Friday, September 23, 2011

Day One

Today, I arrived in Williston, ND.  My journey began two weeks ago, after I saw the hour-long episode of Mad Money with Jim Kramer dedicated to the Williston oil play. The CEO of Halliburton said guys with a HS diploma were raking in $130K annually after 18 months. I did some research and came to the conclusion that the $40,800/year I was making as an International Trade Analyst for JPMorgan Chase was not cutting it.  Within a week, I had given my two weeks notice, taking my first spin on the roulette table Williston.

I flew out to WY where my in-laws live.  My wife and kids were already here visiting.  My father-in-law has loaned me his mini-van that has 126,000 mi and a worn out rear wheel bearing that growls.  I imagine myself as a modern day '49er, and this minivan is my stubborn mule that occasionally growls at me disapprovingly.

This evening, there was a homecoming football game at the local high school.  The streets around the school (I was using the internet across the street at the town library) were packed.  There seems to be a parallel world here in town.  On one side is the local population: residents who predate the recent oil boom.  They have a happy demeanor.  They are benefiting by geographic happenstance from their proximity to what has been called the biggest oil discovery in North America (which I would believe includes the Canadian oil sands) in 40 years; surpassing even Prudhoe Bay, AK.  In many ways, they are indeed similar to the Kuwaitis and their neighbors in the nearby Emirates.  This place, located in an inhospitable, undesirable part of the country, has been blessed by freaking huge oil resources.  The town is booming, and the locals know it.  Their disposition is the opposite of the rest of the recessionary country.  Where I most recently came from, the Detroit suburbs and upstate NY a year before that, peoples' demeanor is depressed; people look empty, as if hope, and the inner light that goes with it, has been dimmed beyond recognition, if not completely extinguished.  Their heads hang down, and they have this small distraction in their eyes, as if their minds are somewhere else, worrying about something else.  People here, though, look like the rest of country did circa 2006, when we still had financial peace of mind and blissful ignorance toward the ensuing implosion.  This town is getting new everything, and all the locals have to do is go on with their lives as usual.  They pass by the non-resident workers, unnoticingly, like the Kuwaitis or Emiratis do passed the Filipinos and South Asian migrant workers.  So far, my impression is not necessarily that they look on the foreign-state migrants as sub-class citizens, like the Emiratis do, but they definitely have a look of being of the privileged.  See, from what I understand, life here for a migrant worker is hard; hard as hell.  The locals don't experience that, though.

To a stranger like myself, this town is like Tortuga, minus the wenches.  Oil field workers are gruff looking men, the kind you see hitching rides on interstate entrances.  They are the modern progeny of pirates.  Long greasy hair, 3-month shadows, and filthy clothes is the norm.  It's like the early audience of UFC fighting was transplanted here.  Standard transportation is a pickup truck (one that might be new, but you couldn't tell through the film of dust that settles on everything) or a tractor trailer.  There are literally more tractors trailers here than cars.  Not all, though, are 18-wheelers.  Some are dump trucks, water trucks, etc.

I talked to a guy from Vegas tonight at the Williston McDonald's, which doubles as the town internet cafe.  His advice to me was that if I want to get a job, I need to lose the polo shirt I was wearing, get some dirt stains on my jeans, and get a pair of old work boots.  Its seems that even here, appearance is everything.

Well, it's getting late, and McDonald's indoor area is closing (drive-thru's still open!), so I gotta head.  Apparently, the Walmart parking lot, which previously doubled as the Hotel Williston for men sleeping in their cars, has now started to kick people out who are camping there.  So, I have to find a chill place to rest tonight.  I have an air mattress laid down in the back of the mini-van (we took out the rear seating), so I should be alright.  I'll probably still brush my teeth and wash my armpits in the Walmart bathroom.

To think that this is the life of a recent law school grad, like myself, licensed in the state of NY.  Whatever it takes to feed the wife and kids.  Let's see if riches await.

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