Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So, I Just Googled Myself...

...and I found this very old, very silly post a friend of mine had thrown up regarding an email exchange between myself and a former professor several years ago [i.e., 2009].

There's really no good reason to share it now, other than to stoke my own nostalgia. Oh, how different my world was then. 8P

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My First Time with the Desert

March 5th, 2012
Bishop, CA

            My body a fluid, cutting through the air—the air now tangible matter with a weight and pressure consciously felt—oozing through space. With this new, distinct feeling of flow, I walk through the volcanic tablelands before dusk, surrounded by discrete, crisp, particular sounds devoid of reverb—the flap of a crow flying fifty feet away, the clinking crackling pieces of volcanic tuff wiggling and scraping under the gentle weight of my steps.
As I look around me, size loses relevance. The wrinkles in the rolling hills are the same crows feet that show up in his otherwise youthful face during those rare moments when he’s really happy to see me and not concerned with masking or moderating his display of it. The uniformly wide crack I have to step over now is as large as all the canyons at which I’ve pulled over while driving by, in order to stand over them and be engulfed in the terrifying magnetism of their endless drop-offs—a force I had to be consciously alert of and resistant to in order not to fall, jump, or fly. 
I’m miniscule, walking across this expansive desert plateau, but I’m enormous, overlooking the canyon of boulders below, the little moving figures of climbers in their Technicolor tank tops and fleece layers, masquerading as turtles with green and black and red mattresses on their backs.
An old man in a baseball cap, fleece, and cargo shorts walks back to his truck, his big black dog in tow. The man appears stoop-shouldered and goofy-brittle, but hurls a large crash pad into the bed of his truck with ease. I’ve seen the pair of them here before, months ago, but it’s strange that I remember. Since I started branching out I’ve seen countless old men wielding crash pads, dogs, and trucks, and they all smoosh into an unfocused miasma in my memory—perhaps resurfacing only as cast members in my dreams, if the adage is true that we only ever dream up faces we’ve glimpsed awake, if only in passing.
The air here is seductive. Succulent, almost purplish sagebrush and dry open space. The smell wrenches my chest open and pulls my crooked ribcage into the sun. So begins my love affair with the desert.


Last night, I was three and a half hours away. One of the Argentinian girls from Sierra, the Tahoe ski resort I’d face-planted into working for, invited me to a party, and I went alone. So many people, so close that I couldn't walk across a room and breathe at the same time, but so separate. Such a tasteless atmosphere of desperation and loneliness. More than once, I found myself boxed into a corner by some liquor-sloshed and coked-up someone—usually some guy or other from Kirkwood—and he needed me to know about every win and loss he'd experienced at the casinos this season, and he needed to know why he wasn't welcome to fall on me drunk in an attempted kiss, and he needed to know how to change my answer to "What are you doing later?" from "Going home to a boy," into something more favorable to his interests. I ran into my coworker Holly, who laid kisses on me and clutched me like a scared child with an oblivious look on her face, of the sort that suggested oblivion wasn't somewhere she was enjoying after all. Eventually I saw her drink the likely-drugged mixed concoction one of the oafs from Kirkwood had been angrily pushing on me for the last hour or two.
I was so far away from everyone that night.


Tonight, the car jangles clumsily over nondescript dirt roads as we search for an unoccupied hot spring. This part is always something of an aimless quest—without quite knowing where to look, we turn on the brights and poke around wherever there’s somewhat of a turnoff, and sooner or later something pops into the tunnel-vision scope of our headlights, always bringing with its emergence the welcoming impression that it, the particular pool we’ve just found, is precisely the perfect one for the evening.
Walking to the Wild Willies tub of Whitmore Hot Springs underneath the full moon on a crisp pre-storm night feels like walking across the expanses between the worlds we visit in dreams. The wind paints us in goosebumps as we tread over our crisp moon shadows on a stone-lined gravel path through clustered sagebrush and grasses, then ivory-colored boardwalk over stumpy rolling sand dunes until we come across the tub, manmade but irregularly rounded and upholstered in algae.
I turn to him; he’s clutching a bottle of barley wine that we picked up from the market in town.
“So what is it for you about climbing? You’re better at skateboarding and have been snowboarding for way longer. Why climbing, in particular?”
I’ve asked him this question a million times and never gotten a satisfactory answer, but tonight I feel like asking again, anyway.
He thinks it over.
“It’s the group dynamic that climbing makes possible…I didn’t get it snowboarding, or skateboarding. Especially with bouldering, it’s when someone’s spotting you on some sketch highball and they’re there with you. Their breathing matches yours, they know exactly when you’re scared, pumping out, unstable, there’s a level of attention. Empathy that I don’t find anywhere else. I’m not a very empathetic person and you know that, but when I’m climbing with other people who are as stoked on it as I am, the connection is real, even if we were strangers a few minutes ago. I'm more aware of everything and it brings me into my emotions...while other people are there. It's pretty much the only time that happens with me.”
“Almost sounds like Tantric sex.”
He thinks it over.


