Thursday, May 31, 2012

Computer Crash, Dirtbags Part II and Mountain Film

Life has been full of awesomeness lately, despite minor technical difficulties. My computer has crashed, so I've resorted to borrowing computer time, and hanging out at the Durango Public Library. Here's some words from Part II of the Dirtbag Story, as well as a blog post on Mountain Film in Telluride. Oh, and we finally printed off Volume 4 of The Climbing Zine. There's a link below too, if you want to order a copy.

Julie, Dave and Jonathan hanging in an alley in Telluride during Mountain Film.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Climbing Zine Thing this Thursday at The Firebrand

Yup, Volume 4 is getting printed this weekend, and we're having our official release party at The Firebrand in Gunnison, Colorado this Thursday. Here's the flyer, made by our amazing graphic designer, Mallory Logan.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Dollar and a Dream: dirtbags and Durango

A version of this piece was published in this week's Durango Telegraph. Enjoy.

Sometime in between when the snow started melting from the top of the local climbing crags, and when this most recent heat wave kicked in, marked one year now that I’ve lived in Durango.  
I moved down here from Gunnison, Colorado, with pockets full of hope, and not much else. With mandated state budget cuts at the college where I was employed, my full time job was cut to half time. I’d also just broken up with the first woman I’d ever been in love with. Change was brewing. I needed a fresh start somewhere.
Somewhere ended up being Durango; this tropical mountain town which lies next to our beloved, red rock desert. My first initial reconnaissance mission from Gunny involved driving my spray painted, red, white and blue Freedom Mobile (yes, the one seen around town), through the twisting and turning mountain passes that led me into Durango.
I met with Will Sands, former editor of the Durango Telegraph, hung out at what is now my favorite coffeeshop, The Steaming Bean, and was impressed by the number of beautiful women I saw around. My first impression was a good one, and I dug the vibe I got from Durango. Trusting my instinctual and intuitive sense, rather than my economical sense (I didn’t have a real job lined up), I drove back to Gunny, and told my friends I was moving to Durango.
The first Durangutan (a term that came about as a result from a climb on the local climbing area, East Animas) friend I made was in Las Vegas, just before I moved here. It was October, and an ideal time to take a road trip, so rather than bee-lining it to Durango, I decided to climb around the west for a month first. Why is this? Well for starters, I am a dirtbag, or at least I have dirtbag tendencies. I am a 33 year old man, whose number one priority in life is lifestyle, the fashion in which I use my time, my greatest capital. (To those reading carefully, I left for five months last summer and fall, hence my one year mark occurring this spring, even though I moved here in December of 2010. I intend to stick around this summer, as I’ve been falling in love with Durango and the people.)
We were monkeying around on the overhanging sandstone cliffs of Red Rock Canyon, situated west of the sprawl that is Sin City. As the day progressed and our forearms became thickened, pumped and useless, we conversed with some fellow climbers basking on the same red rocks and sunshine, “Where do you guys live?” one asked.
My climbing partner replied that he lived in Telluride, and for the first time ever, I said Durango. The climber, unshaven, unshowered and stinky, but positive and friendly, said that was where he lived too. He was looking for a roommate. So was I. We shook hands, made plans to connect, and continued on with basking in the sun. We didn’t end up being roommates, but now over a year later, he is my most consistent climbing partner in Durango.
Las Vegas is the perfect setting to differentiate the dirtbag from the normal American. A typical American goes to Vegas to gamble, stay in hotels while swimming in pools that have no business being there in the desert, and if he is feeling really risky, may visit a prostitute. A dirtbag’s visit to Vegas involves trying to spend as little money as possible: gambling and taking risks on the rock climbing walls, camping out under the stars, maybe taking a dip in a pool, but certainly in no way paying for that experience, and if she or he is really hard up for cash, finding a dumpster to dive in and score free food.
An important clarification to all those that have little experience around dirtbags, is that no one is going around calling themselves that, just as no one really calls themselves a hippie. It’s more of an adjective, a way to describe a means to an end, and that end is always freedom, free time to experience life in the outdoors.
From my own personal research the lineage of the American dirtbag does, in fact, come from the hippies. And, the hippies descended directly from the beatniks. So if anyone is to blame, it is probably Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and maybe even Edward Abbey (though he was surely more of a desert rat). The Grateful Dead should of course shoulder some of the responsibility for this American subculture, as should the rock climbing pioneers of Yosemite, California. I don’t really know where Phish fits into all of this. Some dirtbags will profess to hate both The Dead and Phish, and that is another difference. Yet, the lineage cannot be denied.
There is an essential deviation from the hippie, and this is where the ultimate high comes in. For the hippies of the late 1960s, the ultimate highs came from sex, drugs and rock n roll. For the dirtbag the ultimate experiences and highs come from the outdoors, Mother Nature, the direct source. The highs from climbing, skiing, river running, BASE jumping, etc. produce sensations that cannot be found in any other capacity, and that is why we become dirtbags in the first place. We have those experiences and then realize nothing else can compare. When we eventually return to society, those feelings stay with us, and then we scheme how to have those experiences as much as possible.
Outdoor experiences, while often free, are not cheap. Gear is needed, gas is essential for travel, and food and drugs are needed for nourishment. While certain drugs are traditionally accepted in dirtbag culture, they are secondary to the ultimate high that nature provides.
A sort of “by any means necessary” style of survival is enacted as the dirtbag accepts and realizes she is living for the outdoor experiences. Dumpster diving is accepted to attain food. Extended camping stays and couch surfing are used to avoid paying rent. Hitchhiking is an acceptable and free form of transportation. Minimal (and maximum) sponsorship from gear companies is sought for those dirtbags savvy with marketing themselves.
There are many cruxes here: how to dumpster dive food without getting sick; how to couch surf without getting on your rent paying friends’ nerves; hitchhiking without getting murdered by a serial killer (okay that one is a stretch); and camping beyond the traditional 14 day limit without being kicked out by a ranger.
There are so many trials and tribulations to being a dirtbag, truly living as one does not last for long. One may fall in love and have children, or simply grow tired of suffering for the lifestyle. However, the love of a life with those ultimate highs and extended time in nature never fades from the consciousness. And that is where we’ll pick up next week for part two of this segment, with the graduated dirtbags; those of us who have altered our lifestyle to include the benefits of freedom and the outdoors, with the inevitable responsibilities of maturity, and the desire for the comforts that come with growing older.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012


