WE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING: NOBODY READS LONG-FORM ANYMORE. WE TOTALLY AGREE. BUT IF YOU WANT EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL RESONANCE, YOU STILL NEED CONTEXT, EVEN IF IT’S BASICALLY INVISIBLE OR COOKED INTO OTHER MEDIA .
CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING, AND CONTEXT, INVARIABLY, REQUIRES SOME WRITING. MEANWHILE, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT WRITING FEWER WORDS IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN WRITING MORE. AS SUCH, ECONOMICAL–AND THEREFORE MORE POWERFUL–WRITING IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN EVER.
STORIES ARE COOL.
PEOPLE STILL READ EXCEPTIONAL WRITING.
LET’S BE EXCEPTIONAL.
More than a reliable purpose, a destination, or extensive provisioning, any Adventurer worth their salt requires for success in any endeavor or pursuit only a quality Blanket. Blankets can be fashioned into a jacket, as in a capote, or a cloak or cape. They can be used to wrap and therefore protect your valuables during travel, as well as camouflage said valuables regrettably but necessarily left overnight in an old car in a dimly lit motel parking lot. They can serve in place of an otherwise useless cotton towel pre-and-post hot spring, swim hole, hobo slap, etc. Or, as a bedroll; a napkin (albeit an oversized napkin); a pillow; a sack or makeshift bag; a brightly colored and nicely delineated picnic or lunch spot; for love-making; in defense against nearly feral or overly habituated animals; a lightweight saddle alternative; fire containment; and for bivouacking and/or enhancing an otherwise primitive shelter. For wound care and poultices. For protection against the elements like dust, wind, direct sunlight, etc., as well as volatile and/or tempestuous weather. For insulation, be it fixed, semi-permanent or temporary. To appear period-correct, if said period is the whole of the 1800s and/or right now. As a regular blanket and/or ad-hoc, burrito-style mummy bag. And finally, if need be, a Blanker can be soaked in various nutrients, broths, herbs and tinctures for later oral or topical application.
Altitude Sickness, just like everything else—car washes, diseases, insurance plans, burrito bowls, etc.—comes in levels.
The first level of AS is your basic run-of-the-mill hypobaropathy, and features fairly pedestrian symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, insomnia, tingles, jingles, shortness of breath, drowsiness, general malaise, nosebleeds, rapid pulse, and “excessive” farts. Which, when one recalibrates for international travel and one or two trips to your typical emerging-nation pastoral food spot, most if not all of those symptoms are really NBD, just a regular Tuesday afternoon. However, subsequent levels of Altitude Sicknesses have more dangerous consequences, and feature colorful acronyms like HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema).
In preparation for Bolivia—the entire Cordillera Apolobamba zone is situated at 14,000 feet or higher—I started to research the symptoms and causes of Altitude Sickness, but I mostly gave up when I discovered the “prevention” sections were essentially empty of any solid advice or recommendations, except for simply instructing one to descend immediately and at all costs if they experience fever, loss of consciousness, photophobia; your whole body tingles and ringles and you can’t see right; clinical confusion, and my favorite, ataxia, which is a fancy word for zombie.
And I was like, no duh, I will squirrel suit off a mountain the second I have an unsteady gait, uncontrolled/repetitive eye movements, trouble with motor skills, spontaneous decomposition, or any of the other more serious second-level symptoms. But really, what I wanted to know was: how does one avoid any or all of that in the first place? Like, how do you train and/or prepare the problem away? That’s when I came to the section that states the (very) best way to prevent and/or avoid Altitude Sickness is to be genetically non-predisposed to Altitude Sickness.
Got it. Thanks.
What if I told you there was a Savage Wilderness filled with unimaginable riches—physical riches, spiritual riches, natural riches, all of the riches—and it’s walking distance from the In-N-Out Burger in Redding, California? What if I said that it—the Wilderness—was, to this day, semi-virginal and begging, according to some, for subjugation? That it was a rugged, vertigo-inducing land of spectacular scale, angle and color? That in spite of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, Manifest Destiny, the Gold Rush, Kit Carson, the Caterpillar corporation, a failure in 1964 to properly designate and therefore protect Bob Marshall’s vision for a whole and permanently viable Wilderness System, and Large Scale Nickel Mine interests, the virtues of this raw and unimaginably inhospitable Wilderness have yet to be properly explored and exploited by, say, capitalism, for example?
This is the only place in the world—according to science—where Bigfoot is currently living and quite possibly thriving. Deep in the heart of the 6-hour-long Redneck Middle Earth spanning the distance between Chico and Eugene, a region, or better yet, a semi-non-fictional state best defined, culturally speaking, by the half-a-century-old Mythical State of Jefferson secessionist movement; among the lumberjacks, weed operations, coots, packers of crystals & pistols, homesteaders, communes, libertarians, wack jobs, hillbillies, environmentalists, and prospectors, in the thick of a vast, primordial and seemingly limitless sea of chiseled mountains, raging rivers, and old-growth forest; north of Happy Camp, south of Grants Pass, west of Crescent City, east of Ashland and just beyond the city limits of Cave Junction, there exists a particularly remarkable, river-rich, non-religious Garden of Eden called the Kalmiopsis Area.
