Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Mountaineering Bug (For Newbies)


I've lived in the pacific northwest for nearly ten years now and have been into backpacking for some time. I've hiked and camped some beautiful backwoods over the years and every once in awhile I would catch a remarkable vista of one of the surrounding snow-covered peaks that famously dot our horizon. Well, it was just a matter of time before the same invisible force that inspires my long walks in the woods would be coaxing me up those mountains. Last year I went up Mt. Adams with some friends and that was my first taste of what it was like to travel up to 12,000 feet in elevation via my own two feet. Now I can add Mt. Hood to the list.

Ever since the Mt. Adams hike, I have been on a mission to properly prepare myself for a more technical mountain. Even though Adams is just a basic walk-up (on the route we chose) it still is a mountain, and when we were there it decided to prove it by producing a severe white-out snow storm with 50mph sub zero wind gusts at the summit. You can read the blog entry and watch the video I made here: Mt. Adams Hike. During that hike I had zero experience of how quickly weather can change from beautiful sunny skies/warm weather to zero visibility, freezing cold with ice forming on my face. I was wearing regular hiking pants and short sleeve shirt with no base layers. On my feet were my flexible Merrell trail boots. I wore a pair of super thin stretchy gloves, a soft shell rain jacket and a puffy synthetic coat (that I sweated through) for warmth. I had rented crampons and an ice axe at least. Oh, and my water bladder froze.

I have since spent a lot of time and money researching and buying the necessary equipment  that will help me endure the harsh elements of future mountain climbs. For example, here is my new and improved list of items I now own and have used on Mt. Hood:

Minus 33 merino wool (base layer)
Weatherproof alpine hiking pants
Marmot Alpinist Hybrid Jacket (mid layer)
North Face Point Five hard shell (outer layer)
Salewa Condor Evo GTX mountaineering boots
Black Diamond crampons
Kahtoola microspikes
Mammut Skywalker climbing helmet (w/ Contour Roam2 mounted camera and headlamp)
Black Diamond alpine harness
Black Diamond ice axe w/ slinger leash
Outdoor Research high gaiters
Smith goggles
Outdoor Research Arete mountaineering gloves w/ liners

When wearing all this gear I am reminded of what a coal miner might look like, and in continuing that string of thought I find it interesting that the deeper or higher one goes on planet earth, you end up looking the same. Also, the conditions are life threatening in both directions, though I would much rather risk my life for a summit view rather than a dirt tunnel.

If you've ever looked out your window and stared at Mt. Hood and wondered to yourself what it would be like to climb it, I'm going to attempt to give you an idea of what you're in for within the words of this blog post. When I decided that climbing snow-covered mountains was going to be my new passion, I started watching every mountaineering film I could find. YouTube is a rich source information; anything from short clips to full length documentaries. Honestly, the best thing to do right from the start is watch a disaster scenario video that way you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Especially if you have a spouse and children that are depending on you coming home alive. Don't go unprepared. Knowing the potential dangers is part of the preparation and the following video clip is a terrifying example:
You'll notice that all it took for this climber to fall was a small chunk of ice tumbling his way followed by the instinctual reaction to block it with his hand. During my ascent on Mt. Hood, a chunk of ice almost identical in size to the one in this clip came loose from above, gained momentum as it rolled down the slope, and hit me square on the back of the hand that was gripping my ice axe. It hurt badly, like when you're a kid and you catch a fast pitch in your glove from an adult. I never saw it coming so I didn't have an opportunity to react, I simply took the hit and had to shake off the pain. I realized then just how serious all things can become when climbing a mountain and was reminded why wearing a helmet is essential.

Netflix also has its fair share of mountain related movies. Amongst them are two of my all-time favorites: Touching The Void and The Summit. Both of these films are remarkable in their own right and shed a harrowing light on how dangerous mountaineering can be, while simultaneously illuminating just how addictive the sport becomes for those that catch the bug. Every expert mountaineer seems to have their own personal tale of tragedy and loss, yet they continue climbing peak after peak as if the loss of friends and lovers is nothing compared to the mystical spell the mountains have cast upon them. And it's true, I can already attest to the magical pull of Mt. Hood. When I see it against the horizon on a beautiful clear day from Salem, I long to be there. I can smell its sulfur stinging my lungs. I can feel its frigid air and hear it whipping against my clothing at 40 mph. I can taste the debris of ice as it sprays back into my face from digging my axe in. I can sense the weirdness in my head from being so high up and working so hard to get there. I can feel it breathe beneath me as I climb up slowly.

