Sunday, March 23, 2008

the outdoor physical challenge town

There are towns where almost everyone you work with is like this: they have the Bachelors of Something -- they prefer business -- and in most cases they have or are working on the Masters of Something -- MBA, ditto. Their current job meets their criteria for their current stage or they're looking for something else; the type of car is crucial; and the serious relationship; upcoming are spouse and kids; and after that all one's goals transfer on to the unsuspecting shoulders of said tot, who grows as fate, his parents' teaching and genetics determine. These people do that 'digging the rows their parents plowed' thing, and their purpose seems primarily to be to populate the planet.

That's the entire Midwest in a nutshell.

In a few rare cities, your coworkers have forgotten all of their evolutionary purpose and are instead hoping to try a new drug or sex with a new person (or maybe a new TYPE of person), or to write a play, poem, novel, performance art piece. This type of place doesn't exist just to shock the baby-makers (or to define evil) in the rest of the country: the real idea, from my perspective, is to experience life and leave a more personal mark on it.

That describes Brooklyn & Leipzig to me.


There is another kind of place. I must have known this type of place existed but it seemed kind of ridiculous until recently: the Outdoor Physical Challenge Town. Everyone here wants to bust out of the office and test his or her body against the forces of nature.

In my town there is a small group of people like this, and they hang together. You don't see them at mass, or at the parent-teacher meetings, and on holidays they're at off in the woods.

In Denver, it's almost everybody. Everywhere you look there's some wack hairy dude with five panniers racked to a fixed gear bicycle, pedaling casually uphill, three quarters of the way up a mountainside or on the edge of a freeway, or a skinny half-naked woman climbing rope-free up a seven-pitch crack in full view of a class field trip, or carrying skis up a tree-infested cliff just to try to wend back down on them without dying.

I am not sure why this sort of place exists.

Okay, that sounds hypocritical as hell, plus I'm guessing about my explanations of the attitudes in other sorts of places as well, but my guesses there at least don't suck. Adventure City? Why...? Is it just some strain of contagious testosterone poisoning?

I could try to explain why I// love to climb, but I'm not entirely sure myself, and anyway even if I could say exactly why I do it, that doesn't explain why a whole city would have what is essentially an irrational urge.

The only thing I can think is that that it's the view. I'm thinking other people's behavior might be somewhat different if out of their office windows were a towering naked cliffline instead of a row of hopefully-closed curtains in the Marriott Hotel. To paraphrase Mallory very badly, it could be that we climb the mountains because they taunt us. "I am here," they demand with a defiant finger toward the sky. And we listen, because the mountains' grasp on being is firmer than ours. I mean, rock fall might tear off a mountain's digit here or there, but 10 thousand years from now, Hallett Peak will probably still be proudly, silently dicking with the minds of whatever creatures live nearby. But we little humans? Where will we be?

It could be that people who have to look at the mountains everyday feel compelled to go to the them in order to attempt to share in that more permanent type of existence. To rub up against it. Call it a religious experience if you like, a la Mohammad and Moses, but it feels more like a dare to me. We pit ourselves against the mountain. If we survive, we prove for the time being that we deserve to exist. That we have as much right to be here as the jagged rockpile we came safely off of. It's a temporary sort of proof, and failing to get it is disastrous, but I have felt that way myself.

How weird.


At 9:31 PM, Blogger ynot said...

well said! I think that stuff but can't get it so nicely into words.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Sully said...

Blah! "The midwest in a nutshell." I live in a midwestern town, have two adopted children, and run. I run with a large group of people - "my crazies" I call them when we run in the snow or sleet or 90 degree heat.

We are grown-ups, but we still like to challenge ourselves and to "go outside and play". Evolutionary or not, it's a joy. Isn't joy why you climb?

At 8:57 PM, Blogger terry said...

hey, cool. somebody read this. (are you my sister?)

if all i wanted was joy, i'd shoot heroin. i want focus & challenge & gritty rock under my nails. the joy (which i do also like) comes up top.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Noreen Sullivan said...

Focus and challenge, and gritty rock under your nails. Sounds interesting. I'll take the first two.

What's happening?


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