Saturday, May 23, 2009

i can't even write this

I'm currently in the throes of completing my first short story ever. And by throes I mean taking Sequoia on gratuitous walks and watching old news interviews of my friend's dad online.

Which reminds me -- I also bought this 1938 book online. A (different) friend's dad used to talk about this book and how it included charts and maps and instructions for pretty much throwing over your existing life for a life of adventure on the high seas. He had the book for a time but then lost it. I've always wanted to read it. Over the years, I've searched for it in used bookstores to no avail. Yesterday I suddenly remembered the internet. Five minutes and twelve dollars later, I became the proud owner. So yeah, that's what I'm doing instead of finishing my story, which is due a week from tomorrow.

So then I thought I'd write about my recent trip to Yosemite in order to ease in to um, the thing I supposedly want to do more than anything else in the world. But I found myself retyping my blog entry title six times, then stopping to marvel at how laughably fucked up I am. I suppose that's what separates actual writers from, uh, me.

But I digress. Yosemite was incredible, but there's almost too many stories to tell. In chronological order, there's:

1. Sno White drive in! I bet you didn't know that Sno White is indeed a chain and that there are 11 stores still extant in California. Because I sure didn't. I thought there was only one Sno White ever and that it had closed its doors on Chester Avenue way way back sometime after its heyday in the 60s. One screeching U-turn was all it took to semi re-experience the taste of a Sno White burger (which I couldn't bring myself to eat, although Michael assured me it was quite enjoyable).

2. The way Michael talks. It freaks me out that a British accent just never gets old for me. And although I've been listening to (or, er, tuning out) Michael for years, it's like there was this whole new "Yosemite Edition" Michael. Complete with phrases like, "Did you bring your torch?" and "I think I left my jumper in the bonnet." We did amazing things like "endeavor" to park closer and start on our hikes by "half past." Bob was our uncle for almost the entire trip.

Interestingly, when people ask me where I'm from when I'm in Berkeley, I know the answer is "Bakersfield." When they ask that in Yosemite, the response is obviously "Berkeley." But for Michael it's different, and I never thought about that before. Perhaps when he's in England he can be from Berkeley, but any other place in the world requires him to be from Cambridge. Whenever I told people that "we're" from Berkeley, they shot him a questioning, suspicious look that confused me but not him. He just smiled and nodded, "Originally from Cambridge." Oh.

3. People still don't know how to talk about tribes. All over Yosemite, there are official plaques that say things like, "The native peoples believed that this was inhabited by evil spirits that caused illness." No shit. Substitute "bacteria" for "spirits" and I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say they were right.

4. I'm always impressed by Yosemite's refusal to provide Disneyland-level safety for visitors, despite the Disney-like atmosphere. It's the fucking wilderness, candy coating notwithstanding. The schism makes my brain ache. Tiny children scrambling up slick wet rocks next to a sheer cliff overlooking the rapids. No one is afraid, and yet people actually do fall to their deaths here. In fact, a woman died the day before we arrived. I know her death affected everyone. But the next day, I watched people run down those same slippery rocks, jostling people as they passed. I can never figure out if I'm too afraid or if they aren't afraid enough.

5. Wilderness areas always trigger my inner Western civilization vs. Native American way of life debate. I totally love Western civilization. But wow, how fast do we screw up paradise? Tens of thousands of years of balance nearly gone within a hundred years.

Still, at one point I realized that only a very few people ever saw Yosemite valley before this past century. How weird is it that people lived and died there never knowing what a rare place it was? And that others may have lived and died just a few hundred miles away, never knowing it existed? I wish I could think about other things during camping trips. But I'd say that 80% of my brain space is taken up with "what was it like" and "what will it be like" and "what could have been."

The other 20% is taken up with my plan to (but not today) climb Half Dome.

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