So you've bought all the equipment and watched all the films, now what? Well if you're like me and are not the athletic type and find working out to be a chore and not a pleasure, then you have some work to do. You can't just go from couch potato to mountain climber, sorry. You have to at least get used to walking long distances with a weighted backpack. That's the bare minimum. Even better, start doing squats and lunges and jumping jacks and core work and stretching every single day. For at least 45 minutes. On your days off, drive out to Henline Mountain and climb it with your weighted pack. If you do all that stuff you'll be getting into better shape, but even so, when you take that first step onto Mt. Hood and realize everything from that point forward is straight up and forever long, you'll quickly realize where your weaknesses are and wish you had trained harder and longer. My first attempt resulted in me having to turn back about an hour and half from the summit due to a muscle in my left hip (lliopsoas or sartorius maybe?) seizing up and hurting so badly it brought tears to my eyes. I was so disappointed. I had climbed for so long and was within an hour push to the top, but I knew it wasn't safe to continue. So start conditioning yourself and get used to the exhaustion because that first time up a mountain will be the hardest thing you've ever done, trust me.

Okay, so now you've completed everything up to this point and you're ready for that first climb, but you can't stop wondering what you're getting yourself into. Well, let me explain what you have to look forward to. It's called an alpine start. If you plan on climbing to the summit in one day, as opposed to climbing part way, bivouacking through the night, and summiting the next day, then you will have to begin your climb really early in the a.m. This is due to the sun. Once the sun rises and begins its march across the sky it begins to heat up the mountain which creates greater risks such as ice and rock fall and avalanches. For example: I worked all day on Friday and clocked out around 3 p.m. I went home, showered, gathered up all of my equipment and left Salem by 7 p.m. After stopping for gas and food I arrived at Timberline parking lot at 10 p.m. I assembled my Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite cot and set it down between the front bumper of my car and the concrete parking barrier. I then pulled out my Western Mountaineering down bag and bivy sack, plopped them onto the cot and voila! My temporary sleeping arrangement. I napped until 1:30 a.m. Upon awaking I changed into my mountaineering outfit, packed up my cot and sleeping bag, locked my car and hit the "trail" by 2 a.m.

I put trail in quotes because the first several hours of the climb is merely steep hiking up crunchy snow in the dark of night. There is no designated trail. The Palmer ski lift is to your left. You will be walking up the bumpy paths the snow cats make with a headlamp illuminating your way. When you look above or below you, you will see the bobbing headlamps of other climbers. You will also see the spotlights of the snow cats far up near the top of the ski lift. They will be in constant motion as they groom the slope getting it ready for business day. When you get within range of them always be attentive and keep your headlamp on, for they are large and loud and the drivers are probably jamming to metal music and enjoying the shit out of their job while you are just a tiny human walking slowly by. Getting run over by a snow cat isn't a mountaineer's idea of a noble death, so give wide berth and don't dally in their work area.

Once you've passed Palmer ski lift it's now just you and the mountain and the rest of the climbers. Depending on your conditioning, the sun is either up by now or soon will be and you are probably nearing the good stuff. You'll enter into the Triangle Moraine and at this point (or sooner) you will have to stop and attach crampons to your boots. It is colder now and steeper and icier and you will need better traction. You might also want to start using your ice axe as a walking stick. As you get even higher, the ice axe doubles as your self arrest tool in the event that you should fall and need to stop from sliding down the mountain. It's a good idea to practice this technique on a less aggressive slope that way you have the feel for it ahead of time.

