One of these things is not like the other.

As I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts, one of Portland’s hallmarks is the celebration of individuality and eccentricity. The weirder you are, the more credibility you have as a local. As a consequence, the biggest faux pas a person can commit is acting conventional or business-like (without trying to be ironic). I took the streetcar to an interview last Friday, and I couldn’t help but feel the reviling stares of the other riders. I felt like turning around and pleading, “I’m not a corporate sheep! Honestly! I’m creative and alternative and aloof, just like you! I’m a starving journalist on an undercover assignment!”  Instead, I just peered down at my leather-bound resume holder, the scarlet letter of the working stiff.

Random quiz question: The desk in the header image belongs to a great American author, can you guess which one and where the house is?

-J

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It’s the Willamette, Damn it.

Two Sundays ago, Kim decided that a jetboat ride down the Willamette River might be a fun way to show her Mom and brother our fair city. For those unfamiliar with Portland geography, the Willamette River bisects the city into eastern and western hemispheres. It’s just like the Danube River dividing Budapest, except we seem to have more gypsies here. On our exploratory visit, Kim and I learned that mispronouncing the name of this river was a quick way to be exposed as an out-of-towner. Having grown up near Lafayette College, I applied the pronunciation of one French name to another and arrived at WILL-am-ET. I’ve been saying it this was since my days of playing Oregon Trail on floppy disc. One of my new Portland friends recently set me straight, explaining that one way to remember the local pronunciation is the rhyming phrase, “it’s the will-AM-it, damn it!” It works like a charm and while I still like my pronunciation better, I’d rather sound silly and fit in.

[UPDATE: A friend of mine who happens to be a native Portlander was kind enough to point out that Willamette is a Native American name. Turns out it’s actually a French re-spelling of a Native American village, meaning it’s an onomastic mess. This explains why no one from outside the region has a clue how to pronounce it.]

In the downtown area alone, eight bridges span the Willamette to connect the west side yuppies to their favorite “underground” concert venues and the east side hipsters to their downtown day jobs. What these bridges lack in uniformity, they make up for in quirky individuality. When Kim and I first took the MAX train downtown from the airport, the endless rows incongruous steel trusses gave us the impression that Portland was far more industrial and perhaps less environmentally progressive than we had been led to believe. After living here for a few months, I’ve come to realize that being different, unpolished, and a bit odd is what makes Portland, Portland.

Not as quaint as those in Madison County

I was unsure just how fun a boat ride down Portland’s somewhat polluted and unattractive thoroughfare would be, but the afternoon heat made the whole prospect more appealing. Our quartet was brimming with sweat when we reached boat tour’s launch point. As we stood I line on the dock, the passengers of a recently returned excursion passed us in various degrees of dampness. A kindly little octogenarian in oversized sunglasses smiled at us as she shuffled up the ramp. She was entirely soaked, from her hair to her Reeboks. I half expected to see seaweed in her hair.

After waiving our rights to sue for any illness contracted from the river water and/or any injury resulting from a high-speed boat crash, we filed into the middle row of a cobalt blue jetboat. For those wondering what exactly a jetboat is, it’s simply a flat-bottomed aluminum boat with a jet motor rather than a propeller. Picture Adam West’s Batboat, only with seating for approximately 40 people and a disturbing lack of shark repellent bat spray.

Precisely Robin!

I can’t bring this up without linking to these bat-gems.

As we settled into our seats, the boat driver and tour guide started offering some tired one-liners about our chances of getting soaked, but I was captivated by his voice. It was an exact likeness to Norm MacDonald’s, with the perfect blend of sarcasm and disinterest. I even craned my head around to the back of the boat to make sure it wasn’t actually him. After all, I last saw Norm on a celebrity roast on Comedy Central; usually a sign your career is going in the wrong direction.

