Northern BC

Hey, so I went up to the deepest wilds of Northern BC for work recently.  First time being away from the baby, which was kind of weird but 100% fine.  It helped that we had out last nursing session 3 days earlier (the milk dried up, and she was cool with it, reaching for a sippy cup when she found nothing else to drink).  But really, it was bizarrely, totally fine to be away from the kid and the husband for 4 full days.  It was a worthwhile trip, too.  It’s one thing to learn about jointed tubing, and it’s another thing to stand on a drill floor 30 meters above the ground and see what the kelly floor looks like, and how the tubing gets there, you know?

It’s also just nice to get our of town for a few days.  We flew up in a small commercial plane – small enough that there were propellers, and at row 5, I was halfway to the back of the plane. Nice smooth ride up – just bunnyhopping north and westwards.

Whee!

Whee!

Then the three of us (I was traveling with two coworkers) got to ride in a 4 seater chopper, and because I begged, I got to sit in the front with the super hot Australian pilot.  (For some reason, in the bush, all the pilots are young Australian men?  No complaints.)

DOUBLE WHEE!

DOUBLE WHEE!

I wanted to be in the front for the views – the cute pilot was just a bonus.  It’s just so vast and empty, I can’t even tell you.  There are occasional thin strands of “roads”, trails at best, made by energy companies, used by 4x4s, and quickly reclaimed by nature.  Random rivers and lakes and creeks and oxbows and it’s like a geography lesson from above.

I was reading the most recent Game of Thrones book, and these isolated strands of white trees made me think of Godswoods and being north of the Wall. I am a nerd.

I was reading the most recent Game of Thrones book, and these isolated strands of white trees made me think of Godswoods and being north of the Wall. I am a nerd.

It’s really, really far north.  Camp’s about 58 degrees north, and the Arctic Circle starts at 66 degrees.  I was there a week before Solstice.  The sun officially set around 11:30, and rose again around 3:30.  It barely got dark.  I found it hard to sleep, because at 12:30, it was still almost bright enough out to read by.

This picture was taken around 11:30 at night.

This picture was taken around 11:30 at night.

It also screwed up my schedule, because when someone said “Let’s go bear hunting”, it made sense to go, because it looked like 7pm brightness out all evening.  Of course, it was actually 10 pm, but whatever, there were bears!

Baby bear!  Mama's hiding in the bushes.

Baby bear! Mama’s hiding in the bushes.

"Bear hunting" is when you slowly drive the 22 km to the main highway and count all the bears you see, from the safety of your pickup truck.

“Bear hunting” is when you slowly drive the 20 km to the main highway and count all the bears you see, from the safety of your pickup truck.  (This photo was taken at 11 pm.)

I saw 7 bears, and was thoroughly delighted.  I’ve seen bears many times before, but it’s still a novelty.  Even after taking the Bear Awareness course at work, and seeing videos of bears climbing trees and polar bear cubs covered in seal blood.  Bears are still neat!  (If, you know, super dangerous wild animals who under no circumstances ever should you attempt to pet.)

Just call me Brian, in my super hot borrowed coveralls.

Just call me Brian, in my super hot borrowed coveralls.

Seeing the site was great, getting to walk around unescorted was nice, getting the various companies to explain their processes to me was really helpful (and understanding at least 70% of what they were saying was even better!)…  The food was excellent, as is always the case in dry, remote camps.  (12 hour shifts, no booze, nothing to do but sleep and workout when not on site…  the food HAS to be good to keep people happy.)

Flying home was a clusterfuck of epic proportions, but at least I was on a mostly empty 737, and so got my own row for all three hops.  We were unfortunately grounded in Edmonton, due to lighting and tornadoes and shit.  By grounded, I mean trapped in a plane for three fucking hours, while the plane was pulled in to the hanger.  It was terrible.  The 6 of us left on the plane could have rented a car and driven home faster, especially once they found a mechanical problem, and then had to wait for 15 other planes to take off in front of us.  I was fine being away from the baby until then, and then I got twitchy and frustrated and really wanted to be home.  (I should have beaten D and J home from work, not got there just before bedtime.)  On the upside, I got to read 650 of the Dances with Dragons book, so that was nice.

It's a good thing I'm not a nervous flier, because the landing was like an intense roller coaster ride of bouncing and tilting.

It’s a good thing I’m not a nervous flier, because the landing was like an intense roller coaster ride of bouncing and tilting.