When you reach Crater Rock followed by Devil's Kitchen, you have arrived at what will now be the upward half of the hardest part of your day. You've been walking all through the morning and your body hurts and from this point forward every step you take gets harder and harder, steeper and steeper, not to mention you're now in the danger zone. A fall from anywhere here could very easily result in death. On either side of the Hogsback ridge are large fumaroles and crevasses that you would almost definitely slide right into, SO DO NOT FALL. Be careful and take your time. Let faster climbers pass you and if you are unsure of how to do it just stand still and call out to them as they get near you. Dig your crampons and your ice axe in and tell them you are secure and they will go around. Don't worry, if they are moving fast that means they've probably done this before and they're used to it. When they're past you, continue on. Once you've committed to the final stretch, that is, everything from the Hogsback and up, it isn't very easy to stop and take breaks. You will always be sideways, clinging to the mountain face at an extreme angle that you are not used to. It feels awkward and unsafe and stopping to straighten your body and stretch feels scary and dangerous. There are no flat spots until you reach the summit.

You'll see experienced climbers act as though it's no big deal. They will stick their ice axe into the hard snow, take their pack off and attach it to it, dig out food and water and remove jackets or put jackets on, all while standing there nonchalantly like a fearless mountain goat. You, on the other hand, will be too terrified to try that. Instead, you will suffer in the smoldering heat from all the layers you are still wearing because attempting to remove them is too risky. That level of skill and courage probably comes after a few more climbs I imagine. I suffered and sweated all the way up the Old Chute.

When navigating the steepest part of the climb it's best to simply kick your toe spikes into the ice and whack your ice axe above into anything solid. If it's soft and mushy, yank it out and whack again. When it's a good hold, pull yourself up and repeat the process until you reach the top. Oh, and DO NOT FALL! I'm fairly certain that it would be impossible to self arrest from anywhere inside the Old Chute. It's just too solid and steep.

Reaching the summit is a wonderful feeling because of two reasons: a) you get to bask in the glory of achieving a difficult and dangerous task and b) you get to finally rest on flat ground again. Rest, relax, drink water, eat some food, enjoy the gorgeous view from 11,250 feet above sea level. If you explore the summit be careful around the edges. Cornices can be deceiving death traps that will break off if too much weight is applied, so be conservative with your vantage points and don't try creeping up to the lip and peeking over. It's not worth the fall.

At this point the only thing to do is go back down. In every movie I watched and article I read about mountaineering accidents, 90% of all deaths occur on the descent. This is because you are extremely fatigued having worked so hard to get to the top, and now gravity is working against your tired body as you retrace your route back down. When I reached the edge of the Old Chute and looked down at what I had just climbed up a half hour ago, I freaked out a little bit. My stomach knotted up and I felt like a little kid who climbed high in a tree and was now too scared to climb back down, but in this situation my father would not be bringing a ladder to rescue me and staying on the summit was not an option. I had to go back down, it was that simple. When there are zero options it certainly helps the decision making process. I stood there awhile and watched others go down and finally got my courage up to make my descent. That first moment when you turn around backwards, look down through your legs and step awkwardly down, hoping like hell you're placing your foot in a good spot and that you're properly balanced, is a frightening thing. I was pretty scared most of the way down actually. I was scared that a crampon would pop loose, or that the head of my ice axe would pop off, or that a muscle would cramp up, or that a chunk of the ice face would dislodge. All of these things spelled disaster. You just have to push those thoughts to the back of your mind and focus on every step. You do this all the way down until you finally reach the safer section of the mountain. And then you simply... walk forever... all the way back down... glissading when you can... but trudging along mostly... through the thick melted snow... deep steps... post holing... exhausted and sore and so ready for sleep.

The next day, after you've slept harder than you ever have before, you get to feel your body react to what you just put it through. All the wonderful pains in places you didn't even know existed. And while you're nursing all those sore spots and reminiscing about the insane adventure you just experienced, you will find yourself smiling and thinking about the next mountain that you'd like to climb. Maybe Mt. Shasta? Am I ready for Rainier? Holy shit, what about... Denali? Could I actually climb something like that?!? And that's when it hits you... yep, you've got the mountaineering bug, for sure. This is how it happens, I'm telling ya.

Here are my two Mt. Hood videos:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Peace And Love... It's Not Just Hippie-Dippie Bullshit, Man

Today is Saturday Song Salute, but before I get to that I want to first talk about a few things that are on my mind and heart. I don't do this much anymore, as many of you who follow my blog already know. I used to fasten my heart to my sleeve via life update blog entries, but stopped doing it awhile back. I'm trying to be more professional even though I still think it's important for people to know what's going on in the hearts and minds of their fellow humans. I like to believe that by writing about the serious thoughts in my own head and allowing others to read them, that I become an avenue of learning and healing for those who choose to read. I am grateful for everyone I've ever read who took the time to write something down that I desperately needed to hear at a certain moment in my life, so I guess I feel like I'm returning the favor when I do it.

