In anticipation of the convention, I decided we should scope out some less traveled places where people could go to climb 5.7—in other words, somewhere to take noobs without the Bubba City power line death march where the pot at the end of the dusty rainbow is a slew of face melting slab climbs.
Such a place exists, but is being kept “secret”, as Area 51 once was; 51 is now in a guide book, although people are rarely concerned about a 5.12+ area getting crowded. Enjoyable, safely bolted 5.7s you say? Do tell! Or don’t, unless you want your dick chopped off.
The routes were actually pretty fun, but there was the early interruption while I was belaying Laurie.
“I have to take a shit right now.”
This was not one of those “leave no trace” ethics shits. There was no twelve inch deep hole in the ground, at least one mile away from running water, located ahead of time to find a place where I was confident nobody climbing might look down and see me sobbing and wiping. This was a “harness removing while running, desperately crawling through briars, pull the pants down and pray you’ve leaned back far enough that nothing lands on your boots before you feel the sweet release of death” kind of shits.
It turned out that Jon only had three panels of single-ply toilet paper left, and my diet for the last several days had consisted mostly of Reeses’ Pieces and Slush Puppies, so needless to say, this would be the last surviving day for my pair of boxer shorts, which started to feel more like briefs, and not in the good way. Didn’t stop me from flashing some overhangy route though, which made me happy, because the distraction of the chemical waste hazard in my underpants definitely added several grades.
Later, after showering (a lot) and changing clothes, me and Laurie went to Cantrell’s pub and started getting drunk on whiskey. Kenny showed up, and demanded that we play pool.
I had established an early and commanding lead, and I thought I had cemented Kenny’s mental panic by dancing. But Kenny got his head back and took control of the table and left me with two immediately behind the 8 ball, at which point I knew I was screwed. I danced anyway. Kenny hit me with his pool cue.
Me: “Don’t you Nancy-Kerrigan-Tonya-Harding me!”
Kenny: “I’ll do what I want.”
Me: “I’m not getting with you Kenny.”
Kenny: “Hey, I’m not getting with you either. I am totally homophobic. I am 99% straight, but totally 100% homophobic. It’s been the case ever since I got hit on by a dude while I was walking around that place in DC… what’s it called…”
Jon: “The Fruit Loop.”
Kenny: “Yes, the Fruit Loop. Ever since then. Scarred for life.”
It was around this time that Samantha walked up, who had blond curly hair, was tall, probably Australian, and absurdly good looking. I’m pretty sure she was there to hit on me or Kenny, but I wasn’t sure which one.
Kenny hit me again with his pool stick. “Kenny, I’m not one of your sub bottoms. If you hit me like that again, I’ll throw this ashtray in your face and I’ll show you how much I remember from high school jiu jitsu.” Which wasn’t much, but with an ashtray in the face, you don’t really need it. I turned to Samantha. “Who are you?”
Samantha: “I’m Samantha.”
Me: “Well maybe you can get along with him better,” I pointed to Kenny, “if you like dom tops.”
Samantha: She made that face that mean rich people in high school make when you tell them you shop at Target. “I don’t know what that is.”
Me: “If you don’t know what ‘dom-top’ means, there’s no way I’m having sex with you.”
It was at this point that she gave us the hair whip, as much as you can hair whip short curly hair, and stormed off.
Kenny: “That’s probably not the first reason you wouldn’t have sex with her.”
Me: “The first is that she doesn’t have a sense of humor.” She left to talk to the guy with the grey pony-tail and the leather vest. “What kinda guy is she trying to pick up anyway?”
Jon: “I think she’s just trying to pick up a green card.”
Kenny: “You totally just killed any chance I had with her.”
Me: “I don’t care, she’s not good enough for you anyway. And if I wanted to kill any chance you had with her, I would have told her the story about how the Roger’s campers duct-taped a six foot long image of a spewing cock to the top of your van.” This happened. As legal counsel, I advise against property damage, but I still climbed on top of the van to laugh and take pictures. “Since we’re going mountain biking early tomorrow morning, we should probably go to bed and sober up a little.”
Jon: “It’s 1:00am.”
Me: “Fuck my life.” I looked up at the television to see some tropical storm barreling directly toward, of all places, Pensacola. I grabbed Kenny. “Kenny, look! I was gonna go there! And there’s like a tropical storm or hurricane or some shit!”
Kenny: “Why should I care about this?”
Me: “I dunno. It seemed important yesterday.”
Kenny: “Well it isn’t.”