When I finally got home, I had D bring J up to the main floor so that she could see me walk back in the front door, after watching me leave a few days earlier.  She saw me coming up the walk and got frantic with excitement, and was pawing at the door while D unlocked it.  I scooped her up in a hug and she nuzzled right in, for a second.  And then refused to even so much as glance at me for the next thirty minutes.  Wouldn’t let go of me, but was so clearly, adorably punishing me for leaving by purposefully refusing to look at me.  It was cute.  We cuddled and talked and then I read her a few books and then she was fine.

I’m glad I went, I was glad to come home.  Which is all I ask of any trip ever, basically.  Just nice that this one didn’t, you know, cost me cash dollars like all my other trips do.  Also, bears!

I don’t think work-cation is a word

The child slept through the night, for the first time in longer than I can actually recall!  (She slept through for about 3 months there, and the regression happened around time of the weight plunge, but I’m very tired most of the time and no longer use the baby tracking app and simply don’t remember any more.)

Which is especially good news, as I’m planning going to site for work in the next month or so, and 2 nights is the shortest trip I can swing and get any value out of the trip.  (And there aren’t a ton of flight options in to the wilds of northern BC.)  I’m like, really really excited by this.  Not that I think sitting in an Atco trailer all day sounds like amazing, but on the other hand, sitting and watching a frac actually sounds pretty interesting, given that frac data is a huge part of my job.  And flying in tiny planes!  Am I the only person who wants to fly in a airplane with only a handful of seats and no bathrooms?  (Probably.)  And because they’re private planes, the security is giving your name to the guy with a clipboard.  And helicopters!  Helicopters are cool. And camp food! Camp food is good, you guys. All of our camps are dry (ie no booze or drugs) and so use generous portions of good food to keep people happy.  And I’m tying my trip in with at least one of my favourite coworkers, so we can hang out and that’ll be nice.  And hey, my ego can probably use getting hit on by dozens of men.  (Sad, but true.)  Hell, most of my vacations (which I love) revolved around food (which I love), planes (which I love), expensive hotel rooms (which I love, though usually expensive because they are nice, not because they’re super remote), hanging out with people I like (which I love) and doing something nerdy (which I love).  So if you can just, like, overlook the fact that I’ll be going practically to the Arctic Circle for work, this sounds like not a bad couple of days, to me.

Oh, right, yes, the leaving of the baby thing.  Well.  Please don’t revoke my mom card, but I’m kind of looking forwards to it.  I love my kid, obviously.  I like my kid.  But I’m finding that this toddler phase is, perhaps, not so much my forte.  And stepping out for a little work-cation sounds nice.  I’m sure I’ll miss her like crazy, and will of course have the daycare cam set up on a laptop.  But two days of grown up time, free from nursing and clinging and diapers? Right this day, that doesn’t sound like the worst week ever.

Back in the saddle, remembering that I like horses

There was one thing I kind of forgot as I was weighing my feelings about going back to work, and it was, in in hindsight, a big one.   It’s that I am very good at my job.  And while it’s not my passion, I really do enjoy it.

I’m going to violate one of the internet’s prime directives and talk about my job, just a little.

I did admin work for the better part of a decade.  I was good at it, and fast, given the amount of spare time I had compared to my peers.  But I never really enjoyed it.  I would put off tasks that I didn’t enjoy, like filing, for months.  I always got everything that needed to be done, done, but my main interest wasn’t the day to day tasks that fill up admin support days.  It was always the special projects. I’ve worked in a variety of different admin jobs, and the special projects varied along with them.  I’ve done everything from organize a trip to New York for 30 people for a week with 30 different schedules, to cold calling people in France using what remains of my childhood french immersion skills to try and find a genealogical-minded distant relative for my boss, to becoming the group expert at a new piece of graphing software, to learning Access to update and QC a giant database.  A huge range of things, and all much more interesting than putting in another stationary order.  Although that doesn’t mean an absence of pens around the office wouldn’t be a problem, so it always got done too.  Just, you know, given the choice to work on a special project or organize someone’s business cards, well… It was always easy for me to prioritize.