So what's on my mind then? Yep, you guessed it: love/relationships. I've been going out again. Yes, to the bars. Where else can one go where you find yourself surrounded by people willing to chat with complete strangers? Bars are unique in that everyone who's there is there for the exact same reason: to drink a few and unwind. Granted, when you break it down a bit further the reasons become more defined, but in a nutshell most people go to bars to relax and unwind. Everyone knows the minute they pay their tab and walk out those doors, every aspect of their regular lives will be there waiting for them: jobs, relationships, responsibilities, bills, health issues, the banality of life, but while we're inside the bar drinking and conversing we forget that other part of life exists. If only for a few hours.

I recently found myself having a conversation about my cat. I was talking to a girl and she asked me what my cat's name was. I said he had an embarrassing name and that I didn't want to tell her, but she insisted on knowing, to which I replied with this ultimatum: I reveal my cat's name if she agrees to answer any question that I ask. She agreed, so I asked her this: "What do you want most in life RIGHT NOW? If you could have one thing, what would it be?" Her response took less than a few seconds: "Peace and love." I told her that was two things, but I let it slide since they were both beautiful answers. Obviously the conversation that followed was filled with heartfelt, alcohol-fueled ideas of what peace and love meant to each of us and even after she was long gone, I continue thinking about it now.

That's all we truly want in life, right? Peace and love. It doesn't take a complete stranger to reveal that, we know it all along but often times we simply forget. Maybe the expensive toy parked in the garage that has four wheels and a motor temporarily distracted you from it. Or maybe your last failed relationship has distracted you. Or maybe juggling two jobs and raising children has distracted you from it. So many things can step in the way at any given time, some of which are wonderful, but peace and love always seems to be right out there... just beyond the fingertips of your outstretched arm... waiting. And yet most of us have no clue as how to reach out and grab it, and so we forget about it and instead go for the things we can reach: money, booze, drugs, vehicles, television, occupational advancement, sports, sex, etc. We each have our own list, varying here and there, but for the most part they're all quite similar regardless of socioeconomic status. Some just get more than others.

I've had all those things already and yes, they seemed to make me happy at the time. I remember when I lived in North Carolina and owned a jet ski and a boat and would go to Lake Hickory every weekend and frolic on the water. That was a blast! So much fun was had, but in the end my wife and I divorced and all those things went away and I was once again left with that empty feeling inside and that nagging question: what do I want in life? Peace and love, man. That's all I really want. I'm always happiest when I'm in a relationship with a girl, even if it's a shitty relationship. I find peace in companionship and find love there too, even when I shouldn't. So what does that mean? If I find peace and love in relationships that aren't meant to be, how in the hell does this whole peace and love thing really play out? When I'm single I tend to get a little crazy and walk through Salem with one flip flop while cursing like a mad man, so I know that isn't the answer, but if the opposite isn't either, then what is?

I think it comes down to finding it within yourself, huh. That's got to be it. If you find peace and love within yourself, and I mean REALLY find it in there, then no outside force can fuck with you. Ever. Nobody can take that away. I've come a long way from the depressed Mick that used to write horribly sad shit so many years ago. Over time, I've listened and learned and grown considerably closer to truly knowing the peace and love inside me. It's there. I can feel it on my good days (which are more often than not) and I'm getting better at embracing it, but I'm far from perfect at all of this. I'm a novice here, just like you. I'm not afraid to say I don't have everything figured out yet. I also realize I probably never will, but I assure you I will never stop reaching for and wanting it. Peace. Love. Happiness. Yeah, that's all I want.

That and a jet ski again.

