Treachery and Nicotine | Leg 3: Burns, OR to Fallon, NV

Waking up in Fallon, Nevada and the first thing I notice is that my knee is swollen and stiff. Fuck. And yesterday I was bragging about how I’d gone on my first hike since my injury and how I’d be surfing in another month and bouldering in another two. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about? Maybe the injury is worse than I thought? Or maybe I just overdid it. Maybe I need to finally take some damn ibuprofen.

(*Puts 4mg nicotine gum in.)

Good morning! Here I am in Fallon, Nevada, and it snowed last night. The Subee is covered in a thin white layer of gossamer fluff. Highway 95 beckons us, but for some reason I’m not eager to jump in my car. Is this because of my knee? Is this because of the weather? Part of me wants to just stay another day in Fallon, but I know that staying in Fallon would consist of me paying too much for a hotel and eating burritos from Safeway. Not exactly a recipe for happiness. So I’ll probably press onward, to Bishop. Probably.

My first hike post LCL injury, in the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

Or maybe not! Part of me just wants to get in my car and drive to Mexico right now. Cross the border. Be in a land where the sun continually shines and the hotels cost $30 a night. A land where I can eat for a third of the price and be more at large in the world. But aren’t I at large in the world here in Fallon? Must I always be somewhere else? Is my green tea done steeping?

Third state of the trip and then onward to California.

Yesterday I drove from Burns, Oregon to Denio, Nevada, stopping for a short hike on the way. It felt so good to hike, though I’m paying for it now with a swollen and stiff knee. Still, I would not take it back! Oh, to be alone in the wilderness, wondering if you’re going to be attacked by a wolf or a mountain lion. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked anywhere so remote. This last summer I went backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascades, and even that, after an eight mile hike in, didn’t feel so remote, mostly because we were surrounded by goddamn humans. It’s hard to get away from humans, and sometimes you need to. Yesterday I needed to. And I did. I hiked probably a mile in on a trail called “Three-mile Trail” or something similar, and the only sounds I could hear the entire time were the brook babbling next to me and the wind caressing the trees. Which I think were juniper trees. But I have no idea.


I have to say I’m not thrilled about being in Nevada. Is anyone thrilled about being in Nevada? Why would you ever move to Nevada? Are there people out there who are like, “You know what? I think we should move to Nevada?” As soon as you have a thought like this you should be locked up and the key thrown away. Though what am I talking about. If you’re the kind of lunatic who wants to move to Nevada, that’s precisely where you should be. Far from everyone else.

Nicotine gum for cognition.

At Wal-Mart in Winnemucca I bought some 4mg nicotine gum. This is supposed to be for smoking cessation, but I don’t smoke so I’m using it for cognitive benefits. Plus it’s just kind of a fun thing to have on road trips. I also bought some turmeric gummies to hopefully help with the swelling in my knee, but I should really think about just taking some ibuprofen. I’m loathe to take NSAIDS. I know your body swells for a reason, but also due to our shitty modern-day diets we probably exacerbate the swelling with the insane amounts of sugar and crap we ingest. Continued swelling, according to one website I consulted, “destructs and distends the tissues, and distorts the anatomy.” I feel like in my case I might’ve done this all wrong. I RICED the crap out of my knee at the beginning, and so maybe now the swelling I’m experiencing is just my body healing. I don’t know, and I don’t know how many doctors I would trust on this one, because almost all doctors would just push NSAID’s on me immediately.

Doctors like to push stuff.

Crimson and clover, over and over.

As the title of today’s blog suggest, treachery abounded yesterday in the form of me…getting on an interstate. Yes, you read correctly. I am a fraud. The road trip is ruined. But also there wasn’t really a way to avoid it. The google map directions had me almost literally driving on train tracks on a railroad service road. I had to do about an 18-point turn underneath an overpass just to turn around. And then I realized all of the roads Google wanted to take me on to avoid the interstate were dirt roads. So I hit one of the onramps, and never turned back. And got to Fallon in about half the time. And didn’t exactly feel bad about it.

And now here I am in Fallon and it’s still snowing and my first nicotine gum has run its course. I don’t know if I felt anything. Am I doing this wrong? Does this stuff even contain nicotine?

My tea is done steeping.

Grand Road Trip Leg Two: Saint Helens, OR to Burns, OR

It was hard to leave Saint Helens, Oregon this morning. I rolled out of bed at 8:30am (!), and apart from a nightmare got a wonderful night’s sleep.

