Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Life of A 23 Year Old Baby

Imagine a world where others fulfill all your desires. They feed you. They dress you. They even wipe your ass. I was there and let me tell you- it was miserable.

I laid prone as the world took care of me. I slept at the Desert Springs Memorial Hospital, the closest medical facility to Joshua Tree National Park, where I fell a hundred feet climbing without a rope. I spent the first few weeks in a semi-comatose state, sedated by drugs. The hallucinations of my subconscious entertained me. A sequin suited ice skater sashayed towards me delivering me my dinner of crackers, my aunt sat in a casino wooing Sammy Davis Jr., and my immobile body rested on a dock, watching the boats come into harbor, and waiting for someone to move me with the other cargo.

When I finally came to, I wanted to go back. The ice skater never put a tube in my penis, but the doctors did. They spoke stoically when they discussed the operations- the damage to my occipital lobe, the vena cavity filter, the compound fracture of my ulna- I never understood what they had done. Arthur Clarke wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I was Frankenstein’s monster, confused, alone, and sewn back together wrong. I tore the IV out of my arms. I did not want to be there. What did the doctors do to me? Why was I there? I wanted to get out of bed, pull on my jeans, and crawl to the base of El Cap. My identical twin brother held me down and a nurse sedated me while I called her a cunt.

Eventually, I calmed. The thick calluses of my hand were peeling away, I was losing what identified me as a climber. I had shed twenty pounds off my thin, fit body. The nerves in my right foot had been destroyed and my foot hung sadly. Long rods held my back and ankle together. Pins cemented my elbow. My body was a jigsaw puzzle of welded metal. It hurt.

A constant stream of friends, family, and climbers visited; they wanted to make me feel better. I did my best not to spill my urinal on the bed. An ex-girlfriend held my hand, and watched me puke in a napkin. John Long, the climbing legend, visited. A notable encounter only in that he was a regular guy who wanted to talk about his family. He gave me some meditation tapes that helped him recover from some of his injuries. A Yosemite climbing friend, Sanam, brought Lisa Rand's climbing movie Hit List. Before she left, she did the sweetest thing. She brought her lips close to my cheek and kissed me. I did not wash my face for a week. I was immobile in a bed; I could not clean my face if I wanted to. Other visitors came and sat awkwardly. They never knew what to say or do so I put the twenty minute Hit List on repeat. Eventually, my twin- my most consistent visitor- complained.

“I have never been to Black Mountain. I have never been to Bishop. I have never even been to Yosemite,” Matt told me. “And I still know all the moves to that dumb Thriller problem.” For him, there was nothing different about me.

At a stroke and spinal care facility, my roommate was a former Los Gatos school district super-indent named John. His wife came in to take care of him after his stroke. Most of the time she was nice but sometimes she yelled. He was a sixty-year-old infant, a former man who had become helpless overnight. His wife struggled with John’s transformation to infancy more than he did. He wore a diaper and the room often smelt like shit. One night, John left his bed and wandered around the room, mumbling about the bathroom. Unable to find the door to the toilet, he came closer and closer to my bed. My biggest fear in life is that someone is going to shit on me and I will not be able to do anything about it.

“John, the bathroom’s over in the corner,” I wanted to help him. Give him some direction. He ignored me.

I stabbed the red button on the white caller, trying desperately to call the nurse. My nightmares were coming true. I was paralyzed, I could not get out of bed, and John was going to crap on me. The nurse came in as John stood at the foot of my bed. Later, I learned to laugh about it.

After a few more weeks of laying in bed, worrying that John was going to shit on my chest, I was transported to a physical rehabilitation center where I would learn to walk. My first physical therapy session, I stood. Seven seconds passed on the watch. It was awesome. I wanted to put it on my 8a card. I sat, rested, and then tried again. My legs wobbled precariously at five seconds. I felt uncertain at six. Was I going to fall? I bore down and fought through the crux of it, watching the clock tick off a long fifteen seconds. I onsighted the extension. The technology of the fusions was magic. Later, I tried to brag to my twin. Matt sat in my hospital room playing Fable on my Xbox-a gift from my oldest brother, Chris, a dorky guy who loves video games. As I sprayed about how hard it was, how exciting it was, how it made me feel like I was climbing again, he looked at me and asked, "How do I get the combat multiplier up for my hero?"

My parents had six children. Their first came when they were barely old enough to take care of themselves. They divorced when my youngest brother was 10. My father needed a break from the overwhelming amount of work. He needed to work on himself. He still barely had enough money to fly out and visit. My mother spent a majority of her savings on the transportations costs of moving me from a hospital near Joshua Tree to a stroke center near my home of Santa Cruz. She sat by my bedside praying for me fanatically. I had spent my last bit of savings to go climbing in Joshua Tree for winter break. The majority of the hospital bills were being paid for through the mandatory insurance I had as a University of California. I could barely stand up, working was out of the question. Going back to school in Santa Cruz was my only option for fiscal support; I needed the financial aid.

My occupational therapist explained the importance of maintaining neutral spine precautions to me. "You have to keep your back straight at all times. Your knee can not bend to ninety degrees. That means no stairs."

So what? I could never scramble around in the boulders. I shrugged. Lifting my feet high over the talus always annoyed me anyway. He droned on about the correct way to move my body and how to deal with my physical handicaps.
"I do not know how you are going to ride the bus," he said.

What was he telling me? How would I get to campus?

"I have to go to school," I said. For the first time since I fell, I cried. How could I take care of myself without financial aid? He kicked my only crutch.

"You know, you can still have sex." He said meekly. "I can explain how to do it while maintaining neutral spin precautions."

I shuffled my ass to the side of the hospital bed, tentatively swiveled my hips, and fell into my wheel chair. I wheeled my way back to my hospital room and stared out the window, dreaming I was climbing.

I stood on the sidewalk of Highway 1 on Mission Street in Santa Cruz. A few days earlier I had been walking along the same road wearing a new t-shirt. A friend had ironed on a picture of a walker and a caption reading, “Walkers are Irresistible.” A random girl drove by and waved at me. I felt tough. So I stood on the sidewalk again. Both the northbound and southbound cars sat at a stop light a quarter of a mile away. I had two minutes. I prayed that the magic in my body would make me move like lightning. I put my walker down off the curb, shuffled my right foot forward, weighted it, and matched it to my left. Then I advanced the walker again, shuffling, and matching feet a thousand times. As the cars barreled towards me, I focused on the repetitive motion, and climbed El Cap in a day.

Slowly, very, very slowly, I learned how to walk without assistance. After more surgeries and more physical therapy, I shrugged off most of my handicaps. 381 days after my fall, I climbed again. My life as a 23-year-old baby sucked. People always ask me what I learned. It annoys me because the experience merely reiterated things I already knew about myself.

I want my independence. I want to do things for myself. I have a hard time asking people for help. The hardest part of the whole experience was dealing with those basic things. This was a huge cry for help. Some days I feel like it is unanswered. On the better days it feels like I am answering it myself.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cedar's Kiss

I am not much of a rock climber. If I have any notoriety in the climbing world it is because of my monstrous failures. But this is not a story about a failure. This is a story about Cedar’s kiss.

Thomasina and I met five years ago in Squamish. We did not talk much. I borrowed her Rubik’s cube for a few weeks and returned it with slightly peeled stickers. I offered to buy her a new one but she said she did not mind. I still feel bad about it.

A few summers later, I was back in Squamish. Thomasina was pregnant and was hanging out more than she was rock climbing. As I biked from the grocery store to the library, I saw Thomasina kicking the curb near the bus stop. I stopped to see how she was doing.
Thomasina was worried. She needed 600 hours to receive maternity benefits and had only 130. The baby’s father was not helpful. She kicked the dandelions that were growing through the concrete of the sidewalk.
“I tried to call him. The answering machine was in French. It takes so much courage just to call.”
I looked for the Greyhound. I did not want her to be late to meet with her midwife in Vancouver. I did not know what to say or do so I kept listening.
“Why do men stick their dicks in you and leave?” she asked.
Thomasina broke my heart. Was I an asshole man too? Had I done that to women? I wanted to cry. Instead, I kept listening. After half an hour her breathing relaxed, the stream of tears stopped, and Thomasina calmed. The bus arrived and I hugged her.
“Thanks, James,” she told me. I was not sure what I done but I smiled anyway.
“Anytime Thomo.” I watched her board the bus and waited until she had started down the road to Vancouver before I returned to my bike and headed to the library.

Two years later, Thomasina grabbed the perfect granite crimps of the Camp 4 classic Thriller. She bore down, pulling herself through the moves of the twenty-foot Yosemite boulder problem. I made a few meager attempts at the climb but I was barely able to get off the ground, I gave up and paid more attention to the little girl running around.

Cedar was bored. She had spent an enormous amount of time in the boulders during her two young years. She summered in Squamish, hanging out below the Chief. She had been to Hueco and just returned from a long trip to Bishop. Watching people climb was getting old already. I took her little hand, told Thomasina we were going for a walk, and we headed down the trail.
A hundred feet away was a puddle. Cedar wanted to throw the stick in the puddle. So we did. I tried to keep her pants from getting too wet and staying out of the water too much. It was fun. She was really independent and at times hard to direct. I followed her moves and kept playing her game until she got tired of throwing the stick in the water.

Eventually we wandered over towards the trail. She wanted to throw some more sticks. I chased after them walking like Charlie Chaplain, the little tramp. I would get the stick, try and pick it up, and then kick it. Whoops! How could I ever pick up the stick? Cedar loved it. Her face cracked open and she screamed with laughter. I had never made a girl so happy before.
We started to her to her home, the minivan she shared with Thomasina. As we walked back and forth from the car Cedar looked at me. She waved her hand back and forth. This was her sign language telling me she needed to use the bathroom. I did not know what to do. This little girl needed me to take her pants off and hold her while she peed. Fuck. I started epicing.

“Let’s go back to your mom,” I said.

Cedar ignored me and grabbed the strap to her overalls, trying to take them off.

“Let’s go back to your mom,” I repeated. I did not want to force her and bring her but it was not working.
That’s when she peed herself. I fucked up.

I desperately wanted to make things right with Cedar. When she needed me, I failed her. I was just another irresponsible man.

“Do you want to go back to your mom now?” I asked her.

Cedar’s deep brown eyes stared at me. I picked her up and carried her towards Thriller.

