The War of Northern Aggression

For a few days in the middle of my Red River Gorge outing, I climbed with random heterosexuals.  It’s been a mixed bag.  For some, I’m a space alien, and when I say things like, “when you refill the orange juice bottles with tap water it tastes exactly like cum,” they look at me funny.

The better breeders are the ones who are a little bit weird in their own right.

My favorite may have been Judson, at Great Wall.  “I like that Texaco sticker on your helmet,” he says.  “That really tells those hippies to shut the fuck up.”

“You got it, Judson.”   Judson is from Winchester, where I ate once for my birthday at the best restaurant in town.  I had frog legs.  They taste like fishy chicken.

I think the reason we Southerners never claimed Kentucky as part of the South, aside from their picking the wrong side in the War of Northern Aggression, is that it still has too many people who act like non-Southerners, and say really non-Southerner things, like:

“I really like to visit out here to see how these people live, how simple it is.  We forget how to live simple sometimes,” as though we don’t know how to do anything besides work gas station tills and eat beef jerky while standing watch over our ill-kempt lawns.

Does the rest of America not realize how complicated our lives actually are?  Are they unaware that while they brag about the PSI of their espresso machine, we’re operating industrial scale moonshine distilleries in our basements?  Northerners get elated when they figure out how to adjust a grow lamp.  Our most poorly educated citizens can build a meth lab using the leftover parts of any pre-1998 Chevy, a plastic spoon, and a nine volt battery. You know who makes hydroponic marijuana farms in the South?  Children.

Meth causes you to go to Great Clips.

Judson: “Do you smoke?”

Me: “No.”

Judson: “I only smoke when I drink.  But I drink a lot.”

If Kentucky was entirely Judson, then we would give them readmission to the Southern estate.

But instead, they get caught up in ridiculous things that only non-southerners could get into, like grim wars over permadraws.  Judson would never get caught up in a 37 page flame war over permadraws at the Motherlode.  They are clearly in agreement that we HAVE TO DECIDE whether routes have steel permadraws or no permadraws EVER, because ZOMFG if someone puts up ALUMINUM draws and they stay there the sky will open up and flaming meteors of shit will rain down on us until we’re lit afire, trapped in some eternally burning portent of feces.  Or worse, the aesthetics of the Motherlode’s ampitheater will be upset by the permadraws; moreso, than, say, that goddamn overturned truck carapace blown up in front of it.  Which, by the way, is my favorite thing about the Motherlode, because it’s a symbol that at least somewhere out there in Kentucky lives a piece of the Southern spirit, the ultimate tenet of which is driving vehicles off cliffs at high speeds.  (Thelma and Louise, Smokey and the Bandit…)

Because in Arkansas, driving off a cliff to your death is a happy ending.

In the (actually) Southern climbing regions (e.g. Tennessee/Georgia/Alabama) where climbers climb while smoking and belayers belay while drinking, we would never cut each other’s throats over permadraws.  I debate the reasons for why we don’t fight over it.  Maybe it’s because we don’t have an internet forum.  Maybe it’s because we’re too busy rebuilding our meth labs when they blow up, or finding our family heirlooms when the house gets blown over by a tornado.

But I still wonder what happens to the northerners when they drive down 75 and discover the land where permadraws are made of webbing (heavens!) and aluminum (the horror!).  Perhaps they’ll start viewing us as some kind of very very large poor South American farming village whose only hope for economic freedom would be the tourism generated by retrobolting all of our routes.

Well, I say this to you Northerners, before you get too far down 85, 75, or too far east on 20: when the webbing gets worn, you replace it with webbing, and when the carabiner gets worn, you just stick another one on there, (unless you’re from here, in which case, you do whatever the fuck you want) or we’ll show you just how “simple” we Southerners are when it comes to expressing our anger; namely, by crafting an elaborate comeuppance; tragically interrupted when we drive off a cliff cause we’re so high on meth.   Because if you fuck with the Little River Canyon, you best look up and listen for a clutch letting out overhead.  If the sun is out, you may also look down, if you can recognize the shadow of a ’66 Thunderbird.  Your helmet is not rated for convertibles.


