I did not know my philosophy of rock climbing, but it turns out it is: this can’t happen. We can’t fall, not just because we don’t want to get hurt, but because we don’t have any health insurance. Grin.
Yes, I agreed to go, and yes, I assumed my companions would shame me into performing certain tasks.
I took a wall and its color-coded holds, up, down. I took another. I took one that you climb up and over the top, and scurry or roll down the other side. The last bit, when you must crest the wall, and then negotiate how you will fall over onto the land of the dead, or wherever that padded pad is, that is a little tense, but then you’re there.
I was able to successfully die only a little on the higher walls.
The walls which are two or three stories high, you are clipped into a rope, and it will only engage to catch you if you fall back into its grasp. I was not doing this. I was going halfway, climbing back down. Climbing 3/4 of the way up. Then, all the way up, touching the victory circle of metal that held my rope, and then, doggedly, carefully, climbing all the way down, step, step.
Fall back! my friends (if you could still call them that) were saying from below. It will catch you.
Like hell it will, I said, or maybe thought. I’ve got this.
I wouldn’t say “letting go” is amongst my strengths.
I would say I left New York with my claws still in it, the way my cat Tybalt gets his claws stuck in stuff and tries to shake them out. He’s an adorable beautiful dummy.
A friend was saying the other day he felt “stupid,” and “stupid” is a little loaded for me. It’s not just the name of my parents’ cat, from back when my parents were married, and before my dad realized the extent of his cat allergy, and during a time when I guess sometimes my parents did a jerk thing like name a cat “Stupid.” It’s a very uncharacteristic story for both of them. I guess it’s a story about not taking yourself too seriously, something we all certainly struggle with in my family.
Once someone called me “earnest,” and I had to be like, you got me there.
I have warm feelings about the word “dumb,” as it was used a lot by a favorite Buddhist writer of mine. Be dumb enough to not know what’s going on. Beginner’s mind and all that.
One very odd thing, my last year or so in New York, was that I had so little interest in seeing visual art. Words are my primary thing, but visual art ranks a close second, as far as what gets me excited, what gives me ideas, what makes me chuckle. There were shows at the Met, at the New Museum, and I just felt, “Meh.” It seemed like a lot of trouble.
After many years of devotedly (some might say earnestly) following art in Kansas City, I was excited to follow art in New York. Occasional galleries (openings in NYC being as unbearably overcrowded as Kansas City’s have become), and regular museum-going. My first years there it was important to me. It’s also something I enjoy doing alone.
I saw some great stuff, especially on a few trips to Chelsea galleries, when I worked in Chelsea.
I also saw a lot of work I had no interest in at all.
Today I went by the Nerman, a gallery very close to where I am currently encamped. I haven’t seen any visual art in quite a while. It felt good. Color feels good.
Oddly, many of the pieces looked like references to me. That is: repeated images were about Warhol, one-color canvases grimacing about anxiety were about the un-Rothko, the skeleton piece is about James Ensor (he who has to have a first name, poor lad).
They currently have an exhibit on anxiety, which is, you might know, right up my alley. Lots of orange (is that the color of anxiety? perhaps, but I was wearing my orange shoes, and every pair of orange shoes I’ve owned made me happy). Canvases hung in a circle, like Rothko does, surrounding you. Fishing lures, the sharpness and grabbiness of which I could easily imagine, as I watched a friend have a splinter pulled from her foot yesterday, just like the lion and the mouse.
Things get their hooks in you.
Some canvases looking at each other instead of you, the way they were set up, easel-like.
Maybe I didn’t care to see art much in New York, at the end, because I was depressed.
At any rate, it was one of my primary indicators (apart from being unable to pay my bills, haha) that the jig was up. That although my claws were in, I needed to work them out of there.
On the wall at the climbing gym, the easy holds, the only ones I worked with, were called “jugs,” not boobs, but easy-to-grab things. You grab, and you climb, more like a ladder when you’re a beginner like me. I took all the yellow ones, or all the purple ones, whatever. Harder grabs are a pinch, which you must hold between your fingers and thumb, more powerfully, and, a grasp I will probably never love, a crimp, where you would hold on with your fingers and wrap your thumb so that somehow you don’t fall, even though you are holding on by your metacarpals. (And I suppose their accompanying muscles and flesh and skin, but, still, damn.)
Just keep going, I thought, when I had a moment of wondering exactly how high up in the air I was, or if I could keep going. Just go. Up one more. Two more. I didn’t even know I was climbing.