Our guide took us through the northern end of Portland and explained how the downtown area used to be lined with loading docks until the traffic nightmare caused by eight constantly-operating draw bridges forced the industrial district further north. We could hear the enthusiasm draining from his voice during the history lesson then paused and offered a deadpan, “anyway, let’s see what this thing can do.” He ratcheted the boat up to top speed. He swerved around bridge columns on his way back up river before slamming the brakes so suddenly that a wall of water was thrust backward onto the first four rows. “Oh Geez, that was awful, sorry about that,” he mumbled with mock dismay. If he wasn’t trying to channel MacDonald, it was a freakish coincidence.

In the intense heat, the water from Norm’s jetboat acrobatics evaporated in a matter of minutes. The craft traveled further up the river than I had ever explored on my bike and I actually learned a good deal about the massive houses, country clubs, unique houseboats along the river. For instance, a community of houseboats along with Willamette first began as a nifty act of property tax evasion. Unfortunately, the lawmakers caught up, and a flood in 1996 causes the river to rise over the tops of the houses’ anchoring pillars and drift downriver. On multiple occasions Norm pointed out Eagle and Osprey nests to inform us that these birds were indicators of an improving river ecosystem. It may have been true, but coming from him it sounded like a paid endorsement by the city or perhaps the Oregon Boaters Association.

Before heading back to the launch point, the boat carried us to Oregon City, a town which was apparently one of the largest west of the Mississippi throughout much of the 1800s. Today it is hardly ever mentioned, and houses little more than two unsightly riverside paper mills. It was here, at the foot of Willamette Falls, that we were treated to our most thorough soaking. I pursed my lips and questioned the wisdom of drenching people in water so close to potential paper mill effluent.

Over the years, the falls were tamed and channeled by concrete and a lock system had been installed adjacent to the paper factory to grant ships passage further up river. Despite these manipulations, the falls retained their majesty, and Norm ensured us that salmon were still able to fight their way up the cascade every year. I was unsure whether to be impressed at nature’s resiliency, or depressed that what I witnessed was considered a vast improvement from decades of years of environmental degradation.

Like the river on which it stands, Portland is far from being entirely healthy or uniformly pretty. There are rusted-out eyesores and reminders that some social and environmental problems are endemic to the region. Yet, signs of new life abound, and the lasting effects of past mistakes seem to be informing efforts toward revitalization. As I was wringing out my shorts back on the launch point it occurred to me that a peculiar trip up and down the Willamette offered a more accurate depiction of Portland than I expected. Plus, Chris and Mrs. D seemed to enjoy it, and we managed to escape the heat for the afternoon. We also found out what Norm’s been up to since Dirty Work. Props to Kim for planning another fun outing.

-J

Can’t stop my mind from doing prison time.

It’s Monday again, which means I’m alone in my apartment with my computer.  I saw this isolation coming when I decided to move to Portland without a job, but that doesn’t make it much easier. I make an effort to get outside around noon and enjoy the sun while it lasts, and I leave the apartment in the afternoon to run in Forest Park or play some pick-up basketball.  Still, I’m left with a lot of hours alone with my laptop. I haven’t started talking to it yet, but I think I’ve developed an emotional dependency that bordering on unhealthy. More and more, I’m seeing my computer as my last conduit for social interaction, not to mention potential employment.

Alright, I’m going outside.

-J

Lost Coastlines

This past weekend, Kim and I took our third trip to the Oregon coast, this time with Kim’s visiting mom and brother, Chris, in tow. As is often the tendency when entertaining guests, we chose to visit a location we knew would impress over exploring something new and risking disappointment.  Cannon Beach, with its iconic Haystack Rock, was a proven winner.

We hopped in our Prius Zipcar and took off after taking a few seconds to figure our that the brake pedal needed to be pressed in order for the puss-button ignition to work—kind of like a tractor. By the way, push button ignitions are undeniably cool, but were that many people ever really outraged by the effort required to turn a key? Oh well, we also had no need for an iPad before we realized it could make our friends jealous.

