16 April 2019> 3 more nights til we moove into our home + serendipitously the journull entry du jour is back from when we reunited w/ our bedder-½ sum 25 yrs ago, back when we was still foot-loose + fancy free, afraid still of committment to love or home, resigned to wander the whirled in purgatory.
April 2, 1995 —Safford, Arizona
I can't complain about this homeless lifestyle. Except now, against my resolution, I'm about to sleep in the same location I slept in last night, which is in a king-size Best-western bed in front of a fully-loaded TV and refrigerator, coffeemaker and the desk at which I write. Now that I was getting sick of sleeping in the van. I'm into alternative sleeping environments and this decadence is just one of many. And what did I have to do for it? Hike around in the desert with this spacey 50 yr-old hippie from Bozeman Montana. We walked in 25 x 500 ft. intervals and then returned in one fell swoop. At each locality, he would tag it with pink ribbon and I would set up the massive tripod I had been lugging like Jesus carrying his cross. Then I would hook up the Global Positioning Satellite computer and wait for it to make contact with the satellites. Somewhere in the air we cannot see. Meanwhile, Dave Matherly would be taking gravity readings and read them off to me. We did this every 100 feet. The air was full of creosote pollen and our socks covered with spines and ticks. It's a harsh landscape. We were examining it up close. The clouds rolled in over the snow-covered Mt. Graham. I have this heinous head cold that is clogging up my head. When we went to retrieve the gravity base (to calibrate our data) the batteries had died so we have to the last three readings over again. We have 210 localities to test in all. Patching together the gridwork with information.
April 4, 1995—Safford, Arizona
The satellites tell us where we stand. Even the blind can navigate. This GPS can land you on the Earth within 50 feet. We try to walk in straight lines, pacing off 200 steps. I had my gators today to fend off the evil weeds. A threatening shower chased us off back to the truck. It cleared up so we worked on the base. I found a chipped white arrowhead. The sky growled, it smelled of ozone and creosote. And here I am raising a $60,000 computer on a metal tripod grounded into the soil. Dave stepped right over a baby rattler without realizing what it was. The sky felt it would crackle apart. We got in our last reading and the rain chased us back. Once again, the batteries at the gravity base died so we'll have to redo the last 3 points. My eyes burn and my shins are itchy.
The sky was a bowl of rice krispies seething ozone under a creosote bush where I found a white arrowhead. I study the fractures that read a story, the chipped flint is a tale like me typing away that will get etched into a silicon chip. A speartip I will fashion to puncture people's hides. We'll tie in the data points of the grid with a gravity base reading.
April 8, 1995 —Safford, Az
Here's a scenario of the past 7 days and the next few to come: Wake up at 6:45, stuffed up with a sore throat from breathing through my mouth. The air thick with pollen. Blow my nose and make a pot of joe in the little coffeemaker in my hotel room. Keep blowing my nose with no satisfactory results. Wash snotty crud from my burning eyes. Sneeze. Eat a yogurt and a banana. Maybe watch CNN or the weather channel. Fill three water bottles, 1 liter each. Put an apple and a bagel in my pack. Maybe some pistachios or dried apricots. 7:15 I emerge from my room and help David load the truck. Two huge tripods, 2 orange cases each with $30,000 GPS computers, a steel case with the $75,000 gravity detector (carry very carefully!), orange steel-encased batteries and our packs. Stop at circle K for another cup of coffee. Maybe stop at 'Anything Goes' to Fed Ex off data diskettes. Blow my nose. Munch a cough drop. Watch the scenery go by as we drive south to 666. Pull of the main road onto a gravel road. I jump out to open each gate. Stop at a bench mark to set up the gravity base. This is a GPS reading that we leave running all day to tie in our other data with gravity fluctuations due to the tides. Eat an orange. Go back to the truck and figure out what station we'll start on. 210 stations in all. A base line with 4 or 5 axises running off of it. Park the truck, douse on Bullfrog, strap on my gators, connect the GPS to the neon tripod, put the handheld computer and the battery in my pack. put the pack on and sling the tripod over my shoulder and set out for the 1st station. Use the small handheld GPS to find our approximate whereabouts. Trying to make sense of the topo map and our relation to it. Drink some water. Take a compass reading and find a landmark to sight on the horizon. Tie orange ribbons to Creosote, Palo Verdes, Chollas, etc. Pace off 200 steps (500 ft) stopping every once in a while to back-sight and tie off more plants with neon flagging. Eat an apple. When we find the next station, I set up the tripod, raise the GPS to 2 meters, make sure it's pointing north, plug in the battery, plug in the computer and run it through a dozen or so commands, plug in the new coordinate name. Pull a thorn out of my gator. Meanwhile David is setting up the metal dish and then placing the gravity meter onto it, levels it, then slowly adjusts the reading from the crystal spring until he gets a reading. He reads off the exact time and the reading and I enter this into the computer. We won't talk for a long time then suddenly he’ll throw out something like "Did you know that Nancy Sinatra did a spread for Playboy last month?" (she's over 50) Makes me wonder about the train of thought in his mind. What about the train in mine? Wait until the GPS has locked onto at least 6 satellites and has had sufficient time to register then turn it off, pack it away, tie off a stone, right the coordinates and toss it on the ground. Then off to the next station.
This is ideally. But things always go wrong. At the end of the day we get back to the base reading and the batteries are always dead so we have to go back the next day to redo some of the stations. Or there will be an earthquake somewhere in the world and the gravity meter will fluctuate wildly. Or there will be a magnetic anomaly that is screwing up the compass and throwing us 5 degrees off, hence not in a wash like we're supposed to be or in a saddle, etc. The line we are supposed to take goes through prison property or through private land and someone’s house (skip these). The GPS will lose lock on a satellite and reset. Our counting will get off. We'll lose our sights. Not to mention the bugs, this evil sliver covered weed, the thorny plants, the spiny cactuses, the thick brush of cat claw, the milkshake of itchy pollen, the heat, rattlesnakes, scorpions, barbed wire fences, etc. All in all, it's a blast. It's the wandering in between, always on the lookout for gold or rattlesnakes or buried treasure. I did find an opal arrowhead. And afterwards eat ice cream and chips and salsa and beer and expensive foods because Kennicot is paying. Lounge in my king-size bed and channel surf cable TV.
April 13, 1995—Tucson
Back in town, to homeless wanderings. Got in on Tuesday night after more work in dust storms amidst javelinas. My allergies have hit a new state of despair. I pray for rain to wash the pollen out of the air. I went out to eat with Adriana on tuesday night and managed to get out of her house though she was trying to coerce me to spend the night. Slept on an unknown quiet residential street.
Woke up to wash the crusted snot out of my eyes at Bentleys then went over to Geotemps and filled out a shitload of paperwork. Turned down the job at Cypress for other better possibilities, such as a 6 month "you name the price" sort of job down in Chile—the only catch is that knowledge of AutoCAD release 12 is reqiured. So I paid a visit to SCLERA and found out the dirt on Stefan, he ran off with Zetetic technology and filed a patent and started his own company. And after 6 months of no results, he got really desperate and is suing Dr. Hill for previous use of his patent that he stole from them in the 1st place. What a weasel. The worst kind of white-collar, bite-the-hand-that-feeds, lazy, dirty criminal. Dr. Hill is letting me use their computers to brush up on my AutoCAD (albeit it's release 10). Had to do a bunch of driving in the heat, errands, dealing with car insurance people and the bank, got $70 for my guitar, got my mail, etc. Went to the climbing gym for a short workout and a shower then met Heather and went out for dinner and she was being quiet and weird but wouldn't really speak her mind. We stopped by Todd's and everyone was there, the biker gang, Terri, Adam, Scott, Glenn, and this girl Dana who is some hardcore climber chick and then Todd shows up with the infamous little Jeff. Finally I meet him, I tripped him out with all the dirt I knew about him from his exploits and troubles with the law in Custer the summer before I got there [we lived in the same shitty apartment in South Dakota that he did]. Heather was being all weird and kept asking me if she was keeping me from doing something so I just escaped that little scene for Todd and little Jeff's scene which was basically one with only one goal in mind and that was to drink a lot of beer.
We left for the DPC to see the grifters, hanging out in the parking lot with the other punk rockers, being loud and boisterous, throwing beer bottles, etc. until it got redundant and I talked Todd into going to Congress where we ran into Mia and some friends outside and then Sean and Dave and we went in with them. Sean was in the process of telling me about how Adriana approached him and said "make sure you let Derek know that I'm free and available" when I feel arms around me and it's her. She kept hinting for me to buy her a beer and I just ignored her and finally she just outright asked me (just like the night before she asked me to buy her dinner). This time I wasn't going to fall for it so I say "let me tell you this story, it took place right here at Club Congress. This pretty girls walks up to me + asks 'will you buy me a beer?' so I did + she just said 'thanks' and went off and talked to another guy." Just to digress a little more there was a funny story that David Matherly told me—when he was down in Chile he was approached by a gypsy woman who was clairvoyant enough to predict that he had a wad of money in his front left pocket. Of course she probably saw his real bulge, but nevertheless he was impressed and swept away. She counted the money ($80) then said she would do a magic trick and make the money disappear. He totally fell for it, he said he knew what was happening, he was just so charmed by her he couldn’t help it. She cast all sorts of spells, folded the money in a special handkerchief, sprinkled special dust on it and told him that she would make his money appear under his pillow the next morning. I asked him if he checked under his pillow the next morning and he blushed and said of course. Anyway, back to Adriana, she said she wouldn't blow me off and she starts laying it on thick, giving me those eyes, putting her arms around me, etc. and I was in the process of explaining to her how I just didn't think it was too cool, the thing with Brian and all and how I had respect for Brian when she tries kissing me right their at the bar. "Are you listening to what I'm saying?" She ignores me, too drunk to listen. So I just went off and danced til last call. Adriana's airhead friend Diana was being harassed by some dork so we told Sean who doesn't even know her and he went up and put his arm around her like he was her boyfriend and brought her back. Meanwhile Todd is scamming on some girl and got her 'digits'. We went to Sean's to take a hot tub. Diana was being pouty and shocked by Todd's crude behavior and I had to hold Adriana's head out of the water to keep her from passing out and then she threw up in the bathroom and we got in trouble with Sean's neighbors and when it came time to depart I told Adriana I would take a ride with Dave and she was pretty bitter. She started to make a scene, asking me why. I said—"for starters, you're drunk. And I just don't want to have anything to do with you." Harsh maybe, but she set herself up for it.
