Thursday, March 29, 2012

Greetings from the Planet Starbucks

Hello, my little chickens.  A brief update for you all.

I am on the east coast until next Saturday with SP, and as I refuse to pay $9.95 a day for internet at my hotel, I am at the mercy of the local Starbucks for access to my vitally important email and FaceBook accounts...and you, of course.

I have various and sundry wacky adventures to tell you of...I even took PICTURES and everything.  So while my temporary silence may crack your little heart, hold steadfast in the knowledge that soon and very soon I will rock your world with stories of my visit to the Fire Museum and to the Sofa Super Store fire the other stuff that I haven't done yet.

SP is wonderful.  SP is also very, very sick.  I am glad that I came.

I will talk to you all again in a week or so.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Trashing The Sell-By Date and Introducing SP

Let's start with a major blog update - shall we?

"Kat's On Fire" is my third blog which follows a "one-year project" format.  When I started this particular project back in November, my goal was to travel around the area, visiting fire events and writing about them, bringing some well-deserved attention to our small-town fire departments.  I also decided to prep to become a firefighter myself - at least, a pretend one.  Eating plan, working out, studying for the exam - to end in November 2012.

Well, some opportunities have arisen as of late which have caused me to make some format changes.  I am going to have the opportunity to do a little travelling, I do believe, and so I'll be writing about fire stuff on a national scale, instead of just in my metaphoric backyard.  Also - I am LOVING this blog. I mean, seriously LOVING IT.  So - Kat's On Fire will no longer have an "end date" of November 2012.  It will survive as long as firehouses, museums, and bemused fire chiefs continue to allow me to encroach on their turf.   Can I get a woot woot?

On a more shameful note, the exam prep stuff is completely kicking my ass.  I keep failing the practice tests miserably.  You see, I have zero spatial ability.  I can't look at a building and remember how many doors and windows there are, and where they all lead to, and which direction I have to go to haul your sorry ass out if need be.  So more prep is highly encouraged.

And, of course, the other facet of Kat's On Fire is my Siren Sex Goddess love life.  There's an update there too.

I am in love.

Allow me to introduce you to Sweet Prince, from now on known affectionately as "SP."  I've known SP since 1988, when I was a young pup, and he was a slightly older young pup, and serving in the Navy.  We never dated back then - I was engaged and married shortly after to husband no. 1, so it wasn't really an option - but we were buddies.  I don't remember much about my Navy days, those memories being blurred at the edges and eventually drying up, like an Eastern Washington rain puddle.  I remember Kas - we were together, basically, from day 1 until I got out - other than her, I remember a few faces, fewer names.  But I remember SP vividly. 

We would usually sit together in the break room, if we happened to be in there at the same time.  I remember his facial expressions; I remember how his ball cap sat on his head.  I remember the jokes he used to tell me. I remember meaningless conversations about random topics.  I remember the look on his face when he showed me a picture of his now-ex; I remember when he told me that he was going to be a father.  Then, boom - one day he was gone.  I went on maternity leave for 6 weeks, and when I came back, SP had been transferred.  We never saw each other again after that, but I never, ever forgot SP.  He was, among other things, the kindest, funniest man I had ever known.

Well, fast forward to last year - and enter the FaceBook age.  Badda bing, badda boom - there's SP.  We talked on FB, you know, like you do with all your old friends.  Talking occasionally turned into talking frequently.  Talking frequently turned into talking daily.  And talking daily turned into - wow.  This is what finding your soul mate actually feels like.  We both have moments where all we can do is laugh over our good fortune.

SP and I have details to iron out (doesn't everybody).  I'm moving, he's moving, and he has some very serious health issues.  Our relationship appears to be chaos to the outside world, I'm sure.  But to us, it's safe, secure, warm.  I don't need to know how it's all going to work out, but I'm absolutely certain that it will.  And I'm absolutely certain that we will be blissfully happy together, in whatever form our relationship takes.

There you have it.  You are up to speed.  Questions?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Climb - Totally Awesome.

So the BIG EVENT has come and gone - the Scott Stair Climb in Seattle was last Sunday.  Can I go again tomorrow?  Please?

Our big adventure started last Saturday morning at 5:45 a.m. when I boarded the train for Seattle.  I had never been on a train in my I figured, what the heck, it will save me from driving to a hellfire far away place and paying all that money for parking, and perhaps might give me an anecdote to share with you all.

Well, it didn't occur to me that I would have to share my personal space with a complete stranger.  It further did not occur to me that said stranger would have his long scraggly hair in a bun like a little old lady.  And finally, it did not occur to me that he would undo said bun and fling his locks about like a really, really homely-looking Christie Brinkley in a Breck commercial.  I went to a mental happy place for quite a while.