My first stop was Portland, where I wanted to go to Whole Foods. I was heading into the middle of nowhere, so there would be no more Whole Foods. I bought a Rebbl Matcha and a Go Macro bar. I had to take advantage while I could.

After Whole Foods I forced myself to go to Powell’s Books because it’s only a couple blocks from Whole Foods and it’s one of the best bookstores in the world. Though I had nothing in mind to buy I stumbled upon the Karl Ove Knausgaard section just to see what I could see and lo and behold, there was a book called Inadvertent which is Karl Ove Knausgaard on writing. I didn’t know this book existed. I looked at the back cover. $8.98. I sprinted to the cash register.

From Portland I took Burnside Street east, which would eventually turn into Highway 26 which would take me by Mt. Hood and into Central Oregon. I didn’t want to go to Central Oregon. Central Oregon is a necessary evil of this trip. It’s impossible to get to Nevada and California without going to Oregon, unless you take a big detour into Idaho, a state I wanted to visit even less. I don’t know what it is I have against Oregon. I like surfing in Oregon. I like the lack of sales tax. I like that it’s somewhat similar to Washington. I don’t, however, like how they don’t let you pump your own gas. And I’ve never been particularly attracted to Portland. Oregon just seems kind of…blah. Kind of like, “OK, let’s get this over with and get to California.” I mean, the coast is beautiful, I suppose. But right now I’m not into the coast. I’m into getting to the middle of nowhere, Nevada. Into getting to Mexico.

Powell’s Books.

Once over the pass I stopped in Madras, Oregon, for lunch. I went to Safeway and got a turkey pesto avocado Sandwich and enjoyed one of the few human interactions of the day. The woman working told me she liked making sandwiches with focaccia bread and I countered with something like, “Well, I like eating them with that bread,” and retreated to the parking lot, where I ate alone in my car, contemplating the road ahead of me and the proper pronunciation of “Madras.” Madras led to Prineville, and sometime after Prineville is where I started to speed.

I’m not much of a speed-demon when it comes to driving. I used to be, in my teenage years, ripping around suburban Washington in an ’88 Honda Civic, pulling e-brakes in the parking lot. But nowadays I drive the speed limit, unless I’m really bored. The stretch between Prineville and the highway to Burns was one such stretch. It might be the first time I’ve gotten my Subaru over 80, which doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind around 68mph my Subaru starts to shake like an F16 taking off. I discovered something today, though, namely that there’s a sweet spot around 74pmh where it stops shaking, and again at around 80pmh. So for awhile I was cruising.

A bucolic landscape outside of Madras, Oregon.

I must say I do like Central Oregon, despite the trucks kicking up pebbles at your windshield. I pulled over for a bit somewhere and just stood, basking in the sun and my orange puffy jacket. I peed. I kept driving, stopping in a place called Riley, which is the junction of 395 (which is the highway that goes to Bishop [!]), where I got black tea and an orange. At this point I was only about 25 miles from Burns and America’s Best Value Inn, which I had booked during my sun-basking pitstop. I’m obsessed with lodging and the website Sometimes when I’m bored I just look at the Booking map view to see if any establishments catch my attention. I have a pretty good handle on the different American hotel chains, which is why I was surprised to see that the America’s Best Value Inn in Burns, Oregon, had a rating of 8.5. I was under the impression staying in an America’s Best Value Inn was a bit like staying in cellblock D of your local penitentiary. I’d never seen one rated this high. I was greeted at the front desk by Nikki, who told me the hot tub was open and I could make an appointment. First, though, I went for a stroll around Burns, which actually DID feel a bit like penitentiary, or at least the places I went. I curtailed the walk in favor of going back to the hotel. At 6pm I had my solo hottub date, where I played in the jets and lasted about 15 minutes.

For dinner I had panang curry from Linda’s Thai Room. It was surprisingly delicious. It was interesting to see people dining inside masks. When I went in to pick up my food wearing a mask I saw one guy look at me like, “Now, wait just a gosh darn minute. Cheryl, go get the truck…”

I ate my curry back in the hotel room and for dessert had a Butterfinger McFlurry from Dairy Queen. My diet has already begun to suffer a bit on this trip, but I’m not worried about it. It evens out in the end. After dinner I watched a series on Hulu called “Looking for Alaska” and of course immediately fell in love with the female protagonist. In the middle of the night I woke up and thought, “Why am I doing this trip?” and had a strange longing to be back on my boat! Luckily, those thoughts were quickly banished from my head as a fell asleep. I don’t know why I’m on this trip, and that’s precisely why I must keep going.