Another lonely night in my van parked on some random street, waking up at 6 a.m. with a splitting hangover and the sun right in my eyes. Went to Pony and hung out there figuring out what I was doing trying to see if I had work and see if I was going to climb with little Jeff. Jess met me at Pony and I had to kind of lie and say I just got back into town but I think she's picked up that I don't want to start anything. I don't want to fuck this up. Meanwhile my computer and printer are at Heather's so I couldn't work on getting stuff printed up and sent out. I went over there and she was still sleeping with Adam and just stood in the doorway while I got all my stuff. I felt like an ex getting kicked out and coming back for my shit. Left out on the street with no place to plug in my printer. I took my computer to the library and took a nap and wrote a bunch of letters to journals, submitting my writings. If only had some electricity and a spot to print, maybe I should consider getting an office.
this pic is from a year later, but 1 of the few we have of our van we lived in... yes, it has carpeting on the walls
April 17, 1995—Tucson
Lounging in the van, it's a rockin' but it's from the wind. I have a beer cuddled in my arm that Mike left in my van. People are always leaving shit in my van. Bruce left his poly-pro, knee pads and a pot caked with oatmeal. Chawn left his sleeping bag and tent. Mike would've if I hadn't reminded him. But he did forget the beer. I'm sleeping in front of a huge crane in an empty lot tonight. It's a sketchy area and I'll probably wake up in the middle of the night to someone trying to break in. The sky is very turbulent and there are weird noises. Hummings. I see the red lights of the crane through my moonroof. It's less than a dozen blocks away from Jess's house.
So friday my tread was becoming unraveled from my tire to the point that the steel was showing, a huge flapper. Had to buy a new tire. No new news on the job front, except now I might get sent to Ely, Nevada to collect soil samples at $13.50 an hour and a $50 a day per diem. The only catch is it's for two months. In the middle of fucking Nevada. It's near (four or so hours!) from Red rocks and Salt Lake City, so maybe I could climb there. That's my big hang up now. I'm become re-addicted. Chawn and I drove out to the Pinaleños on Friday night. The book's directions were sketchy and almost got us stuck in this really sandy wash. We ended up just eating our burritos and sleeping in the wash since it was so comfortable, like sleeping on the beach.
I was thinking I should make note of all the different places I sleep. Now I'm off of Cherry, one block north of Speedway. I'd find out exactly where but I've walled myself in with blankets (which are probably glowing from the outside from this computer glow.) But it's near Jess's house. I always find myself sleeping in her neighborhood.
While Chawn was taking a dump the next morning I was accosted by this redneck rancher who told me to move my van since they would be herding cattle through. This is way out in the middle of nowhere. Then he got mad at me and accused me of taking apart his corral to get my van out of the sand. Shit I'm too tired to write now.
Now it's the next morning and I'm sitting in Bentleys dealing with my allergies. I have to rush off to the bathroom every 2 seconds to blow my brains out of my nose. That's what it feels like anyways. People must wonder. A homeless guy who comes in here dirty and scabby from climbing (the climbing gym was closed by the time I got home, no shower), snot crusted in my eyes, etc. I stumble into the bathroom to do my toilet then return here to my computer. Yes, a homeless guy with a laptop sniffling and dribbling snot out of his nose. I thought they said the rain would wash the pollen out of the air.
So yah, we woke up in the Pinaleños and wandered around in this wash and up in cattle country trying to find something that vaguely resembled what the book was talking about, we wanted to do White Man's Burden (5.8). Chawn only consented to doing a moderate outback route since his elbow was tweaked. So he didn't really care that we didn't find the route. By the time we had a good guess where it was it would have been too late. So we went back to the car and decided to scout the rock along 266. Tons of rock way up there atop Mt. Graham. We saw this small crag right off the road and two obvious cracks we could tell were worth doing. Pulled off the shoulder and bushwhacked up there by some afterbirth cow diarrhea that was covered with flies. It was the most disgusting and unidentifiable things I’ve ever seen, looked like an alien rotting foetus, all bloody and shitty and festering in pus and juices.
We got to this one crack that looked primo, but I wanted to check out this dihedral I saw from the road. I decided to do it. Layed back 10 feet up this ramp to this detached column I tied off. Then stemmed with the off-width to get arm bars. Plugged in my big pieces, #3 and #4. I got to some chockstones but they were gritty and wouldn't hold. They were freaking me out because I couldn't use them as holds and couldn't use the crack where they were. One of them dislodged and jammed further down on my footjam. I managed to stem around them then got 2 more flat rocks that were loose in the crack where I needed a placement. I worked around them to finally good rock, but it was getting steeper and blanker and wider and was sucking me into an off-width that was capped with a bulge and a chockstone. It was starting to get desperate but then I realized I could reach way left and grab a layback and do some strenuous moves to get over the bulge into a great finger-crack. But the gear was weird since the crack bellowed out into a large cavity. A few finger-locks into a bomber hand jam and good gear then the crack widened again, to off-width and then a chimney capped by a huge chockstone. Did awkward moves up to it, until I could wrap off the chockstone then, pulled my way over and was done with it. Yes! As far as we can tell, a 1st ascent. So I get to name it. Probably 5.8, how about "Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel"? [band we liked back then that since changed their name to just "Foetus"]. Chawn didn't want to follow it because of his elbow which was kind of a drag because I would have liked a second opinion. So I rapped off a tree and cleaned the route and trundled the 4 loose chockstones that just shattered to sand when they hit the deck. Classic little route (100 feet). A long ways to drive to it, but if people are coming out to the Pinaleños and have a few extra hours they could do it. Or if we could do some other routes out there that we saw as possibilities. As soon as Chawn gets over his elbow thing.
So we did the long drive back and Chawn called his house and it ended up that his roommate Mike (the nerdy guy that was in my Stat Mech class) needed a climbing partner. He sounded a little reluctant to go out to 5-mile wall because he's a slacker but he consented and I talked him to just going up that night (I'd rather camp out up there at 9,300 ft with a full moon then down in the city.) He talked his head off the whole drive up, "yah I on-sighted Moby Dick, blah, blah, the second quantization of the field, blah, blah, blah, " Then we sat in my van drinking beer and he kept blabbing more "and I lived at this frat house at MIT one summer and boy was there a lot of chicks, I had black ones, oriental ones, mexican ones, blah, blah blah, have you done this really bad 5.5 out in Indian cove? blah, blah, and then I went into a phase in my life where I listened to nothing but Pink Floyd, blah, blah . . ." I would just nod and agree and pretend like I was listening. Everybody wants someone to listen to their boring blabber I guess.
It was cold as shit up there. I slept in the van, Mike pitched a tent. There was still patches of snow up there. It was hard getting up. I made some coffee and chilled but Mike was still sleeping. So I woke him up and he complained and said he wanted to sleep. He finally got up and started yacking again. Diarrhea of the mouth. Meanwhile I'm all packed and ready to go and he would blab on "I can see you're all ready to go. Okay, I'll take down my tent." He'd take a few poles down then sit down and blab more. Finally we hit the trail. "How far have we gone? When are we going to get there?" Actually this was a much better way of approaching then the way Sean and I did it last spring. This way was only 4 miles even though they called it 5-mile wall. Motor City was in the shade so we did Stoned Man's Dream (5.8) Mike was all gung ho about leading up the first thing he saw rather than orient himself. He went up this gritty crack and just fell with no warning. "That was easy, I just slipped. I could easily on-sight this. I'll come back for the red point." He eventually got to the belay below the huge classic dihedral. I took the rack and led up the sustained and burly layback/jam crack. Beautiful climbing. It just went on, over three bulgy cruxes. Mike followed and fell twice "Damn, this is easy! I could on sight this any day. I just slipped." He would climb more, fall, then blab more. He led the last pitch and went out of sight. He got to the end of the rope and kept pulling even though I had been warning him about how much rope remained. I waited and waited and screamed until I was hoarse, asking if I was on belay. Finally I just started climbing. The first nut took me 15 minutes to get out. I wasn't even sure I was on belay. All in all, it was an excellent route. Far more worthy than one star.
It was four o'clock and he wanted to sit and yack and he still wanted to do Motor City. He ran off and I followed him though he didn't know where he was going. Finally I just told him "Look. We're not doing the route. It's past 4, it's a 2-pitch climb that's a lot harder than the one we did. We have a 3 hour hike out."
"I'll lead it. I don't care if I fall."
