Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Sensitive Climber Guy (The Opposite of the Pussy Grabber)

Times are scary, and common sense decency seems to quickly be fading from day to day life. We’ve got a presidential candidate that freely talks about “grabbing pussys” and many people seem to accept that as okay.


            But this is not a political article; this is just a statement, an offering of hope, especially if you are an outdoorsy woman who is just looking a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. My friends, there is a type. There is a guy. He is called The Sensitive Climber Guy.

            In my thirty-eight years of life I’ve never come across a more ethical group of human beings that my fellow outdoorsy people. Time in nature demands respect, patience, and knowledge. Holding your fellow human beings life in your hands on the other end of the rope molds one into something different. The further you take the risks, the more you understand.

            This Sensitive Climber Guy will not be hard to spot, but he may be hard to find. He may be overly polite. He may start the fire, cook you dinner, and offer you his warm puffy should it be cold around the campfire. He will lead some pitches, but he will offer your own lead. He’ll check your knot, your harness, and your helmet. He’ll give you the last bite of the clif bar. He will pick you flowers on the trail. He may even write you a poem or sing you a song. He will listen, that is the mark right there—see if he listens. Because even if he’s not talented in the realm of song or writing, you are his muse.

            There’s a surplus of these single guys — many of them spend so much time outside for work and play that their dating life suffers. They don’t know how else to live though. Many lament that they don’t meet any women — polite as they are — while the “bad hombres” like Trump run the world with such alarming masochism our instinct is to cover our children’s ears when he speaks. We’ll never call you “our bitch” and we’ll never grab your p****—well not until you ask us too.

            I’ll never understand what it’s like to be a woman. Your burden is greater than mine. I can only imagine a rational women’s fear of this monster that is rising to power. I’m sure for many women that have been abused and treated unfairly by men, he is a constant reminder of fear and pain.

            There can’t really be a solid conclusion for this little blog piece. I just wanted you to know we’re out there. I just wanted to say something sweet to as many ladies as I could reach. There are monsters in this world, many of them, with Trump at the top of the list. But away from the cruel world, on the fringes, in nature, there are good men—surely not all of them, but many of them. I just wanted you to know.


Friday, November 11, 2016

The New Book: Graduating From College Me




When I was 33 I set a goal to write five books by the time I was forty—for a while it was a nice thing to say at a party or on a date, but then, damn, I had to do the writing.

So, I’ve been writing, ferociously. Fortunately the writing gods have blessed my work with productivity—writing is kinda like climbing mountains, you can blah-blah-blah about it all you want, but the proof is in the doing. But I’ve sat down every morning I’m at my home office and written. Nothing crazy, just solid consistent effort.

“Another book?” is the response I’ve been getting a lot when I’ve been telling people about Graduating From College Me, A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up. I get it, I just came out with my memoir, American Climber less than six months ago, and I don’t exactly have the reputation as an excessively productive writer. But, you gotta make hay when the sun is shining, and lately, well, the sun has been shining.

About the book—it is a collection of short stories, vignettes, and poetry—and to me it is the rawest writing I’ve ever done. The premise of the book is to write about life lessons I’ve learned since I graduated college a decade ago. The book has more poetry than I’ve ever published in a book, as well as a heavy focus on the American southwest desert that has captivated my soul so much since moving to Durango six years ago.

As with anything raw in nature some of the writing in this book is embarrassing to me. There are chapters about love I’ll never read aloud to an audience. When I skim over them they surprise me by how honest I was, which is exactly what my job is to the author—to deliver honest writing. So, instead of hiding them away somewhere, I decided to go on and publish them, with hopes they might help someone else relate to my own struggles.

In addition to writing about love, I’ve realized how much I love climbing. These words, from the final series of vignettes in the book about Indian Creek sum up where I’m at with my climbing these days, trying to keep it personal, to break through my own ceilings, and in the end, realizing when climbing is done for the love of it, it is the best.


Climbing is this yin and yang thing. Knowing when to fight and when to back off can be the difference between life and death, success and failure. And, never forget that the best climbing moments kinda feel like floating anyways, a profound act of trying without trying. Just doing. Like love. Becoming one with something else.

Graduating From College Me, A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up.

The Weight Or Not My President

I could feel the weight of what was happening a hundred feet from the door of the Powerhouse, a sort of instinctual dread. The air was thick, he was winning, and his lead was growing. What many thought would never happening was happening: Donald Trump was becoming our next president.
           
            I initially started the night off at a local pub, my head on a swivel as I turned from my phone to the TV; trying to make sense of what was happening. There were four split screens with different channels, and each had a separate count for the electoral vote. I was with my friend Jennaye, she’s my go-to when I need a drink and a smile; my BFPF (best female platonic friend). But this would not be a night with very many smiles.