The four of us headed west on Route 26, over the coastal range and into the clouded netherworld that is the Pacific Northwest coastline. Despite being able to see where the clouds break just miles away, beyond the coastal range, the beach is almost always overcast and windy. Combine the weather with the rugged, volcanic rock formations  jutting up from the sand and you have a landscape ideal for moody artists, but crappy for tanning and people watching. Still, there’s a soulful mystique to the coast. It’s cold and dreary but the water is a brilliant green, and rich with sea life, form pink anemones to puffins, to orcas.  It reminds us that we humans have the silly tendency to think beaches exist solely for our enjoyment. We crave clear, nutrient-depleted water and dazzling red sunsets, but the northwest coastline assures us that we don’t really know what’s good for us.

Miami it's not.

It was 100 degrees in Portland (a rare occurrence, by the way), but with the wind, it felt no warmer than 50 degrees as we peered into the tidal pools behind Haystack Rock. Children took turns poking starfish to the chagrin of the Coastal Wildlife Refuge nearby employees setting up mobile learning stations. While scanning the literature at one of these stations, I learned that because of Northwest ocean currents, ocean water in Cannon Beach is actually warmer in the winter than in the summer. Ok, so the beaches are cloudy on sunny days and water gets colder with warmer weather. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the next paragraph explained that on the Oregon coast, people wear shoes on their heads and sandwiches eat people.

It's hard to tell your friends from your anemones.

After having a little picnic in the sand, Kim and I took our guests up to an overlook in Ecola State Park, just a half mile north. From our perch we looked down at the rows of waves charging towards a secluded shoreline called Crescent Beach. On our previous trip, Kim and I had to turn back from our hike down to this beach in order to return our Zipcar on time, but we were determined to make it this time.

The trail turned out to be less direct than anticipated, but we enjoyed our detour into a northwestern pine forest. Even in the dead of August, the forest was cool and green. Chris and Mrs. D got a first-hand appreciation of the access to nature that our new life in Portland afforded. I led the hike, searching for a banana slug big enough to sufficiently impress/disgust our guests. Halfway through the trail I looked up and saw another hiker’s dog up the trail ahead of me. When no one appeared behind it, I studied its head and tail and realized that we had actually come across a coyote. We examined each other for a moment, both wondering whether or not to feel threatened, before the animal continued on it’s own path down the hillside and disappeared into some ferns. I had just finished telling Chris that while the forests of the Northwest were beautiful, they seemed devoid of wildlife larger than chipmunks. The coyote reminded me that part of nature’s allure is its knack for serendipity.

Not to get all “Dances with Wolves” about this, but the moment in which the coyote and I stared at each other filled me with a rare kind of wonder. It happened in an instant but was more engaging than anything I could find on TV or trending on twitter.   I noticed fresh deer tracks in the thin trail the coyote had been traveling and wondered if we had interrupted his pursuit of something. My next thought was how my father taught me how to identify those tracks, and I hoped that some day I cold teach my children to do the same. It’s funny where your mind will go when it’s free to wander.

He felt a lot closer than this shot indicates. Still awesome.

We continued on, following a set of muddy switchbacks down to the shore. There were only a handful of other visitors, and the small section of beach felt more beautiful in its isolation. The waves here were still green and foot-crampingly cold, but I felt more compelled to dive in. Without a towel, I decided against it, and I settled for shifting my feet into the wet sand.

Before long we returned up the trail to our car. After driving a couple miles back toward Portland, the sky was perfectly clear. We all discovered that the sun had been at the beach all along, discretely burning our skin and zapping our energy through the cloud cover. It may have been only traditional beach experience we had, but that was all right with me.

By the way, the title of this post refers to the song ‘Lost Coastlines’ by Okkervil River. I always think about the Oregon coast when I hear it. Check it out if you haven’t heard it.

-J

Yea, That Sounds Reasonable

One truly unique part of online job hunting is coming across a Craigslist scam. I’m never sure whether to be impressed at the skeezeball poster’s ingenuity, angry that it’s wasting my time, or baffled that people actually take the bait.  I recently applied to a posting for a part-time tutoring position in the hopes for funding my job search and perhaps helping out a local family in the process. Instead, I stumbled upon this beautiful disaster of an e-mail:

Hello,
Thanks for replying back to my online job posting, requiring your tutorial service for my Daughter, I would like to make a tutoring arrangement between you and my Daughter for the month of Sept. 2010, I would like you to tutor her within a period of 1 month, on a schedule basis of 1 hr Daily, 3 times weekly, totaling 12 times in a month.