"You don't understand. This isn't Windy Point. If something went wrong you'd be out here all night before a rescue came and you'd get hypothermia in an hour." He still was complaining that he wanted to get on it, but I just returned to the packs and packed up. I took the rack and the ropes. He wanted to rest for 15 minutes and talk. I just started walking. Every 15 minutes I'd have to wait 15 minutes. And I wasn't even up to my regular pace. It was getting colder and darker. Dark clouds rolled in. I managed to get ahead and just meditate. But I'd have to wait and get cold. I went ahead and stopped at the springs to fill my water bottles full of water. The icicles from the spring were still frozen. It never got above freezing the whole day. I put on all my clothes. Sweatshirt, fleece jacket, gloves and was still freezing. The clouds looked like snow. I ate a granola bar. I waited and got colder until finally he arrived. Then I had to listen to his shit all the way down the mountain, blah, blah, blah. Didn't he get the message when he asked me questions and I didn't even answer back because I wasn't paying attention? And then he asked me to stop at McDonalds and of course he asked to borrow money (he 'borrowed' money on the way up to get a subway sandwich) and I lied and said I couldn't find my wallet. He managed to get the food anyway, talked the McD's people into it though he was a dollar short, not sure how. Then he munched his Jordan burger loaded with bacon and mayonnaise and talked more with his mouth full. Obviously, I didn't really enjoy him as a climbing partner.
This croissant is conjuring up emotions of France. I haven't written anything for a month now. I haven't even read anything. I haven't had a decent dream for even more than that. Maybe something will come to me while I'm taking a shit.
April 24, 1995—Tucson
The days run on end. Sleeping wherever, roaming around, checking in with Geotemps every once in a while to see if I have a mission. Calling my answering machine from a payphone. Where exactly does that answering machine exist? It's in the wires somewhere. In the network. Many quarters calling. If I'm hungry or want to climb I go down the list.
Tuesday I made plans to climb with Bruce. We met at Bobo's and ate greasy Huevos Rancheros til it was noon and we were too full and unmotivated to climb. I go to the library and take a nap and read. I drop by people's houses. When I start to smell I go to the climbing gym and boulder around a little bit before I take a shower. I get back behind the wheel and sometimes I just start driving before I figure out where I'm going. To a coffee shop or to check my mail up on Grant. Or just anywhere that has a payphone. I don't even know what day today is. Yesterday I went down the list and decided to eat dinner with Chris Gishey. She just moved in with Heather and Jason. I cruised by there and picked her up. She jumped into the back of my van and said it made her want to cry but she couldn't explain why. We ate Thai food way down 5th street. She told me about her experiences with Mike. Being stoned every day until she can't remember anything. Bumming around until they need money to eat and he'd stop and do a labor job for a day. How in a year and a half they didn't spend a day away from each other. She keeps asking me questions like why I don't get married and if I'm lonely. She seems to be encouraging me, but I'm on the defensive. She says things like she doesn't date anymore unless there's potential for marriage. She doesn't drink anymore. Yah right. Sometimes she has this playful nature that makes me think it would be fun to get back together with the her. But something about her makes me sad. That she'll spend her whole life searching and at the same time trying to escape. And she'll never find it. And she’s completely untrustworthy.
We went to Bentley's after, and out of the blue she starts quoting the bible. She asks me if I believe in Jesus. I say that I believe that maybe he existed but that he was just a regular guy. She tells me she has walked with Jesus and it has made her happier than she has ever been. That she has touched his robes and it has brought tears of joy to her eyes. What do you say when someone tells you that? "That's great if it makes you happy—but frankly Chris, I'm worried about you." She seems semi-grounded that she knows what she is doing, that she is creating this all in her own mind. That it is just another device, like drugs, that avoids reaching conclusions for yourself. The conclusions that are the whole point of life. Well she wouldn't go as far as to say that, but she knows that this Jesus thing is something she's created, that she has her own personal thing with Jesus. She's only two months into this and hasn't read the bible that much, there's still hope for her. But I wonder whether this will help her or not. She has serious problems. What is it with women? I think about how different the women I know here are. Rebecca, Chris, Adriana, Heather, etc. How they all are trying to escape and they are all looking for Mr. Right. Addicted to sex, alcohol, normalcy, the bible—something to take them away, and behind it all they want men in a devious way. I wish I could put it in words what it is about it. How different yet how the same they are. And of course Chris is like "why don't you sleep on my extra futon" and I know I've got to stick to my homeless lifestyle. I am an observer. I am a writer. I can't get sucked in to these traps. These traps of comfort thinking it will cure you of your loneliness. I must remain cold in my van. And uncomfortable.
Today it rained hard. It started last night, thunder and creosote dust. All through the night and into the morning. I don't remember where I slept. I think I slept on Highland, or Vine, near Jess’s house. Always near Jess. Woke up and cruised these old streets where I went to university, knowing I have to get over it. I need to move on. Frequenting the same coffeeshops, hanging out with the same losers. Tending toward the university like a magnet. These are my only so-called friends. I feel I can go my whole life letting go of people, but it's just not right. The expectation is that we need to keep life-long friendships. But are these really people of that caliber? I still wander, with a wistful longing, hoping to run into someone entirely new. That can relate. But then again, I'm a hypocrite, because I avoid people like Jess Fanzo. Maybe I'm just not ready for anything meaningful. Not ready to committ.
I'm just waiting for my next assignment. I long for foreign streets. The feeling of being in another country. Even another state is not enough. I need to leave before I fall into the trap.
April 27, 1995—Tempe, AZ
Let's see, after the unseasonal storm in Tucson—snow all over the Catalinas like it was Colorado in the winter—I woke up on Thursday with a message from Zonge Engineering. I called back (I had to wait, looking at the snow until 10:30) and this guy in charge is like—"we saw a copy of your resume and we're wondering if you'd like to come in and talk to us." I hadn't even taken up David Matherly's suggestion and called them—they called me. So I'm looking down at my ripped jeans and unshowered state, waking up behind a chinese restaurant on Campbell somewhere. As if he read my mind he said—"just come as you are." So I head right up to Ft. Lowell and wait in his office while he talks on the phone for a long time and finally he gets off and asks me—"are you married?"
Of course I say 'no' along with the same to the question of if I have a girlfriend. He pries into this a little and I tell him it doesn't fit into my lifestyle.
Next question—"do you have a valid passport?" Next question—"Do you mind being sent off for months at a time to out of the way places like northern Siberia, China, Indonesia, Australia, the Amazon in Brazil, 18,000 feet in Bolivia, all over South and Central America—basically all over the world. Is this a joke? Hmm, let me think. I have to put a leash on my enthusiasm, but then I realize this wanderlust is turning him on and tell him about my passion for travel and the homeless situation I'm in.
He basically tells me like—"well, that was an easy interview." He's gonna keep me on with Geotemps (probably to appease Terri), doing domestic stuff and learning the ropes, and then in a few months it's assignments throughout the world, salary (mucho dinero), health insurance, benefits, etc. and I didn't wear a suit or even comb my hair for the interview. The Catalinas are still covered with snow when I get out feeling as big as the Jolly Green Giant walking to my car, singing to myself. I head straight for Sabino. It's packed, but nothing can bother me right now. I power hike up the phoneline and past and only stop myself because I realize I have to help Bruce move at 4. I run into this climber from Boseman, Montana (is this a sign that Boseman is calling me?) who is depressed that he drove all the way to Arizona to be snowed out. I tell him about Milagrosa and he runs down the trail and catches the tram.
I am no getting enough exercise so I run back. Probably about 10 miles at least in all. Go straight to Bruce's place filled with bad vibes from his weasel roommate who skipped town with his rack but left 5 futons. Yes, 5. So me and this girl named “Stumpy” helped move them. As Bruce told me on my answering machine, she would loan the car but would probably smoke cigarettes and drink beer and watch. Sure enough. I took a shower in his disgusting pit of a living habitation, reminiscent of last summer, then read a great poem by him 'The Fall'. For our services, Bruce took us out to Z's pizza and pitchers of stout. From there it progressed next door to 'Wayne's World' (what was 6th street pub)—just the boys now, me, Bruce and Dwayne. We drank a few more pitchers and shot pool. I escalated the rumor about the night club with 30-something year old women and this took off with Dwayne and Bruce. I called Sean and got vague directions, but I'm convinced this is a Shangri-La that only exists in Sean's head. Dwayne was losing motivation so we dumped him off and Bruce and I went to Congress and spent a whole evening being analytic about the state of affairs (it was fetish night). We'd see some chick and try to think of what to say and in the meantime some dork would talk to her and after a while have the nerve to start yawning, and of course he'd go home with her. There was a few like that. We knew it was Maya, but nevertheless we let it possess us thinking about what if we'd only buy into it. We just drank a lot instead then went to the cup at closing and got a mountain of Nachos. On the way home we saw Rusty walking out of O'malleys munching on a piece of pizza. We picked him up and ended up at Rusty's for quite a while, both of them smoking a lot of pot. I slept wherever i was parked then had to wake up 7 to meet Chris. We went up to Green Slabs. There was snow on the ground, it was cold, and I was nursing a major hangover—so it was a good thing Chris wanted to start off on something easy. We did Monkey Business (5.6). The rock sucked the heat out of my hands making them unable to feel. We decided, if there's snow there may as well be snow, so we went up to Rose Canyon lake and played in it, hiked for a few miles. She had some sort of golfing engagement so we ate Thai food and I dropped her off.
