April 5, 2005

Bottle Deposit

I love Cheezits and Dr Pepper. There were times in college where I would go for weeks subsisting on nothing but Cheezits and Dr Pepper. I think that deep down inside, every man has a suppressed diet left over from young-manhood that consists of two pseudo-food elements. For my father it is Hydrox and Squirt. For me, it is Cheezits and Dr Pepper.

Tonight I anticipated a marathon session of web design, so I went to Safeway to grab some soda. Dr Pepper was on sale (24 cans for seven dollars! that’s a dollar a cavity!) so I grabbed some, went to checkout and prepared my dollar bills for the discounted transaction.


“What the-?”

“Eight twenty, sir.”

“How the hell did seven become eight… oh, right. Bottle deposit.”

For a second there I forgot what state I live in, and I had forgotten the lovely bottle deposit program of Oregon. You see, everything that comes in a bottle here is subject to a five-cent bottle deposit. Well, they used to call it a bottle deposit, but then they shortened it to “deposit” after people started arguing that cans aren’t bottles, and plastic bottles aren’t bottles, and glass bottles aren’t bottles, and this beer really sucks anyway so why should I have to pay an extra five cents, etc.

I hate the deposit. Every time I see DEPOSIT 60 CENTS come across the screen at the checkout, I want to hop over the conveyor belt and strangle the clerk with his apron. The logic of my emotions on the matter are not nuanced. The bottle deposit gives the government money. I hate giving the government money. Ergo, I hate the bottle deposit. I also hate social engineering, but that’s an unprovoked rant for another day.

I’ve neglected to mention the other important half of the deposit. You see, a deposit implies that I’m putting money aside to be retrieved later. It’s not a bottle tax, per se, as there is a way I can get my money back. The way is through machines. Have you seen these machines? They are remarkable pieces of work, as large as refrigerators stacked on top of washing machines stacked on top of trash compactors, with the greatest redeeming qualities of each.

These Great Machines are the only devices on Earth with the sheer mass, noise and stickiness required to convert hornets into nickles. In the dead of August people approach these machines with garbage bags full of hundreds of syrup-filled pop cans, and with yellow jackets buzzing all around, proceed to stuff these cans (nay, bottles) in these Great Machines.

Under ideal conditions, the machine will accept a can, shudder violently, and turn a hornet into a bright and shiny nickel. More often, however, the machine will curse and spit out the can and make the hornet good and angry. You see, the machine is full of lasers and mirrors that tell it to only accept cans and bottles that were purchased at this particular grocery store. Even then, lasers and mirrors aren’t all that bright, and will often reject cans who’ve suffered abuse and neglect. Also, perfecly valid specimens (like Squirt) that aren’t popular enough to cause any huge amount of public outcry, will also be rejected.

Long story short, wrestling nickels out of these machines is a hot, sticky, smelly, frustrating experience. What we have here is an ingenius infrastructure for involuntary taxation. The method for taking your money for the deposit is devilishly efficient, well-developed and foolproof. You go to the grocery store, you buy some Dr Pepper, the clerk scans the Dr Pepper, the scanner adds the deposit amount to your bill, and unless you want a free ride in a cop car, you don’t choke the clerk to death and you pay the damn deposit.

However, the method for returning your deposit is a horrid experience, lousy at best, wrought with hornets and sticky floors and a strange-smelling mix of stale beer, Coke residue and B.O. It’s like going to the state fair, only without mini donuts and farm machinery, or like going to the movies, only more expensive. All it takes is one double-thick leaf bag to spring a leak in your car and cover everything in sludge, to convince you this is no way to earn a buck.

Now, I like recycling. I love recycling. I grew up doing it curbside, and it makes me feel really good in that social justice kinda way. What I don’t like is being fined for not recycling in the sticky, miserable, financially mandated way. I’ve often pondered the alternatives, such as cupping my hands underneath the fountain drink station, or bringing in my own cloth grocery bag and filling it up just the same.

I’m all about closing the loop on recycling. Unfortunately, in this instance my capacity for rage is a fusion reaction that needs to find an outlet, lest it spiral out of control and destroy the entire closed system along with it. Nay, I’ve found that the best emotional outlet here is to participate in an unthinkable method, an approach that Erik and I formulated during our time at Lava House:

I take the can. This precious, five-cent can.

I crush the can.

I take a deep breath.

I throw the can in the trash. Do you hear me? The trash.

I exhale. And I feel so much better.

April 2, 2005

“That’s so dorm room.”

Augh. This is gonna be quick and barely proofed. Tomorrow I’ve got an über early wake-up call for snowboarding, and today I spent the entire day building birthday presents. Since everything in this damn world is now computer-centric, from making presents to doing taxes to paying bills to getting a bag of chips, my wrists are killing me. My lower right arm is deliciously numb and tingly.

It’s going to be a long and miserable life of pain and poverty if I can’t find a way to get this fixed. What’s more, I’m totally over this dorm-room lifestyle. In explaining what I mean I think I’ll go ahead and invent a new phrase, which is “That’s so dorm room.” We’ll file it right under David’s “Those things look so price point.”

