Doing the Marathon

The courtyard, complete with random chickens

Actually, I think if I tried to run a marathon I’d either die from exhaustion or just sheer boredom. How do people run for more than half a marathon? Even with ESPN on in front of me, I still get too bored and distracted.

But I digress: this post is about Marathon, Texas, a town in the middle of nowhere that borders on the Big Bend National Park. This is a really nice area for when you want to get away from doing anything at all, largely because you can do nothing except explore, sit, and drink. It manages to gather together a fairly eccentric group of people from all around the world. This time we found a bunch of Canadians, Yankees, and even a German, all of whom I assume were escaping the cold. It’s always fun to sit around the fire and talk to random people about random things; in fact, this is one of my strong suits, and I definitely get it from my dad, who apparently can make friends with anyone, anywhere.

The famous white buffalo from the Gauge Hotel. He looks a little down. Maybe it's because he never fit in as a kid, or maybe just because he got his ass shot

Way back when, this was my spring break in 2008 but this time we did less exploring and more sitting around and drinking. Doing nothing is occasionally very good, though I ended up feeling a like I needed a break for my break by the end of it (a phrase I liked and stole from Logen this morning).

It was still a good break from the routine. I largely do the same thing every single day; the same repetitious physical tasks. I’m now really, really good at doing what I do, but apart from that, I am pretty tired of it. Ready for May to roll around and the Navy to send me out. Ready to end up in Charleston, South Carolina and give that a go. Kind of hard to be motivated to go to the gym every day because it’s got so boring. Maybe I should try that P90X thing to keep it varied? My friend Josh has it and I just need to go pick it up. But then I’d be pissed at paying the gym fee and not using it. Yes, this is really the deep kind of debate I have with myself. (That and what gas station I’ll pick for lunch. Try the FIRST Stripes when you get into Crane, TX and you’ll be in for a delicious liver and gizzard treat!)

The following weeks still should be good. Still working on figuring out a date for visiting Emily, but March is pretty full and April is rough for her, so I’ll have to mess around and see what I can get arranged. And visit Sam in his million dollar crash Manhattan crash pad, as soon as he gets it. Gotta do all this before May, and it’s getting sooner.

I had to delay things a little since I got another speeding ticket. I actually don’t care too much since it was just 200 dollars and I can’t take that awful waste of my soul class, but it did mean I got the fun Navy lectures and got to fill out a sheet basically saying I’ll never speed again, ever. Military loves their paperwork.

For now though, that’s it. I spend a good part of my day thinking that I should update this, but I rarely have much to say that’s interesting, and even when I do update it, I don’t find it all that interesting when I see all of the awesome things my friends are doing with their lives.

Except Dan.

Get Out of My Gym

Ah, West Texas. Only here would you find this on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. What's funnier, the coyote or the fact that someone actually did this?

Well, it’s the new year — 2011, one year away from our inevitable destruction. If John Cusack survives the 2012 apocalypse, it’s still a complete loss in my eyes. So, I have been neglecting this for a while. It’s not really out of a lack of interest. I think about updating this daily but by the time I get home I usually want to work out, shower, and go to bed. Yes, my life is the pinnacle of excitement.

Anyway, I’ve always seen those commercials on TV about joining a gym after New Year’s and I didn’t realize that people actually flock to the gym like that. Today it was actually impossible to do anything. Every machine, even the old busted bikes with the giant wheels, were being used. I can’t believe how many people were there. Definitely over 100 (whereas before there were maybe 10). What’s sad is that people have to have this trigger to get to the gym. If you want to work out, just go to the gym. I ended up starting about this time last year though it was because I wanted to rather than what everyone always does. Anyway, the whole concept just seems weird. I’m wondering how long it will take for them to fizzle out. The lady behind the desk says March and it’ll be completely back to normal. Can’t come soon enough.

So besides the gym frustrations, I spent my New Year in Dallas for the Chastain family reunion. Good times, good food. I wish we had more time to go explore Dallas a little, but we’re usually in and out pretty quick. I managed to get some sort of awful sinus infection (girls dig it), and missed most of work last week. I really hate just sitting around all day doing nothing, especially for the better part of a week. I ended up just playing video games (c’mon like I would read a book?). I felt pretty awful. I’m not sure how Sam could sit around and play Battlefield from 8 AM to 8 PM at my apartment… I guess that’s considered a skill.

