Caribbean Sampler

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The time had come to expand my world some. I daydream of travel all the time, and I’ve done my best to poke around the southwestern U.S. on my own. I’ve also been lucky enough to explore several cities when I went to SuperComputing conferences when I was with CHPC at the University of Utah. Several years ago Debbie, Kayla, and I went on a cruise to Hawaii, and I learned that while a cruise is not really great for experiencing a location, it’s really good for getting a taste of places so you can see if you want to come back. My friend Jack and his family invited us to tag along with them on a cruise to the Western Caribbean and it sounded like just the right medicine for me.

The cruise was on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Getaway, a monster of a floating hotel. It set sail for the seven day cruise from Miami and headed to the furthest south point of the trip, the Honduran island of Roatan. I think this was my favorite stop. We had booked an excursion of snorkeling and sea kayaking.DCIM100GOPRO

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The sea was a little murky because of some storms that had come through the last few days, but we did see a lot of cool fish and corals.  Kayla got an up-close experience with the reef, but didn’t get too scraped up. When we headed out to go kayaking, Debbie wasn’t too sure she wanted any part of it, but we had a really cool tour guide named Christopher Flores who convinced her to give it a go. In fact he told her to go on the front of his Kayak and he’d make sure it was ok. She did, in her zealous paddling, dump them both out into the drink just a bit out of the gate, but Christopher talked her into continuing on. He did take away her paddle, though. The water was really warm, more than I remember from even Hawaii, which was nice and seemed too warm to be real.

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Christopher Flores and Debbie

Christopher, at the end of our Kayaking destination took us into the fringe of the jungle and showed us a lot of things like how to dig up a crab in its hole and bush remedies from the plants growing along the beach. He climbed up a tree and grabbed a coconut and showed how to husk it and grate it and get some of the milk from the coconut meat. He also gave us a method for the way the Hondurans cook rice and beans in the coconut milk that I really want to try.

As we were sitting on the ship as it was getting ready to sail from Roatan I suddenly had the urge to jump ship and go native. It passed quickly enough, but I had to actually pull out my pencils and try to capture this view in my sketchbook before the sun went down.

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The next stop was Belize, which was somewhat of a disappointment as far as the city went. It was a run-down kind of sad, and lots of the buildings were leaning and sunk in the earth up to the first floor windows because of improper foundations in the swamp it’s built on. We were headed to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. We needed to be the first ones off the ship because we had a long bus ride followed by a long river trip before getting to the site. The river jumping off point is significant in that next door to the cafe is the house that once belonged to John McAfee before he fled into the jungle to evade the federales.

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McAfee’s former property.

The river trip took us up past Belize’s Amish country and through several rain squalls. There was abundant life along the river including termite nests in the tops of trees and the aptly named Jesus Bird that walks on water. One fellow cruiser in the boat ahead of us showed me a picture of a river crocodile he took.

The rains let up just as we reached the ruins to hear the most horrible sound. It turned out to be just Howler Monkeys, but they sound just like a broken bone chainsaw. The amazing thing, to me, about the ruins is that people are just allowed to climb all over them. It’s probably a point of view particular to people raised around U.S. national parks. I could post pictures of this place all evening, but I’ll spare you and just pick a few of the best.

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Jack and his family atop the pyramid

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I think I need to mock up something like this for my yard.

The next day we got to Costa Maya, Mexico and went on our second ruins trip.  The ruins at Kohunlich were a little more diverse than the Belize ruins in that there were more buildings and common areas preserved.

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And just a little proof we were there and that this isn’t just a fabrication, unless it’s a really good photoshop.

Our last stop was in Cozumel, Mexico for another round of snorkeling and a stingray encounter. Debbie was fairly adamant that there would be no stingray touching, or stingray kissing, or possibly going in the water. But she proved to be more daring than her predictions. A few minutes cab ride from the port was the stingray preserve where they let us snorkel in the fenced-in area where they’re protecting and breeding the stingrays. The fish here were of the petting-zoo variety in that they clustered around the person that was going to feed them, but it was still pretty cool.

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Snorkeling with a wedgie.

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There were even some Mexican Pokemon.

