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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Sunday, October 30, 2005

What All My Education Adds Up To

Oftentimes as an English major I get the question, "What do you hope to do with that?" and sometimes the question, "Just what kind of papers do you English majors write?" So I decided to combine these two very important questions in one answer. Namely, I'm revealing to you a paper that I wrote a few weeks ago for my Advanced Composition class. In it, I had to give a cause and effect essay on why my resume should be looked upon with favor for a particular job that I'm applying for my future career. I had to do a great deal of boasting in it. I had to fit the requirements for my assignment. But through it, i hope to display both the summation of my educational endeavors and the training that we English majors go through with our diligent paper writing. Enjoy.

Ever since I was a child I watched the rodeo with all the wonder that fills a child’s eyes. Ironically it wasn’t the grim cowboy that caught my imagination but the bold and defiant rodeo clown that transformed the entire rodeo ring into a dazzling panorama of wit, panache, and daring goofiness. I believe that my application to your rodeo company should be looked upon with favor because I have these vivacious characteristics embedded within all the entries of my application no matter how different they may first appear from the art of bullfighting.
The jobs that I’ve held in the past have shown me to possess the liveliest spirits in the midst of some of the most darkening times. In Alabama, one of the first jobs that I’ve ever held was grave digging. Most people when they hear of this experience they usually exclaim how morbid this exposure to death should make me. However, burying all sorts of people helped me to realize how life is all just passing us by. No one is excluded. Whether we shy away from dangerous situations or we plunge forward we will all one day be making that six foot journey down into the earth. A person might as well learn to laugh his way through life’s dangerous situations and mix a good guffaw with every breath that he’s allotted. Such an attitude should be central to a rodeo clown’s mentality.
The hobbies that I have listed also reveal a very capable and potential rodeo clown. The more adrenaline rush I experience, the more enjoyable time I have. One of my favorite pastimes growing up was what I termed “rent-a-cop running”. This was a little game that I used to play with the mall security in the woods next to my neighborhood. They would chase anybody who trespassed in these woods. So I would enjoy taunting them and getting them to chase me. Such an exercise utilized my mind and legs in such inventive ways that I would not now be even considering applying for a rodeo clown position, if it wasn’t for this knowledge of how well I’m acquainted with both my mental and physical potential. One of the most important attributes that a rodeo clown should possess in order to stay alive would be the ability to think on one’s feet quickly and efficiently. Those long summer days in the woods on mall property trained me to have this ability to a sharpened degree. No one could dodge a Mounty-hatted security officer better than I, and no one can dodge a raging bull while making the crowd erupt with laughter as well as I could.
One of my extracurricular activities during both high school and college that shaped my gifts that would be priceless for a professional rodeo clown was my pursuit in the art of mascoting. The stadium would be filled with impatient fans and I would have to entertain them all in the disguise of a burdensome animal costume. I was clown of the entire football arena and I knew how to work them for a good laugh and for a good cheer. This ability is highly important when rodeo-clowning. Another consideration with the mascot was how through Harding University I was made to be a big bison. I had to put on the persona not only of a clown, but also of a bull. I had to become one with the bull. This dual nature is radically true for a rodeo clown as well. The rodeo clown must get in touch with his own inner bull as well as his inner clown. He must know the spirit of the animal that wants to gore him in order to escape this goring. As Buff the Harding Bison, I learned how to be both the bull and the clown.
Lastly, I know what it’s like to be attacked by a bull. It’s happened twice in my life and one time the bull succeeded in connecting. The first time I was working on a farm outside Searcy helping to feed a baby bull. Yes, I know that a baby bull can sound deceptive; however, any bull is big enough to crush the biggest man. I was trying to feed the tyrannical toddler when he went into a fit and swung his large horned head at me. I sufficiently parried his lunge with his own feeding pan. Horn and pan went “clang” and corn flew everywhere. I laughed at the mean beast and quickly chided his temper tantrum. The other time, was when I was in the bison suit as mascot for our Homecoming game. Harding University has the tradition to have a real bison out grazing around the field during a football game for Homecoming. Well, I was there doing my awesome job of mascoting. The bison mascot mask had my vision blocked to a minimum. All that I could see out of were two little holes. I was shaking hands with some kids through the fence at the stands when I felt as though one of the football players had punched me. I turned around and there through the eye holes was the beastly snort of an irate bison bull glaring at me. Did I shudder? Did I fear? Not hardly. I laughed and quickly retreated, all the while sending the kids who saw the whole incident into explosions of laughter. I do not think that there is any clearer incident where a person has his own great potential as a rodeo clown glaring at himself than in this story.
Scholars say that music to Mozart was an innate ability. Biographers say that Michelangelo was a great painter even before he picked up his first paintbrush. I really believe that rodeo clowning is something that is just waiting to be poured out of me. These life experiences have revealed this to me. I really believe that if you hire me for your rodeo I could be one of the greatest rodeo clowns in the circuit.

