Foolish Pleasure

The worst four letter word ends with a K: “W-O-R-K.” For three months, I stared at a computer, analyzed money supply and interest rate curves, studied horizontal integration in corporate mergers, and wrote papers on economic regressions. Grim business. Four minutes after I finished my last econometrics final at UC Santa Cruz I sat in a cloud of smoke, having just blown a quarter’s worth of work with a few deep bong hits.

My thoughts were transitioning from economics to my upcoming climbing trip when a hippie parted the cloud of smoke at my friend’s house. He worked as a deliveryman, carrying a backpack full of hippie lettuce, hash, DMT, acid, ecstasy, and mushrooms. He’d stopped by to sell his wares to us stoners. While he gave his sales pitch on the psychedelic crack-rush of DMT, I considered the winter climbing destinations: Bishop, Hueco, Portero Chico, Vegas, and Indian Creek. When he popped open a pill bottle and poured out five yellow postage stamps of high grade acid, I sat up attentively. Vegas could be a trip. After the hippie enticed us with his wares he left to Silicon Valley where there was a free lunch at the Google office and a client with an appetite for psychedelics. Influenced by the drug pitch, I began preparations for a trip to the city of sin. My tattered backpack was filled with twelve quick draws, a skinny rope, harness, sport shoes, a pound of chalk, a pair of oversized aviator sun-glasses, a bottle of booze, an ounce of sticky, an ounce of green, an ounce of sticky green, a quarter of mushrooms, a baker’s dozen of eight balls, a couple pills of ecstasy, a blotter of acid, and a rainbow of smilers, and frowners. After three months of economics and school, I wanted to climb. I wanted the foolish pleasures in life.

And then the trip: alarm clock, breakfast, train ride, metal detectors and x-rays, a 747 airbus, gripping arm rests, sweating, acceleration, the pilot’s announcement “In case of emergency bags of oxygen will fall from overhead,” (in first class the oxygen is replaced with ether), turbulence, gripping arm rests, sweating, asking the stewardess for an ether sample from the emergency bag, dropping ten thousand feet, hitting pavement. Vegas.

Five years ago, I was evicted from Red Rock’s campground by the local Gestapo for abusing the discount for seniors and the disabled. My next trip to Vegas, my climbing partner and I camped in the nearby desert with the wild burrows, parking my truck and sleeping in the dirt. The camping was free but littered with evidence of the nearby city. Gun shells lined the dirt road and a ten inch black dildo, chewed up by coyotes, lay flacidly by the truck’s tires. We didn’t sleep much and left early. For my latest trip, I’d lined up a couch in a climber’s flop house. 2829 Foolish Pleasure Drive featured a steep indoor climbing wall, a fold out bed tucked inside a plush couch, ample garage space, and a constant rotation of nine climbers in a three bedroom house. The house epitomized a climber hang from the inside out to the driveway where the dirt bags, the bohemians, the weekend warriors and the ballers, all had their rigs parked outside. There was an’82 Toyota Corona with a busted transmission and flat tire, a tan version of the A-team’s huge van, a boxy Honda Element, a brand new Toyota Tundra, and four other rigs cycling through the parking lot. Every night, Chad, the owner of a Toyota Echo and reserved parking space, dealt for a no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. The monkeys would swarm the table after climbing at Red Rocks and compete, hoarding their chips, staring each other down, and spending hours trying to win the $1.38 pot. The first one knocked out went to the woodie in the garage and threw himself at the small climbing wall with a loser’s masochism. I got strong on the plastic. The couch, the poker games and the woodie made the house ideal. Not only was Foolish Pleasure Drive the perfect place for a partner-less dirt bag rock climber but an easily panhandled five bucks granted all access to a five pound bucket of low fat low lactose biologically complete protein supplement. Snap!

One night, after a massive dinner of burritos but before the Hold ‘Em tournament, Chad announced that anyone not paying rent (six of us) had to hide in the garage; the landlord was stopping by in half an hour to collect his mail and Chad didn’t want him to know the house was temporarily a half-way home for derelicts. After ten minutes of slandering and hiding, we left our garage stake-out, settling down on the couch to watch the fight. The previous night, The Mandalay Bay and Mikey’s Malt Liquor had sponsored TapOut, a series of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fights, and the six of us monkeys piled onto a three man couch, crowding around a fifteen inch laptop to watch the newly downloaded brawls. Initially labeled as “human cock fights”, the UFC had cleaned up, entering its fourteenth year in direct competition with the prize fighting of the World Boxing Organization as the main sporting attraction in Vegas. The fighter’s struggle in the ring is a close cousin of sport climbing. Trying at one’s physical limit, using a combination of technique and power, for a short duration inside the ring parallel a climber’s path up the stone.

As the pit-bull pugilist Wanderlei Silva strode to the octagon ring, the landlord walked through the door. Chad’s eyes glared at the half dozen dirt bags conspicuously parked on the couch worrying about the landlord disapproval of the house being a homeless shelter, but Spencer, one of the monkeys sleeping in the garage, quickly cracked a beer, shoved it in the landlord hands and said, “Liddell and Silva are about to fight three five minute rounds for Tapout’s Light Heavyweight bout. Here’s a chair.” The landlord protested just long enough to examine the beer’s label; it wasn’t quite moonshine so he settled down to watch as the fighters entered the octagon.

Liddell’s knuckles dragged as he entered the ring; he had the caved chest and long arms of an orangutan. The men knocked gloves, and began to dance, bursting into short skirmishes. Through the first round Liddell telegraphed his slow punches while Silva, stepped into his opponent, countering with violent blasts of fists. By the second round, both men were clearly fatigued, but Liddell worked Silva’s eye, making the puffed eyebrows of Silva’s flat face bleed. The former bare-knuckle Brazilian boxer’s strikes became erratic; he couldn’t see from his left eye. Liddell bowed his head, showing off his short Mohawk, and charged. Silva fought through the bell and continued into the next round, stubbornly fighting back as blood streamed down his face. He refused to be defeated. At the end of the third, the judges declared Liddell a winner by unanimous decision.

“Too bad Silva didn’t win. He’s a fighter for sure,” the land lord grabbed his mail and headed for the door, appreciative that he got to watch a good fight, hang with the boys, and escape his responsibilities for a moment. “Thanks for the beer guys. Have fun at the crag tomorrow.”

Red Rocks features a kaleidoscope of colors: pink-red, brown-red, brick-red, burnt red, orange red, light red and dark red. There were days when the climbing on the red sandstone went smoothly. These were days when Alex Honnold or Spencer Macroesky came out with all their power and technique. But the best days were when the Gallery or Trophy or Stratocaster or Sunny & Steep became our octagon ring. We would throw our packs down and storm the cliff, jabbing and throwing our mitts at the overhanging crimps, screaming for the anchors to move just a little closer. These were days when we fought the sandstone bulges.

