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.
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