            The tension was already building around that table of friends and new friends I just met, and we decided we needed to go be with the Democrats as they gathered in the Powerhouse Science Center. I’ve never really considered myself a Democrat, more of an Independent, but I was rooting for Hilary Clinton to win. The state of our nation depended on it, I thought.

            The night started with pleasantries and beers, but quickly I became anxious and fixated on the results. Nothing was making sense, I knew Hilary needed a certain amount of electoral votes, but I didn’t understand exactly what states she needed to win. I knew my roommate and friend Micha would know, and she was at the Powerhouse.

            Cutting through the air of anxiety and despair I found her—we might lose—was the jist of it. My heart sank. Was America really about to elect an openly racist, misogynistic, liar to the presidency? 

            The night carried on. I was too nervous to even drink another beer. I knew it wouldn’t help. I already had a splitting headache because I’d been in the desert for several days before, and didn’t drink enough water during the day for proper recovery.

            The vibes in the air got worse, and I went into writer mode. I knew this was going to be a moment in history I’d remember for as long as I live and I wanted to crystalize it in my brain. I studied the expressions on people’s faces. Some cried, others were transfixed on their phones following other races in the Senate and House. My phone died. I don’t know what use I really had for my phone at that point anyways.

            I wasn’t the first to leave, and I wasn’t the last. By the time I left though I was no longer surrounded by friends. Everyone seemed to need to grieve on their own.

            I slumped out of there, and rode my bike slower than ever before as I contemplated what had happened. I felt sadness, but for what? For whom?

            If I am being truly honest, and as a journalist and poet at heart that is my job, I was sad for myself. For the last eight years I’ve felt as though Barack Obama truly represented my interests and values. I was proud to have a black president who was full of integrity. I thought America was headed in the right direction of everyone finally having a voice. I feel like Hilary represented many of my values as well. Sure, I wasn’t as excited about her as Obama, but I knew she would be a continuation of his vision. So, I was sad because who I wanted to win did not win.

            There’s a deeper sinking feeling past that, and that hit home as I sat in front of the computer screen and constantly refreshed the New York Times website. The financial market was already crashing. I understood that the anxiety of women, people of color, Muslims, recent immigrants and hopeful immigrants, were feeling, but I did not feel it myself as much as they are. I realized I am the privileged, educated, Middle Class white man.

            I feel asleep with my computer still on in my bed and then was wide-awake at five in the morning. Normally a good sleeper, I knew I couldn’t go back to bed because I was again ridden with anxiety. I wondered if I would get out of bed all day. I checked all the news sites. I cried a little.

            I avoided checking Facebook, I knew there would be anger from my friends, and voicing anger on Facebook is kinda like shouting at the wind. I had my own anger—mostly for the white populous that voted for Trump and their ignorant ways. I felt pure hatred for a minute. Instead of sending away all our immigrants and Muslims why don’t we just send the miseducated angry white people away? I hear Mars is looking for residents.

            Eventually after hours of depressing news stories, I found my way to Facebook. Of course there were some angry posts. A lot of them.

            Through the anger and the hate there were some voices of love and truth. Many people expressed their desire to leave the country, but then realized how much America needs people who want to accept everyone and love everyone regardless of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation.
           
            One voice, one voice rang out over all. It was from Andrea Stanley, a Native American woman, whose perspective I have appreciated since meeting her this past summer. The post read, “Good Morning! It's a good day to be Indigenous! Remember, this is nothing new when we think of what our ancestors endured for us to exist today. This country is founded on stolen land, genocide, colonization, and slavery. I appreciate honesty in any form and now it's proven to y'all who didn't already believe that we live in a white supremacist country. We will continue to fight for mother earth and the sacred.”

            More and more, I am reminded of the privilege that being white and male means in America. It looks like for the next four years those of us who appreciate and honor diversity will be on the defense in the political arena. No matter how much I fight though I will still be white and male—the ideal skin color and gender for the world Trump hopes to create.

            I finally found the courage to get out of bed. I had to write, I had to. It’s what I was born to do. Then, I heard crying outside of my bedroom. It was Micha. I figured I’d just let her have a cry, get it out of her system. But she just kept weeping. So, I went out and talked to her. She was crying for all the energy she put into the election that now seemed like a waste. (Just yesterday after knocking on doors all day, she practically collapsed next to her bed saying, “why won’t people just vote?”) She cried for women, and what a misogynistic leader like Trump means to all women. She was exhausted and frustrated. I just listened, and realized I was not as sad as her, or many people, because his presidency will not affect me as it does other people.


