Friday, August 31, 2012

Breakdancing in Durango

This is a story I wrote for this week's Durango Telegraph. Super fun story to write, documenting some of the breakdancers in our town.

Breakin Out, Breakdancing in Durango

Monday, August 27, 2012

Salt Lake City Hip Hop, Review of Dusk Raps' Throw Away The Key

“What you see is what you get, so now you know,” Dusk Raps

Looking for a hip-hop fix? Throw Away The Key, and take a little journey with Dusk Raps of Salt Lake City, Utah in his debut solo album.

Dusk Raps is the MC from the hip-hop group Mindstate, and I’ve been a big fan of those guys since catching them in Salt Lake a few years ago. I had the pleasure of talking with Dusk (aka Ryan Worwood) after the first Mindstate show I saw, and started up what has been a solid friendship over the years. In fact, Dusk rhymes like he is everyone’s good friend, which I imagine he is.

That’s a good place to start with Dusk Raps, his style. He is open, honest, and reflective; he doesn’t hide anything or try to be anything he isn’t. He clearly loves hip-hop, and each song reveals a different side. He oozes Salt Lake City through the album, and is a major player in the hip-hop community there. He raps on the song Laser Beams: “Get down for my town, so proud you can’t hate it”.

I know Dusk Raps loves hip-hop so dearly because I helped bring him to the cool mountain town of Gunnison, Colorado, a few years back for a couple shows at the Gunnison Brewery. He came down with his brother, Ben (DJ Honna), the other half of Mindstate, and they rocked the small brewery till close, feeding a hungry crowd in a town that hip-hop acts only rarely visit.

Before one of their shows I was talking with those two, and was surprised by their lack of ego, and general approachability. One conversation was about hip-hop, and how many artists first hip-hop album is their best work. Dusk commented that some artists say everything they have to say on their first album, and have little to draw from in future offerings.

This is not the case with Dusk Raps. Throw Away The Key has many dope tracks. My personal favorites are: Blink, Laser Beams, The First to Know, Something to Say and Smoke Rings. Something to Say was the one I played over and over after first downloading the album, one where Dusk showcases a singing and rapping style, previously not seen in other tracks he’s on.

What is most clear in this album is that he is an artist in the truest sense of the word. (He is also a painter and graffiti artist, and the cover of the album is his own work, in his own, unique style.) 

His wordplay, combined with energetic beats, offers reflections on life, from a thoughtful, hip-hop philosopher. (He thinks very deeply.) Pick up Throw Away The Key, if you are in a hip-hop state of mind, and looking to experience a unique and thoughtful style from an emerging artist from the great, Salt Lake.

Throw Away The Key is available on All tracks can be previewed in their entirety, and the price of the album is on a sliding scale!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding Peace in the Past

Life either moves too fast, or too slow. As I sit at my writing perch I realize there are events from weeks ago that I’ve yet to write about or reflect upon. That is one of my favorite things about writing: enriching my experiences by pondering what wisdom they have to impart to me.

Two weeks ago I was recovering from the Outdoor Retailer trade show, held in Salt Lake City. During the show Shaun and I stayed with some mutual friends, Stefan, Katie and Kevin; all of us are connected in one way or another from Adam Lawton, our dear friend that passed away in an avalanche in January of this year. Stefan was a close friend to Adam, and was with him when he died. Typically when I’d visit Salt Lake I would always stay with Adam, he was an old college friend, and the type of friend who, no matter what, the door and couch were always open.

It’s been seven months since Adam died, and I feel like I’ve learned many things about life and death since then. I probably don’t full comprehend all of the things I’ve contemplated, but I do know that death brings people closer together, and makes us there for each other. I barely knew Stefan before Adam passed, yet because of our connection to Adam he offered up his home (exactly how Adam would before) to us for the week.

One of the things I know about death now (Adam was my first truly close friend to die) is that the person’s spirit is always with you. I felt Adam’s spirit with me the day the news broke (and the ocean of tears that came with it) and I still feel it now. I feel it encouraging me to do as much as I can in this body, because the world needs us to be at our best, and we need to be at our best to be happy.

The more I write, the more I wish I had more time and space to write, because the potential for stories is infinite. Pondering my dear friends untimely departure from his body makes me think of a conversation I had yesterday with another good friend, Badger.

Ironically, or maybe cosmically, I met Badger at the Red Rocks climbing area in Las Vegas, just before I moved to Durango. I figured I’d see him around, but it was only after over a year of moving there that I ran into him, just days after Adam passed away. (More whimsically, Badger has a mutual friend to Adam’s, that I met at Adam’s memorial and then realized the connection.)

