Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Just rambling about life and getting a job

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 17, 2008

About 1 month ago I decided that it was time to get a real job, I have a real job, I probably should have said- a real career. I just want something that challenges me and allows me to pay off my loans as well. Challenge is important because I hate inactive minds, maybe that’s why I don’t watch much television. I need that sense of excitement from solving problems and improving whatever you are trying to do, that’s why paper pushers in cubicle type tasks never appealed to me.

So naturally I started applying for jobs, and unlike the last time around which was about year or so ago, I narrowed it down to the keywords “manager trainee” it didn’t actually what it was, just that sort of move up in the ranks keyword rubs me the right way. I should preface that until now I had enough dough to get by and take trips and ski and do all the other adventures I do, then a fire was lit under my tuchus that said “dude” you have to get a real full time career so you can do cooler trips. Or maybe it was my want to get married, who knows, on my salary its highly unlikely I can afford to get married.

So I tweaked my resume and busted out some emails, and I actually started to get offers for interviews. Unfortunately I don’t do well on phone interviews, I am a people person. I can do well with customers on the phone, but being interrogated kind of stinks. So I had some of those and then I had these face to face ones and the full day ones- usually for sales type jobs- which I always ace. I would probably do well at sales, but I hate to lie to people and I cannot stand only working for commission, like most that lack of stability scares me- even though I kind of dislike stability- yes its weird.

So I have sort of honed my interview skills, because I started actually liking interviews. I think I am like the anti-normalcy guy or something. I love things people like to hate, besides the dentist, I love shadchuns. Shidduch dating, public speaking and interviews oh and going to random peoples houses and being interrogated usually for shidduch purposes- most people hate these sort of things.

My problem with interviews are they make me realize how immature I am. When they say what are your goals for the next 5 years, I am thinking things like hike the Appalachian Trail, hitchhike the Alaskan Highway and ride cross country on my bike- they are thinking of goals and deadlines and work related things. But to me they are work related, I only want to work so I can take off. Its kind of weird, to me its not vacation. To me work is unreal and the outdoors is real. I do like to work, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the fruits of my labor- immensely.

So I answer cheesy things like being district manager or director of blah blah, whatever- they wouldn’t understand. Even after I get a job I want to withstand the pull of working long hours just for the extra buck. I turned down a couple jobs already because they were 11-12 hour day jobs, in fields I didn’t even like. I am not selling my soul here. I gota eat, but I can eat pasta if I want, I don’t really need the sun dried tomatoes too.

Its just hard for someone as immature as I am, who at 26 has driven to every lower 48 state twice and has pretty much done as much road tripping as even the most experienced road trippers do in their lifetimes. Of course I haven’t accomplished much, but I have no idea what that means either- I feel like Holden Claufield or something , ok I think I’m finished with my rambling

Posted in Life, Road Trips | 4 Comments »

Remembering the Northwest Territories

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 7, 2008

I have never been so aware of my devotion to Hashem than on my trip to Alaska. In August of 2007 I undertook trip that many people dream of, but never actually complete, or they opt for the cruise and miss out on all I was to see and bask in. I say this because, the drive is a lonely one, literally coming to towns every 150 miles or so, along the Alaska Highway (Alcan). There is just nothing ordinary about it, you have never really been in the true middle of nowhere until you make the drive. Northern British Columbia and Yukon Territories are so vast and empty it’s a marvel that anyone calls it home. Prior to 1942 with the construction of the Alaska Highway, it was a truly desolate, with just a few mining and logging communities, towns were non-existent and most of the residents were natives or living in the Bush. The bush is the term used to describe someone that lives in a community or area that is not accessible by road, and usually only accessible by plane or snowmobile. Till today there are thousands of people living in the bush, and thousands more that live in places that are accessible in the winter through the building of “ice roads”, its unbelievable and I was driving right through it.

In fact a quick look at a map of the north country will reveal that for most of the Alaska Highway, it is completely void of human activity on either side for a thousand miles in either direction. This is why I was completely aware of every little spark of kedusha that I brought to this isolated piece of land.