The South.

Now how will you afford that Miguel's breakfast burrito!

I am like, so serious right now.

There's a force of revolutionaries in Muir Valley fighting for your right to pee anywhere. They're armed with sharpies and wieners.

Today there was a climbing incident.

About a half-mile away across the valley, there was a climber on an 80 foot slab on top-rope.  It was a 5.6.  I wouldn’t say the route conformed to the ADA specifications for wheelchair access, but it was close.  Normally one wouldn’t notice a climber a half-mile away, but she was WAAAAAAAAIIIIIILING.

It was like a scene out of Hostel II.  It wasn’t even crying, because using the word “crying” can be mistaken for “whining”, whereas this was full blown blubbering, convalescing, assailing the entire world with tears and words gurgling out of her mouth like she was chewing mouthfuls of Alka Seltzer tablets.  When we first heard her, we thought maybe she was leading some epic trad route and had fallen and sheared her arm clean off, rather than looking over to see her standing at a no hands rest with a top-rope tighter than a steel cable.

“I don’t think I can do this!  I just don’t think I can do this!” (Crying.) “I’m just not sure about this. This isn’t going well at all!” (More crying.)  “I don’t want to come down!”  (Crying.)  “I’m going to do this!”  (Crying.) “I don’t know if I can do this!”  (Still crying.)

So, this went on for over an hour, after we had led and cleaned five or so pitches, the whole time listening to what I *would* call a meltdown, but I’m pretty sure nuclear reactors melt down faster.

“It sounds like she’s trapped in her own personal nightmare.  Why haven’t they just lowered her?”

“I didn’t know it was even possible to cry that long.  I thought your tear ducts ran out or something.  My kids max out at like twenty minutes, even when I don’t let them watch Builder Bob.”

I had enough.

“Just lower off already, Jessssus Chrissst!”

Just when I thought she was loud while crying, she somehow yells loud enough that it feels like someone’s in my ear from a half mile away, “I’m seriously going to come over and beat the shit out of you!  Seriously!”  I looked to my left, thinking she had teleported.  I had taken umbrage!  This would not go unretorted!

“I could give you a microphone, maybe you could cry louder!”

“I am seriously going to beat them up!  I am so serious!  I cannot believe they’re yelling at me!  I’m seriously going over there after this!  I’m serious!”

“What’s slowing you down?  Is there a bear?”

“I’m seriously going to beat the shit out of you!”

“Does the bear have a gun?”

“I’m serious!”

“Show me on the doll where the bear touched you.”


Our party became concerned that she, or more likely, her belayer, who if he had any sense would have munter-muled the belay to a tree an hour ago, might come over, so I changed out of my bright pink t-shirt to conceal my identity.  I wasn’t really concerned about being able to take someone who can’t climb a 5.6 on top-rope, but we felt that if she was able to convince a group of people to hang out with her for more than five minutes, she could convince the police of anything if I dislocated  her arm.  Better to just avoid the possibility altogether.  I remember once when a girl hit me in high school, and then, being the feminist that I am, I punched her, and then I got lectured by various people for like a week about how “you’re just not supposed to hit girls even if they hit you.”

“You know, she cried after you hit her.”

“Maybe that’ll teach her not to punch people she can’t take in a fight.”

My party was hoping to see her at Miguel’s, but they didn’t see her, so we debated putting up a post in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist.

“Me: heckling fag in pink t-shirt.  You: hot mess having an epic meltdown on a 5.6 slab on top-rope.  My group really wants to know the beta for the stopper move up there.  Kthx!”

Slacklining, name dropping, and trolling

That stance has nothing to do with the slackline, it's just how I walk most of the time.

I spent my rest day slacklining.  Which I’m not terribly good at, but I was able to start from sitting most of the time.  Also noticed that the two inch webbing, contrary to expectation, is way harder.  Rock climbers are required to know at least one other performative sport, because for the most part they’re professional narcissists. (Editor: They?)

