.

“I’ve slept a lot,” I tell them.

And it is the truth. The last two months, I’ve no doubt been horizontal much more than I have been vertical.

David calls it a destructive pattern. He’s probably right.

I’m over living in Panama City, I’m over being unemployed, I’m over being broke and I’m over fighting losing political battles.

So I have gone inward and slept. And slept. and slept some more. Each day waking with dwindling hope for the future.

I realize only I can break this behavior and, thankfully, there is incentive. David and I will spend Christmas in Port St. Joe with my parents and little brother who is bringing his young and growing family down from Alabama. Being around his new baby girl should brighten the holidays.

And then there is a blast from the past arriving soon.

Bjork, a longtime friend, from my Texas years, is coming to visit at the end of the month. He lives in England now and is a college professor. We haven’t seen each other in nearly five years and it will be exciting to catch up as Bjork has arranged for a short sidetrip to New Orleans, providing a refreshing change of scenery.

And I shall be well rested for the occasion.