I didn’t explore the ship much like I did on the Hawaiian cruise, but we had fewer days at sea. I never went through the ropes course, or on the several water slides. I just wanted to relax and sat on the shady side of the boat watching the water slide by. I wish this kind of trip was doable every year, there’s so much out there I want to see, but when I think about what few opportunities my forbears had in experiencing things like this I have to count myself very lucky.

Another Cinematic Dream

This is the closest thing to a good dream I’ve had in a long while.

The dream goes way back into the night, but the significant part was the perfect closing scene for a movie that I’ve ever had. It had an ensemble cast: a young Walter Matthau, Paul Rudd, my friends Jason Bennion and Jack Hattaway, Susan Sarandon’s character from Bull Durham played by a Laugh-in era Goldie Hawn (but not played ditzy). There was a love triangle between Goldie Hawn and just about everybody (so, not a triangle, really) that was nuanced and weighted perfectly. A confrontation between everyone in a large hotel suite where Paul Rudd goes off on a rant about need and want and the saccharine sweetness of a commercial breakfast cereal, Sugar-oo’s.

Individuals move from room to room having conversations about related fragments of the situation, Jason goes off and smokes a cigarette down the hill by a garden and an old barn. Rudd and Matthau have an argument about the nature of their relationship with Hawn and how each one had what the other wanted. I almost fall down a set of stairs tripping on a vacuum cord. Walter Matthau shoots a flaming arrow at the barn where Jason is smoking and explosively sets the whole thing on fire, and Jason looks around at it nonchalantly.

The cast stands at the top of the rise looking down at the flaming wreckage. Goldie Hawn has left with some man that’s she’s chosen on the spur of the moment to be her next project and pulls off in a convertible Cadillac, leaving all the jilted men contemplating their relationships with her. Walter Matthau walks off towards the kitchen and as we watch his back he ends the movie with the perfect line, “What are Sugar-oo’s?” The camera pulls back and up on a dolly crane shot and we see what’s left of the cast milling about in front of the hotel with flaming wreckage from the barn in the background.

No kidding, I woke up after a crane shot when the scene ended. If you made it this far you’re a Good Person, the kind of person who smiles and nods at your friend when they say, “I had the weirdest dream last night!” Even if you grit your teeth the whole time wondering when it will end. But I did try to ease the pain and didn’t talk about our class being on the first bus to the theater, or the mix up in seat number cards. I did mention almost falling down the stairs, though, because I wanted you to know I was in the dream. I was a minor character, though.

The Algorithm Life

Not many people are cut from the IT cloth, but I believe that the hurdles most people face when dealing with computer problems are largely psychological. There is something about computers that seems like it should require some insight more mystical than Google to solve. Now I’m not saying that the average person will feel confident in setting up an LDAP server, but there are a lot of small maintenance tasks that everyone has to go through just to bring these silicon beasts to heel. Nearly every day I’m faced with questions that leave the users looking sheepish over the simple tasks that just took me a minute to do.

On the other side of that coin, IT people sometimes take what is an easy problem and try to solve it through more arcane processes when a “normal” person would easily solve it. While solving a simple problem earlier I was handed one of the wireless handset phones our users carry with them. After a bit of confusion we decided it was one that didn’t belong to anyone present at the moment, so I took it and said I’d find the proper owner. I looked at the number on the phone’s display and compared it to the dead tree directory list on my desk, but failed to find the owner. My next thought was to log into the cisco administration server for the phones, and I proceeded to try to find the number there. Strike two. finally I looked up the phone’s IP address on the handset and started to look up IP’s on the server. It was only then I realized all I needed to do was call my desk phone from the handset and look at the caller ID for the owners name.

So, next time you see your IT guy struggling with some simple task please remember, he’s probably looking for the most difficult way to accomplish his goal.

ELO as a transition point

Music means a lot to me. In high school I learned that it could be used to mitigate aspects of the worst of my mood swings. I’d listen to Judas Priest to burn through my rage, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” as some sort of lyrical commiseration for alienation,  and  Oingo Boingo gave me somewhere to redirect surplus energy. Music got me through a lot of tough times, and still holds a near-mystical power over me as it does with most people, I imagine.