In between runs, I talked to Eric on the bench nearby about his Gold Wing. I friended him on Facebook, in time to see the flames of his discontent over the forums at Red River Climbing, with accompanying comment thread:

I feel Great! Today, I canceled my account on Red River Climbing. A [forum for rock climbers at the Red River Gorge]. It’s getting to the point where I really can’t stand rock climbers anymore. People on there are for the most part, so full of crap… There are a few good ones that use the site, but mostly, it’s just a bunch of drama hungry people that think their… (insert other word for crap) don’t stink.

  • yuuup. fuck that shit.
  • Dude, let C2C and all his friends, and all the rest of the drama babies rot! I’m over them!

After a quick visit, I realized that I have to retire my “ Theory of Climbing Forum Etiquette” which was that climbing forum users are flaming trolls because they have anonymity and only a very, very slight possibility that you’ll meet them in person.  Given that the Red only has an effective population of maybe 300 at any given time, the forums at Red River Climbing, where you can post nicely for a climbing partner and get trolled, gave that theory a fiery troll death, a death that even the trolliest troll would be proud of.  Even the trolls at Supertopo are nicer, at least after I scold them.  I wonder what it’s like when they run into each other in Muir Valley. (Editor: I’m sure their response would be “I go to the places that aren’t in the guidebook to avoid the noobs.”  Me: I think they’re 14 year old girls in China. Editor: Both could still be accurate… Me: But how would they know about Baby Deer? Editor: Baby Deer is the most famous thing about the Red.  Baby Deer is already a main character in three state-owned cartoon programs and is also the star of a Japanese porno.)

That’s actually not the primary reason I find it interesting.  What I find more interesting is how the Red informs my perceptions of homosexuals, or rather, my perception of homosexuals’ perceptions of other homosexuals.

Contemplate Kelly’s earlier post, in which he said:

when I showed up at my first HC convention I was really fucking nervous that this would be another gay event where we adhered to the classic gay stereotypes…everybody get fucked up, everybody sleep with each other, and everybody get dramatic about nothing.

To which I say, guuurrrrrrrrrrrrl, gay people don’t have shit on the heterosexuals at the Red, and I’ve been to Blake’s.  I can’t even imagine what a RRG campground would look like if there was ready access to coke and tina, and I’m already afraid to go in the communal shower.  Next time we convene at the Red, I’m going to force Kelly to spend one night camping in lieu of a cabin, kind of like the way they forced that homophobic Augusta State grad student to spend time with gay people so she could see that they were not a bunch of morally-bankrupt abominations, the only difference being that the purpose of this would be to show Kelly that straight people are morally-bankrupt abominations.

Although I understand she sued all the way to the 11th Circuit to get out of Augusta State’s nefarious plans to make her commune with gays, so I’m not sure I should expect to fare much better with Kelly.  I would certainly fight it.

FACT: Michelle Ellington has not updated her Facebook profile picture in two years.

But this all gave me a SPLENDID IDEA.  Nobody gives you publicity the way trolls give you publicity, and trolls LOVE talking about gay sex.  Thus, I have to nefariously craft a post that will guarantee I get trolled, perhaps by including the following:

-references to gay sex

-name dropping

-explicit hopes that i won’t get trolled

This isn’t going to be easy.  Suggestions are appreciated.  I want this to be something bumped to the top of the heap for months by people debating various dirtbaggers’ sexualities, hopes for encountering lesbians, and questions over who could best deep-throat an Ale-8 bottle, the last of which would emanate from fake accounts set up by me.

Update: Although this post is scheduled to automatically post at 6pm, I’ve already created the forum thread if you want to stoke the flames of troll warfare.


The Red has a lot of dirtbaggers, more than the other climbing meccas I’ve been.  When I see them emerge from their vans in the morning I wonder if I should have gone to law school.

