Category

Musings

The Souls Linger at Soul Slinger

By Bouldering, Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

It’s the year 2020, and I still can’t do Soulslinger. I’ve waged war on that thing, with fresh skin and good conditions, many more times than I can count. I’ve heard it called “soft” or “easy” 3 times for every time someone said they found it hard. It was my buddy Dan Kovner’s first V9, and he said he did it in 4 tries. I just learned it was Ethan Pringle’s first V9, and he only needed 2 attempts. I am certain that there is no climb V9 or below that I’ve tried as many times as Soulslinger without success. I won’t complain, because we’ve been resting our heads at an off-grid cabin near Mono Lake. The place belongs to a photographer friend who works almost exclusively from a small airplane, making beautiful and thought-provoking images of the American southwest. His name is Mike Light, and I owe him thanks for much more than a stay at the cabin. During a previous visit to the cabin, I grabbed one of the photography books off the shelf. It happened to be called Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes by Trevor Paglen, and its pages depicted that which we–civilians–are not supposed to see: “black sites” in the desert, spy satellites in the night sky, and documents pertaining to CIA shell corporations. Mike told me that Trevor had used this very cabin to take images of the night sky for the book. It’s the year 2020, and it’s an election year. It’s the…

Read More

As Years Go, 2019 Was a Bit Shite

By Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

As most of you know, I love doing lots of stuff and then collapsing in an exhausted heap. Right now I feel like collapsing in an exhausted heap, but I don’t feel as though I did anything. It’s like the difference between swimming and treading water…2019 felt like a year of trying not to drown. OK, maybe not the whole year. 2019 began well enough. The trailer was parked near Hueco Tanks, plugged in to the grid at Gleatherland. We climbed a few things, made new friends, solidified old friendships, survived an Emergency at the Border, and we even got to take my parents out to White Sands in New Mexico. As spring began, we hitched up and moved back to Castle Dale, UT, so that we might do some climbing in Joe’s Valley. Mayor Danny invited us to park the trailer on his land, and the next few weeks passed in a blur of hiking, climbing, and planning the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Festival for fall. Tumors and Tendinosis Then my dad got cancer, specifically Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma (AITL). The disease first manifested in late March as severe back pain and night sweats, which were unexplained by any imaging or blood tests. After a month or so of worsening nerve pain and a loss of 30 pounds, they finally biopsied a lymph node, found the AITL, and began chemotherapy. On the day of his first round of chemo, my dad was barely able to stand without assistance. Already struggling with…

Read More

Vote, And I’ll Give You Boulders

By Ethics, Food for thought, MusingsNo Comments

We voted, y’all. If you send me proof that you’ve voted, I will tell you where these boulders are. Seriously. Hit us up @thervproject. November 6th. Extra boulders for you if you can drag a millennial to the polls with you. I spent 90 minutes with my 6 different ballots, reading Balletopedia and Bay Area newspaper op-eds to try to figure out if Yes or No or she or he will improve life for the majority of people I care about. There were some tricky choices. Candidates with similar positions, bills with names that sound like things I like but with provisions that I don’t like, that kind of thing. All in all, though, it was pretty damn painless. I voted in California. I’m a bit jealous of people who have an opportunity to cast a vote against, say, Ted Cruz, or Ron De Santis, or extremely-thinly-veiled-white-nationalist Steve King, or another one of these pathetic, ugly-souled power-suckers with the moral compass of a rabid possum. My most satisfying vote had to do with getting rid of the twice-yearly time shift known as Daylight Savings. It’s not that I want the Democrats to win. I do, but only incidentally. What I’m really hoping for, what we should all hope for, is a strong statement by the American People that we reject the shittiness of the past 2 years. That we stand by the free press, by the minority groups, by the victims of domestic terror. That we give a shit about…

