14 July, 2008

summer jobs

If you're a reader of this blog, but not in daily contact with me, you're probably curious if I ever solved that pesky unemployment problem which curtailed my June. The answer is a resounding yes: I won! I turned in over 15 resumes to local Bellingham businesses: restaurants, clothing stores, bakeries -- you name it. But, on account of their not being interested in my services, I was forced to head home to the drawing board and reassess. Cue me spending two days scouring Western's job boards for odd jobs. Well, on the second day, in the depths of my despair, I found a listing looking for someone to maintain a Japanese Garden. I called and left a message detailing who I was, what my experience with gardening has been (incidentally, not much), etc. Later that evening, the gentleman Dr. Richard Francis (a retired professor of the Humanities school -- his specialties were Architecture, Film, and Classic Literature) gave me a telephone call saying he'd like me to come out to see a look at his garden. The next morning I was there, and by the time I left I had a job.

Now, being a gardener makes it seem like I'm actually a gardener, while in reality it'd be more accurate to describe my position as a paid gardening buddy. Dr. Francis, in as exquisite shape as he is, can't quite do all the mulching and weeding, nor heavy lifting he used to. That's where I come in; and the entire time we're chatting like birds on a wire. This afternoon, for example, I found out that his father was an Olympic pole vaulter, while his mother was an Olympic sprinter. Often times he'll tell me about his days at Yale, or when he taught at Brown. He's also remarkably sharp for an older man, so his stories are told with plenty of zest, and he never repeats himself. I work for him two days a week, five hours a day. My favorite moment so far was when I was playing in the shade, putting mulch beneath rhododendrons, while Richard was lunching inside with the windows open: with my knees in the cool dirt, the classical music floated to me. It didn't seem real, but I was very pleased.

The second job I have is even more interesting, and also came thanks to the Western job board. For all intents and purposes, I'm a friend-for-hire. However, I find that description to sound a little bit crude; it is more accurate to describe my position as a Guide to Fun. I hang out with a young man who has had the cards stacked against him his whole life. He's a capable guy, but learning isn't something that has ever come naturally for him, and he has limited social experience. He gets his schooling through a series of private tutors, and he is working toward his GED. His parents are trying to wean him toward a more independent lifestyle, which is where I come in: I'm teaching him how to go out and have a good time in the world on his own. So, we go sailing, or go to movies, or go out for walks, or take a swim.

Basically, this summer my vocation is friendship. It makes me feel like I could grin forever.

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