Pretty nice ride. Can't wait to take it off some sick jumps. (You got like 4 feet of air that time.)

One of the cooler things to happen is that my dad sold his motorcycle and bought a pretty sick Jeep. I think it’s a lot more practical than a motorcycle and I can’t wait to beast mode it at Big Bend later this year. Hopefully when it’s warmer. This cold weather stuff is for chumps.

And finally, the Navy got back to me. My commission was denied for all three fields, meaning I’ll go back to being enlisted and doing the nuclear field. Not all bad, but I can’t help feel like there was something more I could have done. Also it means I’ll be here until May. Trying to hold down the fort until then.

So in the spirit of resolutions, I was thinking about making one to go with the fad, but I just came up with a list of stuff I want to do before I die, unless I die first. And here it is:

  • Sky dive. This is my biggest fear in the entire world. It’s not natural to jump out of a perfectly good plane. Also if the chute doesn’t open you’ll have to think about how much you shouldn’t have jumped out of that plane. But, I want to do it so I can say I did it.
  • Get in a shark cage with pissed off sharks. One of our relatives works in Galveston for a nonprofit dealing with ocean life, so I will have to get her advice. I’ll probably have to do it in Mexico to make it cheap. I feel like either way, I’ll be charged an arm and a leg, one more literal than the other.
  • Run a marathon. This sounds so ridiculously impossible. By the time I hit 8 miles I’m nearly dead. How do people do that? It’s insane. It will kill me. Might as well do it.
  • Get back to Australia. Man, I love that place. I have to go back and relive some of the best experiences of my entire life. In general, I just want to travel. Maybe that’s why the Navy was so appealing?
  • This is the poster for a documentary on why we shouldn't like spiders.

    Hold a tarantula. This is right up there with skydiving. They are hell spawn abominations. I hate spiders, but I really hate the massive tarantulas. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about them. So, I better man up and hold one.

  • Have a stranger recognize me for something I’ve done. And, hopefully that’s a good something. I don’t want to be a star, but it would be pretty awesome if I was known for something awesome — like that guy who went to Mexico and jumped into a shark cage and ended up losing an appendage much to the delight of YouTube.
  • Pay off all my debt. I’m actually closer to this goal than I have been in years. I finally got my credit card completely paid off — the first time since I turned 18. At this point, I’ll try not to use it again. Now all I have are my student loans. Awesome.
  • Give more. I really would like to give more. Right now, it’s hard to give much of anything since I’m pretty constrained with the aforementioned student loans. But I feel like it’s a good thing in general to get in the practice of giving. Maybe not money at this moment, but time. I do have time off occasionally and I really should try to do something productive with it instead of sit in front of YouTube wasting my life.

 

December

Our Christmas tree, and I didn’t even have to help put it together

December for me usually just means it’s freezing cold and I’m in Midland for the holidays. Now that I’m living here for who knows how long until the Navy lets me figure out my future, I have just kind of faded into this month — there aren’t any finals or big parties to announce it at school, and now this is my life. I try not to hate on Midland too much (oh wait, no I don’t), but last Thursday I think everything finally got to me. I was having one of those days where you just think “how much more of this can I take”, and it was compounded by the frustrations of the preceding days. As well, not knowing what is going on in my life is really hard when I can barely afford my student loans, my job was supposed to be temporary, and I have to be here just in a holding pattern until I find out.

I’m a gangster, or an oil field worker sick of dust.

So, on this Thursday I managed to get H2S gassed pretty good and lost my breakfast from the stuff (it makes me really sick to my stomach, for some reason; my dad shrugged this off like I was just weak, but whatever). And then the next unit I went to had yellow jackets inside the panel, meaning as soon as I opened it they got completely pissed. I tried to go back to it to close it, but they were too angry, leading me to have to wrap up in every piece of winter clothes I could find to try to protect myself to go in for a quick run and get my ladder back and get the unit sealed up. I managed to do it, though I did get stung and was covered in them when I was scrambling to get into my truck. Just not a fan of these things. So they next unit I go to — same deal, full of yellow jackets. And this is the day that I ran out of wasp spray while I was spraying them. Not a very good situation to be in, trust me. Basically, the whole day turned out to be a complete bust and I was driving home just thinking about how I didn’t want to go home, but I didn’t want to be at work, but I had to do both things in one day.