It didn’t hit me so hard until I was davening shachris on the side of the Liard River in southern Northwest Territories. There was this long single lane bridge with a wooden planked surface, it was rather odd and the Milepost even had something to say about it. The Milepost is a guide to the north country, and is put out every year, it is extensive and a must for anyone traveling the north, usually the north is referred as anything above the 60th parallel, which is at over a thousand miles due north of the United States northern border with Canada which is at the 49th parallel.

Anyway I was overlooking this vast swift moving flat water river, sandy shores butted up against the greenest, thickest forest of pine I have ever seen. In fact the whole area is this unbroken plain of pine trees that are rather short, due to the extreme northern cold climate and northern location. There is a point at which the trees end, and nothing can grow besides for grasses and shrubs, but we were not headed up that far. I was standing off to the side of this long bridge while my driving companion Danny debated if he wanted to go fishing for some breakfast.

The road we were on was dirt, in fact there are hardly any paved roads in the Northwest Territories (NWT) and we were on a short detour, because in my mind you cannot come to the north and skip out on being somewhere that is so hard to get to. NWT stretches north to he arctic ocean and also borders Nunavut, Canada’s newest province, most rural and hardest to get to. The lure of NWT for me was its shear size and lack of people, 41,000 people live in an area almost ten times the size of California, that is just too insane to pass up.

We had decided not to drive so far into it, since the roads are unpaved, and although they aren’t too bad, I did want to make it to Alaska, and most of NWT is flat and I fiended the mountains of the Yukon and Alaska.

It really wasn’t a question of whether I was the first person to daven on route the side of the bridge right outside the Northwest Territories. But I had begun to think of a bunch of different ways to bring kedusha to the ground we walked on. Brachos instantly became more pronounced and excuses were made to say a bracha, more kinds of food were eaten, picking wild flowers to make brachos and going to the bathroom more so we could say asher yatzer, it was unreal really and the mood lasted throughout the trip. Every time we sat down to eat or make camp, there was a little learning that may not have been done, have we been in a more populated location.

The road became rough and down the center of it was a small pile of gravel and earth, it was making it hard to drive faster then 30, then a road grader approached up and flattened out the road, nearly swiping my car and all its contents into the ditch that was on the side of the road. Every few minutes we pass a cut in the trees with no apparent purpose, but according to the Milepost they were snow roads, only opened when enough snow had fallen to allow trucks and snowmobiles to travel over the roots and fallen trees.

My car came to a halt in the middle of the road, nearly skidding off it, for a herd of Buffalo had just appeared out of the thickets, I hadn’t realized anything could fit in the forest. The huge brown hairy behemoths, just grazed as if were weren’t even there. I love Buffalo, especially in the wild, which in the lower 48 is rare, save for Montana and South Dakota which have several herds. We took some pictures and stared at wonder at the large beasts, just taking big bites off the bushes on the side of the road.

A little further on we came to a simple road sign that said Welcome to the Northwest Territories. It was a simple affair and since we were almost out of gas, we continued on to the small town or outpost may be a better word, of Fort Liard. I just wanted to see some people that actually called this place home, and see the license plates. The license plates in NWT are shaped like a grizzly bear and I found that interesting.

We stopped at the one gas station, we had since stopped thinking of gas cost because everything is marked up in the north and you can forget about brand names. Most of the gas stations were merely a bunch of cabins with a pump sticking out of the earth. We walked in the store and realized that most of the town were natives.

Then we went to the one store, a native crafts store, and browsed. We looked in the guest book and sure enough some folks had written their names in Hebrew and were from Israel, whether they were religious we will never know.

Posted in Alaska, Jews, Life, Rural America, Torah Thoughts | 7 Comments »

I really love this album review

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 26, 2007

I picked up one of many alternative weeklies while I was used book and cd shopping last week in Northhampton Mass. I absolutely loved this album Review by staff writer Tom Sturm.

I have never heard of this band and have no idea what they sound like by the way.