In sticking with the current theme, this Saturday Song Salute goes to Carsie Blanton and her song Smoke Alarm. I discovered this amazing artist via a podcast called Tangentially Speaking (host Christopher Ryan, author of Sex At Dawn). His podcast, by-the-way, is absolutely worth listening to and I can't recommend it enough. Intriguing guests and fascinating stories told an hour at a time. Tangent! Okay, back to Carsie. In the song Smoke Alarm, Carsie sings about the brevity of life and how we should never allow a moment to pass us by. If an opportunity presents itself and excites our inner being, then by god we need to jump out and go for it! Letting moments like that slip on by in a life that is infinitesimally short on the grand scale of things is equivalent to committing an act of sin. When listening to this song, the cliche "live life to the fullest" comes to mind as does the aphorism "carpe diem", but both are invaluable to experiencing everything you can in life and gaining a better understanding of why we're here in the first place. If you see something you like grab onto it and enjoy it while you can, because it (and you) might not be around to grab tomorrow. As always, use your headphones to fully appreciate and enjoy the following favorite song of mine:


And then this showed up on my FB wall the day after I wrote this blog entry:
http://www.lifebuzz.com/start-doing/#!DVmc4

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I've been asked to join something I know nothing about. It's called the Blog Tour. Apparently a group of writers have come together and decided to share their process of writing with anyone who is interested in learning more about it. You know, from the people who already do it. Turns out I am one of those people. What is my main motivation? My extremely unreliable memory. This is why I didn't do very well throughout my schooling years. I have horrible retention skills and my brain is constantly erasing life as it happens, so I got in the habit of writing my thoughts down early in life that way I could always "check my notes" if I wanted to remember past events. People who know me will immediately recall how often they'd see inked words on the back of my left hand, on the fleshy part near the thumb joint. That's been my daily post-it pad for years.

A little about me:

I am a thirty-something middle class garbageman living in Salem, Oregon. I wrote my first poem in middle school. It was about the blonde curls of my beautiful math teacher whom I had a major crush on. I wrote my second poem shortly after finding out she was fucking my favorite science teacher. I was immediately heartbroken and felt as though I had been robbed of my adolescent fantasy, and I quickly started learning about the little angles love can take in life. From there, poetry simply became a part of who I was. It wasn't until much later in life that I actually began branching out into writing prose; before that it was all poetry.

1) What am I working on?

Nowadays I find myself writing short stories and poetry mostly, but have recently written a full length novel called In Through The Eyes, which I plan on self publishing soon along with a compilation of poems and short stories. The novel idea came to me shortly after learning about an online annual event called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This is a great way for writers like me who have been considering writing their first novel, but never really dug their toes in. It was just the motivation I needed to get my ass into gear, so I joined up a week before it started and went for it. After writing 1,600 words every day through the month of November I succeeded in completing my goal of 50,000 words by December 1st. The book has since grown to right around 60,000 and is now in second draft mode.

The story follows a garbage man, Fischer, who has led an insecure life as a recluse, antisocial oddball. His life takes an up-turn when he meets a girl who begins to break through his walls, opening him up to the outside world he's been missing all along, but all of this progression comes to a screeching halt when an incident at work changes everything and Fischer begins going through radical behavioral and physiological changes.

 2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm not sure really. I feel that it will simply fit right into the thriller/horror genre without making any big waves or splashes. It's a very fun story to read in that it's simplistic and easy to digest; it will not win any awards for "most thought provoking" or "disturbingly brilliant analysis on life", but it will take you on a wild ride with the main character in a way that you won't easily forget. I tried to make it a story for all, although some of the scenes that occur could be geared toward a slightly older audience.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Honestly, because of a troubled past. Poetry has always been a release for me, much like the pressure valve on a steam engine. I tend to wander through life without much direction, constantly seeking out new niches where I feel most comfortable, and upon settling I often find that my emotions swell over time and my heart begins to grow weary. The poetry I write is often poignant and difficult to read, but a necessary part of healing and growing. When it comes to the stories I write, they are simply a creative avenue of escape; new worlds for myself and my readers to live in temporarily while the real world spins hurriedly around us.

4) How does my writing process work?

Pretty much in flux with my personality. There will be days/weeks where I don't want to be around people, so I retreat to my writing desk and spend time with my muse. Also, life experiences tend to drastically affect my level of writing. For example: the loss of love may send me spiraling into the depths of creativity for weeks or months on end, whereas witnessing a falcon splatter across the front of my work truck may only be a blip on the writing radar. Also, in all honesty, alcohol is a factor too. If I'm drinking, the relationship between writer and muse becomes more relaxed and our courtship is far less a challenge. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. I've written many a favorite poems and prose while under the influence, and conversely, I've written many favorites while completely sober. It just seems to come easier with the former, not the latter.