At Sunny & Steep, John Starr’s mouth sputtered as he tied in for a round with the cliff’s namesake route. With the body of a fourteen year old computer geek, John was out of his weight class with the overhanging thuggery and tiny crimps.

“Looks steep. Maybe hard. No. I can do it. What’s it like up there?” He finished his knot, starting up the rock. At birth, the connection between John Starr’s brain and mouth fused too well; there was no regulation and his mouth flowed out a steady stream of consciousness. “Where’s the bolt? It’s so steep. This little crimp? Match? Wait. No, that’s not it. I’m coming off.”

John’s elbows ran parallel with the beam from the Luxor; they both pointed straight up in a classic Red Rocks pose. He looked like a chicken ready to take flight. I watched closely as John talked himself through the crux, then the next move, and the next. Everyone at the crag turned as John fought.

“I’m pumped. I’m gonna fall. I can’t,” his hand shot again, “keep going.”
The folks at the crag shouted their encouragement. The essence of sport climbing resides in battling past your physical limits, redlining and pushing more. Sport climbing’s the foolish pleasure of the fight. John should’ve fallen fifteen feet lower.

John’s body came out from the wall, arcing into a fall. Looked like air time. John’s hand swung towards the rock and stuck on a smooth jug. His body jerked from the impact of landing the hold and he screamed, “I love Red Rocks!”

Too soon, I buckled into my seat at Las Vegas airport. My forearms ached from the climbing, and my wallet was sore. I’d gambled and lost. A drunk at the Goldcoast’s no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em tournament stole a month’s worth of gas money for the commute to Yosemite by hitting a king on the river. Lamenting the lost funds, I’d partied hard, wearing my aviator sun glasses with friends at the crag, and into the early dawn at the bars. I’d enjoyed the fights: Liddell and Silva, John Starr and Sunny and Steep. Vegas had been good but marginal products of capital, labor force participation rates, and hours of work called. Back to school. The plane accelerated on the runway. I gripped the arm rests, wondering about the ether in the oxygen bags. Climbing, gambling, parties, and fights. I couldn’t resist the foolish pleasures. I’d return to the Las Vegas house as soon as I could. But first, where was the stewardess? I needed some ether.

Fresh Meat

Shortly after Vine Hill Road and before Summit Road, the four lanes of Highway 17 pass through a short mountainous section. The road has no shoulder or rail here, only clifflets guard the edge. Sectioned pieces of cement separate the two lanes of northbound traffic from the two lanes of southbound. Acting as the sole corridor between Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley, the highway has a steady flow of business hour traffic and careless drivers often crash on this five mile stretch.

The boys stood on the northbound embankment staring down at the darting cars. Their feet were cold; ten tiny pinky toes were turning Kool-Aid blue. Real men don’t wear shoes to run, or so they had been told my Frank, Alpha Kappa Phi’s Santa Cruz Chapter head of hazing. The boys had left their shoes at the car a mile down the road following Frank to the hillside.

“If you want to be an Alpha man, you have to be aggressive. Think ten seconds or less. Run down the hill, cross the first two lanes, vault the cement barricade and in another couple seconds you’ll be home free. We’ll pick you up on the other side of the road. We’ll get you drunk and take you to the sorority party later. Any questions?”

“Yes, I have one.” Justin’s hands shook. He stabbed them into the pockets of his corduroys in attempt to hide his nervousness.

“Yes, What?” Frank wasn’t a fan of questions; they made his brow furrow into a series of unattractive diagonals.

“Sir, yes sir,” Justin tried to stand straight and throw his shoulders back. “I have a question, sir.”

“Name hippie?”

“Justin sir.” He wiggled his toes on the cold hillside.

“What is it?”

“What happens if one of us, uhmm…” Justin thought for a moment. Intro to Feminism, Slave Narratives of the 1800s, and daily interactions with the transgender kid down the hall had left him uncertainly aware of political correctness. “What happens if one of us is seriously or grievously injured in such a way that normal and daily functions become difficult?”

“Don’t get hit and you won’t get crippled.” Alpha Kappa Phi held an annual Clint Eastwood marathon, which Frank organized. Last week the boys had watched Every Which Way But Loose and Frank imagined himself to be Philo Beddoe, a trucker and brawler who spoke more with his fists than his mouth. He dropped the line in the slow style of Eastwood, flexing his jaw. He’d practiced it in the mirror, liking the way his jaw line looked when he uttered that last word, “crippled.”

“Alpha Kappa Phi has been doing this for years and so far there hasn’t been a single injury,” Frank’s said with a politician’s honesty. This was the second year that the stunt had been pulled. Last year the initiates had lined up and no one had run, save Frank and he’d made it across.

“Line up and get ready to run. One at a time. Since Jason here,” Frank pointed at Justin, “has so many questions. He gets to go first.”

Justin looked down at the highway feeling a desperate need to urinate. Stepping down the hill, he watched the traffic wiz by. A Santa Cruz Metro bus chugged along, followed by a small pickup with a No Enemy bumper sticker, and then a silver Audi. Justin closed his eyes and stepped into the road. A Honda Accord whizzed by in the next land, blasting its horn and Justin jumped back onto the hillside away from the traffic. A warm stream flooded his pants.

“Fuck it. I-I can’t do it. I can’t do anything,” Justin hid his face behind his cold hands and ran to a nearby tree. The initiates looked on sympathetically. Two stepped out of line and towards Justin. They stood next to him, not quite touching but offering fraternal conciliation. The others stared at Justin, shaking their heads.

“What the fuck man? Are you a god damn pussy or something?” Frank shook an angry finger at Justin. “God damn it.”

Justin, supporting his back against a redwood retorted, “If you’re such a man why don’t you do it?”

Frank was angry and jutted his jaw. Philo Beddoe would sock this fool but Frank thought better of it and stepped towards the highway. His salmon polo flapped as an Odwalla Delivery truck rushed past. Frank stared down the highway and bolted to the meridian. He made it easily, and straddled the concrete divider.

“Whimps! It’s easy!” He shouted. Frank took a moment to roll up his khaki Dockers and shove his toes into the end of his penny loafers. The boys watched from across the street as Frank hopped off the divider and began the final short stretch to safety.