We’re off to a bad start. Why are you capitalizing “daughter”? Why are you using commas rather than periods? Oh well, at least the math checks out.

I am willing to pay $40/hr.

Well that’s nice.

I would like to use these medium to inform you that my Daughter don’t live in the US, she would be flying from Kuala lumpur Malaysia to the US, I want you to teach her during her 8 month stay in the US, if there is need to extend your services, an amendment would be made to your salary. she would be dropped off/picked up by her nanny during the hours of teaching at any location you want the Tutoring to take place in your area.

Hmm. I guess these medium are as good as any, Mr. Scam Artist. If any of this was true, why would you feel the need to tell me that she’s currently not in the US, but will be soon? You don’t care to meet me, AND you’re fine with me choosing the location of the tutoring? What if I picked a junkyard, or beneath route 405 overpass? Why are you capitalizing “Tutoring”. In any event, I’m glad to hear that you’d amend my invisible contract if you chose to extend my services.

You would be receiving a check drawn from a Bank in the US, from my business associates in the US, since i am from Kuala lumpur Malaysia and right now am in Cuba for a business trip the  payments wont be honored in any bank there in Malaysia or here in Cuba , These check would be made out for the cost of the tutorial services you are rendering, and also for the living expense, nanny fees of my Daughter.

Uh. What? Golly, I’m not well-versed in the banking practices of Malaysia or Cuba, nor how they relate to US banks. I do know that those countries are strange and scary places, so I’m sure your logic is sound. Wait, one check for “living” expenses, this mysterious nanny you keep mentioning, and for my tutoring? Unconventional, but I’m sure it’ll all work out.

Regarding this- I hope i can trust you with these payments, as the payment would be made out in excess, so all you have to do is Deposit and cash the payment  at your bank, deduct your tutorial service fee, which should be $40 per hour X 12 Times a Month = $480 i would include an additional $100 for run around fee and any additional text book you might be needing- so $580 is what you deduct from the check you receive , whatever the remaining balance is after deduction of the $580 go ahead and deduct Money Gram Wire  transfer sending charges for sending out the remainder to the Nanny who would be contacting you with further arrangements and instructions regarding pickup/drop off of my Daughter to the library where you would always teach her.

Come on, cryptic Malaysian businessman! Of course you can trust me. You and I go way back. Yay! An extra $100 for running around wiring money for you plus any additional textbook I may need. You’re correct in assuming I have a collection on random textbooks for my tutoring practices, by the way. Hey, I thought I could pick the tutoring location? Oh well, I guess I can always tutor at a library.

So i hope i can trust you that you will teach my Daughter good academics and some moral respects so that they can be good to their self in the future, i hope i can count on you for the tutorial and the money to be sent to the Nanny.

Suddenly it seems there are multiple children. No matter, I always teach good academics and moral respects. It’s my personal policy. Again, with the trust issues, dubious Craigslister!  This may be the wrong “medium” for you to tend to your family’s education/banking needs if trust is such a priority. Just saying. I’m still totally interested by this foolproof and exciting job opportunity!

I look forward to read a detailed message from you containing the following information, if you are OK with my arrangements.

FULL NAME:
MAILING ADDRESS :
CITY:
COUNTY:
POST CODE:
CELL PHONE:
HOME PHONE
SEX:
BEST TIME TO CALL:
PRESENT JOB STATUS/POSITION:
BEST EMAIL TO REACH YOU :

Sure thing, but you already know my job status! I’m a world-famous tutor to the children of important Malaysian businessmen. Also, my city is Portland, OR. I sure hope your daughter happens to be moving to the same city, otherwise this e-mail would seem like a waste of everyone’s time. That, or some kind of absurd online scam.

