Monday, July 29, 2013

Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind...

Tea brewed up, music flowing, a quick read over the papers I check every morning online, and its time to delve in the mind to write.

My mind has always found it easiest to write from the heart, and that is why I became a writer in the first place, words, energies, had to flow out of me onto something. The flow, which really started when I moved to Colorado in 1999, has never stopped. Words are a continuous river, though it has taken much discipline and study to understand the world of words and commas, capitalization, punctuation, and so on.

I started this blog when people kept asking me if I had a blog. A writer should have a blog, everyone would say. And, for the modern writer it is probably true.

And so I have this opportunity to share my heart, my soul, with whoever might find their way here. My blog is a journal of sorts, one that is an open book, so I try to write with an open mind, an open heart.

When I look into my heart this morning it is in recovery mode, recovery from a breakup. Two souls that were meant to only share some brief moments in time, the story has been told over and over again. One moment in loving embrace, the next separated by reasons and incompatibilities. Two good people, meant for some wonderful moments, yet not meant to weather the seasons, the storms of life. Anger, then sadness, hiking up to the mountains for some alone moments, for some tears on the drive up. Then realizing it was much better to try than not take the risk. Love is the greatest risk, I once read, and I will take that risk over and over.

The situation, the story has led me back to the moment. I lamented over the past, and worried about the future. I felt the pain of past heartache, and anger that the love of yesterday would not spill over onto today. Yet, more todays keep happening, more opportunities, more cards to play, more chances at love…

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts on Mexico

This piece is published in today's Durango Telegraph. I plan on doing some more research about the alliance between the three Durangos in Colorado, Spain and Mexico. 

A while back I read an article in the Durango Herald about an alliance created between the three Durangos: our beloved city, Spain and Mexico. From the tone of the piece it sounds like the communication has gone by the wayside, but it got me thinking of my own connection to our neighbors down south.

            My travels to Latin America began with a three-week trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua before the start of my senior year in college up in Gunnison. We volunteered, surfed, partied and rambled, seeing the lush, tropical countryside and returned with a changed view of the world, and a new appreciation for some of the simple luxuries we have as Middle Class Americans. I also realized I’d probably never make another international trip that didn’t involve rock climbing.

            A couple years later a January trip was planned to El Potrero Chico, Mexico, a climbing area located just a few hours south of Laredo, Texas. When we were alerted to a travel advisory warning in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico we almost bailed, but we ended up making the journey. What a revelation: only a day’s drive from Colorado was a dangerous, almost lawless land, with endless limestone, and prices just right for a dirtbag.

One climbing partner was scared of spiders, the other of snakes, and I was scared of everything. Their fears could have made for some good practical jokes, but nothing could have topped the real life situation, when my amigo who was deathly afraid of spiders hiked for an hour with a tarantula in his shoe, nestled under his arch. The whole hike he complained about his shoe feeling weird, and when he finally took it off he discovered the tarantula, screaming and sending an aftershock of terror so loud they could hear it up north in Estados Unidos.

            When we reached the border town of Nuevo Laredo, we somberly saw all the memorial crosses along the Rio Grande River, those that lost their lives crossing the border, trying to seek a better one. I may not have understood the complicated relationship between the U.S and Mexico any better, but I felt a sadness indicating some things are wrong and need to be improved.

            I kept returning to Mexico, each time getting more comfortable there, despite the fact that my Spanish wasn’t getting any better, and the drug war was getting worse. The border has the vibe of a war zone, but the hills are tranquillo, in small towns locals smile and wave, a universal language.

            Each time I get back to the United States after being in Mexico, something that was once old is again new. Sometimes it’s the grandeur of our grocery stores, other times it’s the realization that I won’t have to bribe the police if I’m pulled over. Occasionally it’s noticing that our Jesus just isn’t as sexy as the Mexican Jesus.

I appreciate the land we live in more with each visit. On those long drives home, headed north through the flat desert of Texas into New Mexico, I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to make the decision to enter the U.S. in search of a better life, or to improve my economic status to provide for a family. As time goes by I know I could have that question answered because I have a few friends that have lived that journey, and also several co-workers.

Someday I’ll ask, but for now I just wonder. I’ll wonder about a former co-worker, a dishwasher who lived and worked in the U.S. for six years away from his family. As a longtime dish-diver myself I studied the guy, and found him to be the most Zen of all divers, working 60 hour weeks and always had a most positive attitude. Despite my terrible Spanish and his broken English we became friends, and our conversations usually involved cervesas, chicas and mota. Now he’s back in Mexico, reunited with his family and hopefully living like a king.

