Monday, August 10, 2009

My new thesis

Brigham's Beard: Resurgence of the Chinstrap by Steve Hardman. That’s the title of my new made-up thesis.

For kicks, I like to make stuff up. Sometimes, I introduce myself as a dentist or rodeo clown, just to enjoy people’s reactions.

Once, I told a man that I was a mathematician studying fractals, and he excitedly replied, “So am I!” He was a professor at the U of U — and thankfully he laughed when he found out I knew nothing about geometry. For several days, I wandered the streets of Seattle visiting with people about my made-up master’s thesis, The American Cowboy: A Vanishing Legacy.

It’s like getting to be James Bond without the cool car. Or the gun. Okay, so it’s not like being James Bond at all, but it is fun.

On tin riding and climbing

I spent many a weekend on the San Rafael Swell. Growing up in Price, the Swell and its myriad features were only a short roadtrip away. The Wedge Overlook, Sid’s Mountain, Swinging Bridge, Black Dragon, Temple Mountain. From childhood through adolescence and into maturity, the San Rafael Swell definitely provided me with plenty of memories.
I remember the day we invented tin riding. With a 20-foot length of chain, we secured the hood of an old car to the back of Jedd Morley’s truck, climbed aboard the hood and took off. After a mile or two, the friction from being dragged down a dirt road at 50 miles an hour heated up the metal and made the ride unbearable. With our seats simmering, we abandoned our makeshift sleigh – not caring that we were still moving. Rocks and prickly-pears were preferable to a burnt bottom.
As luck would have it, I landed on an old mattress. We are strangers, providence and I, but occasionally we do meet in odd places. That dingy orphan of a mattress not only saved me from a beating, it also became the insulation for our hood – and provided us with months of padding before finally succumbing.
In addition to tin riding, one of our favorite activities in the Swell was rock climbing. We tried rappelling, but we didn’t have the equipment (and I don’t like heights), so we turned our attention another direction. Instead of going down, with ropes and gear, we decided to go up.
Now we weren’t quite half a bob off of plumb, but sometimes it was hard to tell. When we decided to climb, up the sandstone face we would go, nary a care, jamming my dad’s screwdrivers into crevices if the rock didn’t provide a hold. Whatever it took to gain purchase and climb.
I don’t know why, but it has always been easier for me to go up than down. Maybe its because my brother Scot pushed me off the top of the tall slide when I was little. Probably not, but it’s nice to blame someone.
So quitting and going down was never an option. I always climbed to the top, however hard; however scary – because up was easier than down. Maybe it helped that I always pretended I was Spiderman when I climbed.
There were some close calls, and we always went home scraped and bruised. The only real scare was when our makeshift zip line broke and Jedd fell about thirty feet onto the rocks below.
My only serious injury came when I split my head open, not from climbing ironically, but from trying to see which of us could get our butts closest to the road while hanging off the side of the truck (it was a step-side, you see, so it was perfect for just such an activity). One bump later sent me flying like Clark Kent. The scar still shows when I get my summer haircut.
As a father of five, including two teens, I can’t advocate that kind of climbing (or driving, for that matter). Frankly, my wife has forbidden me from telling these stories to our kids.
I hate to admit it, but my friends and I were much of the reason your premiums cost so much.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hobos and A.D.D.

I've often said that I'm a hobo by nature. A long-standing quip of mine is that when I met Christy I told her that I was a hobo, and she thought it was a metaphor. Nineteen addresses, three states and an embarrassingly large quantity of careers later, she finds my wit a hint threadbare and worn.

Jim Tully once wrote, "The imaginative young vagabond quickly loses the social instincts that make life bearable for other men. Always he hears voices calling in the night from far-away places where blue waters lap strange shores. He hears birds singing and crickets chirping a luring roundelay. He sees the moon, yellow ghost of a dead planet, haunting the earth."

Sounds A.D.D. to me.

There is something deeply romantic about it all though – the walkabout.

But then, maybe I’m a hobo simply because I titter like a child at the thought of illicitly riding a train; because I have A.D.D.; and maybe, just maybe, because I just don’t like to shave.