The most exciting thing of the week: I got lost in the field and found the remains of Hobbs AFB, complete with old plane parts and grown up runways.

Somehow the day ended and things were better the next day. The wind had died down so I didn’t need a bandanna to keep from choking on the dust, and it was strangely something like 85 degrees. Some December this is turning out to be. I know because I said this we’ll have record cold temperatures now. I even spent some time at my brother’s and played some video games, which was nice for a change. Yes, this is about as close to going out as I get lately.

I’m excited for people I like coming into town for a few days. Change things up and refresh my sanity. I’m also hopeful that this coming week I will find out what the Navy will do with me so I can know for sure where I’m going, when I’m going, and what I’m doing. I need something to look forward to, and these are the two things that keep me going. I also need some structure that isn’t this structure. That is my hope on the horizon.

Sweet, Sweet Justice

Here's what New Mexico wants you to think New Mexico looks like.

New Mexico sucks. Honestly, I don’t see why they made a New Mexico when the Old Mexico was bad enough as it is. Nearly everyone will tell you that it sucks, especially Texans. (Everything just seems smaller there — I don’t get it!) I’ve recently remarked on my twitter that when you live a bad life and do bad things and die, you don’t go to hell, you just go to Jal, New Mexico. (The town’s slogan is “LIVING IN JAL, NM”. I think this was all they could attribute to Jal — people do indeed live there. Though “DYING IN JAL, NM” might be equally appropriate.)

I think that the constant 65 MPH winds are a good start to why it sucks, but you need to combine that with the desolate wasteland and the dust to get a better picture. The worst problem is that New Mexico apparently has the world’s slowest speed limits and the most highway patrol cars in the world. Some highways in the oilfield are, get this, 45 MPH though most are a somewhat more palatable 55 MPH (which is still slower than the damn wind).

Here's what New Mexico actually looks like.

So, I really don’t mind speeding and going ten over or whatever. People who know me know that I drive offensively rather than defensively because defense doesn’t win football games so obviously it doesn’t win life either. But, right now because I have the Navy review boards going on, I absolutely can’t get a ticket or this could set everything months behind. It’s such a huge hassle to deal with a ticket in the military (seriously, why are there so many forms?) that I would do whatever it takes to avoid getting one. This means actually following speed limits that are so impractical and awful that no one besides myself will even consider obeying.

Usually, this entails that the drivers will  just pass you since there’s hardly ever any turns anyway and the possibility of a hill is also pretty remote (though there are a few here and there). I don’t mind this: if I was in a hurry I would go the Texas style minimum of 70 MPH and just say I forgot I was in New Mexico because it’s just a little worse looking than West Texas. So, that’s fine with me. However, what I do mind is when people are pissed off about me going the speed limit. If you have to pass, don’t tailgate me and then stare at me like I’m an idiot when you pass. That’s frustrating but I deal with it.

But today some tool (a Texan tool, sadly) was tailgating me in a 55 MPH when he was obviously trying to go 75 MPH. When he finally passed (in the middle of an open nowhere, so it wasn’t a big deal anyway), he not only stared at me but flipped me off. I considered speeding up and not letting him pass, or cutting him off right as a 50 foot bridge came up and he would hurl off the side of it in a fiery explosion ala an early ’90s action movie… but I contained myself and just let him do his thing like an adult. But I was still angry. That jerk.

I drove off with a smug satisfaction. Thanks for fixing this one God!

So I continued to drive and passed through Jal on Highway 18 and on my way out, who do I see on the side of the road? The truck that flipped me off and he was getting a ticket for speeding. I laughed some sadistic, insane laugh and started shouting “yes, yes!” because I was so happy at seeing this. Of course, when I drove by, I slowed down and honked so the driver saw me and my huge smile.

Enjoy the ticket, you dick.

This Town or This Weather

This field is a good summary of my life right now.

