Tag Archives: Mountain Dude

Evolution or Devolution? The Mountain Dude’s not in the Mood

This is the third installment of a new series.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.

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I met an older woman, lean and tan and fit, hiking above Lawn Lake. She’s a mountain woman who’s been hiking forever, unfazed by steep trails, wildlife or the presence of an unkempt grumpy Mountain Dude.

“I believe in evolution,” she said. “And I don’t mean growing a longer snout to eat burrowing bugs.”

“What do you mean, then?”

“I mean, evolution is happening, like it or not. You can either help or hinder. That’s our choice.”

“Do you mean stop acting like children, grabbing all we can, as fast as we can and fuck everyone else?”

“Hmm. I don’t like the F-word.”

“Sorry. I’ve been thinking about something similar.”

“Cursing is a choice. We choose our words. Otherwise we’re unconscious.”

I was beginning to regret our conversation.

She sat on a rock and opened her pack. I expected a baggie of gorp but she had some jerky instead. She held out a strip to me. “Elk,” she said.

Elk jerky as a peace offering? That’s a start.

We chewed our jerky in silence.

“Don’t be so afraid,” I said. “The world isn’t that bad.”

“Who said I’m scared? Aren’t you scared?”

The residue of the world was all over me, still, from the towns and cities I came through to get here. Civilization. The people, the tourists, the park ranger, all indifferent or demanding, they just get in the way.

“I’m not scared. But I’m concerned.”

“’It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.’” She sang this in a mock cracked voice.

“Dylan?”

“Who else?”

“I have trouble getting past his whole Christian period.”

She chewed and looked into the trees. “Yeah, but he was…is… on the side of evolution.”

“Is it really either/or?”

“Pretty much. We will evolve or die off. Some fight it. Many fight it, these days. Most people it seems. It’s fashionable to fight it and be proudly sinking.”

“Fuck ‘em,” I said with a little too much emphasis on the F-word.

She stood up. “I told you I don’t like that word. What’s wrong with you?”

“I’ve been cast aside,” I said. “And I can’t shake it off today.”

“You’re angry.”

“And you’re rigid. Life can only disappoint the rigid and righteous.”

She gathered her stuff and moved off down the trail.

“And cursing doesn’t mean shit,” I said. “It’s just expression.”

Suffice it to say, we agreed to disagree. Or at least I did.

Later, I pitched my tent and sat watching darkness fall. One thing about the mountains. Once the summer sun sets behind a ridge or peak, the temperature drops immediately. That’s unlike the humid eastern mountains where the heat lingers in the thick air. That heavy heat has no where to go, the valleys trapping it, forming puddles of swampy June air. Up here, in a high Rocky Mountain valley, it’s easier to shake it off because the air is thin and much of the heat just lifts away.

At least that’s what I tell myself. But I’m no scientist.

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The Mountain Dude: “Why is Everyone so Angry?”

This is the second installment of a new series.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.

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I watched a National Park Ranger talk down a tourist from Ohio who was enraged that you couldn’t just stop your car in the middle of a busy road to take a picture of deer in a meadow. The driver clearly did not want to consider parking forty yards away and hauling the bulk of himself and family out of the car for a clearer look and contemplation of the beauty at hand.

I emerged from the trees where I had been watching the deer and contemplating the beauty at hand. “That was really hard for you,” I told the ranger after the car harrumphed away. “You just want to be liked.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry, nothing. Why are people so angry?”

“I think they just want what they want when they want it.”

We watched the deer, unhurried and silent, eating in a sunset meadow backed by 12,000 foot mountains.

“The internet,” I said. “We’ve confused convenience with an advance in civilization.”

“That’s a bit of a leap.”

I had to concede that he was right. It’s one of the traps of wandering alone most of the time. You’ve already filled in all the logic between observation and conclusion and take it as given, very tidy in your own head. Hence, tourist is angry in national park because of the internet and it’s illusion of easy attainment. I often get that puzzled look from people when I present my conclusions without my logic. Not that they want to hear my logic either. Still, I try.