“I am sorry, Cedar. I am so sorry.” I did not know what to say. I was a complete fuck-up. I needed affirmation that things would be all right. “Can I have a kiss Cedar? Please?”

Cedar stared ahead, looking towards the boulders for Thomasina. When we reached the base, a dozen other people had shown up below to watch. I handed the wet Cedar to Thomasina. As the little girl moved from my arms to her mother’s, she turned her head, looked at me, and pressed her lips on my cheek. I melted. It was the sweetest kiss ever.

And that’s the story of Cedar’s kiss.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Favorite Scar

I have a lot of scars. There are suture marks on my left ankle. My shins are dotted with old wounds from falling above the crux on overhanging routes. A small line runs along my groin from a vena cavity filter. There are two scars layered on my left elbow from a compound fracture. Like the twelve-inch line on my back, most of my scars have to do with rock climbing. My favorite scar happened when I fell off my bike.

I pedaled down the Squamish Chief’s parking lot, feeling good. I had just sent my boulder problem project and I could rest a day before heading back to California. I balanced on my bike, taking my hands off the handlebars, and adjusting my backpack. That is when I hit a speed bump. I flew over the handlebars. My face met the pavement in a very intense kiss. The North Face sunglasses I wore smashed into my cheek and split my face open. When I stood, there was a hole in the shoulder of my shirt, and ta bleeding gash on my face. People approached me.

“I am okay,” I said. I thought of Monty Python, “It’s only a flesh wound.”
Someone handed me a roll of climbing tape and a bit of tissue. I bandaged my face together.

“You are going to need stitches for sure.” Another passerby good Samitarian said. I groaned. I knew that Canada had universal health care but I was an American and dealing with the bureaucracy of the hospital in a foreign country worried me. I wondered if I could get some help from climbers.

Noah had just finished his residency in emergency medicine and wanted to go bouldering before he got board certified. Siemay was working temporarily in an internal medicine office. She had climbed well in Squamish the summer after her residency ta few years earlier, so the two packed their dog and crash pads. They drove their fifth wheel trailer to Squamish and parked it for a few weeks. Holding my hand to my cheek, I found the couple in the granite boulders below the Chief.

“Uh…” I watched Noah walk down from the top of a difficult boulder problem. “Umm…”

Fuck, I have never known what to say when I need help.

“What happened to your cheek James?” Siemay asked.

“I fell off my bike.” I pulled the gooey bandage off and showed the big wound. “Check it out.”

Noah walked up, and examined it. “Hmm. Looks like you might need a couple of stitches. We are going to finish bouldering then you can come by the trailer. We will stitch you up.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah, stop by around seven. As long as the wound does not sit for more than twelve hours, I can stitch it up.” I smiled and Noah went back to bouldering.

I bounced down from the boulders elated to be getting stitches from a climbing doctor. I grabbed my bike, straightened the handlebars, and rode back to my camp, a small tent I had set up in the woods behind the recreational center.

At seven o’clock, I stood at the door to Noah and Siemay’s fifth wheel trailer. I gave a tentative and wimpy knock.

“Come in,” Siemay said. I opened the door, letting the warm smell of rice drift into the summer air. “I am just cooking dinner. Noah is in the bedroom.”

“Noah. Noah!” She called. “James needs stitches.”

Noah stumbled out of the bedroom. His pants were covered in chalk.
“Let me wash my hands.” Noah stepped around Siemay to the sink. He scrubbed his hands with soap for thirty seconds, rinsed them, and dried them on paper towels. Moving to the dining room table he pulled put on a pair of latex gloves, and examined a set of syringes on the table. After squirting fluid out of one of the syringes, he told me to lay down on the floor.

“This is for the pain. I am going to make your cheek numb so that you will not feel the stitches.” Noah bent over me and slid the needle into my face, slowly releasing the fluid. “Now, we wait for a minute.”

I felt a tingling sensation in my cheek. Arthur Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advance technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That’s what happened in the little RV. Magic.

“How’s the rice coming?” Noah asked.

“Fine,” Siemay stirred the pot and continued chopping vegetables. “What sort of thread do we have to stitch him up with?”

“I can’t open the closet door,” Noah held his hands in the air and waved his gloves. “Can you get it?”

Siemay walked over, sorted through the closet, and grabbed some thread. “This is all we got.”

Noah groaned and looked at me. “This thread is bigger than what I would normally use. You are going to have a scar.”

I shrugged. I was happy just to get stitches. Who care’s about scars?

“That’s okay,“ I said.

Noah put a needle through my face, pulled the thread, and stitched me back together. There were six stitches when he was done. My eye was black and blue. I looked like I had just gotten in a bar fight; the pavement had been pretty mean to me.

“Okay,” there you go.

“Thank you so much,” I smiled. I was nervous. They had already given me a lot and I did not have any money or really anything to give in return. “I do not know how to repay you.”

“Dinner’s ready,” Siemay finished the meal. “Here’s a plate James. You can sit down over there.”

“Pull the stitches out in two weeks,” Noah filled his plate with rice and corn and peppers and chicken. “It will be easy. Just give them a little tug while you look in the bathroom mirror.”

And then I ate. Noah, the emergency room doctor, had dealt with my wound and then Siemay, the internal medicine doctor, fed me dinner. I have met hundreds of doctors because of my reckless climbing: neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, physicians, trauma doctors…but these two were the best.

Years later, I was sitting in the house behind the Yosemite medical clinic playing poker with Noah, Siemay, and a few other boulderers. Noah was staring at me. I thought he was trying to figure out how many aces I had in my sleeve. He opened his mouth and said, “That scar is a little big.”

I kept my poker face and never told him that the half moon below my eye is my favorite scar.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Pains of the Quaint Life

------I should revisit this topic as it has been an interesting one to me lately check out this story-----

For my mother, religion was the only escape from alcoholic parents, a shotgun wedding, and a banal life. She searched feverishly for her lottery ticket to heaven in between Genesis and Revelations but Christianity merely cemented my mother, thoroughly mixing her up and permanently setting her in Pentecostal beliefs. She herded my siblings and I into a small Vermont church to have us learn the value of Jesus’ teachings.

The parishioners of Living Water Assembly of God congregated in the Addison County town hall every Sunday morning. The weathered colonial building sat in the middle of the metropolis of Orwell, a village of a thousand inhabitants and a small country store. Services were held upstairs amid rows of metal folding chairs and oversized windows, which allowed the humming fluorescent lights to be kept off during the long days of summer. The seats were filled with farmers wearing worn jeans and oversized belt buckles while the wives wore soft flowered dresses and wrapped thin arms around their men. They stood when the preacher began the service with a prayer and fell back to their seats when he began his sermon.

“Salvation.” The preacher was a slight man with a copper beard and a balding head. He spoke softly into a microphone so that the congregation could barely hear him above the shuffle of church bulletins and crying babies. “Salvation is our reward for attending to the will of God. When we accept the Lord into our lives, when Jesus becomes our savior, our guiding light, we are granted true wealth. Please open your Bibles to Romans 6:23.”

Chairs scraped against the wooden floors as husbands whispered silent questions to their wives regarding the location of the family Bible. In the back row, Nick, my youngest brother ripped the church bulletin in half and began making a paper crane. The fields behind the windows held little interest and I was forced to listen to the preacher.

“Let us read. ‘The Wage of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans 6:23. This is the gift granted to us when we accept Jesus; we will have everlasting life and glory in God. Now, by no means is salvation easily obtained. Great gifts require great sacrifice. The Lord will test you at times.”

Heads nodded among the congregation. The farmers were no strangers to floods, droughts, and poverty. Fall’s early rain had caused much of the alfalfa to be baled wet. The hay grew mold over the winter and the warm days of spring caused many of the bales to smolder. It was ruined for feed. A dry summer was anticipated and many families had already eaten through their stores of frozen corn and peas. Though many were hungry, the coffers of the church were never fallow. Generosity is not a plight of the poor.

“Just as the Lord tested Job, He will surely test you, but recall Psalm 37:24; ‘Though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.’ During our times of famine and pain we must be steadfast in our faith in Jesus. Only through Him will we receive salvation.

The sound of spit hitting the microphone echoed through the room as he stuttered out the word salvation. My brother flapped the wings of his paper crane. A lighthouse decorated the tiny bird. My mother looked at us, hoping that we were listening. Her own salvation depended on that of her children. She lived through us. This would be one of many sermons.

Outside a honey truck passed, its side coated with manure. The truck headed for a nearby field to fertilize the soil. Some of the farmers were still planting even this late in the season. In Vermont, everyone sows barren ground.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Father's Gift

My Father’s Gift

It came in a small envelope delivered to my brother’s house in Berkeley. I had been sleeping in Matt’s laundry room, bouncing at a nearby bar, and writing. The letter was two weeks late for my birthday, a few days short of my four year anniversary of falling in Joshua Tree, and a week and a half early for Christmas. I tore the envelop open. Inside was a small, plain, lined, index card with my Father’s scrawl on it.

“Guys: Hope you like this fancy card. You can hang it up. Love, Dad.”

Behind the card were two checks, one for my brother and one for me. The checks were for a hundred dollars each, a colossal amount of money for my constantly broke father to be giving.

“Thanks for the gift. The best part is the card!” I texted him. I love my father’s wit. The joke meant more to me than the money.

“I was going to wrap it but I did not have a Walmart bag,” my father wrote in return.

“Ha!” I wrote back. I did not want him to hide behind a joke so I wrote, “The first part was funny. No need to keep going with the joke- it ruins the sentiment. Thanks again.”

I finished my text with strong words, “Love you.”

The Pen15 Club

We were bouldering on the tall, sharp, granite blobs of the Pollen Grains when he walked up. He wore a t-shirt with an ornate dragon, his hair was cut freshly in a handsome way, and his tan pants matched his brown shirt. He walked past Charlie, Dominick and I, and strode towards Jessica; he probably saw her bright orange hair.

"Hi," he said with the confidence of an old friend. I assumed he knew her but my head tilted looking at him. He blended in too well and my spider senses tingled.

Jessica smiled. She had left the small town of Leavenworth for a month long road trip. In between Washington and Bishop she had dyed her hair bright orange. By the end of the trip her body ached and she was not climbing well. She had met a boy on the trip and had gotten worked over.

“He played games with me,” Jessica told me. Her turmoil went beyond just her body. Jessica often dreamt of Lynn Hill. Usually Lynn gave her things but lately the strong climber woman had been very mean. Jessica had a couple more vacation days before she returned to work so she came to Bishop to rest and recoup before heading home to Washington. She needed to be around a few friends.