The Grand Road Trip | Leg One: Ballard to Saint Helens, OR

It’s finally happened. I’ve finally started my road trip south. I was supposed to start last week but then I decided to hang around for my doctor’s appointment, where I learned I have a partially torn LCL that will take 2-3 months to heal. So what better way to kill time in the winter waiting for your ligament to heal than by getting in your ’97 Subaru and heading south toward Me-hee-ko?

I’m calling it The Grand Road Trip, semi named after The Grand Forest on Bainbridge Island, a kick-ass name and one of my favorite places to go walking (and apparently a cougar lives there now and is preying on local livestock).

One of the goals for this road trip: To not take interstates. Which in theory is a romantic idea. You see the land! You live among the people! But in practice it meant that leaving Seattle I had to pass through places like Kent and Tukwila and SeaTac and the dreaded Puyallup.

Despite this, from the first moment it was still enchanting, turning onto Airport Way S. down by SoDo stadium. Airport Way S took me past Boeing Field and the King County International Airport (I didn’t even know this existed; Do they have one-way flights to Guam?), and onto Military Road S, and from there through the aforementioned places I wasn’t thrilled about but that were a necessary evil to get out of the greater Seattle area.

Once on 161 south things began to get better. I passed Alder Lake, which for a moment made me feel like I was back in Central Switzerland, fresh off the mountain and looking for a comely lass in the local ski lodge to share a Stein with. This led me to the town of Elbe, which apparently has Germanic influence, as noted by the word “Kirche” written on the local church. Here I stopped in a general store and got a large Earl Grey with “just a little bit of cream” and then sat on a bench outside, eating cheese and crackers and gazing out on the lake. Already I felt good about my decision not to take interstates. It was hard at first, leaving Seattle and seeing I-5 south signs every five minutes and knowing I could just faceplant onto the freeway and be at my destination in almost half the time. But this trip is not about destinations. I have nowhere to get to. I have nothing to do. I just want to see new things and appreciate the place where I am, places like Elbe with their Teutonic places of worship.

The church in Elbe, WA. The pastor is a monolingual German speaker named Hermann, or so I hope.

After Elbe it was onto highway 7 which took me to the lovely town of Morton, known for….a lumber mill, maybe? Morton was one of those towns that was charming in the way your slow-witted nephew might be charming. It’s great to be around him for a little bit, but then when you’re not in his presence anymore you say to your wife, “Jesus, I’m glad our kids didn’t turn out like that.” Or maybe he’s like that cousin you have that lives in Minnesota or Iowa or some god-forsaken place like Missouri, where he lives in a subdivision at the end of a cul-de-sac, and you visit him and he’s so happy, so carefree, and though you’re touched by his happiness you also know he’ll grow up to be a manager at Applebee’s and never leave the country (though he’ll still be happier than you). Anyway, Morton is something like that. The only thing interesting about it was a group of semi-goth highschool kids that got off a schoolbus, and the fact that in Morton you have to decide if you want to take Highway 12 east towards Yakima, or west towards Longview.

I went towards Longview.

I kind of WISH I had gone towards Yakima, but by this point I’d already made my reservation at the hotel where I’m currently typing these very words, the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn in Saint Helens, where the woman at the front desk wasn’t wearing a mask and many of the patrons weren’t wearing masks and she asked me “How is the virus up [in Seattle]?” She also thought it was dumb the pool was closed “‘cuz, you know, chlorine,” to which I didn’t respond. Despite a lack of teeth she was super nice. She gave me corner room far far away from the group that was checking in, whereupon I went on a two mile walk and saw four churches, at least as many fast food restaurants, and a Wal-Mart. Saint Helens has a lot going on. If there were to be another eruption it would be a shame if this place didn’t make it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After Morton and the goth kids and the life or death decision of whether or not to go towards Yakima I worked my way back towards I-5, and then took a two-lane road just west of I-5, where I went to Safeway and got an express special with General Tso’s chicken. My diet so far on this trip has been phenomenal. Energy bars, tea and fake Chinese food. I should probably just get a pack of Skittle’s right now and call it a night.