“Guy from Ohio and his family want to get off their couch and have a vacation. They research national parks online because that’s getting back to nature. They read reviews and read about wildlife and stupendous scenery. They miss the parts about crowds and altitude. They use a GPS. They have no adventures on the way, except when little Daisy drops her plastic tray of gas station nachos and the flourescent cheese sauce gets on the upholstery. Dad is pissed. They get here to discover traffic in the gateway town. Straight-up traffic. And it’s hot. Then they go to the hotel to watch TV. The WiFi is spotty. The continental breakfast is free and there are as many sausage patties as you can eat. By the time they get out of there, it’s 9:30 or so, the same time that every other family is leaving their hotels. They discover another traffic jam at the entrance. Then there’s no parking at the lake they want to see and they have to take a shuttle which is packed like a New York subway at rush hour. On the way back to town, they see these deer, these beautiful tranquil deer grazing with a backdrop of awesome mountains. They slow down and stop to take pictures. Then you, the ranger, comes to move them along.”

“We’ve made it too easy to get here. Now we do crowd control all summer.”

“It’s supposed to be hard to get here. Instead of a physical challenge it’s a game of patience.”

“You don’t seem challenged.” He looked at my backpack. “Where are you camping?”

“Up there,” I said and gestured with my chin to the mountains.

“In the backcountry?”

“Where else?”

“Can I see your backcountry permit?”

I fished it out of my pocket and he looked at it.

“This is supposed to be displayed on the outside of your pack.”

“I don’t like the sound it makes when it flutters.”

He thought about this a second. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll let it go.”

I started off, away from the road, down the trail.

“Hey,” the ranger said. “Be careful up there.”

“You be careful down here,” I said as another car slowed and stopped so mom could lean out of the passenger side window and take a picture of the ranger in the meadow with deer in the background.

“Move along please,” the ranger said. “You can park right over there.”

“Jesus Christ,” the mom said and dad gunned the engine and the car leapt away.

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The Mountain Dude

This is the first installment of a new series.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.  Let’s pick up his story…

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After I left that troubled man, I resumed my walking. First to the food store for a big bag of almonds and apricots. That’s my walking food.

The girl behind the counter needed a little nudge. “It’s okay,” I told her. “To want things.”

“But it feels so shallow,” she said, tearing up a little.

“It’s only shallow if you make the things you want too precious.”

She sniffled and looked into my eyes. “Thank you,” she said.

It’s a gift and a curse, this knowing what people need, this sensitivity. I’m not always nice about it either. I told a guy last week that his loud obnoxious muscle truck couldn’t compensate for his lack of, ahem, physical intimacy.  “You’re really lonely,” I said.  “You need to connect.”

“Fuck you,” he said.

You’re welcome.

People call me the Mountain Dude and I’ve started to think of myself that way too. I do a lot of walking, but not just in the mountains. I walk on the streets, on the highways, through fields and over hills. I walk in the city and the country. I try to avoid the suburbs. I walk in the wilderness and sometimes I walk on water.

Just kidding. I’m not that kind of walker.

A therapist once called me a “holy fool” saying I’m a type of person who has a lofty set of principles that are out of step with those of the regular culture. The therapist said, “the holy fool is usually naïve about the ways of the real world.”

I am not naïve about the ways of the real world. Have you looked around?   The level of self-centeredness, self-promotion, self-congratulation? We are infected with multiple terminal cancers and we call that normal.

Don’t get me going.

All I try to do is break the endless cycle of rumination that infects most people in our country. That’s the level of involvement that works for me. I can’t stay in one place because I will hate or love, or hate AND love everyone nearby.

And I can’t keep my mouth shut. So I keep moving.

Sometimes though I encounter a person over and over again, in different places, at different stages of their own journey. “Are you real?” they ask.

Yes, I’m real.

Take that tortured bastard I just left in the park. I saw him in New England several times. A big ruminator, that guy. Then I saw him in a bar here in Colorado, about to get his ass kicked. I ushered him out and sat with him until he came to.