Jessica said returned his greeting and went back to climbing with me. We tossed around on the boulders until we were worked and then we headed over to watch join Dominick and watch Charlie on his project.

Charlie stood under the Spectre boulder, grabbing the holds of the sickness, planking his body, and ripping through the moves. A crowd had gathered.

With all the people around, I wondered if Charlie could really concentrate.

“It’s time for some Jedi training Charlie,” I said.

Charlie tilted his head at me as I grabbed a few small pebbles. As Charlie gripped the beginning holds, I nailed him with a rock.

“Focus Charlie.” I said and I beaned him in the back.

“You’re throwing rocks at me! How am I supposed to focus?” Charlie fell off the problem, furrowed his brow and stared at me.

“I don’t know Charile. There’s all these people around. I am throwing rocks at you. You are trying to climb. Why can’t you focus?” I asked. Charlie tried again and made it a little further before he stalled and got nailed with a rock.

"Shit, there he is again," Dominick said, turning our attention away from Charlie's Jedi training and towards a man surrounded by a group of boulderers.

"Who's that?" I asked.

"The porn star. That's Jared Diamond coming over. He's a nominee for the Adult Film Award's best up and coming actor."

The perfectly kempt Jared strut to the group, nodded at Jessica, and ripped off his shirt. It was the guy who had flirted with Jessica.

“Do you know him?” I quietly asked Jessica.

“I just met him a few minutes ago,” she whispered back.

"A little cold out.” I said loudly. In between burns, Charlie wore his oversized black parka. Dominick paced the base of the boulder to stay warm, and I pulled my red knit cap tight around my ears. “Maybe too cold to be walking around with your shirt off."

"I know,” Jared smiled. “Check out these diamond cutters," he grazed his hand over his erect nipples and stared at Jessica.

I rolled my eyes, wondering if the sleaze ball was gonna start licking his lips and grabbing his crotch too.

Eventually, Charlie stopped making progress and I stopped throwing rocks at him. We headed back to camp and crashed for the evening.

The next day, Charlie, Dominick, and I decided to have some fun with al;l the Buttermilk Boulderers. we started the People Enlightening No-one, PEN, group as a joke. We wrote the group initial's on the backs of our hand along with the our membership number. Dominick was Pen 12. Charlie was Pen 13. I was Pen 14. And we spent the day trying to recruit a 15th member.

At the Buttermilks, we howled like monkeys swimming in bananas. We had three PEN15 victims and it was before noon. It was a mean and immature joke but who said we were grown-up? Besides, it was outlandishly funny. Our momentum for the prank was peaking when the porn star strolled by.

"You should join the PEN club." I blurted as Jarod sashayed towards us.

"What do I have to do to join?" He asked.

"Well, to join the People Enlightening No-one club, you have to be bad ass." I said.

"I am definitely that." Jarod flexed his pectoral muscles so they danced under his overly tight shirt.

"And you have to write PEN on your hand with your recruitment number. I am PEN 14," I showed him my hand.

"I am PEN 13." Charlie thrust out his hand.

"I am PEN 12." Dominick showed his hand.

"You can be our 15th." I said.

Jarod stared for a moment.

"Listen, we're raising money for testicular cancer. If twenty people join our group Charlie is going to donate a hundred dollars to the American Testicular Foundation," Dominick said.

"I want people to know I care about their balls." Jared smiled. "Do not just write it on my hand. Print it real big across my shoulders but be careful. You know what I do for a living?"

I grabbed the pen and I wrote across his back. On everyone else, I had laughed while I wrote. The joke’s punch line came when I started writing. I had tricked them and the writing was a mere formality. This time was different.

"You know what I do for a living right? Make sure to keep it small."

"The ink washes off easily,” I said remembering that he fucked people for a living. The ink stalled coming out of the pen. I scribbled on my on hand and shook the pen to help the ink flow better. As I finished writing PEN, the ink ran out.

“Does someone have another pen?” I asked.

Charlie dashed over with his own pen and I finished writing PEN15 on the porn star’s back.

“There you go,” I said. “I hope you like it.”

Jarod beamed and grabbed his camera so he could see the tattoo we had given him. He tried taking a few pictures of his own back before someone walked over and offered to take a picture of it for him. They snapped the photo and handed the camera.
"Oh,” he stared at the tiny display screen on the camera.

“PENIS. I get it. I knew it all along," he lied. That’s when we started laughing.

Just before dusk, Jessica waited for me in her truck. We were planning on going to watch Charlie try another one of his projects. Charlie needed lots of pads, a bunch of spotters, and obviously, more Jedi training. Jarod swaggered to Jessica’s car.

"I hear you are from Leavenworth." He put his forearm on the open window of her truck. His eyes batted.

"I am waiting for a friend. Are you heading to Charlie's junk show? Maybe I will see you up there." She said, waving him off. She had heard we had labeled him as what he was...a penis.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Being A Twin

I needed a job. A few summers ago, I paid for a few dental bills, working as a bouncer at the bar my brother bartends at. ZI stopped by Jupiter's again to look for work. I was sitting at my brother's computer typing when I turned to his bed and told him I was thinking about bouncing Matt scowled at me and huddled deeper underneath his down comforter.

"I do not want you to work there." His face was buried. "I have enough identity issues as it is."

Imagine a world where you are constantly mistaken for someone else. People talk to you like you are an entirely different person for long stretches of time. Sometimes they call me Matt, the Thai kick boxer. Sometimes they call me James, the ladies man. I never know if I am a lover or a fighter. So what should I do? Should I roll with it or should I correct them and identify myself?

Underneath the black cotton of her sequin Bebe shirt, her breasts poked out towards my face, staring lecherously at me. Her knockers scared me. She walked up, grabbed my bicep, and said, "Oh my god! How are you? Isn't the Christmas party awesome?"

Jupiter's annual Christmas party was a large event gathering two other Berkeley area restaurants into one bar off of San Pablo. The bartenders at Albatross mixed and poured free drinks all night while the restaurant employees ate a taco buffet and got really, really, drunk. I knew a few people from bouncing at the bar a few years ago but most of the drunkards were friends of my brother's and not mine as was the case with this chesty girl.

She gave me a hug and I shuddered. Then she pushed the boy she had in tow into my face. "This is my boyfriend." she said.

"Nice to meet you," we shook hands. This was getting annoying. Why the fuck was she talking to me. I wanted to peel my face off. "I am James. Maybe you have met my twin brother, Matt? He's over there." I pointed towards the bathroom. I wanted her to leave me alone.

"Oh my god! You're like not Matt," she chortled. "I am like so sorry and like sort of so embarrassed and all."

This would be the part where I stabbed her in the thigh. If I had a knife and if I was into lying in my stories. But I did not stab her I just said, "That's okay. Nice to meet you. I have to uhh..."

Then I ran to the other side of the room. I am so awkward. I tried to think of what I should have said. I wanted to say something witty, and weird. Something that would have ended the conversation.

"Yeah, I am Matt's brother. My mother went to have an abortion and instead of destroying the fetus, the doctor split it in half. That's why we are twins," I wanted to tell her, "What do you expect-It was the early eighties."

As I stood nursing my beer, cowering behind a table near the women's bathroom I thought," Damn it. I can never think of the right thing to say. Oh well, this time I will be pigeon holed as the socially awkward twin."

The James Lucas Memorial Yard Sale

On Decemember 18th 2004, I fell a hundred feet while rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. After 381 days, 81 days in the hospital, and 8 surgeries, I was able to climb. Today is the four year anniversary of my big fall. In an effort to raise funds for a good cause, The James Lucas Needs To Buy A Laptop Fund, I am selling an assortment of goods at low, low prices. Make me an offer at bigwalljames@yahoo.com


45 meter 9.5 yellow Beal Dynamic rope, cut a dozen times, much of its elasticity is gone, definitely would make a good rug

45 meter 9.8 blue Black Diamond rope, cut a half dozen times, much of its elasticity is gone, may make a good rug

50 meter 9.5 yellow Beal Dynamic rope, cut a couple times, much of its elasticity is gone, probably still usable but might make an okay rug

70 meter 9.4mm Red dynamic rope. Stolen from The North Face's Athlete of the Year Cedar Wright. Would make the best rug.

Back Packs:

North Face Red and Grey ~40 Liter Back Pack- great for cragging. A bear in yosemite loved this bag so much he took a big bite out of the side of it.

North Face Sliquid Hydration Pack- streamlined version- extra buckles and straps have been cut, excellent small pack for the second or for solos

Lowe Alpine Fanny pack- Blue and Black ideal for short hikes or for filling with weed and running from rangers

Sport Climbing:

Double Length Quick Draw- Left as a toprope anchor on Kurt Smith's heady testpiece Blackout, South Whizz Dome in Toulumne, believed to be the property of Ron Kauk. Petzl sling and two oval carabiners

Rope Tarp- Black square rope tarp, foldable with red and green tie on straps on the corners

Ballooon Pump- Used to blow up balloons for clowns. Also may be inserted in mouth to pump up deflated ego.

Black Diamond Quickdraw-bent gate bottom biner, D upper biner. Some beer spilled on it at Nason Ridge in Washington. Do not bring glass beer bottles to the crag.

Petzl Caldris Harness- Perfect for a new sport climber. Bottom tie in loop worn and may fail if used.

Trad Climbing

Belay Device- Trango blue square belay device best used as back up to hip belay.

Set of Large Stoppers- Black Diamond stoppers #10 and up with an HB offset and an unknown stopper. One of the stoppers has burn marks where it was used to smoke hippie lettuce out of.

Big Old Hex- about 3 1/2" tech cord attachment, doubles as cowbell

Metolious #10 SLCD- Blue, fist size
Metolious #9 SLCD- Maroon, cupped hands or small fist
Metolious #8 SLCD- Purple, big hands
Metolious #7 SLCD- Light Blue, hands, slightly creaky, needs some love and will work well
Metolious #6 SLCD- Green, small hands, a little worked will perform well though
Metolious #5 SLCD- Black, thin hands, very worked.
Metolious #4 SLCD- Red, slightly creaky, big fingers
Metolious #2 SLCD-Yellow four unit camming device

Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women by Claudia Goldin

Black Diamond 4.5 SLCD- Red Stacked hands, never used

Black Diamond 1 camalot- Red Newer style bent cams may have been dropped off of El Cap. Belonged to Alex Honnold Own a piece of fame.