We had a small record player when I was very young and some kids records that I think came from the childhood of my mother. Disney singles of Cinderella’s “Bibbidi bobbidi boo” song and the like. My sister and I listened to them often and eventually we were allowed access to the bigger stereo in the living room and my dad’s LP collection.  Oddly enough, other than the occasional Christmas album, I really only listened to a Roger Miller LP and the soundtrack from “Paint Your Wagon”. Still, it was enough to get me hooked and I began to feel the need to build my own collection.

By the time I was old enough to have an allowance I would usually spend some of it at the record store in Fashion Place Mall when my mom would cart us off shopping. Eventually I had a growing collection of 45’s. I vividly remember approaching the checkout counter at The Music Stop at the mall with the single for ELO’s “Turn to Stone” when I was about 10 or 11. A tall guy* waiting in line noticed what I was doing and  asked why I was just buying a single when for the price of a few singles I could have the whole album. I remember feeling like I got caught doing something wrong. After about a minute I put the 45 back and started looking at the whole “Out of the Blue” album. I think it cost $8 and it was a real hit to my child’s velcro wallet, but I did have that much. I remember kind of sucking it up and making the decision to go with the cassette of the whole album.

You might have guessed that I’ve just finished listening to “Out of the Blue” for the first time in decades. I seem to have a couple of ELO compilation albums, but somehow “Out of the Blue” never made the crossover from cassette to CD. It seems to be beyond my abilities to get over the power of music to transport me across the ages. I haven’t heard (or thought of) “Night in the City” since my teen years, yet I find my mind leading the music by a half a second anticipating the lyrics.

My morning class in my freshman year in high school had a pair of talkative girls, probably seniors, who liked to tease the shy little freshman that sat across the table from them**. One day they asked me what my favourite band was and I told them ELO and they laughed at me. Ever since then when I admit to liking ELO I feel a bit ashamed, and sometimes even apologize.

That one little interaction from those girls as well as the one from the guy ahead of me in line at the record store both had huge repercussions in my life. I’m forever altered by something so seemingly insignificant that happened in passing. I have no doubt that anyone but me involved in those exchanges has any inkling of the conversation’s existence, much less their impact. Listening to the album today brought both instances back to mind and has made me wonder how often I’ve off-handedly reacted to something that’s had similar repercussions for someone else. My thoughts tend to roll off the tip of my tongue without much consideration, and I imagine I’ve done my share of damage, though over the last half of my life I’ve tried to excise any mean spiritedness from my personality.  Hopefully, as clichéd as it sounds, I’ve had a net positive result. Although it’s possible I wouldn’t feel too bad if in 40 years someone feels a little ashamed of admitting to liking One Direction because of something I said.

* He could have been 16 or 36 for all I could really tell at the time
**When they noticed him at all, which, mercifully, wasn’t often.

War Dream

I had another one last night, one of those dreams I can’t quite shake. There was some kind of war. I had my .22 pistol on me and a small machine gun that took the same ammo as my familiar sidearm. I was a little dismayed at having such a small calibre weapon. We were taking cover behind cardboard boxes stacked loosely behind some rail fencing about 15 yards apart from the enemy. They had similar ineffective cover, and I seemed to know who they were. I was laying on the ground hiding in vain behind my box and watching a soldier, someone who had been my friend, training a browning .50 calibre machine gun on a tripod on me diagonally to my left. We were at the park just downhill from the University on 1st south, below the tennis courts.

There were soldiers on both sides calling to keep calm and point weapons in a safe direction, but everyone was nervous. Most of us were trying to comply, but a sudden move would bring the weapons back to bear and several times we came within a hairs breadth of opening fire only to return our weapons to pointing at the ground. I was checking my ammo supply when someone opened fire. It was quickly suppressed and I saw that one of the guys across the fence from me had been shot up, but not killed. They were angry and started to train their guns on me, anger in their eyes. I opened fire.

In these dreams I don’t ever seem to be able to deal lethal damage, and this was the same. I put several small slugs into the chests of a couple soldiers in front of me with my machine gun. They opened fire on me, the dirt spraying up and holes chewing through my cardboard box. The soldiers all around me were getting cut down by superior weapons. Most of them fled back and to the right towards an amusement park. I realized I couldn’t stay as the enemy quickly crossed between the two fences, so I jumped up and began to retreat also, but turning left instead of right.

