Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why Blogging Part 2

Back in March 2005 when I started this blog I wrote a rather flippant article about why I was starting a blog. I had reasons like:
Working late into the night with the lights on pisses off the cockroaches

While these reasons for blogging are still mostly valid they did not cover why I decided to call this collection of blabbering that almost no one reads - Ridgecrest Blog.

I'm not trying to set myself up as the voice of the City of Ridgecrest. I don't pretend to even attempt to discuss everything that is happening here in town. I don't try and be fair and open minded. I'm writing my opinions about things that catch my attention, stick in my craw, make me laugh, make me angry, that I just want to make a snarky comment about or thoughts I want to remember later.

So why did I call this Ridgecrest Blog instead of something more personal? There are a couple reasons.

First off, I didn't have any good ideas for a name. I sat and scribbled ideas on a couple sheets of engineering paper for days and nothing really jumped out at me. Google and Technorati searches seemed to indicate that there weren't any regular bloggers from Ridgecrest. The name Ridgecrest Blog was available on Blogger. So I grabbed it and started writing. I figured if a better name came to mind later, I could change.

My second reason for calling this the Ridgecrest Blog wasn't really apparent to me even as I started this blog. I knew one of the things I wanted to happen with my blog, but I didn't know how to word it until recently. It took an e-mail exchange with a former Ridgecrest resident to get my thoughts solidified enough that I could express them with words.

Will Brown is a regular contributor to the Warrior Class Blog. He moved from Ridgecrest about the same time that I moved here - 20 years ago.

Will found my blog the other day and sent me an e-mail reminiscing about his favorite fishing hole at Lake Isabella, the City Council, our Gateway to Death signs and how the City of Ridgecrest has changed through the years.

I checked out the Warrior Class Blog and then wrote back to Will. My response to him led him to write a blog entry called Blog How You Want to Be.

The title of that short blog posting pretty much summed up a lot of the reason why I named this blog after a town that I don’t like living in. That right, for most of the last 20 years I have hated living here.

I moved here in November of 1985. I had been working in Amarillo TX. But things had changed. I was recovering from a severe knee injury that was preventing me from doing almost all of the things outside of my job that I enjoyed doing. My career had taken an ugly turn and I was looking at the possibility of spending the rest of my professional life being bored out of my freaking mind. So when I was offered a job here I jumped at the chance.

My career here in Ridgecrest has had a lot of ups and downs that have forced me to reinvent my career several times. My kids like to joke that Daddy doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. But for most of my 20 years here the work has been interesting and I have managed to feel useful. Something I wasn't feeling in Amarillo.

But outside of my work, I hated this town, for several different reasons:

I'm apparently not a desert person. I find nothing attractive about sand, creosote bushes, sand, wind, sand, spiders, sand, brown everything, and sand. The only time I want to see this much sand is at the beach. My idea of Mother Nature at her finest is trees and mountains. The outdoors should be green and hilly. There is nothing better than a hillside with the sunshine sifting through a heavy forest canopy while the light breezes stir up the wafting odor of rotting leaves or the soft crunch of pine needles under your feet accompanied by the rustle of the aspen trees in the next draw. I just don’t see the beauty is brown hills, sandy soil and scrub brush.

The almost complete lack of a sense of "community" here. I used to tell my parents that Ridgecrest isn't a town, it's a wide spot in the road where 20,000 people built their houses and somebody paved the streets. Ridgecrest is improving. But for many years there was little sense of community here. There were, and still are, lots of clubs and organizations. But they only worried about what is good for their own little circle of friends. There seemed to be no overwhelming concern of "What is good for Ridgecrest." I blame this attitude on Ridgecrest's age. Ridgecrest is a young town. Founded in 1941, Ridgecrest is only 65 years old. I have furnishings in my house that is older than this town. Since I have always lived in towns that have been around for over a hundred or more years I never paid much attention to the community spirit and history in those places until I found myself living where there wasn’t much.

The heat, dust and wind. There is only one good thing about 115 degrees with 40 mph winds blowing so much dust in the air that you can’t see or breathe – you never have to shovel snow in it.

The small business owners. A large number of the businesses in town are run by truly good smart and caring owners. But Ridgecrest seems to have more than it’s fair share of small business owners who only want their customers to throw their money on the counter and get out of their store.

The architecture. Is there any style of house homelier and less appealing than a frame and stucco house on a concrete slab?

So for somewhere around 18 years I lived in a town that I really hated. I didn’t hate my life here - just the here.

But a couple years ago I started to really examine my life here. I have a nice home, three wonderful children, and a fantastic wife that I’m hopelessly in love with. I have a career that provides us with a comfortable living, private school for my kids and occasionally a few luxuries for ourselves. I just wished that we could have these things somewhere else.