Shoulder Length Slings- 4 grey black diamond slings, two other fancy type of slings

Wall Climbing

Gold Petzl Ascender-Found at base of Salathe Wall with hand still attached.currently separated some blood marks

Rock Exotica Wall Hauler- belonged to Mike Corbett, seen 28 El Capitan ascents, none by me, still works well.

Fifi Hook

Metolious 5 Step Aider- Yellow

Metolious 5 Step Aider- Green

Yosemite Lodge Cutlery- two knives, one fork, and one spoon

Black Diamond Talon- three hooks in one unit slighty rusted

Leeper Bat Hook

Leeper Cam Hook- Forged iron, smaller size

Leeper Cam Hook- Forged iron, larger size

Black Diamond Hook- Small size hook

C++ By Dissection by Ira Pohl- The Essentials of C++ Programming- Perfect for tackling the intricatcies of wall climbing


Acopa Spectres Size 9- Red and black lace up shoes, soft last, left shoe is worn, right shoe has more life

La Sportiva Testarossas- Men's 39.5, Ronald McDonald colors, aggressive lace-up shoe, well worn

Boreal Ballet Golds- Men's 8.5, Blue and gold, stiff high top shoes, some use, lots of blood stains around the ankle


Metolious Chalk Bag Belt

Worked Chalk Bag- Comes with zipper pocket, fastex buckle belt, a number of tears, and a bit of old chalk at the bottom

Solved Rubik's Cube- Worn stickers and center slightly worked from being greased

Free Soloing

Tums- Regular strength antacid with calcium-two rolls

Soft back brace- fits 45"-62" Made in Mexico, feels like a girdle, ladies love tearing this thing off.

Collapseable Walker- Standard walker no tennis ball modification. Feet have seen wear


Light Weight Toilet Paper- 8" by 12" lined single sheet piece of toilet paper specifically designed for alpinism comes with written description of Franco-Argentine route

Thermarest- long, self inflating, slight leak. You'll be sleeping on the ground by morning probably fixable


North Face Light Weight Tech shirt- red on shoulders grey on chest and back red North Face Logo across breast

North Face Long Underwear Top- Long Sleeve, grey

North Face Hyvent Jacket-Small, three ply blue and grey storm jacket needs to be washed with dry water treatment to help reinstate its waterproofness

North Face Men's Convertible Pants-size 32 dark grey some paint stains but in good condition

North Face Men's A5 Cargo Pants- size 32 khaki paint stains

North Face Men's Muscle Shirt- Light weight technical tank top grey size large

North Face Collared Short Sleeve Shirt- Men's Medium yellow checkered

North Face Me's Long Sleeve Safari Shirt- Button up dark blue collared shirt zippers under the arm pits

Patagonia Capilene- Men's Small feather grey

Patagonia Capilene- Men's Small grey

Mountain Hardwear balaclava

Garbage Bag of Blown Out Shoes:
Mountain Masters size 9.5 delaminated toe and no insole, 1 pair of North Face stiff approach shoes sat in the ran a little, 3 pairs of La Sportiva Miuras, 2 pairs of La Sportiva Katanas, 1 pair of La Sportiva Testarossas, 2 pairs Five Ten Velcro Anasazis, 1 pair of Five Ten mid tops, 2 pairs of Acopa slippers, 1 pairs of Acopa Spectres,

Box of Bills
Sierra Nevada Summerfest beer box of bills- Lots of really, really, really big medical bills I am willing to trade all proceeds from this sale in exchange for someone to take care of the papers in this box. Burning is not an option. Thanks!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Incipit Trageodeia

I just watched my brother fight in San Francisco. It was his second win as an amateur Muay Thai fighter. I wrote this story awhile ago. I should revisit it, edit it, and make a decent story out of it. Anyway, check it out. It's about one of my brother's early fights.

Matt strode around the ring clockwise, tapping the four turnbuckles three times: top, middle, bottom. The Wai Kru, a customary Thai tradition before a fight, seals the ring denoting that the fight is only between the two opponents. Matt didn't seal the ring; he marked it as his. His blackened shoulder, the rings around his elbow, as well as the dark lines on his forearms contrasted with his sinewy frame. Across his shoulder blades was a newer tattoo, a phrase he had scrawled into his flesh in dark black letters when he began fighting. Matt slunk around the ring towards his corner, the tattoos rippled along his body. His opponent, a stocky bearded man, hung his jaw as his trainer poured water into it. He bounced, spilling the water onto his bare chest. His eyes locked onto Matt as my brother finished the Thai ceremony.

The judge motioned the two fighters forward, and spoke lowly to the men. "Clean," is all that could be heard. Matt pounded the shorter man's fist and backed away as the bell rang. His opponent rushed towards him with fists of fury. Matt's arms shot to his face as a deluge of jabs pummeled him. Dancing around the ring, Matt tried vainly to check the aggressiveness and block the punches. He shot a jab at his opponent and missed. A right hook was returned in kind. Another jab blasted towards his opponent. This one landed. Matt stepped forward and became a Muay Thai fighter.

Versatile, brutal, and straight forward, Muay Thai is the science of the eight limbs. Fighter's employ their shins, knees, elbows, and hands to destroy each other. The traditional aspects of Muay Thai were followed for the fight at the Fairfax Gym in San Francisco albeit gloves, headgear, kicks and punches were included- normal procedure for a modern fight.

Matt had trained extensively and this was his third smoker (non-professional fight). "He looks like a cancer patient," a friend quipped. In two months Matt had lost all of his body fat. Though we are identical twins, he was twenty-two pounds lighter--a shrink wrapped Bruce Lee. He stopped eating a day before his fight, to weigh in as light as possible. Matt tipped the scales at 140 lbs/63.5 kilos and fought as a junior welterweight. The daily regiment of heavy bag work outs and calisthenics not only trimmed him down but made him fit to become a Nak Muay, a traditional Muay Thai fighter.

Matt's desire to fight is hereditary. Our paternal grandfather was a fighter. After work he liked to drink and beat his wife and kids. Our father, Don, was also a fighter. Forty years ago he had his first fight. After school, he caught his father dragging his younger brother Rick upstairs by the ankle. Rick's head bounced off each step. Don won his first fight and hospitalized his father. As part of the legal procedures that followed, Don served community service and enrolled in the Police Athletic League, an association where the local police force coach youth in an attempt to build community relations. For four years in high school Don fought in PAL, training once a week at a gym in Albany, New York, and running along the country roads of the Catskills. In college, he graduated to Golden Gloves and a short-lived professional career. Don fought as junior heavy weight, weighing 185 pounds and standing 6' 3". However, Don was no Rocky Marciano. He woke from his first fight in the hospital discovering he had a glass jaw. He woke from the hospital after his second fight, discovering that professional boxing wasn't for him.

He kept his gloves, hanging them from the wall. The leather cracked and the gloves fell apart. Rambunctious and young, Matt and I would toss the gloves on and spar. The loser of Rosh ambo would be the south paw. No face hits and nothing below the belt. Bruises covered our biceps and chests. Matt graduated from the single glove and began scrapping. His senior year in high school he attended a World Trade Organization protest in Washington D.C. When a police officer began to pummel a protester, Matt snatched the officer's oversized Maglite and smashed the butt of it into the officer's cranium. Matt's next fight was in Las Vegas when an irate motorist attempted to run him and his friend off their bicycles. The motorist was bludgeoned by a bicycle lock. His third fight occurred when he was jumped by some thugs in Oakland. They stole his wallet and bike. Matt decided he needed to protect himself in case he was assaulted again. "I need a Glock," he stated. I encouraged martial arts. "Why do you need a gun anyway? You can just fight 'em off?" "But," Matt responded, "What if they're a cop?"

Matt's Muay Thai training began in Oakland when he and two anarchist comrades got together to learn some basic self-defense. They trained in a small basement but Matt migrated south to Santa Cruz and then later to Las Vegas. His desire to fight stayed with him as he traveled. In Santa Cruz, he attended weekly sessions at a small gym. In Las Vegas he worked out at the commercial Master Toddy's. When he returned to the Bay Area, he began to train in earnest. Pacific Ring Sports in Oakland has served as his home five days a week for the past eight months. He signed up for monthly smokers and fought as much as possible.

The plasma screen TV's that hung beneath the San Francisco gym's ring showed my brother's fists. They were jets; as soon as one took off another landed. His opponents head snapped back. Matt kicked him in the ribs. His opponent stepped forward and they clinched, grabbing each other's shoulders. This form of stand-up grappling is conducive to kneeing one's opponent in the stomach. Matt's patella jack-hammered into the fighter's belly button. Trying to protect himself, the other fighter moved his elbow in front of his abdomen. Matt's knees bruised the man's forearm. After two three minute rounds, a well placed kick, and a dozen knees to the stomach, Matt's opponent was worked. The victory was clear.

Stepping out of the ring, I stared at my twin brother. His latest obsession was sticking. He talked of going to Thailand for 3 months to train. The conditioning was religious. He stopped drinking. His shins were covered in speed bumps from kicking heavy bags. Still, his next fight wouldn't go as well; he'd be momentarily knocked unconscious. But this fight he won. I congratulated him, as he stood next to me. A veneer of sweat covered his body; he looked strong. The swelling from the hits hadn't set in yet and he smiled. He turned slightly showing the block letters between his shoulder blades INCIPIT TRAGOEDIA. I suspected the Latin translation but asked anyway.

"It's Nietzsche," Matt smiled. "It means the tragedy begins."

Friday, December 12, 2008


I smoke hippie lettuce constantly. I am constantly confused. I went into Kmart to look for glue but could not figure out where anything was. After five minutes I saw that the store was sorted three departments: clothes, toilet paper, and things to huff.

I rolled up to a stop sign and sat for fifteen minutes waiting for it to turn green.

I flashed Evilution on the Grandpa Peabody boulder. Every hold felt like a jug. I am not sure if it feels that easy to everyone or if it was just because I was jumaring.

I have a small penis. It is not a laughing matter. I have gone to great lengths to deal with my shortcomings. I have used pumps, pills, and clicked on a thousand internet banner ads. Finally I figured out how to make my dick six inches-I just had to fold it in half.