Tomorrow I’m going to head into Portland to go to Whole Foods and also Powell’s Books. I don’t really want to go there, but it’s one of the best bookstores on the planet, so I have to go. And then after that onward towards Central Oregon, maybe, if I’m lucky (or just keep my foot on the accelerator from time to time), ending up in a town called Burns.

But for now I’m going to enjoy the splendors of the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn in Saint Helens, Oregon. I’m already in another state. And traveling without interstates is awesome! Shame about the pool, though…

Wait Too Late | Road to Recovery

My head feels frazzled from not sleeping enough. Two nights in a row now I’ve woken up early and haven’t been able to get back to sleep. I don’t know why. Once again I was going to leave today, but I don’t want to leave too soon and ruin what was almost ripe. There are still a few more things I need to do. I need to finish packing. I need to put my wetsuit in the car. I need to pack up my foam roller and my computer and the books I’m bringing. And then there’s the book that needs to go back to Bainbridge. There are the books from the Seattle library that need to be taken back, one of which is Circe, which I’ve almost finished.

If I do leave today my destination is Saint Helens, Oregon. Then tomorrow Burns. Then the next day Nevada. Then the next day Bishop.

I’m not allowed to eat today till 12pm.

I wish there was something right now that could rip from this reverie. Ah, it’s called caffeine. But caffeine rips you from the world of reverie and plunges you into the world of anxiety. It’s not fun to be anxious. Your mind works overtime. You worry about things that don’t need worrying about. If you don’t have problems you create problems. Caffeine is something I’ve used for so long to stave off the boredom, but there’s a better way, to look the boredom in the face.

My succulent was the first plant I got and the last remaining plant on the boat. Maybe I should bring it with me, to Mexico? Wouldn’t he be happy there? First I had him then I had a philodendron and a peace lily and a calathea plant. I’ve given all of them away, some in worse shape than others. The peace lily now blesses Barry’s house. The philodendron is in the custody of my mother. My sister has the calathea.

Get dressed, load up the dry bag with the computer and foam roller and charger and other trinkets. Load up the blue bag, the one that was moldy yesterday, with clothes. Make sure you have your passport. Disconnect the shore power and store the cord somewhere it won’t get wet. Take La Mala out of the surf bag and put the fish into it. Take out the trash. Then finally get in the car and head south. Or stop by Erica’s house first. Or got your parents’ house to get that fleece.

It’s clear and cold outside. Sometimes you’ve waited long enough and just need to take action. But if you waited just a little bit longer….

Maybe. But it’s also possible to wait too long.

Hanging On | Road to Recovery

I think screen time activates my heart murmur. It didn’t seem to be happening today until I opened my computer screen, especially when I took the blue light filter off.

I’m drinking green tea.

It’s green tea mixed with a bunch of other shit like licorice root and burdock root.

Today at 1pm I see the sports medicine doctor. I couldn’t be more overjoyed/terrified about this. On the one hand they could confirm they think everything’s OK and I could start heading south as early as Friday. On the other hand they could tell me they think the original assessment is wrong and that I need an MRI and possibly surgery. Either way I just wanna get this over with.

SHAK is down today. Good. The sooner it corrects the sooner it can go up again.

SE Limited is up. Should I sell it and buy something else?

ACB still posed for a big break?

God I love this tea. It doesn’t taste like green tea. It’s delicious. And only SLIGHTLY caffeinated. Gets rid of all those free radicals so you can smoke till your heart’s content. I will be drinking wine within the next few years, I’m sure of that. Could even be within the next year. But I’m not quite ready not. Not quite.

I just want to know what’s going on with my fucking knee.

What could I do today to integrate my senex? Meditate. Clean up my boat. Do acid.

If SHAK finds support at the 110 level all bets are off.

After this cup of green tea I’m going to have another cup of green tea and hopefully walk to Whole Foods. I say hopefully because the last few times I’ve thought I was going to walk to Whole Foods I got to the parking lot, where my car is. I then got in my car and drove to Whole Foods, which is roughly the calorie-burning equivalent of walking there, but not quite. The temperature on the boat is 60 degrees. There’s water in the bilge compartment and I don’t care. I have an automatic bilge, why do I keep cleaning it out?