I did my laundry then met Jesus and two other physics geeks for pitchers at Mike's place, even though I was still nursing that hangover from the night before. Funny how a pitcher or two will cure that. I got sick of talking about computers and shit so I went to Bison Witches and met Rusty, who was with these two girls, Nora and Raquel, who just happened to be two of the girls that Bruce and I were goggling at the night before. Rusty has this thing about a 17 yr. old J.A.P. who was passing through with her freaky new age mother and were now traveling somewhere in the state and Rusty was trying to convince me to help track them down. We ended up at his house and I told him if she called before 9 p.m. then I'd take him to the Grand Canyon to see her ('Star'). Scott called at 8:59 which was cool because I got to talk to him and Cheryl. He's up in Seattle making at least 20 dollars an hour washing windows and Cheryl's doing her theatre stuff. But Star didn't call tell 9:03, nevertheless Rusty was still trying to twist my arm.
Brian came home and was in a state because he had to take the MCAT the next day so we left him alone, went to some weird house with sketchy loser's hanging around where Rusty purchased drugs. Then we went to Casa Video and got 'Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill Kill' a fantastic Russ Meyer's X-rated B-movie. Stopped at Pizza Hut and told Mark to bring us a pizza and went to Chris's house to watch the movie. Classic, but we all fell asleep. I made Chris and Rusty fight over me for the weekend (Chris wanted to go climbing). Chris relinquished and Rusty and I took off. Saw Harold on 6th street in his huge Suburban full of other climbers so I flagged him down. Ended up sleeping at Rusty's. The next morning I used his juice to print up some short stories and write up a biography and sent them off to a short story contest. Then went to Kinko's (where Rusty hid in the back of my van from his marketing group) and the P.O. before heading out. Rusty was ditching out on some meeting for this girl 'Star'.
So we head to Phoenix, actually Tempe. Playing answering machine tag, Star didn't leave a message of to her whereabouts so we shopped at REI and Buffalo Exchange, ate and hung out at the Plantation and cruised a Saturday night Mill before we finally got a hold of her. Went to the Doubletree to hang out with her and her New Age freaky mother. Total rich hippy child from New York, young and vain. Her mother's this blonde free love type of mother who immediately asked my sign and started telling me about myself. Barf.
I left them and went to hike up some unknown mountain that looks really cool from a distance, red rock. Up close its this conglomerate crud. Then I hung out at Mill avenue and ended up seeing 'Los Lobos'. I didn't even have to pay the $19 dollars to get in. They were playing outside at the union. I just found this stone pillar and sat on it with a perfect view. Full on mariachi Texas chicken scratch with Grateful Dead Cover's. I went back to the Double Tree to endure more New Age conversation and slept on the floor below the hide-a-bed. Rusty and Star were 'sleeping on the hide-a-bed' but from the sounds of it they weren't doing much sleeping. Just as I'd start falling asleep I'd hear these sucking and slurping sounds, and could even smell them. When the moans would interlude with giggles I'd ask them if they wanted me to go out to the van but they insisted that they were going to sleep, but then I'd hear more gurgled slurps and the sounds of fleshy meat products being banged.
Went swimming the next morning. Star's mother kept making all sorts of comments about how I should have slept in the king-size with her and her other woman friend (who was on the phone masturbating with her husband), interluded with tales of sweat lodges in Sedona and shamans from wherever and finally she's all "none of this interests you does it?" And I say no. She tells me that someday I'll use it, blah, blah. I really want to get the fuck out of there, but first we scam a free breakfast buffet. Rusty decides to go to their cousins and Star's keeps going on, "are you sure you don't want to see my mom sunbathe nude?" These poor repressed souls from New York. Is this what big cities do to people?
I leave them and head to Queen Creek on a scouting adventure. Checked out Queen Creek proper (what's the fuss about?) then checked out this area called the 'Mine Area' which looked dumb then hiked 4 or miles into Lower's Devil Canyon which is a beautiful area, a canyon lined with hundreds of spires. The routes looked pretty cool and there's plenty of more potential. I'm running on reserve power here at the Plantation so I'll make this quick. Came back and drove around scouting then checked out upper Devil's canyon. Then drove back and ate outstanding Middle-Eastern food and finally got a hold of Rusty and told him I'd meet him in the morning. Hung out on Mill ave., saw 'Rob Roy' (great acting performances by Jessica Lange, Eric Stolz and especially Tim Roth) then slept who knows where.
April 28, 1995—Deming, New Mexico
I guess the last entry left off still in Phoenix with Rusty. I got a hold of them on sunday morning, they wanted me to go to their cousins house, but that fountain in front of the Plantation is just way too nice. I told them I'd meet them at the airport and then spent all morning laying in front of the misty fountain reading 'Sons and Lovers'.
Went to the airport and hung out with the desperate new age females while they tried to decide whether to revoke their tickets for $450 in flight vouchers plus a new ticket for later. Is there a living to be made off of booking yourself on busy flights? Getting bumped back a day, put up in a hotel and make enough money to do it all over again? Rusty and I finally split, after fish tacos, cerveza and tequila shots (espresso shots for me).
On the way back to Tucson we hiked Picacho peak. We didn't want to pay the park fee, so we parked at this market and went up the backside, which turned out to be a bushwhacking fiasco to hook up with the main trail. We go to the saddle, only to drop way down on these steep cliffs line with a steel cable rail. Then back up this trail basically carved out of the rock, lined with steel cables virtually the whole way. What a mess. They should've left it as a 4th class mountaineering adventure. We didn't want to back-track so we took another trail down the backside which ended up taking us way around into the desert for about 6 more miles. It didn't matter because it was beautiful and thick with smells at sunset. We would have had to walk six more miles in the dark if it wasn't for this anal mid-west couple that almost didn't pick us up though we were the only people for miles because there was a sign that said 'don't pick up hitch hikers' (state prison). I like that word—'hitch hiker'.
We ate at the D.P.C cafe when we got back, and saw Steve Eye. Evidently, Zeke is supposed to come to town next week, but Steve says Zeke is always saying that. Spent the week bumming around coffee shops or the library, reading or writing, waiting to hear about my next assignment. I sent out quite a few more short stories to magazines, and another copy of Strip Mine to the Hemingway Days first novel contest. Slept behind Kinko's one night (after eluding Chris's pleas to have sex with her, interluded with her hypocritical statements that she doesn't have sex anymore) and another night in some random neighborhood. Wednesday we played poker at Jesus' house—me, Rusty, Bruce, Sean, Jesus, Dave, Andrew and some other guy I didn't know. At first we were worried about not having enough people. Now we had too many, but we split up into two tables. Poor Bruce. His grandfather died, he got reemed by some truck on his first day on the job shuttling schizophrenics out to dinner. He's like the opposite of me, whereas good shit always just lands right on my lap, he is always struck with bad luck. But whereas my secret to my good luck is leaving opportunities open and not trying to carve out a life style, he seems to willingly invite all the bad opportunities on to himself like maybe he knows they'll be good writing material. Perhaps why he enjoys working with crazy people. Well, I guess bad shit happens to me because of my wandering, curious lifestyle, hurricanes, stonefish, earthquakes, crabs—but much as I hate to say it, being that I'm on my way to Hueco Tanks, I've never been seriously injured and I've never had anything major stolen that I haven't gotten back. What makes for a better writer? Good or bad luck?
I think deep down I'm almost hoping I don't get published now because it will make me lose incentive to improve. Whereas, if writers are ignored, they'll keep struggling with themselves and suffer that pain that is key to creation. So yah, of course Bruce loses everything, Jesus wins all. I won some and lost some. I just figured it out, maybe it's Bruce's philosophy that good writing involves taking a risk. Putting something on the line, just like climbing. I know that, but to a different extent. To me, there is some discretion, it's controlled chaos where the secret lays in which paths of opportunity to make yourself available to. Case in point, one hand, Jacks or better trips to win, Bruce is dealt a flush, which is obvious by his enthusiasm. I fold out, knowing I can't beat it. Jesus stays in because, well he's winning and it's jacks or better trips to win and you just can't fold. He goes for the flush and takes another card and doesn't even look at it. He see's Bruce's max enthusiastic bet (the Bruce who's grandfather died, the Bruce who got in an accident, the Bruce who got his rack stolen—whereas the Jesus with the cushy house from which we play, the fat research position, well I shouldn't take this too far as Jesus works hard and he's definitely had his life of ups and downs, most of the downs I'm sure of which he's not willing to share (his brother dying of AIDS for one)). So Bruce's got a flush of clubs, king high. Jesus has got four spades showing, he needs another that has to be higher than the king. He hasn't looked at it yet, but I just know by how twisted life is. How Jesus takes it with cool control, how Bruce is wildly reaching for the huge pot that has his last nickel in it. Jesus flips it and it's the ace of spades.
Jesus flips over the ace of spades. I'm going to use that in a story someday. About how fucked up fate can be to the point that it makes you believe in a god up there.