Badger has turned out to be a perfect climbing partner, because we both climb at similar levels, and are looking to increase our capacity for what we are capable of. We are also just a year apart, and in our mid-thirties we are well aware that those are the prime years for achieving one’s climbing potential.  

He is also a very spiritual person, and I feel open to discuss whatever is going on internally with my own spirit. Yesterday while driving home after our climbing session the subject of past lives came up. I was telling him about a friend who suggested we knew each other in a past life. I’ve never had anyone suggest this to me, and I’ve been thinking about that ever since she said that. This friend and I also have an incredible connection, and I’ve also wondered where such connections come from.

Although Badger is very open minded, I felt somewhat hesitant to bring this subject up. But, Badger in his wisdom, simply told me that past lives are something he has accepted, he feels his greatest friends in this life were those he was close to in previous existences. He also shared that his times of high energy meditation led him to believe this.

When he said this it just made so much sense, as if I was simply waiting for him to say it. I’m still pondering it now, and I will be for a long time.

To conclude these thoughts, I’m always inspired by other’s writing, and this last week I found out a co-worker of mine blogs, and I was pleasantly surprised by her offerings. If you like stream of consciousness blogging, is sure to delight.

Until next Monday, Luke’s Bloggie blog is singing off.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Wonderful Summer, A Summer Full of Wonder

"I do know that one and one is two, and I know that if you love me too, what a wonderful world this could be," What a Wonderful World by Sam Cooke.

Is the summer slipping away, or does summer always slip away, remain fleeting, something we want to reach out and preserve, but realize that is forever impossible.

This has been my most enjoyable summer that I can recall in recent years. First and foremost my life and career are headed in the direction I desire. Last summer that was not the case, I was stagnant, so I made changes, and now, here I am. This has also been my first summer in Durango, my new home. And how beautiful it has been. 

I like it hot, I love the desert, and I love warm evenings, where one can step out into the night, under the stars, with little else other than a t-shirt and shorts. Many mountain towns don’t afford this luxury, but Durango does. Along with the warm nights, hot days must be endured, this was something that worried me a bit after living in Gunnison and Crested Butte for so long, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve embraced the heat. It has allowed my heart to be more open, I’m less inclined to be reclusive, more inclined to embrace it all.

The summer of Durango is full of the noise of the train, chu-chu-ing its way back and forth from Silverton, announcing its arrival with a loud, but not annoying whistle. The summer begs one to experience the river, tubing, or other more sophisticated forms of flotation. Tubing is my new favorite sport, and my enthusiasm is shared with fellow tubers, who whisk their summer dreams down the Animas, with lime green cans of local beer, serenading childhood dreams of simplicity, loving the water, our source of life.

Rock climbing, as always plays a central role in release and happiness, my climbing has been nearly exclusively on a chunk of overhanging limestone we call the Golf Wall. It humbles when I am feeling weak, and encourages the upmost optimism when I am at a hundred percent. Begs me to be stronger, to reach that ceiling higher of what I am capable of. 

I’ve managed to publish my first book, Climbing Out of Bed, I’m proud, yet also thinking about number two, as it is dreamed and built up, like the thunderclouds we’ve been blessed with in the latter part of this summer.

The world seems to be on a bit of a doomed rollercoaster lately, maybe it always is. But as I’ve taken risks to live my dreams, and to live life to the fullest, everything seems wonderful, not perfect, just wonderful, full of wonder to experience these opportunities.

I moved to Colorado thirteen years ago, and in many ways I’m just getting to know her. She’s blessed me with adventure, stories, lovely women, and the best and truest of friends. The goddess that inhabits summer will soon fade into the magical fall, I’m not looking forward, just looking, both inward and outward, but certainly thinking about the river, the road, the granite and the sandstone, the fruits of the trees, and the inevitable conclusion, and rebirth of it all.

Luke Mehall is the author of Climbing Out of Bed, and the publisher of The Climbing Zine

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Book on Nook

Climbing Out of Bed is now available on Barnes and Nobles' Nook e-reader, and can be found by clicking HERE. word!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Real Mountain People, Excerpt from Climbing Out of Bed

Dammit all the world is real and everybody carries on like it is a dream, like they were themselves dreams…pain or love or danger makes you real again.”

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

What is a real mountain person? This is essentially the question John Fayhee, the editor of the Mountain Gazette, posed to me in an email. Since then it’s been lots of thinking, writing, throwing away (recycling), thinking, and here I am again, writing.    

I’ve come to the conclusion I am both unable and unwilling to define what a real mountain person is. The main reason is that if I wrote about what a real mountain person is, I’d be saying that certain people who live in the mountains aren’t authentic. Who am I to judge who belongs in a mountain town? 