Frank stepped into the road only to see a Mercedes Benz barreling down at him. Behind the wheel was a young trustafarian, a UCSC student who’d converted the car to bio-diesel. A thin haze of marijuana smoke clouded the Benz’s front window, and the driver accelerated hoping that the smoke would dissipate through the open sun roof. He didn’t see the young man in the road. Frank let out a desperate yelp and hopped into the next lane as the hippie car passed. He sighed, catching a view of himself in the Benz’s mirror. Frank’s forehead was smooth and relaxed. He looked more like Philo Beddoe than he ever had before. Frank flexed his jaw, marveling at himself. He never saw the truck coming.

Direct Ascent

My feet were large and clumsy in my sandals as I ran towards Lembert Dome. Moisture laden clouds hung over the meadows and angst had built in my body for the past week. The Talking Heads blasted into my ears as I scrambled over the last of the stones and sat on a granite boulder at the base.
La Sportiva, an Italian company, produces the best dancing shoes. Beginning at the toe of my Miuras, I tugged the laces working up the tongue, and then cinched a tight knot across the top of my ankle. The Direct Norwest Face follows a smooth arc up the slabs, coming to a gentle ledge before striking upward on a small headwall to the summit. A black streak of water flowed just to the right of the crack but the route appeared dry. I coated my fingers with white gymnastic chalk, and began to ascend.
Sweeping granite domes and high Sierra skies filled me with serenity. The rock wisped below. I climbed below the ledge and frowned. Water leaked into the crack, making it difficult and impossible to reverse. I cranked up my mini-disc player and started to dance.
The sound of gunfire, off in the distance, I'm getting used to it now. David Byrne’s melodic voice whispered in my ears as I sunk my hands into the wet crack and pulled through, hefting myself onto the ledge. A droplet of water fell onto my forehead from the crack above, Chinese water torture. My heart groaned. Suddenly, Toulumne had the serenity of a graveyard.
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around. My options were meager. The crux was wet as was the descent; neither were secure. The weight of the situation sank in. No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now. I prayed for an alternative. The the left was a barely discernible line of cracked knobs, a path for the desperate, that might snake to the summit.
Two-hundred fifty feet of granite lay beneath my feet, and my mind sharpened to surgical precision. Forty-five of the most harrowing and best minutes in my life passed. Every foot placement decided the future; sixty more years or sixty more seconds.
A sublime realization of what was relevant came to me and I stopped gripping so tightly. I can’t articulate the slow process of levitating to the summit but I sacrificied a piece of my soul. I’ve been searching for it ever since. Transmit the message, to the reciever, hope for an answer some day.

Geriatric Golfing

My short game has been suffering in the last decade. The last time I went to Los Lagos was over a year ago and that was only to the driving range. So I decided to take my nine iron with me. Besides being able to improve my chipping at a moment’s notice, the iron will support my constitutional. Even though the rubber will undoubtedly suffer on the journey to the golf course, the club will make a reasonable cane for the broken concrete sidewalks.
The walk from the stroke center will take awhile; it’s a tad over three miles. But I’ll get there. At least I’m out of the loony bin. They were getting to me. Especially the women. They prowled around outside my door. Every Sunday, Genieve came in under the pretense that she wanted to watch golf. During the Pro-Golf Association Grand Slam, Phil Mickelson was set to shoot a 58, thirteen under par, and shatter the record PGA Grand Slam record of 61. Only three other golfers have hit 59 in the PGA Tour: Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval. On the last hole, Mickelson was all set to make a 9 foot eagle putt that would have given him a 58. As he wound up, Genieve coughed. I’m sure that Mickelson heard it on Poipou Beach in Hawaii; he botched the shot. God damn. Genieve acted like nothing happened but I knew. She was banned from my room for two months but somehow sneaked back in after five weeks when I was watching ESPN. It was quiet for a little while and I was able to watch the games in peace, even with Genieve around.
A few months later I started waking up after my Sundays afternoon nap with a pitching wedge in my pants and an unbelievable need to shit. During the Honda Classic this year, Mark Wilson, Jose, Coceres, Camilo Villegas and Boo Weekley, were in a four way play off for the win. Coceres missed the shot on the green, Weekley was still in a bunker somewhere, and Villegas had hooked the ball way off into the trees. Wilson though, oh man, Wilson shot it straight on the dance floor and won. Holy shit what a shot. I turned to tell Genieve what an unbelievable piece of work Wilson was when I noticed her pouring powder into my cup. She’d been spiking my milk of magnesia with crushed Viagra for the past eight weeks. Hussy.
Thank God the women are far behind me. And those wretched people who keep stopping by. A little while ago group of kids marched into my room claiming to be family. The oldest of the bunch was half my age, had twice as much hair, and was four times as ugly. He claimed to be my son. I looked at him closely and I must admit that we do have similar foreheads, the same small mouths, and hollow eyes. He looks like me, that is if a horse had kicked me in the face.
“Dad, it’s me Brian. Remember I came out here last weekend with my wife Beth and the kids- Billy and Judy.” He told me.
He was so adamant about it that after the fifth time I nodded and said, “Of course, Brian. I just didn’t have my classes on.”
After that he turned his kids loose on me. The brats crawled all over my lap, coating me with sticky Popsicle juice, getting the shit all over my nice shirt. Worst of all, the fellow didn’t seem to know that he made a better door than a window. He parked himself in front of the TV. and asked me about a woman named Mary, who he claimed, was his mom.
“Dad, tell the kids about mom,” he said. The week’s basketball highlights were on and I figured I’d entertain him. He did claim he was paying for me to stay in the Stroke Center.
“Nice woman. She loved chicken noodle soup. She loved orange juice. She couldn’t stand them together.”
“Really Dad? I didn’t know that about Ma.” His eyes got cloudy.
“Yup. I remember when we first started dating. The long drives in the countryside in my old Pontiac. Sneaking into her house late at night to play a little touch and go,” his brow furrowed at the mention of romantics. “Wonderful woman, wonderful.”
“A wonderful woman, oh yes.” Genieve walked into the room. Brian scowled at her. I scowled at her. And the little brats, they ran up to her and pawed her floral dress with their sticky hands. Genieve shot her hand out to Brian, tilting it at the rest so that he might kiss it. He stared at her without moving until she dropped her hand.
“I’m Genieve, a close and personal friend of your fathers,” Brian looked at me. I shook my head. “Your father has told me so much about your mother. A wonderful, wonderful woman.”
This woman was embarrassing me in front of a man I didn’t even know. The tips of my ears reddened. “This is a private and important conversation. Leave.” The words gasped out between my teeth.
Genieve hobbled over to my chair, stepping in front of the TV. on the way. She bent over, and puckered her tomato painted lips. I leaned back as far as I could as she moved forward. The chair couldn’t go back far enough, and two wrinkly lip prints tattooed my cheek as she waddled out of the room.
“God damn woman. Why the hell are they always after me?”

