Thursday, September 24, 2015

Extreme Sports

I think when George Mallory was asked, "Why climb Everest?" and he replied "Because it's there." he was really referring to his Ego

He said, "I want to travel light and take the summit by surprise," and the translation of that is ,"We paid an army of poor sherpas from our oppressed colony to carry our shit for us, but we'll take all the credit in the end."

Mallory might've reached the summit but he took that secret with him when he died on the mountain and his body is up there still along with the corpses of many others.

I watched the movie Everest the other day. It is based on the true events of the bungled summit attempt by about 50 thrill seekers in 1996. There was probably a little bit of editorializing and exaggeration, but that's only because this unknown director didn't quite grasp there is no need to exaggerate anything that happens at 28,000 ft. Like there are no average days for a human in outer space. If you tape a cocktail straw between your lips and use only it to breath, while running a marathon, then you might get the idea of what it's like to operate at that altitude, but this grave effort is only brushed over along with ridiculous cinematic conventions such as removing ones goggles and mask in sub zero temps so the audience knows who is talking...but I can ignore that.

 I've been reflecting on this topic of extreme sports, considering opening a Los Angeles guide service that walks you through a month on Skid Row. Escorted heroin addiction. The complete package will include starting out living in a van that will be confiscated by the police in a midnight raid while you are suffering from food poisoning. The police will club you and mace your eyes while you plead for medical attention. You will wind up sharing a cardboard box with a lunatic, wearing unisex pajamas in 30 degree temps and rain. Why not? Driving the Pan American Highway is a breeze compared to living on the streets of Austin where I was a false move from either being gunned down in the street, wrongfully convicted of murder and executed, or mugged and killed, not to mention heat stroke. The stress was very high and there was no Embassy to call for relief, the chance of 'disaster' was also very high. And if someone paid me $65K for the chance to spend a month living in 125 degree heat, dodging pimps, meth heads and trigger happy cops you would be right to call them crazy. One day I lugged 200 pound sheets of masonite into a church attic for 10 hours, tore all the skin off my arm, ate a single uncooked Ramen noodle packet for my entire calorie consumption, and earned about $22, which all went in my gas tank, and then was interrogated by the police for an hour with guns aimed at my temple, while they tried to get me to do something suspicious so they could arrest or execute me. Believe me, after my work day there was no fight left in me. I sincerely didn't care if they executed me or not and the cops eventually went back to their bat cave. Only after I navigated all those dangers could I sleep in the 120 degree oven my van had become during the day. Yet, there are no guide services for this 'urban challenge sport' and equally crazy people who pay $65K to climb Everest get a movie made about them when they die. That makes no sense. I survived a hellish situation in Austin and Corpus Christi for 5 months and for a small fee I could lead you through a similar experience. If Everest is a Summit then why is it not popular to plunge to the depth of social decay and survive? Los Angeles just declared a state of emergency because of 25,000 homeless people dying on the streets. Don't you want a chance to be one of them? I don't get it, but I'm not conventional so I guess I'm biased. I also accept the fact that some adventures must surpass any rational limit, at some point we reach a do or die, safety limit and keep on going anyway. That seems to be the lesson of the movie: rarely is your goal easily achieved and sometimes you have to die to reach a summit. But you will die knowing you reached the summit and if it's that important to you then go ahead because you'll die eventually anyway. That's what Mallory thought.

The movie is interesting but they all chose to be there at 8000 meters and their choice puts many people at risk for their mistakes. They all depend on an army of locals. They leave behind trash and shit and frozen bodies in a wake of destruction following their summit attempt. What kind of person would do that? Nature lovers? No. The kind that would later claim to have "Climbed Mt. Everest" Sure, you climbed Mt. Everest like I built my car. Fortunately, the dead don't ask for sympathy, so I don't have to have any. I'm selfish, I cultivate my own private goals and hobbies, but at least I admit it. But I also try to limit the imposition on others. When I'm asked if I will drive to Chile in my van I respond, "The question isn't if I can make it; the question is how many Bolivian potato farmers I want to inconvenience along the way." The answer is zero. I think a Bolivian potato farmer has enough challenges without taking time out of his day to help me find a distributor cap or help me through a parasitic attack. And since a trip to Chile in my van will not only cost around $7K, it will also inconvenience dozens of innocent people unlucky enough to live along the route I choose, I think that kind of trip is not going to happen. Better to take a bus or motorcycle.

There was a time when the peak of Everest was free of conceited and selfish assholes, but it's safe to say that time has passed. This movie is both a fittingly garish/lavish tribute and commercialized memorial to those selfish, conceited assholes who now seem to be the only people capable of reaching the summit.

We were just minding our own business...

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.