(Who Was Fine, By The Way)
A lot of people have been asking me about the blog, lately, wondering if and when I might continue working on it, with it, what I might do with it, etc. Perhaps it is not so many people – perhaps it was just my friend, Mike. I don’t recall. It may have been two separate Mikes – both friends. I told each – if it was more than one Mike – that I wanted to continue the blog, but on different terms, in a different way. But I do want to continue it. This morning, I wrote something that I think is indicative of how I’d like this blog to go from now on. It may not be completely and entirely devoted to rock climbing, but neither am I. Neither are any of us. And as my girlfriend pointed out, I always draw inspiration from the mountains anyway, and even if I write a story that is not about climbing directly, that inspiration shines through, and maybe a more subtle reference would be rather nice sometimes than an outright treatise on a thing we’ve all thought about and heard about way too much. I’ve been writing a lot, and I don’t know what to do with a lot of it because it doesn’t fit into an envelope properly, or a box, or a narrative, or any kind of container. So maybe I’ll start putting those writings here. Hence, without further ado, I bring you the latest from Fringe’s Folly.
(Who Was Fine, By The Way)
They used two ropes for this rug. Purple and orange. Short. Perhaps 15 meters each. I stand on the rug in the morning under a gray day. It feels good on my socked feet. It collects dust and food particles. I think perhaps I would not like it under bare feet. I could feel the dirt and grime get onto my feet. It is a different kind of dirty then the one I find outside. Perhaps it is the settling of bacon grease, or cooking oil, aerosolized by many breakfasts. It is not a dirty house, it is a clean one. But you know how things go. Ropes collect dust, and then they are floor mats.
The rope mat is cylindrical. The first one I made was circular. I think now I would not have been so hasty to retire a rope, but things change, of course. It was red and yellow, and fuzzing a bit around the edges, near the tie in points. It was a tentwo, I imagine it had quite a bit of life in it. When I turned it into a mat, it had an empty circle in the middle. The fibers of the core were not so supple and worn, and the rope would not fold seamlessly along itself. It maintained some greater rigidity – something of its once former stiffness, which must have gone out of the rope in the neatly coiled cylindrical mat I stand upon. The cylindrical mat is here at my friends’ house in Bishop – the circular mat is your guess is as good as mine. It must be somewhere – in so far as I doubt it has been incinerated; or reclaimed for the earth by fungus, and mold, and small beetles and other insects and the like. But where it is, I can’t begin to imagine. That is many ropes and many moons ago. I only hope it is doing some good, somewhere.
Walking the dog out to the old canal, I wade through a haze of dreams and memories. I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in an early movie that never existed, in which I was an actor. It was a real life movie, and they didn’t realize I had been scripted until I was sitting at the public pool and pointed to Phil and said, “Hey! A Young Philip Seymour Hoffman!” He looked at me quizzically and perhaps a bit perturbed as if to say “young? Young?” They kept the cameras rolling, and incorporated me into the narrative. I can’t remember it terribly well except that there was a girl, and a golden medallion I found on the bottom of the pool and which I was supposed to give to her because we were in love. We knew it wouldn’t last – since we knew the script. She would leave with another actor, get married, carry on, let life slip away into the nebulous future as it always does. But one day she would find the medallion which she had long ago misplaced, like the rope mat I made, and it would recall to her a thing once lovely and pure and true.
Then there were the sirens, and the flashing lights. The night before we stood alongside the road – Megan and I – as the scene grew more and more hectic. I knew this would happen. The cars both looked like crushed tin cans. Do not be distressed, they were not our cars. They were the cars of 4 perfect strangers – two to each. Megan and I arrived before the ambulances and police cars and fire engines and various other rescue personnel came to the rescue. Megan drove down the road to wherever she could get cell signal to call 9-1-1, I stayed to see if the passengers of the two crushed vehicles would be alive or not in another five minutes, or if perhaps they were already dead.