That's it. I got a C+ on the paper, mostly due to my excessive wordiness (can you believe that) and all my grammatical errors. (who cares about details? It's the theme, man, the theme where potential lies.) I'm not really applying for a job in a rodeo. But I've thought about it. I actually have a distant cousin whose quite the star as a rodeo clown. Anyway, I'm glad I could clear a few things up and maybe persuade a few of you to become English majors.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Exploits in Cross-Country Bus Riding

...To conclude my Colorado excursion
In Breckenridge I grew restless and lonesome. I decided that I had had my fair share of mountains. I felt closer to God. I even went to a church where no one talked to me unless you count the time that I was about to sit down on a pew and somebody spoke up to tell me that someone else they were expecting was going to sit there -And I felt like I had been gone far longer than a week and a half. I lay in a tent hidden in some bushes at some resort town around Breckenridge with the rain pouring down when the thought finally struck, if I am content with my experiences so far why wait another week for Sean (my ride there and supposedly back) to get out of his meetings? I had already spent more money than I had originally intended and there was really nothing more to do. Especially without a car. The American West is no fun if you don't have a car, truck, or horse to ride into the sunset with. Everything's so spaced out. I decided the first thing next morning was to take a bus all the way back to Alabama. -And I must admit that was an adventure all in itself.

My first step on the bus was in Frisco, Colorado. The seats were nearly packed with tired passengers all the way from Los Angeles. It was 8 in the morning and everyone wanted to get off the bus when I stepped fatigued from the long ride. I sat down right next to a fellow who I thought looked like an honest truckdriver just from his facial characteristics and clothes. I pinned him exactly. He had just started his job as a truckdriver and he moved his large Bible so that I could sit next to him. I started talking to him and the fellow started talking back and he went on and on. He was a trucker. I guess they take every opportunity to open their mouths to someone when they get the chance. In fact, he talked so much about his Filippino wife and the Philippines and his church, that his voice was the only one that you could hear in the entire bus. Everyone was stone silent, either asleep or listening to our conversation.

3 hours later I arrived in Denver and switched buses. This time I was walking towards the back, looking for a seat. This procedure is crucial for you at all costs want to avoid people you know you will not click with or that may irritate you. There is a fine science to Greyhound bus riding. I feel like after this summer I could write the guide to it. I glanced at this one seat where this cute, harmless (two adjectives that are rarely found on a Greyhound) female. I stepped past her thinking that i shouldn't look like I'm rushing to sit by her. Play it cool was always my motto. But then...I thought about it. This is a Greyhound bus, what's the chances of ever sitting next to a cute, harmless looking girl that smiled at me when I walked by. I stepped back hurriedly and grabbed that seat.

