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Foot In Thy Mouth

Submitted by famineboy on 2002-12-16

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I remember meeting Cal for the first time. I had just gotten done with a rock climbing course that taught basic skills in climbing. Right after the two day class, I was so hyped on the idea of climbing rocks, I went to a special outdoor rec store and bought one locking biner, one A.T.C belay device, a harness and some shoes, sticky shoes. Drove out to a place called Williamson Rock, located in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California. Walked down the wretched climbers trail, that short steep, slippery, and spooky piece of work, all the time thinking to myself "yeah, this is cool no other ordinary people could make a path like these climbers, hell, after all their roads are vertical ones, I wanna be a climber!!" Oh, yeah! Bow bow chika chink... I idolized this group of people, before I even met any of them. Climbers were kings and queens of the human race, aristocrats of the highest order, with morals that surpassed the most pious individuals, tough men and women afraid of nothing. People that had big egos, that could turn their noses up to anyone, they were rock gods and I wanted to join their rank! I wanted to pull until my fingers bleed and my back was burned deep with sun. I wanted to feel good about something I did. I wanted pride.

And so I went down to a place called London Wall and watched people do the sport routes, listened to different climbers moan and groan as they forged thier way through Earth's great pull. Listened to the encoragement and laughter of friends, I heard the song of quickdraws slapping each other sounding better than the holiest of chimes. I saw chalk floating in the breeze, like snow on a warm summer day. There was a buzz all around, that of electricity, of hope and something new. And I think I was the only one feeling it. After watching fueled my envy I needed to participate, I didn't have a partner so I wandered off to the base of some cliff, slipped on my new stickys and traversed the bottom of the wall, I was eighteen.

That's how I met Cal at the base of some cliff acting as if I was a climber, he and his friend Hobbs asked how I was doing, we started talking I explained that I was partnerless and didn't know anyone who climbed, being nice they said I could tag-o-long with them, that was a good day. Before we departed Williamson we exchanged numbers and became friends fast. We climbed all the time mostly at Willy's sometimes at Devil Punchbowl, and large groups of us would go to Owens River Gorge for a four day weekend every once in a while.

Cal climbed slowly, methodically, deliberate, carefull and beautiful, much nicer that I, even eight years after I last saw him I don't climb as well as he did then. He wasn't as tall as I was maybe five seven or five eight and reminded me often of what he could accomplish if he had my reach. His body was lean, he was an athlete, a warrior and never showed his fear. I remember one day out at the Punchbowl, Cal was sick he looked like a bird who'd just had a last meal of alka-celtzer, he looked horrible, snot running down his nose, a screwed up voice, and a hoarse cough, but he led the climbs that day, as he did with most of the climbs when I first started. There was this one climb though that day, that normally would have been no problem "like butter" he always said, he tried and tried and fell and fell, over and over again on that crux. But he didn't quit until he got it , and he did get it. Even in his sick state, bloody and bruised, he was tenacious and enthusiastic about what he was doing. Thats the kind of person he was enthusiastic about life and about climbing. Always supportive and kind happy and jovial, hardly ever sad........hardly.

Always a good friend to me he was. During the time we were hanging out he changed my mind about people, Cal was humble to the H, never bragging, no arrogance or pomp attitude, a person to be imitated by all. Maybe, I didn't make myself clear, but he climbed like a mo-fo!!At the time in my foolish head I thought he had bragging rights, and then I opened my callow mouth. It was another day at the Punchbowl, Cal and a guy named Nate and I had just got back to the parking lot after climbing at the Gorrilla Face, we were chewing the fat next to Cal's truck when Nate spotted a nice looking girl his age, collecting rocks and putting them in the back of her car. Nate was forty years old. Nate takes one look at this girl and he was off, he just walked straight across the parking lot right up to her and started "shooting the breeze!" This was the first time I'd ever seen anyone with that much balls and confidene. I was truly taken aback. I would have never done that, not at that time, I was scared of them girls and the words "no" and "go away." Anyway back to the point as Nate hit on this blond, Cal and I sat back and watched the man work. As we were talking Cal said "man that Nate really is a down cat" to which I replied, and here is the stupidist thing I have said to date "Yeah, he's cool because he's a climber and ninety-nine percent of climbers are cool, ya know!" Right when the speed of sound hit his ears, he stopped chewing his sandwich and looked at me, he gave me that look, the look that said " you stupid ass mother beeper, your ideas have zero logic and your thoughts are that of an infant donkeys!!" You know the look and its one I've become familiar with. Shaking his head he said, confounded as to why I had said such a dumb thing" Jesus, Rob people are not cool cause of what they do, Nates cool because of who he is, he's a good guy!".

Man I felt terrible, ashamed and mad at myself, Cal was right. What really hurt though was knowing that one of the few guys I looked up to, thought I was a jerk. I had made happy Cal, sad. That was the first, but not the only time I let him down, eight years later that is still a huge regret. How could I have said that? Nate was a good man.

By Famine Boy


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