I took Rusty home (after getting pulled over by a gorgeous woman cop who didn't give me a ticket) and the next morning I find out that I'm not working til the following wednesday out in the Salton sea for three weeks and then Bill Perry is going to 'sitck my feet under the fire' and send me down to South America. But in the meantime here I am in Tuscon, bummin’ around and it's getting hot and I need to get out of the city. It's finals week and no one wants to go play with me. Chawn's elbow's fucked up, Bruce is at grandpa's funeral in St. Louis, Sean wants to go with a bunch of beginners one day at windy point, and well Chris wanted to go somewhere, but . . . Oh yah, Chris dosed me. One night she convinced me to take two of these allergy pills, and naive like I was, I figured since they were over the counter (Benadryl) they had to be fairly harmless. I went to sleep and it wasn't til the next day at Bentley's I'm trying to read and everything's out of focus. I figured I'd been reading all morning and needed to take a break. So I'm at the post office standing in line and everything is melting and swirling in circles to the point where I couldn't deal and had to leave and go to Hemmel park and wait it out.
So here I was with 5 or 6 free days, my van packed and way too many opportunities, but not one standing out. I thought to visit Kevin since it was his Birthday and all, but he wouldn't call me back. I chowed at the Mandarin grill then went to take a shower at the Udall center, and what the hell, why not swim and lay in the sun for a few hours? I went to Bentleys afterwards and ran into Jess. I can deal with her when I avoid her, but the second I see her I get weak in the knees, she's irresitible. It's inevitable, fate. The way her hair meets her forehead, the tone of her skin, her armpits, her legs. So we went to Geronimoz to eat and then to her house. She was going to L.A. to visit Sather and I tried to see if I could get on her flight. Or drive out there instead, since the flight was too much.
I went to Todd's house where Heather, Terri and all them were. Allison met up with us and we went to the Rock to see Zuba. I had high hopes of hooking up with Jess later in the night. She said she would swing by Zuba. 11:00 rolls by, Todd (redhead roommate) shows but no Jess. Todd introduced me to that cute girl that lives on the corner of Euclid and University and she looks at me and says 'yah, we kind of know eachother'. I figured she wasn’t even aware of my existence. We got to talking but she seemed kind of lethargic and lost. I bounce around watching the band and then Jess shows up all sober and mellow. She just wants to stand distantly in the back. Some guy Dimitri, who she said earlier was not her boyfriend is just hanging out all night next to her. Todd and Allison (my ride) leave without telling me. I had walked Heather home a long time before. Jess leaves with the Dimitri guy and tells me she'll see me in L.A. Yah right. It just makes me want to drink more beer. Eventually I get really depressed and I'm left to stumble the lonely streets all the way back to my van which is parked at Todd's house. I slept there but wake up at 6 a.m. with that evil sun in my face and get some coffee and gas it up and split town.
Still unsure of where to, I'll just play it by ear. I head south and decide to split off the I-10 as soon as possible and head down to the Huachucas. There's some cliff bands out in French Joe' canyon that look interesting so I find some backroad and take it in, though it's pretty bumpy for my van. I hiked up the cliffs, very cool jagged face and cracks but it's chaucy. Did see signs of a few routes and a fixed rope leading from this cave. I topped out over the ridge and headed down into the canyon. It seemed I was the only person in the whole Huachucas. I was headed for this steep limestone canyon far up at the top. The river was flowing in parts, over and underground. As I got further up, things became lush and tropical and the river was terraced with calcium deposits mixed with leaves. I saw another couple of caves at the base of these limestone cliffs, but I left my headlamp in the van. Had a close encounter with a rattler, traversing around this cliff I heard him right at my feet and just jumped down into the river. Almost stepped on this other snake that wasn't a rattler. So when I got further up the canyon where it was thick with vegetation and no trail, bushwhacking through bushes where I couldn't see my feet or the ground, it was freaking me out. But I really wanted to make it to the top. Had to climb a few limestone cliffs and then topped out, pretty much at the highest point in the Huachucas. Decided to take the ridge down, past all sorts of crystals and colorful rocks. When I got back down to the best waterhole I saw, I swam and sunbathed naked.
I headed on down to tombstone, which was lame so I kept going to Bisbee. I had romantic notions of finding a room in a cheap hotel and hanging out and writing for a few days. But Bisbee was full of new age weirdos trying hard to live the small-town alternative lifestyle. And things were not cheap. Drove by the huge pit mine and more indecision. West to Patagonia or east to Douglas. The historic Gadsen was sounding romantic. I went to Douglas after a few U-turns of indecision. Decided to eat and think about it. Looked at the map, there's a stretch of road east of the Chiricahuas that had my curiosity. No towns at all. I took it as the sun was setting. The backside of the Chiricahuas has a lot of rock. I think that stuff is legal to climb on, unlike the stuff in the monument proper. The land was more grasslands than desert. Lots of cattle. Nowhere to really pull of the road and explore. Ended up heading back up to the 10 because I was running low on gas and all the tiny towns were closed up. So here I am in Deming at some Budget motel and the front desk just called and told me to get the fuck out of here.
May 2, 1995—Chiricahuas, Arizona
I cannot even begin to explain how strange this is to pull out my powerbook in front of the campfire way out in the middle of nowhere. The glow of the fire being overshadowed by the blue glow emanating from this small folding icon. Kind of freaky, I guess I'm car camping and all, but I don't think I've ever been camping by myself where there is absolutely no sign of other living people. I've been camping in campgrounds and such but I'm on some random dirt road, 13 miles from the national monument and 15 miles from Cave Creek, in a dark forest with absolutely no moon.
Let's see. . . from Deming I was still indecisive but I decided to hit White Sands. What a cool place, I mean I've seen pictures and heard the sand is white, but the sand is really white and fine. It is right near all sorts of missile testing areas and space centers, but nevertheless, I parked and spotted two marks on the horizon, one of them being the Sunspot solar observatory high up on the mountains, so I wouldn't get lost. I just kept walking, barefoot, up and down the endless dunes, with only my footprints. The patterns of the dunes is unbelievable. It is art in its purest form, just structure of the elements. (The whirring of my harddrive is freaking me out.) I would jump off the dunes, flying through the air, then skid down an avalanche of pure white sand. Then climb up the next one and do it over.
I continued on to Hueco Tanks after that and got to Pete's place just in time to heat myself some burritos. I was the only person camping out there except for some other guy in a tent on a bicycle. (Shit, the bugs are starting to get attracted to the screen, I knew there was a reason it didn't seem right to write out here. Okay now I'm in my steel shell which is even stranger.) So yah, I got up early and my propane ran out before I could make coffee which was a major bummer, but I managed to overcome this tragedy and go into the Fascist Police State Park. Now it's a two dollar fee, plus a two dollar fee that climbers and boulderer's have to pay. And you still have to fill out the form that informs them of your exact whereabouts.
I started off by going to the roundroom. Incredible. Too good to be true, a round room with a hundred feet of walls, slightly overhanging and chocked full of Huecos. I did a lap clockwise (V0-) then counterclockwise then forcing myself to stay really low or higher. It was a lot of fun, just cruising around in a sort of trance, meditating. I was the only climber in the park besides that guy on the bicycle who was at the Mushroom boulder. I guess it's getting too hot, but there was a breeze blowing and it wasn't that bad. I moved onto some boulders under the eagle, (bumpy's boulder?) and did a few more V0- and V0's. Then I was going to do some other V0 that was a wall of Huecos and I'm sure was easy but the crux was about 25 feet up and freaking me out. Especially with no health insurance, and if I so much as twisted my ankle it could screw up my job situation. As it was I peeled from two feet off on some V1 and tweaked my ankle. Bouldering is all about learning how to land, just like climbing is all about setting protection. Did a few more V0's and progressed to V0+ on the Caca boulder. Did the Pit boulder which was a twenty five foot wall of huecos and kinda scary. Ate a snack and took a nap under this cool tree in the pit. Then I found the East Spur and did a bunch of stuff in the East Spur Maze. I was working on these V1's and V2's with not much luck, then did some more V0's but tried to do udder destruction (V0+) and couldn't do it. I was feeling lazy and it was hot and sweaty. It was hard to be motivated on these burly power moves. Especially when you see chalk marks up the way overhanging boulders, and they’re not even holds, just little blips. I think somebody went around chalking up walls like that just to trip people out. I got really unmotivated and decided that Hueco is pretty much an ugly place and didn't spend 2 or 3 days there like I intended.
I drove out of El Paso and just kept going as the sun was about to set and I didn't want to miss it. It was really windy and the wind was picking up all sorts of dust that make for a great sunset. I had 'breakfast' at some greasy diner, then read in a rest area for a couple of hours before I went to sleep. Woke up and started driving to the overcast sunrise. Couldn't get cash in Lordsburg so I had to keep going to this truckstop on the New Mexico/Arizona border. I was starting to smell pretty bad and still had White Sand on me and in my orifices so I splurged for the deluxe trucker triple S— Shit, Shave and Shower. Then hung out waiting for my pancakes and finally getting my phone card to work so I could call people sitting at the diner like the trucker's do.
I back-tracked a little bit til I got to Portal road, which turned out to be a gem of a find. Some day I'm going to live in Portal or Cave Creek, mark my word. It's on the eastern side of the Chiricahuas, like a mini Zion or a cross between the Stronghold and Sedona. Rock everywhere, I was blown away. I hiked up Silver peak (8000 feet) on a beautiful trail with no one around. On top was a burned-out fire lookout reminding me of Harney peak. The register had been there since 1992 and wasn't close to being full. No one had signed it in about a month. Such a gorgeous hike. Across the valley was an awesome waterfall which I'm going to have to find some day.
