On the Insipid Oppressiveness of Washington Winters; and How Indolence Stole My Brain Cells: An Invective Against Pettifoggery and Other Such Pursuits

Well, it's the outset of another foul winter week in Seattle, prime time to hoist a Jolly Roger against the palpable gray miasma and introverted angst that often prevail at this time of year. Too much time spent here invokes such an impression of stagnancy and inertia that despite the number of people milling to and fro, almost every day seems like a repetition of the last, a sort of cosmic joke levelled upon those who dwell in moderate maritime climates.

I was thinking about this because someone asked me what I'd "been up to" lately. "Absolutely nothing," I replied; (quaffing malted beverages like water, railing vituperatively against shadows, waiting impatiently for the clouds to break, watching as familiar situations recur in rather tragicomical Nietschzean fashion; typical nothing).

Of course, it's not that bad: there's always a silver lining. Trips to warmer climes, resolutions enacted, forward progress made; the ever-shimmering fabric of time is oft the progenitor of excitement and change.

If only it would seep through to the most inert and inaccessible of places when it seems the most needed.

The Scene: Mandated white noise blares constantly in the background. I enter, consciously tuning my brain to the most autonomous frequency I can achieve under the circumstances, an attempt at reducing the impact of continuously repetitive and menial action on my sanity. With shield in place I struggle to maintain attitude as the barrage of monotony proceeds unabated. Each situation is summarily neutralized and relegated once more to the senseless drone of background noise which threatens constantly to attempt a surprise crescendo against my otherwise well-placed defenses.

Act 465, scene 74: Most perplexingly similar to the preceding scene.

Customer service you. Sun break imminent. Move zig, move zig.


The Frayed Ends

To make a long story short, a lingering finger injury has, over the last year, kept me from climbing both as much and in the same fashion as I am accustomed. In fact, this is the first significant upset of my living patterns in 10 years, at least as they pertain to climbing. Right before my injury I was dissatisfied with my one-track life, centered mostly around a sport with which I maintained a precarious, self-destructive relationship. Oh, what I would do to return to that period of angst and resentment, minus the scarred, incorrigible ligament that I now possess. It almost makes me nauseous to think of how many times I've learned this particular type of lesson by direct experience instead of inferring, reasonably, the likely results of certain actions. In this case it was clear that injury was imminent, but a laissez faire attitude about the health of my connective tissues spelled trouble.

This makes me think of other similar circumstances, where an all-but-clairvoyant gut feeling is cast aside for a rousing dose of reality later on. In the past few years, one example was my brief interest in sponsorship. I decided, at some point in early 2008, that my climbing exploits were somehow deserving of external reward. To this end, I put together what I thought to be a compelling case for why I deserved free gear and got in touch with a very friendly and goal-oriented local rep. I assumed that the whole thing would be very rewarding indeed to those involved. On my side, a few (grade) numbers, pictures and a short synopsis of my goals seemed ample proof of my devotion to climbing. I mustered up the power of what few photos I had of anything I could portray as impressive. This one was the ace up my sleeve:
Note the wonky colors. I'm not quite sure what happened when I copied the image. In any case, my onsight/flash ascent of Rude Boys would surely be a wonder to people other than myself, right? How about a bunch of redpoints at grades that might have been impressive 15 years ago (or not)? What if I climbed some of them in old blue Kaukulators? Above all, however, I could certainly rely on my visibility in the Washington climbing scene to get me through the process. Sort of. I mean, things did get off to a promising start: I got some gear! I entered into a new relationship with the sport I loved: using it to form a symbiosis with companies that made my favorite climbing gear, or at least with similar companies! Best of all, since no one really knew or cared who I was, exactly, I didn't have to sign anything.

Well, then I remembered my original reservations about all of it. I realized that what I was doing amounted to trying to sell myself; it turns out I'm not very skilled at that particular endeavor. I'm sure it's not always like that; in some cases, the sponsor finds you. In the ideal case, the resulting relationship really is symbiotic and meaningful in that it advances the lots of both the recipient and the presenter(s) of the aforementioned free gear. At some point, the monkey has to dance, but at least it can do so on its own terms...hopefully.

Luckily, none of that conundrum was for me: I got a few items and used them, but I wasn't, and am not, a 'professional'. Equally likely excuses are: lack of impressive feats of climbing and lack of correct attitude. Or maybe I've realized that conflating the love of an activity with the inevitable commercialism surrounding it is a slippery slope. I know, I know: we need the gear to do it in the first place...mostly...sort of. And to be fair: many of the companies peculiar to climbing are actually comprised of climbers and are fairly progressive. It's just...I feel dirty. I can't help it: I tried to self-promote; that shit is whack, and I fucking despise it. Yet, our world requires it just to get by. Ugh.

But back to the Gut Feeling: there before, throughout, and afterward, mocking me for my lack of prescience, drawn out in an ill-conceived pursuit of something that I didn't understand--or understood too well to begin with.

In a post 9/11 world, cynicism's YOU.