Should I be injecting peptides into my knee? I have collagen peptides on my boat but nothing to mix them with. They’re unflavored so they probably taste like bovine. I need smoothies to mix them with, and I have a Magic Bullet but since I live on a boat with just a refrigerator no ice cubes. How to get around the ice conundrum? I could turn up my fridge until it’s basically a freezer. But then I can’t have anything else in there.

I will have fasted 15 hours by 10am.

Today the sun sets at 4:53! When I get back the sunsets will probably already be after 7pm. They say a meniscus tear can take three months to heal with conservative treatment. So maybe that’s how long it’s gonna take? But what about this ACL stuff? I could see myself turning into one of those problem patients today who refuses to leave until he has answers. “Give me a fucking MRI!”

Today is probably a good day to wear sweatpants.

Twenty four minutes till I can eat.

Every summer feels like the last summer of my innocence. This last summer, for example. Bouldering every day. Hanging out with Carolyn. A mission to Mexico. What will next summer be like?

This last summer seemed so pure. It seems like something was lost. But maybe it’s good that it was lost. Maybe the negative elements of the puer aeternus will be lost. Maybe hanging onto that innocence is the problem. But it’s so beautiful.


“Please” aka Green Tea | Road to Recovery

Today was a red-letter day in my recovery. Why was it a red-letter day? Because today I figured out a plan to get me back to bouldering, or at least back in the direction of bouldering, and today I completed the first step of that plan, i.e. I drove out to the Reiter Foothills, parked my car, put my climbing shoes in my backpack, and walked halfway up to the boulders.

I didn’t climb, of course.

Actually one of the reasons I didn’t climb is because there was a ruby-throated tanager (I have no idea if this was the actual bird) at the trailhead that seemed to be chirping some sort of warning signal. It was as if the bird was saying, “Mark! Mark! Don’t climb Warm-Up Slab V0 without a pad! You’ll fall! You’ll fall!”

Indeed, that was sort of the plan, if I made it up to the boulders, to climb Warm-Up Slab V0, just to get my hands on the damn granodiorite. But I haven’t climbed in awhile, and the granite can be slippery, and with my knee how it is it wouldn’t take much to make the injury worse — much worse. So I held off. I hiked halfway up to the boulders in the glorious sun, and at the summit (aka summit for me), I started formulating a plan:

Step 1) Hike halfway up to the boulders.

Step 2) Hike all the way up to the boulders

Step 3) Hike halfway up to the boulders with pad on back.

Step 4) Hike ALL the way up to the boulders with pad on back.

Step 5) Hike up to boulders using semi-sketchy trail from main gate.

Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.


So today I completed step 1, which felt like a fucking triumph, and it also felt like a triumph because I was bathed in sun for most of the hike, the vitamin D coursing through my belly, licking my neurons, and it just felt good to get out, even if getting out meant driving through Monroe, quite possibly my least favorite city in Washington.

On the way back I suffered a slight slip, buying some caffeinated beverages from Trader Joe’s. Oh no! A week of caffeine cleanse and now I’m back on the wagon. Aka off the wagon. Aka last night I had some GT’s Adaptogenic Tea and had trouble getting to sleep. And today I’m having green tea. Black tar heroin could be next.

Speaking of things you inject, I also decided on the hike that I’m probably going to order some BPC-157 peptides on the internet and inject them directly into my knee. This healing process is just going too slow. I mean, I walked out of a bouldering area (see: hiked) with a pad on my back FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER ORIGINALLY HURTING MYSELF. And now three weeks later I’m seeing hiking with a pad on my back as some kind of achievement? It’s insanely frustrating. I mean, there has been improvement, but it’s at a banana slug’s pace. I’m not used to being injured like this. I’m not used to forgetting what it feels like to crush. I’m not used to not bouldering (except for the first 36 years of my life when I didn’t know what bouldering was or at the very least scorned it). I’m not used to this desperation, damnit!

So that’s why I might inject some shit into my knee.

The green tea I’m drinking tastes faintly of licorice root. The Yogi label says, “The world needs your unique gifts, don’t leave with them still inside you.” I like this saying, though it would’ve been a wicked opportunity to use a semi-colon properly, though I imagine semi-colons are a little too aggressive for a brand like Yogi. Stick to your periods and commas. And your burdock root. God, this tea is actually really good.