In the first car, the woman had a broken foot. She seemed fine, otherwise. A bit shaken up, and she kept asking when the cops were going to come. Her boyfriend who had been driving had pain in his ribs, and was complaining of difficulty breathing. I looked at him, asked him to take a deep breath. He did, and it was productive. So I asked him to continue taking deep breaths, and to put warm clothes on his girlfriend. Then I told the girlfriend I’d look at the passengers of the other car, and come back.
The passengers of the other car were not in it – they were on the side of the road. When they first started speaking to me I had questions about their cogency. Then I realized they were not slurring or failing to mentate properly, they were simply speaking in a British accent. The girlfriend’s face had been banged up a little by the airbag, and she was complaining of a hurt shoulder blade, a broken finger, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. She said she was going into shock. I looked her in the eye and asked her to take a few slow deep breaths and I told her not to worry and that in fact she and her boyfriend (who was fine, by the way) were both rather fortunate, given the circumstances and the state of the vehicles, and that they could be a lot worse off. She calmed down then. I don’t believe she was actually in shock, in the clinical sense of the word, just shook up. Then she said “Oh my god – they could have killed us.” I think it was the first moment she grasped that fact, and her face went ashen white. Looking at the cars when we first arrived, I thought they had.
When the men in suits arrived on scene, I bid everyone adieu. Megan was waiting back by our car, and looking with interest upon the firemen extricating the girl from the crushed vehicle on the side of the road with the giant pair of scissors they call the jaws of life. We waited for all the flashing lights to disappear, and then we drove on to Bishop. It wasn’t raining, or snowing, but you could feel something like that in the air. Tioga Pass was closed. When we got to Lee Vining, I had Megan start driving. I was suddenly very tired, and in the car I fell asleep.
You think about all that stuff in a moment, a memory, a recollection. It just lasts a minute. It seeps over you like a bottle of maple syrup at room temperature. It feels like it should. It feels like a womb, like a tepid bath, like a sensory deprivation chamber. It feels like being bathed in a moment that never happened, and one that did, and it washes over you like that all in an instant or a series of instants, and then it is gone save for some residue which tends to linger informing the current mood. It was a gloomy memory, but a pleasant one. Gloomy and comfortable like a late fall day in the northeast with frost on the ground in the morning and the smell of snow in the air, and woodsmoke coming from old houses and cottages, and the smell of the woodsmoke in the air – maple, locust, oak.
I looked East and what felt like all of Nevada rose up before me in desolate barren leviathans – the backs of so many tectonic monsters lifted up from their magma seas and frozen in time and space where the sun stood upon them once, where now they wore blankets of clouds and fog and looked sterile and decrepit under the burden of a metallic sky. I tossed the ball for the dog, Tioga. Tioga the dog would shoot out from his quivering stance like a bolt of lightning from a black thunderhead, race towards the ball, catch it on a single bounce, return to the source of the ball’s velocity, and poop there. This he did twice. I picked up the poop in a bag, and brought Tioga the dog, the ball, the ball tosser, and the poop bag back to the car at our friends’ house. I fed Tioga the dog, and so things go. In one end, out the other. The world proceeds along accordingly, in an entirely predictable and not unpleasant manner.
Looking west as I approached the car, I was nearly stopped in my tracks by the shock of blue sky hanging above the Sierra crest outside of town, and the mountains I recall in drab earth tones illuminated in crystalline white. Ridges stood out starkly, lines emerged that previously blended in with a monochromatic background. Everything called to me. I felt myself yearning to be up there, in some vague sense. Up among that glimmering whiteness, and the shocking blue sky. Up there in the cold, in the unsurefootedness of the slippery talus and snowed over sages. Last night, after the rain, we could smell the whole desert sighing sage deeply. I wanted to bathe in that like a memory, like a present, like a bottle of maple syrup. I wonder how it will be living in Vermont, I thought, as Tioga the dog ate his food.