“Weight is Training”

Espresso-Maker

This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.

But this coffee brewer is new.  I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.

Working in “the field.”

As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field.  I love that sound.”

“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”

Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?

Most definitely, yes.

What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”

And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.

If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.

 

Big mother-fucker isn't it?

7000 cu. in. Big mother-fucker isn’t it?

 

And anything and everything could fit into that pack.

I once carried 90 lbs.

At 20,000 ft.

I lost an inch in height.

This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.

It was horrid.

Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:

The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.

There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.

coffeesock1Just looking at the flaccid, stained, sad little resevior, made me consider options other than coffee.

I tried some of those.

Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.

In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.

But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.

Double blech.

contains: barley, chicory, rye

contains: barley, chicory, rye

Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.

A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.

After you hurl.

I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.

For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.

But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.

So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.

And my shoulders start to hurt.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  

haruki murakami

 

Binging

What is it about the word “budget” that makes me want to hit the mall?

At least Amazon and PRANA dot com.

All I want is new shit to wear in my poverty: new things to distract me from my empty stomach. All under the guise of  “If I dress like a writer then I will be a writer and then I will write the Great American Novel and make it onto the New York Times Best Seller List and it will be totally worth the new yoga pants. And, if I don’t get those cute pants, then when it’s time to sit down and write all I will have to wear is distractingly uncomfortable clothing that will not allow my brain the freedom it needs to put words on paper.”

So yeah, I need to shop.

Most of the time, online window shopping works for me. I go to multiple websites, spend hours finding just the right items (including the solar powered rechargeable battery charger for my new wireless mouse that goes with my new desktop computer) fill up my shopping basket, narrow it down, then close the page and leave feeling totally satisfied.

But when I am on this tight of a budget, the kind where I am not allow to spend any money on any thing except living expenses, a few full carts doesn’t make a dent in the need to spend.

Eventually I’ll get into the groove, I will enjoy seeing how much money I can save. Having been extremely successful at denying myself food for several years, I can easily starve my spending habits and gain a little pride with every penny that lands in the piggy bank.

It’s just that getting to the place of sensible self denial takes a lot of tenacity that I’m not really feeling today as much as I am the need to have a new dress to wear on my book tour.

 

The day I’ve been waiting for all of my life

Or at least as long as I have been evolved enough to appreciate the genius of David Sedaris.

I’ll admit, the first time I heard his voice on NPR, I hit scan. It was nasally and effeminate and what I perceived as a tiny bit whiney.

Then, one day I heard him talking about living in France and missing hearing English and the highlight of his day being when he tuned into NPR and heard Terry Gross say “Fresh Air,” and I was hooked.

And for all I know, it didn’t happen that way and he said he couldn’t stand Terry Gross and maybe it wasn’t even David Sedaris, but this is how it has played in out my mind over and over, so now it’s truth.

And I have no idea how I came across “Me Talk Pretty One Day” – maybe it was on the new release shelf at the library, maybe I heard Terry Gross talking about it, maybe Scott Simon. I’ll never remember, which is somewhat sad because it was a pivotal moment in my life and  I like to remember those moments that changed my existence forever.

Shit. I had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old when it was published. I honestly can’t believe I found time to read.

But that was at the time in my life when I would announce to the entire household, “Mamma has to poo,” and then run into our tiny bathroom where I could sit on the pot and rest my head on the edge of the sink and breathe, trying to remember that I liked my family. Occasionally I did some reading in there too so that could be how I found time for Talking Pretty.

I actually hardly ever pooed

I was enjoyed it from the get-go, but when I got to the story about Easter and the Flying Bell…

Changed perspective on the world.

And, this is when I decided that I would become the Female David Sedaris.

If you have not read Jesus Shaves, you must.

I have since devoured, multiple times, every word that he has produced.  I have come to find great comfort in his snarky little voice; his brilliance has become my guiding light.

I want to live in France.

I want Hugh.

Once, I was asked to teach a writing class for teenagers. My first class was awkward, as always; angsty teenage girls (only girls, as no teenage boy would EVER sign up for a writing class, after school, for no credit) many of them homeschooled, so incredibly uncomfortable in an 8×8 room with other people, then Breakfast Club Ally Sheedy was in there as well as the two besties who wrote “fiction” about each other’s love lives.

I began the class by talking about “Voice” and finding one’s own voice in writing. I read several bits from different authors not only as examples, but as eye-openers into a world of stories that didn’t involve blood-sucking, glitter-glued vampires.

I saved my favorite for last: Jesus Shaves.

Again, a must-read. At least watch the video.

In brief, the story is about French class, in France, with people whose only thing in common was that they all had other languages as firsts and were trying to communicate in a second one about, Easter.

I won’t say anything to ruin it for you, but I will say that if someone was Jesus-sensitive, it could be a bit offensive.

Which is what I began to think, about 1/2 way through my reading, and watching the faces of the sisters-with-religious-hair go from timid smiles, to shock, to horror, to “You’re going to burn in Hell, Teacher.”

And I didn’t know what to do.

It was like that time I was waiting tables and I was really stoned and for the first time in my service career, I carried four water glasses, instead of the inconvenient three, in my diminutive hands to a table of thirsty middle-aged vacationers.  I was so excited that I began telling them about my tiny hands handicap and how it’s been plaguing me for years. Half way through that, the part of my brain that wasn’t connected to my mouth said, “Honey, they know you’re stoned. You should stop.”

But the problem was, I couldn’t. To do so would have been even more awkward that the rambling telling of the victory.

So I finished my litany and skulked away to the kitchen to do a bong hit.

And that’s how I felt with the ass-length braids staring up at me. What was I to say, “Oh my, have I offended thee?”