            Like many, I have thoughts of leaving. I have friends in Mexico and Canada. I’m still contemplating it, but again, it is a privilege to be able to consider it. And again, I’m going to leave you with words from someone else, from Durango writer Page Buono, and her post this morning, “For hours now, roughly twelve of them, I've been plagued by the intense desire to leave, to find some other place to call a home, because certainly in the wake of last night's results, this does not feel like my home. Where else can I land? A deep forest, a lonely canyon, another county? But I realize that the desire and genuine opportunity to leave is a product of my privilege. For so many, there is no other country, no other home. This is it. Our task now is to carve out our place in it and hold firm to the welcoming spaces we craft. There is nowhere else to go. We have to turn toward each other and keep fighting to make this a space we are proud to call our own.”

This piece was originally published in this week's Durango Telegraph. 

My memoir American Climber is now available in e-book format and print.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm with (common sense)

The other week when the fall colors were poppin and the leaf peepers were a peepin, I drove over up to Telluride, and then up to Gunnison. I had a book tour event in T-ride and then a wedding in Gunnison. As I witnessed the amazement of the changing of seasons and the colors that accompany it, I was startled by something else as well, the amount of Trump-Pence signs off the side of the road. 

My urge when I see those signs reminds me of my teenager anger, I wanted to throw eggs at them, or spit on them, or tear them down. And, I would, but, well, I’m an adult. The pen ain’t mightier than the sword, but I can still remind each and every Trump supporter that you are un-American, and you are a disgrace to our country.

It’s time to go somewhere else if you think that he is a proper leader for the most powerful nation in the world. You are a sucker and a damn fool if you think that man is a decent human being. Hilary Clinton isn’t perfect, but she is exponentially more qualified than a man who (among other things) taunts and insults the parents of a dead U.S. solider.

This whole piece could be a rant against Trump supporters, but I’m fairly certain most of you don’t read above the second grade level, so why bother. (Please prove me wrong and write an intelligent letter to the editor of why he is a qualified candidate.) I want to riff on something else as well, someone that Trump has clearly paved the way for: Kanye West.


Last year at the MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye aka Yeezy, announced that he was going to run for president in 2020. Of course, everyone kinda viewed that as a joke, even Obama himself made fun of him, but now that Trump has risen to power, we have to look at Yeezy a little differently. I mean think about it: two men with insanely large egos, who say the most outlandish things just to get reactions out of people, and in turn get a ton of publicity for it. They both say they are geniuses. The difference is that Kanye actually is a genius, a musical genius that is.

Of course, Kanye would have to be a Democrat. You can’t be hip-hop and Republican. You just can’t. We believe Obama when he says he has Jay Z on his iPod. If Bush had said that we never would have believed him. (Side note, even Bernie Sanders has a little hip-hop in him, and teamed up with rapper Killer Mike during his campaign.)

Oh, but maybe this is the problem here. Republicans aren’t adapting and changing with the times. Please don’t think this is a rant against all Republicans, I know some of you are good and moral people, and right now with this presidential race, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps the good and moral Republicans are simply not in the majority anymore. The racist, ignorant, misogynistic, hate mongers seem to be in charge these days.

I know Hilary Clinton is favored to win this race, and you can be damn sure she’s getting my vote, but let’s say something happens, and the Russians hack our voting system and god forbid, Donald Trump is our next president. This sets the stage for a battle. Trump versus Yeezy.

And maybe in 2020 if our country still even exists, and Trump didn’t get impeached for doing something highly illegal, we will change the presidential debates into rap battles. (Trump’s style is more suited towards a rap battle than a presidential debate anyways.) Note: if you don’t know what a rap battle is get on YouTube and come back to this article. Or, watch 8 Mile with Eminem.

Basically in a rap battle practically nothing is off-limits. You can diss the opponent’s mother, their wife, their offspring, anything. It would be PERFECT for him. It’s just his style.

They would argue whose penis is bigger. They would argue whose wife is hotter. They might even mention killing their opponents. The sad reality is that in his own way Trump has already done all of these things. Trump is more suited for a rap battle than the presidency, and so is Kanye. But I bet Kanye would tear Trump a new one if they battled, just like Eminem did to his opponents in 8 Mile.

At this point in the conversation a lot of folks are bringing up the third party vote, especially the die hard Bernie folks. They don’t like Hilary and they don’t trust her. I’m not going to try to sway anyone from voting from who they think should be the president, after all this is a free(ish) country. But, you know what, Bernie wants you to vote for Hilary, so does Obama. As a country we need to ensure Obama’s legacy, we are in much better of a place now than when George W. left office. 

Most importantly we need a leader who embraces the diversity of the United States, and knows how to operate within the world of foreign policy. Building a wall is not a solution. The position of commander in chief is a job, not a reality television show. There is only one person who is qualified. In the words of the Atlantic, who recently made their third endorsement for president in their 159 year history, “Trump is not a man of ideas. He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.”


Word. 

This article is published in today's Durango Telegraph.

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