“Well, it’s great that you have friends here Dad,” Brian said without an ounce of sincerity. “I got to take the kids to the park. Billy has t-ball practice. We’ll be back in two weeks.” I wasn’t sure if the last bit was a promise or a threat but at least he took the brats with him when he left.

That was the last straw. That woman made me look like an ass in front of that kid. I had to escape. I had to get out. It took me a solid day of planning to arrange everything for the trip. My walking shoes were set next to my bed and I found my plaid pants, a respectable polo, and my favorite hat. I grabbed my nine-iron from my golf bag in the closet and woke early. I could rent the rest of a set of clubs and hell maybe even get a caddy when I got out to the course. After dressing, I stole out of my room and down the hall. Genieve lives three doors down, her room was wide open and I peaked inside to make sure the hag was still asleep. Her bed was filled with a creature with a featureless face. It took me a moment to recognize that it was Genieve. She’d sand-blasted the make-up off her face to go to sleep. I gripped my club a little tighter and shuffled out of the Stroke Center.

The walk has gone by quickly already. I’m a third of the way there and I should make my four o’clock tee time. God, I can’t wait to hit the links. I couldn’t escape with the telly but at least I’ll have refuge on the back nine.

Notes From a Yosemite Hardman

I'm not sure if you know this but I'm kinda big deal around here. Yosemite is more than a dot on Rand McNally’s map, it’s not just another microcosm of the climbing universe, and I’m more than a regular climber. Yosemite is the place and I am the man.

Every morning I wake in the Valley and run five miles down canyon to the real crags. I climb all twelve of my fixed lines at the Cookie, bust out two thirty sets of fingertip push-ups, and then dive in the Merced and swim upstream to Camp 4. Some say I’m training for the ultimate training day but they’re just jealous because by 9 a.m. I’m back brewing my soy-chai protein infused latte ready to start a day of real climbing.

When I climb, I climb the “est”, the steepest, hardest, slabbiest, scariest routes around. Five feet right of Grant’s Crack and three feet left of Oak Flake is my proud new ultra-mega classic first ascent, a super dicey top-rope. It’s named The Falls Trail because I hiked it. The North Face’s athletic coordinator will be making me athlete of the month and my other sponsors will be thrilled.

Not entirely sure what I should crush today. I may head to Jailhouse and sport climb, a little multi-pitch bouldering will fluff out my 8a scorecard. My international climbing ranking will jump from 1538th to a solid 1537th. I might take it easy, boulder around Camp 4, and tick that problem on Columbia Boulder.

My first time on Midnight Lightning, the world’s most famous boulder problem in the world’s most famous campground, in the world’s most famous climbing destination, was in July during the ranger's Sunday morning coffee session. By my 38th try I was at the move before the move to the lightning bolt. Everyone was watching me, as they should be. They shook their heads. They must have been amazed by my chiseled physique and unbelievable talent. Even though Midnight Lightning is hard (V9), it’ll be easy for me. I've been bouldering double digits since I started (I count V as a digit). With my rippled six pack and enormous guns, I’ve got the postage; I just need to send it. If I don’t get it today I’ll eat broccoli for three days, drink Diet Coke for two, and not change my underwear for a week; that’ll make me send. If the pebble wrestling doesn’t go too well, I’ll sort my brand new wall rack in the parking lot in front of everyone.

El Capitan is my second home. I climb up to 5.14 on El Cap; I climb up to it and aid through it. When I’m not busy freeing old aid lines, I send hard wall nail-ups. The monkeys send El Cap super duper fast, no more six month siege feasts of working routes into submission. Alex and Thomas Huber, maybe you’ve heard of them they’re famous, they sped up the Nose in under Three Hours. I’m just like them. The license plate on my Toyota Tacoma reads NO BIVY. Last week I made a 138 hour continuous ascent of the East Buttress. Next week I’m going to shave my time down to sub-five days.

I may have to leave the ditch and go get strong somewhere else. I'm not just a Valley rat. When summertime rolls around Joshua Tree is prime, 112 degrees in the shade. My best climbs have been in the desert heat. I almost free soloed- that means no rope- North Overhang. I was cranking the fourth class top out a hundred feet off the deck; it was no mistake or flat pancake. I got the batter. I cratered hard but after I walked off my broken back, I fired it. Joshua Tree has more than 100’ boulder problems. I went to an overhanging slab route called Thin Red Line and managed to onsight it, second try with two falls and one point of aid. The technical moves were difficult. The protection was sparse at best, think hard moves twenty six inches out from ½” expansion bolts, still I campused the 70 degree crux. Who needs feet on slabs? Technique is for the weak.

The water for my soy-chai protein infused latte is done boiling in my brand new North Face Gore-tex high octane gasoline stove. I’m gonna enjoy climbing here in the center of the Universe because climbing in Yosemite means the world revolves around me. Don’t worry; it won’t go to my head. I’ll still be California’s humblest man. So enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think about me?

The Quaint Life

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 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, my 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, 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.
“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 and 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.


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—he disappeared when turned sideways. 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.”