Road- (Merry Go Room) by Tom Sturm
This is a wet one, flowing and entrancing with Frippian guitar loops, lots of reverb and octave vocal harmonies and a general tone that shouts (quite quietly), “mood, mood, mood”. The vibe of the tune runs through the indie/folkie range from Pavement to Wilco to sea change era Bec, chugging along to a rythm section that evokes the laid back simplicity of Charlie Watt. Gorgeous noodly guitars and keyboards are everywhere, further evoking a stoner-ish asthetic that’s both deep and wide as an ocean of warm pink nyquil. The songs definately channel something aboriginal as well, but more through Andy Summers and Peter Gabriel. Watch out: this album plus a bottle of Harvey Bristol Cream mind wind you up married.

Posted in Life, music | Leave a Comment »

First big snow of the season

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 14, 2007

I wouldn’t call it a big storm, but we received at least 8 inches of white stuff today, and I watched the whole thing dump during work. It seemed like the second I left work, it stopped, that sucked. I love walking in the snow, especially when its coming down strong, blowing all over the place making these way cool snow drifts. I always debate whether to break the virgin white snow, or let it be.
It may have stopped but that didnt stop me from getting a great workout and having loads of fun after I got of work at 8pm tonight. First I shoveled my driveway, the snow is of moderate weight so I broke a good sweat and made my arms ache. I hate going for weeks on end without raising my heart rate or breaking a sweat. I really needed this, I saved the other half of driveway for tomorrow.

Then I whipped out my cross country skis and donned some windproof fleece and went out side in the beautiful clear 20 degree night, in fact there was no wind, I started sweating like mad, about 10 minutes into my skiing. I skid around the local college campus and like always I had people screaming at me, they sound like people under water because I can never understand a word they say. I just continue along peacefully enjoying my self. I love the solitude that snow offers, it soaks up sound and reflects light, making night hiking and skiing a pleasure. I especially like to ski frozen lakes, only sharing them with the occasional night ice fisherman. During the day there are always too many sledders and trucks with folks tailgating and ice fishing- not my sort of thing- I come outside for silence, for time away from cell phones, Ipods, computers and people in general. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing can get you lost in your thoughts, and helps you meditate on the now, no running, just peaceful thoughts.

I purposefully headed to the woodsier part of the campus and marveled at the snow bent pine trees, their green needles and cones sticking out from under the snow that was bending their branches over, I really like the trees and wish I had my camera, they were beautiful, I am sure the snow will either fall off from wind or be pushed off by students messing around. It is gone a distant memory now, maybe I will walk there tomorrow night in honor of shabbos.

Posted in Life, Skiing | Leave a Comment »

I need a new job

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 12, 2007

So I quit my dead end job last week in hopes that I will finally be able to find something to do that I love. Seems unlikely considering the fact my resume is geared toward a political/legislative career in which my life would be surrounded by folks I dislike while I sat at a desk typing out constituent correspondence. In fact last year I searched with no luck for just that sort of job,now I am sort of stuck. Unlike most folks I actually need a certain amount of money to live, bare minimum is around 15k year for me to pay off my bills and rent. So money is not the issue, its peace of mind that is at hand.

So I obviously turned to the outdoors networks, but the problem is that my only experience in the outdoors is my own. I did not go to school for environmental science or a related field, so I am sort of screwed I think. A farmer I know may hire me, I will know in less then a month, but I am not expecting it and instead have been roaming sites in search of something Jewish and Outdoorsy at the same time. Yes its tough, because that is such a new concept.

My buddy Jason told me to contact the folks at Teva Learning center and find out about a job. The have program jobs listed on their site- you know- you work for 3 months get paid 250 bucks a week and get free rent. Problem is, what does one do after a few months, do we somehow just get another contract job, I have a feeling that only privilidged folks can afford to do such jobs. Judging by the way things really are, most environmentally aware Jews are from the upper middle class folks that go to baby Ivies and can afford to hop around locations.

I have also been thinking about doing the Adama program at the Isabella Freedman Center in Connecticut. I have some friends who did it and made some great connections. The problem is that besides only getting one day off per week- they work you like a dogs and dont bother to pay, once a again a job for newly graduated folks from wealthy homes who get gas money from mom and dad, what happened to us paycheck to paycheck guys working in these fields.