I began to take fire and was struck in the head by a small calibre bullet just above and behind the ear. It hurt so bad. I took several more in the shoulder, right side, and one in the right elbow and wrist. I fell down and played dead. The enemy solders walked past me making for the amusement park and I was afraid for the civilians in their path. I got up and began to inspect my wounds. I could feel the bullet that struck my head just below the skin. There wasn’t much blood from any of the wounds, but I didn’t know if I could get far. I thought I was going to have to walk myself clear down to the hospital, but I was scared for my wife.

I began to walk towards the amusement park and found Debbie playing with a class of small children in the amusement park by a carousel and ferris wheel. She didn’t seem to concerned about my wounds but thought I needed to get to the hospital. She couldn’t leave the children and the soldiers seemed to be nowhere around so I began the long walk to the hospital. Again I started to probe my wounds because I couldn’t understand how I was still alive.

I awoke right after that, about 4:30 in the morning, but I could still feel the pain in my head, wrist, and elbow and the dream stayed with me for several minutes. The little Stella cat had come in earlier than she has lately to sleep against my feet. I disturbed her as I sat up halfway in bed and she came over and laid down on my shoulder as I fell back on the pillows and hoped to not dream anymore.

Habits

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About a year ago my friend Ken pointed me at the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. I finally got around to finishing it, and I’m finally getting around to writing about it, although I don’t think I’ll ever get around to finishing thinking about it. I’d made a post on Facebook about some  habits I’d been making and Ken recommended the book and I picked it up, and so did my wife.

I started paying close attention to the behaviors I had fairly early in life, around 10 years old or so, when I ‘figured out’ I wasn’t human and needed to learn how to fit in so the townsfolk wouldn’t discover and burn me on a pyre. It all started with a close call when one of the young humans noticed I had to touch things equally with both hands to balance out the sensation. But that’s another story.

Last spring I’d decided that I really needed to get serious and lose some weight and I decided there ought to be a good app for my phone to track calories. I downloaded and began to use “myfitnesspal” to track how much I was eating and the progress of my weight. I knew I consumed way more than I should but didn’t know, really, how to change it. The strange thing was that in keeping track of what I ate with the app I was able to put the brakes on the amounts and types of food I was eating very easily. I’d know that if I got seconds for dinner I’d be way over my goal and was easily able to pass on the extras I’d normally have between meals. Within 6 months I was down 30 pounds without even really noticing that I’d missed much. I still drank the occasional soda, but stuck to mediums instead of larges when I ate out. And I ate out less frequently than I had been.

In the book it talks about habit cycles, the que->routine->reward cycle that people slip into. In my case, dealing with being bipolar and not being able to be medicated, led to the creation of a lot of habits, and the eating ones are fairly problematic. Early on in my diagnosis and treatment it was impressed upon me that i needed to eat regular meals and stop skipping them because I didn’t feel like eating. This habit had a couple effects on me. I ended up eating all the time whether I was hungry or not, which led to weight gain, but it also kept me eating through the cancer treatments no matter how sick I got, so kind of a mixed blessing.

To modify an already present habit the book says to recognize the que that triggers the habit and then to alter the routine that will lead you to a reward. Looking back at what I did with my app was inserting a step where I recorded what I was planning on eating and modified the amount or type of food I was consuming to stay within constraints I had set. I didn’t improve the quality of my meals as much as just recognized where I stood in relation to my goals, but in the end it had the desired effect.

Around the middle of last November I got smacked by the usual winter depression that seems to come with the shorter days. This year it seemed to be worse than it had been in a long time and I ended up abandoning all caloric tracking. It’s kind of a survival method I’ve got where I jettison all the excess baggage and just concentrate on making it through the next day. I’m not sure it’s a healthy habit, but it’s one that has kept me around this long. The surprising thing was that the habits I’d built over the previous seven or eight months didn’t suffer too much. I gained back seven pounds I’d lost as I overindulged in the holiday snacks, but despite the occasional overindulgence new routines held up despite my lack of supervision.