So why stay here? There are places all over this country that need engineers/computer scientists. But there are very few small towns were I can do the kind of work I get to do here. I don’t want to raise my children in a big city. I like working for the Navy. I have never served in the military but I have always felt that spending my professional career helping to make sure that our military is the best trained and equipped fighting force in the world was a way to do my part in defending our freedom.

So if I want to keep those things, I have to stay working here. But more importantly, my family is here. My wife and kids were all born and raised here in Ridgecrest. It is their home. I have always regretted that I wasn’t able to grow up in my home town of Madison SD. I loved spending my summers there with my grandma and always wanted to move back there. I didn’t mind living in Rapid City SD, Cheyenne and Laramie WY. But they were places I moved to, not my home town.

My dear wife and I have often talked about leaving Ridgecrest, but every time we do she is always so glad to be back home again. This is the only home town she has ever known. I just don’t think that she will ever be able to leave.

My children would probably adjust to life in another town but it would be hard on them. We would have to pick a warm climate. We have trouble getting them to wear shoes and long pants even in the winter here. They would freeze if we moved to someplace like Wyoming or South Dakota.

It took 18 years but I finally admitted to myself that not only am I stuck living here in Ridgecrest but I will probably die here. So maybe it was about time that I stopped hating this town and start trying to make the best of it.

I made a few changes in my way of thinking and some of my attitudes. It didn’t change too much about my feelings for Ridgecrest. But it was a small start. Then last year I decided to start a blog. I needed a title. But more than either of those things I need a chance to occasionally talk about Ridgecrest is a positive light. So I started Ridgecrest Blog as a way to force myself to look at this town and the surrounding area and try and find things about it that I might be interested in writing about.


The Grouchy Old Yorkie Lady said...

You never know what's in store for you down the road. We lived in Maryland for nearly 12 years, and really disliked it intensely. Too close to DC, terrible traffic, and constant community conflict. Many of the people we encountered in the shops and businesses were nasty, sullen and lacking in a decent work ethic. We thought that we were stuck there for the rest of our lives.

And then, last year, my husband's job decided to transfer him to San Antonio, TX. It was hard to make the decision to go, for many of the same reasons you describe: we had a nice house and a terrific church, we were doing work (volunteer and otherwise) that mattered to us, and our daughter had never really known anywhere else. But the move has proven to be a terrific thing for all of us, and we are all glad that God put this opportunity in our path. We could not have imagined leaving, but now we can't imagine going back.

You never know.

(For what it's worth, I hated Ridgecrest when I lived there, too. Thankfully, it was only a year and a half.)

Will Brown said...

More intellectual indeed.*

I remember when I first moved here to Texas and was directed to the lawnmower two weekends in a row that I suddenly missed "good ol' Ridgecrest"; at least there if you had too much green in your yard you could just paint it a different color and be done with it!

Thanks for the kind words Dave.

*You explain it :).

David said...

I fully understand how things may change. When I moved here I never would have thought that I would be here past 3 years. My plans were to work three years and then move on. Two years and 10 months after moving here I was vacillating between starting a job search or proposing to my dear wife. I think I made the right decision. So right now, I can't see us leaving as long as there is a job for us here.

But things do change. When I started work in Amarillo I had a dream job. Most of the 20 mechanical engineers in my graduating class were trying to get jobs as design engineers. I was the only one that got one. Which is ironic as I had one of the lower GPAs in the class. My job was exciting, challenging and I couldn't wait to get to work each morning. Additionally everyone seemed to think that I was good at it, which also helped. Then 3 years into my dream job the man who hired me retired. His replacement and I took one look at each other and hated each other immediately. After a month on the job he called me into his office and told me that he wanted me out of his division so he was warning me that the first mistake I made he was going to fire me. That same day I got a phone call offering me a promotion to Senior Engineer in the Quality Assurance Division. I took the promotion. It only took about 2 months for me to realize that I couldn't do that job for the rest of my life without going completely insane. At the same time I blew out a couple ligaments in my knee and suddenly found myself with a job I hated and my life outside of work disrupted for almost a year. I had filled all my free time since moving to Amarillo by playing soccer, volleyball, running, bowling, etc. Now I couldn't do any of those things. My life was reduced to a mind melting job 8 hours a day, and physical therapy in the evenings. Suddenly I couldn't get out of Amarillo fast enough. I didn't care where I went or what the job was. I couldn't imagine my situation getting any worse than it was.

Two months later I was working here in Ridgecrest.

So I remain hopeful that things might change and I don't live here forever. But in the meantime I'm going to continue to try and learn to at least like Ridgecrest. I can't imagine loving it, but I think can get by with like.

Oh, in the for what it is worth department. less than one year after I left Amarillo the division my dream job had been in, was disbanded. Many of the employees retired. The new boss that I didn't get along with ended up working in the Quality Assurance Department. That image alone kept me smiling for many weeks.