I just bought a time machine. It was on Craigslist for $600. It does not go into the past and it only moves into the future at regular speed. But it works. I stepped inside of it, closed my eyes, and when I emerged I had advanced 8 hours into the future. Not only that, but I felt surprisingly refreshed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Tiny hummingbirds buzzed between California fuchsias, pollinating the brightly colored flower. A dozen turkey vultures circled the nearby jail, looking for road kill. Small hawks and crows soared by, swarms of cliff swallows rushed about, while osprey and blue herons fished in the waters of Tulloch Lake. During the afternoon a golden eagle glided towards a five foot nest perched on the basalt cliff. The bird soared by, catching the currents of air with its wings open and extended. As the eagle moved towards the nest, the wings folded into a neat V shape, compacting into its body, and the bird skirted the hanging sport draws. At the last moment the eagle tilted its wings, caught the wind, and plopped soundlessly into the nest.

In nearby Chinese Camp a group of monkeys sat around in a tiny wood shack, huddling around a former YOSAR wood stove. I complained of the ache in my forearms from sport climbing. Flying would make it easier. The struggle to the summit would be a flap of the wings, a gentle upward arc of the wind, a casual affair. I thought of the birds.

“Flying is awesome. “ Stanley bounced his knees on the couch. For three years Stanley had been making a transition from full-time Yosemite dirt bag to base jumping fanatic. “I went to Lodi a bunch, did a couple tandem jumps, bought a chute, and just got into it. People die every once in awhile but not that often.”

“Why would you huck your carcass out of a perfectly good airplane? As good as flying sounds…” My voice trailed. I pictured the birds at the crag. Beautiful. Free. Then a slight shutter ran through me. Scary. How could I ever evolve into flying? Monkeys were made to climb not fly.

“You can link up long formations in the mountains once you know how to fly. Base jumping is rad. Besides, it is safer than soloing, James.” Stanley smiled.

Columbia airport, located outside of Sonora California, parks fifty single engine airplanes on the field of asphalt while a dozen more planes reside in nearby hangars. Coiler swiped his card and a metal chopper gate swung open, letting his Ford mountain truck onto the airstrip.

Coiler’s red and blue striped Cessna 150 sat on the far side of the air strip and we pulled out a couple cans of gas, and filled the tanks. Coiler walked around the plane, inspecting the flaps, kicking the tires, and spinning the propeller. After the safety check, I climbed in the cabin and sat in a bucket seat. He handed me a pair of huge headphones equipped with a microphone system.

“The plane gets loud Peaches. Here’s the volume.” He turned a knob on the side of my head.

“It’s tight in here,” I reported through the microphone. For the past few months I’d been climbing in Sonora and staying at Coiler’s on the weekends. The overhanging basalt sport climbing had transformed my body into that of a gorilla; I had huge shoulders, a pizza slice back, and dragged my knuckles when I walked. Coiler’s body was that of a chimp with his dark hirsute body, long arms, and small stature. I felt claustrophobic with the headphones bearing down on my skull and my shoulder rubbing with the chimpanzee pilot.
Seeing the birds, Stanley’s talk of flying, Coiler’s day off, a rest day from climbing, and cool, clear weather all lined up for a flight around Half Dome and back. Coiler’s long standing threat of taking me flying were matriculating.

“Watch the door. It always opens up.” Coiler fired up the engine and taxied down the runway. I tightened my seat belt until I couldn’t feel my legs and then grabbed the sides of my pants, letting my sweaty palms squeeze the denim out of my jeans.

“Do you have a watch to measure our airtime? We need to know how much gas we’ve used.” I shook my head. “Well the trip usually takes an hour and a half anyway.” I nodded and stared at the ground. We were going to run out of gas. I wanted out.

Coiler turned the plane onto the runway, gassed up the engine, and ten seconds later we were the flying monkeys of Oz. The world is a different place from the sky. The Chinese Camp lumber mill dominated the area near Coiler’s house and as we flew towards Yosemite, there were a hundred logging roads penciled into the pines of the Sierra foothills, and next to the thin lines--clear hillsides, erased of trees. And there was Hetch-Hetchy. Water from the damn, flooded the sides of what must have been another Yosemite Valley.

As we soared over Foresta, just outside of Yosemite, the growl of the engine became a sputter. Poot! Poo! Poot! I gripped the sides of my pants, and looked at Coiler.

“Houston we have a problem.” Coiler whipped the plane around and eyeballed for pieces to land. His hands darted to knobs and he pumped and primed as the engine sputtered and whined.

Enter terror. I should have stayed on the ground. John Denver, Buddy Holly, and the 1961 U.S. Olympic figure skating team all died in small planes. I would surely join their ranks. Another victim of the old crash and burn. But no. No, I was different. I was not a singer or an ice skater. I would not suffer a horrible plane crash. Would I? Poot! Poo! Poot! The engine coughed. Oh god! Soon, the ‘61 Olympic figure skating team and I would have more in common than our penchant for wearing sparkly Lycra. I wrapped my hands around my face. Imagining the ground rushing towards me made my stomach queasy. I waited, terrified counting the seconds slow.

After forty-five seconds, I peeled my fingers from my eyes, looked around the tiny cab, and listened to the lawnmower that spun the propeller. Coiler stared out the window, his eyes gazing dreamily at Mount Clark. My visions of death by flaming inferno dissolved; the engine’s growl had returned, and we were back on course.

“What happened?”

“A little ice in the carburetor. Happens sometimes when the temperature’s between forty and seventy. I diverted some heat into the engine. It’s not a big deal Peaches. It’s the heinous carbineer shift of flying.”

“Heinous carabineer shift?” Over the years, high on El Capitan, or dogging on the sixty foot sport climb, I have experienced biner shift. My weight made the carabineer shuffle and I fell two inches. Unnerving stuff but it never made me think about my eulogy.

The rest of the flight went smoothly. El Capitan, the mighty granite cliff, dripped into the Valley floor. Half Dome stood on a pedestal, elevated and regal, high above the Merced River. Sentinel poked out, a tiny shard of granite protruding from the valley. As we headed back, there was Don Pedro Reservoir, whose thousands of arms shot from its octopus body. And then the sport crag, which suddenly looked so tiny and insignificant. Five minutes later, we flew an intricate series of figure eights, performing the necessary landing turns before finally touching down on a small plot of grass in Columbia airport.

I fell out of the plane, puckered my lips and bent down to the asphalt to dry hump the ground. I would never leave my sweet mother earth again. Coiler chuckle.

“Peaches you were a little gripped up there eh?” I nodded, dusting the dirt off, and hopping into Coiler’s mountain truck for the drive back to Chinese Camp. I looked at my pants. Two hand prints were stained on the sides, where I had gripped the cloth, terrified.

The next day I went back to the sport crag. The eagle soared around the cliff. The hummingbirds buzzed. The vultures lurked. The hawks and crows flew about. The osprey and heron fished. I climbed. Stanley and Coiler had their ambitions to evolve. Monkeys were made to climb. Flying, that shit’s for the birds.

Terrorist Threats

My brother and I sat on his couch in Berkeley drinking ESB and slandering. Our younger brother Nick was moving to California. Our older brother Justin broke up with his long time girlfriend. Our sister had moved from Arizona to Philidelphia, was living with her boyfriend, and just got preggers. In just a couple weeks she was gonna burst.
I smiled. "How's this for a text Matt? 'Three weeks to explosion? Where's my radioactive suit? Can't wait to see the baby."
My doppelganger took a pull of his beer. "Take out the last line about the baby. She'll know what it means." I nodded sent the message, and finished my beer. Earlier in the day, my buddy and I had made the fourteen hour drive from Moab, where we'd gone climbing for 5 days. The travel and a slight beer buzz knocked me out and I slept soundly until I heard my phone vibrating next to my head at 8 am.
"Who am I talking to?" An authority filled voice asked.
"Uh..." I contemplated hanging up but figured it was probably one of my douche bag friends and played along.
"This is Steve Thompson of the Arizona State Police department. We have some questions for the owner of this phone. Is this your phone?"
"Yes," I meekly responded. I tried to remember the last time I'd been arrested. Luckily, it'd been awhile and I hadn't robbed too many banks in the last month. My record should be clean but still, I was apprehensive. Police questioning always makes me feel guilty even when I'm innocent. Fucking tools.
"Have you been in possession of your phone all evening?"
"Do you know anything about some terrorist threats made from your phone?"
My groggy head could not connect the dots. Terrorist threats?
"Where you in Utah recently?"
Fuck. Some Mormon stole my phone and was sending out death threats to anti-polygamists across the US. They were gonna blame me for it. The FBI would bust into the house any minute, armed with riot gear, billy clubs, and a straight jacket to take me away to San Quentin, where I'd serve life without parole. Oh man I was so fucked.
"Yes. I was in Utah."
"Do you know anything about a nuclear explosion?"
My brain sputtered, coughed, then suddenly kick started.
"Oh," I laughed. "My sister is pregnant. I sent her a text message last night about having the baby soon. It was something about her exploding and me needing to wear a radioactive suit."
"Well, apparently you sent this message to the wrong person. I suggest you refrain from texting random messages to people you do not know." The cop did not sound pleased. "I'll let you go this time but take this as a serious warning young man. Do not send mixed messages."
I hung up the phone, and started to fall back asleep but couldn't. I needed to go to the store and buy a radioactive suit.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Truck Stop Logic

December's a hard month for me. My birthday brings lots of identity issues because I am an identical twin and the 18th of this month is the anniversary of my Joshua Tree Crater. Neither are easy to deal with.

I woke up one morning in Bishop's Pit confused and thinking I was in Joshua Tree. I started to panic. Five minutes of shallow breathing passed before I recognized that I was no where near Hidden Valley Campground.

I have not been sleeping much lately. I woke up at 3 one morning and drove to the Looney Bean. The girl at the coffee shop unlocked the door as I pushed it open. My head felt scrambled.

One of my good friends told me she was hospitalized. She did not release any other details. Wish her well if you think about it.

I drove seven hundred miles and made it just before Grand Junction when I realized that moving to Colorado was a bad idea. I started to sweat. My head pounded. This had never happened to me before. Maybe it is because I spent so much time with Charlie over the past few days. Maybe it is because those two planets are so close to each other in the sky. Maybe it is because the winning lotto ticket of the last New York Megabucks was a 3. Who knows. I just felt like I should back down. I rarely bail on solo missions. While I was driving I felt like I was onsight soloing again. Moving steadily into the unknown. On the Northwest face of Lembert, on the Dike Route on Pywiak, on Pinched Rib in Joshua Tree, on Gripper in Yosemite, on Snake in Squamish, on and on I stopped at a mental crux and pushed myself through it. It was supposed to make me grow, and boost my confidence. All it did was make me thankful I was alive. When soloing you should have confidence to deal with the insecure. As soon as that's gone...so are you. Suddenly on the drive, I realized I did not want what was in Colorado. I wanted to be back in the Bay. I wanted my brother. I wanted to work on myself and spend time working out the rough parts of my life.