“Dorm Room” is the lifestyle in which you have one room for everything. “Studio” is a more respectful way to say the same thing, but I’m so far beyond respect at this point. I’m sick and tired of having one room that serves as bedroom, office, den, entertainment center, walk-in closet, gear closet and basement. Just yesterday this room was fairly clean, but after a day’s worth of arts and crafts it’s now completely trashed. I could clean up, but the same thing will happen again when I get back from snowboarding. Or running. Or hiking or kiting or biking or camping.

I’m far too O.C. to be constantly confronted by this mess, and it’s not like I can just leave, shut the door and go do something else. Do something else, eh? Like what? Taxes? I do that here. Write? I do that here. Read? Work? Listen to music? Balance my checkbook? Chat with friends? All here. Go to bed? I spin around 180 degrees and move six inches.

None of the things I need to do get me out of this one freakin’ room, and sometimes it’s enough to make me want to open my veins to the heavens. What’s more, unless someone wants to rent me a four bedroom house for $500 a month, or offer me a drastically increased paycheck (doing work that I can do without further ruining my hands, of course), I won’t be moving out of the dorms any time soon.

Pretty soon it’ll all get flipped topsy-turvey, and I’m sure I can bear with it a month longer. Still, it’s one of the things that, at my darkest moments, makes me pray for wildfires. It would suck if I suddenly lost everything in this dorm room to an uncontrollable blaze. The path would certainly be one of hardship as I struggled to piece back together the life I had lived. In that scenario, I would pray for a shred of the order that I am enjoying now.

Yeah. A wildfire would suck. But it would be a different kind of suck.

caffeine is the new black

Currently at Dog River Coffee in Hood River, where we’re listening to String Cheese Incident. The album art for Joe Cocker’s I Can Stand a Little Rain is staring at me from across the room, making me feel mighty uncomfortable.

I know a guy in Dee that Brian needs to meet, who’s been growing mushrooms on his organic farm for nearly two years. Speaking of, I should check on Brian’s car. He’s got it stowed away in the Sherman Street parking lot.

If you know Sherman Street, you know that last one is funny.

April 1, 2005

Summer is Coming

I now have in my hands a 24oz can of Rockstar. Have you seen these things? They’re obscenely huge. Ginormous. Rockstar size? These cans are pornstar size. They look like they eat Red Bulls for breakfast. Chicken-fried Red Bull. A co-worker of mine has a serious Rockstar habit, and he’ll go through at least one 24oz can a day.

“Geez, an entire can before going to bed? Isn’t that a bit much?”

“Nah. It’s just sugar and caffeine. It’s not like it’s gonna give me a hangover or anything.”

“Right. The Rockstar hangover? It’s called type 2 diabetes.”

I’m starting to get excited for the summer, what with Bro Forms and other mad gear hook-ups comin’ through the pipeline. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to rig up my canoe with a 12 meter kite, so on windy days I don’t need to work at all. I take off for Minnesota in little over a month, but before I leave I’m going to retrofit both my kite bars with a fifth line system.

The fifth line will go a long ways in preventing death and dismemberment, and to those who are not familiar with kiteboarding, nothing sounds more pathetic than split skulls and broken ribs and dislocated shoulders at the hands of a kite. Beyond kiteboarders, I think Pakistanis are the only people who can identify with the serious dangers associated with kite flying.

But yeah. Summer is coming, and it’s time again to roll this mess 1,600 miles across the country. A week ago I was stressing out that I have no plan, concrete or vaporous, for what I’m doing beyond August. I’m totally over that now, though. There is so much to see and experience between now and then, that there really isn’t any sense in trying to figure out what to do with that time. Might as well make the best of the time I have. Live in the now. Which is not to suggest it’s time that we smear ourselves down with blood and bay at the moon, but it’s high-time to do away with this awful fretting thing.

You live, you fret, you die. You very well might die before a lot of the stuff you’re fretting about even happens. Sometimes I feel like I’m expected, right now, right now at this point and time in my life, to Finally and Ultimately come up with whatever it is I plan on doing for the Rest Of My Life™. I feel like others are waiting anxiously for that shoe to drop, and for me to pull myself together and settle.

But settling is just that. Settling. It’s resolve and commitment, commitment to circumstances that you are finally satisfied with, circumstances that you are willing to commit to with all of your remaining breath.

I feel like I’m still growing out of control, that I have yet to meet my match, that I’m intended for great and amazing things that remain hidden, but are close enough to make my skin tingle. Right now I honestly don’t know what these things are, which is why I’m still firing on all cylinders in so many different directions. At some point these things will coalesce out of the fog and I will see them, plain as day. Maybe it’s something huge, like competing with Luke for world domination and such, but maybe it’s small, like running a summer camp.

I’m open to either possibility, as well as thousands of others, but that’s as strong as the pressure gets at this point. Open. Three months out, I don’t feel anything tugging me in a particular direction. I can’t explain it any other way than that. It’s clearly intuitive. That far out, the tracks disappear into darkness. I extend logic and rationality into the void in an attempt to give it more definition, but the tools feel clumsy and inept, altogether useless for gaining insight.

And so, I’m done. I’m packing for Minnesota, I’m scheduling my wilderness training courses and preparing my gear lists, but I’m done thinking about September. Instead, I’m going to dig my heels into April and go snowboarding this weekend. September will arrive in its own time, and when it gets here it will know what to do.