What’s on tap for this week? Tomorrow I have therapy at 10am, which I’m super hyped about. On Wednesday I have my appointment with sports medicine at Swedish and I’ll be damned if I don’t get some answers about my knee. Please, just tell me if you think it’s seriously injured, and if you think it’s seriously injured refer me for an MRI. If it’s not seriously injured, immediately start speaking to me in Spanish, because my brain will already be heading south in my ’97 Subaru towards Mexico, possibly with a stop in San Diego to get peptides.

Please, tell me what’s going on. Please help me.




Elevation | Road to Recovery

Despite not having much to today today has so far been somewhat of a capital day. I woke up and watched the Liverpool vs. Manchester United game, TRIED to write a blog, took a shower, and then got in my car and went to Whole Foods. At Whole Foods I got: a Rebbl Dark Chocolate Protein drink (I’m not drinking caffeine right now, i.e. tea and coffee, but I do allow myself chocolate. This delectable drink from Rebbl has about 20-30mg of caffeine in the form of cocoa, so I can kind of get messed up), and a Kind Bar. Lately when I get bars I almost exclusively get kind bars, because they have a much lower glycemic index, and I’m obsessed with glycemix indices. A Kind Bar often has about 5g of sugar, and 5g of fiber. Contrast that with a White Chocolate Macadamia Clif Bar, which has 21g of sugar. The choice is clear.

Today is also my first day not wearing a knee sleeve. After my successful visit to Whole Foods I went to The Arboretum, where I walked about two miles.  I did this all while talking to my friend Steve, which was capital since it was great to talk to him and also made me not realize how far I was walking. My knee has felt like crap lately, and this is distressing. I don’t know what to do. I think I’ve decided to just wait till my sports medicine appointment on Wednesday at Swedish. Again, the choice is somewhat clear. If they think it’s really messed up, they’ll refer me for an MRI. And if they think it’s not that bad and just needs time and physical therapy, then I’ll go to Mexico. But I’m done wearing a knee sleeve. I’m done taking ibuprofen. And as of later today or tomorrow I’ll even be done with the General. Time to stop sabotaging myself.

I really hate taking ibuprofen. One day it will be proven how bad it is for us. In two hundred years we’ll look back and be aghast at how we ever put that into our bodies.

Now I’m back on the boat, and it’s almost 2pm. It’s cloudy. I’ve got the heater on. My succulent is looking gorgeous and it’s begging to be transplanted to a bigger pot so it can send out tendrils and start new growths. This succulent and I have been on an amazing journey; it’s the longest I’ve ever had a plant. I’ve left it out in the rain till at was at the point of death, dropped it in the lake, and now, only after much trial and error, have I learned how to properly care for it. The hardest thing about taking care of plants sometimes can be leaving them only. Neglecting them. Is this a metaphor for life? For relationships? Does this succulent love me back?

The problem is now I don’t know what to do with the rest of my day. It’s Sunday. I have no one to hang out with. I do have a shit ton of good books, and I can always go on another walk. I could meditate, something I tell myself I should do every day and almost never do it. I could stretch. I could have lunch. I could listen to the audiobook I just downloaded, The Wisdom of Psychopaths. Or I could lie down for a bit, elevate my knee, and just think about things.

I think I’ll do this last one.

Walking Fremont at Night | Road to Recovery

Not even 9am and I’ve put a General in. Really seizing the day. My knee feels significantly worse but that’s due to self massage. I’ve been massaging the shit out of it. The stiffness worries me, though. It’s still quite stiff and it’s been over two weeks since the injury. God, I want an MRI. How can I get them to give me an MRI. Maybe today I leave for Mexico?

The power did not go off on the boat last night. The heater stayed on. I slept well. Yesterday was sunny in Seattle and today promises more of the same. In fact, it’s only supposed to rain two days in the next week or so. So not a terrible time to hang around a little longer. Wait to see if the MRI referral gets approved. Check SHAK every 15 minutes. Revel in the glory of its meteoric rise. Feel the heater buzzing at my feet. Hang out with friends. Walk to Whole Foods. Read good books. Watch my succulent become increasingly healthy. Watch my green queen become increasingly not.