Anyway, I ate a donut. I have a soft spot for donuts. Actually I have a lot of soft spots because of donuts...another thing I'll probably have to fix in my life (all the soft spots). Here's to rounding myself out and toning up!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jedi Training and Al's Limerick

Charlie Barrett wants to be a Jedi. He needs training though so every time he started the bump move in the middle of The Spectre, I nailed him with a rock. After a hit to the head, he lost his composure. He tried one of his Jedi mind tricks on me. He waved his hand in front of my face and said, "Stop throwing rocks. Move along."
I laughed. His powers are no match for the dark side of the force.

I was jotting a few lines down in my green notebook at the boulders. Al Leu said I should write a poem about midgets, beer, and chicks in bikinis. I asked him if a limerick was alright and struggled for awhile with trying to fit Al into the silly rhyme. It did not work out that way. Here's the poem about Harry Houdini.

Here is a story about Harry Houdini
And his love for the people so tiny
When a midget came near
He would finish his beer
And pretend they were a chick in a bikini.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leaving the Bay Behind

I feel guilty. For the past eight or nine or eighteen hours, I have sat in on my brother's couch curled beneath a mountain of sleeping bags. I promised myself that I would leave Saturday to climb in Bishop. Then Sunday came and I did not leave. It is Monday night and I am cuddling with Ninja Mind Control by Ashida Kim, The Game by Neil Strauss, and my cell phone, which has been busy texting girls all day. I rock climb more than I work; I am a semi-professional rock climber. By sitting on the couch and not heading to the boulders, I am neglecting my work. I am getting fatter and lazier every time I read one of Neil Strauss's sentences. Shoot me now.

I have not hung out much in Bishop, though it is one of the most popular climbing areas around and I feel the same sort of guilt about not having climbed there as I do about curling up in my bed of down. There's so much I should be doing right now that I am not. I should write more, climb more, uh...Okay, I guess the list of things I should be doing is short but it's very important and very hard to get good at. One of the things I need to improve in my writing is my ability to write longer sentences. Writing concisely is important. Using a minimum of words helps the reader; it causes less confusion. At the same time, prose needs some length to spice up things between the short sentences. Here's an example:
The cat is red. The cat is dead. We are sad.
Having three short sentences in a row is too much. It reads weird. Better would be:
It saddened us to see the cat covered in blood. The cat is dead.
The latter example gives the last sentence more weight.
These are poor examples. I have been reading the Elements of Style by E B White and Frank Strunk. I reread the book occasionally and it always amazes me how much information is put in those 150 pages. I recommend reading it for a better explanation of how to express the sadness of seeing a red, dead, cat.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Man of the Near Future

I saw the post on Craigslist. Sitting around my brother's house in Berkeley with nothing to do but rest and get rid of my cold, I decided to check out the merchandise. The science major lived just east of the UC campus in a small house with a small door. I nearly ran him over when I walked in. He was small. He told me he had big ideas though. The project just needed some wiring and it would work. He spent most of his time studying and finding time to work on the electronics. I gave him 200 bucks and took the kit home. I now own a time machine. It can not go into the past. It moves into the future but only at a regular speed. I tried it out last night. I stepped into its metallic coffin and waited. When I emerged it was eight hours later and I felt surprisingly refreshed. I can move into the near future.

My throat itches, my nose is stuffed, and my head hurts. If a doctor read this she might say I was sick. I might agree. I decided to stay in Berkeley for another day and get rid of the itchy throat, the stuffy nose, and the headache.

I met with Greta this afternoon. We drank juice at Whole Foods.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

After Six

I stopped running four years ago when the doctors reinforced my ankle with titanium. The metal makes my foot heavy and the best I can do is gallop, stomping heavily into the ground. So I walk as fast as I can.

The night hides the exposure and I feel almost comfortable. It is easy ground and I am able to relax and enjoy the moment. I scramble up the granite formation. After Six was my first free solo. I climbed the route ropeless six years ago just before Thanksgiving. Now, it is the end of November. The days are short and the nights are long. At six o'clock, the stars come out and light up the rock below El Capitan. It is beautiful.

The moment I grab the rock I let go of my insecurities. Hesitation, a lack of confidence, kills people. My headlamp lights the granite and I focus on moving, forgetting about my problems.

For an hour and a half I am free. I return to my car and drive the loop back to the center of Yosemite. I miss soloing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Long Road to Failure

My brother is sleeping. I am typing on his computer, being inconsiderate. The pounding of the keys is keeping him awake. The best thing about family is that you can be a dick and they still remain your family.

I am in Berkeley for the weekend. I am not sure why I came. The weather in Yosemite is perfect. I almost sent Shiver Me Timbers, falling at the gaston move a dozen times. I have hopes of going to Zion this week and try Moonlight. NOAA's forecast is grim. Tuesday through Friday there is chance of rain. Climbing wet sandstone lacks appeal. I have a few other doubts about the trip. Zach may not be able to go, which means no partner, just minitraxioning. I am not sure if I can send. That may just be my nervousness or my insecurity about my abilities to climb well. Whatever. It's a long drive to fail.

I dropped Michelle K off at the Greyhound the other day. She's Canadian.

Matt woke up and read over my shoulder. "I am not sure why I came!? James, you shitbag. You came to visit me." He scratched his balls and left the room.

There was a really funny joke involving the Canadian project and Tim. I asked him how the Canadian project was going. I thought I was being subtle asking him about Michelle K. He thought I was talking about bouldering.
"Well, everything got real hard and then everything got wet."
Funny, funny, stuff.

I climbed at the gym the past two days. I got schooled at Iron Works then went to the Presidio and got schooled on all of Lucho's routes. My biggest climbing weakness is my ability to gym climb. Well, that and my ability to boulder, sport climb, trad climb, and wall climb.

So, I am waiting to hear from Zach. Maybe we'll go to Zion. Maybe I'll go to Bishop. Or maybe my brother will put on some pants and stop reading over my shoulder. Who knows?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Death in Yosemite

According to John Dill, the head of Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue (YOSAR), over 100 climbing accidents occur yearly with 2.5% of the accidents resulting in death. The granite walls, the Sierra storms, and loose rock kill unprepared climbers. Far more dangerous are visitor interactions with local wildlife. Three hundred fifty pound black bears reside in the park as well as 7 foot long mountain lions. The majority of accidents occur in the park due to the mule deer and not the rocks or bears or lions.

The largest of the Odocoileus genus, the mule deer, measures 40-42 inches at the shoulder, reaches 80 inches from nose to tail, and weighs from 100 pounds for females to 300 pounds for males. Most casualities involving the deer come from visitors attempting to feed the wild animals. While the deer are normally passive, they can become aggressive, rearing on their hind quarters and stomping down onto the ground. Fifteen years ago, a young couple from New Jersey took their toddler for a stroll through the Awahnee Meadow. A group of mule deer grazed the tall grass there and the couple stopped with their toddler to take a few pictures. Noticing the calm nature of the deer, the wife approached a small buck and placed her child on to the deer. The couple took a few pictures but the deer became aggravated quickly bucking off the child and stamping the toddler. The buck put its hoof through the child’s cranium. Park accidents like these are easier to avoid than storms, rock slides, and mountain lions. Be mindful of the animals in the park. Luckily, this story had a silver lining. The New Jersey couple sold the photos, covered the costs of the funeral, and broke even in the end.

Tim thought this story was fantastic. He came up with the last bit and nearly busted a gut when he told me about it. I laughed too. Maybe it was the dope but the story seemed pretty humorous so I told the story to a few people in the camp four parking lot. The joke bombed hard. I will have to remember not to listen to Tim’s jokes so much or just make sure everyone is stoned when they hear it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's been a little more than a week since I started my little climbing trip. On Sunday Rob and I escaped bad weather to climb at Jailhouse. I got super worked there, falling on a couple routes I had wired, and only doing 5 and a half pitches. I went back the next day and shook my way up the warm up before quitting. The day after that I headed up, fired the warm up, tried a harder route, fell in the middle of it, smoked a bunch of dope and drove straight to Alex's house. The Dirty Bird, Alex Evans, lives in Curry Village over on the east side of Yosemite Valley. When I tracked him down, I convinced him we should go climb a wall. We could do the Prow on Washington's Column in a day. He was excited. He photocopied the topo, got his thick lead line from his storage unit, and was amped to get pysched. I racked everything and waited to meet the Dirty Bird last night. He went off to a dinner party with a girl named Dance Dance 2000 and did not make it back until rather late. We passed out with our alarms set to 5 am. I never heard Alex's alarm ring. He turned his off as fast as it rang. Mine woke me up. I got out of bed, woke the Dirty Bird, and threw the rack into the car. It was early. Actually, it was very early. Justin Wood and Ben Ditto slept on the floor, ignoring our early morning clamber. The Dirty Bird looked at them jealously. They slept warmly in beds of pillows and down.
"Want to go back to bed?" Dirty Bird asked.
I laughed. "Sure." I wanted to go back to bed. I also wanted to climb the Prow. I headed off to use the bathroom and when I came back to the cabin, the Dirty Bird had laid out my sleeping bag and pillows, and was hiding under his down comforter.
"Are you bailing?" I asked.
The Dirty Bird glared at me. "Let's go back to bed." I laughed and went back to sleep.
Most walls go like this. Getting to the base is always the crux. I would like to climb a wall soon. My hand started to hurt again after climbing at Jailhouse so now I do not know what I should do. My hand's still sore from the bouldering this morning.

Friday, November 7, 2008


A few notes of interest:
I headed down to the clinic with Noah this evening. A patient messed up their shoulder and Noah anticipated having to pop the bone back into the socket. I followed Dr. Noah to hold the patient down while Noah slid the bones back into place. Unfortunately for me but fortunate for the patient, their shoulder was broken in the clavicle. I only got to look at the x-rays. Bummer.

