Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Steve Jobs: One time American dirtbag who co-founded the world's most valuable company

I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, a wonderful book. Jobs, a co-founder of Apple, passed away this year, and I didn't know much about him before he died, other than the fact that he was the pioneer of the ipod. This book brought Jobs to life, and now I am fascinated with the man, who was a hippie child of California and the early 1970s. I plan to do a review of the book, which I'll post up on the blog. In the meantime here is a very inspiring speech from Jobs at the Stanford commencement in 2005, the best commencement address I've ever heard. (A close second to my dear friend, Greg Petty's address at Western State College of Colorado in the same year.) I wish we had that one on film.

Click here to watch the speech.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Great American Dirtbag

“The world has enough for man’s need, but not enough for man’s greed.”

Where do we look for hope, for America, the planet, for the human race? The dirtbags. They have usually descended from the Middle Class, where they had enough material-wise where their bodies could be content, but not their souls. Their souls were driven to live, so much, in fact that they gave up all conventional Middle Class ways of survival. Instead embracing another way, the way of the dirtbag. A way, if the entire world lived in this fashion, we could be saved. We could be saved because the spirits of mankind could be fed. When the spirit is fed greed disappears, and without greed there is enough for everyone on the planet.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Of Writing, Computers, Horse Shit and Haters

Yesterday I was mucking horse shit. For those of ya’ll out there unfamiliar with this practice, it basically means I was shoveling poop out of a corral. It’s an odd job I do about once a week for a nice woman I met through a house sitting gig. As I was working I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share up on my blog here today.

First off, I was marinating over a couple responses towards my last blog post, a book review, which you can see below. On Saturday I received a most pleasant email from a woman who works at Mountaineers Books, the publisher of the book I reviewed. She expressed thanks for the review, and even noted that it was one of the best she’d read all year. I was beaming from the email, and even forwarded it to my Mom and Dad.

The second response was a random comment from an anonymous reader, who said my review was decent, but my grammar sucked and I needed to hire an editor. Immediately I was pissed off, and wished I knew who made the comment. I’ve had a few people hate on my writing online before though, and I brushed it off and continued my session in the coffee shop that afternoon. There are quite a few internet haters out there these days, and as I become more and more successful I’m likely to only get hated on more and more. A reality of this world we’re living in. If the person who made the comment is reading this, I’d like to invite you to find something else to read, this one is for the dreamers and the lovers.

So there I was all up in some horse shit. The activity isn’t the best form of making a buck, but it isn’t the worst either; it allows my brain to think and process. I’ve been a dishwasher in restaurants for 17 years now, and one thing I’ve learned is that while doing a simple mundane job the mind floats and a higher level of consciousness can be obtained.
I thought about something a professor of mine, Tyler Sage, said a while back in an Extended Studies English course at Western State, in Gunnison. He said (in different words of course) that the personal computer has highly influenced the modern writer in a profound way; so much that we really don’t know how deep it has affected the psyche of today’s writers. I personally can’t imagine not having a computer to write; I do 98 % of my writing on this laptop I’m typing away my thoughts this winter morning.

Then I thought about the internet hater who left the anonymous comment, where does this person get the nerve to say something negative about my writing when they are a user reading something at no charge to them? Quickly I switched my thoughts up to the kind email I received the day before, and realized a friendly email from a credible source is much more valuable than an anonymous comment from a hater. Focusing on positivity over negativity is a key attribute to a successful artist.

And this is where I’m at a crossroads, finding success in my writing. I believe it will happen someday, and in some regards I have found success. I’ve been published in some major magazines, and I’m so close to having my book finished that I can taste it. Financial success has alluded me though, hence the mucking of horse shit, and dishwashing.