Yesterday I went to Fremont for dinner, aka PCC, aka I bought a bunch of goodies and then went to Ophelia’s bookshop with the idea that I wasn’t leaving there without buying a book. I bought three: Emotional Alchemy, by Tara Bennett-Goleman, Manuscript Found in Accra, by Paulo Coelho, and The Greatest Treasure-Hunting Stories Ever Told, edited by Charles Elliott with contributions from such heavy hitters as Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne. I did not deliberate long when buying these books. The whole escapade took about 10 minutes. The bookstore was packed, which I was happy to see. People do not read enough.

After Ophelia’s I walked over to the new SBP in Fremont, which was an experience both amazing and traumatic. Traumatic because it pained me to see such beautiful blocs, such a beautiful climbing facility — the lobby glowing in the night winter air — and not be able to climb. Amazing because the gym looks amazing, and because I climbed up a set of stairs on the outside and just stood there, looking in like a boy looking at a Christmas tree display in a department store, watching two crushers climb in the corner. One of them flashed an orange. One of them flashed a pink. “Enough, Mark,” I said. “Enough.”

I’ve been sleeping well ever since I gave up caffeine. I’ve been feeling more creative. It is important to let your mind rest if you want to be creative. There is nothing more creative than an idle mind. I don’t mean idle in the sense that it’s not working. Our minds are always working. I mean idle in the sense that you’ve given it some time to just wander. Sometimes my mind is my greatest enemy, but ultimately it’s my dearest friend.

Giving up caffeine was hard. The first day was fine because I was coming down off a wicked yerba mate high, my neurons still sizzling far into the afternoon. But the next day I woke up with a headache, irritable. It felt good to be irritable and not be ashamed of it. I felt more like myself than I had in a long time. My mind becomes more my enemy when I abuse by doing things like drinking too much caffeine. With caffeine when I get irritable I have a tendency to discount my irritable feelings because I think they’re coming from the caffeine. But with no substances governing my brain I know that the irritability is real and needs to be respected. It’s easier to respect and honor your shadow when you know it hasn’t been provoked by a substance. Much of my twenties and thirties have had me ashamed of my shadow, constantly trying to suppress it or sweep it under the rug. Anytime I felt jealous or angry or insecure I told myself these feelings were unacceptable. When you read lots of books on Buddhism and Zen and Taoism you start following an unachievable ideal. Would the Buddha be jealous? Of course not. The Buddha sat by a river for 16 hours a day watching the ripples and eating rice. Would a Zen master be perturbed by someone calling her a name? Of course not. She would only smile. But I am not a Zen master, or even remotely enlightened. I experience all of these feelings, and sometimes to a deafening, heart-wrenching degree. And to want to rip them out of myself, to want to excise them, to want to slice them out of my brain like a surgeon might do with a scalpel — that’s not healthy.

SHAK seems to be finding some support at the 112 mark.

My boat is littered with books but because space is a premium they don’t last long. Most of them come, stay for awhile, and then get shuffled off to one of the little lending libraries so common on the Seattle streets. Some of them have stayed — I’ll never give them away, titles like Book 5 of My Struggle and The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. The bouldering guidebooks will also stay. Bouldering guidebooks are something I’m happy to accumulate. Even if I’ve never bouldered in Tennessee or have any intention of going there soon I wouldn’t think it a terrible idea to buy a guidebook for that region. You buy a guidebook and next thing you know you’re planning a trip there. Motivation doesn’t breed action, but the other way around.

I washed my hair with distilled white vinegar last night.

It’s time to get off the boat now. It’s time to do a long walk and see how my knee holds up. And by “long walk” I of course mean walk to my car and drive to Whole Foods. Because I like to be amongst the things, the commerce! I like to be amongst the bars…


South? | Road to Recovery

A pitter patter of rain blankets the water around me, a soft murmur to accompany the blending of grey day into black night, the colors fading from the sky, and as I sit in my boat and contemplate the closing of the day I can’t help but wonder: Could I eat the raw bacon in my fridge?

I pop a General in and assume my perch on the bench seat of my boat, my computer propped up in front of me. In just a few minutes I’ll leave my boat and drive to Fred Meyer, a premier destination for foodstuffs. Everyday market sellers come there to deposit their freshest wares, leeks and onions and lettuce brought in on wagons carried by mules. Yes, only the freshest foodstuffs go to this Fred Meyer, located on 85th and Greenwood, all in the glory of this purveyor living up to its slogan: “You’ll find it at (eponymous).”

