I added a page. On the right.
The Kaiser and I were watching Bottle Shock on DVD a couple of weeks ago. It’s a nice little movie about an underdog, which in this case is not a person but a wine. It’s set in the Napa Valley in the 1970′s, which actually reminded me a lot of another valley in the 1970′s, the one where I grew up. The difference is that instead of acres and acres of vineyards, my valley had acres and acres of fruit trees. The vineyards came later.
But the similarities struck me: Both the Napa vineyards and the Okanagan orchards were (and are) sun drenched, green, and surrounded by dry hillsides. The 1976 setting meant that the same pickup trucks were driving up the same dusty roads we had, and the soundtrack could have been lifted from our portable radio as it sat blaring on the edge of a bin. I think I even recognized a couple of the characters in their 1976 outfits and hair - didn’t they pick cherries for us once? Talk about flashbacks. I could almost feel the heat of the sun, and the rungs of the ladder under my feet (is this thing going to hold or do I need to jam the pole harder into the ground?). Reaching up all day, and carrying heavy pails or picking sacks around. Finally hearing the roar of the tractor and the smell of diesel as the day ended and I could drag myself back up to the house, baked in dried sweat and desperate for a swim at the beach, if only someone would drive us down so we wouldn’t have to walk…
“Hey, that looks like fun.” It was the Kaiser, pointing at the TV screen.
“Working in a vineyard. It looks like fun. You get to be outdoors in that nice scenery.”
It did look like fun. People in the movie weren’t working all that hard. Mostly it was about the scenery and the subplots, not the actual work. Work is boring – why dwell on that? Like in sitcoms where you know in your head these characters have actual jobs they go to and probably hate, but you only see the fun bits of their lives.
And then it hit me: It wasn’t fun for me because I was essentially a serf, working for the local baron (in this case my dad) who wouldn’t even give me a ride to the beach after my back breaking toil. Child labour, that’s what it was. What 10-year-old wants to drag a 12-foot ladder around all day while their friends are playing in tree houses and going camping?
Yeah, if I had the millions to buy a few acres of land in prime orchard country, I’d do it. There are some fantastic things about it that make up for the uncertainty and hard work. But next time I get to be the baron.
Well, I know what my next book purchase is going to be. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes my favourite regency story and adds my favourite ghoulish creatures (“Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!”). It’s a perfect fit, really. Inside, polite banter in civilized drawing rooms. Outside, the advancing hordes of undead. And unlike vampires, which take themselves far too seriously, zombies are always a good time.
Jean Vanier is a remarkable person. He is the founder of L’Arche (“the Ark”), communities where the intellectually disabled live and are valued. He came from a privileged background, but chose to devote his life to helping those he says are “among the most persecuted people on earth”. It’s easy for most people to agree that the disabled have as much value as anyone else, but Mr. Vanier put that belief into practice in the 1960′s when he bought a small house in France and brought a couple of disabled men to live with him and become a family. Now there are 131 such homes around the world.
I mention Mr. Vanier because he is an example of someone whose career (or calling, if you like) has sprung from his faith, and his belief that all humans have value. So many people I know are working at jobs that are out of synche with their beliefs and values, or they have not even thought about what they believe and are simply doing what everyone else is doing. Some really don’t know what else to do. I can relate. Mr. Vanier, on the other hand, seems to be wholly at peace.
There’s always something to complain about at the office: The ridiculous newsletters, the evil HR lady, the crazymakers, the fact that water runs down the inside of my window when it rains and nobody cares. Then there was the latest Finance division town hall meeting, where I learned that “growth is still our number one priority.” Really, Big Corporate Finance Guy? Really? How about “hanging on for dear life” as a priority? Have you read the news lately?
All in all, though, it’s not a bad job. It just takes a little perspective to see that. Big Red contracts out certain work to a company in India. I have a number of contacts there that I deal with, and they’re just like overseas coworkers. They do the same jobs that some on this side of the pond used to do. You know, boring office jobs. And I have to say, they do their jobs quite well. There’s one coworker named Amit. Coincidentally, there are several other Amits in this same office. It’s very confusing. I can never remember which Amit I need to talk to. But the Amit in question sent an email to my other – local – coworker this afternoon around one. India is eleven and a half hours ahead of us. The time stamp on Amit’s email? Two thirty A.M.
Amit works a graveyard shift. He works in a corporate office, and he has to work the graveyard shift, just so he can be there in real time to serve his North American customers, should any of them have a question for him. How much does that blow? My boss said, “We should never complain about our jobs.”
Well, now. Let’s not get carried away.
I’ve been complaining for years about Corporatese, that weird language where words are meaningless. On reflection though, I think I’ve been too sweeping in my disdain for verbed words. You know, words like “to action”. As in, “Yeaaah….I’m going to have to get you to go ahead and action this list of pointless tasks.” Or “productize” and the whole fun-loving “ize” family.
But verbing words can be so much more meaningful as a communication tool. Example:
Me: Someone put their garbage in our garbage can.
Kaiser: Tough luck.
Me: It’s disgusting. Our own garbage is nasty enough without some foreign stinky garbage in there.
Kaiser: Tough luck.
Me: Are you tough-lucking me? Are you tough-lucking me?
The meaning here is quite clear. At least it was to the Kaiser.
While hot on the trail for some local wine from my hometown, I stumbled across a couple of online reviews for a bistro near my place (one that happens to have the aforementioned wine on their menu). I had never noticed this restaurant before, which is surprising, since I shop at the nearby grocery store at least twice a week. So the Kaiser and I headed there for dinner. It’s not a fancy place, but the food was quite good and mostly made from local ingredients. It’s not every day that I find a little, unpretentious place like this making such an effort to buy from local farmers and markets. Running a restaurant is expensive, so it must be pretty tempting to buy the cheapest ingredients, particularly in the burbs where most people really don’t care if the food is local, as long as it’s cheap. But this venture, apparently, is a labour of love, and the best ingredients make the best dishes. It was a treat to have real sour cherries on the cheesecake (all desserts are made in-house, of course), rather than that syrupy goop that comes from a can. There is hope for the burbs yet.
Speaking of local food, I reconnected this week with a good friend from university who was in town. Turns out she has been doing some farming herself. She had a market garden for awhile, until it got to be too much work, and now she just grows her own family’s food. She also had a sizable flock of laying hens until recently and has experimented with turkeys. These are all things I want to be doing, once we find the right place (and if that place is even remotely affordable), so I’m pretty stoked that she has already been down that road before me. Who knew? Most of the people I know think it’s kind of quaint that I want chickens and a huge garden, so it’s nice to talk to someone who gets it.