However this is where an artist builds character, (that’s what I’m telling myself anyways) committing to the path, and doing whatever it takes to achieve the dream. The lovers and supporters over the years have instilled me with the confidence that I will be able to do this, and the haters give me the fuel. So with that said, happy holidays to all, and if you’re a dreamer, an artist, like yours truly, I encourage you to stay on the path. There’s something great just down the road, even if there’s some horse shit (or haters) to shovel out of the way.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Forget Me Not by Jennifer Lowe-Anker....New Book Review Column for The Climbing Zine

This is a sneak peak into the new column for The Climbing Zine. Volume 4 will be out within a month. Enjoy.

What We’re Reading
Forget Me Not by Jennifer Lowe-Anker
Reviewed by Luke Mehall

“The best climber is the one having the most fun.”
-Alex Lowe

This is a new column for The Climbing Zine, and a space we’ll use each issue to review a climbing related book, new or old, for our readers. For this issue the book is Forget Me Not, written by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, and published in 2008 by The Mountaineers Books.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review, generally I find the process unsatisfying, like writing a term paper in college. So I guess this is more of a contemplation on Forget Me Not, a book I enjoyed immensely, and one that truly moved me.

The book begins like a small campfire, inviting but not overwhelming. Then eventually it grows into something blazing, which fixated me, and I was unable to step away from it. It is her story of love with the late, great climber Alex Lowe, their journeys in climbing and raising a family, and his tragic death in an avalanche in the Himalaya. Following this is a great mourning, and the tale of the new love that was borne with her current husband, and world class climber himself, Conrad Anker, who was with Alex Lowe when he died. Conrad and Alex were also best friends.

Alex and Jennifer’s first days of love were probably somewhat similar to many climbing couples, yet vastly different than most young lovers. They travelled the world together, visiting various climbing locales in the United States and abroad. They climbed together, and suffered the woes of travelling as well. One of Jennifer’s greatest skills as a writer is her brutal honestly, while she graces Forget Me Not with beautiful prose, her honest words sink deep into the reader’s psyche.

She writes of Alex’s legendary drive for climbing, boundless energy, and pure enthusiasm, while also reflecting on his moodiness and gloom when he could not expend that energy. She writes of the joys of life, and the sorrow of death; both which Jennifer has fully experienced in her own existence. Interesting in its own right, is Jennifer’s path towards becoming an artist; she is a talented painter, and her work graces the cover of the book.

In these pages are the journeys we all experience as humans, but especially climbers who want to have it all, the freedom of travel and climbing, as well as the foundation of a home and a family. There are lessons to be learned in Forget Me Not that climbers and non-climbers alike won’t easily forget.

Eventually Jennifer’s own climbing is halted with Motherhood, and she no longer has the drive to take risks on major climbs. Alex however continued to explore the world as a guide and professional climber, to Yosemite, Denali, K2, Everest, Antarctica, the Himalaya, Baffin Island, the Great Trango Tower, Kyrgyzstan and beyond, all while Jennifer took care of their three sons, Max, Sam and Isaac.

One part of this book that made it especially enjoyable is Jennifer’s use of Alex’s various letters he would write her, words of love when they were close and afar. If Alex would have lived long enough to getting around to writing a book it would have been beautiful and intriguing; he was someone who had a way with words. Reading his words reminds me the importance of telling someone you love them in print. Thank you for that Alex Lowe.

There are many other elements of Forget Me Not that make this book worth reading: Jennifer’s trust in her intuitive sense, her ability to put the frailty of life in words, reflection on the first days where the internet and climbing came together, and a Mother’s thoughts on risk and climbing.

Eventually the book goes to a very sad place, we as a reader know it’s coming, and the way Jennifer writes made my entire psyche fixated in the pages of Forget Me Not. I absolutely could not put it down, surely the measure of a great book. I was relieved to read about the love she found with her current husband, Conrad Anker, and the love they share as a family with Max, Sam and Isaac. She writes beautifully near the end of the book, “it is love that seems to soothe the anguish wrought by love lost.”

It’s been two days since I was engulfed in the final pages of Forget Me Not. That night left me feeling sad. The next morning though, I awoke, to the sun, another beginning, and a more enhanced realization of the preciousness of life. Forget Me Not is truly unforgettable.