Nathaniel decided to shift the juke box music from the country that had been playing; Nancy, the manager, had loaded the juke box up with dollar bills for whoever to pick music, so Nathaniel picked some Nas or Nelly or some rapper whose name starts with N. That’s when Nancy and Richie (the owner) came out, and everyone moved to the side of the dance floor, and Nancy and Richie started grinding on the dance floor while everyone cheered.
Richie came up to us afterward. “You see, it starts in the ankles.” And he started moving side to side from the ankles. “And then the knees. And then the hips. And then a little bit of the shoulders. And then you’re dancin’.”
Me: “Is it ok if we have a documentary crew while we’re here in July?”
Nancy: “Oh totally, we had a reality show film here once, it was hilarious. Reminded me of how thick my West Virginia accent is. I like the marketing, although I don’t want the place to get too big, I like it the size that it is.” She called over some of the bartenders. “Hey guys! This is Alex Rowland, he’s the one with Homo Climbtastic coming in July!” I shook a lot of hands and there were a lot of names but my register is only so large after several jiggers of whiskey. “We are gonna be so ready for you guys in July, we have a band ready, we’re gonna have food stocked, the bar stocked,” she waved her hands at the walls, “everything.” She told me about how she used to live outside of West Virginia, and came back here to retire.
Although there had been signs of it already, (e.g. the discounts she offered that I didn’t ask for), it occurred to me that her hosting the convention had absolutely nothing to do with money. She would have done it anyway if it was guaranteed not to make money. She was part of it for the same reason that I was part of it, because it was going to be fun, and to hell if she was going to miss out and let some other campground have more fun.
And then when I thought about it more, I realized that had been the case with most of the business owners I had “negotiated” with. The people who had supported us over the years had supported us because they were the kind of people who couldn’t be bought. They were there to carve their own space in the universe, and money was just an occasional means to that end.
I had heard a theory once, that one of the possible reasons the queer rights movement had advanced so quickly without sit-ins and firehoses (aside from the prevailing reason, that we tend to get born into every family, including the most powerful ones) was that we queer people tended to have more money and fewer children, and thus more money to throw around at, say, political fundraisers.
No. It’s not true. It’s not true for the same reason that people who flee Georgia for New York and California return disillusioned. For the same reason the people waiting around for organizations or groups to accept them live off crumbs until their spray-on optimism cracks and they implode.
We never found success fighting for (or throwing money at) acceptance, or that incredibly grotesque idea whose name I shudder to put in print, “tolerance”. We built a society so much better that we no longer had a reason to ask to get in somewhere else, and left the formerly “enfranchised” clamoring to access ours. We gave people the realization that if they didn’t join the club, they would be left behind. Even the sit-ins of the 1940’s through 1960’s, while facially targeted toward admission to the target venue, drew their power from the embarrassment suffered by a populace forced to confront the depths it would plumb to guard a lunch counter. We still ruffle our feathers over the lagging legal recognition of us as people, but the thought exercise of imagining yourself living as one of those idiots afraid to have sex outside of the missionary position just seems… so much worse (and we’ve succeeded in getting the general population to have the same thought exercise). Which is by no means to suggest that we should be content with our position, but as an explanation for why some fronts in our battle for happiness have been more successful than others, and to explain why a group of people as geographically disparate but as culturally cohesive could win so decisively. It’s not about asking, or fighting, or trying to prove we can be like them, or waiting for them to accept morality or reason. Our meiosis not only efficiently destroys the enemy, but avoids sacrificing our happiness and our lives in the process. It’s about creating a media, an arts scene, a society, a college, a philosophy about sex/expression/being, a venue, a concert, a club, a space, a life–at first an escape for us, but ultimately a vacuum that eats the foundation of our oppressors, until your only enemies left are poorly supported wackos and figureheads, closeted homo legislators, and some fat woman who looks and sounds like anthropomorphized turkey bacon whose son writes musicals for a living.
Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate the ghettos from the enclaves from the new societies, and whether the defining characteristic is just your attitude going in. I watch Nancy return to the jukebox to feed more money in, and look up toward the weatherpeople chart the path of the tropical storm bearing down on Florida. There’s also a hail storm heading toward West Virginia.
Me: “Robert Wright had a different view.”
“He thinks that in the future, people won’t all move in one direction or another, toward something more and more progressive, they’ll become more and more self-segregated, as technology makes it easier for you to find people all across the internet who are exactly like you.”
“Is that what you think is going to happen?”
“I suppose,” I held my glass up, “you’d have to ask yourself if the people who show up came prepackaged like this, or converted upon entrance. Difficult to say. Can’t it be a little of both?”
“You talk about really odd things when you’re drunk.”
“You eat my vagina.”