When they did that 60 Minutes segment on Alex Honnold and the reporter was expressing her fascination and awe about how he lives out of his car, I was laughing, kind of in the way I laugh at Yankees exploring the south, like, as Susan puts it, Columbus exploring the new world.  In any event, there’s a charismatic draw to the dirtbagger, who is basically living like a homeless person (well, you are a homeless person) only you can still get laid because your Mountain Hardwear and Prana clothing is color coordinated and distracts onlookers from the fact that there are dead bugs in your hair, you smell, and you keep a jug in your car or tent full of your own urine; which you squeeze in before you screw shut and store upright because you know if you don’t do those two things you come home to discover that urine in an airtight space is like a very slow acting dry-ice bomb and the laundromat closed five hours ago.  Not that I know anything about this.

You’ll never be sure about your apple juice again.  It’s certainly not blast proof.

Without some dead gazelle-trampled lion-father back home and a birthright to claim, it’s hard to resist the appeal of living on the road with a mattress in the back of a truck.  Akuna matata!  Enjoy nature while everyone else slaves away in an office building.  Free from a job that would pay for the toenail fungus medication, and your only obligation to resuscitate the vestiges of modern living is to steal a shower once every two weeks when encountering a weekend warrior who expects you not to smell like an armpit before you fuck them.  That’s pretty much all you have to worry about, cause with the abs you have from climbing, they simply don’t assume or don’t care that they’re about to get foot warts, toenail fungus, scabies, and a yeast infection before they’ve even finished putting the condom on.

Not that I’m not envious (well not of the scabies at least).  I do like sitting here watching the door flap open, and then flap closed, and eavesdropping on these people talking about the materials in bungee cords and solar panels.

The unappealing part is that everyone is painfully introverted.  You have to shoot them in the shin before most of them will look up.  Most outsiders would mistake this for arrogance or narcissism, but it’s really an intense fear of other people, combined with the fact that unless they see you for more than three days in a row, there’s a 99% chance they’ll never see you again.  Among friends they’ve known for years, people on the verge of divorce, or with children with failed surgeries, or with dead or dying parents, talk mostly about route beta and RV parts and sex.  It’s probably the more obvious response to a terminal existence; it’s just not the expected one, I suppose because nihilists don’t write from Walden pond.  And if you really want to get grad school thesis about it, I think photography prevails over any other medium because it’s the most immediate means of proving any of this exists.  Kind of in the way Romantics write to prove that they exist. /philosophy

Red Day 3

Laurie has a lot of engineering to do, whereas I… don’t, so I’m just doing the blog every day thing.

I consumed all of the bandwidth at Miguel's for like five minutes uploading these. I looked around to see if anyone was cursing about not being able to downgrade climbs on 8a, but the only thing screaming was a small infant, and fortunately she wasn't able to verbalize her anger that I was fucking with her wifi speed. But I swear she was looking straight at me.

Last night we met some more giblets, which is my new catchphrase for people who fit somewhere into the GBLT stratosphere.  I’ve been thinking it in my head for years now, so maybe it’ll catch on.  It involved a humorous scene in which a bunch of queer people walked in and we mistakenly stole a table from queer group 2 not realizing that they weren’t affiliated with queer group 1, and they obviously took umbrage with us, queer group 3, for thinking that they/we all look alike.

Today’s excitement was not my poor performance at the Chocolate Factory, or that we think we saw some famous French climbers, but rather the drama of the road leading to the parking lot of Pendergrass falling out.  Which effectively trapped all of the climbers who got up early to get there before everyone else, which, I have to be honest, kind of makes me laugh.

If you'd slept in, you wouldn't be trapped over there.

Fortunately for the stranded climbers up yonder, there was a guy with a backhoe able to patch up the road by dragging a big old rusted metal tube over and spreading dirt on top of it.

I should have been a construction worker.

Laurie was trying to estimate in her head how long it would take for the tube to collapse and she was saying words I didn’t understand.  It made me wonder how many roads and bridges I’ve ridden over that were supported by fragile platforms only barely suspending me above catastrophe like a rock on wet toilet paper.


My feet were killing me because I spent the last two days climbing in my three-sizes-down Shammys and Katanas, so I went ahead and bought a pair of half-sized-up Evolv Defys.  They fit like loafers, and I’m pretty sure it was a great purchase cause I can also use them to go jogging.  Also I can fit socks in them.  I’m tired of living like a geisha.  From now on it’s comfort style climbing, and if I can figure out how to attach a martini shaker to my harness, I’m totally doing it.  Also I’m buying white belay gloves.