So I rambled on, rushing through, just to end this torturous moment. But then I got to the bit about the bell and I couldn’t contain myself. It began as a giggle and soon became a cackle, then a roar. I tried to contain it, but then snot came out of my nose, so I gave up.

Fuck the Bible Sisters. Fuck Ally Sheedy. Fuck the latent lesbians.

Fuck teenage girls.

So years later, here I am, bouncing in my seat because in just 11 hours and 7 minutes, I will be sitting in my front row seat (because I did buy the first two tickets sold) gazing adoringly, and listening raptly to this man who is my soulmate. I know, too, that he is going to look at me and think “I’ll be she’s funny – I want to be her friend. She’s probably a brilliant writer too.” and after the show, he will ask me to be pen pals so we can exchange witty observations on humanity and he will offer to introduce me to Scott Simon, then suggest that we read together on Weekend Edition, just wouldn’t that be a hoot.

I am so excited about tonight, and have been since I first heard of his appearance, that I am am actually becoming a tiny bit sad because it’s almost over.

And I have so much angst about meeting and him not having the space to really to know me until it’s too late and he’s back in his hotel room missing out. Or worse, not meeting him at all.

MyAdorablyCuteBoyfriend is a saint because he is acting very enthusiastic about this night but when I said, “You might not like him,” he responded, “I already figure that I won’t,” but he’s going with me anyway and might even wear a bow-tie.

So now I am down to 10 hours and 59 minutes and I’m thinking that I better stop writing and go scour my closet so I can find just the right attire to meet the coolest uncool man I’ll ever know.

 

Roget

roget

I love him.

Backstory: I’ve been in a foul humor lately and trying to figure out some things in my life because I need some changes. Something bigger than the dead friend’s dog. Bigger than finding 8 eggs in the henhouse instead of 2, and bigger than sitting on my ass and not running for the last month.

I know, hard to beat.

So I started picking through all of the things in my life that make me feel bad about myself, of which there are many, and many of them can’t be changed overnight, if ever, and tried to come up with one thing I could do that might bring in a little light.

One particular area which offers many opportunities for self-flagellation is the fact that I am not using my god given gift of writing except to entertain myself every once in a while. I’ve completely fizzled out into the land of writers who have either been blocked or just plain given up.

First step, start some consistency in the journal.  Next step, pick up the pace with the blog. After that, start being regular with my 11-year-old column. Then, find some freelance work. Segue into pushing the comfort zone with submissions.

And yes, this is all feeling good.  It’s kind of the bright spot of my day when I can create a blog post or respond to an editing gig.

And then today, I came home sick, and I actually do feel like shit, but I’m also excited to be at home writing rather than at work doing data entry, which is what I was working on when my head started to hurt, and I sat down to write and I needed a word and instead of going to Dictionary.com, I actually ran upstairs and got my friend Roget, who has been sitting on the shelf, ignored, for over a year now.

And even after all of this time, he is still speaking to me.

And as I grabbed him off the shelf, “The Glamour of Grammar” called out to me in her compelling voice, so she came down to the kitchen with me too, and here the three of us sit, getting reacquainted, and I realize that, in this particular arena of change, by inviting my old friends to sit down at the table, I’m on my way back.

Man of My Dreams

I had a total swoon moment last night.

Something I was reading reminded me of high school english and Charles Dickens.

I said, “Now there’s a book I want to reread – A Tale of Two Cities.”

His response, “It was the best of times…”

Pitter. Patter.

 

au·di·o·book

ˈôdēōˌbo͝ok/

noun

  1. an audiocassette or CD recording of a reading of a book, typically a novel.

 

No, I haven’t just discovered audiobooks per se. I’ve been listening to them for years; small children, road trips, concussions – plenty of times when listening to someone else reading a story is just the best.

What I have recently figured out is just how perfect they are for running.

I have actually struggled a bit with the idea of listening to music while running.  I always thought myself to be more “pure” than that – believing that listening to the wind in the ponderosa placed me on an elevated spiritual and intellectual level.

Then I got an iPod because I am weak (on every level) and have had moments during which listening to Pearl Jam Ten sends me blasting through the trees at the speed of light, oblivious of the pain in my foot, knee, hip, back, shoulder, hand, and neck.

But it’s short-lived – the change in tempo from one song to the next brings me crashing back to reality and allows me the mental space to realize that I can barely breathe.

Recently, I’ve been mixing it up – some days with music, some without. My feelings about it have been mixed also.

And then, yesterday, I had this flash of brilliance…

What about listening to a book while I run?

Left the office, raced to the library, picked out a few books, including one that I always wanted to read but couldn’t get past trying to mentally pronounce the dialect.

Raced back to work, burned all of the books into my Library, synched it all with my iPod, and at the end of the day, raced out to the trailhead.

It was fucking divine.

Of course I chose the challenging one.  Read by the author. He know how to pronounce everything. When he calls his girlfriend “Mammi” it sounds bario-cool.  When I said it in my mind, the character had an oedipal complex.

I ran. I remained evenly paced. I got (mentally) lost. I was completely absorbed in the story.

But not so lost that I couldn’t appreciate the sunlight through the trees.

A book and nature seem aesthetically compatible in ways that any music beyond classical violin and nature doesn’t.

I run to give myself a break from reality. I read as an escape. The two together brought so much peace and quiet to my brain.

For a little while afterwards, I felt that I was still stuck somewhere in Santo Domingo. I had a little bit of trouble grounding back in MT.

It was absolutely delicious.

I am going to get online this weekend and start downloading books and run myself right around the world.

Run, Darlin’, Run.

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