I arrived in Seattle and found my way to my hotel, and was pleasantly surprised that I could check in.  I immediately headed for Starbucks, because it was comfortable and familiar to me, in this strange new land of multi-story buildings and umbrellas.  I had a little digital voice recorder with me, so I pretended like I was somebody really important, writing an uber-fascinating expose' on the city.  I attracted the attention of absolutely no usual.

After a sleepless, OH-MY-LANTA-TOMORROW-IS-THE-FRICKIN-CLIMB night, I hit the Columbia Tower around 7:30 a.m.  Here's what it looks like:

Yeah, I know, right? 

And because you know it wouldn't be a post without a bullet list, I present to you:

Kat's Observations of the Seattle Stair Climb

  •  The EMS guy on duty "entertained" us in the espresso line with a story of how someone "arrested" at last year's climb.  I was mortified; the firefighter behind me said, "Cool!"
  • There were lots of vendors, and most of the booths were staffed by young, attractive women.  Can't imagine why.
  • Marion County Fire District No. 1, which is just west of Salem, OR gets the prize for being the first group to let me interview them.  Woot woot to you all.
  • Rick and Brian from Cornelius, OR were absolutely adorable.  By the time I got done with Brian, with the help of some egging on by Rick, he had committed to a time of 10:50 (which is pretty close to last year's fastest time).  Out of my affection for you, Brian, I didn't check your actual time; I'm just going to assume that you did it!
  • I spent quite a while talking to the vendor from Municipal Emergency Services Inc., who had a little Scott Air Pak bottle which weighs 8 lbs and has 30 minutes of air.  I stopped short of asking him if I could try it on....coward that I am.  But I really, really wanted to.
  • The level of camaraderie among the different groups was really was like one big family reunion.  And that family has a lot of fine looking brothers. 
  • Under the heading "I wanted to take this one home with me", is "Nick" from Klamath Basin Fire.  A first-timer, he predicted that his time would be 16:22 and he was an outrageous flirt. 
  • I tried to focus my energies on "first-timers" and was surprised to see that many of them were, how shall I say it, a little more mature than the average participant.  Kudos to Mike - honey, I forgot to write down your fire house, I really suck at this - a first-timer who promised to eat a plate of chili fries before the climb so I could tend to him in the recovery room. 
  • I found some of my homies:

  • So the participants are grouped into "battalions", numbering 1-40.  Basically, the more money you raise, the earlier you climb; also, first-timers are put in the last few battalions because they are most likely to be the no-shows. 
  • Once the first battalion is called, the entire building electrifies and everyone is immediately on task.  It's way cool exciting, but then nobody is really in the mood to talk to Kat, so that part was a little sucky.
  • My camera died.  Of all days, yes, camera died.  Wouldn't even turn on.  Doesn't that freakin' figure.
  • So, anyway - the participants line up, go up 3 flights on an escalator, then hit the stairs for 69 stories.  My buddy Keith was in the third battalion, so I made sure to be right up next to the escalator when he was called so I could wish him well.  Turns out he spotted me before I saw him, but we had one of those "sending my sailor off to war" moments, only without the actual war.  And he's not a sailor.  But you get the idea.
  • Check this out:

Yup, that's me and my dad on Craig's helmet.  Add him to the "I want to take this one home" list.  He was so flippin' young and adorable, I just wanted to put him in my pocket, take him home, and make him some lasagna.  He talked to me for quite a while about how things work at the climb, about how he trained, about his wife....sigh.  I already had mentally married him off to my youngest daughter.

Speaking of which, (Craig, not my youngest daughter), he was one of my Stevens County boys.  I have no idea why - but I was really possessive of these guys.  I wanted to watch them all go up the escalator, and I did for a few anyway, until it was my time to work.  I hovered around their area, and since most of them had no idea who I was, it had a bit of a stalker vibe - but these were my boys, and I wanted to see them off.  Here's me in front of their banner:

  • You may recall that I was completely freakin' stoked to be in the "recovery room", where I was doing to have the arduous chore of disrobing 1500 firefighters after the climb.  Well, guess what.  There was a plethora of volunteers, and I got bumped down to the third floor "rehab" table, which means I was standing behind a table and handing out water bottles and orange slices to re-robed firefighters.  Sigh.  I was there with 2 other women who were a lot prettier than me, but joy of joys, they knew each other and so they stood there and chatted the whole time - leaving me with all the attention.  They left early (nice ladies, I was so sad), leaving me with a table of water and a lot of thirsty men.  I immediately skeedaddled out in front of the table and started holding out water bottles like some sexy water girl at the Tour de France.  That's when it got fun.  Within 15 minutes I was shoving water bottles and vitamin water into the pants pockets of grateful men with full hands.  The things I do for charity, I swear.  The energy level waned as the day wore on, and my goal was to make the last guy off the stairwell feel as appreciated as the first guy.  I hope I succeeded.