Laurie and Alex still at the Red

I can't take pictures, so I take melodramatic close-ups and pretend they're artistic.

Today was a good today, and not just because we had the opportunity to rescue gear for hot straight boys.

We saw an area while hiking around that wasn’t in a guide book yet, and I managed to talk Laurie into it, so we just meandered on over and started climbing routes and the grades were whatever we decided they were.

The Red hasn’t changed much.  It’s still the place where all the men are ripped as shit, even the ones showing up with gear that arrived in the mail yesterday and who are struggling up the 5.7s.  The whole place oozes sex.  It’s the kind of place that gay men would be embarrassed about, but straight people don’t seem to have any sense of shame about what feels like a bathhouse for straight people.  But let’s face it, that’s what it is.  Everyone fucks as many people as possible.  And if that’s not what you’re doing, it’s because you’re not making enough trips to the beer trailer, or you’re not paying attention.  It’s the only place where I’ve heard someone say $2.50 for a PBR was “expensive”.

Homos don’t yet have a really homo climbing campground, but it wouldn’t have the same je ne sais quoi; homos get all shamey about fitting the slut stereotype, unlike the straight whores who would probably just take pride about how glow-y the campground showers would get if exposed to a black-light.

Favorite quote from last season: “I fucked this chick who was on her period, it was like a ketchup bottle,” (squeezing motion) “pfffffbbbbt.”

Laurie testing for parasites

So me and Laurie went climbing and there wasn’t a whole lot noteworthy other than that I rope-gunned all day, rescued the cute straight boys’ gear, and praised baby Jesus that I had brought my aviators so I could check out the view without looking pervy.

We forgot to take photos before we got to the parking lot. But we totally sent the shit outta some shit. Trust us.

The Red makes me feel a little bit like a fake person. Some kind of carapace.  I remind myself that like the people on my ultimate frisbee team in high school, there’s no point in trying to impress them because I ain’t gonna see none these motherfuckers in ten years, and most of them will have stopped climbing by then and be fat and drink a lot of beer and eat chew and replay things they’ve already seen on the DVR.

Or they’ll be late thirty something health nuts getting botox injections, which is probably more depressing.  I’m not sure where I’ll be, but if I’m lucky, I’ll be dead from some motorcycle collision or bizarre sex act (regular readers will know that I refer to this as “going out David Carradine style”).

But maybe that’s the problem, the hollow “this isn’t going anywhere” feeling of transient relationships with transient people.

Laurie is doing something at the campground table that I don’t understand, but it involves large schematics, and making corrections to large schematics to a marker, to make sure that large steam plants don’t explode and kill tons of people.  It reminds me of putting together a criminal defense trial in my underpants.  Although her work is slightly more important because mine doesn’t prevent a fiery flesh-melting doom for hundreds of people.  She smashes a bug on the schematic.

“What are the cloudy lines?”

“It means everything inside the cloudy line has changed.  But this is…” she crosses out more things.



Laurie and Alex on the way to Kentucky


Laurie and i are on the way to the red.

We’ve already listened to alanis morisette’s version of “crazy” ten times, so we’re figuring out what to do with the next four hours. Scheduled arrival time: 3 am.


We ate at bojangles in a small georgia town, and the gay shift manager gave us extra chicken.

“Because gays like chicken.” -Laurie

Coco rosie seems to coalesce with the dashed highway lines.

“How is knoxville still 52 miles away? That is ridiculous.” -Laurie

Me and Laurie have been debating which motorcycle she should buy, and I’m trying to talk her out of the Ninja 250. Also we’re happy that we have a reason to wear skin tight leather pants outside of san francisco.

Laurie mentions in passing that we’ve been climbing together for three years, and suddenly i think to myself i didnt realize it had been that long, and this makes me happy.

Knoxville is now 40 miles away.

I make a note to text laurie the songs ive played that she liked, so far goldfrapp, the pipettes, and tokyo.

An exit with candy is imminent.