I’ve yet to do any more international travel beyond Mexico, as a creature of habit I just return again and again. I’m in love with the limestone, and mysterious nature of the country, and still scared of its unstable and unpredictable tendencies; standing close enough to dream, yet still escaping soon enough that some of the darker realities never quite sink in, walking that fine line between tourist and traveller. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Underwear Modeling Story Part 2

This is the second installment in the saga of my dream to become an underwear model. It should be posted up on Patagonia's blog sometime in the near future, but here's a sneak peak. 


When a dream is achieved a new level of consciousness can be entered. During a recent recent road trip, full of California dreaming, I achieved two personal dreams: climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, and becoming an underwear model for Patagonia.

            Both dreams were mere sparks at first. Any climber that sees El Capitan considers climbing it, if they could, and if they ever would. The first time I saw El Cap I wanted to go home and forget about climbing, the mere sight of it revealed my most inner doubts and fears; at the same time it was an object of beautiful desire, engaging and impossible to forget. Over the last decade plus Yosemite’s walls have allured me back time and time again, and after ten trips and two previous failures on El Cap, last September I finally climbed the Salathe Wall, with my dear friend Dave Ahrens.

El Capitan
            It was the best of times kind of climb, with the perceived fear worse than the actual fear, and off-widths so humbling even the grade of 5.7 was intimidating. At one point I found myself hanging on a #6 Camalot in a 5.7 pitch known as The Ear. I would nominate this pitch for consideration of ‘Hardest 5.7 on The Planet.’

            After succeeding on our lifetime goal Dave and I had a couple of days in Yosemite to loiter and be thankful for the fruits of the horizontal. We participated in the Yosemite Facelift cleanup with our local homies Mark Grundon and Scott Borden, and both agreed that picking up trash was probably the only thing we were capable of after the physical, emotional and mental intensity of El Cap.

            I may not be much of a climber, but I love it, and to have achieved that dream to climb El Cap left me in a state of contentment, almost. There was still one dream I wanted to realize in Yosemite, my dream to become an underwear model for Patagonia.

             This dream, first suggested to me by my friend Amber Jeck, originally seemed just as improbable as climbing El Capitan. (For the full backstory read The Underwear Story here I mean an underwear model is the king of all male models right?

            My dream seemed like a joke for years, a conversation piece at parties, something I thought I’d talk about forever, but never get to actually do. That all changed last year when Patagonia published the story about my underwear dream on The Cleanest Line, which is an excerpt from my book, Climbing Out of Bed. Shortly after this my buddy Shaun Matusewicz started an online petition for me to fulfill my dream, which motivated me to write a formal request to Patagonia. To my delight, they thought I had what it takes to be an underwear model, and agreed that I could indeed model their undies!

            The only catch was that I needed to visit the Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, California to do the shoot. I live in Durango, Colorado, a days drive away from Ventura, so the dream was still somewhat improbable. Dreams are always improbable, impossible, or difficult though, improvisation would be necessary. Then it hit me, we could do the shoot during my upcoming trip to Yosemite, in the most iconic of all places for a photo shoot, the El Cap Meadow. I contacted my liaison at Patagonia, Kasey Kersnowski to see what he thought of the idea. Always one to go out of his way to help me out, Kasey realized that some Patagonia employees would be in Yosemite at the same time for the Facelift.

            It happened our last morning before leaving Yosemite. Dave and I met up with Jenning Steger, a photo editor for Patagonia. I explained to her my dream, and she was more than happy to take some time before climbing to do the shoot. We talked climbing for a bit, and then I stripped down to a new pair of Patagonia underwear. I was jacked on coffee and the air had a brisk autumn coolness to it, but I managed to keep my swagger. I couldn’t help but think about that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes pictures of George in his underwear: (with Kramer’s voice in my head: “Give it to me, work it, you’re a man, you’re a loverboy,”)

photo by Jenning Steger
Then, lying down in the cool grass of the meadow, I did the pose I imagined underwear models do, with one hand on my hip, and the other on my head, elbow stretched to the sky. I felt so at home in front of the camera, in the El Cap Meadow, that I realized, maybe I really do have a future in modeling. We talked climbing and photography some more with Jenning, and then we were on our way back to Colorado.  

My dream was finally achieved, I did a real underwear modeling shoot with Patagonia! The whole drive home we laughed about it. Then the cosmic coincidences continued.

            My first day back at my day job, working at a Mexican restaurant, a customer grabbed my attention. I thought I’d done something wrong, after all I knew my mind was still in Yosemite. She started off, “Now, I’m not trying to be weird or anything, but I used to work in the fashion industry… have you ever considered doing any modeling?”

            Too surprised to really answer the question I just stood there, jaw on the floor, wondering what else might be in store for me in my underwear.

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