After many miles of finishing my book, as it turned out, I broke the silence with the girl whom I had the foresight to sit next to. She was from Scotland and highly intriguing. Her name was Jules Wallace, (yes, Wallace, just like William Wallace) she had a very strong Scottish accent which made every other thing that came out of her mouth incomprehensible. She had bought a Greyhound pass that allowed her to go from city to city within America and Canada as many times and as far as she wanted in the span of a month. I asked her where she was headed. She answered, "I'm a-gaaoin' tu Madison, Wisconsin." I asked her what she hoped to see there. She replied, "Ii don' know, I' find oout when Ii git therr." She sounded like my kind of person. We talked on and on. Our bus group would go on breaks, sometimes switching drivers and sometimes buses. This stretch of a bus ride was to last a full day and a night and Jules was to be my company. Others joined in. For conversation is like that when you ride the bus. You get so bored sitting there for so long that you begin talking to everyone around you. -And talk about variety. There was this one very ditzy, ugly girl across from me who had actually been on the Jerry Springer Show. She talked about the fight that she had staged on the air with her best friend over her boyfriend.
At bus stops, Jules and I had alot of fun. In Kansas City we stopped in the middle of the night in the seediest place in the entire 4 states around...the Greyhound Bus station. There we started watching people and she started this game with me where we'd not only watch people but make up stories about them. It was truly at the time one of the funnest things to do. I couldn't sleep at all that night. I sat awake the whole night while Jules sat next to me and the bus kept rollling eastwards. I kept debating whether or not Jules and I had bonded well enough for me to use her shoulder as a pillow. Not because I was extremely tired, more so because I found her downright attractive. I don't know whether I would right now. But romping through forests for a while and comparing her to the other passengers of the bus she was the cutest thing around. Her personality couldn't be beat. I totally felt relaxed around her. Like I could be myself. And she made me laugh and I made her laugh. And she told me about how she had skipped her college graduation this summer to go gallivanting around America, and when I asked what her plans were for the future and she answered that she didn't know she just wanted to get a simple job back in Scotland maybe loading boxes onto shelves just to make enough money to pay for her next trip. Hearing all this, I pondered and I couldn't help but find her adorable.
Well we parted ways in St. Louis. It was in the downtown bus station where tons of Amish were ironically loading onto buses, I so wanted to board with one and sit next him or her. A fight almost broke out among some of the gangstas around. I boarded my bus to take me down south. And Jules bus took her northwards to Wisconsin. I thought sadly to myself as I sat on the next bus that perhaps my soulmate was now going north while I was going south and we'd probably never see each other ever again. Oh well, such is my life. I tried to get some sleep in the next hours.

Nothing interesting happened until I got down into Alabama. It was in Birmingham that the last story happens. Already the day had passed and night had arrived again, I had only dozed a couple of minutes since I stepped on the first bus almost 2 days before. While in the train station in Birmingham. I noticed two people, a guy and a girl that stood out among the rest. I studied them trying to figure out just who they were. Then the truth hit me, these people were Russian. This wasn't the first time I met a Russian on a Greyhound this summer (see my posts on my New York trip). I immediately, asked the Russian guy what time it was in Russian. He was very astonished. While on this last leg, I sat in front of the couple talking the whole way down about Russia. The guy was from Moscow, where I used to live. The girl was from St. Petersburg. We rambled on and on, until it started getting late and people were trying to sleep. One irate black man who was trying to sleep kept telling us to keep our voices down, for all 3 of us were very excited about our conversation topic speaking loudly. Finally about 11 or 12 we piped down and the Russians were trying to sleep. I just sat there. For like the night before it is impossible for me to sleep sitting up. But the silence of the bus was interrupted by a little black boy who kept playing on the arm chair of the Russian guy, Sergei. This was a problem for Sergei for he was using it to rest on. However the kid kept using it as well as Sergei as a jungle gym while laughing ecstatically. Sergei told the kid to keep quiet and stop bothering him, but this only provoked the little black boy further. Again Sergei asked him in the firmest most serious tone to knock it off. But again the kid continued, being entertained by Sergei's annoyance. Then I thought that maybe I should try to get the kid to shut up. So I told the kid to come here. Then I whispered in his ear, pointing this large, ugly, scantily-clad woman to the aisle across from Sergei who was passed out and who had tried hitting on me earlier that evening. I told the kid that she was dead and that if he didn't be quiet then her ghost would come back and eat him. To get a kid to understand you, you must talk like one. The kid didn't believe me. But I could tell that just the thought itself scared him a little. By the way nearly all the lights were off in the bus at this hour. So any such story to any kid should worry them a bit. Well, the kid went on agitating the Russian swinging his feet onto the armchair and the shoulder of Sergei. The little black boy wouldn't relent. I learned that his mother who sat in the seat behind the Russians called him for whatever odd reason, "Bread and Butter." So finally, when I, myself, began to feel agitated I pulled my shirt over my head and swung around and appearing headless and reaching out for the boy with both arms while gasping in a very harsh whisper, "Bread and Butter! aaahhh!" Just like a ghost would. Well, Bread and Butter's eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets. He jumped and screamed and ran to his mother in fright. He grabbed his mother's switch (which I can see why she kept it out)...this woke her up and she yelled nearly waking everyone in the bus, "Don' you be grabbin' mah switch Bread n' Buttah!" "Pop" went her hand against his leg. And then he cried in loud sobs in anguish waking everyone else in the bus who wasn't already awake from her yell. The Russian thought this the funniest thing, seeing how his tormentor was punished so. He laughed and grinned hugely (which is a big thing for a Russian) and gave me full credit for this turn of events. He gave me thumbs up and then tried finally to get some sleep. The entire bus sat wrapped in complete silence, for a couple of minutes, when all of sudden I heard someone approaching from behind I turned around and it was Bread and Butter with his shirt pulled over his head and he reached out to me mimicking the terrible phantom that had scared him so badly. I thought this laughable and let him have his fun. Then once again I pulled my shirt over my head, which sent the kid running terrified back to his mother. And somehow throughout all this I finally arrived in Dothan. My sister came to pick me up at the bus station with one of her friends. The Russians sat looking out their window waving and smiling really big. I made some loyal friends there. But they were heading to Florida. So I finally arrived home. On Monday morning about 8, I hopped on the first bus. It wasn't until early Wednesday morning about 1 that my long journey was over. All during that bus ride I really didn't sleep at all. If you want a real adventure, take my advice, get on a Greyhound and go just about anywhere.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Higher Places