I found a skunk nose and a skunk tail on the trail. Yes, just the nose and the tail with nothing in between. And, as seems to be the trend, I saw one of those speedy green snakes, and a green irritated rattler. The rattler was right in the trail and there was steep scree to either side so I had to wait for him to chill and slither away. After the hike (9 miles) I decided to check out this one big slab of rock for route potential. I crossed Cave creek then scampered up only to discover the slab was very low angle and I could solo up a good ways in my hiking boots. Oh well, I returned to the car and continued up Portal road until it turned to dirt again and wound up the heart of the Chiricahuas. Geronimoz land. Towards the saddle somewhere, I found this campsite. I was still in drive, drive mode but had to force myself to stop and smell the roses. I mean here's this great campsite all to myself and if I continue it's camp on the pavement with the tourists. There's 3 or 4 different fire-rings but there's no one else to be seen. For that matter, there's no moon, so you can't see anything anyway. I made a fire so I could heat up some food—three course meal, Ramen, Tomato Garden soup and a can of beans (not to mention endless peanuts, sunflower seeds and apples).
Ahhh, nuttin' like a cup of Colombian brewed over an open fire. The sun is out now. I think I'm afraid of the dark. I'm going to force myself to come camping, like do a Chiricahua walk-about when there's no moon, by myself. It's almost like taking drugs. Things became very lucid and my imagination was running wild. I think it was mostly finding that skunk tail and nose. When I found it I could sense the presence of a bear. I sense the presence of bear here too, and supposedly they are as thick as fleas. I finished 'Sons and Lovers'... guess I was impressed with the ending. I was all expecting the mother dies, he returns to Miriam in a fit of unbridled passion like some cheesy romance. But that's not life, and D.H. Lawrence knows it. The story is obviously autobiographical. Too bad he can't write worth shit because there is a lot to be said in that story. He should of written it in 1st person, that way there wouldn't be so much 'he felt... she felt...', more revealing by action than outright telling which is the major flaw in this work. Nevertheless I did get something out of it for myself even though he's not telling a story but telling you about himself. At least I know that my feelings are fairly universal. True romance doesn't exist and it's a figment of our breeding and survival. Woman are trying to mold men to fit them to be their ideal image and men are constantly seeking themselves. (Okay, so maybe I'm reading into him severely.) The major obstacle that lies in the way of self-discovery is the illusion of love. True love can't be something you seek, but something that just comes to you, so just sit back and wait.
May 5, 1995—Indio, California
Woke up tuesday in the Chiricahuas and went up Turkey Creek Road then hiked up Chiricahua peak (9800 ft.) via the Mormon ridge trail. Clouds came in and it was sleeting and thundering when I got to the top. The top is a little vague and anticlimactic. Went down Mormon canyon trail (10 miles RT) then bathed in the river. When I got back to Tucson I found out I had to leave the next morning with Zonge to the Salton Sea. Went to Bentleys, did my laundry, met Heather at Paraiso, then met Jess and Seth at Sprouts. What a trip, I met Jess and Seth. The characters in Strip Mine, ha-ha. They didn't live up to my image I created. Went to Rusty's afterwards and ran into Adriana in her car on the way. She needed a computer to type a paper up, so she came over to Rusty's and typed it up while Rusty and I saw some cheesy movie, 'Big Night, Little China'.
Had to wake up early to go to Zonge, but when I got there nobody was there so Bill Perry told me to come back in a bit. So I went up to Geotemps to do some paperwork, then ran into Lydia driving down the road and she yelled for me to meet her at the cup so I had a second breakfast (the first being Bobo's) with her and this other med student Peter. Then went to Zonge and met the 3 other people going on this trip. It ended up 2 of the guys were climbers and we found out we'd be staying in Indio (next to J. Tree) so I threw my rack and ropes in one of the trucks. I drove with this guy Greg, who was mostly from California, but had a South African wife and had spent time around the world. He's a pretty experienced climber.
The crew leader was this guy Jeff Ball from Oregon who's a pretty kick back guy that reminds me of Bob (Oriana's). The other guy is this guy from Burney named Scott who is into big wall aid climbing and sport climbing (weird combo). All in all a pretty fun crew. When we got here, we went out to eat with these geologists, lawyers and business people from Kennicott (the company financing this survey). They were strange people. I overheard them talking about how they found some Indian pottery and other signs of a camp. They noticed I was eavesdropping and tried to be all hush about it, but I kept listening and they kept complaining about what the BIA would do if they found out, and in general talking like they had no respect. They are only concerned with the prospects of gold. Am I contributing to this? It's twisted and bothers me a little bit, these guys act semi-liberal but at heart they're greedy conservative bigots. But the thing is it's such a great job. Once again styled with a big room at the best western, per diem, etc.
We branched off and did our thing this morning, after picking up this really fat Indian guy named Louie. He's on parole, has to go back to prison on the weekends. Tattoos, goatee, etc. Looks like the singer of Los Lobos. I'm not sure what his position is, but I gather he's the token Indian, being that this survey is being done on reservation land. So the site is right out of this white trash trailer park on the shores of the Salton Sea. We’re staying in Indio so it's about a 35 mile drive. It's a really ugly site, but it's probably all for the better as we are doing CSAMT (controlled source frequency-amplitued Magneto Tellurics). Basically what we do is set up a transmitting line and put current through it to make a huge dipole, then go off axis miles away and measure the magnetic field. From that they can measure resistivity and guess as to what's underneath. So we have to dig 3 groups of 10 holes, drive aluminum stakes into them, wire them all together and douse salt water in the holes. The hardest part was setting up the actual transmitting line, a half-mile spooling out this wire to another site where we set up more electrode pits. The bush whacking was heinous. Most of the day was spent dealing with pitfalls, so we didn't even get time to make measurements.
2nd day we set up 2 sets of 3 patches of 15 aluminum pipes wrapped in wire, a ½ mile apart. Jeff, Scott and I went up to the receiving area a few miles away in a more interesting area, lots of cool rocks everywhere. We set up a relay station so we could still talk to Greg and Louie still back with the generator at the dipole. We located ourselves on the grid then set up three lines, like this… I started to draw a picture but it's complicated.
Then just kicked back while Jeff was figuring out what the hell was going on. He had to go call the office so Scott and I just looked for gold nuggets, read and fell asleep. Jeff found out we had to check the dipole ends and change it to a big pit the size of a grave, lined with aluminum foil and full of salt water. By then it's time for beer and a hot tub and bad poetry…
ooh, my pot is wet
the pilot stationed the captains hat aboard the transmitting frequency
the legend has it that Cynthia Pike's umbrella
was loaned to her by the neighbor from Wisconsin
who had a bedwettting problem and a dog that was bashful
Maybe once we were settled
you just don't find
May 8, 1995—Indio, CA
Still in Indio and will be for a few more weeks. Today was our first really productive day. We wasted the first 5 days digging people out of the sand near the Salton Sea, or trying to get things to work, setting more electrodes and aluminum foil pits. Yesterday at ½ day, Jeff finally decided to call it off because the data was bogus so he gave us the ½ day off and went back to Tucson to pick up another detector. Me and Scott went out to Indian Cove and climbed Direct South Face (5.9) on Moosedog tower. The 1st pitch was short but classic, dihedral to a big roof. The 2nd pitch I wanted to do another variation since I'd already done the 5.8 var, so I headed up to the right, and whatever it was, it was hard as shit, and I ended up A0'ing it. Scott is more of an aid climber himself and he just put in gear and pulled himself up whenever he could. After that we bouldered around, Scott didn't seem too motivated about climbing. I free-soloed Who's Next (5.6) did a bunch of bouldering problems on the boulder in front of Silent Scream, then free-soloed Squat Rockets (5.4) on Billboard Buttress. All it does is get my tips motivated for our day off.
I think it was Saturday night that this earthquake came rumbling through my room at 4 a.m. It freaked the shit out of me, it's been so long. It was more like a nostalgia thing for me, but it definitely got my adrenalin going. I'm glad I don't live in California, I like the ground to be inherently stable. I like solid ground to be something I can depend on. It was a 5.0 centered not to far from here. Earthquakes… I still have to write a story about Miles and Celine in the earthquake in '89. The earthquake that killed a mutual friend of theirs and brought them together.
I also want to write a story about this redneck we dug out of the sand. He was cruising around off road, saw our lines and stopped and got stuck. I went to get a shovel to help him out and he immediately got on the defensive like "you guys shouldn't have all these wires up here, it's dangerous."
And I'm all "well, this is private land anyway, this is reservation land and you're not supposed to be out here." The guy was strung tight but he was in no position to argue. He was being vile but we still went through a lot of trouble to get him and his girlfriend (or sister? They were inbred types… ) out of the sand. Finally Jeff is pulling them out by his behind (the guy had a 2WD mazda with bald tires) and just drags him all the way to pavement. And what does the guy do when he gets undone? He heads straight back into the sand recklessly and pissed. That's a redneck for you. And we saw him 15 miutes later, stuck again. So we just drove around him and kept going.
So now that we got the routine down this is what it consists of. For the two previous days I had been acting as a relay in between Greg and Jeff since the repeater was busted. But since we got working equipment, the way it's supposed to work is we set up three over-lapping wires, each 400 feet long, but in different increments, one 200-200 footer, another 100-300 and a 300-100, the object being you get the midpoint to correspond to the connection points where Jeff hooks up the GDP-32 which reads the H-field ad the E-field. Every 100 feet we'd set up a potentiometer in the ground, dig a hole, pour water in it, then set the pot. Jeff would take readings, doubling the frequency (radioing in to Greg down at the transmitter) while we'd set up the next set of lines. These 12 hour days are not giving me enough time to write.