I bouldered another long time project of mine today. At the Camp 4 boulders there is a striking arete called Cocaine Corner. I have tried the problem a lot over the past three years and did it today. Yeah! Clear blue skies and sunshine for me right? Well, not entirely. Later in the day I went out to the Woodyard to try the Woodyard arete. I stuck the crux move, slapped, the next hold, and got ready for the big move to the horn and then dropped. "I'm scared." I told Siemay and Noah and Dave Nunley. I was scared. I was pumped. Committing to the highball finish meant forgetting about the fact that I do not have health insurance, that destroying my ankle would send me into a dark spinning depression. I'd like to say that my mind was preoccupied with these thoughts but in all honesty, it was not. I am just a big old scaried cat.

I can't stop thinking about this girl. Damn.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Crazy Family

The other night I stayed in Portland with my second oldest brother. Justin lives just outside of downtown in a two bedroom house with a woman named Sarah. Sarah has glaucoma, a complication from her type 1 diabetes. In the past year, the doctors performed a few eye surgeries and her right eye still barely detects light. Justin takes care of her, in Justin's sort of way. He also attends school at one of the local community colleges. He's getting a degree in kineseology so he can become a personal trainer or something like that. Justin, Sarah, one of Sarah's friends, and I went to the bar near there house. We played pool. My acting skills are always put to the test when I play pool. I will hit a ball in and then have to act like I'm not surprised. Hard stuff.

The next day I drove down to my youngest brother's house. Nick works as a landscape in Red Bluff, a town of 5000 people and 4000 tweakers. Nick likes drugs. I ate some dope brownies at his house and melted into the couch. The intense amount of THC tingled through my body, which was nice. It also kept me awake til late, which was not nice. I festered for quite a bit and even came up with some real intense thoughts about rock climbing. How I should approach it. How I could perform better. How it could be more meaningful for me. They were great thoughts. Too bad I was too stoned to remember them in the morning. As an additional note, Nick and I did some other baking. Yeah!

My mom recently got on Facebook. Apparently my aunt told her I was on the internet vortex. My mom sent me a message immediately wanting to see pictures and chat and all that shit. Fuck. Hopefully she doesn't find this blog. Sorry Mom if you did. Check out what she wrote about the recent election on her Facebook status: "Marian : After this election, nothing in American life will be the same. I ask that my children remember their roots when the time of persecution comes." I'm not sure if she's angry because Obama is black, because he's pro-life, or because he's not a "god fearing man." My mother's always insisted that the apocalypse will come when the anti-christ rises to power and who makes a better anti-christ than a black Muslim. Balls. Watch out everyone. They'll be tatooing the number of the beast onto your foreheads soon.

I'd also like to say that I'm severly disappointed in the outcome of Prop 8 in California. Why the fuck shouldn't gay people be allowed to get married? People like my mom claim "God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve." This measure goes against our Second Amendment rights. I am infuriated. I do not understand why people want to impose a law that does not affect them in the slightest. It's obvious bigotry. If I wasn't so mad about it I may come up with solid evidence supporting my claims but for now I'll just say, "Hey fuck all you white bread dicks."

One more note, I made it to Yosemite. Sick. The weather's good. The climbing's polished. I am really pysched to be here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I left Peshastin in the early part of the afternoon. It rained the day I returned from Squamish. It rained the day after that and the day after that. I did not get a chance to climb in Leavenworth again. I drove to my eldest brother's house in the rain leaving behind a few projects. I had been working the Millenium Traverse before I left and managed to nearly send it one day before work. I pulled onto the stepp piece of smooth granite, tossed my heel on to match my hands, and then unfurled and campused across to the last piece of the problem. With a high left foot, I locked off on the large flake and reached for the finish jug. I stopped on the intermediate two inches from the finish. I tried to move to the jug. My fingers came up a quarter inch short. I screamed. I tried harder. I reached a little further. Then I fell. Sad. Sad. Sad. I hoped to get another go on the problem before I left but then there was the rain. I feel bad leaving behind unfinished business. Plus, Thomasina might head back to Leavenworth and I'm already gone. Damn.

On Wednesday I'll be in Yosemite. On Friday I'll meet Rob and boulder. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some bouldering with Siemay too. I have a small tick list of problems that I would like to send. The Woodyard Arete, The Hexentric(might be unreasonable), the Cathedral Arete, Cocaine Corner, Cross Roads Moe, and the Cookie Monster. I have a few weeks so maybe I can get all those done. I will also be spending a fair bit of time in Sonora. I would like to do the Jailhouse five- Iron Junkie, Misdemeanor, Fugitive, and Insecruity in a day. Maybe Alcatraz too. Whatever I do there, I do not want to project much as projecting blows hard. It's really depressing. I always send better when I'm already sending. Climbing with Honnold taught me that. It's better to do things that you can do quickly than project stuff. You lose a lot of strength projecting.

In other news, My oldest brother, Chris, his wife, Kat, and my niece, Graylin, and I went to Pure Sports in nearby Redmond. One of the perks my brother gets is free membership at this super fitness mall. Pure Sports contains half a dozen tennis courts, five squash courts, four pools, two cardio rooms, Botox injections, facials, a few saunas, and a lifetime of spa treatments. Microsoft graciously paid the $10,000 dollar initiation fee and pays for my brother's membership. It was pretty crazy being there.

Tomorrow, Portland. I hope it stops raining.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I wandered down the aisles grabbing last minute supplies for our trip to Squamish. I filled a small basket with beer and cheese and bread. As I grabbed the bags, stuffed the change and the reciept in my pocket from my shopping, my phone rang. Max called me from the car. “Hey can you pick me up some cheesey popcorn.”
We arrived in Canada around two am Monday morning after a half hour detour driving lost along random streets in Surrey. The next morning we met Thomasina and Cedar at the Adventure Center and headed to the boulders. It’s been awhile since I climbed in Squamish. There was a lot of trash, bits of tape, band-aids, and empty chalk socks laying around the base of the Black Dyke. The noise from the highway construction blasted into the forest. The rock felt smoother and more polished than I remembered and a lot of the forest felt damp in the morning. By late afternoon, the dankness disappated and the bouldering got good, really good. I flailed while Max sent Baba Hari Dass, and Sit Down to Holm Boy. Thomasina wanted to save skin for the next day.
That night we stayed at the Smoke Bluffs with Thomo, Cedar, Tim Doyle, Israel, Peter Michaux, Ben Harden, and Brent Michelson. Tim, Thomo, Max and I hung out and slandered then got a slow start the next morning to go bouldering. Max and I went over to Golden Boy, which he fired after a few tries of falling at the end. I sent the Sit Down to Holm Boy. That was really rad. I’ve tried that problem a lot over the past four years and it was nice to finish it. Max and I headed out to the Apron where Max fired off Gull Skull. I climbed Cutting Edge, a problem I’d never done. Then we met up with Thomo and climbed on Tatonka. Max and Thomo both fired it. Max and I went to the grocery store and while Tim Doyle watched Cedar, Thomasina fired off the first female ascent of The Egg. Yeah for Thomo!
The next day Max and I drove back. We got stopped at the border and my Saturn was searched. The border patrol confiscated our avacado and hassled us but eventually let us go.
Our original intent for heading up there was to do an interview of Thomasina. She’s been crushing lately. She fired off a bunch of hard problems in Bishop earlier this year then made some rad ticks in Leavenworth. I needed a good photo of Thomasina for the interview but it never worked out. Oh well. I was really happy to see my Canadian friends and get to hang with Thomasina’s and Cedar. They are two cool Pidgeons. I wish I had spent more time in Squamish this summer. I may move back to the Northwest next summer.
I’m leaving Leavenworth on Sunday. Hopefully the weather will stay clear. The forecast calls for rain. I’d like to send my boulder project before I leave. The last time I got on it I fell with my fingers diddling the finish jug. But I need some serious fitness pretty quick if I want to make my November climbing trip pan out. I’m thinking a lot about Zion these days. I’d really like to finish that thing.

Tim's Windshield

Last week, Tim Doyle drove along the highway in his 1985 Toyota minivan, traveling at roughly 60 kilometers per hour. As he neared town, a Squamish District school bus passed him going 40 kilometers per hour. When the two vehicles passed each other, a Canadian threw a banana out the window. The fruit smashed into Tim's front windshield making a softball crack in the glass and creating a long split down the windshield. Tim turned the vehicle around and chased the school bus. When the driver pulled over to pick up another student, Tim ran up to the yellow beast, slapping on the side of it until the driver let him in.
"Who the fuck threw a mother fucking banana at my window?! You could have killed me! What the fuck!" Tim screamed. The bus driver offered no help nor did the dozen ten and twelve year old students on the bus.
Later, Israel suggested that Tim have the banana finger printed. I recommended that he demand blood, urine, and semen, analysis from all passengers. Regardless, the windshield will cost two hundred dollars, which Tim was hoping to spend on gas to Yosemite. Hopefully, Tim will be able to get compensation from the school district or at least shake some milk money out of the punks who broke his window.

Friday, October 17, 2008


A man with a rifle slung around his shoulder dragged a large carcass behind him as I climbed in Forestland. The deer's tongue hung out the side of its mouth swinging in circles as the corpse bumped along the small path between the boulders. The hunter stopped, propped his foot up on a knee high boulder, and wiped the sweat off his brow. I stared.
"Nice buck you got there," said one pebble wrestler.
"Yup," the hunter grabbed the deer's antlers and swung its head towards us. "This sum-ma-bitch is a tweleve pointer."
The deer's tongue flopped to the other side of its mouth.
"Pretty proud. P-retty proud. I sawed her in half so I could get her to the car. My boy's wrasslin the other half down. Anyway, got to keep humpin' if I want to mount her today. See you folks later." The hunter grabbed the straps around the deers neck and continued the plod to his car.
Five minutes later, a tweleve year old boy came huffing down the trail, towing the deer's ass and hind quarters. He stopped to breathe for a second, then continued after his pa.

My dad hung a deer from the crab apple tree outside of my grandma's house. My brothers and I watched the blood drain for three days. Nick poked it with a stick and the enormous carcass swung. My dad yelled at us to stop messing around. That winter we ate venison stew, venison steaks, venison stir-fry, venison sandwiches, venison and eggs. We all got pretty sick of venison. Whenever we thought we had stuffed the last piece down, my mother would pull a little more out of the freezer. The meat was cheaper than anything we could get at the grocery store.

