Friday, March 13, 2015

Living by Rote

I do not sleep now.  Twenty minutes, maybe, before I wake suddenly.  Thinking it apnea that is heightened by a slight congestion caused by all the pollen that is in the air,  I took an allergy pill with Benadryl last night.  I slept better, I think, but I am lousy this morning.  I fear that I will die from fatigue.  I will seek help. 

My days wander by without stimulating me to do something.  Anything.  I live by rote. 

This morning, though, I saw this in the New York Times (link).  I used to climb before there were rock gyms and then when there just were.  My friends and I were known for climbing in a town without rock.  We took trips around the western hemisphere to climb glaciated mountains, to climb rock walls.  It was easy to be known for that here and then.  A picture of me climbing a four story building covered half of the front page of the B section of the local paper.  The accompanying story caused the owner of the building (an insurance company, no less) to send me and my friends a certified letter telling us not to climb the building (he was a nice guy and followed up with a personal letter wishing us the best).  When the first climbing gym opened here, the owners gave me a free lifetime membership. 

One of my best friends was a stock broker.  I took him on his first high altitude climb and on his first rock climb.  He was addicted.  At the age of twenty-nine, he left his job and became a climbing bum.  He did the "dirtbag" existence living out of his van.  Later he became a guide for Outward Bound and took people into the wilderness for thirty days at a time.  It is what we all aspired to, but just as I was to begin a life in which I worked only eight months a year and could climb throughout the late spring and summer, I was offered the foreman's job.  I took the money and eschewed the other.  My climbing friend lives in Yosemite and works for an outdoor education company.  He is married and has two children and has sold all his rock climbing gear.  It all comes to the same thing in the end, maybe. 

But reading the article and watching the videos has sparked some desire in me again.  Once upon a time, I "knew" many of the people mentioned in that article.  What I mean is that I had conversations with them, I guess, and that they remembered me when we met again.  A casual relationship.  When my dirtbag friend climbed El Cap the first time, he met Lynn Hill (who is mentioned in the article for having done the first free-climb of the nose in 1993) on the wall on her historic climb.  He was star-struck and didn't know quite what to say to her, so he said, "I think we have a mutual friend."  He mentioned me, for I often told a story about how much I charmed her when we met.  "Oh yes," she said, "I was just thinking about him the other day.  I was reading one of the books he recommended." That is my crowning achievement as a climber (smiley face emoticon here), but I have many similar, self-promoting stories. 

All that is to say, "I was there.  I did that," whatever "that" is.  Then I became this.  I read an article yesterday about. . . it doesn't matter.  What I took out of the article was this.  The man and his wife lived in a frugal yet creative way.  The evidence?  None of their dishes or glasses matched.  Silly thing, but it is metaphorical.  Why do I have a Pottery Barn set?  It is what I got when I was married.  It is silly.  I want to set my table with pretty dishes and bowls that I have picked up along the way.  You know what I mean.  It makes fine china and crystal seem. . . well, I like them, too.  They just shouldn't match, perhaps. 

My good friend here in town has offered me a surfboard and a hybrid bike.  I will take them off his hands.  It is time to be outside again.  It is dirtbag time.


  1. Ha Bill I lived in a truck in Yosemite Summer 1981 and eventually broke my ass on 60' fall, spent the next Summer in a lower body cast ;-p

  2. You're the man, Frank. Glad to hear from you :)