I’m not sure which it is, to be honest. I’ve been feeling sick, kind of foggy for the last few days (weeks?) and it’s just not going away. I think partly because I do the same thing day in and day out and that it’s actually a pretty tiring routine, but I think it’s also something to do with the weather, random illness, sorcery, and living in Midland. All of this combined has left me at a blank and sometimes I feel like this blog is the only connection I have to those random stories and ideas that are in my head. I contemplated doing movie reviews of all the movies I watch — I watch a lot of them, let that be known. But, in the end, I scrapped my review of Dead Snow (it’s a movie about Nazi zombies, so basically it’s the best movie created) and wondered what the hell is this blog for? Who is reading it? Originally this way to post my day-to-day crap, but right now I’m not really emo or really happy or anything. It’s just been uneventful.

If anything, this is a good stress relief and so I think I’ll try to post my random daily thoughts even though they are just kind of average events. Maybe when I look back on this in five years I’ll have some sort of emotion towards it one way or another.

Thanksgiving is coming up and my mom is worrying about the logistics of it. I’m just thankful we don’t have turkey like everyone else. We’re doing steaks, which is the Texas way of saying we’re awesome. Usually at this time I’m at Trinity hating myself over midterms, but right now I just get to go to New Mexico and do oil field stuff. It’s a lot less stressful, though I find there are advantages to being in a warm dorm room complaining to the guys about schoolwork when you’re outside in the blowing dust and the cold. Makes you get quick at getting things done though. Today I ate some leftover Chinese food that I warmed up on my dash. I think I’m starting to get into this oil field gig, which may be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

12 year olds scream that I suck. And I do. But at least I'm not 12, you little shits.

I haven’t been doing much new besides work. I’ve played some more Call of Duty Black Ops, which is the most infuriating game that makes me want to go strangle the 12 year old players who apparently do nothing except play video games all day long. I’ve already broken a controller. I picked up the new Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and the new Need for Speed Hot Pursuit (Gamestop must really love the thousands of dollars I’ve pumped into them over the years). But, I’m writing this instead of playing them. Like I said, I have a video game collecting problem, not a video game playing problem. I’ll get around to them this weekend. But, at the same time, I really need to spend more time at the gym. I’ve been getting home late (or getting home early and taking naps) and that’s cut into my daily gym time. The results are pretty good still and everyone has been complimenting me on my progress, but I guess I want more. I only ran 5 miles and biked 10 miles, which is decisively less than I want to. I know that sounds like a lot, but I need to do more. There’s no goal really, I just want to push myself. I know that when I ship out I will be unprepared regardless of what I do, but having an edge physically will be helpful. Or it can’t hurt.

So, there you go. That’s me for right now.

Nose Bleed

This is how I look the other 99% of the time

So, I’m not sure what it is about Midland and the West Texas area in general, but for whatever reason, I get nosebleeds about once every week or two weeks. Maybe it’s the dry climate, maybe it’s the dust. I’m not entirely sure. I know it’s just this part of the country though because I never got them in San Antonio or anywhere else.

Well, today I was driving in my truck to a  unit near Garden City that had stopped responding and I realized that my nose was dripping blood all over me and had apparently been for a little while because I hadn’t noticed. I quickly grabbed for something to stop the leak with, which ended up being a Sonic paper bag, and tried to at least collect the blood and make sure it didn’t get on anything I would have to pay for (thankfully, it didn’t).

While scrambling for this, my left hand had already got completely covered in blood (this was a good flow) and I’m pretty sure I looked like I had just been shot in the face. Of course, what could happen but, in the middle of a nowhere, a truck was trying to pass me. I watched him pull around me into the oncoming lane and pass, and then, he must have saw me and wondered what the hell he had just witnessed, and instead of going into the right lane to overtake me, he slowed down and matched my speed right beside me. He just looked over with this perplexed look and I gave him the “What?” look like nothing was wrong. He eventually drove on, but it took him about 15 seconds of staring at me for him to get tired of it. This was kind of weird, kind of hilarious. If it had been me in that truck I would have been pulling out my phone to take a picture, so I guess I can’t fault the guy.

Either way, it’s not something I’m likely to forget for a while.