  • Since my life is now consumed by cancer and firefighting (the cancer connection is a post for a later date, and you'll want to read that one), I assumed I would get more emotional about the "cancer" aspect of the climb.  After all, when all the interviews, back-slapping, stair-climbing and after-party is over with, we had all assembled there for one reason- to raise money for, and awareness of, the fight against blood cancers.  And yes, there were speeches about those who had been lost in the battle, and men like Tim from Skapoose who were climbing in honor of friends and family who had fought the battle.  But what I didn't anticipate was the 9/11 connection.  I don't know what it was, exactly - my heightened sense of 9/11 patriotism; the "343"s that seem to be embroidered or stamped on so many shirts and helmets; the really big building full of so many young, valiant men and women.  I honestly thought it was just me being Kat as I made my way to my volunteer station.  One of the ladies I worked with turned to me at one point with a shudder and said, "this makes me think of 9/11."  I was grateful to know that, not only was I still sane, but that other civvies could feel that vibe and appreciate its effect as well.
  • And since I know you will ask - YES, HF was there, and YES, I did talk to him.  We are friends, and that ship has soooo sailed.  But it was still nice to see him, and YES, he did look good.  But then again, so did I.  Eat your heart out, HF.
So I didn't hit the after-party at Fado's because I had been on my feet for 10 hours and I was completely exhausted.  And then my Monday, which was supposed to be "pictures of downtown Seattle" day was ruined by nasty rain and, oh yeah, MY FRIGGIN' CAMERA QUIT WORKING.  So I sat around drinking espresso and felt sorry for myself until it was time to take the train home.

So there you have it, dearest reader, in a bullet-ridden nutshell.  I have so much more to tell you on other topics, but that will wait for another day.  Please know that donations are still being taken for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the 30th; you can use the link at the top right corner.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Climb, Delayed.

Hello, all.  I know you are on the edge of your seats waiting to hear how the Stair Climb went.  It was awesome-phenomenal-amazing.

But, when you have the good, you have the bad.  In my case, "the bad" was a dead camera.  So dear little Em is going to send me the photos she took, so that you all may share in the joy.  Em rocks.

So, patience, grasshopper.  Give me a few days to assemble a blog post for you such as you have never seen, nor ever shall see a-gain.

Patience.  I will not fail you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Keith is the Man

Can I just take a moment and point out that studying and physically training for a firefighter exam is TIME-CONSUMING???!!!! Oh.My.Lanta.  I thought my life was chaotic before.  The next time you see a firefighter - aside from stopping to thank him or her for answering a calling which may someday save your life, which I know is your first impulse - also thank that person for giving up their off time to stay on top of fire science and in good physical condition.

And have you been watching the calendar, my little chickens?  The Stair Climb is THIS COMING WEEKEND!  Can I get a wootwoot?  Of course, if you haven't had the chance to donate to this overwhelmingly worthy cause (the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), click on the link at the top right of this page and Kat will hook you up, baby.

So on Saturday I skeedaddled down to Brewster to talk to my old friend, Keith Zweigle. Keith was a good buddy of my older brother, and since we all grew up in the middle of nowhere, Keith remembers me.  He's 6 years older than me, which puts him at 38.


Anyhow, Keith is the Assistant Fire Chief of the Pateros Fire Department and is participating in the Stair Climb.  My buddy Keith has singlehandedly raised over FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS this year for the event.  He would certainly downplay it,  but to raise that kind of cash, he has sacrificed what little time he has with his family after serving the fire department to beat the streets for donations and set up fundraisers.  He deserves some serious credit and thanks for not only his fire service, but his dedication to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Keith is the man.

I caught up with him at the local grocery store, where he had this table set up:

On this table were 3 photos of beautiful ladies who were taken from this world far too soon by blood cancers.  Keith climbs the stairs in honor of Donna Campbell, Deb Herron and Sheri Lamar.  This is his third year participating and each year he rocks the socks off the fundraising effort.  Did I mention that Keith is the man?

You might recall me mentioning that the firefighters who participate in the Stair Climb do so in full gear, complete with SCBA tank - well, here's a visual for you:

Looks comfy, huh. NOT.

I asked Keith how he is training, because you may find this hard to believe when I say it, but we really do live in an area with basically ZERO multi-story buildings.  He is sticking to cardio and the stairs and the local hydroelectric dam - and you know what?  Keith is the man.  

This is the part where I hang my head in shame....I took what I thought was an awesome picture of Keith standing next to his gear here, and it turned out so blurry, I can't use it.   Keith - dude - I am SOOO SORRY.  Lesson in this, dearest reader - never take just ONE PICTURE.

So today's exam question:

Keith is the ______________.

a.  MAN
b.  MAN
c.  MAN
d.  walrus