N.B  My Daughter  Name is Christine Angela Smith and her Age is 12 yrs , She is actually coming to the US for sight seeing, but while she is here i want her to study at the same time, she understand English, can write and read fluently i just need her Math,Physics,English,SAT and ACT Prep,Chemistry & Statistics  Upgraded

Thanks for your Understanding.

Paul Smith

Whew, I thought that being from Malaysia, your and you daughter would have confusing, hard-to-pronounce names. Turns out they are some of the most common names in the English language! I agree that, naturally, we should get Christine started on her SAT and ACT prep. We don’t want her turn 13 without being properly “upgraded” for those exams.

Well this all sounds like a convenient arrangement for everyone involved! I’m so glad I spent the time to apply to your job posting, Mr. Smith. Pick up some cigars in Havana for me! I was just thinking, why don’t I give you my bank account information so you can wire money directly into it. That would be easier.

Kudos to you Paul Smith, for authoring perhaps the sketchiest e-mail of all time. Just so you know, I’ll agree to your arrangement, but your nanny will never see the rest of the money! MuahHAHAHAHA!

But seriously Paul, “thanks you” for wasting everyone’s time. Way to make a living.

-J

Soul Refreshing

After about a month, the euphoria of arriving in Portland on an adventure-induced high wore off. Tedious little shreds of reality started to collect around the apartment, in the form of dirty dishes and piles of laundry. It took them an extra month to get here, but eventually heaps of boredom, loneliness, stress, and uncertainty reared their ugly heads as well. Kim became overwhelmed with work at the same time I became under-whelmed with it. I came in second for two job positions, one because I had too much experience, and the other because I didn’t have enough, and we both started to genuinely miss our friends in DC.

At least we weren’t alone. Talking with my family gave me the sense that late July/early August was wearing everybody down. Part of it must be a seasonal thing. This is prime vacation time—vacation time being a euphemism for “If I don’t get out of this situation, I’m going lose my mind” time. One odd perk of Portland’s location is that there are incredible rates for flights to Hawaii from here; so incredible that half the city is there right now. I think the other half leaves next week.

Being the unemployed schlub that I am, joining that particular exodus was not an option, so Kim and I decided on a weekend camping trip. After all, both of us thought a big selling point for Portland was the legendary access to nature. The impending rainy season loomed just weeks away, and we had yet to go on an overnight excursion. After some research I opted for the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia Gorge.

Last Friday night, Kim and I waffled on whether or not to spend the money on the Zipcar for the trip after I came across reports that the trail was one of the most heavily trafficked in the area. The idea was to escape the disappointment and stress of work and job-hunting, not to compete in a frantic hiker rat race for two days. At midnight, we decided we’d just go for it. Seven hours later we threw our packs in our Zipcar and head east along the Columbia River on I-84.

We arrived at the trailhead by 8:00 and felt weight of the week begin to evaporate. I can’t say the same for the weight of our packs. It kind of fascinates me how they psyche of our modern culture is revealed by the simple act of packing for a couple days in the woods. Experience says, you won’t need that, and you’ll be encumbered by it. Comfort and insecurity rebuke, but what if you NEED that stuff? You’ll be cold, wet, hungry, exposed, and lost without it. Our packs ended up heavier than necessary.

By the 2.5-mile mark, the trail scenery had exceeded anything I’ve seen on the East Coast. Novelty probably had a lot to do with this impression. The mountain trails in the PNW differ from the Appalachians in a few ways:

1.)   The mountains are younger, and therefore steeper, with more challenging ascents and more dramatic views.
2.)   The streams have yet to ground stone into mud, so they’re lined with gorgeous round stones and offer tremendous visibility.
3.)   The adolescent streams feature a stunning number of waterfalls and narrow canyons.
4.)   The rainfall supports uber-lush ferns and moss that cover every inch of forest.