I think he’s going to be all right, but you never know. I may see him again someday.

I may see you someday, too.

 

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Safe in the Woods

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Emerging from a blackout, one finds oneself in the midst of the strangest scenarios. You re-enter your body like a time traveler and need to catch up quick lest you are discovered.

JJ re-entered his body, sitting on a park bench in Fort Collins, CO. Sitting next to him, hairy and hulking, was the Mountain Dude.

“I dreamt of a broken safe in the woods, full of acorns.”

“Huh?” JJ was disoriented and wondered what had happened. How was he here? Where did the Mountain Dude come from? And, holy shit, where was the car?

“I was walking down a mountainside. Saw an appliance or something down the hill in a clearing.   Got closer and it was a safe, busted open, with acorns spilling out.”

“A safe? Who was safe?”

The Mountain Dude looked at JJ. “Man, you’re really out of it. It was a safe, like where you keep your valuables. In the middle of the woods, busted open, with acorns spilling out. Hundreds of acorns.”

“When did this happen?”

“Dude! It was a dream.”

A dream. Maybe this was a dream, too. How could the Mountain Dude, who JJ instantly recognized as the Mountain Dude from back east, be sitting here in a park in Colorado talking to him about dreams.

“Is this real?”

“I’m real. I’m really real. The dream? What kind of symbol is a broken safe in the woods?”

JJ looked at the park. Late summer, late afternoon. People walked their dogs and threw Frisbees. The foothills of the Rockies rose beyond the town, sage and brown. He felt quavery and dry, his head too big for his body. Standing would be a major issue. Worse, there were knuckle-dragging beasts, just beyond the fog in his head and heart. Feelings and memories chasing him, making threatening movements, shadows in the fog. If that fog clears…

“Precious things are kept in a safe, locked away,” JJ said.

“Right. Not just documents. Gems and jewels.”

“So maybe the things you hold precious, locked up inside, need to come out. Or they’re already out.”

“So the woods are my soul or unconscious,” the Mountain Dude said. “And I come upon this safe that’s broken open.”

“Full of God’s thoughts.”dsc_0789

“What?”

“Acorns are God’s thoughts. Simple and perfect, but not too perfect.”

“Dude. I knew you could do it.”

“You knew? How?”

“You told me. In the bar. An interpreter of dreams you said you were. A seeker of symbols. I pulled you out of there before they threw you out of there.” The Mountain Dude stood up. “And I’ve been rewarded.”

“You’re going?”

“I have to go off and think on these images.”

“What about me?”

“You’ll have to carry on and find your own acorns.”

The Mountain Dude walked down the grassy hill toward the foothills beyond.

JJ stared after him, befogged and befuddled.  What now?  Then he yelled at the departing Mountain Dude, “Have you seen a Hyper Blue Metallic Camaro?”

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Wings Clipped?

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Sunday night AA. In the parking lot, it’s the meeting after the meeting. Cigarette smokers and laughter. People talking in twos and threes. Two women hugging, one in tears, the other whispering comfort and encouragement.

JJ met with his sponsor, Professor Tom, in the front seat of Tom’s old Chevy pickup (bench seat!). A little close for comfort, from JJ’s perspective. “I’m going on a trip,” JJ said.

Tom didn’t respond right away, but stared into the dark, chewing his gum. He always had some gum going since he quit smoking a few years back. Or so JJ’s been told. He’s only known Tom for about a year, since limping back into the AA fold. Tom asked, “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know,” JJ said. “Me and Lila are going to drive around the country.”

“Why?”

“To be with Lila. To get away for a while.”

Professor Tom chewed and JJ could feel the beginnings of internal squirming. “It’s not a good idea,” Tom said.

I met this guy on the mountain. He inspired me to take a journey.”

“Does this mountain guy know about you? About your love of self-destruction, self-deception, and self-sabotage?”

It’s Mountain Dude, JJ thought. Mountain Dude. “No, but it feels right. I didn’t get sober to not be free. Besides, Lila…we just want to be together.”