There is not much sport in hunting. There's a man with a high powered rifle, complete with techy scope, and there's a deer or elk or bear or some endangered species with little to no knowledge of rednecks wanting to kill it and mount its head on the wall. I guess I do not like hunting much. Seeing the hunter and his son drag the deer by the boulders angered me. Why did they have to kill it? At the same time, I remembered how much venison we ate that winter. We ate the shit out of my father's buck...damn near literally.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leaving Leavenworth

I leave Leavenworth in three weeks. It will be nice to quit my crappy job but I am not happy to leave my friends. Hanging in the Peshastin house for the summer has been really fun. And I started climbing again. The bouldering here is really good. I am bummed to leave that.

Last week, Thomasina, Cedar, and Brent came down from Squamish to climb for a few days. They stayed in Peshastin and crushed. Brent hiked a bunch of hard classics and Thomasina flashed Atomic Energy, a V9! Very proud. Having Cedar around was fun. She's an awesome little girl. I really liked having Thomasina around too. And it was cool hanging with Brent too.

Anyway, just counting down the days, thinking about heading to Squamish for a couple days, provided it doesn't rain, and hoping to be in shape for a late November trip to Zion.

Oh and my labtop shit the bed. Kate Rutherford gave it to me a little while ago. It was super generous of her. It was old though and the furious pounding on the keyboard fried the rig. If anyone wants to sponsor or sell me an old labtop, let me know. I'm in the market.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bus Boy Hell

My mother popped me out on December 6, 1981. That makes me twenty-six years old. In between then and today, I managed to graduate from both high school and college, finishing the latter with a degree in Economics and Business Management from the University of California at Santa Cruz. In high school I maintained a 4.0 grade point average at Vermont Academy, graduating cum laude with distinctions in history, mathematics, and English. I played defensive line on the varsity football team, was capitan of the cross country ski team, acted in a few school theatre productions, and was president of the Saturday Morning Swim Club, a polar bear swim team. I entered college a merit scholarship winner but I smoked a lot of hippie lettuce, and skipped classes to go rock climbing. I exited school with far less ambition then I entered. Now, I barely have the qualifications to be a bus boy.

Half of the time, I am broke. The other half of the time, I do not have any money. I finished school at UCSC in the middle of June and headed straight to Yosemite. Graduating was not good. With the sponsorship of Pell Grants and Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, I managed to pay for climbing trips, buy gear, and climb a lot for four steady years. Recieving my degree meant a dry well; no more student loans. I needed to work and be able to climb somewhere. My old friend and climbing partner, Jens Holsten, instisted that I could find a job in Washington. “It will be rad," he told me in the Toulumne Meadows parking lot. "You can stay at the climber's house in Peshastin, you'll just have to spot and belay for room and board. Plus, we can carpool to Leavenworth." The Icicle Ridge Winery needed help in a couple days, and Jens, a typical dirtbag, needed a ride. Imagine that.

I climbed for eight weeks. It was sick. I pulled, cranked, fell, then pulled and cranked more. On week eight I started pulling and cranking, then felt a pop and my palm tingled. The tendons to my pinkie and ring finger tore apart Suddenly my right hand was useless. That meant no climbing and worst yet, no sex life. Jens assured me that I could make it through the recovery, at least I could find employment. He found a job, pouring wine at the Icicle Ridge Winery for minimum wage. Even Max, my roommate, had found work. The Fudge Hut employed Max, having him sell chocolate and wear the local costume for Octoberfest and the tourist filled summer months. He packed fudge in his leiderhosen.

The manager at Viscontis, John Morgan examined my resume. He told me I was overqualified for the position. Obviously, he had never seen me work. He needed help though and three weeks later he hired me as a bus boy for the Italian restaurant. I clear wineglasses, set tables, and box food. I also break glasses, arrive stoned, and hide behind the ice machine when the restaurant becomes busy. The other bussers wonder why I work there. I am old. I have a college degree. The servers think I should apply for John’s job, a position with responsibility, benefits, and stability. I wonder if they hate me.

I'm stuck in Leavenworth, working in bus boy hell, saving money to move and get another dead end job. The move will take me a month. I will drive to San Francisco, climb, drive to Utah, climb, drive to Vegas, climb, and then drive to Boulder. The four weeks of blowing the little bit of loot I scratched from carrying trays of lasgna, will be worth it. I hope.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Famous Chongo Chuck

The New York Times recently wrote an article on Chongo, a former Yosemite fixture, calling him the "father of big wall climbing." Chongo hasn't climbed in twenty years. He lived in a trailer at Coiler's house for years after getting kicked out of the Valley. He was forced to leave Coiler's and wound up in Sacramento, where he lurks at Pipeworks and with the homeless community there. Why a man who has so little to do with actual climbing is featured in an article about climbing is beyond me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bailout: The Musical

FRAGMENTS FROM BAILOUT! THE MUSICAL featured in the New Yorker written by Ben Greenman

A wallet is on a desk. A DOLLAR BILL pokes his head out.

Let me introduce myself
I’m a dollar bill
Once I was the source
Of unlimited goodwill
People all around the world
Thought I was fantastic
The planet ran on paper
Before it ran on plastic
But now trust in me
Has been badly eroded
Thanks to lousy credit
I’ve been overloaded

Next to him, a CREDIT CARD stirs.

I couldn’t help but overhear
And I have to say I’m shocked
Why the hell would you blame me
And not blame common stocks?
Wasn’t it the market
That fell down on the job
By appealing to the basest
Instincts of the mob?

A STOCK CERTIFICATE rises off the desk nearby and unfolds.

Do you really think
That this bad feeling and rancor
Ever would have happened
If not for the bankers?
They’re the ones who led us
Into rank overextension
The way that they have acted
Is beyond my comprehension

The DOLLAR BILL, the CREDIT CARD, and the STOCK CERTIFICATE squabble. The DOLLAR BILL raises his voice. The STOCK CERTIFICATE threatens the CREDIT CARD. Finally, a nearby CHECKBOOK speaks up.

All of you, stop. Will you, please?
I don’t want to see a fight
The truth is that you all are wrong
And also that you all are right
This fix we’re in, you see
Is unimaginably complex
Monies are all intertwined
Y regresses onto x
Lehman, Merrill, A.I.G.
No one knows a thing, you see
Let’s all relax. Let’s take a rest
The coolest heads can think the best
I have a film I want to show



Let’s go

The CHECKBOOK pulls down a movie screen from the ceiling and, with the CREDIT CARD’s help, starts a projector. An image of Treasury Secretary HENRY PAULSON appears onscreen.

Who’s the old guy?
He looks smart

Shh…the movie’s
About to start


Come now, travel with me
Back to 2001
Remember the big boom?
That was an awful lot of fun
Alan Greenspan warned
About the bursting bubble
He lowered all the interest rates
To try to forestall trouble
That led in turn to a big run
On purchases of real estate
Offset falling stock prices
With property? It all seemed great
But then the subprime borrowers
Started to default
And our proud economy
Began to grind to a halt

The DOLLAR BILL snores.

What the hell?
The dollar’s snoring

Sorry, guys
This movie’s boring

JOHN MCCAIN appears onscreen.

It’s going to get exciting quick
That guy with white hair is a maverick

Onscreen, JOHN MCCAIN speaks.

I’m suspending my campaign
To focus on finance
This is a pressing, dire
Unprecedented circumstance

My friends, I want to tell you
I’ll work until the crisis ends
Nothing is more important
I hope you understand, my friends

The first debate must wait
The economy is failing
And sadly that will mean
Delaying Biden-Palin

BARACK OBAMA objects to the postponement.

What? You’re kidding
You wouldn’t dare
I’m going down to Mississippi
I’ll expect to see you there

I don’t get it at all
My friends? Mississippi?
This movie is weird,
It’s disjointed and trippy

The CHECKBOOK stops the projector.

Come on, man. Don’t stop the show
Dollar can’t shut up, you know

I won’t restart the projector
It’s off for the time being
I want to know that Dollar
Understands the things he’s seeing

I understand—I’m sure I do
A financier once dropped a shoe
The second one was due for dropping
But in the meantime, he kept hopping

I have to say that I’m not sure
I understand your metaphor

This is insane
Let me explain

The CREDIT CARD turns to the DOLLAR BILL and speaks in a soft voice, trying not to lose his temper.

Ben Bernanke
Met a bank he
Didn’t like
Then another
And another
He called Mike
Bloomberg, and Bob Dole
Buffett, Nunn, and Volcker
Bernanke and Paulson then
Set up some very high-stakes poker
They bet that they could patch
The holes in the dike
With half a trillion dollars
And perhaps a small tax hike
They thought that now
Was the time to strike
Ben Bernanke
Met a bank he
Didn’t like

O.K., O.K.
Let’s watch some more
I promise you
That I won’t snore

The CHECKBOOK restarts the movie. In it, President GEORGE W. BUSH is presiding over an emergency meeting.

Let me start by saying
That I don’t understand
A single thing about
The Invisible Hand
Or rates, or banks, or credit
Or mortgages or loans
But I know where my big desk is
And how to use the phones
And that is why I’ve called you
Here this afternoon
We need to fix this problem
And we need to fix it soon
A panic now is creeping
Over city, state, and town
If money isn’t loosened up
This sucker could go down

The group turns to WARREN BUFFET for advice, since he is massively rich.

This economic Pearl Harbor
Has cooled off investors’ ardor
Everything must be adjusted
We need some help or we’ll be busted

A $700 billion bailout is proposed. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP is displeased.

We remain staunchly defiant
Government can’t get too giant
Seven hundred billion is an awful lot to spend
When we don’t even know how deep the cracks extend

The Presidential candidates weigh in on the political implications of the crisis.

Party lines are unimportant
We need a united front

So why’d you try to sink the debate?
It felt to some like a self-serving stunt

Look! It’s Russia, over there
Have I mentioned that I hunt?

A compromise is reached. HENRY PAULSON and BEN BERNANKE announce it.

Our commitment to financial health
Will soon restore the nation’s wealth

It should recover fairly briskly
If not you’ll find me in the whiskey

The film ends.

Where’s the rest?
I want to see how it turns out

Well, it isn’t over yet
We’re in a time of fear and doubt
A major economic funk

I have to say, that movie stunk

The DOLLAR BILL, the CREDIT CARD, the STOCK CERTIFICATE, and the CHECKBOOK decide to play cards instead. The DOLLAR BILL, surprisingly, wins most of the hands.

—Ben Greenman