My haunches are warmed by the small machine buzzing at my feet, the air of the boat purified by the two plants I still have. The peace lily has been gifted to a dear friend to purify the airs of his house now that he has brought a swaddling babe into the fold. The babe that shall be named. The babe that shall rule the kingdom of Seward Park.

I haven’t decided if I’ll embark on my journey south tomorrow or not. My knee has been hurting more the last few days, and I’m not sure if this is because it hurt me to rip my boots off my feet yesterday or because this is a natural part of the healing process, this pain that one day increases, and the next day goes away. Oh, I wish there was some sort of imaging system that could look into the depths of my knee and tell me what is going on. And indeed there is such a system, but since I passed the nurse’s ligament test the other day, the insurance company will not approve it. I am stranded on an island in Lake Washington. My soul longs to wander but wonders whether it is healthy enough to do so.

I have a mind to leave tomorrow, taking no highway part of the interstate system. Airport Way to Military Road South, turning into the 161, taking me right past the illustrious Wal-Mart of Puyallup. This brings me to Highway 7, then Highway 12, then over toward Longview and into Oregon, through towns I would normally never traverse: Eatonville, Morton, Mossyrock, Olequa, St. Helens, and the enigmatic Scappoose. I could stay tomorrow night at the Best Western in St. Helens, I could stay the second night at the Crystal Crane Hot Springs, and I could prey that my knee gets better, that my meniscus gets better, that my LCL gets better, that whatever it is in my knee that needs to get better gets better before I get to Bishop, California, the best bouldering town on the planet. Or it could not get better. I could still not be able to climb. In which case I head further south, and further, and further…

Either way, right now, the rain continues. I must leave. I must trust. I must get wet.



Curative Properties | The Road to V

I’ve always been a huge fan of dandelion tea for its kidney cleansing properties. When I wake up in the morning the first thing I think is, “Dandelions!” and vision of cottony strands blowing in the wind dance in my head. Then I get up, streak into the kitchen to put on the kettle, and hold my cheek against it until it burns, letting me know it’s hot enough to steep.



It’s raining in Seattle and I’m contemplating putting a snus in. Bit early for that, probably. I would leave the house but this is the kind of rain that soaks you to your fibula if you’re not careful. The kind of rain you might drown in if you get stuck in a ditch looking for the keys that just fell out of your pocket. And yet just around the corner from here there’s a prickly pear cactus that’s in full bloom. How does a prickly pear cactus survive in Seattle? Aren’t we supposed to get two inches of rain in the next two days? I hope not. My boat already leaks enough. I also hope that the doctor gives me a referral for an MRI today so I can get the hell out of here. And if she doesn’t? Well, then I guess I just leave. Yes, that’s it. I just leave. I assume that everything in my knee is fine. And I just….leave.

Or I just….stay.

Or I just….leave.

When it’s raining like this I have this strange desire to say, “Fuck this rain, I’m moving to________.” Insert name of place with more desirable weather than Seattle. Mexico? Colombia? Chile? Argentina? Spain? Ha! The weather in Seattle is perfect, if you’re perfectly deranged, which some people are. The weather in Arizona is terrible. It never rains and if you stay too long you might become an anesthesiologist. The weather in Mexico is fine if you’re on a surf vacation for two weeks, but to live on the coast where the highs are in the….and the lows are in the….

And to live in Mexico City with all that pollution…..

And to live in Bogota with all that tinto….

It’s untenable, unfeasible, unreasonable, unfathomable, and frankly, unseasonable.

And yet nevertheless…

(Side note: SBP Fremont is open!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I’m thinking about what to have for breakfast. I might go to PCC and get some sort of breakfast burrito or smoked salmon or vegetables. But for right now the rain is still far too fierce. I don’t have a rain coat, all I have is a puffy jacket and there’s no way it would keep this monsoon out. We’ve probably gotten an inch in the last half hour. The streets are flooded. This is nearly biblical.

And yet, a breakfast burrito beckons…

Less than two hours till my phone call with the doctor. My whole life hinges on this phone call. My career as a professional boulderer. My career as a professional mason. My career as an ornithologist. What will she say to me? “Listen, Mark, an MRI, really? You’re not worth our imaging…”

Or maybe something along the lines of, “Everyone knows you’re faking it. You felt a ‘tearing in your knee.’ Ha. Good one. I would sooner cut myself than refer you for an MRI.”

I mean, she could say anything.

If I leave Seattle and my boat sinks then, well, that’s fine.