Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hit Me Up On My Pager Yo!

“What is this photo of you doing jello shots?” my Mother asked me at a family gathering last year.

She was scrolling through my Facebook photos on her trusty iPad and happened to come by some shots of my recent birthday party. In my mid-thirties I’m well past the stage of trying to hide anything from my Mom, but I felt the need to offer some context.

“Well, my friend Gala, who has the same birthday as me found out that I’d never done a jello shot and she basically forced me to do one,” I explained to my dearest Mother.

What I didn’t explain is that I was scared of Gala. Yes, I’m a grown man and I’m scared of a woman. Once on Halloween I was dressed in a woman’s sexy kitten outfit, and Gala was dressed as a zebra. Gala often gets quite aggressive when she’s drunk, and I was easy prey. While doing some moves on the dance floor Zebra Gala ended up kicking me in the face, leading me to the bathroom for ten minutes while I tried to stop a profusely bleeding lip. So when she found out I’d never done a jello shot before and insisted I do one, I didn’t try to argue with her.

Sometimes I miss the days before every little single moment was recorded on social media. I come from the last generation who went to college before the social media revolution took off. Which is good, because college is for making mistakes, and realizing what type of mistakes you don’t want to keep making for the rest of your life. Having my college career on the interwebs for a future employer to see would have probably ensured I would have never gotten a job after graduating.

I also come from the first “screen generation”. One of the most thrilling moments of my childhood is when my parents gave in and bought my brother and me a Nintendo. We were obsessed with it, playing Super Mario Brothers and Zelda until our parents cut us off. Luckily, we were also into sports, and we had some exercise regiment to combat the stagnant lifestyle that often comes along with video games. Computers came along later, but up until smart phones and social media were invented they didn’t dominate our lives like they do now.

Yes, I come from the last generation of phone callers and note passers. The generation that remembers calling a girl’s house and the accompanying fear that her parents might answer. And making mixtapes for a girl, poring thought into each and every song. When the only way to access adult entertainment was stealing a Playboy from someone’s Dad, and hope to God you didn’t get caught. When people had pagers, and often used pay phones, and if you were lucky enough you would get a page that read: *69, which means you were going to get some action.
But I had no game then, I didn’t really know how to talk to girls until I was in my early twenties; I was as scared of them as I’m as scared of Gala in a zebra outfit now.

I did have pager, though. A couple of my friends, who were selling dirty brown brick weed, had pagers and I wanted to be cool and have money like them and sell weed. Problem was my Mom. She found the pager and freaked out. “Drug dealers use pagers,” she said.

I thought about trying to angle saying I was just hoping for a “star 69” but that wouldn’t work, and I lost the privilege of a pager.

Part of growing up in my generation means that I was alive when 2 Pac and Biggie were alive; these two rappers were both murdered in their twenties and to this day still remain cultural icons. (Their murders are still unsolved as well. WTF?) Just the other day a 20 year old I work with at my night gig at a local restaurant told me, “Dude that’s so cool, you were, like, around when Biggie was alive, what was that like?”

That could have made me feel old, but I guess I’m too young to feel old just yet. I think its cool that hip-hop is now the oldies, and the original living hip-hop pioneers are now graying and becoming grandfathers.

I do feel blessed that the obsessive recording of every single minute event wasn’t going on when I was young. I don’t need to see what you had for lunch on my Instagram. Speaking of Instagram, this same 20 year old, bless his heart, recently got busted at work for taking shirtless selfies in the bathroom during his shift. When another co-worker, a 16 year old, whose maturity pretty much is the same as the 20 year olds, noticed the photos on his Instagram feed when he was eating his shift meal, he made fun of him (as he should). He also called him out for taking the photo at work. The 20 year old tried to deny it, but the 16 year old called him out, “You’re wearing those same pants and the background is our bathroom,” he said. Busted.

I’ve never understood the compulsive urge to take a selfie, that’s where my generation and the current generation differ, but I can relate to being young and still figuring things out. Lately I’ve been hearing this idea that the decision making part of your brain does not fully develop for a man until around 23 years old (slightly earlier for women). This makes such perfect sense as I get older, and look back on how I lived my life during my first years of so-called adulthood. What a shame this is! We are forced to make many important life decisions before our frontal lobe in our brain fully develops.