This is the part of the Blog Tour where I'm supposed to introduce a new writer to the ring, but I regretfully announce that I have no one to introduce, so I will instead just thank Riya Anne Polcastro (Storyteller Grrrl) for giving me this opportunity to present myself to the writing community and allowing my personal story to be there for others to explore. Miss Polcastro is without a doubt a terrific writer and storyteller and I feel honored to know her as a friend. Her words will create all the waves whereas mine will create mere ripples. If you haven't already, go check out what she's been up to over at http://serratedroses.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/187/ and tell her hello. She's been busy getting her own novel ready for publishing and I highly look forward to seeing the final product.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two Writes Don't Make A Right.

I've allowed my blog page to become an empty wine glass left atop a mantle and forgotten. The lip stick smears are still there as are the faint traces of oily fingerprints all around the belly of the glass, but the contents have long been downed and the good time that followed is nothing more than a sex stain on bedroom sheets. Where have I been, you might ask? Around, I would answer. Around this town like a lonely lover looking for a warm place to stay each night. Sure, I still have my own place, but these walls seem so much closer now and I feel somewhat claustrophobic. My place was already small enough before the walls started closing in, now it's damn near impossible to breathe. My cat, however, doesn't seem to mind one bit. Actually I take that back, he does mind me being gone all the time. He sits by the door waiting for me to return while I'm out on the town seeking friendships, aka, full glasses of wine.

I deleted my account profile at All Poetry. I had been a member there since 2006, had written hundreds upon hundreds of poems and made many friends, but recently felt like I no longer wanted to be a part of that community. And so, after printing out every poem, I finally said goodbye. Actually, there was no goodbye. I simply... vanished. So to any of you from AP who came here looking for me and wondered what happened, now you know. Your poetry will be missed. I haven't written a poem since deleting my account; I sure hope I didn't sever a creative connection. Time will tell.

What else has been going on? My novel. I completed my fictional novel and have since edited
it to the best of my ability. My three beta readers have all dropped the ball, so it's left to me to figure out where my story is weak and fix it before sending it to a professional editor. By using beta readers I was hoping to lessen my expense on an editor, but I guess when I finally hire someone I'll have them do the deep story editing too instead of mere punctuation and grammar. Out of the three, only one has told me that my story is even any good, so thanks goes out to her at least for boosting my confidence. She also pointed out a few helpful tips during a beer session, but I didn't write anything down because I thought I was getting her notes back. I'm a little frustrated, but hey, it's all part of the publishing process I guess. It's not supposed to be easy and there will always be bumps in the road, I just didn't expect them so soon. So now it's time to go shopping for an editor and take things from there.

I met a very awesome local writer here in Salem who has also written a novel. Two novels actually, but I only read one of them. She is a true talent in every sense of the word and I was honored when she asked if I wanted to beta read her book, which I did. After reading it I tagged two places in her story that felt a little... off. She has since went back to the drawing board and is editing her book fiercely. We're both doing the same stuff at the exact same time and it's all pretty cool. We're both also looking to self-publish and become indie authors. Fame and glory and riches await! Haha. She recently tapped me to take part in a blog tour that features writers and highlights their writing process, to which I accepted. So I guess that sort of explains my sudden return to my blog site. I abandoned it but am now trying to quickly resurrect it in time for this blog tour thing. It's happening write now, so I need to get snappy.

I'll end this blog entry with my latest hiking video. Me and two friends drove out to Maxwell Butte and hiked up to the top where we then skied and snowshoed around for awhile. It was a lot of fun even though there wasn't very much snow. A nice little getaway and a small taste of many harder/longer hikes to come. The nice weather is finally upon us! Ok, that's all I have for now. See you rascals next time.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Song Salute

Do you know what today is? It's okay if you've forgotten, it's been a long time. How about I remind you with.. a song! That's right, it's Saturday Song Salute, ladies and germs. For this salute I've chosen a song sung by a lady who's voice can be the rivets that hold a ship together at sea or the waves that crash that same ship apart. Same holds true for the song you're about to hear called L.A. Song. Quite honestly, I don't know if anyone other than Beth Hart could deliver this one as powerfully. It is the perfect example of a voice matching the mood that the lyrics set and the accompanying music just takes you right where you need to be. The piano part is divine, might I add. I'm a sucker for a great piano song and this one has that in spades.