And what if I told you that; A) its watersheds are both the source and conduit for a number of the cleanest rivers in the entire world, that its veins literally course with the purest, most spiritually/physically/emotionally refreshing (and potable!) water in the world. B) In regards to its “Area’ness” and official designation, it is legally incomplete, inadequate and thusly compromised; and finally C) unless we can convince you to care and contribute and engage, it will never expand, and it may fail.
According to The Road, a major motion picture based on the book of the same name written by Cormac McCarthy, the Apocalypse is populated (mostly) by bands of rapist-cannibals in rags and improvised footwear roaming the lifeless, leveled, and perma-smoky earth, scouring devastated architecture and abandoned car-choked roads for various life-or-death resources, pretty much one-day-at-a-time-style, indefinitely, in search of water, or fertility, or a ride to Mars, or all three, or whatever.
First of all, based on what I know about human nature and our shared predisposition for self-destruction, that totally checks out. In which case, lots of folks–like my girlfriend, for example–are a hard pass. They’re like, yeah, thanks but no thanks, I’ll go ahead and get dead in the “first wave” of whatever environmental collapse or zombie-causing viral outbreak precipitates the apocalypse in the first place. Versus, you know, grinding it out in a dark echo-y train tunnel for three days, waiting out a dust storm, eating cat food, listening to the sound of non-potable water dripping off the ceiling into a Folgers coffee can.
Me on the other hand, I’m one of those “stay alive at all costs” types. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to eating babies, but I’ll do whatever it takes, even if it means eating a baby or two—which, when you consider that six months into your average apocalypse, all the babies will have been eaten, so if that’s your main objection to “staying in the game,” this isn’t even an issue in the big picture so.
The thing is: I don’t have any useful skills or talents. In fact, I am, basically, the very definition of a non-essential service provider. So while I’m DTF surviving the apocalypse, I probably won’t, unless I get some skills.
I know this guy Steve Fassbinder. His nickname is Doom, or Doctor Doom, and anyway he’s this rangy, hairy, lizardy, ectomorph legend who lives in Durango, Colorado. We met ten years ago in Portland when we used to pick up packages and drop off packages for the same bike messenger company. When I learned he claimed all his 9-5 work week meals as fuel on his taxes, I immediately recognized Steve for the skills-having survivalist he is. Anyway, for the last three or four years now, he’s been emailing me photographs of feral-looking vagabonds covered in dirt, sunscreen, and sunburn, carrying pistols and rifles while using recreational drugs, alcohol and oversized mountain bikes to explore various Rocky Mountain and Rocky Mountain-adjacent landscapes on no discernible trail or road, some of it legal, some of it not.
After the fourth email in as many years, I’ve come to three conclusions: Doom and his crew are basically doing Apocalypse Practice. I mean, if well-armed, self-supported biker gangs roving the desert on flotsam and jetsam-equipped Fat Bikes doesn’t sound like Apocalypse LARPing, then I don’t know what does. I’m not good at doing stuff, but I am good at knowing people who are good at doing stuff. So I decide I should go to Durango to learn how to do stuff and practice the Apocalypse.
Part of “Apocalypse Practice” published on Mythical State Of
While Jason, an ex-NFL running back and the owner of Kuiu, eats a bowl of caribou stew or moose stew or maybe even bear stew—nobody actually knows—he talks to Tav, the owner of Arctic Red River Outfitters.
Tav is refueling his Piper PA-18 Super Cub, which is basically a sky go-cart for two. I talk to the oilcloth-duster-and-baseball-hat dude from earlier whose name is Dave. Dave’s daughter Rebecca is married to Tav. That’s why he’s here in camp doing “various things.” Dave is an old Bush Cowboy, or depending on which part of Canada you’re from, an old High-Country Cowboy. He tells me about Tulies, Riding for the Brand, surviving 13 plane crashes, the time he was run over—as in literally run over—by a steam train, and what it’s like to have cerebrospinal fluid running out of your nose in the process of surviving what should have been a fatal kick to the head by a horse.
A few minutes later, Jason hands me his empty stew-of-indeterminate-provenance bowl, hops into the Super Cub with Tav, and they do a 180 in the dirt before taking off in the direction of our deep-bush rendezvous spot. I kick rocks around the “runway” for a bit before hopping into a helicopter operated by a pilot in a BMX helmet. The pilot, I later learn from Kent, The Guide, over a dinner of reconstituted buffalo chicken, has seizures and was likely “got” at a serious discount.
The flight is powerfully scenic, in part because we’re barely 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and in part because helicopters are practically all glass and fly nose-down. After 45 minutes of thuck-thuck-thucking over several mountain ridges and countless massive drainages, we land in an expansive, wide-open river valley on a nondescript—except for Jason and Kent and a semi-pitched tent—stretch of rock and gravel. After scrambling off the airship, which barely touches down and never actually comes to a stop, I walk over to where camp is being set up.