Taking on the Oil Field

This, this is what I work with. I hook stuff up to a box that takes readings from this.

At first glance, you might think that working in the oil field is all fun and games. Oh wait, no one thinks that because it’s damn hard work. It’s something that has really taken some getting used to, and it’s definitely made me respect the people that do it day in and day out with little benefits besides a steady paycheck (which is, I guess, the main benefit). So first, it should be clarified as to what I do because that’s really the hardest thing to explain to people.

I just deleted a full paragraph explaining what I do because it’s so uninteresting I can’t even bare to read it, so here’s the short version: I dig holes in the desert to mount equipment that goes on the tanks that hold the oil.

The real focus of this post is not really what I do, but really what the oil field makes you into. I’m not trying to get poetic — it’s really not some man vs. the machine thing that makes him stronger in the end. It’s really just a natural progression of what happens to people who work in the oil fields, and this is dedicated to them. Of course, I don’t think anyone who works in the oil fields even knows what a blog is!

There are a few main elements which make working in the oil field a pain, and I felt compelled to make a list of them with no specific order since each have their own merits:

  • Trying to find remote locations. It’s nearly impossible to find some of the oil leases. You’ll drive for hours around a fence line only to find a small dirt road that will take you to an adjacent fence next to where you want, but never quite there. This gets better with time since you learn to look for tanks, pump units, and black piping on the side of the “road” as clues.
  • Dealing with the elements. It’s either super hot or super cold, with few exceptions. You combine this with some rain and if you don’t have a 4×4 you’re screwed (bring tow ropes). If it’s windy, the dust will make it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you.
  • My brother shows off his kill, a 6 foot rattlesnake

    Nature. I can’t think of many positive words to describe yellow jackets (the wasps, not the fashion statement), and I think even God might be at a loss as to why He decided to add them to the roster of awful creatures. I’m being particularly harsh tonight because I was stung earlier today on the back of my neck. There are also a large number of spiders, though I am less upset by these than I initially was. Rattlesnakes exist and some of them are pretty huge. I’ve only seen a couple and they didn’t bother me, but I would imagine getting bit by one in the middle of nowhere has to have a huge suck factor.

  • For the astute observer, yes I work the oil fields in a black vneck so I can crash the clubs when I'm done

    Hazardous chemicals. Well, I think oil itself is supposed to be dangerous right? I was seeing them wear all sorts of outfits to clean the oil spill in the Gulf, but I certainly haven’t seen them out here. As far as I’m concerned, a little oil never hurt anyone. But, what does really suck is something called H2S gas, which is basically like a tear gas that makes you feel lightheaded and foggy. Everyone wears a meter to detect it, but it only goes off when it’s above a certain percentage. In general, about 50% of the places I go have some of this gas (it is often associated with the smell of rotten eggs), and of those 50%, 80% have levels high enough to make me work while streaming tears down my face. I haven’t cried like that since a funeral. Then again, I think my eyes are pretty weak to that stuff. Either way, I guess in theory you could die from this gas, but it’s more of a frustration than a danger.

  • Entertainment. I get it, it’s work, why do you need entertainment? Well, I get the pleasure of driving to all of these locations and a big part of the job is just making it there and back, sometimes being hours just getting to one unit that takes 15 minutes to get going right. So, in the company truck, there is one option: the radio. I’m not quite sure why, but the strongest station I can get is a pop station. So it’s either Katy Perry or static-filled conservative talk radio or silence. This is more of a danger to your sanity than anything else.
  • There’s more stuff that sucks that could go here (like dismemberment and death), but you get the idea.

What’s the point of even talking about all this? Well, the effect that is has on the people who do this kind of work every day is apparently pretty evident, that or it just naturally attracts the most badass dudes on the planet. These are some no-nonsense folk who make me feel like the most out of place guy around… though I’m finally getting used to how things work out here.

This whole story has essentially led me to a short example of why the oil field workers are the hardest people on the planet. When I meeting someone to show me where a unit was located, the guy walked up to me and said hello and we shook hands. After this, he grabbed my shoulder and pulled back a still moving yellow jacket and crushed it inbetween his fingers. Before going back to his truck, he said only this:

“You had a wasp there.”

This man is the epitome of America.