Now that it’s spring and the depression has mostly passed I really need to fix some of the habits that died over the winter. Somehow I’ve just been wasting my evenings in front of the computer or the TV (with a tablet in hand). I’ve needed to get back into the studio and get back to creating, or doing yard work, or exercising. It’s things I plan to do all day, but somehow lack the gumption to go after once  I get off work. I suppose I need to look at the que in the evening that gets me on the couch and replace it with actually accomplishing something.

Reading Matter

A few weeks ago I briefly took part in a discussion on Facebook that got me thinking about how I started down the road of prose I’ve been following for a really long time now.  I don’t remember exactly what the post was about, or even who originated it, but I do remember that it sparked a memory of an early love of parody and farce that I think I can trace back to Mad Magazine.  I remember my introduction to Mad came from my father, unlikely as that sounds. My dad used to travel a lot for business, and he’d often pick up some light reading for the flight that usually ended up in the hands of his kids. Often it was a Johnny Hart pocket paperback of comics like “The Wizard of Id” or “B.C.”, but on this occasion it happened to be the  Mad Magazine “Jaws II” issue from January 1979. I was just 11 years old, and I remember my mom’s concern and asking my dad if it was really ok for me to read it. He said he thought it was, which upon reflection makes me wonder if it was really my dad, or possibly some time-traveling hero hoping to bend my path away from evil. It just doesn’t feel like something of which he would approve, but that one incidence has had a profound effect on the way I perceive and deal with my world.

Reading was always important in my family. My dad often read stories to us. “The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins” by Dr. Suess, is one I remember hearing frequently. We had the usual children’s books, a whole bookcase full of them in our room, and I remember my mom frequently carting us off to the library to get an arm full of loaners. I went through the usual kid path of reading. It seems like someone in my elementary school would discover race cars, then all the boys would check out all the race car books in the tiny elementary school library. Then it would be skyscrapers or some other little-boy fad subject.

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I remember running out of dinosaur books and turning around and hitting the small science fiction section. That was the first big turning point to me. I’d seen Flash Gordon serials and other sci-fi shows, but I hadn’t really ever given much thought to fiction. I think “Elevator to the Moon” was the first one I read, and in short order I’d plowed through the two shelves of science fiction in the library, including  Wells’ “War of the Worlds” (possibly dumbed down for kids).

Then came that Mad Magazine. Not only was it dealing in a large part with popular fiction, but also parodying works I often hadn’t even experienced first hand. Mad Magazine was way over my head, but somehow I filed away those parts I didn’t understand to come back in a flash of understanding years later when the context presented itself. I think that it introduced me to thinking above the threshold of my understanding and caused me to stretch out and really consider the meanings of what I was reading. Maybe it’s presumptuous to attribute so much to a juvenile rag like Mad, but I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without it. In fact, I know I wouldn’t. Remind me to tell you about The Rainbow of Texts someday if I haven’t already.

A dream with a different tone

I’ve swung back to the intense dreaming portion of the cycle where I don’t really seem to get any rest and wake up exhausted, like I’ve been working hard all night at something ridiculous. Thursday night was different, perhaps it was all the New Years Eve junk food, but I remember the dream perfectly. Instead of a repetitious task I can’t quite do correctly or to my satisfaction, I was actually doing something I enjoyed. I don’t often dream about things I enjoy, and I’ve heard it suggested that it’s because you don’t dream for fun, you dream to work something out internally. I never dream of making pottery, or going to the beach, instead I’ve visited hell and been shot up a few times.

This week my dreams have been more narrative than it has of late. Maybe that means I’m past the hump of this seasons depression. The main event was a very vivid dream where I was in a heavily-used wilderness area with a lot of places to rock climb. None of the walls were very big, but there were a lot of them around, with people everywhere tied in and ascending. I found an interesting little  pock-marked face with a lot of potential that was completely free of climbers. Despite not having any gear, and remembering I was out of shape I decided I’d only boulder a bit down low.

I took hold of a couple of the little pockets and pulled myself onto the wall and took a few steps up, intending to just fool around a little, but soon found myself much higher than was safe. I’d come to a slight overhang, but could reach back and up almost to the top. I was excited by the challenges I’d already faced and really wanted to get back to this place when I had my gear with me and someone to properly belay. I extended just enough to reach the top of the overhang and found a really good hold. I knew that if I let go with my other hand and just went for it I could easily get over this last part and stand on top of this cliff. But I wasn’t tied in, and didn’t have the right shoes on, so I downclimbed a bit and found a diagonal crack I could chimney down and made it back to the ground safely. I felt so good and I was excited to do it again, and make it all the way to the top that I knew I had to get in shape and come back next year.