These days there are so many more ways to get in trouble than when I was nurturing my young brain in all the wrong ways. Still, I managed to mostly come unscathed, my mind fully intact, and most of the photos of my college mistakes are tucked away in a cardboard box up in my attic.

I can’t say I’m all that different than some of these kids who didn’t know a pre-Facebook world. I like being liked, right swiped, favorited, re-tweeted, endorsed, and tagged. I just also remember the romance when you had to put yourself out there a little bit more, but I doubt any of the girls I made mixtapes for are still holding onto them. It’s an ephemeral existence we are living.

I think the main problem with all this new media and technology is thinking that Instagram photo is more important than the actual moment at hand. My best moments are when I’m away from a cell signal, and thank God those places still exist. Someday they might not. Or maybe some giant crash will happen and we’ll have to go back to the old ways of living. I think the years before cell phones were more romantic anyways. Either way, I’m damn sure I’ll never do another jello shot…unless Gala forces me to!

Check out my books, Climbing Out of Bed, and The Great American Dirtbags

Friday, September 11, 2015

Squamish poetry

Poetry is my first true love in writing. I wrote poetry before I thought of myself as a writer, and poetry readings are some of my favorite events to go to. Here's some random lines I wrote in my journal in Squamish this past summer:

Blackberry bushes beneath
Days planned
Rarely do they go
according to plan

Slabs say trust me
but dont trust me
trust yourself

Filling our futures with follies and fantasies
knowing there will be falls on walls
whippers runouts fear and failure
and being okay with it

Climbing is my daily bread
Like water it keeps me going
Keeps the mind sharp
the muscles moving
but, why? why?
have i give so much to it?

Squamish steals my heart
Where the granite meets the sea
and i see myself for many summers
but you can only have one summer
at a time

Fit women wander with wanderlust
and I wonder what women will meet my lust
and i've been blessed to have so many
but I only want one

I gotta keep pushing and striving
in every way to try harder
in climbing
The investment would be a waste
if I did not do that

And am I adept at adjectives?
Writing on a stomach full of hope?
Nine pitches led on a Thursday
After going out on a Tuesday

The best things happen to a climber
Right around ten' in the morning
Or right around right now
at nine in the evening
In Squamish
watching the sun set into the sea.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Simple Man - Climber's Version

I’m just a simple man
I like pretty things
I’m just a simple man really

I’m just a simple man
I like pretty climbs
I like pretty girls
I’m just a simple man

I like my cracks as handcracks
I like big holds, jugs
I like crimps
I don’t like pimpin’
I just like crimpin’

I like hip-hop
I like rice and beans
I’m just a simple man really

I like Colorado
I like green things
I like pretty things
I’m just a simple man

I like bouldering
I like free climbing
I like big walls

I like girls with chalk on their hands
I like girls with chalk on their nose
I like girls with chalk on their clothes

There’s a chance this might never catch on
But my friends like my poems
And I like my poems

I’m just a simple man

Adapted from "Simple Man" a cool rap song by The Grouch, a cool rapper

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Straight Outta Squampton

I’ve got a confession to make people: I haven’t’ seen “Straight Outta Compton” yet. Like many hip-hop fans I’ve been excited about this movie since the project was announced, but when it was released I was up north in the land of Drake, not Dr. Dre. That also means I was out of town for the Gold King mine accident here in Durango, and watched from afar as the rest of the world did; the wrath of the Old West still affecting us in these modern times. Thanks a lot Teddy Roosevelt.

I can’t recall the last time I was this excited about a movie, something about hip-hop and the role that N.W.A. played in the development of the music, as well as bringing a larger awareness to what was happening in Compton, and other urban areas in the United States. Yes, N.W.A. kept it real before that was a phrase.

While the hip-hop fans of the United States were turning out by the millions to see “Straight Outta Compton” I was in Squamish, up in British Columbia, Canada, otherwise known as Squampton. I don’t really know where the name came from, Squamish is a far cry from Compton, and at this point I’m way too close to deadline to do any sort of research. Maybe the people of Squamish just are big hip-hop fans too. After all the night we arrived was at the end of a three day music festival, in which no other than Drake himself headlined, the Canada born star of the rap world at the moment.