I stood on the side of the road with my thumb sticking out. The huge monster of a mountain range towered off in the distance. The mountain mists were pouring off the peaks in a threatening puff of grandeur. I stood there worrying about the cold, my next supper, my next bed, the next few hours of daylight, my next encounter with whomever it was that was willing to pick me up.

I was dropped off from a bus in the thriving old mining town of Leadville, Colorado. I had the desire to the climb the highest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert. Not to mention the highest mountain of the actual Rockies range in the lower 48 states. I asked the bus driver how far it was to the base campgrounds of Mt. Elbert and what's the easiest way of getting there from her drop off spot. She said in short huffs that it was a good 5 miles to the base camp. She said that the easiest way to get there was to hitchhike. So I stood on the side of the road with my thumb sticking out, glaring at the stalwart beast of solid rock with its slight mane of snow and ice.

Several cars zipped by on this main road in Leadville, when finally this ford bronco truck, slowed with his brakes. I walk up with my backpack bearing into my shoulders. I got a quick glance at the license plate. New York. "This shall be interesting" I thought to myself. I opened his passenger door and this average looking man in his mid-thirties asked me where I was going. I told him Mt. Elbert. I looked around inside his vehicle. He had junk thrown all over the back. No seats in the back...just junk. "Interesting." I surmised. He had this cat with him. "So he can't be a serial killer."I reassured myself. Serial killers were known to torture and kill animals before they progressed to humans. Then I noticed the shards of collected rock on the dash. "And he's into science. This guy's harmless."my final thoughts sounded as I sat down in the passenger seat.
The man's name was Mike. He was doing exactly what I was doing. Hiking around the Rockies. Although his truck enabled him to cover the whole west. He had been doing this for a couple of months. He lived the last 10 years of his life tinkering with computers at a cubicle in Manhattan. When he decided that he had had enough. He quit his job and drove out west to go climb some mountains. -To reconcile his life to nature. -To reacquiant himself to the horizon. The stubble on his face showed his grin bolder than it would have had he shaved, as he rambled 90 mph about everything. I could tell he had been alone for awhile.
He was on his way to hike the collegiate peaks a couple of hours south. And that's when he saw me whom he thought was a European that was in Leadville for some sort of marathon. We talked on and on as he told me about Mt. Elbert which he climbed a few weeks ago. The truck bounded into the forest park of my much wanted campsite. Here the campsites were all assembled, not crowded however, with other hikers. Then he asked me the question. Since it was getting late, and since he hadn't climbed, Elbert's also huge neighbor, Mt. Massive, would it be alright if we were to split a campground for the night. He said that he didn't want to freak me out or anything and that if I wasn't at all comfortable with it then he would understand. We each had our own tents and the other campers were only a stone's throw away. I should probably also mention that there is this persistent belief among hikers, I saw the logo on a T-shirt at Pike's Peak which read, "Never trust anyone below 10,000 ft." I remember reading that and thinking about the principle behind it. When you are up in the mountains away from the city, a certain trust and friendliness takes place between people. Crime and corruption..these things take place all below 10,000ft. High in the mountains that's where the friendliest people throng.

