Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Forgotten Thought

On my first night in L.A., I was walking along the footpath thinking about how far away I was from home, and how even though things were similar, it's actually different. I was thinking I would have liked to have been Jared, or at least have him with me, so I could understand the differences in the night time sky, the different constellations visible. To me, they would probably just look the same, but he might have been able to tell the difference. I looked up and saw nothing but cloud.

Some Thoughts On Birds

While I was waiting in the carpark of one our breaks on the way to Vegas, I saw a crow. I've always liked crows, their beautiful plummage, their size, a magnificent bird. I even like the call they make, especially the rolling gurgle thing they do. So I was pleased to see this rather large black beauty so close.
And then it spoke.
Not english, or spanish, which are the two most common languages here, but it wasn't the sound I was used to either. It wasn't a caw, it wasn't that "Predator" sound. It was more melodic, it wasn't melodic. It's actually a bit far ago for me to remember exactly, so I'm having trouble describing it, but it was weird not hearing the sound I would expect to hear.
It was probably a raven. Raven's are larger than crows I've found out since, and that might also explain the differnt sound.

They also have magpies here. I've had to doublecheck if they really are magpies, because thay don't look like magpies to me. They look like a larger black and white robin, not that I'm 100% sure what a robin looks like anyway. But they're smaller than a magpie back home, and it seems like just over half their length is their tail, and their black and white patterning is more regular, pretty much a white breast and the rest black.

One of the lead drivers made a joke the other day when we going past a hotel under construiction about the state bird of Vail being a crane. I thought it was kind of amusing. It wasn't till a few days later I realised it actually was a pun, when I remembered there actually is a bird called a crane.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Journey So Far Part 2