Barn Show Routine

The Dialogue from my barn theatre standup show
Actually, I don’t have any game compared to some of the guys I knew in Vermont. My friends would get laid like tile. They would take girls out to seven course meals, which consisted of a six pack and a potato, and the ladies would love 'em. Their idea of safe sex was locking the car doors. It was that and and saran wrap and a rubber band.
But, that’s just kind of how it is in Vermont. I think it’s because everyone is so poor. Hell, it takes twenty people to get a full set of teeth. Everything I owned was a hand me down, even my toothbrush. Our family car was a skateboard. For awhile money was so tight we had to unplug our clocks at night.
They’re not exactly geniuses out there in the cuts of Vermont either. They refer to the fifth grade as your senior year. The valedictorian locked himself in a grocery store and starved to death. Last year the farmers discovered a new use for sheep…wool.
It’s like a scene from Deliverance. My family tree is shaped like a wreath. The nice thing about all that incest is that when you go Christmas shopping for your girlfriend, your aunt, and your sister, you just have to get one gift. Incest is why I have poor eye-sight. I can’t see anything without contacts and all five of my siblings can’t see shit. All of us used to run into walls when we were kids. My dad he had the worse eyesight out of all of us. He couldn't even read the directions on the Trojan.
Vermont can be a little weird though as they have huge sterotypes. They think if you have a pig and a cow, you’re bisexual. And they think that homosexuality is a disease, but fuck man when was the last time you could call in gay to work? Hold hand to ear Yeah hey boss ate dinner in the Castro.
I wanted to go to school at UCSC. So I packed my bags in Vermont and pulled out like I was Catholic.
I moved out to Santa Cruz but was too poor to afford a place. Plus I have to pay for climbing gear, pay for books, and pay for food. These days I’m so broke I can’t afford to pay attention. So I moved into the redwoods behind campus. I could change and become a normal member of society with a roof but the only way I could afford a place would be to take part in a scandalous activity, namely work. That’s a four letter word that ranks with fuck and shit in my book. I’m in school to avoid that blashphemous act. I’m in college because I want to find a slinky, beautiful, generous, extremely rich college girl and marry her mom. That’s why I’m taking so many geology classes. I’m going to be a gold digger.
It’ll be awhile before I can get my degree and I need a place. I went to an outdoor store and got a great deal on a three-man pup tent. They scammed me though as it didn’t include three men or a pup. I set it up in the forest behind Merrill College and discovered the problems with the outdoor life.
There were forty-three days of rain earlier this spring and it demanded that I find reasonable shelter, so I did what any reasonable man would do when faced with forty days of rain. I built an ark. Soon the animals in the forest heard about my vessel and began congregating around my tent. I woke one morning to the tickle of a tick on my balls and a Komodo dragon lurking beneath my pillow. I was sick of the infestations and I showed no mercy to the next invader. The next day when I found a worm in my sleeping bag, I buried that fucker alive.
The rain slowed but all my stuff smelled horrible. I had to put a tic-tac in my asshole so my shit wouldn’t stink.
It’s impossible to bring ladies back to the tent. Women think I’m either Ted Kaczynski or an Ewok, so I’m either a hairy nutcase running around in the woods or a political terrorist. Besides, anyone willing to spend a night in a bug infested tent with a filthy Neanderthal is way too dirty for me.
I have saved a lot of money from not paying rent. I switched from Mickey’s to Pabst, from smooth peanut butter to crunchy, and now my jelly is strawberry instead of K.Y. So if there are any girls who want some to drink cheap beer, eat chunky peanut butter, and roll around in strawberry jelly. I’m your man.


Published in Lattice Magazine
Every hour the doormen switch from the front door to the back gate, where there are fewer IDs to check. Most patrons come in through the front on Shattuck while the waiters, runners, and bartenders go for their cigarette breaks out on the back alley of Allston. The Jupiter's employees neurotically inhale coffin nails a I play solitaire on my IPod, shuffling through most of the deals, only accepting a quarter. An ace or two with an even mix of black and red cards must show up before I start; if you're gonna play with yourself you better have a good hand.

At 1:30 one of the darkly dressed bartenders will emerge from the bar, step out to the patio and shout last call. I lock the gates, close the windows, and pick up random pint glasses. By quarter of two, most of the patrons have left. Those that haven't get a second warning: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

Matt, my twin brother, closes the bar a couple times a week. Monday night, after I turned off the patio lights, he poured me a Racer 5 and finished stacking the glasses.

"This spring I’ll graduate with an Economics and Business Management degree, Matt. Soon there will be a job, a house, a car. I'll be a slave my student loans, my mortgage; there’s no hope for another summer of climbing. I’m fucked.”

"No complaining at the bar," Matt wiped the wood counter.

"But that old man sat here sobbing earlier."

"The guy at the end of the bar, Phil? The human walrus? He's a regular. You could wring a pint of Red Spot out of his mustache." The upstairs lights were shut off; the bar darkened. "He was ordering a beer and got teary cause the keg of Red Spot dried. Besides, I'd cut my shoulder off before I'd let him cry on it."

"Oh.” I drained my beer. “But what am I gonna do? There's no way I could actually rock climb or even write for a living. I’ll have to get a job, sitting in a cubicle working my fingers to the cuticle."

Matt snatched my glass, tilting his swollen nose down at me. Two days prior he'd been in a Muay Thai fight. Though he'd fought well, he'd received a TKO; he'd been bleeding profusely from a broken nose. Bad call by the referee. "Life's a disappointment." He placed two beers on the bar and drank with me. "And in the morning it's a hangover. Let's check out the Pasand Lounge.”

Fortunately, the other bar hadn't closed yet. The bar stool swayed as I straddled it. A pale thirty year old relived his glory days, singing the Cure on the karaoke stage. A head fell onto my shoulder, and an arm caressed my bicep.

"Someone likes you James," Matt smiled. Next to me, a girl wobbled on her stool, using my arm for support.

"Hey?" my mind shuffled through a library of bad pickup lines. "If I told you you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?"

Matt's eyes rolled and the girl wrapped her fingers tighter around my bicep to keep her from falling off the barstool.

The bartender stared at her."I think you've had enough," he took her beer, placing it behind the bar.

"You, you can't take that!" She exploded, siezing an empty pint glass, and throwing it with Nolan Ryan speed at the mirror behind the bar. Glass sprayed across the room. With a broad swipe of her hand across the countertop, the girl knocked over another half dozen glasses.

"Get the fuck out of my bar!" The bartender fumed, staring at the kaleidoscope of broken glass and a bouncer grabbed the girl, dragging her to the street.

Matt plucked a piece of shrapnel from his beer, and downed the rest. “Let’s go, there are a couple of pale ales back at the house. Besides, you couldn't afford a condom anyway." He tossed an extra bill to the bartender. "Be thankful this shit doesn't happen at Jupiter."I stumbled along, happy that, at least for a moment, life was exciting.

James Lucas is a native New Englander, transplanted to California six years ago to pursue rock climbing. As a senior at the University of California in Santa Cruz, James Lucas hopes to find a nice, attractive, rich girl and then marry her mom. He’s taking classes in geology; he’s gonna be a gold digger.

Sales Call

On the good days, it’s as easy as selling water in the Sahara but on the bad, it’s the desert’s wasted inferno. It begins with a simple phone call. There is small talk and a little chat as courtesy goes a long way in pushing the teetering over the edge. Still brevity is crucial as many climbers don’t actually climb that often, they have girlfriends, school, or their dogs need to be wash, and a partner to go to the local crag is dependent on the quantity of calls, not quality.
I identify myself upon calling, despite the frequent use of caller id. It’s a good icebreaker, beginning the conversation with the recipient sighing and chuckling, -“I know it’s you James.”- A canned joke is then inserted. -“Oh, well I wasn’t sure it was me.”- The joke often falls flat, still I press forward asking them if they’ve quit their job, failed out of school, or broken many hearts.
Work is a climber’s nightmare but in a sport filled injuries, many masochistic athletes love it. Continuously saving for a huge expedition, which becomes shorter in duration and closer to home as the date closes, many don’t have time to go climbing.

With finals in session, many climbers are busy hitting the books with unheard of fever and studying becomes an excuse to not go climbing. Four years of college ride on their one afternoon of playing Tetris and staring at their History of Television textbook. Obviously, none of them know that it’s never too late to fail.

