Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ode to the Peak

Okay, ode is probably not the correct word; commentary is more like it – but what kind of title is Commentary to the Peak?  First of all, if that were the title, it would have to be Commentary about the Peak – which is really what this is; but since that's hollow and lacking in sentiment, I'm using the word ode: Ode to the Peak. 


'The Peak,' of course, is Pinnacle Peak: mountain home to my hiking exercise trail. 


As I intimated a few posts ago, I have, once again, begun to hike in the morning.  We're in triple digits now so the afternoon hikes are just out of the question for me.  No, from now until some time in November, I'll be on that hill before roosters wake farmers, before six – or more to the point – before our sizzling fireball rises up, high in the sky, pushing morning temps beyond the 80s.  Can you imagine 89 degrees at 6:00am?  It's not that now; now it's around 78 – which makes the morning hikes feel like heaven on earth.  It's as we creep toward summer that dawn temperatures will be around 89, but keep in mind, when daily highs are anywhere from 108 to 115, a good 20 to 25 degree swing cooler is actually pretty pleasant.


Anyway, it's always great getting back into the morning routine.  It's like a reunion of sorts up there – I've seen all the regulars again.  There's DL with the red back pack and his posse of hiking compadres.  This is one serious group of retirement age hikers who seem to be more committed to hiking than, say, Admiral Byrd.  Pinnacle Peak must be their home base for regular exercise, but through overhead conversations, I know they hike all over the Valley.  They've hiked the Grand Canyon.  Why, many have hiked Machu Picchu – I wouldn't be a bit surprised if one or two of them have scaled Kilimanjaro.


In addition to this group, there are also the independent hikers, like me, who share this early rising, communing with nature, appreciation for the great outdoors.  There's Tim the Fireman, Ray the Contractor, Mr. Incredible, the Banker and the Anchor.  These last two are obviously friends – I rarely see one up there without the other.  I think their job descriptions alone could be parlayed into a sitcom: The Banker and the Anchor – two men, one conservative by nature, the other dynamically daring; come enjoy this revisionist version of a modern day odd couple as they comedically travel through the conundrums of life's ups and downs – this fall on CBS.  No?  Okay…


And there are others – Teddy Bear, Panama Patty, Safeway guy, Walgreens Lady and, of course, Speed Racer.  Speed Racer is the fastest hiker I've seen – I'm sure you've already ascertained that by the nickname I've given her.  She speed walks that trail as if jet propelled by a rocket up her you-know-what.  I move at a decent clip and she passes me like I'm standing still – not that she ever acknowledges my presence, by the way.  There's never an excuse me, pardon me, or on your left, and there's certainly no thank you when I step aside, clearing the path, giving her a wide berth.  Some people are just like that, I guess – not me.


I sometimes feel like I'm up there personally spearheading the Congeniality Committee (I may have mentioned this before).  I'm smiling, I'm waving, I'm saying, Good morning, How ya doin? or sometimes just, Hey – but the Hey is almost always accompanied by the smiling chin-bob.  There are those that respond and those that ignore.  Yeah, ignore.  I don't understand it, really.  I'm not trying to enroll anybody in network marketing, or have them join a pyramid scheme; I'm simply saying 'good morning.'  Oh, what nerve, huh?  Whatever… honestly, I've been hiking up there for so long now that I've sort of gotten used to that unfriendly, closed-off, antisocial behavior that it hardly even fazes me anymore. 


What does faze me, though, is the sometimes lack of social decorum that's exhibited up there.  I find that a lot of men think nothing of openly spitting, at any time, anywhere on the trail – not giving any regard to the fact that there are other hikers RIGHT THERE!  Don't get me wrong, I've actually hocked a loogie or two in my day, but I've done it discreetly, making sure no one was nearby.  Spitting is, after all, voluntary – it's not like vomiting.  We have control of if, and when, we let the phlegm-balls fly.


One day, I had a man no more than six feet behind me doing his absolute best to bring up a lung.  I cannot even begin to describe the repulsive, guttural, throat-clearing sounds this man was making.  All I can tell you is I was having one heck of a time controlling my overly sensitive gag reflex each time he was successful in forcefully expelling one of these hard-won muculent globs.  Wondering if any of his sputal spray was actually getting on my back, I eventually gave a half-hearted turn and said, "Sir, please," to which he responded, "What? I have to."  Have to?  Honestly, if he really had to perhaps he shouldn't have been out hiking.  Have to?  Didn't we just determine that spitting is voluntary?  Have to?  I don't think so.  I managed to subdue an overwhelming urge to vomit and ran off – I actually ran – thinking, "Well, here's hoping he won't have to poo a little further down the path." 


