Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / FLEX Net Years /
1970ish, told @ K. 2002 03 31
Halfway up Mt. Washington I stop to rest, sitting on a rock in shade just off the trail. I’m not the first person to find the rock handy: my rock is circled by orange peels, some previous hiker resting and also snacking: some sloppy pig of a rester who left nature to recycle their refuse for them.
You can spot a Knatz by the protruding rib cage.
(You can spot my scotch tethered to my skis in a plastic bottle: glass is heavy.)
(Idiot: it would be another decade before I stopped drinking all together.)
I’ll pick up their litter myself: after I’ve taken a breather. The orange peels are biodegradable. The ants and the bacteria and the whatever will break them down: but not fast enough to rid me of this evidence that I am not alone in the universe. We climb Mt. Washington in pursuit of that illusion. [note] If I want to be reminded of the crowd, I go to Times Square; if I want to forget the crowd, I go to the woods. I don’t want to find evidence that the crowed is hardly further than the next bend ahead of me.
The trail begins at Pinkham Notch, Mt. Washington above.
Along comes a troop of officious hikers. “Pick that up,” their leader orders me.
Now I’m the guy who stomped out discarded cigarette buts in his bare feet as a kid. The second or fourth grade teacher had told us that fire burned oxygen. She or some other teacher had told me that I needed oxygen to live. Fire took my oxygen. I put fires out. As a kid slightly older on my bicycle I helplessly watched a great fire at the Coka-Cola Bottling Plant: sick with dread at how much of my oxygen was being converted to smoke.
As a kid I screamed and carried on when my friend put fresh water mussels in the road where cars would run them over; I wouldn’t even step on ants.
As a kid I was the world’s conscience: a Witness for Jesus, a cleaner, a restorer, a picker-up of other’s trash.
But no Nazi boy scout is going to tell me to do any of those things: especially not when he’s so superficially accusing me in his tone of being the litterer.
The Nazi could have said, “Excuse me, if you’ll move your foot I’ll pick up that litter for you: assuming that’s your litter.”
I didn’t dignify his hebetude by allowing his existence to register on me. I ignored the troop altogether: waiting, hoping for him to say something that allowed a place for the truth. Then I would tell him the truth. “They’re not my orange peels. However, I plan to pick them up anyway before continuing my climb. Mind your business and let me breathe.”
In retrospect I regret not having had a Luger on me, regret not having stuck the muzzle in his mouth, ordered him to sit on the rock surrounded by the litter, then order him to pick up leavings not his own. That might have been a better lesson for him. But are lessons possible for officious kleptocrats who leap to multiple-fact conclusions on the basis of single facts?
Regrets are for people who can’t make up their minds.
Owen Parry’s Abel Jones novels
The woman I was with asked me why I didn’t just tell the guy that the peels were on the ground when we arrived. Had the guy come a minute sooner, he’d have seen Barbara (my sushi waitress from the night before) sitting on the rock surrounded by orange peels. Would he have demanded that she be the world’s scullion in the same way he’d demanded it of me?
Funny: the moment prior to his arrival I’d been marvelously pacific: despite the annoyance of someone else’s trash: because Barbara had sucked all the male aggression out of me not an hour before. (That story is being moved to a blog.)
Alone in the Universe:
My first trip to the Ravine was experienced very much in those terms. I went with a student named Lathrop. Jeff. This kid was far and away the best skier I’d ever skied with at that time: easily as good as the Olympic skiers and racing veterans I would come to ski with. He was undefeated on the Colby Ski team: going back years. I think his parents had been Olympians. By God, even his mother had skied the headwall at Tuckerman’s! His mother! I was in pretty good shape for thirty or so, but this kid was in combat shape for age twenty or twenty-one. The kid was a mine of good racing advice: “Drive into the curve fast; come out of it faster.” More to the point, he was a mine of good ski-mountaineering advice: “don’t step on what you can step over.”
Tuckerman’s is reachable by a trail that meanders for a couple of miles. Lathrop had no patience for that: he led me straight up the mountain: through the woods. I tried to conceal the labor it cost me to keep up, but keep up I did: almost. Had he wanted to lose me, he could have: easily. As it was, he’d pause to allow me to slow a step, then advance.
I know we’re going to Tuckerman’s Ravine. I know it’s on Mt. Washington. I know skiers gather there from all over the world every spring. I know we’re not Columbus discovering anything, but that knowledge did nothing to dispel my feeling that no “white man” could ever possibly have preceded us here. I reminded myself of the old Mad comic lampooning Drag Net where Friday and his sidekick scratch their way up the Matterhorn: abraded, their clothing in rags. Yet once we burst from the woods onto the park warm-up shed, others were there ahead of us. Once we arrived at the Ravine, hundreds were gathered on Lunch Rocks, watching the action. Not only were there hundreds, but a good plurality of them were “girls” (girls wearing tee shirts, and in one case, one very wet tee shirt). Well, in the comic, Friday scrambles onto the crest of the mountain: and there’s a troop of girl scouts already there: their uniforms neat as a pin.
It was by the way a proud moment in my life when Lathrop, having stayed with me till we’d climbed the headwall, and I’d huffed and puffed into my bindings, gotten my glove on, my poles strapped to my wrists, gulped at the near verticality of the snow we were clinging to, and I jumped a couple of turns: still upright.
“Not bad,” he said.
And left me. Blitz! (Lathrop was the greatest skiing competitor in Colby’s history.)
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