May 10, 1995—Indio, CA
The first alarm goes off at 6:30 to remind me that a second alarm will go off at 6:40. This also gives me a chance to get up and write down a dream if I have one. I haven't had any lately. I need to stock that lake. The 2nd alarm goes off. I have to stand up and walk across the room to turn that one off. I'm not quite lucid but I reach into the freezer and grab 3 frozen liters of water and stuff them in my pack. Eat a banana. Then I grab the walkie talkie off the charger and stuff it in. Scoop some yoghurt into my mouth, perhaps some strawberries. The refrigerator is always freezing the strawberries. I grab whatever food I can find—a bagel, a Granny Smith, some stoned wheat crackers, granola bars, raisins, pistachios, . . . stuff them into my bag. Brush my teeth and wash the snot out of my eyes. Make sure I have something to read and a Geo-Pick, sunglasses, . . .grab my taped together Pony Espresso mug and head out. Go to the office and fill up my mug with watered down coffee, grab a sugary danish and a glass of kool-aid orange juice. Jeff, Greg and Scott all manage to appear at more or less the same time, like there really was no gap from the night before. We take the six or seven 10-gallon jugs and fill them up with the hose. Take a cylinder of Morton's salt and punch a hole in it because the spout is too slow. One container per jug of water. Stop at the gas station and fill up the tires and fill three 5-gallon red jugs of gasoline.
It's seven miles to Coachella, and another 15 til we're on the Martinez-Torres Indian Reservation. Suddenly there is many children and dogs on the streets. There are orchards of Palm trees, and nestled in between rows are shorter rows of Orange trees that seem like bushes next to the palms. We go along sandy roads littered with junked cars and dogs chasing us til we get to Louie's house. Usually he's got some excuse—he goes to jail on the weekends and sometimes he fucks up and so he has to make up time. Or he'll answer the door of his pink trailer in his boxer shorts, itching his balls, his huge pot belly hanging over the elastic waist band and say that he's getting a ride a little later with George. You sit there petting the friendly bitch pit bull while a puppy nibbles at your ankles. His little girl sits quietly on top of an abandoned washer in the yard. Inside there are dirty clothes, scribbled-on children's books and beer cans everywhere. His wife is in the background yelling 'who is it?' We leave with or without him. Drive the road slowly so as not to pick up dust and piss off his neighbors. Indian children wait for a school bus that never seems to come. Back to the main road. More date plantations and rows of grape vineyards. It opens out onto the Salton Sea which looks like a beautiful lake from a distance if the sun is just right. Pull of at desert shores at some white trash trailer park and stick the truck in 4WD. Windy sandy roads to the electrodes which we will water. Than meet back at site center and help set up the transmitter. Leave Greg there in charge (perhaps my job tomorrow?) and the rest of us go a few miles up into the mountains at some mine. Navigate the system of roads trying to remember where we left off. Help Jeff carry the "32," (computer) the mag coil and some sort of switch box to the center of the 3 sets of different length wires (set at 45˚ East of North. Align the coil so it's 50˚ West of North and make sure it's level. From there let Jeff do his thing while Scott and I reel in the old lines and start at the last one and begin to lay them at. First the 300-100 footer that will share the overlapping pot. Then pull the wire off the spool while another person stays and waits for the midway point of the 200-200. Then the 100-300. All lined up so their centers line up, shooting different increments off either way. At each wire end, dig a small pit with the geo-pick, pour some water into it than place the pot and squish it around in the mud or wet sand. Sometimes it's hard to get any sort of dirt. A lizard cruises by and does push-ups to get a perspective on you. He's cream colored with red splotches. His eyes light up when he sees the horse flies circling me. He chases after me trying to get the flies. He does more neurotic push-ups. Earlier Jeff almost runs over a rattlesnake. Then we wait for a bit while Jeff finshes the readings. You can hear it on the radio, "Okay Greg, 32 hertz."
Some time passes as I read Trout Fishing in America.
"32 Hertz 20 amps."
"20 amps Roger"
It goes from 1 hertz to 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192. And now Jeff has this new thing where he wants to do it at 0.125 Hertz to check the phase.
Some guys will come along and tell us to expect an explosion in 7 minutes. They have these wicks that take 45 seconds per foot. There's signs around the mine that remind you of this. They tell us to watch for flying rock. KA-BOOM. I feel it in my gut, see it, then hear the noise. In that order. Me or Scott will help Jeff load up and move on while the other pulls the pots and starts reeling up the lines. The readings take over 1½ hours. We've been doing 6 a day. 12-hour days usually counting driving and set up time.
Greg and I stopped at this outcrop of boulders near a vineyard on the way back. Up close it was like a coral reef. sharp jagged calcium laden rock. Would be great bouldering if there wasn't dust in the pockets and there were good landings. Graffiti everywhere. Get back to the hotel, maybe stop at Von's. Take a hot tub, maybe eat at Denny's or take a shower. Maybe watch Beavis and Butthead. Maybe call Jess and listen to her til me that she wants me to beat her up, that she likes it rough. And how she didn't have sex with Seth or Dimitri on my behalf. It's weird how we can suddenly talk seriously and we've only had sex exactly 1 time about 3 years ago. And I can say 'when are we going to get married?' And without blinking an eye she'll say 'Whenever you ask me, Derek White.' And I think about her little body. 'Why don't you quit your job and move in with me?' she asks.
I want to write a story that has the line "He got a perspective on the situation like a lizard doing a push-up." The only problem is 'like' is a cop out. Why not just have "He is a lizard doing a push up." Kind of like "My Mom is a fish."
I'm also inspired to write about Mrs. Hamilton (1st grade teacher). Or Harvey. Some kid who does random chores or just goes to visit and drink Fresca and honey-roasted peanuts. Or how when you're pulling weeds, the employer won't notice a particular weed if you pick it, but will notice if you don't. That used to bug me. Maybe I have some sort of validation problem in that I want credit for work I do. To not have it go unnoticed. Finished Trout Fishing in America in a day. Great book. Just surreal enough but accessible.
May 16, 1995—Indio, CA
Getting furthur back up into the wash where it's starting to look like the Badlands. It's getting pretty assembly-line except now we alternate working the transmitter which is really kickback. Sit in the truck all day until Jeff asks for some current, go back and fire up the generator, then mess around with a few controls to try to get the maximum current for whatever frequency he asks for. Last time I did it I read 200 pages of Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. The frustrating thing is with each frequency the time between readings lessens to the point where you get a half a page read and you have to jump up and switch it. Then you get 0.125, which is the longest (about 7 pages) and then you get a long time while they move the set up and you just shut down the generator and chill. Not as beautiful as being at the base of the mountains, but still beautiful in a surreal and ugly way. And you can get a lot of reading done.
Yesterday was our first whole day off and Scott, Greg and I split to Joshua Tree. Went to Shorter Wall at Lost Horse and Greg started us off on Double Dog Leg (5.7) which was a good route. Then I did Rock-a-Lot (5.7) which wasn't too exciting (wide). Greg started to go up Rock Candy (5.9) and when he got to the sketchy gear above the second bolt he backed off. So I went up and slotted a nut sideways, pulled some thin moves then up to a great #1 stopper placement then, it stayed thin and continuous following this finger crack with lots of dishes and face holds, a marginal #1 metoulius placement then 15 feet of sustained run out to a bolt and still continuous and exciting (shitty bolt too) past another bolt to a beach ball exit. I'd done this climb a few years ago and it was very exciting then (and I was climbing strong) so it was good to see I haven't lost that much edge. It's an outstanding route that requires a lot of thought in both placements and climbing (though the climbing isn't that hard—just technical). The scariest part about the climb was the belay that Scott was giving me. I shouldn't have let him belay me after I saw the belay he gave Greg, but I told him (while being polite as possible, after all, he is a climbing guide and ex-drill sergeant) to give me a more attentive belay. Still I'd look down and there would be slack or I'd feel him pulling me off the rock or his hand would be off the rope. When these guys came up next to us, he told me "man, you should say something to your belayer—he kept taking his belay hand off the rope. And Scott is a guide? Scary.
By this time Shorter Wall is becoming the scene—a party of hipsters from Durango then a party of southern type hipsters from Wyoming and Colorado. Greg led Euthyphro (5.9) which was more deserving than the one star the book gives it. Then I led Young Lust (5.9) which was pretty cool. Starting to get my confidence back, after a few more outings I should be back to my old climbing self, than time to progress on. Hopefully I'll have the free time to climb doing these jobs though. I guess we got pretty lucky on this one. Next day off maybe we'll shoot Taqhuitz.
Did the Thai thing afterwards and I drank a ½ a liter of red wine with my seering curry, followed by a shot of espresso. Umm, I was feeling warm inside. Now it's 6:40 a.m. and back to routine.