Let's move on to the lyrics. What can I say except... WOW. She tells a story that many of us can relate to on varying levels. It's a story of a girl trying to find her place in an out of place world, moving through all of the usual suspects: drinking, running away, relationships. Yeah, how many of us have been down that road? I know I can unabashedly raise my hand. Life is hard and it can take an entire lifetime to figure out. During that process we may fall (or place ourselves) into situations that only allow us to fall deeper, but if we're on a path of learning and growing we get back on that train and head back to what we truly need. The girl in this song did just that, as have I in life. I wonder if I had heard this song eight years ago when I was packing my car full of clothes and hugging my family goodbye, about to leave Pennsylvania and head out west, if I would've paused and reconsidered. Music can be that powerful sometimes. People who say otherwise are being disingenuous.

Okay, enough with my words, on to the music. As always, this song needs to be listened to via a good pair of headphones or earbuds. Seriously, you want Beth Hart's vocals to be right there inside your head and soul. Please don't listen to it on your shitty laptop speakers, that would be like meeting your hero without brushing your teeth and combing your hair. Enjoy!

"L.A. Song"

She hangs around the boulevard
She's a local girl with local scars
She got home late, she got home late
She drank so hard the bottle ached
And she tried and she tried, and she tried and she tried
But nothing's clear in a bar full of flies

So she takes and she takes, she takes and she takes
She understands when she gives it away
She says

Man I gotta get outta this town
Man I gotta get outta this pain
Man I gotta get outta this town
Outta this town & out of L.A.

She's got a gun, she's got a gun
She got a gun she calls the lucky one
She left a note right by the phone
Don't leave a message 'cause this ain't no home
And she cried and she cried, and she cried and she cried
She cried so long her tears ran dry
Then she laughed and she laughed, she laughed and she laughed
Cause she knew she was never comin' back
She said

Man I'm gonna get outta this town
Man I'm gonna get outta this pain
Man I'm gonna get outta this town
Outta this town & out of L.A.

It's all she loves It's all she hates
It's all too much for her to take
She can't be sure just where it ends
Or where the good life begins

So she took a train, she took a train
To a little old town without a name

She met a man, he took her in
But fed her all the same bullshit again
'Cause he lied and he lied, and he lied and he lied
He lied like a salesman sellin' flies
So she screamed and she screamed, and she screamed and she screamed
It's a different place but the same old thing

It's all I love, it's all I hate
It's all too much for me to take
I can't be sure where it begins
Or if the good life lies within

So she said

Man I gotta get out of this town
Yeah and now I gotta get back on that train
Man I gotta get out of this town
I'm outta my pain
So I'm goin' back to L.A.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Club Music


I've ceased all wireless transmissions; have hardwired the lines between all the electronics and the mainframe of my heart. There are no more signals here, I'm pretty sure I eliminated them all. They were disgusting little creatures, invisible beams of sickness that crept through me at night while I slept. Now they are gone and I am left with an eerie stillness that can be felt if I hold my fingers out just right. At a soft angle, adjacent to the floor like this.

I still stand on aluminum foil every night before I sleep. It discharges the static freckles that litter my internal frame and make me self conscious with my own soul. It is shaped like a West Virginia golf course- the aluminum foil, not my soul. But both are worth playing on.

In the other room I have club music playing loudly and I am pretending there are girls on my sofa getting it on. They are still clothed, but not fully. If I walk out there and peer around the corner I would most likely see exposed breasts being fondled by the hands of the girl seated beneath the topless one. She is grinding herself against the one beneath; her skirt is riding up exposing her soft, eggshell white legs. I almost said eggs.

The bass from the music is thundering against the walls and I wonder if my neighbors hate me yet. They tend to leave bags of garbage outside their front door, so my music is more like a "fuck you" that I've patiently waited to deliver. I think I'll go turn it up and see what the girls are up to now.

Seventeen Seconds is how long it took me to do that.