I’d made a trip up to Squamish last summer, and after only three days got rained out, forcing us back down south to the States. We did some magnificent climbing on that trip in Washington and Idaho, but nothing was as good as Squamish. For the last year I was Squampton dreaming, and made sure my summer travels included a visit to our friendly neighbors up north.

That’s a good place to start with descriptions, there’s something about friendly people that is both welcoming and contagious. (Plus their accents are just so damn cute with their “ehs”, “abuuts”, and “soarries”, and their money: loonies and toonies, are you kidding me?)

I can see why they are in such a good mood, for a brief stretch every summer the rain typically slows down and the place is basically a paradise. Seemingly every good looking woman across Canada descends upon Squamish, the temperatures never get too hot or too cold, there’s enough trails, mountains and rocks for everyone, and The Chief the massive granite buttress overlooks the Howe Sound, the ocean meeting granite cliffs that dominate the skyline. Blackberry bushes are everywhere and the salmon are plentiful and cheap, really cheap if you’re patient enough with a fishing pole (I’m not). Those few sentences are just the beginning of the beauty that unfolds, and to be a part of it is transformational to say the least.

Now I’m just a simple man with an average athletic prowess, but beautiful places like this stir a yearning and desire deep in my soul. All of the sudden I don’t fully appreciate my days unless I give a hundred percent effort into what I’m doing, and all I was there to do was climb. It’s a simple equation, but your desires must align with someone else’s, because climbing tall walls is a team sport. Luckily we assembled a small posse of Colorado climbers there in the campground and lived out our days on the walls.

To this dirtbag lifestyle, for me, there’s this constant boiling and simmering. The intense effort and fear coupled with the aftermath: hardcore chillin’. Each day in Squamish begins with a mellow start, one in a hundred climbers get up before 8:00 am and, and every day ends at the communal picnic tables, where there’s an international representation, people from all over the world getting together to cook simple meals and share drink and smoke.

With so many people living out in the open there’s bound to be problems, and the main issue in Squampton is theft. At least one car was stolen when we were there, a result of a big city, Vancouver, being so close. Though I imagine they would be polite if you caught them stealing your car. I did have one weird encounter there, while walking the streets one day I really had to go to the bathroom, and I spotted one at a nearby at a city park. I opened up the door to the men’s room, and what did I find but a woman, who was clearly using drugs; she had sores on her face and looked like a creeper similar to the ones who lurk around sketchy hotels at night. Without hesitation, she said, “Oh I’m so sorry, come on in.” I took one look at this chick, who was probably an extra in “Breaking Bad”, and ran away as quickly as I could.

The climbing, the trails, the people, there was so much that was so sweet about Squamish, as sweet as the perfectly ripe blackberries that you can greedily eat without guilt because there’s more than enough for everyone, but I’m only given so many words here, so I gotta wrap it up with just one more Squampton bit.

We had one big party night, as one friend was arriving and another was set to leave. Somewhere in the midst of delicious sushi and drinks, we met some climbers and learned of a karaoke night at the local dive bar.

The karaoke DJ was an energetic short and stout woman who had bleached blonde hair and sang 1990s hits at the top of her lungs in between patrons taking their turns at hits from the good ol’ United States pop charts. It was the perfect mixture of talent and hilarity; everyone in the bar was having a great time.

I did my old standby of “You Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer and as the drinks flowed and I got more and more buzzed I signed myself and my buddy Shaun up for “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. At the last minute I realized we were going to be “those people” at karaoke, drunk and missing all the right notes. In a strange twist of fate we got up to the stage and they had “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube of N.W.A. fame queued up. Shaun and I both knew the words well, and we went into karaoke hero mode on the microphone. A good day indeed.

Thinking about that, I think it’s time to get out and go see “Straight Outta Compton” tonight, while it’s still in theaters.

This article is from today's Durango Telegraph (September 3, 2015)

My most recent book is called The Great American Dirtbags. Two other book projects, including a novel, American Climber are in the works. 



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