It was late, we didn't know where we were staying or have anything to sleep on, in the way of sheets and pillow. We were herded into a meeting room and given a quick spiel, which I'm sure no one remembers word one of. But we were given a folder with information in it and lease agreements and a key. We signed, eager to be somewhere with a bed. We were put back into our shuttles and given the choice of going to Wal Mart or just going straight to our apartments. Our shuttle chose Wal Mart, which miracously was still open. It closes at 11pm, so that gave us 15 mins. I grabbed a package deal, containig sheets, pillowcases and doona. I grabbed a pillow and decided a second one will have to wait till more money was available. I got home and opened the door with my key. There were obviously people already living there, but I had no idea how many or in which room. I saw an empty room through the only open door, so decided that will do for now, and if possible, I'll change in the morning. I dumped my stuff thankfully and collapsed on the bed. It seemed comfartable enough, but I thought I better get back up and put my sheets on and get out my PJs. One of my roomamtes must have come out for a drink, so I got to meet him and then his girlfriend. The noise must've brought out the other, so then I met the last one. All rooms were full, I was in my room. So I settled in by leaving my stuff on the floor till the next day, but still managed to put the effort into getting my sheets on my bed etc. Then I fell asleep. The last good sleep.
I woke late. I must've gone to Wal Mart to start getting stuff I'd need, plates, cutlery, food, frypan, the general setting up stuff. I fix up my room up somewhat, put clothes away, work out what I might need. I go to bed early, hoping to catch up on some rest from the last few days.
Sleep has not come easy here. They say it's a matter of acclimitising, but all I know is since then I haven't had a decent nights sleep. I was able to sleep in the first few days, but since we've started training, I've lost my chance to sleep in.
The first day of training wasn't too bad, mostly admininstration stuff and some getting started with the van stuff. Where everything is in the van. How to put on snow chains. A quick first drive around the block. The day was over at a reasonable hour and had enough different things in it so as not to be to boring.
The second day of training was painful. It started with a Colorado Drivers License Written Test, which I got 100% on, so yippee for me. But then we had ADD class, Attitudinal Driving Something-or-other. This was long and painful. Basically a look at yourself and how you drive type thing, which I'm sure is good and helpful, but still is long and painful. Another night of interupted sleep.
The third day of trainig was nice. A bit of an early start, but over before you knew it. Had to have a physical done for the DOT (Dept. of Transport) to prove we're fit to drive. Apparently I was fit enough, unless I'm going to be told later, but I think it's pretty safe to assume they would have told me then if there was any problems. Then that was it, I had the rest of the day off, so I went itno Edwards to track down this cinema and have a look around. I found it, but the movies weren't starting till 4:10, so I had plenty of time. I found a thrift shop and it had a copy of "The Stand" by Stephen King, which is exactly what I was looking for. I crossed back across the road and found a bookstore selling graphic novels and TPBs. My best day in Colorado so far. I went back home and dropped of my purchases and rested a bit, then went back into town to watch "Quantum Of Solace". I liked it well enough. Walked back to base, and it was freaking cold. A driver recommended a alternate route to the one I used earlier, after he dropped us of at the cinema, but it was dark, and I don't know if it would save much time, but less chance of being run over, but I'll need to get a torch for next time so I feel a bit safer.
The fourth day of training was another good one. We headed of to the Centre For Transportation Safety, where we got to do fun things like drive real fast and drive a skid car, which simulates skidding. There was aslo other not so fun stuff like doing parking exercises, but we were still driving. It wasn't all fun though, as it was still ridiculously cold, and my feet hurt form it, even though I'm wearing two pairs of socks. Also it was in Denver, which is a couple hour drive away, which is a little painful heading home at the end of the day when you haven't been getting much sleep.
The last two days have been similar. Classroom in the morning, then driving in the afternoon. Not last night but the night before I actually thought I was getting some good sleep. I still woke up early, but if I hadn't had to get up at 5:30, I reckon I still would've been able to fall back to sleep for another few hours. Unfortunatley last night was just horrible and I tossed and turned all night. I'm considering seeing if I can transfer to Denver for a sales desk position, as I don't want to have to be struggling for sleep all the time, and I'm freaking out about crashing with ten people on board. Earlier today we saw some footage from the in-car cameras. They said it wasn't being shown to us to scare us, but to educate us, but they failed, it scared me. It was nothing graphic, there wasn't any blood or fatalities, and it is a rarity for accidents to happen, but it's still an accident, and it still got me worried. Anyway, it feels better when you're actually driving.
We've driven the last three days now. Driving back from Denver I felt pretty nervous. I felt better yesterday when we were doing our landmark and zone orientation drive, and today was alright on the way back from Eagle Airport Orientation. I'm just so tired all the time, and it's a concern.
Also, if I get to move to Denver, I'll be nearer to more cinemas and actual comic book stores, which also plays on my mind. I wouldn't be earning as much as I could up here, and I'd probably be spending more, but I think I'd be happier.
I don't know, I'll wait and see I guess. We got three more days of training, so hopefully I'll have a better pulse of where I'm at then. One of the lead drivers I spoke to today about it suggested I wait till I do my verification run. We'll see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Journey So Far...