My computer seems to be having trouble today, so I don’t know for sure if I’ll post these words. It’s incredible how much the writer relies on computers these days, it’s essential to publishing anything. Lately I’ve been thinking about our dreams and how they relate to our happiness. For the last year and a half I’ve been pursuing my dream to become a full-time writer. I’ve been broke as hell for most of this time – and I’ve never been happier. I’m following my heart to my dreams.

As I’ve done this I’ve contemplated others I’ve interacted with, and who seems happy and who doesn’t. It doesn’t seem that money plays much of a factor in this, those that pursue what they love seem happier than those who don’t take risks to pursue their dreams. Granted there is a fine line somewhere there, we all need money to some extent, but it seems obvious when people are unhappy because they are afraid to take risks.
Dreams also need to come to fruition in order to manifest happiness. I’m not there yet. Every time I get a piece of writing published, it is a dream come true, but I’m far from where I want to be. Dreams take a lot of work, and I also believe they must be tested to see if we are really dedicated to them.
These days technology has made it easier for a writer to achieve her or his dreams. Self publishing can be a great compliment to the inevitable rejection from the traditional publishing world. It’s exciting to be a part of this revolution, and I feel my style of writing fits perfectly in this recreation of how we read and write. I should also add that having a handful of editors is essential to self publishing. Just because you can publish your own work doesn’t mean it is always the best thing to do right away as a young writer. Writers need someone else to weed out our mistakes.

In this meditation of dreams and dreaming I’m wondering what I’ll do today to not only dream, but to do something to firmly plant my seed of dreaming in the ground, so that it can grow. What will you do?

MUCH LOVE, no hate….Luke

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Climbing Zine Dedication: Adam Lawton

My good friend Adam Lawton, who died this past winter was always beyond psyched on all the zines we published. He truly believed in me as a writer, and it is only fitting we dedicated this most recent volume to him. I feel your spirit everyday brother. 

"Climbing Zine Thing" @t The Firebrand, Gunnison, Colo.

Official release party for the new all-color print version of Volume 4. Our publisher, Luke Mehall, will present a slideshow, and then we’ll have the first-ever “Climbing Zine Thing Storytelling Contest” Best 3 minute story will win a prize. Beer and light snacks. FREE to attend, zines will be for sale.

Thursday, May 24th at 7:00 p.m. at The Firebrand Delicatessen in Gunnison, Colorado. Located at 108 N. Main St. in Gunny!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review from Brendan Leonard and the Mountain Gazette

Got a favorable review of The Climbing Zine in the May Mountain Gazette, couldn't be more stoked!

Click on the image below, or HERE for the review.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

In two hours I’ll get on a plane and fly back to Illinois, my birthplace, and location of my brother and future sister in law’s wedding this weekend. Chi-city, here I come.
The last few days of my life have been SpottieOttieDopalicious, aka sweeter than a plate of yams with extra syrup. Spring is bringing the green back, popping flowers off in all directions, and I’m feeling the renewal. How many springs do we get in a lifetime? How many opportunities for rebirth, to re-examine what we want out of life, and to go for what we want?

I know what I want, it’s simple, yet difficult. I want to climb, love, write, and grow. This demands I must continually get out of my comfort zone, and experience life; the ups and downs, and to live in the moment during them all. Each moment comes and then it’s gone forever, yet a new moment arises to take its place.
This weekend, for Clint and Kelly, my bro and sister in law, will be a whirlwind, bringing everyone special in their lives together to celebrate their love. I’m honored to be my bro’s best man, and it will be an opportunity to celebrate what he means to me.

The brightest and fullest moon of the year is this Saturday. May it shine brightly on your dreams. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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