Significant others are another was to dodge the climbing commitment. The ol’ ball and chain is keeping them grounded and they’ve been whipped into submission. Ignorance makes many believe that the cold caress of granite is second to the blissful as touch of their lover.
The other excuses I’ve heard range everywhere from Star Trek marathons to funerals, neither of which can be missed. Spock’s deadpan wit when Captain Kirk encounters the trouble with tribbles simply can’t be skipped and tossing dirt on their mother’s dead carcass is a must.
However, if there is the slightest waver in previous commitments, I begin my verbal striptease.
The loose and dangerous rock around Pinnacles is exciting and adventurous. The sand paper slopers of Castle Rock build excellent calluses and the horrendous off widths in Yosemite don’t gnaw you up and spit you out but rather teach you Buddhist lessons in patience and humility.
There are two options if painting a picture of pristine golden granite and perfect arcing cracks don’t work. The first option includes psychological warfare. Instilling a competitive nature works well. Cedar Wright has done the route. -You haven’t? - Insert a mild -hmm- followed by a long pause. -Well how about this weekend? - Reminding them of their New Years resolutions to get strong works. If they go to Jailhouse this weekend, they won’t need the concrete shoes because they’ll stop being so light.

The second option works ninety eight percent of the time but has its flaws. A pair of tweezers and scissors are needed. First a hole must be cut in the pocket of one’s pants or shorts and then the tweezers should be inserted into the hole and one’s genitals must be stretched into paper thinness. This will undoubtedly produce tears and when the person on the other line hears the sobs and cries of pain they will immediately agree to go just to stop the rabbit like screams.

A Long Visit

From a hospital bed everyone looked the same size--bigger than me. By pressing a button on the side of the bed, I tilted into an upright position, and slowly John Long filled his muscular, six foot three inch frame.

John cast a large shadow. In his youth, he had dominated the California climbing scene. 1974 saw John and two friends wearing bell bottoms, flowing pirate shirts, and technicolor bandanas around their heads. Their outfits suited them well for the first single day ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan, a three thousand foot granite face. The men shaved the route down from five days to a mere eighteen hours. At the meadow below they posed for a picture, which would be plastered in the magazines; their youth was written in the bravado of their exposed chests. John traveled between Yosemite, where he worked for the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, and Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. He moved from adventures on rock to extreme expeditions, rappelling one of the largest waterfalls in the world. His adept story telling took him from a popular campfire figure to a career as a columnist and successful writer. My friends and I spent weeks in Joshua Tree, the old dad’s stomping ground, reenacting his countless stories; sometimes failing.

The first week in Palm Spring’s intensive care unit found me agitated. I ripped the I.V. from my arm twice. My brother held me down and a nurse sedated me when I tried to escape my hospital bed. Admitting to myself the severity of my climbing accident was hard. My mother had been praying and reading Bible passages to me to pass the time while I recovered from the numerous surgeries and bone fusions. John's surprise entrance invigorated me, an escape from the pains of recovery. The chair scraped against the hospital floor as John pulled it to the foot of my bed.

“Ho man, it was a long swim out here. Torrential rain in So Cal right now,” John’s voice boomed. A nurse checked my heart rate, pulse, and shoveled pills down my throat twice daily. The visits at seven a.m. and five p.m., not the sun, marked the passing of the day, and I hadn’t noticed the weather. My ears strained to hear the thunder of the storm but there was only a gentle knocking against the window at the head of the bed. “You sure got the fluff knocked out of ya. How are you?”

“I’m fine.” The brace around my neck itched and the pins in my elbow felt foreign. The days of being confined to a bed had produced a blood clot in my femoral artery. A vena cavity filter, a tentacled ball of metal, was inserted into my abdomen to keep the clot from moving to my heart and stopping the beating. The clot combined with the doldrums of the hospital made my obsession with climbing fester inside my body; neurosis rampaged inside me. I yearned to hear the legendary tales of the Stonemasters: Tobin Sorenson's huge parabolic falls or John Yablonski's heart shaking free-solos.

“How are you? Have you been to Yosemite lately?” I listened greedily as John began to talk.

Can’t say I climb much anymore. Had to do serious rehab on my shoulder; it was a whitewater, not climbing, accident. Ho-man, nothing harder than physical therapy. It’ll take a hundred ton psyche to get you through that.” His deep voice resonated against the bleak white panels of the ceiling. “My family is in Venezuela. I commute between a job in L.A. and seeing them.”

A polite smile creased my face as my interior boiled. John talked a little more, not on climbing, and gave me a walkman with a number of meditation tapes. “I listened to the tapes every day while I was recovering. Helped me stay present and struggle on.”

“Well, looks like the end of the flood; got to swim back to the homestead. Stay strong.” John laid the walkman along with a set of fresh batteries on a stand next to my bed. He nodded and strode towards the door with broad steps and a languid ease.

For a week the walkman sat on the side of my bed. The series of eight tapes were neatly stacked with the headphones wrapped around them. At night I listened to the tape’s chant. The slow melodic voice of the man speaking would put me into a dreamless sleep and I'd wake to the click of the walkman hitting the end of the cassette. The walkman moved from my bed, to a table on the other side of the room, and eventually into a box with insurance forms, magazines, and get-well cards. After Palm Springs, I was shipped to a spinal rehabilitation center. My bed was no longer a prison; I moved to a wheelchair, then a walker, then a cane. Learning to walk again was painful. There was nothing inspirational about it. Eventually, after three more surgeries and four months of physical therapy, I fell back into climbing, albeit with more sobriety. I listened to the first cassette a dozen times but never made it to the second. The walkman and the meditation tapes were given away.

Yosemite Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, not that long ago, maybe even this summer, there were two foreign rock-climbing brothers who spent the warm months in Yosemite sieging the towering granite walls, trying to topple them. The brothers were an odd pair, one was a raven-haired Fabio and the other was a cigarette smoking hungry wolf. They never walked when they were in Yosemite Valley; they swaggered. Their plan for this season was to win the Grand Prix of the Yosemite Pissing Contest.

The Nose of El Capitan has a fitting name. It splits the face of the granite monolith in half, beginning straight and steep at the top before gently broadening to Gallic proportions at the bottom. The first ascent of the formation had been made in an epic six months but it had been whittled down to a mere two and half hours by competitive speed demons. Shaving a few seconds of stubble from the face would garner the head chair at the table in the cafeteria, and a fan club of slinky tassels. The foreign brothers were keen.
They set about the task in their normal style, marking every rugosity on the stone so that might know exact gear and foot placements. The route was dumbed down to levels of mild mental retardation; a child on the route would require only slight supervision to ascend it. Film crews with grasshopper cranes hung from the face to capture the brothers flashing by. Ostentatious to say the least.

