I made a few notes about the Yellowstone years but haven't really written much yet. I got internet set up in my apartment this morning and thought I'd share a few things I've noticed over the past week. The nonstop busy days have ended and when I get over the cold I have at the moment I hope to do a couple hikes before the trails are buried in snow.
Some things I've liked
Leaves of various colors
Lake Superior waves
Dangling bunches of bright red mountain ash berries
Reconnecting with old friends
As expected, the library, restaurants, and buses
Some things I've disliked
My apartment is a dump (176 days left on my lease but if I decide I want to stay in Duluth, I can move back to the much better building where I used to live whenever there's an open apartment--next one is January), as I should have expected from the price. There are electrical and plumbing issues which will be worked on, but the unsolvable problem is that the kitchen area has no room for actually cooking which was one of the things I was most looking forward to about getting out of the park. On the other hand, I did a pricing run at a supermarket and cooking may be too expensive anyway. $4 for a bunch of broccoli (a major ingredient in my cooking) and it wasn't even good looking broccoli.
White trash, black trash, incense and heavy tobacco smokers--there are a lot of problem people in Duluth of types not usually run into in Yellowstone.
The mid 30s feels a lot colder here now than it does in YNP--could be a tough winter.
Businesses apparently think they deserve personal information about people now. I bought a pair of jeans and was asked for my phone number. I said I didn't have one and got asked for my email. All you get is my money. I cashed a work check from YNP at a bank and the teller actually asked me what I was going to do with the cash. You don't get my money.
Some things I've missed
Wildlife, even the annoying omnipresent elk
Smell of sage
Something I haven't decided about yet
I own my first cell phone
Saturday, October 5, 2013
This won’t be a pretty picture, but writing it has made me feel better. This has been a very bad year. I hope the change of location will help change my mindset but before that can happen I need to spew about all that has happened, boring and whiny and depressing and long as it may be to anyone else. You’ve been warned. I’ll mention an occasional good time but there weren’t many.
It actually all began in November. Remember reading about me and Lola? It turned out that she didn’t leave and she wasn’t dying. That made me happy but it also turned out that the talk of being friends if we were both here wasn’t true. I wrote that earlier post as a goodbye in my mind when I saw how she was acting when I got back.
I enjoyed staying in town for a week before returning to work, eating at local restaurants and walking with a friend. One night I saw Lola’s car when I came out of the grocery store. I later mentioned that I had just missed her there and it led to her telling people I was stalking her, even though I hadn’t waited for her to come out of the store or gone back in looking for her—I just noticed her car and took my groceries back to my room across the street. What made it even more ridiculous was that I’d actually been in the market talking to a woman who had stunned me by looking a great deal like a woman I’d almost married long ago.
In December I stopped to see Lola on my way to dinner and she ducked into a room to avoid me. I’d been unsure of my job future all along, but that was the moment I made my decision that I couldn’t return to work in the same office with her.
With that settled, the winter improved. I enjoyed the people I was working with, made a trip down to Norris Geyser Basin, and went to an excellent special brewmaster’s dinner at the hotel with my dinner/hiking partner of the past couple years.
I hadn’t stopped thinking of that lookalike in town, and in February decided I had to spend a few days in town so I could ask her out even though circumstances made it unlikely she’d be interested. That decision led to good hikes and meals, and a trip to Livingston which felt like one of the best days I’d had in years. None of that with the woman who’d caused me to stay in town. I wrote about those days in this post.
What I didn’t include there was that after the hike on the third morning, I had lunch with the woman I’d gone to Livingston with on the previous day and she seemed jealous about the hike, saying in an odd tone that it must have been nice for me. I replied that I’d had several very nice days in a row, and she laughingly ooohed at my compliment. The apparent jealousy was strange considering that we’d talked the previous day about the fact that she was involved with someone and how things might possibly have been different otherwise, and that being a non-driver in this part of the country made all my romantic possibilities impossible. I was very disappointed and sad that we never spent another day or evening together.
In March, things went downhill fast. The government shut down the bus company which would have provided my ride to and from the Amtrak station eight hours away, and the New Orleans trip I’d planned since the previous summer with the attitude that it would likely be my last big vacation went down the drain. A couple friends offered to take me to where I’d catch the train, but I wouldn’t have had a way back after the trip since both of them would be deeper in the park by then.
Meanwhile, although I didn’t learn about it until a few months later, someone had held captive and tried to murder a dear old friend, the woman who the woman in the market reminded me of. Knowing her home so well, after reading newspaper accounts I couldn’t help visualizing it all, even while at work. The worst of it passed for me after a few days; she’ll have to live with the physical and emotional scars for the rest of her life.
At the beginning of May, I made a big mistake. I learned that Duluth was going to hire a couple people for library jobs through a drawn out process. I’d done well on the process when I’d lived there but they didn’t hire then because of budget issues. Instead of moving back immediately, I applied and waited to hear about the first test date thinking there would be plenty of advance notice for me to move back. I did some hiking, saying goodbye to places I thought I’d soon be leaving. Unfortunately, when the email came announcing the test date I didn’t have time to do the things I needed to do and get back.
In early June, the sound of a helicopter announced the arrival of norovirus which came to the park for a month and made the employee cafeteria even worse. Surviving on bad food led to a summer of dizziness and inner ear problems which kept me from hiking (no 1000 mile t-shirt for me), aggravated by a fall which tore quite a few layers of skin off a leg and hand. Office issues kept me irritated for weeks, and started me packing twice. Childhood chickenpox paid a return visit with a case of shingles. The summer’s only bright spot was a dinner invitation and tour from my friend who was caretaking at the YA cabins for a month.
Fall brought improved health and some more hiking, but my hope to spend a few days in town for a change of pace, some different meals, and a chance to get together with a couple people fell through with completely booked rooms. The government shutdown and park and trail closure was a fitting end to my worst year here. At least we got a good snow, in case I’m never here again in winter, and I enjoyed walking the roads for a few hours during the snow with bear spray and on alert because of a grizzly in the area.
I gave Lola a last opportunity to apologize for her actions and the lies she’d told about me but I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t take it. Although her behavior caused me to switch to a job where I knew I’d get less freedom, less respect, and less money (in order of importance), where work issues in turn led to me not returning this winter, rather than anger when I look back, I feel more regret at the feelings we wasted, like all our choices were the result of a long series of misunderstandings, rather than malice. Though you’d never know it from my misanthropy, I’m always trying to believe the best about people. That’s why I’m always disappointed.
Now I’m just waiting out the final days, looking forward to having my own apartment and kitchen (and buses! and a library! and restaurants!) for the first time in three years. I’ve kept my options open by only signing a lease through April. Yellowstone doesn’t really have much new to offer me, but I’ll miss some people and this year hasn’t been a good way to end it so I may consider one more year for better memories. I’m likely to apply for a job in Glacier for next summer as well, but I suspect I’ll wind up staying in Duluth since right now I just feel like going home to stay and being done with this lifestyle. My apartment is so cheap that it would be the perfect place for my final years so I may find it hard to give up once I get there. It will probably be a couple months before I feel able to make a decision.
I’ll probably write a general summary of the pluses and minuses of the Yellowstone years while I’m in Bozeman unless I get too caught up in having television for a few days.