It seems to me what this is saying is that my own self doubt about my preparedness and my unwillingness to let go of what I see as safe or secure is keeping me from accomplishing what I’d really like to do. What’s baffling me enough to sit down and try to write about it is why I was so happy in this dream. It was a profound, genuine joy that I haven’t feet in waking life in a long time. Appropriately, I have had bits of Hamlet’s speech to Rozencrantz and Guildenstern running through my mind quite often this last month:

I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory

Except I know why, and the exasperation of dealing with it for 30 years is taking its toll.

I’m not one to take too much direction from my dreams, but I’m more than a little impacted by this one. I can remember being happy now, and what it was like to actually, genuinely enjoy things. And not only that, but to enjoy the processes of things as opposed to the perception that happiness would be obtained by achieving a goal. In the dream I was filled with happiness at just climbing and I knew I’d be happy completing the climb, but it didn’t matter that I hadn’t finished that day. But if I had just let go with my other hand and made the move around the overhang I could have been on top of the cliff. I knew I could do it, I had a good hold to move from, but I backed down because it wasn’t ‘safe’.

It’s given me a lot to think about over the last day, and I don’t have any sort of solution yet. In fact, I don’t even know the direction I should be looking, but I’m taking a look at everything. Maybe that’s a good point to start the new year.

Summer Fruit, Winter Time

Debbie loves fresh fruit, and I know that watermelon is one of her favorites. The only problem is she often buys the fruit she thinks she’ll want and then lets it sit until she’s really in the mood for it. Usually this is two weeks longer than the lifespan of the food.  A few minutes ago she started calling me from the kitchen asking if I was dressed because she needed me to come to her with my shoes on.  I found her laughing and saying the melon that has been on the counter for quite awhile was hissing. It was sitting in a small puddle of clear liquid like someone had spilled a cup of water near the sink. She warned me it was really soft and grabbed a plastic grocery bag. She was about to lift it but I pulled a reverse-abracadabra and pulled the bag under it and headed for the back door. I never heard it hissing. as I got near the yard waste container in the driveway where I intended to abandon it, the handle on the bag broke as I was lifting it to the top of the can. It seemed to fall in slow motion while my hands, now holding tiny scraps of cheap plastic shot heavenwards. The misshapen orb rotated as it plunged towards a skiff of crusty ice and snow. Upon impact I discovered that the entire fruit had turned to liquid inside a tissue-like green and yellow husk. Astonished at this revelation I watched, probably with the most startled look I’ve worn in weeks, as a massive fountain of red shot up chest high and cascaded back towards my shoes as I leaped backwards flailing and nearly avoiding the spray of juice. It was one of those times when I wished I could DVR with my eyes. I ran back in and rousted Kayla and got Debbie to go view the carnage. It was still quite the sight to behold, but I’ll never forget the fermented fountain that I witnessed this night.

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A little walk in the canyon

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I used to climb. I wasn’t very good, but I had a lot of fun being out in the Big Blue Room and doing something unusual with my friends. Back in 1991, due to some remarkable turmoil in my life, I was fortunate to fall in with a good group of people that tended to do a lot of rock climbing. Joe Hallman asked if I’d ever been climbing and I told him I’d done some climbing and found it cathartic*, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. He said there were plenty of people in our group who could teach me, but I might want to take a class.

Luckily it was the start of fall semester and I really didn’t have anything going for me in the way of classes, so I found that there was a Rec and Leisure class being taught by Harold Goodro, who is a bit of a legend. I had no idea when I signed up that I was going to get instruction from someone who had been doing first ascents back in the 1940’s. I really liked the class, and I liked going with my new friends even more.

For the next several years I climbed as often as I could. The Saturday morning meet-up at the mouth of either Big or Little Cottonwood Canyons was almost a religion. And almost every year seemed to start with a misguided attempt to climb Bongeater Buttress before the snow was off the low elevations. There were epic moments and tales that went near legendary among us, getting retold and morphing into running inside jokes, but the era seemed to end too quickly. I took a big leader fall on the second pitch of The Thumb, hitting the deck and breaking both ankles.

