“They come from the four corners of Europe and stop facing the inner sea, on the drab strand. They listen to the foghorns, vainly try to make out the silhouettes of boats in the fog, then turn back over the canals and go home through the rain. Chilled to the bone, they come in and ask in all languages for gin at Mexico City. There I wait for them.”-Albert Camus, The FallMy eyes are stinging. Another cigarette should dull the pain. Nope. Now I feel nauseated.
Do you care to lend an ear? You’re waiting for someone? I see. Well, why don’t I pass the time with you until she arrives. I am really not as pathetic as I appear. Do you snowboard? No? Good. Perhaps you can shed some light on my conundrum.
This is a dirty life, mon ami, this life of riding, sleeping, and eating. These mountains bathed in sun and snow cast a dark shadow on the industrial town toiling at their bases. I hate the fact that I love this place. I loathe the reality that one powder run on Penitent Ridge quells any ambition I ever had of leaving. People call this valley Eden, Shangri-la, Nephelococcygia. I call it prison because I can’t get out.
I knew a guy who broke out of here once-he scaled the pass in a rusted ’76 Chevette. He said he was headed for Kansas City to play music. Good luck, I said. You won’t make it a week, I thought. And he didn’t. He was back four days later sucking beers at the bar, boasting about how he was going to use a Skil saw to turn his 165 into an asym racing board.
I thought about leaving once. No, I think about it all the time. But, once, I sincerely considered doing it. Why stay in this ratty town where the only people that can afford to live here surround themselves with walls so they don’t get homesick, where 40-year-old college graduates mop floors for eight bucks an hour, where the only thing people put any energy into is taming the wilderness with chain saws and cell phones?
I’d rather walk the streets of New York City and breathe bad air and eat out of garbage cans. At least there no one would say, “You’re sooooo lucky to live here!”Once I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take the goodness of it all: the millions of dollars of merchandise running through this town on perfectly fit bodies as if they just leapt out of a catalog, the stacks of slippery smiling faces, and predaceous promises offered insincerely on this gold-paved sidewalk.
I wanted some fat dudes around here. I wanted some real music and some real drugs-not this pansy worker weed with the “Made In Oregon So Hang On, Brah” sticker on it. I wanted to live a real life in a real world with real people who don’t start their day with a shot of echinacea and a fifteen-mile run. I wanted to snowboard with people who choked on snow for the fun of it and got a kick out of frostbite.
I wanted some old down jackets around here, wrapped around people who care about people. I wanted a public stockade for businessmen who exploit snowboard bums and wouldn’t know a boot pack if it led them to redemption.I wanted all of that, and I wasn’t afraid to tell people about it.I held every job there was to hold in this place. I even ran for town council once and damn near won! I thought I could change things-if not for this town, then at least for me.
But that’s not the way it works. I soon discovered that. In the face of my enemy, I rolled over. And therein lies my sin. I gave them my home. I gave them my life. I started to drink. I spent my nights sulking and my days brooding over the hollow happiness floating through town, through my town.
I can’t get this thought out of my head. I am trapped, held here by the mountains and the rivers and the snow. I used to hide out in the hills, but they’ve been irreversibly violated, raped by a new generation of pseudo gorp-heads who discovered being a mountainman gets you laid.Ah. Your friend has arrived. You thought you were going to be stood up for a time, didn’t you? Well, you goo and be happy now. I won’t hold it against you. I respect you, mon ami, for you have withstood change.
“Though the woodchoppers have laid bare first this shore and then that, and the Irish have built their sties by it, and the railroad has infringed on its border, and the ice-men have skimmed it once, it is itself unchanged, the same water my youthful eyes fell on; all the change is in me.”
-Henry David Thoreau, WaldenExcerpted from The Pass, abackcountry ski and snowboardjournal published in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (www.threepin.com).