That man not withstanding, I love that hike.  It always reminds me of life – there are parts that are difficult and challenging on the way up that are easier on the way down.  There are people you meet along the way that are friendly, and those who are not.  To me, life is like that – tough at times, easier at others.  Sometimes, a lot of times, I think, it's the tough times that we experience that make the future times more manageable – we learn, we grow, we develop character from the tough times.  No pain, no gain as the saying goes. And, some people we encounter along the way will be friendly and make our walk more enjoyable, others not so much – but, these folks are there also (they will always be there) and we need to deal with it.  If that means running ahead before you're spit on, then so be it.  It's all part of the journey! 


On the run…

 - M

Sunday, May 10, 2009

You lookin' at me? Uh, no.

I can remember how waves of panic would instantly flow through me on a Saturday when, as a teen, my dad would unexpectedly announce an immediate trip to Rickel Home Center.  Rickel did not enjoy the same popularity that, say, Lowe's or Home Depot currently does, but it certainly was a forerunner for those mega home improvement centers of today. 


In today's times, one may run into any number of known associates, friends or neighbors when strolling up and down the aisles of these local do-it-yourself behemoths.  Back in the day, it was generally just the Mr. Fix-its – those who held a subscription to Popular Mechanics and the like – that frequented a store such as Rickel.  


The departure announcement to Rickel was like a death knell to me – I did not like going to that store.  See, being of the female persuasion (warning: gender stereotype coming up), I cannot relate to, nor understand, how someone can take 15 minutes (an eternity to a kid) to make a decision between one bolt or another, between one type of putty or another, between one gasket or another.  As a teenage girl, a quarter of an hour is too long a time to spend pacing the O-Ring aisle while expressing disinterest with dramatic repetitive sighing. 


The only thing that could have made those trips more unbearable would have been to run into someone I knew, someone from school – or worse, a boy from school.  And although that generally did not happen, there was one occasion, however, when it did.  Being caught in such an uncool place as Rickel was bad enough, but to be there unshowered, without make-up, with greasy Farrah Fawcett wings, killing time near the toilets and be seen by John Murphy (my future prom date) well, that's truly the stuff nightmares are made of.  Oh, the horror.  


Now, it's completely possible an experience like that could mold a person's future behavior.  One could become an early riser, for example, up by dawn, showered and dressed, ready for anything – at any time.  Or, perhaps just the opposite could occur.  One might come away from such an experience giving up any regard for all personal appearances whatsoever.  For me, it didn't really have either of those effects.  I was unchanged – hence the aforementioned waves of panic caused by these impromptu trips to the store. 


But see, as we get older, we know when we're going out; and as an adult, we're generally put together in such a way that's deemed appropriate for public appearance.  We don't go out in our PJs, for example – no matter how comfy or 'lounge-wear' like they may be – we just don't do it.  But does that mean hair and make-up are always perfect?  Not for me, it doesn't. 


One day, as I was getting out of my car at the Post Office, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and actually said to myself, out loud, "It'd be nice if I cared just a little bit more about my appearance."  Then, closing the door and seeing my image again in the car window, I added, "Or… at all."  See, for me, time management always trumps vanity.  I went in and out of the PO unnoticed. 


Most times, I think it's like that.  People just really aren't looking at us the way we think they are.  Don't believe me?  Did you ever run into a previously bearded man after he just shaved?  When seen for the first time, most people don't realize that the beard is gone.  All they know is something is different.  New shirt?  Hair cut?  What is it? 


I, myself, had – keyword there, had – very long hair.  It fell to well below my mid back.  In fact, when pulled in front of me, it covered both boobs like Pocahontas with her braids undone.  It became a nuisance at that length and I had six inches cut off.  Six inches – that's half a foot.  NO ONE noticed. 


Speaking of boobs, a woman I know just had an augmentation – that's very popular out here.  Hers was tastefully done; a lift with some fullness restoration – the right size for her frame.  She told me that no one really noticed – no one said a word.  I actually think if it's done right you shouldn't notice.  Let's be real, it shouldn't look like balloons are pushing up your clavicles.  Maybe some people did notice, but were just being polite.  Perhaps some just felt too awkward casually saying, "Hey, nice boob job."  I don't know.


I even read an article about this kind of thing once.  A group of people were sent in to different social environments wearing Barry Manilow concert T-shirts.  Most of the participants were initially horrified when shown what they'd be wearing and had reservations about even continuing with the experiment.  Poor Barry, how did that ever happen to him?  That's not the point, but it was the point behind the experiment – sort of.  The end result was that the majority of people surveyed, when asked to describe what the 'test subjects' were wearing had no idea.  The closest anyone got was a concert T-shirt of some sort.   


See, people just aren't paying any attention to us.  Let's face it; unless you're a bride walking down the aisle, all eyes are not on you.  Isn't that liberating?  It is to me. 


Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to twist my hair up into a clip and head out to Lowe's.


Just being me…

 - M