I said it was alright. So we diligently set up camp. My tent was within hearshot of a beautiful, shallow stream that gushed over rocks. I could hear the sound at night as it soothed me to sleep. That first night we sat up a little after dark, which was late for me during this time period, eating and talking. I told him stories about hiking in Tibet and Greece. He told me of his adventures out here in the Great American West. I entered my tent, read a little bit more and laughed at myself for making sure I knew where my pocket knife was just in case he tried anything, as I drifted off asleep.

The next morning I awoke with legs that were still sore from my Pike's Peak hike only 2 days ago. Mike was up eating breakfast. That's when he asked me if it would be alright if he hiked up the same mountain as I. He said that he's hiked up dozens of mountains by himself but rarely with another person. It was only going to be day hike. A couple of hours to the top and a couple of hours down. I said okay. I understood why he wanted to join me so much. He did, indeed, have an ulterior motive. The wilderness will do that to you. I noticed only after a few days of being out there. While in society, a man begans to get suffocated and long for a time when he can return to nature. However, a man who is swallowed in nature for awhile, longs for companionship. He misses talking to someone and having someone talk to him. Man cannot be happy with one extreme. He must have both. Mike was lonely. And I could see it in his speech and hear it in his laughter. (Two actions which he did often for he had probably gone without them for a long while). I myself could feel this loneliness pinching at me. So I was not at all opposed to the idea.
We left our tents and luggage behind at the campground and started up. He locked his cat, Jezebel inside the car to keep it away from bears, coyotes, and any other creature that might find cat a delicacy. We carried water, a few snacks, and our cameras with us. The hike up was rough. I will not lie. However, I was doing well for someone that just hiked a 14,000 peak a couple of days before. I was even tiring out Mike, although he was a good 10 years older than me, he did have a pair of fresh legs conditioned by a couple of months of climbing. Youth and litheness will sometimes win over experience and training. I don't think I would have been that much more ahead of him, if he conserved his breath instead of spending it talking to me. I only wasted my oxygen to put in the occassional "uh huh", whenever he paused in between his discourse.
It seemed that everyone we met coming down had given up saying that the climb was too rough. Most of these hikers were old men or hikers with their children, so it wasn't too threatening. One of these old men we met carried a walking stick with the state of "Texas" carved on it. This started a whole conversation when I found out that he lives in Lubbock. The same Texan city that I lived in. In fact, his partner who had not given up on the hike so easily was an instructor at the same small Bible college that I went to for my AIM experience. So I went curiously up the mountain seeking for this old white-haired man that was described to me. We found him right above the tree line. He had given up also and was coming down. We met and I must admit that I didn't recognize him though he claimed that I looked familiar. We departed ways, he seeming only wanting to get to the end of his misery. Myself and Mike yearning to reach the summit.
The last half above the treeline was excrutiating. The sun bore down on my already sunburnt face. I used an undershirt as a bandana to keep my forehead from getting blistered. You could look off at the awesome land that spread all around us. The last stretch Mike was still yakking on and on, but now only when we stopped for a break and that's when he began to tell me the story of 9-11 from his own eyes. He was there in Manhattan when it all occurred. After the first plane had hit, he walked out into the street astounded at the catastrophe when the 2nd plane crashed into the other tower. As we stood on the side of this huge mountain embedded within one of nature's most brilliant paintings he told me about the crashing of great towers and all the New Yorker's reactions to it.
