Wintertime Blues

The fifth bottle of beer is halfway finished and I have become overly loquacious. In fact, that is mere euphemism for the reality: a veritable cataract of speech erupts from my mouth and I aim this torrent of bullshit at any and all who will listen. I am brimming over with mundane late-20's life-crisis and I must share this fact with those kind enough to acquiesce or perish in a deep pool of self pity. Someone is indeed kind enough to suffer my foolishness and later, as I depart, I am predictably steeped in remorse and shame for elucidating naught but petty gripes and problems common to all as though they were my very own lumps of coal.

The next day dawns gray but promises better. I am going to Index for the first time in five months and the sun is scheduled to make a cameo appearance. A punitive headache graces my frontal lobes as I rise groggily to make the morning ablutions and to prepare myself for the technical demands of granite rock climbing. Loading myself with as much water as possible to soothe my dessicated brain, we set off. The gearbox in Jeanna's pickup whines ominously. The sky to the east appears much lighter, as was foretold. I purchase a Kombucha en-route and with the promise of further detoxification of my embattled organs, imbibe the fragrant potion. Upon reaching the quaint village of Index, the saturnine skies have indeed retracted their winter veil and real sunlight shines on the wet, seeping walls of granite. My muscles respond mercurially to stimulus and it is immediately clear that there will be no great feats of sport. However, as my feet skid with vague familiarity on the unyielding stone and my hands work clumsily in the myriad crack sizes, joy leaps in my heart as at a reunion with a temperamental but beloved old friend. The budding trees, though woefully premature, promise a new season, as does a constant, languid patrol of mosquitoes. Nearby, fresh rockfall, probably from frost wedging effects, has all but denuded the slope below the Quarry Wall of trees. Preparing to climb, I stand directly beneath an obvious rock scar several hundred feet above and idly ponder the transience of all things, especially us rather delicate vertebrates. A passing train drowns out these musings and I am climbing, having forgotten, for the moment, the inanity of my situation in the face of such austere monuments to destruction.

Everyone gets the blues; luckily this includes the sky in late January.


Mosquito Bites and Swamp Donkeys

The hardest thing about winter in Seattle is actually having to be here during the winter. As much as I would like to take a climbing trip RIGHT FUCKING NOW, an overly liberal approach to my finances and a poorly crafted strategy for finding work preclude any such thing. While seldom permanent in my relatively carefree existence, this situation always requires a strong will against the despair and self pitying nonsense that ensues. That will, oft tamed by an excess of beer, is certainly no match for the strongest bouts of foolishness, resulting in sporadic despondence.

What any person needs to cut the palpable gray that dominates Washington weather is: sun! Occasionally, an event occurs whereby the latter pauses in its tireless obfuscation of the former and allows a brief recess period before slamming the ethereal bars shut once more and driving home the lock. Even more rarely, the rock climbing areas in Washington begin to dry, allowing a highly coveted mid-winter climbing session on REAL outdoor rock!

Today seemed an unlikely venue for any such event. Rain was falling inconsistently from a sodden sky. Our plans to go to Gold Bar for a little bouldering seemed a fool's errand at best, but we eventually convinced ourselves that it would be worth it no matter the results. Bryan, Sam and Natalie proved perfect accomplices in this game of self-deception. Running on three hours of sleep and a stomach still brimming with overly hoppy beer, I was loopy and obnoxious: a veritable spring of sarcasm flowed easily and incessantly. I considered the odds fortuitous on all counts. At worst, some fresh air would surely soothe my the fog in my head. What better confirmation then, to drive east on highway 2 towards increasingly bright skies and *gasp* a shocking pale blue amongst the otherwise uniform gray!

It turned out to be downright balmy on the clear-cut hills of Gold Bar. The merry jaunt up the puddle-ridden logging road lifted my spirits and greatly improved the lingering dizziness from the night before. Gingerly donning a tank top and strapping down the velcro on my shoes, I was off on the first climb of the day in nearly full sun. Successes on boulders were lavished upon us, especially Bryan. With the addition of the incomparable R. Cole Allen and, later on, Kelly and Cortney, the day was already perfect in every way, other than the nagging suspicion that I've acquired a hernia in my groin--but that can wait until next week! Until then I'll sit here feeling like I got kicked in the junk and hope it's just a pulled muscle. Cheers!



I wonder what cats think about the wind when they go outside? It's gusting into the 40mph range tonight; maybe it smells interesting to them. This has been a rough weekend for me from a physio-psychological standpoint. That would translate: my body hurts as does my mind. I swung a sledgehammer at some concrete for six hours on Friday. Over and over I slammed the heavy hammer into the concrete, measuring my progress by each new fracture in the surface and each chunk cleaved away to be piled up and hauled off. I was being paid money to transform my muscles into knotted clumps of pain and to bruise my hands until they didn't work. They still don't: my right thumb is tender and swollen two days later and I can barely turn a doorknob. I was too ignorant to realize that my humble request for a jackhammer should have been an absolute demand, but that's beside the point. The point is that I've been punished adequately. If I can make a fist in the next three days I'll be happy. My car wouldn't start today. I wanted to make a trip to the store. A shot of pain ran through my thumb as I turned the key gingerly in the lock, rattling it back and forth as is currently required by the quirky mechanism. Cold start valves, fuel lines and head gaskets all came to mind as the engine repeatedly struggled to start and dieseled to nothing. When it finally turned over, I had the foresight to drive around the block before attempting a more ambitious distance. The result confirmed my suspicions: half a block and the hesitant acceleration returned until a desperate bid to re-park ended in the engine sputtering and cutting out just as I squared off the parking job. I was back where I started, thankfully, as thoughts of stripping the plates and VIN numbers and setting the poor goddamn thing on fire had become more and more relevant at the thought of another towing bill. I've always liked cats. I drank a couple bottles of beer and walked to my friend's place in the late evening. I saw a couple of cats during my walk, as the breeze was picking up and blowing leaves and trash around the in the streets. Cats have a very intuitive way of emoting. What I mean is: they have an understated elegance in their movements and expressions that has always come across favorably for me. I feel a sort of understanding, you could say, with cats. On the way home, the moon was out in fits and starts between the fast, silent clouds. I saw someone open the door of a small house to let their cat out; with an unintelligible statement they closed the door again. Wind was blowing as I crossed the overpass at 50th, enough so that I was blown to a stop several times. Yesterday I didn't get up much from my chair. I read through the oft-frivolous miasma of the internet until my eyes hurt as much as my back and hands. I'll bet that If I were 20 years old I could handle the ridiculous hazing that happens when you start a job in construction. I wouldn't know better. I'd swing that fucking hammer and forget about it until the next time. Now I know better, but only after the fact. Ten years has taught me to attempt to recognize mistakes, just not always before they actually happen. Ten years and I'm still grovelling in the muck of bullshit work that always claims its pound of flesh, weighing it out heavier and heavier the older I get. Sometimes I know when to just laugh and turn my back on the whole goddamn thing, but that's not saying much. Cats, at least, are reliable in that: they live their lives their way. When they fail, they've got eight more as backup.