When I went on mat leave, I was officially a tech, but I was also still doing all the admin work, just due to the way things shook out in the group.  I had no problems with that, of course.  I’d been doing all the tech work as an admin, and there was no real difference doing all the admin work as a tech.  But now there’s an admin to do all the admin work and she’s great and I don’t have to order stationary anymore.  My entire job, in flux as it is, IS a special project.  The last couple of weeks I’ve been working for an engineer who has been an amazing teacher, and I went from knowing basically nothing about this subset of our industry to being conversant in it.  I’ve learned 601 new things in the last month, and that’s an awesome feeling that I had forgotten – how nice it is to learn something new.   To tackle some new project that at the beginning feels so confusing, so far over your head that you don’t even know how to start, and then a few short weeks later you’re QC’ing someone else’s work as a second pair of eyes.  To be an expert at something – to be the person people come to for help.  To be good at something clear and tangible with immediate results.  It’s nice.  It’s really nice.  And I had forgotten that going back to work didn’t just mean leaving J with someone else all day and getting a paycheck.  It also means that I get to be good at something and get better at other things and to learn.

It also means lunch dates and coffee dates and yes, a paycheck.  It means talking to grown ups all day, every day, and then coming home with my kid and my husband and eating together and playing together and enjoying the whole time we’re together, instead of those days spent simply waiting for naps or a play date.  It means missing out on play dates, and long daily walks and spontaneous trips to Ikea for lunch.  But right now, this very week, I can live with the trade off.  Next year, or another kid later, or a different role at work?  Who knows?  But for right now, things are okay.  Things are good.

It feels like the best deep breath I’ve taken in months.

Sureal

That’s the only word to describe the first day back in the office after a year of mat leave.  Totally, completely surreal.  It was a bizarre mix of “what the fuck am I doing here?  where’s the baby?” and “what do you mean I ever left?”

And it’s not like things haven’t changed.  The company moved in to a brand spanking new office tower, I’m officially a tech and not an admin, there are 13 new people in our group of 25 people.  We’re on a new operating system, and my monitors are even bigger, so even the view of my screen is different.  (And by big?  I mean huge.  A pair of 24 inch monitors.  It’s a good thing it’s a big desk.)  I currently don’t know what, exactly, the new role will require me to like, DO every day.

But other things haven’t changed.  My three favourite people are still in the group.  My boss is still my boss.  There’s a constant struggle with budget and personalities.  (The stock price is still junk.) 

I have lunch dates and new shoes and a pair of monitors (I know I go on, but man, they make work so much easier).  I have a paycheque coming and options that just vested and coworkers and software and a brand new electric desk.  I felt… normal.

I also spent the whole damn day trying to get the daycare camera to work, so I could watch my little baby play.

Yeah.  One foot in a pretty black heel, the other in barefoot.  I’m not the first, and I’m not the last.  The main feeling for today was, oddly, how fucking NORMAL it felt.  I thought it would take a little bit more time than that, you know?

But we shall see.  I can revoke all this tomorrow and go back to being a hysterical mess, keening in the car in the parking lot of the daycare.

End of an Era

The first concert I went to was an all ages punk show at a long-gone venue.  I think I went to see Eve 6.  I was 18 and had never been to a concert and I think I wore heels and took them off to mosh barefoot and walked away with a few bruises.

In second year university I took a job on campus as a Red Shirt – as concert security.  I was mostly working with big tall bouncer boys, but they needed a few girls and I was strong and had an angry lesbian haircut, so was hired on the spot.  I worked at the job until I graduated.  I figure that over the years, I easily saw more than 250 bands perform.  Most were totally forgettable, as it was the city’s main small punk/mental/indie venue.  I worked awful things, like all ages punk shows, and the endless Billy Talent shows; bizarre things like a pow wow with the grossest clean up ever; played Spot The Nipple at hip hop shows; had to tell the lesbians in the bathroom at a Tegan and Sarah show to get a room…  I watched people resist arrest – that was always scary.  I infamously missed GWAR and the nasty cleanup because of an art history class.  I saw some decently big names over the years: Bad Religion and Frank Black of the Pixies.   I saw some stellar shows  – Great Big Sea’s Kitchen Party, for example.  Sold out Ballroom (800 people), 50 cent Screech shots and music I love?  Fabulous.  Finger 11 isn’t my music at all, but they played One Thing in their encore and thinking about it still gives me chills.  And disappointing shows, like Amanda Marshal, the first show I worked.  The job itself was only okay – lots of standing around and picking up cans at the end of the night and shoes that smelled like beer.  But the money was adequate, the tip out was nice, the people were a ton of fun, and it totally worked around my schedule.  I don’t miss the job, but I enjoyed the hell out of it while it lasted.  (Except for the all ages punk shows.  They were terrible.)