May 21, 1995—Indio, California
There’s cockroaches in the sewer
swelling at the seams
but unable to fit through the drains
the sidewinders under the Palo Verde
quiet in the shade
a spurt of a rattle gives him a way
sidewinding in tire tracks
stuck in the groove
tires digging deeper
into the sand
the axle scraping the surface
sandy dirt and rust sticks to your skin
the smog makes the sea seem
like an ocean with no horizon
the takeout Chinese has arrived
last night at the Beer Hunter's
a mosh pit of testosterone
"preying on nuggets"
that's what the world amounts to sometimes
boys wanting to meet girls
the search the quest
the dark bar and the beer to dissolve the finer details
I had it cranking at 24 amps
when it locked off
end of the day
finished Battlefield where the Moon Says I Love You
the more so brilliant if he hadn't given himself away
pure action but
once you start talking about Nietzsche
or dead English poets
you give yourself away
talking about talking like a rap song
we brought the generator back
and traced the fuel lines
taking apart the pump until we found a ripped diaphragm
my brain the combustion chamber
dreams are the gas
a battery with cold cranking amps
antiseptic popcorn urination sees a lonely
turnstile where back doors unfold magnets
declination set at 40 when sky jiggles
land properly in front of the chimney sweeps van
soot black to scrape your name in the white paint below
tire rims with little weights for balance
I wouldn't take a sharp-nosed tail glider
over Roman-candled sugar poppies
a farewell career of it
change my name to ___________
wheel base on those markings of freeway lucidity
when all makes sense
triggering like a snapshot camera
saying “it's for my kids”
as he reels in the wires
nobody said this would be a glamorous job
The Salton Sea is all a mistake. Some damn broke fifty years ago and filled this depression. They can't get rid of the water. It's just this stagnant cess pool.
our 1st edition copy, mucked up from reading it on the shores of the Salton Sea
May 26, 1995—Tucson
We didn't know which day would be our last until the last day. We set forth prepared to either break down the transmitter and head home, or power it up and do a few more readings. Waiting by a dirty pay phone near Kountry Kitchen waiting for the office to call back. Ended up they wanted us to do one more reading, in between two previous ones. The data was really weird and nothing we did could make it go away so we took it anyway. Me, I started digging around near the anomaly thinking maybe it was indicative of a vein of gold or something. After that we broke it all down, but it was too late to set back for Tucson, so we stayed another night in Indio. Only thing to do is drink and watch Beavis and Butthead (already read all the books I'd brought with me and wasn't about to read some trash novel from the supermarket. Read The Colussus of Marousi by Henry Miller. Not too good, but still Miller, albeit tame. I finished it and still had a few hours of running the transmitter. I started fishing through the garbage and reading the labels on things I was so bored. I found a cigarette and smoked it and enjoyed it. I'm sure glad we didn't spend more than one day longer.
Drove back and got into Tucson around two and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the trucks and trying get the logistics straight of our next assignment. I guess their sending me to Nevada for two different jobs with Greg and Jeff (Scott's being sent to Ecuador.) Things are so organized at the office it's hard to figure out what's going on. I'm willing to just let myself be sent anywhere with no notice and not even think about it, but it's a matter of pride in that they said this was temporary and I'm supposed to be getting paid more and being trained as a crew boss (then again, I got my paycheck and they're paying me $10 an hour. I don't know whether it was a mistake or not). Things were too hectic to approach someone on this issue. So I drove Greg too his cat (the night before Greg told me he was going to quit because his wife couldn't handle it, but since changed his mind) ends up he lives next door to where I used to live on 4th Ave.
Then I ran into Heather and we went over to Terri's and we all went to Bison Witches to chill. The whole time I talked about how it was inevitable that I would end with Jess... why was I prolonging it? Terri and Heather weren't of much help and they didn't want to hear about my problems.
I went over to Jess's and she's in her skimpy lingerie with incense burning and looking fine, so I took her to Olive Garden and the inevitable happened, a night in the cat house. It was divine. Woke up, took her to work then emptied out my van into her house and went to vacuum it and started freaking out when I went to repack it because it's a never ending organizational feat. I threw everything back in a more chaotic state than it originally was. Picked up my paycheck and bummed around, met Jesus, Chawn, Jennifer, Ove, Pete, etc. at Mike's place for pitchers. Then ran into Heather and drove around with her for a while keeping her company on her errands. Oh yah, I was crossing the street and my hair blew in my face and for a second i couldn't see and almost got hit by a car. When i got to the other side there was a barbershop there. Without skipping a beat, i walked in and told them to shave my head. So now i'm a skinhead, feels cool. And now it looks like another night back in the doghouse as I called Jess to see if she wanted to go to Club Congress and she was giving me the "who are you with?" "I don't feel like going out with your friends" treatment. I'm in the parking lot of Club Congress where I'll probably get plowed and wake up and go climbing.
May 29, 1995—Tucson
Memorial Day and it's a ghost town. It's a ghost town as it is, in between summer school sessions at the U of A, my favorite time here. Actually, it's better during monsoon season. I am disillusioned that I am not remembering my dreams clearly—just vague recollections of making love with Jess last night. But of course I woke up in the dog house parked in front of the Central Refrigeration Unit. Not my first night I slept there, I like the humm of the engines, and the proximity to Jess.
Thursday night Club Congress. Jesus never showed up but Bruce and Judy did. There were about 9 bands playing, inside and out. We sat in the tap room mostly, being waited on by Mia, drinking whiskey sours and talking about the complications of relationships. At least Bruce and I weren't fooling ourselves this time, we knew that we would end up in the dog house. My dog house was parked outside of Judy's place and Bruce slept on her couch even though he got a new studio.
Woke up early to hit Bobo's then we cruised up to the top in hopes of doing the Rupley route on the Fortress, only to hike all the way down there to find it was closed to climbers doing raptor nesting. On the way back to the car and I thought I had the balls to do Rapture of the Steep. Went down to the Sea Gods and to the base of Rapture. My head wasn't there. It would have been on my last day of climbing in J. Tree, cruising all those 5.9's and thinking I needed to push myself. I started out up this bad rock section to get to the crack. Climbing up loose blocks on a #0TCU. I got 3 pieces up and to the point where I would have to start a serious commitment. This fly was bugging the fuck out of me, first trapped between my glasses and my eyes, buzzing around, and then it was trying to get up my nose. I wasn't at a particularly hard section, I just knew my head wasn't there so I downclimbed off, pulling my pieces. All that approach for nothing. On the way down the mountain we stopped at Windy point and Bruce led Stems and Seeds (5.8+) and botched it up pretty bad, but I had a blast following. On the way out we ran into Todd MacGregor and this guy Jared. It's funny how people look at me (the skinhead) when I'm saying hi to them and they don't recognize me, takes them a second. We agreed to meet at Bobo's the next morning. Bruce and I went down and I showered at Judy's and we chilled and watched part of the Puppet Master which was a rip off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Went over to Todd Shipman's house for a surprise party for him. Heather and Terri cooked up some delicious pasta and chocolate cake. Lots of red wine. Jeff Segal, Adam, Amy, Todd, Jennifer, some other frat boy types, and the French-Canadian sugar bear mountain bikers. The funniest thing is that my Ca was there, Adam. I still refrained from speaking to him, but was sadly disappointed to find out my ca was a full-on dork. He had this beeper thing that he kept going off in his pocket. I guess he thought it was funny, pretending he didn't know what was going on, but it was really annoying everyone. Also, Todd had this record called the Fishheads which contained these classic hits as "Swallow my Love" (and you will be rewarded richly). It's weird how Heather changed when the bikers showed up. She acts like she doesn't like them and I think it's because of me.
Ended up sleeping on Bruce's hard wood floor of his empty studio. Woke up early to be at Bobo's by 7. Todd M. and Jared eventually showed up and we decided to hit 5-mile wall. All the way to the top and then hike down 4 or 5 miles down. Todd and Jared provided good company. We all decided to hit Motor City (5.9) I jumped on the 1st pitch which the book said was the crux pitch. I cruised up this fun crack but it was so easy I thought I was off route. I was about to down climb because Todd and Jared said they saw this other "crescent crack". The book also screwed up the description by saying you go up a ramp and then to a notch to the left, but I went right. I figure fuck it, if this isn't a route it should be. Belayed off all these flakes. Then I was going off my memory of seeing a picture of this route in Rock and Ice so I started traversing left across these slabs until I got to this steep thin crack. Tried it but it looked untraveled and hard, the pro running out. So back to the slabs, I did a tenuous traverse to this beautiful layback dihedral, but it was licheny and untravelled. Finally I arced back until I met up with the finger crack. Gorgeous, unbelievable crack. The best crack on the mountain. I botched it up more though by getting to this awkward hand jam, I quickly slapped a stopper in but it was a bad placement that would only hold body weight. I got pumped out trying to get it out. So I rested on it and put in a better piece, then finished the route. Todd came up through the roof which was easier then it looked. Bruce and I TR'ed that version which was even more ultra classic.
Todd decided he wanted to try that crack that he mistook for Motor City. He set up a TR but when he got down he decided to lead it. Up this wide cracked layback and then into this thin crack (which looked like nothing from where Bruce and I were sitting.) He cruised it in very good style. Impressive climbing.
Did the long trudge out. I decided to detour through the Meadows at twilight because I kept getting ahead. It was cool walking through the dark forest by myself with my own breathing. Went down and ate at Chuy's. Couldn't get a hold of the cat so it was the dog house for me.
I feel ungrounded. I'm lacking in meaningful relationships and a sense of closure. It's like I'm this scientist-writer. I observe people objectively and delve into their qualities as if they were characters in a book. I'm supposed to meet Todd and Rebecca at Bobo's but I think I'm going to flake. I need to tie some loose ends. I need to look up Jesus for lunch. I need to see Heather before she leaves to Greece. And I need to figure what's up with Jess before I screw things up more than they are. I need to straighten things out on the home front before I hit the road again. Or maybe this home front thing is all an illusion. Why try to be organized? I'll have what I have always. No resistance.
the author on Motor City, 5-mile wall