Sunday, July 06, 2008

Movin' Out

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
-Hunter S. Thompson

Warning: Navel-gazing ahoy.

On Jan 30, 2003 I was stuck in a hotel room somewhere - Tempe, I think. It's hard to remember. I spent a long time touring with Broadway shows and one hotel looks pretty much like another. I was on a tour of a long running hit show and was about to take over another successful tour as Head of Sound, but I felt rudderless, directionless. I couldn't sleep. I sat down at my computer, and over the next few evenings turned out and refined a three page document called "Life or Something Like It" - something I would later jokingly compare to the mission statement in Jerry Maguire called "The Things We Think and Do Not Say", although I'm not sure that I saw the parallel at the time.

I revisited the document a few times over the next few weeks, then stopped looking. I didn't need to, it was all in my head. I knew it was time for a career change, but I didn't know what or where I wanted to go.

In that time I read lots of books and articles on the subject - Po Bronson's "What Should I Do With My Life?" comes to mind. Very inspirational, but I still didn't know what direction I wanted to go in. I seized upon a theme in that book that few people knew all at once but came to a realization over time through doubt and uncertainty and evolution of what started as an inkling of an idea. I actively explored any number of ideas but never hit on something I really believed in and continued to work in the field I knew.

In February of 2005 the most wonderful thing happened to me; my girlfriend at the time and I adopted a mutt named Jessie. I never thought I could have a dog with my work schedule, but Linda did the legwork and found the dog who has been my constant companion since. I knew almost nothing about dogs at the time (having never had one) other than that I liked them a lot and I knew enough not to buy a dog at a pet store, but that was really about it. I started learning, fast.

Jessie came out on tour with me in 2005 moved briefly to Las Vegas with me in 2005-2006. I wasn't sure that she's take to touring, but she loved it - always ready to hop in the truck and end up in a new place investigating a new hotel room, which she was always well-behaved in. We lived in hotels full-time and I never had a complaint about her. We had some great times and got into tremendous trouble sometimes - I'll never have her off-leash around water again, ever!

While preparing to go out on tour again in late 2006, I met a woman at a dog park in NJ when Jessie and I were out for a walk. We got to talking about dogs and she told me of a case of animal abuse that had gotten a lot of local press. I asked what had happened to the dog in the case and she said that he'd gone to Best Friends for treatment, an organization that I'd never heard of at the time. Curious, I looked them up online once I got home and filed the name away in my brain. The website looked too good to be true, but they invited volunteers to come out and help...

The following March I took a vacation and drove from San Francisco to Kanab, Utah where Best Friends is located to satisfy my curiosity. I had begun to throw around the idea of a career involving dogs but I didn't know exactly what yet - I thought maybe some exposure would help me think creatively about it. I also wanted to know more about Best Friends, and I'll admit to being cynical enough that an attractive website isn't going to make a believer out of me - it sounded too good to be true. I had to see for myself. I was unprepared for how bowled over and impressed I would be by Best Friends and by the people who work there. Within an hour of setting foot on the property, I knew that it was somewhere I wanted to be, something I had to do. People don't like to use the word "calling" anymore, but that's sure what it felt like - a calling. I would later find that what I felt was pretty common among the staff at Dogtown, and every year people come to visit and volunteer who change careers to become BF employees. Although I knew what I felt, I had my doubts - was it practical, sane, doable? - but it was at the forefront of my thoughts over the next year.

View Larger Map

I had heard about the Pets Alive rescue while volunteering at Best Friends and began to spend quite a bit of time there (and hopefully will be back there soon once Jessie recovers juts a little more from her surgery!). It's been incredible and to see their recovery and growth over the past year has been nothing short of magical. They have allowed me to get as involved as I want to (or dared!) and placed a lot of trust in me, which I will always be grateful for. I wasn't intending to add another dog to the household, but while participating in a puppy mill rescue there a dog chose me to take her home, and so Ginger became part of the pack.

Every time I doubted my direction, I went back to Best Friends. Every time I went there, I was sure it was the right thing. In January, I began to seriously talk to them about the possibility of joining them as a Dog Caregiver. In June, I did a two week trial period for the position. And at the end of July, I'll be joining them full-time.

I am a tremendously lucky person. Many people never figure out what they want to do vocationally, they just fall into something and keep doing it because it's what they know. As a Broadway sound engineer, I got to do something for a living I had been dying to do since the fifth grade. Now I again get to do something that I find tremendously personally fulfilling, to work with rescued dogs and assist them, hopefully on their way to their forever homes, at the country's largest sanctuary for abused, abandoned and special-needs animals. I'll also get to simplify my life radically in a way that I've been dying to do lately. Will it be forever? I don't know. It's a big change and Kanab, Utah is a big change from New York City; it's a town of 3500 people and about as conservative a place as I've ever been - the town pool recently made national headlines when they banned bikinis (since reversed). I do know that it's the step I'm meant to take. I can't wait to see where it leads. Thanks for coming along for the ride.


Blogger Hawk said...

Damned proud of you, Sibs, but I've said that before.

Best of luck with it!

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I'm so proud of you!!!!!!!!! Now I can actually come and VISIT you!

And personally I think you need to rock the old purple hawk of my favorite Sib looks. :)

10:33 AM  
Anonymous gj said...

so is there an A2 position opening up on a certain Bway show? cuz myne stinks.

good luck bro, i know you'll do great. though im not sure utah knows what its about to get hit with.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Chilly said...

Wow. As a fellow traveller on that road to the ultimate goal, I can happily say that you're embarking on a fantastic adventure. Good on you for following your heart! And great good luck to you.

If you ever need to get away, might wanna consider a quick trip to Vegas... ;)

8:34 PM  
Blogger Luisa said...

I was going to write earlier and congratulate you for spelling cojones right ['cajones' is more typical -- "He has big... boxes"?], but your new adventure calls for mega-congratulations. Cojones, u haz them. May you go from strength to strength. Thanks for letting us enjoy the ride from the sidelines!

4:14 AM  
Blogger Kay said...

Congratulations! I moved from an urban/suburban area to a small town (50,000 people in the ENTIRE COUNTY) last year. The hardest thing to adjust to was all the stores closing by 5 or 6 pm, and not being open on the weekends. I'm not a big shopper, but you just don't think about things like the hardware store (or anywhere else for that matter) closing at noon on Saturday and then not opening again until Monday morning. Very difficult for a night person to adjust to, but it sounds like your new job will have you up early anyway. I'm sure you'll soon enjoy seeing the sunrise from the other side of the night.

7:33 AM  
Blogger -J. said...

Luisa, now if I could only stop giggling every time I read "Large Hadron Collider"...

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

best of luck in whatever you do my friend.........

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Cathy P said...

You better remember the "little people" too.... and when i come out to visit - you, Jessie and Ginger better take me out to dinner!


12:09 PM  
Anonymous lovemybabies said...

Congratulations!!!! We are all going to miss you.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Stew Magoo said...

I support the banning of you wearing a bikini. If I have to look at it...

Good on you for following your heart man. I wish you the best and hope like heck you prosper.

Everyone is writing like you'll be leaving civilization as we know it but I'm pretty sure they have the internets in Utah. You are pretty close to Fredonia after all.

7:19 PM  
Blogger -J. said...

I would die without Fredonia; that's where the booze is!

7:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Return to Home Page