The guys, tent poles in hand, fire nearly started but just kinda smoldering for now, have stopped what they were doing and are silently and cooly observing my arrival. The helicopter is long gone. It’s quiet like it’s never been quiet before. I’ve never been further from civilization, I am way out of my element and natural habitat, and not since childhood have I been more reliant on a single person.
Kent, The Guide, who I’ve never met before now, carries a somewhat reliable satellite phone and an assault shotgun with orange plastic streamer tape hanging from the end of it. Of the three of us, he is the only one with any experience in this particular patch of primordial wilderness. My life depends on his ability to make good decisions and solve problems, but this dude looks very young and slightly unresolved. I stop in the rocks five feet shy of the two of them. It’s still quiet, and still, nobody has said a word. Jason smiles, the Guide smiles, I smile. The Guide looks at me and my pack and my empty hands and says, “Hey city guy, you forgot your food bag.”
Part of “Arctic Red River Outfitters,” published on Yonder Journal
Our driver is good because he is a French postman (technique), and because he’s running pirate wheel support for his brother (passion), who’s some dude on Ag2r currently in the race—as in racing it. Nobody knows the rolling rural post-agricultural goat tracks, jerk woods, farm lanes, and townships of Northern France as well as our driver, a driver we’ve relied on, completely and absolutely, for everything related to the course, the language, the time splits, the Gendarmerie relations, where to get that good pan, what to wear, where to look, all of it, everything.
Aaaaaaaaaaand then, five hours in and roughly ten kilometers from the finish, our driver comes to an abrupt, unannounced, unscheduled and possibly illegal stop in the middle of the street, leaves the engine running, gets out of the driver’s seat, stretches, lights a cigarette (of course), flashes Emiliano and I a semi-limp thumbs-up meant (we think?) to acknowledge that we are Americans, that today was okay even though we are all still more or less strangers on account of nobody speaking the same language, and, most significantly, that now is the time, apparently, for him to, you know, go. Just like that, dude, our dude who was everything, hops into the dusty Peugeot with questionable media credentials currently pulled over behind us, and joins his wife, his father, his mother, his two daughters, a pawn shop race radio, a tangled stack of maybe fourteen wheels, and leaves the course and our lives forever.
It’s hard to know just how far behind us the race is, but we know it’s close, because two helicopters are rapidly moving in our general direction. More importantly, currently, we are parked in the middle of the course and surrounded by thousands of millions of European cycling fans an eighth of a mile deep in every direction, and literally — li-trul-lee —blocking the single most important, one-day bicycle race in the world.
Let’s back up. This is our first time doing basically everything related to photo-documenting Paris Brest Paris. From big-picture stuff like covering a Spring Classic in an official capacity, to all the smaller-but-no-less-important stuff like operating a motor vehicle in France; driving on a closed-race course during said race; speeding down three-thousand-year-old farm roads covered in cobbles and smashed oil pan parts; charging a 5-speed turbo diesel Rabbit through ten kilometers of Belgian Disco Partiers unwilling to make way or part until the very last possible second; and Tokyo-drifting roundabouts and blowing through red lights effectively at will. All of it inside a pretty serious dust storm with very limited visibility.
Sticker privilege is a very wonderful, very unique, very life-affirming privilege, buuuuuut it’s also like nothing either one of us has ever experienced and it comes with, clearly, great responsibility. JK, JK. No but really, I think I ran over a couple dozen chilleur’s feet somewhere halfway through the last sector on the way into the Velodrome.
At the end of the movie, the audience stood up and clapped like they were at a Broadway show and wanted an encore. Fifteen years ago, I remember the same thing happening after the first big fight scene in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It was opening night, and people just lost their shit because none of us had ever seen anything like it before. Sure, The Matrix got close with the bullet-dodging limbo and parkour stuff, but it wasn’t a rooftop chase culminating in a float fight, that’s for sure.
Every once in a while, someone makes a literally next-level movie, or book, or music, and it changes everything. Suddenly you have a before the thing existed and an after the thing existed situation, kinda like the whole deal with Jesus. Anyway, maybe I’m just a sucker for deformities, dysmorphia, Burning Man on bath salts, body mutilation, post-apocalyptic landscapes & meteorological events, supermodels loading 19th century firearms, Cirque du Soleil at speed, bod mods, Day of the Dead makeup, and a two-hour music video featuring basically nothing at all except a car/motorcycle/monster-truck chase that goes all the way to the end of a road in one direction, then turns around and comes all the way back in the other direction.
Whatever the case, that movie jacked me the fuck up. It made me want to butt-chug about fifteen, maybe sixteen Red Bulls, drop some acid, paint my face with feces, set my dick on fire, rent a PT Cruiser and race it to Mongolia over the land bridge, steal weapons from a Russian oligarch, buy a hockey team, go back in time, find Harriet Tubman and arm the Underground Railroad with lasers and nitrous-assisted, fully armored golf carts.