Luke Mehall is currently in the final processes of finishing his first book, titled “Climbing Out of Bed”, which should be released sometime in 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Freedom Mobile Story in the Winter Crested Butte Magazine: Roll on Freedom

Below is a story I wrote about my car, The Freedom Mobile, which was published in the most recent issue of Crested Butte Magazine. Below is the draft I submitted, surely just a bit different than the finished product. Hope ya'll enjoy, and be sure to pick up a copy of the CB Mag. when you're in the Gunnison Valley. A link to the online version can be found below.

Our vehicles make statements about our lifestyles, and here in Crested Butte we have quite the diversity in modes of transportation. From the high class Hummer SUVs to the old Subaru station wagon that checks in well over 200,000 miles, the car we drive can be a dead giveaway to the activities we pursue. I often wonder what strangers think of my car, an old 1988 Mazda that is spray painted red, white and blue, most commonly known as the Freedom Mobile.

Ever since I saw the classic 1969 American road movie Easy Rider with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, I’ve wanted to paint a vehicle in the colors of our country. I’ve always sensed that us mountain folk are living out our own version of the American Dream up here in the Gunnison Valley, and my car is representative of our unique culture. Adding to the mystique, I also wanted to feature the OM symbol, to show that the east and west can come together, and to show that although I am a proud American, who has been heavily influenced by the ancient, Indian-based art of yoga.

Reactions to the Freedom Mobile have been mostly positive since I graffiti-ed it up with my friend and artist, Nathan Kubes, three years ago. I can count on children smiling and pointing at it, supportive nods from people on townies crossing Elk Ave., and my fellow climbers saying, “I love your car” at various locales across the west. The most predictable response, however, is from hitchhikers; as I slow down to pull over. Their response, with a glimmer of hope in their eyes, is something to the effect of, “I knew you were going to pick me up.”

I’m proud to drive a vehicle that elicits such a response. It took some time to get to this level of pride though. The very next day after we first painted the car, I was pulled over by the police, saying something about my headlights not working properly. I thought they were, and wondered if I’d just set myself up for getting pulled over all the time. It took some time getting used to driving a car that attracted such attention.

A couple months later I had a first date, at the Almont bar of all places. (The woman was living in Crested Butte, and I was living in Gunny; a good mid-way meeting point I thought.) I had the usual butterflies of a first date, and as I walked out to get in my car for the drive I wished to the heavens that I hadn’t painted my car in such an outlandish manner, so I could just present myself in somewhat of a normal way. She ended up loving The Freedom Mobile though, and I learned an important lesson that our inner freak is usually a beautiful thing, and we should not hide it; if someone is a kindred spirit they’ll love what is inside you.

Something I did in the Freedom Mobile, that I never dreamed would happen, was taking it on a major rock climbing road trip, across the Western United States. It all went down like this. I’d just lost my full time with benefits job in Gunnison, with the downturn in the economy, and recently broken up with the first woman I’d ever been in love with. I needed to get out of the valley, and I’d made plans to move down south, to Durango for a fresh start. In the interim my friend Dave and I would make a month long road trip. It would be one of those coming of age trips to do something exciting, and forget about the trials and tribulations of the past.

At the last minute Dave’s truck broke down, and now the trip relied on the Freedom Mobile. With nothing to lose I decided to take Freedom on the trip. We drove to Red Rocks in Las Vegas, Nevada down to Joshua Tree, California, up to Yosemite, to Vegas again, and finally down to Durango. There were many moments of pure bliss, and the country’s reception of the Freedom Mobile was incredible. At one moment, driving in southern Utah a woman sitting shotgun in an old truck, with oxygen hooked up to her nose, pulled up next to us, and gave the biggest grin I’d ever seen, and two thumbs up. Later that same day, pulling into a gas station in the Middle of Nowhere, Utah, some good ol’ boy mechanics were staring us down. We were slightly defensive until they started talking, “Nice car, it looks like something Evil Knievel would drive.”