As we neared the top well enough to see the last of the snow, the wind lashed down on us. It grew colder. -And the solemnity of the moment was lost by the strangest occurance. Two young girls each about 16 were coming down the same path that we were going up. They had no equipment with them. They were dressed as they had just got back from a shopping spree at the mall. They both were very skinny, something of them reminded me of Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. All that I remember was that one of them was wearing this sort of pink jogging suit. As Mike and I, looking like we were rugged mountaineers, heaving with every step, took note of them through our sweaty eyes; they were nonchalantly coming down the mountain with their prissy walk. All we heard from their conversation was one of them say to the other very sassily, "You suck." At which the other responded while flicking her wrist, "No, you suck!" Still the first one returned, "No! you suck." This talk kept going back and forth between the two as they descended down. Mike and I were taken aback at this phenomenon until we both busted out laughing.
We both reached the top. All 14, 433 ft. We stood at the highest point of Colorado in meditation. We signed the log book up at the top. We took a few pictures and Mike helped other people with their cameras. After a good rest we made the descent. And this is always more fun than going up. Mike and I talked freely now being no longer restricted with our breath. We had an excellent conversation on everything ranging from Shakespeare to church, from Bob Dylan to Mark Twain. I'm sure we were both glad that we had each's company. Being tired and fatigued we made it down and still had plenty of hours of sunlight.
We decided to treat ourselves to some real cuisine. So we got in his bronco and went towards town. We ate Mexican in celebration. That night after the sun went down. We sat at camp and had a very deep conversation. I told him my reasons for coming out to Colorado. Mike was curious. I told him that I had had some doubts about some things. He asked what kind of doubts. I talked about all sorts of things that had been going around in my head for the past year or so. I basically told him that I had to find out if the God of the entire universe, one that I believed in as a christian was really all that concerned about little me as much as my religion makes him out to be. Sometimes I wonder how come the skies are so silent. How come if He's there, how come He seems so distant. Such simple questions a child could ask and yet they are some of the most profound questions that any person has had to wrestle with. I told him that if I put my faith in this God...will everything be alright? Will he really take care of me? I grinned and as the light from the lantern hit my face, I told him what I had found out. So far on this trip everything pointed to the fact that God is concerned about me. I broke out my Bible and flipped opened to one of my favorite passages. Where Paul is in Athens. And I spoke by the moonlight, and by the fir trees swaying above us, pointing to everything that one's eyes could see and admire and love, and said that, indeed, there is evidence of something out there wanting to commune with us. It's greater than these forests and older than these mountains, and its at once the grandest thing and the most beautiful thing. I pointed to this passage where Paul is quoting some Greek Literature. Poets of long ago have felt this to be true. -And our full picture of this comes through in the person of Christ. Though I cannot understand how that works, and that can kill one's faith if focused on too much, however, it is the fullest expression of this great thing or person wanting to meet with us. Mike was not a christian. He had studied a little bit of Buddhism. I could tell that he was really searching. As was I. I gave him the names of a bunch of books he should read. "Blue Like Jazz" and "The Divine Conspiracy" to name a few. And he seemed geniunely interested.
The next day we left after he almost lost his cat. Mike told me that he would drive me anywhere north for he was going to meet his father in Cheyenne. I told him Breckenridge. We took off whipping in between mountains on the highway singing to the Beatles. He dropped me off at a hostel in Breckenridge. I gave him the list of those books and we departed. And I continually think back to him and I hope that he's doing alright.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Bum of Vail