Read More

It Pays to Pay Attention

By Adventure, Food for thought, MusingsOne Comment

Wisdom is everywhere, and what we know is exactly what keeps us from being wise. Ain’t that a paradox! If the goal of learning is knowledge, then how can knowledge prevent us from learning?  I don’t know, but here’s a story. I certify that the events contained herein are true and factual, to the best of my recollection. Although, frankly, one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story. The year was 2011, the address was 1015 Folsom in San Francisco, and the time was approaching midnight. Several folk, myself included, had organized a camp for Burning Man called Camp UP, which included a rather large bouldering wall, and we were caught in the grips of a multi-splendored culture of psychic exploration (read that as you wish). Most of the core group of Camp UP was selflessly partying in the name of raising funds for another Burning Man camp, Opulent Temple. Most nightclub veterans know the importance of staying hydrated, particularly on a hot summer’s night. The hard part can be choosing between dancing and the procurement of the necessary element of water. Savvy partiers that we were, Zack and I had gotten plastic water bottles from the bar earlier in the evening, which of course could be filled from the taps in the restrooms. A brief note on nightclub restroom attendants: They’re almost always there, they’re almost always polite but irritating at the beginning of the night, and they’re almost always among your favorite people…

Read More

Acknowledgement…of Rad and Bad

By Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

The truck wouldn’t start the other day. I needed to go into town to run errands before picking Vikki up from Riverton. It finally started after a half-hour of coaxing and cursing. The thing about living on the road that you have to watch out for, is that your vehicle is your life. Since we opted for the truck-trailer combo, we do have a little bit of separation, but the truck is still pretty frickin’ important. Thankfully, Bert’s been a rather reliable bloke, and, 6.5 years after the fact, I still marvel at our luck in finding a 7.3l International Powerstroke engine in such good condition. So do most of the mechanics we’ve taken it to. Thing about diesels is, they’ll give you no trouble if you keep them happy, but they do need a little more preventative maintenance than, for example, my old Honda Accord. Diesel engines need to be warmed up before they work properly, so when starting up, there’s a whole system of electronics that heats the engine cylinders before the starter gets them pumping. The glow plugs, as they’re called, aren’t necessary when it’s hot out, but the truck won’t start without them in winter, as Vikki once discovered on a frigid morning in Rocktown, GA. Anyway, the truck had a bad glow plug relay, which is the part that controls the flow of electricity to the plugs themselves. It’s been bad for a while (by the way, I recommend everyone get one of those little…

Read More

Blog Renewal

By Food for thought, Musings, Stuff We're Psyched OnNo Comments

I want to take it back to the old school. Now, this ain’t a paean about the good ol’ days when men were what society said they were and women were their service animals. I’m not calling for some rose-tinted return to a legendary epoch of “grit and toughness” that never existed. I’m thinking only in terms of social media. When I say old school, I’m talking about a handful of years ago, when 8a’s website only a outdated by a decade or so, and the “#” symbol was still just a tic tac toe board. I want to revisit the blogging era. Before Instagram existed, we followed climbers’ blogs. My RSS feed included the blogs of Jimmy Webb, Alex Johnson, Paul Robinson, Woods Family Climbs (yes that Woods), Ethan Pringle, Dave Graham, James Lucas, Angie Payne, and Nalle Hukkadyno. (Does anyone miss Climbing Narc, like I do?) Every few days or so, I’d visit Google Reader and see if any sick sends, inspiring stories, or rad videos had been added. Blogs forced both the author and the reader to engage just a little bit deeper than today’s pic-vid-caption platforms, but were informal enough that typos and poor grammar didn’t detract. Moreover, a blog post is also a webpage. It was easy for the author to include all kinds of links, references, and photos that either added to the story, or added to the author’s personality. The blogging era was a time when people were less afraid to post something…

Read More

Pissed Off

By Adventure, Food for thought, Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

I’m pissed, y’all. And I’m trying to process it, so bear with me. The plan, in a nutshell, was to drive around like the heroes of Rampage and climb some rocks. In doing so, we would be diving deep into the beating heart of America with a sturdy American truck, trying to get a read on what makes this country tick. Travel, they say, is a brilliant teacher, and I was eager to learn how well a lifetime of liberal indoctrination had prepared me for getting by in the so-called flyover states. And let me tell you, I wish I could distill the galaxy of lessons learned during our well-nigh 6 years of RV Projecting. It would take volumes…not to mention every wild sunset, the 4AM fuel stops, epic summits, unforgettable successes and failures, friendships of every duration and intensity, gut-dissolving tragedies…aww heck. Look at me. I got to ramblin’ again. Point is, I’ll die one of these days, but with a smile on my face. I won’t feel like the good Lord gypped me. The adventure has been a good one for us, and it’s not what I’m pissed about. See, we returned to my parents’ place in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving and some restful family time. The newspaper comes every morning, which is weird for us…and I’m pretty pissed at what I’m reading. We have a dysfunctional government being run by saboteurs. Public things–lands, services, schools, discourse–are disappearing faster than the coral reefs I used to study….

