The Climbing Club

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 Post subject: The Poles Got it Right
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:01 am 
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Alpine Bod
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Joined: Wed Sep 04, 2002 1:31 pm
Posts: 1330
Location: Los Americanos
I found myself writing furiously with a sharpie on a napkin. The Met was dark and everyone but me was intently watching kayakers thrash through whitewater in China. I was in another world.

The present is always rooted in the past. So, as with all experiences, these feelings, emotions, experiences originate elsewhere. Living in a whirlwind since mid August I found myself in Spokane again "on business" and, as always, seeing dear friends. I spoke with my friends Harmony and Dave on the phone this morning, two people I have been close to for well over a decade, two people who know me very well and have watched me walk many paths in life, two people I care deeply for. Harmony mentioned she had seen Dave and his wife Steph the evening before at the Banff Mountain Film Fest. They were talking about me an, poof, all of a sudden I appeared. That made me feel good.

After going on a hike Harmony opened her afternoon. I was excited to check out the Banff films, especially since I didn't know they were in town. There are usually some really cool clips to justify the price tag. Things started off normal enough. Admist a shower Harmony calls. "I'm picking you up in 10 minutes." She comes inside just as I finish lathering up for a shave. Soon I would be hearing her opinion of my rushed shave. We were late.

The turbo in her bright yellow Beattle pulled hard as she danced through lanes on the way downtown. Mutual life updates were cut short by Harmony rocking out to a song she seemed pretty into. Then she blurts out, "I'm getting a GIRLS WITH GUNS sticker!" and turning around from the driver's seat and pointing to the lower middle section of the rear window, "I'm gonna stick it right here. Just because I'm driving a yellow Beattle doesn't mean I'm a f'ing peace lovin hippy. So Jon I got a great story for you."

The other morning I was driving to work and some !$$%%#^@ starts crowding my lane. I'm like WTF!! and move to the other lane. The guy changes lanes and crowds me again. So I do what any normal person would do and flip him off. You f'ing as*$%#. If I wasn't paying attention and someone flipped me off I'd be like, my bad, sorry. (somehow I'm not sure this would be the case) So this guy pulls behind me, turns on his brights and decides to ride my ass. I'm f'ing pissed now. So when we get to a 4 way stop I throw my car in neutral, set the brake and jump out. The dumbass is smoking a cigarette and has his window down. I'm yelling ....... (I can only imagine this part) and try to grab his cigarette and flick it in his face. I think the guy was scared.

The story ended somewhere near here. She made a pretty convincing argument for the bumper sticker. I get the picture she doesn't want people screwing with her. In probably some sort of record time (for me) we were downtown. I was psyched at paying $3 instead of 10 bones since she works at Mountain Gear (the main sponsor here). We walk in past the ticket counter to the ticket takers. "Hey Tim (or whatever) this is my friend Jon. He's known me for forever so if you want any dirt on me ..." Batting her eyes and smiling the way only pretty girls can, "So are there any employee tickets left? Do we buy them at the ticket counter?" he reaches into his pocket and mimes two imaginary tickets. "So how do we get in?" He opens an imaginary gate and tells us to have fun. Although one can still pull this off as a guy, there are definitely times I wish I could check the F box. "Are those two seats taken? The two next to you without any coats on them." We sat down.

The show started predictably. I barely remember the first four films before intermission. Styles employed in the Ouray Ice Fest Competition, "bouldering" on sea cliffs above the Mediterranean ... Run of the mill stuff. I was wishing I had been there the night before and watched Jon Muir cross Australia unsupported, battling dingos and losing something dear. Instead I sat through synthetically derived adrenaline sports developed for ESPN in hopes of enticing the masses because they're so EXTREEEM. Some of the films were decent, containing entertainment value for the here and now.

The long feature was about two women sponsored by everyone under the sun including the Spanish government and boating to a remote big wall on the south coast of Greenland towing half of Spain with them on their sea kayaks (a respectable mode of transportatin indeed). First, they used tactics the British honed in the 30's, succeeding from their high point when they cut the tether (weight) and went for the top. Most 15 year old alpinists in the US have figured this out. Light is right or something like that. This obviously wasn't a film about climbing ethics but since when has pounding pins been considered "clean"? Call it what it is.

Intermission meant baked goods by save the rivers or some such cause. Harmony and I supported the cause and chowed down. We seemed to get looks from people climbing over seats to escape from and return to our seats but it beat burdening those next to us. The moves were S0-S1; Harmony used some aid (me). Things started out with another forgettable film but that soon changed.

Whispering to Harmony about tougher than nails climbers from Poland and other Eastern Block countries, a 35 year old film rescued from the turmoil in Poland appeared on the screen. It won the grand prize at the 2004 Banff Film Fest. At first you could be fooled that it was judges who dug artsy, grainy, black and white films from yesteryear. 30 seconds into it I said to myself it was the best climbing film I had ever seen. At three minutes this was one of the best films I had ever seen. At five minutes it had me.

A kayaking film came next but I wasn't there to see it. I had been stolen away, my emotions crashing against the rocks. It was like when I read Islands in the Stream by Hemingway. I sat in a drunken state peeping into a world much deeper than I care to see most of the time. How can a grainy B&W film containing no words, or a book containing only words, do this to me? How can people create something so powerful it wrenches your entire being? This is the gift of the arts and I guess the measure of greatness for when I've shot a worthy photo. Silently reaching into someone's inner emotions halfway around the world and decades later, causing feelings to pour out. That's power.

I asked Harmony for a pen and began scribbling without sight on the napkin from our baked goods. A TGR (Teton Gravity Research) film started. I remained far away. Steep mountain faces appeared, some on the screen, some from memory. I wasn't in one realm or the other, rather somewhere much more real.

Is there something wrong with me? Why have I waited so long to deal with this? I guess I didn't think there was anything there; maybe it's always been there. Fear, being scared out of one's mind, dying ... those aren't cats to let out of the bag. Maybe I'll have the guts to write about it soon and tie up the loose ends I have internally and externally.

"Jon, that pen smells. What are you writing?" Reality's back. I came back to the world in which others were existing. A bonus six minute film depicting avalanches in Colorado was a good way to say goodbye to my evening with on screen mountains and memories.

Heated seats warmed my butt and back. Harmony had already guessed where my mind had gone. But she asked again, what had I been writing? "Your life is in danger every time you get in the car with me." True.

CCP
out

Post Script: I'm certainly not extreme, just someone who's gone through experiences unintentionally bringing me close to the line of life and death. And then pondering why, or if, there's a desire to return. In ways we can all identify with such things, whether it's with loved ones, personal experience or ???

post post script: I wrote this without revision or much proofing so please bear with me. gracias


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