An Absurd Life

I live an absurd life.  I really do!

I think about that a lot, actually.  The mood strikes me randomly, though it’s usually inspired by some overwhelmingly fantastic view, smell, sound, or experience.  When I’m walking down a narrow street in Old Tbilisi and glance up at the hills reminding me that I’m in the Caucasus, it’s like, Wham! Your life is absurd!

When I’m Skyping Pauli about booking plane tickets and arranging a road trip through central Europe to attend Joanne’s wedding: Ka-Pow! Your life is absurd!

When I turn the second bend on my drive to work and see the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea splashing along the shore: Shaboom! Your life is absurd!

Wait, what’s that?  Oh, yes.  I live here now:

If you look closely, you can see an airplane coming in for a landing and a large tanker on a delivery!

If you look closely, you can see an airplane coming in for a landing and a large tanker on a delivery!

Yup, my life is absurd.

 

But the long and short of it is that that job I hinted at in my previous post brought me to the endless tropic beauty of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

I moved to New York for a brief stint in the Financial District at our main head quarters.  This was, ostensibly, for training.  Unfortunately our boss didn’t have much time to devote to training us, so it was more a seat-of-your pants type of experience.  In the beginning of January, I flew down to St. Thomas with several colleagues.  We were tired of waiting around for “sometime I’ll have you actually move.”  We were tired of being squatters in our boss’s luxurious Brooklyn brownstone.  We were tired of the uncertainty of our position; our lives are absurd.

We arrived to the island full of verve and eager to launch our several major projects.  After picking up a rental car we followed our ernstwhile host to his B&B on top of the hillside.  There was far too much to accomplish and we didn’t have a single lead on where to start.  The boss was bopping around Barbados somewhere and Morgan had flown to Florida to go digging in the sugar fields, practicing her hand at being a farmer.  We had no office, no business licenses, and no plan for the evening, so we went to a beach on a whim.  Our lives are absurd!

After several weeks of wheeling and dealing, all our initial challenges were resolved.  We had obtained access to our office, furniture for it, and business licenses for both of our start-ups.  Things were starting to look less absurd by the minute!

Look at our beautiful office!  It has gotten only more beautiful in the intervening time.  For example, some of those ceiling holes have been replaced with lights!  Also, one of our plants died....  But that's my desk with the lit lamp and the on-computer!

Look at our beautiful office! It has gotten only more beautiful in the intervening time. For example, some of those ceiling holes have been replaced with lights! Also, one of our plants died…. But that’s my desk with the lit lamp and the on-computer!

Our nail-salon-cum-head-quarters has begun absolutely buzzing with activity as we make phone calls all day long, meet people from shipping companies, the government, tourists, and random passers-by who were curious about the sign on the door.  (It used to say ANGEL NAILS BUSINESS in red letters with the hours of operation.  We scrapped them off until it said “EL BUSINESS” and finally replaced it with the actual name del business.)

Our work could not be crazier.  The boss is like a cyclone, only a little less seasonally predictable.  He’s a master of micromanagement and hypocrisy.  I can’t even begin to share anecdotes because they are too myriad and unbelievable to do him justice.  Also, maybe I won’t give out too many specifics about work here.  Let’s see.

Hey!  Segue!

Because we’ve been relocated to the Caribbean from New York all the random places we were living before, one of the perks is that we get to live in our boss’s house!  This is a bit of a double edged sword.  As I write this, several of my colleagues are making midnight phone calls to Hong Kong.  If the boss doesn’t rest, why should we?  There’s an upshot though:

We live in a centuries-old Sugar Mill.

We live in a centuries-old Sugar Mill.

Sorry, that’s not quite accurate.  When I say “we live in a sugar mill,” what I mean is that Morgan lives in the old sugar mill tower of our enormous estate.  I live behind the pool.

My apartment is around the back of this cabana-y area.  You can see a vine-covered stone wall peeking out of the left side of the photo.  I'm right by that.

My apartment is around the back of this cabana-y area. You can see a vine-covered stone wall peeking out of the left side of the photo. I’m right by that.

Yes.  My life is absurd.

From on top of the mill you can see all the way down to the airport, the town, and beyond!  On a clear day you can even see the islands of St. John, St. Croix (40 miles away!), and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

From on top of the mill you can see all the way down to the airport, the town, and beyond! On a clear day you can even see the islands of St. John, St. Croix (40 miles away!), and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Our house has some stunning panoramic views of both the Atlantic and Caribbean.