Durango ended up embracing the Freedom Mobile, and there are more spray painted cars there per capita than any other place in Colorado I’ve been. Work ended up being scarce in Durango, as it is many places in our country these days, and when the spring ended, I found myself returning to this sacred valley for the summer.

The Freedom Mobile made its first appearance in Crested Butte’s Fourth of July parade, and somehow I managed 16 of my closest friends to spell out The Freedom Mobile in body paint across their stomachs and chests. The wildest incident though came later, in the fall, as the deadline for this piece was approaching.

I’d teamed up my friend, Braden Gunem, to do a photo shoot for this article. He rigged up a camera on the front of my car, with all sorts of lighting inside; including a small rag in a bottle he wanted to light on fire to add a wild touch to the photos. While we were keeping our eyes peeled for the police to make sure they didn’t see our shenanigans, I looked up to the last rays of daylight to see a major townie takeover headed our way. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the Brick Oven Pizzeria’s softball team, dressed complete with their signature red, yellow and green tank tops, and hairnets on their townies; thirty of them, followed by a police officer.

As we watched it all go down, wondering what was going to happen, the police officer ended up escorting the Rasta Hairnet townie takeover down Elk Ave. Only in Crested Butte! With the police busy escorting the wild Brick Oven crew, we commenced with our unorthodox photo shoot.

I never know what’s around the corner for the Freedom Mobile, and I like it like that. It’s headed back down to Durango for the winter, so it won’t be rolling the streets of Crested Butte when the snow falls. The spirit of Crested Butte lives in the Freedom Mobile, wherever it may go though. Let freedom ring!

Crested Butte Magazine online

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giving Thanks for Wildness and Humanity

My life has been full of celebration lately. First there was Thanksgiving, my personal favorite holiday, and then my 33rd birthday was yesterday. For Thanksgiving our crew always goes out to climb and camp in Indian Creek, Utah, located just next to the southern edge of Canyonlands National Park.

I’m obsessed with climbing at The Creek. I’ll climb the fine sandstone cracks there till I am bloody and exhausted, and when I return home back to Durango in my mind I’m already planning when I can return next. However, it’s not just the climbing with our Thanksgiving celebration. It’s about friends, costumes, games, good food, the fire, and being in nature.

Out in nature, out at The Creek, amongst the countless red rock sandstone cliffs, the birds, the cottonwood trees, the bunny rabbits, the deer; something out there provokes a shift in the mental and physical realm. There’s no cell phone service out there, no interweb, Indian Creek evokes a time before this time. I like it like that, and I hope that it remains a place without phone service; most of us are attached to this technology more than we should be. That said, I heard a new cell phone tower was installed near the Abajo mountains, and in certain places one can send text messages easier than before. Still, it’s primarily out of sight, and out of mind.

Out in nature, with the blue sky above, the sun shining on us as we bask at the sandstone cliffs, I often contemplate the state of the world. I am more positive about humanity than I was when I was a college student, but I am also more complacent. I’ve realized that I am not going to change the world; I can only be a part of something that changes the world.

A question that’s entered my mind recently is what is the problem with mankind? Some might say it is numbers. More and more of us are on this planet, demanding resources, and polluting this sacred ball of rock in the sky more each day. Personally what I’ve been thinking, one of the major problems in the United States is just a simple lack of happiness. Why are people so obsessed with money? Why is success quantified with material possessions? Why do people that have so much still want more?

I’d like to think that my tribe of climbers is a happy group of people. On paper many of us might be lower class (I know I am), but in happiness we are millionaires. Sunshine provides more happiness to me than money could ever have. Would the world be a better place if society lived as climbers do: seeking just the right amount of resources to simply pursue what makes us happy?

That’s a big one, but those are the thoughts that go through my head when I’m out in the wild. I’m grateful that I could travel out to Indian Creek and be with my source of inspiration and celebration: nature and a tribe of people that find happiness through the simple activity that is rock climbing.

P.S. I recently wrote an article about the climbers' advocacy group Friends of Indian Creek for the Durango Telegraph. Click here to read the article.



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