The bus dropped me off at the luxurious city of Vail. Usually, I tend to avoid the ritzy places of a region, but this was the most practical bus route to take in order to get to the next mountain that I wanted to hike up. So I entered a nice replica of a Swiss alpine village cropped in a valley somewhere inside the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Many of you have heard of this place called Vail. It is a famous ski resort in winter, and an ultra nice getaway spot in the summer. Big shot lawyers to vacationing movie stars flock to its chateaus. I arrived just as the sun was about to lay its head down behind the mountains. And I didn't have a place to lay my head. I had no reservations, no credit card for a reservation, no money for a credit card, no nerve to actually carry that much money to pay for a night of sleep in Vail. I didn't even want to know how much the cheapest hostel around cost for a night. I strutted through the bustling cobblestone streets in my ripped pair of blue jeans lugging my backpack on my shoulders with the dirt, sweat, and grime still coated on me from my scramble up Pike's Peak. I looked at the fountains with all the rich kids playing in them and considered beside the fountain as a nice place to rest for the night or maybe a park bench somewhere. -But I doubted Vail's security enjoys the look of homeless people scattered throughout their streets. So I knew that my rest for the night would have to be away from the town and it must be hidden. I glanced at the mountains spreading out behind the town, and I saw all the intricate clearings interweaving all over the mountainsides where the famous skiing took place. I saw how empty it all looked back there, now that it was summer and there was no snow. Just huge slopes with nothing but grass. I knew that this was to be my hotel bed for that night.
I climbed up trying to hide from the sight of lingering workers in the valley below, scoping the area out where for a brief few feet the slope leveled for a human to lay down. The grass was very thick and there was no telling what kind of reptiles where slithering in it. Luckily there was this one area of pure flat level rock just big enough for a man to stretch out on. I pulled my green poncho out of my backpack and throw it ontop of my bright red backpack hoping to camouflage my things. There was to be no tent tonight. The whole resort could probably see the bright yellow color when morning was to come around. I descended the slope just as the sun was descending from the sky. And I made it back into the village, unnoticed of my task, and glad to be rid of my burdensome backpack. I walked around taking in the sights and sounds of the whole town. Resplendent families walked here and there. Couples, both old and new clung to one another as the guitar men in the cafes struck their chords and sang their vibrant melodies into the mountian night air. I sat beside a fountain and listened to one of these guitarist play for everyone in a nice French restaurant that had a patio out into the streets.
After the streets began to empty out and the guitarist stopped their strumming, I went back to my designated spot of slumber, and there with the town lights below still burning bright, I thought how neat it all was to be here. I thought about all those people inside those little beams of yellow light streaming from their windows, how tonight they would rest their minds in sheets of silk and satin. -And how I with no roof over my head , on hard rock, wrapped in a rain poncho with the moon, stars and mountains glaring over me, how I would sleep. -And I would not have traded with them if I had the chance. I lay there watching the moon bathing the scenery in its silver light. It was barely peaking over the mountains to gaze at the town and all below. Eventually my eyelids closed for their final time that night and I slept.
I awoke to the greyness of the morning before the sun was on its hot pursuit towards the center of the sky. There were few people bustling about, and if they strained their eyesight up towards the slopes they may have been able to have seen me coming down. I made it to the bus station, planning to get to the next 14,000 peak very soon. The bus was not leaving until almost 5 that afternoon; it was now about 6 in the morning. That meant almost 12 hours in Vail. I had alot of time to kill. I hid my backpack in a skier locker room and went about exploring this town. I found neat nature observatories and gardens with all types of information written on them. I even made a trip to the Vail library and there saw a symphony, all in my torn-blue jeans. After lunch (luckily there was a Subway in Vail) I decided to try and get a bath of some type. It had been 4 or 5 days since I last showered and I don't think that it was very pleasant for the symphony goers around me. (It wasn't like a real symphony with tuxes though).
Now if any of you readers have ever been to Vail, you know that I cannot overlook one major detail. There is this stream that runs through the heart of the town. It's a whitewater stream of pure mountain water that crashes and spills over all the rocks in the river. The mountains spills out its heart in a foaming surge of unleashed vigor. This presence of force, of heart, of powerful solace would not make the town what it is if it was omitted from the scene.
So I decided what an ideal thing to do but to, while trekking around Colorado, to bathe in the rushing waters from the source and essence of these great mountains. I bummed some soap from a hotel and then followed a trail up river to a place of complete solitude. When I was absolutely positive that I was away from civilization, I stripped down and stepped into the water. A painful sting rose through my legs. I hollered. Mountain water is a little colder than muddy Alabama creek water. I waded out to the deepest part about thigh-deep and lathered myself in soap and then I would dip my whole body in for only a couple of seconds. That's all that I could bare. With each dip I hollered from the cold. Next, was my hair. I had to wash my hair. I rubbed shampoo in it and instead of dunking myself under the water, which would have been excruciating, I bent over dipping my long hair into the rushing stream. With my fingers I rinsed the shampoo out and cried in a savage, "Aaaagghhh!" every time the freezing water touching my scalp.
I was a true mountain man. Bathing in these waters, making all kinds of primitive yells, completely naked and free, in a mountain stream in the Rockies. After my feet went numb, and I was content with my questionnable cleaniless, I perched on a rock and fetched my clothes.
The stream was naturally in a valley, I happened to glance upwards when I made it to the rock and I saw a jogger, running on the top of the hill only a stone's throw from myself. I knew that he had to have seen and heard me yelling like that. I slipped on my boxers and right as I got them around my waist I saw another amazing sight; a whole family emerged on what was obviously a popular trail directly above me where the first jogger was seen. The parents quickly pushed their strollers with their little ones further up the trail away from their ghastly viewing of this particular scene in nature. Realizing how well-used that unnoticed trail was above me, I wonder how many joggers, bikers, idle walkers witnessed my bath when I was bent over, my head upside-down, half submerged in the water, yelling, "Aaghh! Aaiii! Aiiii!
I threw on the rest of my clothes and sprinted out of there fearful that someone had called the police. -That's how it is with me. I 'm always wanting to do something ideal and poetic, and somehow I always just seem like a madman to everyone else. Soon after, I hopped on a bus towards Leadville and my next mountain to climb.....