Our house has some stunning panoramic views of both the Atlantic and Caribbean.

Here's the north view out over the Atlantic with my apartment roof and the old Greathouse wall more or less centered.

Here’s the north view out over the Atlantic with my apartment roof and the old Greathouse wall more or less centered.

We can also see Puerto Rico from our house!  I am 99% certain that this is the island of Vieques!

We can also see Puerto Rico from our house! I am 99% certain that this is the island of Vieques!

But you know what?  These photos don’t really do justice to our house or to the absurdity of my life of late.  For the pièce de l’absurdité is absolutely this:

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Welcome Back

It’s strange coming back to the United States after living abroad for so long.  Yes, I’ve been back and forth throughout my time in Georgia, making regular trips to work summers in Baltimore and coming home for occasional holidays, but there’s a difference between visiting home and moving home.

That said, I have moved home, but I haven’t.  I’ve come back to the US, but I’ve been living in New York, which is a new, exciting, and strange place for me.  Despite its familiarity it sometimes feels like I’m visiting a foreign land.  Like this is just another of my world-spanning adventures.  And so, it is.

During my funemployment I sat for a couple dozen interviews and wrote about one hundred different cover letters.  My resume went through countless rewrites as I tailor-made it for each job I applied for.  It was a long, grueling, sometimes draining process.  I would go through long dry spells that would sap my willpower and discourage me to no end.  In these times I often found myself thrilled to receive a rejection because it was better than the endless silence that most often results when transmitting your resume out into the void.

These periods of relative despair would be followed by sudden torrents of responses.  After weeks of radio silence, my inbox would become awash with interested employers who were hoping to follow up with me.  I had interviews in Tbilisi, Baltimore, Washington, and even Billings, Montana.  In these halcyon days of funemployment I was on fire!

By the time November rolled around, I was starting to really see results.  A series of strong interviews was coming to a close and a bureaucracy’s wheels had finally nearly completed one circuit.  As I browsed Facebook one morning I saw a post by an old schoolmate* from Maine.  She was looking for talented smart people with XYZ experience to work on an exciting new project.  Feeling pretty talented and smart, and knowing I was at least experienced with X and Z, I sent her a message.  This began one of those floods of activity described above.

My informal interview went great and I asked her, “When would you want me to start?”

“Yesterday.  How soon can you be in New York?”  One week later I found myself arriving at New York’s JFK airport with a few suitcases and a head full of apprehension.

New York was not and is not my final destination.  I was simply asked to come aboard for six weeks of training in the Big Apple.  Since six weeks is too-short-to-rent-an-apartment and too-long-to-crash-on-a-couch, my boss opened up his home for me to live in before making our big move after the New Year.

While my trip thus far had been welcomingly familiar–Dunkin’ Donuts at the airport, delicious bagels at home in Maine, the ability to text and call my friends and family without calculating time differences–my arrival in Brooklyn spelled the beginning of the strange.

I rolled up to Park Slope in a taxi that I didn’t have to haggle for.  The price just ticks up as you drive!  No more bargaining with sleepy scruffy old dudes to get the price I want!  When I found my way into my boss’s house, I entered a world I’d never known before.  This house is probably worth fourteen million dollars.  I was lodged on the top floor where I had roof access (see the header above) and my own enormous closet.  In the mornings, my boss’s wife recommended that I take the elevator down to the pool and use the shower there as it has the best water pressure.  Keep in mind, this is a private house with an elevator.  The pool is beautifully tiled in a Mediterranean style and though it is small, it has a motor so you can swim against a current.  My boss is a big swimmer.

Oh, plus there’s a sauna.

My first day in New York saw me doing a trial run to the office to make sure I knew how to get where I was going.  My office is in the heart of the financial district of New York City, a few doors down from the New York Stock Exchange.  My boss’s corner office overlooks the World Trade Center Memorial and underlooks (?) the new One World Trade Center building.  The view from my desk extends east over Brooklyn and south past the Statue of Liberty to New Jersey.  Yes, I can see the Statue of Liberty from my desk.

This was my new, unfamiliar life.

Thankfully, it includes a lot of familiar faces to help me smooth the transition.  In addition to the woman who I went to high school with and who hired me, there are loads of old friends living in New York!  It is an attractor for people of all shapes and sizes, right?  Why not scores of friends?