My first job out of university had some pretty great perks, like tickets to arena concerts.  I got to go a couple of times a year for free, and saw a really random assortment of shows: Cher, Meat Loaf (<3), Bare Naked Ladies, Feist, Billy Joel, Sarah McLaughlin, Blink 182…  The corporate seats were good, and it was nice sitting down for a concert.  The concerts and hockey ticket perks of that job helped me to stay longer than, in retrospect, I should have.  So, figure, with opening acts, another 30 odd bands. 

I also started going to the Calgary Folk Fest, because I got cheap tickets through the social club at work, and that’s at say, 50 bands per summer, and 4 years in a row…  200 groups, give or take a wide margin.  I really enjoy the Folk Fest.  Sitting outside in July as the sun sets can be a lovely experience.  (Unless it’s raining, and you really, really want to see Ani DiFranco despite the torrential downpour.)  The main stage can be pretty hit or miss –  they’re appealing to a wide range of tastes.  I am way more in to the indie-folk stuff, and have no real interest in ‘world music’, so there’s a lot that doesn’t do much for me.  But the side workshops are great – lots of good exposure for lots of people you’ve never heard of, and every year I buy at least a handful of cds.

And then there are all the indie/rock/alt concerts.  Billy the Kid, Matt Good, Tegan and Sarah, Jeremy Fisher, Tokyo Police Club, Wolf Parade, Our Lady Peace, Raine Maida, Chantal Kreviakuk, Goo Goo Dolls, Manic Street Preachers (in Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom), Bloc Party…  Shows at the Ballroom, MacHall, the Gateway, Liberty Lounge, Coke Stage, the Corral, the Republik, Saddledome Arena, Jubilee Auditorium, Jack Singer Concert Hall…  From the small rock venues to the big shows, I’ve seen shows in all of them.  

But as time’s gone by, I’ve become less tolerant.  Of the crowds, certainly, and the pot smoke, and the fact that everyone is taller than me.  Of standing in line and overpriced drinks and more standing around between sets.  Of the ringing in my ears afterwards.  Of the late start times and badly run shows.  Of broken toenails and elbows in the head.  Of opening acts that fail to impress.  Of standing around unable to talk for the loud music between sets.  Of wishing they would hurry up and get to the encore so we could go home.

Which brings us to last night – second concert in two weeks.  The first one was Mother Mother at MacHall, and we went with a coworker and it was weird because people I used to work with before I graduated in 2004 are still there, so that’s surreal.  And I ran into a bunch of people in the crowd I knew, which is always fun.  Still, the opening act (some name that involved a whale)  didn’t do much, and Mother Mother is more David’s music.  It was a fun Saturday night out, but still, long lines, loud music, pat downs, overpriced drinks.  Last night was Tokyo Police Club, which I was really excited about.  On a Sunday night – less excited.  Doors at 8, first band at 9, second band at 10 and main act at 11.  They went until 12:30, and I had an 8:30 meeting today.  Standing in line at 8:30 in below zero weather, I could feel my desire to do this again passing, and said as much.  The opening act was okay, and then we actually got a table and chairs for the second band (Said The Whale) and that helped.  But sitting there, between sets, we raised an overpriced toast to the End of an Era, because this was probably it.  The end of the time we want to go to loud, intimate clubs for loud, fun music.  Of outdoor rock festivals, like SonicBoom last summer in Edmonton.  (Folk Fest is still on the table, because it’s all done while sitting on tarps in the sun.)  Of going to shows because I like a couple of songs on the radio, or because I got tickets through work.  Of rolling in at 1:00 am and going to work the next day.  Of elbows in the head and sore feet and moshing. (who are we kidding?  I stopped doing that around 25.)

It was a good era – almost a decade of music.  A ballpark of 550 musicians and bands.  More money than I want to admit spent on tickets and cds, and yes, I buy cds at shows.  A decade that will surely cost me in hearing later, but one that was worth it.

Still, it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to something that’s been a huge part of my life.  And I know I’m hardly saying goodbye to music, or even live music.  Just to a certain type of concert, of club, of music.  Of experience.  But when it’s time, better to do it gracefully.  End of an era indeed.