February 12, 2004


Fate is truly a mysterious beast, especially if you don’t believe in such a force. Nevertheless, it is apparent that despite our strident efforts to the contrary, sometimes things work themselves out under their own power in their own time. The concept of fate is born from that sensation that something else must be altering the path of your life, because damned if you’re controlling it yourself all the time. There’s a reason it doesn’t rain candy wherever I walk and I don’t own a spaceship yet and I can’t make the grocery store clerk fall in love with me, and whether this is fate or inevitability or the bondage of reality, it is definitely something that excedes my efforts.

But what is fate, really? Proof of a divine intelligence in the universe? A clumsy and superstitious way to shirk responsibility for our actions? A testament to the infinite adaptability of human will? I honestly have no idea, but I feel I’ve been at its beck and call for the last couple months.

In all honesty, I originally did not want to work at a ski resort this winter. When September rolled around I fired off resumes to the four corners of the world, trying to land myself a job at a web design firm. I sent out 23 resumes and didn’t get a single response. Not one. Still haven’t. My backup plan was to move back to a carefree life in Duluth, but driving 1,600 miles back home to a town that offered no gainful employment made little sense. As the dreams of living on Lake Superior slowly evaporated, I started chatting with Joe at the ol’ Bee Dub about working at a ski resort. The plan took hold and I started contacting mountains all across the Pacific Northwest and down in Utah.

People in Hood River questioned why I was casting wide when I could just get a job (or a season pass, for that matter) at Mount Hood. But I knew better. I knew I loved Hood River, loved that little town to death, but knew it would kill me if I tried to survive the winter. I got a cold response from Crystal Mountain, which had all but completed their hiring process, and never heard from anyone down in Utah, and I started to despair that perhaps it was going to be Hood River after all. That or flipping burgers in Duluth.

Then I made contact with Mount Bachelor, which took a strong liking to me for some reason. I’ll bet it was because I have a hot telephone voice that made the ladies quirl, but perhaps it was because I’m a rugged genius rockstar and they needed more of that. I told them I wanted to be a rental technician or lift operator or ticket attendant or marmot hunter, and they told me to swing down to their job fair in a couple weeks. They also told me to show up early just to make sure I got the job I was looking for, but given my qualifications (rugged, genius, rockstar) I was a definite shoe-in.

That morning I was willing to wake up at 5:30, but not 4:30, so by the time I dropped off the saddle of Mount Hood, blasted across the Warm Springs reservation and reached Bend I was a bit later than I had wanted. The road to Bachelor was not clearly marked, so I spent some time driving around lost in the Deschutes Wilderness until I ran across some stoned homeless fellows out camping. I gave them a ride down to the roundabout on Galveston (which, it’s a good thing I picked them up because I wasn’t sure I would be able to find my way back to downtown Bend without them), and finally swung by a coffee shop to ask directions.

I was close. I was real close. But I was way off. They told me which way to go and advised that I consult the bulletin boards at Ray’s Food Place to find a good place to live in Bend. I thanked them graciously and bid farewell as I hit the gorgeous road that wound up to Mount Bachelor. Or Bachelor Butte. Or Mount Flatchelor. Depending on who you are.

The lodge was filled to the brim with other rugged hopefuls, and I had to wait half an hour to get an interview. Then I had to wait three hours to get another interview. I finally got settled down with the higher echelons at about 2:00, by which time all the positions I was applying for had filled up. Not only had they filled up, but they had filled filled up, in that they had already taken on all the highly qualified extras they were willing to take. The mountain was bursting at its seams with skill and enlightenment and I began to despair. Always with the despair.

But Deb, bless her heart, did some running around, pulled a bunch of strings, and got me an interview with the managers of ski school. All the managers of ski school. At the same time. The five of them sat me down and grilled me for fifteen minutes about my teaching abilities and snowboarding abilities and classroom management abilities, and by sheer clarity of thought and eloquence of tongue (coupled with bad-ass skillz as a windsurfing director, senior counselor and international super-genius) I was able to weasle my way into their hearts. They said to come back mid-November for the hiring clinic, and I floated outside to meet the Three Sisters dressed in blinding sunshine. Bliss, yo. Absolute bliss.

Three weeks later the Green Dragon was loaded up and I drove to Bend in a snowstorm to move into Lava House, a wonderful downtown abode that I would never have discovered without the Ray’s Food Place bulletin board. What followed were two weeks of intense teaching clinics that did not guarantee my employment at the Mountain. The ranks of eager snowboard instructors were thinned, the weak were torn apart by wolves, and I was proud to be a member of the elite crew that survived the carnage.

However, for how wonderful snowboarding every day is, and though I recommend that every person take a moment in their busy life to live such a dream, such a lifestyle is not conducive to paying bills. And for an eager fan of capitalism that believes heavily in personal responsibility, not-work can put an indefinable strain on the psyche. Thus, like most of my comrades I began searching for evening part-time employment to supplement my time at the mountain. Some of us found work at pizza joints. Others ended up at a shack of radios. Still more peddled drugs from behind a plastic window. I applied at bookstores and cafes, but everyone had already completed their holiday hiring and were no longer interested in ski bums.

That great motivator Despair dropped in again. I rode my snowfoot eel for the sheer pleasure of it all, and to keep my mind off the rest of it all. In my weakest moments I considered going to grad school. Then I ran across an ad for a web support specialist in the Bend newspaper. By the looks of their ad and website it was a spam house, and I wanted in. Their online job application was eight pages long, which I felt was a bit excessive for a spam house. By the time I was half done with the thing I was getting really frustrated, because whatever lame script they were using in their forms disabled the delete key in Opera.

I started skipping answers. When I didn’t skip an answer I put down harsh words. Later I would speak to other job applicants, who were concerned that they wouldn’t get the job because when asked to document the process of building a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they forgot to put the two pieces of bread together. I held my tongue, because I knew my answer to that question had been a slew of curse words I was unable to delete. I chocked it all up to the bottomless pit of job applications and went about my bum life.

For the first time in years, a prospective employer called me. Less than a month later I was working as a snowboard instructor by day, and a super-secret web support specialist (aka high-powered web designer, aka master of the universe) by night. I went from working only on the weekends, to the exhausting holiday work marathon at the Mountain, to the 8-6 mayhem of an internet start-up, to a dizzying combination of both. I’ve had two days off since December 30th. My last two day weekend was before Christmas. Now we stand at the cusp of what, Valentine’s Day? Friday the 13th? After this it’s St. Patty’s, then Easter, then Mother’s Day, and right around then it’ll be one official year of Oregonasms.

And really, even with all the work, I couldn’t be happier. Work is never an end in itself, of course, but when you enjoy what you’re doing as much as I do, churning out beautiful web pages for cities or baked goods or airlines, and then taking photos of your students at the summit of the Mountain, what is there to complain about?

Well. Cats, single life, poisoned peppers, bills, housing costs, designing on spec, favorite CDs in decay, insufficient power in mark-up and non-programming languages, 45 minute waits on reboot, a pinch in your instep, concussions, broken feet and persistent bowling injuries.

But ’tis topics for another evening. I think I’ll go out and buy a Subaru.