Read More

El Cap is Big and Cars Suck

By Climbing, Food for thought, MusingsNo Comments

El Capitan is big. I am qualified to say this, as I’ve spent countless hours standing about a half-mile from the base of this greater-than-half-mile tall sheet of granite. To look up and see the top, you must look past 45° above the horizontal. It feels unnecessarily big, almost rudely big. It’s like a shark, or love, or a drug trip: all the documentaries, books, and TED talks in the world will leave you no better prepared to experience it firsthand. A part of you is upset because no one told you it’d be this big. El Capitan is so big that our problems become equally small; they nearly disappear. It’s as though we’re all unified by the challenge of understanding the absurdly big thing in front of us. Tourists will approach and ask one or two of the “standard questions*,” and more often than not we will wind up standing next to each other in silence. Had the inventors of our language, the Shakespeares and the Websters and the like, visited Yosemite Valley, we might have the lexicon to discuss it properly. Or not…its bigness may have overwhelmed our wordsmiths as well. I don’t, however, hold the English language responsible for our inability to come to grips with El Capitan’s size. The fault lies with our culture, and its mandate to categorize and value anything that can be named. El Capitan has no value and defies categorization. It is art, it is love, it is the solar eclipse, it…

Read More

The CIA, Affirmative Action, and a #&@% Video Shop

By Adventure, Film, MusingsNo Comments

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a video shop in Isla Vista, CA that catered to the students at UC Santa Barbara. It was called @*&# Video Shop and Climbing Boutique, was owned and managed by Steve Edwards, and served as the de facto epicenter of a nascent Santa Barbara climbing community. It was a time before the ubiquity of cameras, which presents a challenge: Steve’s video shop is a central element in the story, but we have almost no footage or photos from the interior. It will be difficult, even with several people’s descriptions, to get the special quirkiness of the place across. In our interviews, several people have mentioned the ads that Steve put in the Daily Nexus, UCSB’s student newspaper. I popped over to the Nexus archives yesterday to look for these ads, of which I found a couple, and I had a somewhat mind-bending experience, leafing through yellowed, ancient copies of a paper that I used to read daily. I found that, in some ways, nothing’s changed. In some ways, the world is a very different place. Mostly, I found that flipping through 8 months of newspaper headlines in 2 hours is a very disorienting experience. This was all before the internet delivered everything. It’s pretty wild to think about the ways in which the classic video shops of the 80s and 90s are obsolete. VHS tapes, the “adult” section behind the curtains, underemployed young people discussing cinema. Instead, we now have streaming…

Read More

I Don’t Write Enough for Myself And I Bet You Don’t Either

By Adventure, Film, Musings, Trip JournalNo Comments

One of the RV Project’s favorite people, Flannery Shay-Nemirow, had a blog called Recounted Experience, and she used the following quote from Jean-Paul Sartre as a tagline: “For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.” I liked that quote, although I didn’t think about it much. It just sounded good. The quote reminds me of the famous declaration, attributed to Socrates, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This is another series of words that sounds like a truism, though, again, I don’t think I ever knew exactly why it struck a chord. The following quote from an article in The New Philosopher addresses the extreme position Socrates is taking: In a world of abiding uncertainty and complexity one can recognize a certain attraction in not examining too much, for too long in life. Thus the allure of those who offer to provide clear answers, simple directions, precise instructions (whatever) so that you may set aside examination and merely comply, or unthinkingly follow custom and practice – perhaps living a conventionally moral life rather than an examined ethical life. One can easily imagine how pleasant an unexamined life might be. And it is for this reason that I think Socrates makes his claim so uncompromising. Flannery doesn’t update her blog anymore, sadly, but the aforementioned quote often pops into my mind when I feel the need to process some happenings, and recount them properly. Recounting 4 years ago, I put painful abrasions in my armpits by…

Read More