After four miles, Kim and I took a side trail to the Lower Punchbowl Falls, which emptied into a canyon nestled between the upper and lower falls. Water dripped down hundreds of feet from the sides of the canyon walls, pattering single-file drops into the still creek water below. One of the most remarkable parts of the experience was the timing. It hadn’t rained in Oregon in two months. Though I’m sure clouds offer more precipitation in the mountains, this was still the driest part of the year for the stream. Some rivulets were dry, and the moss turned an olive-brown color in some places, but it was still hard to imagine how lush this place would be in the spring.

We hiked on, crossing high bridges and a half a dozen stretches where the 24 inch-wide trail wrapped around a cliff sides with abrupt 100-foot drop-offs. A cable railing was provided, so it wasn’t exactly panic inducing. Caution inducing might be a better way to put it.  Other highlights included a stretch nicknamed “The Potholes”. Here, the trail was blasted through a cliff wall of columnar basalt. The result was a curious display of convex and concave half-dome rock formations. It’s awe-inspiring to viewing such perfect geometry amidst the organized chaos that is the natural world.

The Potholes. "Oh no, your tire's all flat and junk!"

At mile six, we came across the highlight of the trail, the 175-foot Tunnel Falls! While viewing the falls from afar was breathtaking, the trail actually bore through the rock face behind the falls, about 80 feet up from the bottom. Kim and gasped and giggled like little kids as we entered the dripping tunnel and were sprayed with mist from the falls. This was certainly something hard to come by back home. It was also enough to scrub away any lingering memories of our crummy week.

Was somewhat hoping to travel through time and/or space when as I passed through this tunnel. Still incredible though.

We continued on into Mount Hood National Forest and past the last of the campsites, until the trail became overgrown with blackberry bushes. Thanks to our early start, we were able to head halfway back down the trail and make it to a sparsely populated site. Kim and I were relieved to find that our fears of overcrowding were largely unfounded. The weather was nice enough to warrant traffic, but then again, half of Portland was in Hawaii. We pitched our tent, cooked up some soup, and dipped our feet in cool water just a few feet away. Before bed, we played some cards and Kim reminded me that I get a little too competitive. I agreed, but reminded her that technically, I won our Crazy Eights series, 3 games to 2.

The next morning, we woke up with sore backs, but were placated by the sight of our wet, and fully saturated green surroundings. Plus, there are few things more beautiful than morning light on rushing water. No wonder W.B. Yeats once wrote about a fly-fisherman (a symbol of an idealized Ireland),

‘…before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn,’

On our short hike back on Sunday morning, Kim and I stopped back at the canyon of the Punchbowl Falls. Before long, we were joined by a gaggle of nature photographers who had come to take shots of the upper punchbowl. The clouds sporadically parted long enough to for the mossy canyon walls to glisten in the sunlight. We returned to the edge of the lower punchbowl falls and peered over, in search of a path that led out of the bowl. We found only a section of rock wall craggy enough to scale, but Kim told me that she was determined to jump. She went first, plunging the ten feet into the frigid blue mountain water. When she surfaced I asked if she was ok, but heard no response as she sidestroked to the shallows. Eventually she told me the cold knocked the air from her lungs. I braced myself and leapt to experience the shock first-hand. She was right.  Like the Catskill mountain stream I swam in as a child, the water was crisp, icy, and invigorating. Back above the falls we embraced the tingling feeling of sunlight and warm cloth on cold skin.

Upper Punchbowl Falls. Also, our new Happy Place.

Upon first read, Yeats’ description of dawn as cold and passionate seems is an oxymoron. We all know passion is hot, and to be cold is to withhold emotion. Yet, after waking up along a mountain stream that shimmers in still pools moments before careening over a cliff, after leaping into a glacial pool to embrace a wild yearning in my heart, the description makes all the sense in the world.

-J

Nobody lost ahead of you.

I thought about starting this post of by apologizing for the long blog hiatus, then realized that any loyal followers have long since moved on. Fair enough. Maybe it’s not too late, and I can write a triumphant comeback post. Here goes….