I left home early but not too early Monday morning. I wanted to leave before I started to cry so quickly got in the car. Dad got in and we drove to the airport. We still had time before the ticket booth was open so I went to the currency exchange and swapped my Aussie dollars for U.S. ones. Dad gave me another $100 which I was grateful for. I got my bag wrapped in plastic, and headed over to the ticket thing, whatever we call that place. I joined the que and handed over my luggage when my ticket was cleared. Went and sat and waited. Ox was coming, so I guess I was waiting for two things. Ox made it and bought me a scarf. Now I have two. I got tired of waiting, I just wanted it to be over, so said my farewells and went down the escalator to customs. Passed through fine and then waited some more.
I think it was then that I started to think about how we are all travellers on this earth, we're all just spending our time here for a little while, we're all the same, going from point A to point B, whatever that is. I was heading to Colorado via Las Vegas via Los Angeles via Auckland. Where were these other people going? Were they feeling as apprehensive as me? Who knows. But I wondered, more so than I normally would. Travelling had made us connected in a way we weren't before.
I got a window seat, which is nice. I brought some things to read and listen to, but much preffered to watch the inflight movies. I started with "In Bruges", which got me to Auckland, with a bit of help from an episode of "Ugly Betty".
Then more waiting. I strolled around this commercial purgatory, impressed by the price of Jamesons Irish Whisky, but had no money for it. I was tired, so went and sat down and pulled the hood up over my head to rest. Finally it was time to go to the boarding gate, and I was lucky enough to get another window seat. The flight to L.A. was made up off more movies and Ugly Betty and intervals of rest and maybe sleep if I was lucky. I thought "In Bruges" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" would make for a nice double bill, but it got interupted by Auckland. Still, it's an enjoyable film. I started watching something else, but just wasn't in the mood for it, so watched a Japanese film about a guy who develops the kind of amnesia that's in "Memento" and "50 First Dates", where he can't retain new memories. It was good, I liked it. He joins a professional wrestling club (like Luche Libre, as seen in "Nacho Libre") at his university, because the pains and bruises seem to him like a memory. We flew into the night, so I did some snoozing.
We got into L.A. a bit before I left Australia, around 10am on Monday morning. It's weird. LAX is busy. So many planes. I can't emphasise how many planes there were. Alot. Got through customs ok, didn't go through my bags or anything, so that was easier than I thought, though they do look stern. Called for the free shuttle bus to my hotel, got in, checked in, had a shower, watched TV, went out for dinner at a mexican fast food palce. Discovered the problem with tax. You got to add tax to the price. Why not just include it? I'm sure there's a reason, but I've yet to find anyone to explain it to me.
So basically my next three days were staying up late watching TV, getting up late and catching the shuttle bus to one of the local shopping precincts. I didn't go to the movies the first day, actually, yes I did. I went and saw High School Musical 3, which I had mixed reactions to. I went and saw a couple of films the next day, of which I reccomend "Role Models". I laughed, quite a bit. Wouldn't mind seeing it again.
I also saw a squirrel. In fact it pretty much came up to me. I asked a lady if this was rare to see one, she said it wasn't rare to see them, but to have one just come up so close was. So I felt pretty lucky.
I didn't really buy anything while I was in L.A., as I needed to save my money, but I will before I fly out. I went to Borders and almost cried at how cheap the graphic novels and TPBs were. There were also some really nice art books on their clearance shelves, but way too big to carry around. I decided I'd check Borders in Denver and get them there. (Little did I know that getting to Denver has not been as easy as I surmised it to be, though recent conversations make me think I may be able to get down semi-regularly after all).
Went to Target one of the days, and saw a row of Converse shoes there. Cheap Converse shoes. I don't know what I'll be bringing back, but I might have to send some stuff back by post, because how can I resist such a low price on Cons? And comics? And books?
I thought take-away food was going to be cheaper, but it didn't really seem to be any cheaper than back home. Though chocolate is. I bought a huge Hersheys block of Cookies and Cream for a buck something! A block half the size would cost 3 times as much at least back home. How cool is that?
Anyway, got up on the third morning nice and early so I could check out before beggining the social security processing. Fair few people are already there waiting, and I find a spare seat. So many Kiwis. Feel a bit outnumbered. Anyway, that doesn't take a huge amount of time, once the waiting is over, but then more waiting. I could have gone back to my room if I hadn't checked out, but alas, I didn't realise I'd be able to.
Finally we get on the bus headed to Vegas. Leaving L.A. and California bored me. I didn't like the look of the countryside. I thought America was meant to be this place of great natural beauty, but it didn't match the countryside back home. Going out on some freeway I could see downtown L.A., and it was covered in a haze of smog. I hadn't noticed where I was staying, but it was obvious from that distance.
We got into Vegas coming into dusk. We had to organise ourselvers into rooms, and I went with some strangers. The first thing I did was try find the closest comic shop, since it was Wednesday and I'd been lazy in L.A. I thought I found one nearby, bid my roommates adieu, and made my way to the road the shop was located on. Unfortunatley it seemed to be the wrong end of the road, it was getting dark and I didn't feel like travelling the 3000 numbers down the road to try find it. I was a little paranoid about being mugged, so erred on the side of caution and made my way to the Strip. I had two priorities while I was there, to try see a show and to see the fountain they stand at at the end of "Oceans 11". I went in some casino to look around and see about ticket prices. Too expensive. Maybe later in the year. But I did see a lion or two. This casino (MGM Grand?) had a lion enclosure in it. Las Vegas, hey? Anyway, I saw a picture of the fountain show with the Eiffel Tower in the background, so I knew which direction I had to head. I found the Bellagio and went to see if the Gallery was open. Unfortunatley it wasn't, and would have cost money anyway, so I left a little disappointed. But I found the fountain. It was pretty cool. I went around to get a better viewing position and satyed for another 3 shows. I like it. Decided to go see what else was around there and went and walked the rest of the way down the strip and up the other side, stopping for some dinner and my first internet stop. Went home and watched TV till late again. Made a makeshift bed on the floor and tried to get some sleep. Probably could have taken a bed since the other guys didn't get in till after 4am, but at least this way I had my own bed.
Had Maccas for breakfast, hopped on the bus and headed out 2 Colorado. We were finally getting into some pretty country, in fact the last few hours of daylight gave us some pretty magnificent views, travelling through beatiful mountains and canyons. It was awesome and something I'd rather like to go back to, rather than just travelling through it. We travelled through the night and swapped to smaller shuttles for the last part of the journey up the mountain, the shuttles we would be driving. We were at our home for the next 5 months.