Monday, October 03, 2005

Back to Mountains and Such

Okay, so I decided to make an attempt at refering to many of the stories that happened this summer in Colorado because I feel that I cheated you the readers from the knowledge and myself from the recorded memory of these adventures. So I pick up where I left off.
I emerged at the pinnacle of Pike's Peak, to find the summit swarming with tourists of all types of age, race, type, and locality. It's sort of ironic to use all of one's strength and willpower to hike up a mountain. The whole entire grandeur and majesty that's associated with reaching the top, you would expect to meet in utter solitude or at least sharing it with other rough hikers. You never would assume that Aunt Mamie would be at the top taking pictures along with her computer guru kids fighting over slices of pizza at the gift shop. There was a whole entire restaraunt at the top!
I will admit I did get tears in my eyes when I first rose to the summit, and heard these tourists singing the very song that this mountain had historically inspired, "America, the Beautiful." -And beautiful it all was to know that I had reached the top by foot to America's most popular mountain. However, it was a little irritating whenever I wished to sit down inside, away from the cruel sun that had blistered my face already, to see within the gift shop and restaraunt no empty seats. All the tourists that had galloped up the side of the mountain by car or train, had swiped all the seats....sitting there stuffing their faces with chili cheese fries and lemon pie. -And poor little me whose legs were wobbling just trying to stand up, whose lips felt like they could be peeled off from the wind blasts, whose stomach was growling at the energy intake that it hard so long ago burned up; I had to go back outside and sit on a rock.
I only brought with me 3 dollars. I didn't think that there was an entire mess hall on the top of this 14, 000 footer. And nothing worth eating was under 4 dollars. This was a tourist trap and me, the least tourist of all, was the only one truly trapped. I desperately needed something to eat. It would have been very hard to make it down that mountain without more substance in my belly. Eventually I was able to nab a seat inside and there only to brood over who to go to and bum a dollar off of. I decided to try to get that very hotdog that was calling out for me and then go to the cashier and realize that I was short only a dollar. The cashier looked like a nice, honest guy. And when he saw my famished face and my starving eyes and how I assured him that I climbed up this mountain with only a dollar short for the hot dog that I craved, he told me not to worry about it that he would pay the rest. I gave him a big thanks and then quickly devoured the hot dog.
After my hike down the first half to the midpoint post (where my tent was set up from the night before), I rested reading "Blue Like Jazz" the only book besides my Bible that I took out there. I also began talking to many of the other campers that were from all over. Most of them much older than me. I think I was the only one from the east out there. I meet a girl from Texas. Her name was Jane and she taught music. She was about my age, and I came to find out that she was a very solid christian and had climbed the first half up the mountain in order to undergo her own sabbatical. I asked her what type of crisis she was in or what type of big decision lay before her, she responded none. That she was doing this sabbatical out of devotion. You could say that she set an example for me. Well, the next day the both of us would be hiking down the 7 miles to the very bottom of the mountain. So we hiked together. We talked on and on about church, mission work, upbringings, shortcomings (that was mostly me talking), just our spiritual lives in general. And we gave each other advice. We got to the bottom and we waited on her friend whom she promised would give me a ride to the bus station. Her friend showed up, which I can't remember his name, which was ironic for in the short ride that I was with him, he greatly affected my whole trip. He was brought up in the Church of Christ. (When I asked Jane and also he which church they now attended they both would respond that they belong to a house church. Interesting). They took me to the Greyhound station in Colorado Springs and then they both prayed over me. Which was amazing. Then headed on a bus deeper into the heart of the Rockies. My next stop...Vail.