Sunday, May 8, 2011

Out of the frying pan and into the boiler

It's been almost a month since my last blog update, not that I have forgotten that my life bears slight interest to my adoring fans, I just felt there was nothing of any real interest happening in my life. I am happy to report that there have been some new developments that add great fodder to a blog writers repertoire.

As of the writing my last entry, I was attempting to teach myself algebra so I could qualify for an electrician apprenticeship. I made some great progress on the things I was able to learn but as things started to get more complicated, I came to some road blocks that I was not able to overcome. Since then, I have signed up with an online course offered through the National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. Completion of this course will satisfy all math requirements for the apprenticeship program. I am currently working through that course and still hope to one day become a "sparky".
Not all ingredients shown, that is top secret

Meanwhile, I also started applying for as many jobs as I could locate and also spent some spare time experimenting with some new recipes. As much as I love to cook, I have never in my life attempted a potato salad. After looking at several recipes, I was able to develop my own ideas of what I wanted my salad to taste like and what I was going to put in it. I am happy to report that the potato salad was a major success and tasted the way I hoped it would. I also made an attempt at a broccoli salad and a pasta salad. Again, the results were favorable and will be rolling out of my kitchen for years to come.

The pasta creation, very tasty!!

In the midst of all my cooking, studying, job hunting I was able to hook up with an old friend, Matt on facebook that I hadn't seen in about 13 years. We met for breakfast one day and after talking a little about my situation, he started telling me about one of his part time jobs with a friend of his. He climbs into boilers in mills and power plants to do inspections. He logs data about things that he finds so that the boilermakers know where to go to make repairs. Most of these mills and power plants shut down for a few weeks a year to do maintenance and they always shut down on the spring and fall. Matt told me that he would pass on my name to his friend and see if he needed any help. Well, I ended up getting a call from Brian on the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st telling me he needed me in Chehalis WA (about 90 miles north of me) at 7am the next morning. I told him that I would be happy to show. I quickly washed some clothes, packed my bags and headed out for Chehalis that night, not at all sure what I was getting myself in to.

I was faced with an opportunity but I hadn't the slightest idea what I would be doing. I set out with a small crew at the power plant and we went up to the 10th floor of the boiler. As we approached the boiler I noticed these small doors that were about 2' X 2' that looked like something you would stick a pizza in, not a person. Starting to feel a little anxious, I asked if I would be going through one of those doors. I was told that some of the ingresses are smaller than that. It suddenly brings to mind all the time I might have complained about working in a boring, air conditioned office thinking that I needed to do some outside work. Turns out, those complaints were born from lack of other knowledge. I was now in line to receive a quick lesson about why you should not complain about your job. After climbing in and out of pizza ovens for several days, I found that I was able to overcome or at least learn to deal with my fears of claustrophobia. Maybe, it was just more overcome with the greater fear of homelessness or worse yet, not being able to afford internet connection!!!!
Me in front of one of the pizza ovens. Yes, I do fit in there.

After learning a little more about the job, I found that this could be a good deal for some people. Because of the limited shut down season, the work weeks are usually 60 plus hours. The upside to that, you make great money in a short amount of time. Most of the guys I worked with only do this 6 or 7 months a year. The rest of the year, they don't have other jobs. Are you kidding me???? 6 months of vacation time every year???? All the sudden, cramming myself into pizza ovens doesn't seem all that bad. I'm still not 100% convinced that this will be a long term choice for me. For now, it is decent money and helping me preserve my indoor living conditions just a little longer. Should I choose to stick with this, I will be spending long stretches away from home but I will also get even longer stretches at home.

Life is all about learning. Myself, I'm learning a lot about what I can or cannot do, what I can overcome and what I am willing to do. No matter what happens, these are valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.


  1. Been wondering about you...glad to hear you are alive & well. Happy also you are taking the bull by the horns and experiencing all kinds of new things instead of sitting, waiting & wishing for something to come your way. Sounds like the "plan" is coming together. Good luck & God bless!

  2. Red, you've got a lot of "guts" to get out there and do what needs to be done. Kudos to you and hope you are still able to finish that math class and maybe persue the apprenticeship as well...although summers off sounds pretty tempting!!

  3. I like a good combination pizza, not too crispy on the edges, please! A little hot sauce on the side would be nice, but I'm not sure I like the idea of men crawling around inside the pizza oven. It will take awhile for that thought to go away now. Thanks, Red!

  4. Red, you are a true inspiration and a great example of doing whatever you can to take care of yourself and move forward in your life. My son is on unemployment in Missouri, and seems to just sit there and wait for something to happen. You go, Red!

  5. Hey Red, might be time for another update!!