Thoughts On Music

As I was planning my trip, I was making mental notes on the kind of music I was going to listen to as I travelled acros the U.S.. I thought Elvis would be good for when in Vegas, I was holding off on Dylan till I was travelling down the Highway. Instead i just put my i-pod on shuffle and listened to whatever came up.

Except in L.A.. I listned to Neil Young's L.A. albums there, "Zuma" and "On The Beach". It was good to listen to them, but they didn't really suit the areas I was walking. Cest la vie.

Leaving Los Angeles I found Pearl Jam to be very appropriate, especially their slower stuff. There was also another artist who seemd appropriate, but I've forgotten who it was. Maybe Leonard Cohen.

Entering into Las Vegas, Air Supply came on, and seemed to suit perfectly as well. It would've been nice to walk around Vegas, one of the most ridiculous places on earth, listening to my i-pod, but I got paranoid about being mugged and left it in my pocket.

Since being here, especially the first few days, I've found that the music I've most enjoyed when it's come up is Australian artists, especially Sarah Blasko for some reason. Probably because her stuff is good.

I haven't been personally listening to the radio, but when it's been on in the employee shuttle buses I've noticed that they play a lot more Dylan here than back home. Though you can't really take my word for that since I don't listen to the radio back home either.

I've saved my sanity and my ears a little by buying an alarm clock with an i-pod dock, so now I can listen to music and not always have to have my earphones in, and I can try fall asleep to movies without having an earphone pinch my ear as I lie on my pillow.

I've found Dylan's new CD, but am just waiting till I have something to play it on before I buy it. But I'll probably just buy when I get my first paycheck.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Thoughts and further thoughts

We are all travellers on this planet, you just kind of notice it more when you travel. Back home, when walking through the streets, I was surrounded by people, but never paid them any mind. Here, travelling, the airports, everyone seems worthy of investigation, everyone seems paying some regard. Why? They're no different than the people back home, except of course they are. They're here, not there, this is their home. I imagine they must feel how I feel when I'm at home, totally unaware that person I'm walking past is feeling different, aware, a traveller.

I keep thinking I hear my phone ring, or feel it vibrate in my pocket, even though I know I left it at home.
It feels very disconnected, not having my phone. I can't take comfort in the list of peoples names and numbers. I can't call anyone or recieve their calls. It's a little bit lonely.

When eating in a mexican restaurant, the side-order of chips is just as likely to be corn chips. I guess they'd be fries if they were chips.

L.A. Airport is busy. I've never seen so many airplanes dancing around each other. From the hall outside my window in L.A. I can see a que of planes, at least 6, they're landing lights shining like a fairy lights strung out across the sky.

I'm glad we got rid off our 1 & 2 cent coins. With every purchase I'm getting pennys. The coin pouch of my wallet is bulging. I look forward to when I've got my bank account and can starting operating without money again. Paper money sucks. The notes look too similar and feel like crap. They're practically falling apart some of them. The price you pay is not the price you pay. Advertised price plus tax. I've got to try remember the tax. You look at the menu, think I can afford $4.50, then at the resgister thay ask you for $4.85. What? Oh that's right, tax. Why not just include it in the price? It makes it easier for me to calculate.

Travelling to Las Vegas by bus, we pulled in for a pit stop. It looked like a little Vegas, a Vegas strip in minuture, made up of petrol stations and fast food outlets. The toilet I used was automatic, and flushed when I rose. The soft drink dispenser had helpful suggestions for which drink would go well with which meal. I ignored it and just got the coke.

Nearly every toilet door I've used has had a different locking mechanism.