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One day after the fall, both legs went black pretty much from the knees to the tips of the toes.

Within a few weeks I tried hobbling along (on crutches, no less) to be a belay-slave and try to stay connected with the group.  On one of these ill-conceived ideas Dave and I went up to Hatchet Crack so he could get a climb in and I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on the rest of the summer. I say ill-conceived because Dave suffered a serious fall of his own and I was in no position to do anything to help. It was one of those “Now we know never to do that again” rule making moments. But Dave got down ok (sort of)

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Those were only two of the three semi-serious injuries sustained in my time of climbing . Usually it was a really great time.

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Bryce on Mr. Sandman, Big Cottonwood Canyon 1994

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Dave on Dreamscape, Big Cottonwood Canyon 1994

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Jack on Lisa Falls, Little Cottonwood Canyon 1995

I climbed a handful of times after my fall, but not enough to really get my confidence fully back. I led an easy pitch on Lisa Falls in the fall of 1995 and was excited for the next year. But by the next year I was working mostly full time and marriages and real life kind of split up our climbing group. I was discovering a talent for making pottery and that seemed to take my time in a big way. But every time I drove past a crag on a road trip or took a drive up the canyon and memory lane I always assumed I’d get back to it. As the years turned into decades I figured it was just one of those “I usedta do” things. I met a young married couple that was lamenting the expense of gear and how they could only do bolted routes. I gave them my rack, because it wasn’t doing any good in my closet. I did hang on to my shoes and harnesses out of some sort of nostalgia.

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Last (recorded) lead climb on Lisa Falls

Then recently I began to have such an itch. I wrote it off as midlife crisis time, but I’d awake thinking of climbs in the past and have to dig out my trusty climbing manual to find out what the name of my favorite climb was, because I’d forgotten it in my dotage.

climbing_route

Then a few weeks ago I ended up calling Bryce to see if he could help me solve a social conundrum. We chatted awhile and he mentioned that he still climbs some, but he thought we’d probably all grown a little more tame in the intervening years (and he actually had a helmet yesterday, something that we’d never taken any sort of liking to). He said he’d like to go out because he hadn’t been much this year if I was willing to go along and see what I could do. I was under no illusions that I was in shape enough to do very much, and I was right to assume so, but I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I drove us to Creekside Wall and Bryce led an easier route on it, and I followed. Or at least I tried. I slowly got to within 8 feet or so of the chains before my arms and legs gave out fully and I had to be lowered off. I glimpsed the edges of the excitement I used to feel, but my mind rebelled at the knowledge that I used to stand on these 3/8″ lips jutting out from the wall as impossible. I called down to Bryce with the old standby, “It’s like stairs!”, which did elicit a laugh from below.

Bryce thought we should go upstream a bit and hit the Salt Lake Slips and try an easy one there, so my pack back on, a big monster with an ugly rope that probably out to be retired, due to its age. I took a few steps and fell into the creek bashing my elbow, but somehow sparing my camera. My legs still hadn’t recovered from the climb. Eventually we made it up to the Slips and there was quite a crowd there. Bryce picked out a climb, but I knew I wasn’t even going to be able to get my shoes back on. I was willing to continue to play the dedicated belayer, but Bryce said if I wasn’t into it we could just bail. I looked around at what seemed like unusually clean-cut kids, for the climbing crowd and realized the harness I was wearing was possibly older than most of those that were there. I rested a bit more and realized that the ratio of boys to girls in the groups was closer to even than it was in my day, which I think says something positive about the growth of the community.

Halloween_climb

 

Creekside Wall from yesterday, somebody has gone through all bolt-happy.

I’m not sure that I’ll be able to put in the time to get strong enough to really climb again. My blown-out ankle wasn’t a problem yesterday as it had been in the past, and I’d always considered that the weak spot for my future. But maybe it’s something I need to do, and seeing that picture of Harold Goodro climbing in his 70’s might shame me into it.

* I wrote about the first time awhile ago, but I wouldn’t recommend going back to it if you missed.

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