Now Tom turned. JJ could just see Tom’s eyes in the yellowish light from a parking lot lamp. There was concern there in the warm depth of his look, but cold skepticism in his squint and cocked eyebrow. “As your sponsor, I suggest you not take any journeys of discovery right now.”

“But…”

“And here are my reasons. One, you’re still a newcomer and only on step three. That’s the only journey you need to be concerned with right now. Two, we often plan our relapses without even knowing it. Three, you won’t be doing any service for other alcoholics while roaming the land. That’s key. And four, the last thing you need is to detach from the roots you’re putting down. You need to stay put and dig deeper.”

“Are you forbidding me to go?”

“It doesn’t work like that. You can do whatever you want. I strongly suggest you stay put, though. For both you and Lila’s sake, if you really want to be with her.”

“It’s different this time.”

“Yeah, you have more to lose than ever. Your house. Lila. The lottery money. You can’t see it, but I promise that you can lose it all and wash up somewhere pretty quick.”

“But…I feel so good. I haven’t wanted to drink at all.”

“Like I said, I can’t stop you. But I strongly suggest you stay close. Go away for the weekend with Lila. What does she say about this?”

Pause. “I haven’t told her.”

“Okay. That’s your assignment. Go tell her what you’re planning for her. Then call me.” Tom reached for the column and started the truck. “Meeting over.”

“Alright, thanks.” JJ hopped out and closed the door. “I’ll call you,” he said through the open window.

“Talk to Lila,” Tom said and drove away.

“That didn’t go well”, JJ thought. “Well, fuck him. Lila will love this.”

So, he went to find out.

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The Walking Dead and the Mountain Dude

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Monday after a rainy Sunday. A drippy morning, skies clearing slowly.  Most people went off to work but JJ commuted up his road and hiked the mountain in the mud.

He and Lila binge-watched The Walking Dead yesterday and now he imagines if he would survive the zombie apocalypse and all the damaged humans left behind. All that roaming and desperation. Would he be hard enough? Could he and Lila survive? And, what about Carl? Carl would no doubt be that obnoxious philosopher dude, the one with the camper and the scruples. He would stay aloof, floating above the fray, until a dead hand from some leaf pile or gaping manhole reached up to show him it didn’t pay to think so much. Or, maybe some “friend” would just shoot him in the back.

A stick cracked and JJ turned to see the Mountain Dude walking down the hill, off-trail, coming right towards him. No lurching zombie, the Mountain Dude. He came straight down, nice and smooth, absorbing the terrain, taking what he was given.

“It’s been awhile,” JJ said.

“But I’ve seen you all winter and spring,” the Dude said. “From a distance and up close. You almost stepped on me once.”

“Um, ok. So why’re you approaching me now.”

“This is where I cross the trail. You’re in my way.”

JJ looked up and down the trail, level and straight in this little valley. Lots of trees, no landmarks, no other trails. “You cross right here?”

“Today I cross here. Yesterday I crossed there.” The Dude pointed to a spot ten feet back down the trail. “Tomorrow I cross there.” He pointed to a spot ten feet up the trail.

They were quiet. Then the Mountain Dude moved on, passing very close to JJ as he crossed the trail to start up the other side of the little valley. As he brushed past, JJ smelled moist forest, all wet sticks and ferns.

“So,” JJ said. “Why?”

The Dude stopped but did not face JJ. “Concentric circles from the summit of the mountain. Ten feet out each time.”

“And…why?”

“A journey in place. I want to walk all the ground on this mountain. And I want to expand outward from the center.”

“What about the ridges? And the swamps?”

“Sometimes you scramble. Sometimes you slog. I’ll get through.”

“So, that’s life?”

“That’s nature. We’re all just animals who think too much. Maybe you should consider a purposeful journey.”

And now he moved off up the hill, curving slightly to hug the mountain, picking his way with grace and flow.

“The Mountain Dude would survive the zombies,” JJ thought. “I would have to be the tagalong who slowly grows on him. Or gets left behind.”

The idea of a purposeful journey, though. That sounded about right.

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