I am a typical example of a mountain town resident. I moved to Colorado from the Midwest and I’ve been here for most of the last seven years. Maybe if I was born and raised in the mountains, I could qualify to write about real mountain people. If I was a miner who lost his job and watched Crested Butte, where I’m writing from, turn from a mining based economy to a tourist based one. If I was a cowboy who suffers through the seasons year after year, through all the trials and hardships the mountains invite. Or if I was a Ute who lived off the land in the mountains only to have it developed by the white person, descendants who later put “native” stickers on their cars. 

I am just another white guy who moved to the mountains with little, except hopes of finding something to live for, which the flatlands didn’t seem to have for me. The search was for real mountain experiences, something I found through the enthusiasm and wonder of youth, the luck of being in the right place at the right time, and the often underrated advantage of having relatively little money. 

Here is a little more about the message from Fahyee. In the email, he mentioned that he was moving from his home in the High Country of Colorado to New Mexico. One of his reasons, he stated, was people moving to the High Country didn’t seem like real mountain people. 

Now I think I know the kind of people he’s talking about. Here’s a semi-reasonable stereotype: they drive shiny vehicles, they are interested in real estate, and they usually come to the mountains with capital. These folks are flocking to Crested Butte, too.

In the last couple years, I’ve witnessed real estate prices skyrocket, and more flashy vehicles driving around. I could go off on the capitalists ruining mountain towns, but again who am I to judge? Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game?”

Besides, this game doesn’t interest me. I feel the true wealth of mountain living lies in getting out there, in the hills and growing spiritually from these experiences. Out there, in my little campsite a couple miles out of town, where I’d easily surpassed the fourteen day limit. This was mountain living: a fire pit, a tent, boulders all around, the sweet smell of sage, birds a chirpin’ and bunnies a hoppin’. I felt richer than any man in a mansion. No rent, no TV, no sofa, just a man and his thoughts. The plan went well till my car broke down. But what did I care? I had a bike, and two feet. During this experience, I found a peace of mind I hadn’t experienced since I was a child at camp, in the woods. It was also a blessing as a young writer to have the stillness of silence every night, with the fire as my only entertainment. I experienced a magical moment, I can still vividly recall years later, sitting by the fire, a poem inspired by my surroundings, actually writing itself.

My friend Brent Armstrong is a little more out there than I am. He was a guru to all us youngsters interested in the simple character building endeavor of rock climbing. He had his eyes on a prime piece of real estate down in the Black Canyon, an unclimbed big wall route. He spent nine days alone on the wall. I’d discovered living simply in the wilderness brought great thoughts and meditations, but living on a wall, what would that be like? 

I never had the nerve to do a big wall climb alone, but I did get stuck on a wall overnight down in The Black. Dave Marcinowski and I didn’t intend to spend the night on a cramped ledge, with barely enough room for the two of us to sit, a thousand feet above the Gunnison River, but I’m glad we did. We were essentially naked to the night, to nature. Having everything removed from your life makes one appreciate even the most basic things we many times take for granted. We asked each other questions like, “If you could have anything in the world what would it be?”

“Water, some food and a woman,” was the answer.

Another buddy, Zach Alberts, is a simple cat, an inspiration to mountain town bums. The guy hasn’t paid rent in like seven years, and he’s one of the most pleasant individuals you’ll ever come across. One summer, he set up camp amongst the local boulders, ones that happen to be in close proximity to a country club with multi-million dollar homes. If the owners only knew, there was this climbing bum living in the same setting, with the same mountains to view, with nothing but his tent and some food, content as could be. I wonder if the millionaires, burdened by their worldly possessions, are truly as happy as he is.   

Tom Mally is another local I admire. I could camp out for six months in the warm seasons, but he camped out for two winters, this in a place that gets so cold many residents can barely afford their heating bill. I told him recently I admired him for his winter camping skills. He told me it wasn’t so bad, and once he figured out how to stay warm, he really enjoyed the experience.             

I think in America there is an illusion that having a lot of money will certainly provide one with a rich life. There is a freedom, a feeling, a lifestyle out there that can be lived without a lot of money. There are many ways to find this freedom, but, personally, I found this lifestyle by moving to a mountain town and learning from the people here. 

After all these years, I still get this blissful feeling when I’m out there on a rock, in my tent, or with my friends, a feeling that is real, the thought that I should try to live more simply in order to find more happiness.

Out there, I also have this feeling deep inside in some way I owe the Natives who lived here before me, the miners who saw their way of life give way to the easier, but more complicated tourist based way of life, and the cowboys who still ranch on land that was once worth little and now is worth millions; the real mountain people who led the way for us living here now.

photo by Braden Gunem

This is an excerpt from Climbing Out of Bed, a definitive collection of rock climbing and mountain town stories. It is available on Kindle and Nook

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