Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Turning 46 in the Big Apple


Two score and six years ago ... my parents did the default here I am.

I've just landed in NYC after 4 months of rabid customer evangelizing downunder.

I was met at the airport by a Manhattan midnight cowboy who immediately whisked me off to the house of superlative bi bim bap to celebrate, Gam Mi Ok. It's the best, most healthy Asian square meal ever, in a round bowl (vegetarians can always refuse the meat).

Just before I got off the plane, my lawyer James von Boeckmann (the nicest lawyer you'll ever meet, 541-485-0912) called and told me my greencard petition finally got approved. Unbelieveable! It's the end of a longish road. Rather than waiting years going the traditional employer route, I opted to self-petition using the faster, riskier route: National Interest Waiver.

What is NIW? You have to show "exceptional ability" (the rung above it, extraordinary ability, is for young Einsteins and Nobel Laureates) and that your work is in the national interest. Here's Murthy.com's definition and here's another good FAQ on the subject. And this explains what happens next, so does this. You don't need a job offer, and they generally tell you that you will get an answer within a year, rather than three to seven years going the traditional employer-sponsored route. When this category was first introduced it was based on talent and uniqueness only, leading a flood of approvals for one legged fire eating jugglers etc. They tightened it up in 1988 and mostly hard science luminaries now apply.

So making a bicycle evangelist look compelling was an interesting challenge. With oil addiction almost daily front page news, my promoting a fossil fuel alternative to getting in an SUV for every minor trip must have been considered "in the national interest". Not to mention my harping on about the benefits of using it or losing it - think of the benefits of a healthier aging population! Perhaps the assessor of my petition was a bike rider!

Wait there IS one fossil fuel device that should be completely banned - the leaf blower. When I hear one it makes me want to open the window and beat the operator about the head with the handle of a rake or a broom.

What, but you've just gotten off a fossil fuel ravaging plane, I hear you say. True. But first, I am not against fossil fuel devices as such. One day a car or plane might save my life, or at least stop be from getting pneumonia. It's the unnecessary small trips that can really add up. * "The average number of barrels of oil consumed daily in the U.S. is 17 million. Driving consumes 43% of those barrels." (I read this here)

I haven't owned a car since my ex bought my Honda Accord from me over 15 years ago (and it's still going - no doubt about those Hondas). I always fly one way, and/or spend a long time in the same place - sometimes up to 4 months at a time. I don't have kids (a first world child over a lifetime becomes a huge carbon footprint), I don't even have a permanent address in the USA, aside from a desk at Bike Friday that people keep heaping junk on in my absence, and a friend's sofa (and you don't want to wear out the crushed velour on THAT privilege). I stay like a hermit crab under the roofs of others, spreading bicycle joy. I calculate my carbon footprint is generally pretty small, so I allow myself the luxury of a one way flight now and then.

Thank you to Voice of the Tour de France Phil Liggett, Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi/Lovemarks, RAAM legend Lon Haldeman and many others who submitted letters of recommendation on my behalf. I plan to explore new employment options, restructuring my arrangement with Bike Friday so I can afford to live in less affordable places that Eugene. To this end I've revamped my Galfromdownunder Resume, feel free to bandy it around!

Oh yes, and today I realized how one mitigate against loneliness on your birthday. Register at a number of websites and guess what - they all email you a birthday greeting! As robotic as it is, I found a reflexive smile pass across my brain if not my face. It reminded me of the value of having something nice to say - however banal - to friends and strangers alike.

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