There were two other local climbers, both short, who despite their small stature had enormous strength and ability. El Capitan was a training ground for greater expeditions afar for them and one day they decided to jaunt up the Nose, a fitting place for their calisthenics. They packed their bags lightly, anticipating a mere day on the wall and a night at the bar. They scurried up the rock face making time post-haste. As they moved past the nasal cavities and into the cartilage of the climb, the two gnomes became disgusted with the atrocities on the walls. There were long blotches of chalk, which could be seen from the meadow far below, scrawled onto the wall marking handholds. They saw so many tics they feared Lyme disease. As one of the Lilliputian climbers led up the route the other contemplated the graffiti. After a few moments he was struck by an impish idea. He erased the tic mark at his head and painted another six inches higher on the bald granite. His partner soon called up to him, they hiked to the top of the cliff, and headed to the bar for some well deserved lagers.

The next morning the foreign brothers sashayed into the cafeteria and announced to anyone with ears that they were going for the record. "Ve Vill climb it very, very, vast," said the brother who looked like a raven-haired Fabio. The hungry wolf let a rolled cigarette fall from his mouth and he snarled. They donned their quickest climbing gear, a pair of leather pants for Fabio's doppelganger and tight g-string briefs for his brother.

Scores of onlookers stared as they started to climb. Cameramen dangled from the cliff, the rock monkeys of the Valley gawked from the nearby bridge, and ladies swooned from the grassy meadow. They were making excellent time, hitting their marks within milliseconds. They climbed boldly and with arrogance. They stopped only to flash smiles at the camera, scorning protection. Two-thirds of the ways up the route, the foreign brothers were in position to shatter the record. The hungry wolf was sprinting up the rock, lurching between handholds, using every mark to perfection as his brother climbed speedily behind. He spotted a long tic painted onto the wall and rocketed toward it. But his paw merely scraped against the smooth rock. For a moment he was weightless, a European Wily E. Coyote, and then he lobbed, flying through the air past his brother fifty feet below and logging more airtime than a 747. Everything reached the end when his ass landed squarely on a ledge seventy-five feet away.

The circus packed up and the brothers limped back to the ground. The cameramen stored their reels, the rock monkeys went in search of bananas, and the ladies shrugged their shoulders tired of hearing about the astral bodies of Bavaria.

On this day all the people in Yosemite learned that it's never a good idea to have huberis.

The Bloody Thirsty Scramble

My mother and father, before they divorced, fucked like rabbits. During their two decade marriage, my mother popped out a whopping six children, five boys and one girl. The cluster of kids made living in rural Vermont and New York slightly more tolerable. Eventually, my oldest brother started to disappear. He's ten years older and initially he attended RIP, an engineering school in New York. He received a full four year ride but quickly blew his opportunity by discovering a land of lust ladies and cheap beer. He left school after a semester and joined the army in an attempt to get his shit together. After finishing his military service, he entered NYU, received a degree in computer languages, and secured himself a baller ass job as director of strategy at Microsoft. A Lucas escapes the vortex.

Justin went to community college for a bit but dropped out when he found ten pounds of hippie lettuce in the woods of Schohaire county. Jenny bounced between colleges for six years. Two semesters in Phoneix, a semester in Cobleskill N.Y., online classes. She constantly transfered, hoping to start over. With the addition of baby Jack, she may not have the time to complete her degree. Matt attended SUNY New Paltz for two years, maybe three, before his inappropriate anarchist actions against the bureaucracy of the college forced him out of school. Nick's never had much ambition for academia. His aptitude resides in mechanics, not scholastics.

Commencement is in two weeks, I'll be climbing and not attending though I'm rather excited to finish a four year project. I'll be the second kid in my family to send school. Not an easy task. I've financed school myself, bought a car, recovered from a serious accident, climbed a ton, performed in a stand-up comedy show, got published, and have taken serious advantage of school. Sick. While my academic performance isn't excellent (3.0 gpa), I'll finish with a somewhat useful degree- Economics and Business Management.

The world ahead is a mysterious place. I'll have to get a job and a house, neither of which I know how to swing. Currently I'm concerned with my financial state. Being a dirtbag sucks. Highly overrated and entirely passe. I suppose now that I'm done with school, I'll begin the next stage in life-- the blood thirsty scramble for the dollar.

bye-bye gas chuggin' big wheels

back in the exclusive vw club. such happy hearts we have.
love, lin

{announcement via tinyprints}

reason #342: why you should never go to bed before the sun does

{volume one/ letter three of my blog-letter writing series}

i was only gone for a second. came back and she'd snuck away to bed. it was nearly nine, folks.
dear mimi,
now if this doesn't motivate you to get on the phone and start working those marriott reward points - then i don't know what will. puh-leeeeease.
oh! the concert withdrawls i'm having. it hurts. it hurts so bad. if it's not going to happen tell me soon because i'll need to pack my bags and start walking. i've got a show in california to catch then.
love, lindsay

p.s. does anyone know amy ray's cell phone number? this is getting serious and i need to call in a favor.

love is a mixed tape - just press play:

"turn around and you're tiny... turn around and you're grown" -kenny loggins


dear grandpa and grammy:

i'm getting too big for my paci's. please keep them in a safe place for me. you might need to tell them a good long bedtime story at night because that's when they will miss me the most.

lucas jude

this is huge for us. my heart is still aching in a big mama bear way. i was a giant sobbing mess that day. how's lucas handling things, you ask?? oh, him? he's fine. it's me that needs the sympathy. it's me that needs a big huge new bag of tricks. he's all boy now. and clearly has a mind of his own.
long gone are the days of playing my music in the car, picking him out my favorite toys and reading only bedtime stories with pictures that i love. lullabies pulled from my guitar strumming girl brain files have been replaced with requests for "happy birthday" and "hakuna matata" again and again and again and again.

i have to remind myself to let him grow into who he wants to be. finding the balance between that and shaping him into a well rounded boy all at the same time.

roll over. check!
sit up. check!
crawling. check!
walking?! check!
solid foods. check!
wean the nursling. check!
send paci's to grammy. check!
snuggle back up in our crowded family bed. big fat check!
{did you really think i was ready for a big boy bed??}

goodnight you,
love, lin

"such a mess! such a mess!" - lucas jude {age twoooooo.}

one of the perks of having amy living with us for the moment is that her entertainment weekly magazine comes straight to my mailbox. it took every ounce of will power i had in me yesterday to place it nicely on her bed without sneaking a peek first.
lucky for me she must have flipped through it before going to bed last night because it was sitting on my counter with a sweet note for me this morning.
i spy with my little eyes:
++ a trusty pair of PF flyers ++
++ some leftovers from boys lunch -yesterday ++
++ library books about cats ++
++ a parked sporty coupe ++
++ some i'm-a-sucker crocs ++
++ a pen that was about to draw on "picasso couch" ++

despite the mess that is my entire house at the moment - all i want to do is go lay out in the gorgeous {what-in-the-world!} sunshine and read me some entertainment weekly, folks. is that ok?