Sp once again I sit slightly depressed at my current situation, any suggestions on how to do what I love without spending more years in school or going bankrupt in order to work for pennies or even for free. Maybe you have a job for me.

Posted in general Outdoors, Life, Organic Food | 5 Comments »

Longing for the woods

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 5, 2007

Insatiable wanderlust is unlike any feeling I have ever known, the older I get the more it tugs at me to discover what lies around every bend, up every mountain and across every field. Not only does it hold me in its grasp, it gets tighter and tighter as the years go on. I cannot explain such a feeling to any person, the person who understands me most has the same desire, unrelenting desires to be alone with nature. Its not about being antisocial I can constantly hear myself explaining to the unknowing about my disease-like condition. I have my community like you have yours, but my community is small and tends to partake in their desires to the extreme, nothing is ever good enough- simply put its like a drug, a drug that drives most to the wilderness to seek out a cure for the pain of longing.

The only way I can relate this feeling to others is to put it in lamens terms- think about the woman you long for and just cannot reach, and when you reach her and grab her you just want more of her. Sometimes it is so out of reach and that folks do seemingly crazy things to put the wild within their reach. Though it is not only the wild, this needs to be explained for while driving down the road passing farmhouses and roaring brooks can cure the desire for just a moment, a fleeting moment that comes to a crash whenever a strip mall or interstate highway appears- breaking us out of our dreamy drive and back into reality as they say- although my reality is much different, you see my reality is the outdoors. The matrix for me is the working life and the life of stores and auto malls, my real life the one I live outside the matrix, my reality is commune with nature.

I feel a home paddling down a gentle stream, riding through the woods on a mountain bike and hiking up steep mountain passes with 2 weeks of supplies on my back, this when I am complete. Material possessions mean nothing to me, less they will me the ability to leave the matrix and enter into my reality. Vehicles that can allow me to enter the woods under my own power are all I want. I say bleh to the TV’s, Ipods and computers. I can type on a library computer and write in my notebook. Yes I own some of these items, but how I long to throw all my neccsities in the trunk of my car and set out into the great unknown.

Does every man long to travel west, hitchhike, by car or by freight train, is this pining in every mans heart? I wonder these things amidst a feeling of depression, I have no idea where this feeling came from. The feeling of being alone is great, but only for the time being. Someone to understand my longing, my desperate attempt to save myself from corporate society and the caste system we know as suburbia. Can somebody save me from the grips of modernity, throw away everything save for a potbellied stove and several knives, maybe an iron skillet. Give me my boots and my freedom and you can keep all your STUFF!!!

Posted in general Outdoors, Kill Your Television, Life | 1 Comment »

Dear Hotel Saranac: Your Pillows Suck

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 20, 2007

Dear Hotel Saranac:

I was excited to be staying at your historic hotel for this entire week. I was even more excited when I arrived and found my bed stacked with four pillows and beautiful quilts that were smooth and not rough on the inside like most chain motels. I loved the toilet with its extremely powerful flush and the old world tiling, as well as the deep bathtub. I enjoyed the little basket of soaps and shampoos that came with my room and they have all been taken and deposited into the bottom of my duffel bag.

I was paid good money to be up here and my room was paid for as well, so its not as if I spent my own money to stay here. I expected to come back after a full work day followed by a 40 mile bike ride, or a 4 hour paddle down the Raquette River to a nice cozy bed and a great nights sleep, but you know what?

Those four pillows were worth about as much as a roll of that thin toilet paper you find in restrooms along highways. THEY SUCKED and they prevented me from having a single good nights sleep. They were soft enough for a baby to be born into, but they did not do their job, which is to cradle my head above the bed, and not suck it down between multiple layers of cotton and feathers. Two of them acted like one big soft pillow. Three of them and you had an aching neck, and one of them was like sleeping with a towel folded once over under my head.

Such a shame to waste such a beautiful hotel, one that has one of the old cutler mail chutes made in Rochester, one that has a beautiful old mens club on the second floor and good adequate free parking that one needn’t walk through a maze of room service equipment to get to.


Posted in Adirondacks, Life | Leave a Comment »