On my first weekend in town I met up with my good friend Tyler from high school.  We had had an awesome circle of friends back in the day, and I like to think of Tyler as being my rogueish partner in crime when it came to making our own way.  Our friend Dan used to have these fun all-night parties at his house where everyone would play Super Smash Bros. and eat pizza all night.  That’s it.  We were sickeningly well-behaved.  Tyler and I quickly bored of the Smash and found other adventures to embark upon.  There was the time we spent the whole night playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and brute-forcing some of the trickier puzzles.  Or the time we began writing and programming our own video game teasing our friend Jared for his multitude of crushes.  Or the time we decided to take a walk around the block.  Living in suburban Maine, however, meant that the block is an eight mile loop.  We nearly made it before Dan’s irate father picked us up in his car, furious that we had wandered off into the night without telling anyone.  This became a tradition of ours.

A rare photograph from one of our rowdy high school get-togethers. (Though I suspect we may all be rowdy college kids by this point)  (Tyler’s far right)

Then there was the time Tyler and I met up and had a delicious home-cooked meal at his house just north of the city!  I got to meet his lovely girlfriend and we had a blast talking and laughing over meatloaf.  A few weeks later I was lucky enough to get to see Tyler as he headlined his first Opera, playing the titular character in Markheim, a very dark and scary modern opera about a jerk driven to murder.  Tyler played that jerk with an intensity that had me on the edge of my seat.

Tyler's been acting since high school.  There aren't many photos of us together at my disposal, but this is a good 'un!  And no, I am not wearing a bald cap.

Tyler’s been acting since high school. There aren’t many photos of us together at my disposal, but this is a good ‘un! And no, I am not wearing a bald cap.

I was also lucky enough to be able to regularly meet up with my dear college friend Jay!  We had a bunch of adventures around the city–getting awesome meatballs and watching Birdman, strolling through parks and ducking into record stores and chess shops, exploring the hipster-est place in all of hipsterdom at Brooklyn’s night market.  But most familiarly, on a cold and rainy afternoon in December, we met up at a coffee shop and played a few games of chess.

Me and Jay in college. I like to imagine Jay’s making trumpet noises.

Jay and I used to be the poster-children for Georgetown.  Not in any formal sense, but picture this: You’re a prospective student (or the parent of a prospective student, the choice is yours!) touring colleges to decide where to submit your applications.  You get a bit overwhelmed by the choices.  The beautiful campus begin to run together, but you still have your favorites in mind.  “Oh, my favorite song was playing in the cafeteria at Dartmouth!” “That interview guy at Swarthmore sure was eager…” “Hamilton College is picture perfect Americana, right here!” “Son, if you go to Bates we can commute to Lewiston together and I’ll take you out to lunch every day!”

Walking around Georgetown you hear about the historic buildings and the active student body.  You chuckle at “Red Square” and wonder how on earth anyone thought it would be a good idea to design Lauinger Library to look like a cement bookshelf.  You learn that the Exorcist was filmed on campus and that Bill Clinton is an alumnus.  You curve around the back of Healey Hall to see Dahlgren Chapel as your backwards-walking tourguide tells you how active the student body is and what it means to be a “Student Athlete”.  And there you see two strapping young undergrads playing chess as the cherry blossoms cascade around them, the perfect picture of scholastic health.

They should have paid us.

Jay also was my companion on my first ever trip to Georgia.  We had such an awesome time, I decided to stay for almost five years!

This is how good of a time we had in Georgia.

Being able to regularly see and spend time with some of my closest friends has made the transition back to life in America so much easier.  It has dulled some of the reverse culture shock (Though, I tell ya.  That Brooklyn Nightmarket was a helluva culture shock.) and made my brief time in New York infinitely more enjoyable.

It certainly helps spending NYE in NYC!

It certainly helps spending NYE in NYC!

The view was a little far away, but kinda tough to beat.

The view was a little far away, but kinda tough to beat.

This is where I'll leave this story for now.  I left out a crucial meeting of two former roommates, but I certainly have not forgotten that awesome dinner, David and Morgan!

This is where I’ll leave this story for now. I left out a crucial meeting of two former roommates, but I certainly have not forgotten that awesome dinner, David and Morgan!

I have since left New York and arrived at my final destination for the time being.  Tune in next time to find out where life has taken me now!

*Regrettably, I have picked up a few Britishisms in my years teaching in Georgia.

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