One big reason I fell off with the blogging is because I had some success off the bat with my job hunt. I wound up getting to the final interview stage for two different but equally interesting job opportunities: one a marketing coordinator position with an architecture firm in the Pearl District (sweet and nearby location), and the other a admissions counselor position with a small liberal arts college in the Portland Area (not so close).

The architecture firm felt like a good fit for both the designer and the sustainability buff in me. I imaged having thoughtful interaction with designers of cutting-edge green education and public health facilities, working in a beautiful office space with brilliant people. The admissions position made me excited at the prospect of returning to the realm of academia. I miss being immersed in a culture of learning and exploration, plus the contagious energy and ambition of college students, athletes, professors, and even administrators. I’ve been told by friends that I’m a good listener and would make a good counselor, and I thought this position would allow me to explore that option.

Somehow both interviews were set for the same day, with a half hour meeting at 8:00am in the Pearl, followed by a five-hour marathon interview at the college, which required that I give a presentation to display my public speaking abilities. Woof. Interviews are nerve racking. Two interviews in one day is doubly nerve racking (though it’s only one day in a suit). Two interviews, one of which included giving a presentation to a room full of strangers was enough to keep me awake at night. When I did sleep, I dreamt about all of my teeth falling out, then woke up with sore molars. Kim told me she heard that dreams about losing teeth usually mean the dreamer is scared of losing something of great personal value. Interesting, but what could that be?  Maybe my primitive and macho desire to be autonomous and provide for Kim? Maybe my sanity? Maybe my wallet? Who knows.

The big day came and went off without a hitch. I felt great about both meetings and was excited to hear from both potential employers within two days. Perhaps foolishly, I was even wondering what I would do in the likely event that I was offered both positions. Two weeks later, the only good news is that I don’t have to worry about making that decision. Both camps were later than they at first indicated in getting back to me. When a job hunter like me goes all in to nail final round interviews, I can’t express how much anxiety builds with each day of no news.  The after one follow-up e-mail, the college was gracious enough to give me a call and explain that the position had been filled by someone with admissions office experience. I was assured the second choice. Why hirers think anyone would like to hear that, I have no idea. It reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on how there’s nothing worse than the silver medal. With bronze you think, “hey at least I got something.” The silver medal means you’re the number 1 loser. No one lost ahead of you.  Nevertheless, I appreciated the call and upon further reflection, felt like I did pretty well to be considered for a position despite having no prior experience in admissions or higher education.

The architecture firm’s response was a little slower. After the original response deadline passed, I followed up and was told that rather than the 24 hours, the firm hoped to make a decision by the end of the following week. Uh-oh. Of course, my mind took this and ran. Did they find another awesome candidate at the last minute? Did an urgent, all-hands project come up? Did a rhinoceros break out of the Oregon Zoo and barrel through the firm’s office, requiring an extensive clean-up effort? These things happen. All I knew for sure, that it wasn’t a good sign. I spent a week obsessively checking my e-mail and trying to will my phone into ringing.

Just this morning, I received e-mail confirmation that I was (drumroll) not selected, but was the second choice! I was starting to feel like Jan Ullrich, but without the blood doping or the prize money. Following this note I had a good exchange with the hirer. She told me about her concern that with my experience and the position’s high turnover history, I would probably feel overqualified, get bored, and leave the position. I appreciated the thought, but I was under the impression that there was no such thing as being overqualified in the Portland Job market. This is where thirty-year-olds with MBAs and Law degrees kick and gouge each other over bartending positions. I was left feeling wedged somewhere between those overqualified for entry-level work (rock), and those not educated or experienced enough for mid-level positions (hard place), which is only fueling my desire to try and eke out a living on my own.

My brother and parents are of course looking on the bright side and encouraging me to do the same, God bless them. After a rough couple of weeks I’m starting to come around. An excellent hiking excursion last weekend helped soften my outlook and recharge my existential batteries (more on that in my next post). Sure, I got a little down, but I’m also staying practical and persistent, as is my nature. I’m still pursuing interesting opportunities and I’m going to keep moving.  Just like a shark, or at least a shark that spends its days crafting deft cover letters and e-mail correspondence.

-J