happy 90 degrees
love, lindsay

"be still my heart" -cousin maren circa 1998

dear electra cruiser super deluxe in aqua/cream:
when i walked into your shop on saturday i was overwhelmed with the comfort smell of lavender and patchouli. finally, a happy place in this tri-town that is the armpit of america. my eyes immediately locked in on you and you haven't left my mind since. day in and day out you are there. images of you and i on future dates cruisin' down road 68 singing "into the mystic" at the top of my lungs. a basket full of flowers, a quick jingle of your bell, the ease of your coaster brakes. i've already planned our future: roadtrips we will take - the volkswagen with a bike rack i'll need to compliment you the way you deserve.
we were meant to be. you and me. did you feel the magic, too? am i reading too much into our first glance at each other? after all your price tag did frighten me at first and i shied away from fully introducing myself. perhaps i didn't bat my eyelashes quite enough?
i must admit that i've compared you to others since we met. i googled you. {i know. i know.} your friend, the amsterdam, while still very stunning with it's generator lights and skirt guard did flatter me - but alas i feel as though she may be a bit too flashy for me. the sarah jessica to your claire danes. you however would compliment me and a sweet pair of red mary janes quite nicely. agreed??
i will be back for you. a little convincing of my husband {he seems to think a fishing boat trumps retro bicycle} and alot more selling of my fabric wares and i will be back for you. don't forget about me.

do i believe in love at first sight? i do now.


a. i feel sick. probably because i drank too much chocolate milk

b. i spent >$25 bucks in late fees today because i could not give back those
my-so-called-life dvds

c. luc had a serious cat theme going on with his library book picks today. i. hate. cats

d. i sometimes count thinking about walking when crossing exercise off of my to-do list

e. i love kenny loggins as much as they love michael buble'

f. blogging is on my nerves. so i've decided to challenge myself to a post-a-day this week

g. lucas just rolled out of his nest on the couch onto the floor and is still sleeping.

h. i'm this close to buying a country album. someone intervene. quick.

i. if you don't know about real-mail karma, you should

j. i miss someone.real bad.

k. i've been daydreaming about a bike since saturday

l. i threw a penny in, wishing for some serious graphic art skills. truly. madly. deeply.

m. a*love is addicted to turning on the sprinklers on non-auto days

n. i'm tired

the end.

"p" is for pretty

the prettiest pretzel i know was born on may twelfth, two thousand and six. around four o'clock in the afternoon. she was a tiny bundle of only three pounds and four feisty ounces.
i carried lucas jude around in my big 'ol belly for an extra two weeks. his lease had long since been up and i remember writing in my journal to my boy-to-be that i wasn't sure i could keep this whole gig up for much longer. i wrote about being ready to hold and snuggle and kiss his little self. that his clothes were washed and folded and washed again.
he just wasn't ready to leave her yet.
i'd started to get the calls at my due date. "here yet?" "yeeeeeeeeeeet?" "today??" looking back in retrospect i am thankful for the stack of natural birth books, a peace filled birth class and two very wise midwives that all reassured me that my very heavy load {in every sense of those words} was safe and fine and would come on his own time. if not to prepare me for the birth that i had dreamed {it was not}... it gave me the guts to keep on truckin' {barely} until he felt safe to leave her behind. her.
i packed up my 4 week old bundle and drove over those familiar mountains. it would be the first time i got to see my nat all belly full of baby. she was snuggled up on her couch bed where she'd been for days already. she was indeed all belly and alfafa tea and sprouts and blood pressure cuff. she was determined and brave and beautiful. each day hoping for one more pregnant day. presley brynn would be her name and she was in quite a hurry {despite everything} for her turn. we like to say that she missed lucas too much. soul-cousins.
she just couldn't wait.
pres is a tough cookie. she's pretzel. she's made of chocolate pudding and "mama eats." she's pretty, dainty and spunky at the same time. she's polka dot pillows and coffee dates with grandpa. she's always got on great shoes. she's twinkle, twinkle, little star and techno, too. she's burt's bees baths in the sink. she's a secret life on sundays and she loves her mama. she's feist. she's determined and brave and beautiful. she's lukey's love. she's a blessing. she's exactly what we needed.
happy birthday to you!

De amigos y garcas.

En Ediciones de la Urraca,con los muchachos del Cazador, frecuenté a Juan Zaluth que era un señor que no recuerdo de que hacía pero trabajaba en esa editorial desde hacia mucho.

En un momento entró en contacto con gente que iba a abrir una nueva editorial, así entró brevemente en mi vida la nefasta y efímera editorial "HyH, humor e historietas" que era en realidad un rejunte de viejos garcas fallutos y pobres, tipos como descubriría después.

Cuando supe del nuevo emprendimiento me puse pesado y persistente como una gotera para que las nuevas historietas fueran de nosotros.
Y como Lucas y Claudio particularmente hacia tiempo que hablaban de auto editar una revista de historietas de terror, le dije enseguida a Juan que esa debía ser la revista a editar en HyH.

Así fue, nos cocinamos la revista y salieron por esa editorial 2 números de Gritos de Ultratumba.

Duró eso porque de la promesa de 100 pesos por pagina nos pagaron solo (después de que por varios meses llamara todas las mañanas todas) 250 pesos a cada uno por las dos revistas.

El cara dura que nos atendió les dijo a Claudio Ramirez , Calvi y Jorge Lucas (los otros 3 dibujantes de la revista) que tenian que agradecer (recuerdo perfectamente la frase) "La cintura política" de Accardo gracias a la cual estaban cobrando esas chirolas esa mañana, osea ni el tipo podía creer que realmente lo había convencido de largar algo cuando fue claramente el plan desde el día cero no pagarnos absolutamente nada.

Si salia el numero 3 esta era la presentación de mi historieta.
Mi personaje "Terror-Man" y el personaje de Calvi "Dr. Tabú" (en la ilustración a la derecha) aparecían juntos, la idea era tener de invitado el personaje del otro , que lindo no?
Pocas cosas me resultaron tan gratificantes en la vida como trabajar de lo que me gusta con otros amigos historietistas.

El día que algún amigo ocupe el puesto que han ocupado varios garcas en mi pasado será un escenario realmente utópico.