Tantric climbing. 
He’s always full of cheesy New Age sounding hokum, especially in relation to activities to which the application of such hokum seems even more frivolous than it would otherwise—things like cleaning out the car, or scooting his ass up large igneous rocks clumped together in a canyon.
And as far as climbing goes, I’ve turned into much more of an incidental climber since I began dating one. I’ll spot a line that looks pretty, challenging, and vaguely doable, play on it a while, then scamper off in favor of harassing the local flora and fauna [when it comes to any of the climbing destinations I’ve visited, I tend to be more familiar with which bugs populate each than with which types of rock its climbing is comprised]. Exerting myself out in beautiful, open desert/mountains/canyon means I usually want sex at some point, too—usually at a point when he’s too focused on some rock to be remotely interested. Consequently, when I have paid attention to him as he was climbing, the effect has been more agitating than meditative.
However, this morning, I try it—Tantric spotting. I watch the muscles in his arms wake up—some of them having been out of commission for a while, now crackling into wakefulness like newly-opened glow sticks. The activity spreads into his fingers. I’ve always been attracted to hands. His in particular are extremely knobbly, but strangely elegant. [I once asked him what his favorite body part was, and he told me it was his wrists and used that word to describe them—“elegant”]. More so than other climbers I know, he tends to get very Zen-ified, pre-climb. He wraps his hands around the starting holds with a deliberation I used to wish he’d apply in contexts other than climbing, and I’m able to feel the rock in my hands—the texture of the rock and the coolness it takes in the shade, the slight pain of its shards on his skin [“slight” because it’s only the beginning of the day] and the stress on his finger joints as he weights his hands and sticks his rubber-bound feet onto two miniscule crystals, banking on friction and the exact angle of his pressure. His back tenses on one side, one shoulder, and I notice. My breathing matches his. My calm anticipation matches his. 
We’re in a bit of a cave—a crisp line delineating shade from sun. Gravel, sandy sagebrush—some of it almost purple, it’s so lushly rain-fed—and lots of washed-out orange.
Yawning latissimus dorsi, deltoid dry-humping trapezius. Around each scapula bulge the muscles of his rotator cuff—supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, teres minor, all of them concentrating as he lifts a whittled arm, clavicle high-fiving his sternocleidomastoid, forming a hollow underneath his throat from which I’ve taken drinks of river water and sweat. I can feel his right forearm tire out, the usually bulging veins deliquesce back into his arm, thirsty for blood, and in a moment he’s going to switch hands and give that arm a good shake, letting it dangle for a moment until his heart pumps new life into it.
As the thought crosses my mind, he switches hands. 
Cheeseburger birds in the distance. I’ve forgotten their “real” name and their appearance; both were drab. I first heard them in Kings Canyon and they make their distinctive call across the Sierra when it’s sunny out: “Cheeeeseburger.” 
As I'm watching him, I realize that the moment really isn't about him at all.
Right now, this is my own corner of the universe.


Alone at the base of the canyon writing all of this down, I look into the approaching dust storm and it’s like that haze added to dream scenes in movies—what’s beyond the scope of your tunnel-vision within that fabricated dream. That blank white void not of the unknown, but of the nonexistent. I’ve broken free of some natural law, like I’m finally staring straight-faced into my peripheral vision. 
As a rule, I’m an egomaniacal and strong-willed creature—in my own mind my life tends to hold an importance unparalleled by all of human history and all of the cosmos. I’m a fighter and scared shitless of the idea that I could run out of lucky breaks and stop crawling unharmed from piles of rubble and stupid risks, or else that this body and this mind that I’ve spent my whole life learning to love and cultivate could turn on me, sabotage me, and begin to decay while I’m still occupying them. I’m young and hard and beautiful and convinced for today that I’m immortal.
Still, looking into the dreamscape bleeding like an inkblot across perceptual law into my waking hours, I could die now with no indignation, with body limpid and eyes glassed.