The Ring Of Fire will not leave me alone. It comes more than it goes now, visits me in my sleep even. I'm beginning to wonder if the expanding universe theory is happening inside my head. I will make it a point to invite Neil deGrasse Tyson over after the girls leave and the club music has ended. I will politely ask my neighbors to discard their trash before he arrives. We will sit together and discuss my options. He will want to look inside my head. He'll bring astronomy equipment that will appear more menacing than it really is, and I will have to hold very still while he assures me it will only hurt a little bit.

Hold on, I have to piss.

My father met his real father for the very first time on his 66th birthday. He also met one of his brothers too. They came as a pair from wherever they live in New Jersey to meet my father after all this time. Two pool hustling Jews packing heat, is what they turned out to be. It seems I finally understand myself a little bit more. Dad too, he beat them both at billiards and sent them home with their bifurcated tails between their legs. Our family just got a little stronger.

I'm writing poetry again, but I can no longer stand the website where I've been doing it for the past 8 years. They've decided to make members either pay a monthly fee or force them to leave comments on other poems before they can post a poem of their own. What kind of socialist bullshit is that? I've been a paying member all this time just because that's how I roll. If I like something I pay for it. But now I no longer want to give them money and I am in the process of removing every poem I've ever written there, all 547 of them. It is a painstaking process that I do not love. I'm going to miss that website and all the people I've interacted with, it's a damn shame that the admin became a communist turncoat who will now suffer a miserable, agonizing death in the burning valley of Gehenna.

Fucking Hell,
I'm done talking.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mount Adams Hike

It's Sunday morning and as I look outside I see the rising sun burning through the tree tops, creating an electric zoo of flash dancing, brightly lit creatures all across the starboard side of my apartment complex. I am drinking my brain kicker coffee (organic dark roast+Kerrygold unsalted grass fed butter+coconut oil+cinnamon+honey+blender) and writing this morning blog while watching god turn sun slivers into marionettes for my amusement. Speaking of god... yesterday I wrote a short story where I played the puppeteer, and in doing so I fabricated the lives of three young American kids and in turn, completely destroyed them, all in an effort to drive home a political point. After having written that, it dawned on me that writers get to "play god" every time they write. We envision, we create, we conduct, we conclude; and during that process we choose all of the emotions and every outcome, which now that I think about it, is actually bigger than god. Politicians can't even do that. Hmm, no wonder the religious texts that exist on planet earth have led so many millions of humans in certain directions. The power of the written word... is it the greatest force known to humanity?

This is your Captain speaking, that is all.

Okay, now that my opening thoughts are out of the way, let me tell you about an awesome hike I got to be part of last weekend! A group of seven guys, mixture of friends and coworkers, decided to hike up Mount Adams in Washington state. We drove up first thing Saturday morning, stopped in at the Ranger Station to obtain our passes, and then began our hike at the South Climb #183 trailhead parking lot. It was a gorgeous day and pretty good good workout to reach the lunch counter where we spent the night. My total pack weight was 34 pounds, including crampons. After a fun, relaxing night around base camp, morning came and three of us (myself included) decided to hike to the summit. Again, it was a beautiful day (at 9,400') but the higher we hiked the colder it got, and eventually we found ourselves right in the midst of a completely different environment. I think it was somewhere around the second false summit when the weather really took a turn. I can't say for sure, but I think the wind gusts were around 150,000mph and the temperature dipped to well below freezing. In other words, it was FUCKING COLD, man! I wasn't exactly prepared for that type of weather; my gloves were nothing more than two stitched dish rags and didn't do much in keeping my mitts warm. Same goes for the rest of my clothing... way too thin for freezing temps. But, needless to say, we marched forth and made it to the summit (12,276') and I am here to share the pictures and video of our journey! Okay, I will shut up now and let the pics tell the rest of the story, enjoy:
Osprey Atmos 65
Let's go!
Headed up (with view of Mt Adams)
Mountain flower
UFO sighting?
Taking a break...
At the watering hole
First glacier crossing
Base camp at the Lunch Counter
Mmm, food!
View from camp
The Valley Boys

The whole crew
Nearing the summit
C-c-cold!

My summit pack (Marmot Kompressor Plus)
At the summit!

Powerful
So there ya have it, some fun pictures to look at. And if that's not enough, I even made a video, which you can watch right now if you want: