Hiking in Phoenix

I love this time of year on Camelback, because someone decorates a Palo Verde tree up there.

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Camelback boasts an almost cult-like following, with some patrons being crazy over-acheivers and running the mountain three times a day.  Boom boom boom, up and down, being all crazy, getting ripped and offering unsolicited hiking advise to those of us urging our dogs to just pull us up. There’s one man in particular, in cargo pants and a fishing hat, who MUST be in his sixties.  He will tell you to stand up straight so your lungs aren’t compressed and to step in front of your body, as opposed to right underneath.  Do you know this man?  Because he is my Hiking Hero.

However, Camelback is almost not worth it due to the absurd parking arrangements.  (One must often park a mile or more away and take a shuttle to the mountain.  Ugh.)

So, if you’re me and want a good hike elsewhere, here’s some other places for you;

Pinnacle Peak, in Scottsdale.  Its basically in the fancy Troon North area, but despite its zip code its still really cool.  The only downside to this hike is once you get to the end, you remember its not the end and you have to turn around, backtrack, and trudge back to the place you started from.  Actually, this place sucks because its not dog-friendly.

Piestewa Peak in Phoenix.  We used to call it Squaw Peak, but that was when we were racists.  This is another great hike, but I can’t help but remember EVERY TIME I hike this thing that its the near birthing place of my old roommate.  (Her crazy mother was hiking away at eight months.  This is a great story, involving a helicopter and everything.)

Papago Park in Tempe is good if you want to do some trail running, because you’re a beast and running alone isn’t enough for your beastly thigh muscles.  This is right by my house, too, so me and Kira McWiggles are frequenters.

A Mountain.  I’m just kidding, this is only really when you’re drunk off Mill Ave and feel like hiking a mountain.  (This happens to all of us.  All it takes is someone’s slurred suggestion that hiking is the best and should happen immediately, and you already feel like a slurry superman so you’re totally game.)

…the fact is, Camelback is the best.  Its difficult (or if its not, you can run up there three effing times a day like my Hiking Hero) and you feel like throwing up and crying the entire way up, but the top is worth it.  You feel like Simba surveying all that he owns, for some reason.   Plus you can take that stereotypical Camelback picture everyone and their mother takes up there, and its like you’re part of some special hiking club.  The best part of Camelback is telling everyone sweating and weeping their ways up while you’re heading down that someone put a Jamba Juice or a snow cone machine up there.  (Lies are funny.)  Camelback kicks your ass and gets you coming back for more.  We’ve likened it to an abusive lover.  (“It’s just that he’s so passionate!”)

For real though, take advantage of this area’s awesome hiking.  When you live in a state that’s eighty degrees on Christmas, you’re a bit ridiculous for not being outdoorsy.

New friends and dead friends

Or, why I’m not sleeping anymore and bought a car.

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It started a couple weeks ago when a brand sparkling new friend invited me to his going away party.  Actually, that’s just a point of reference, because I have absolutely no idea when or why or how or anything about it starting.  I just know that for his last week in Arizona, this poor guy was bombarded with my panic-stricken Getting-To-Know-Him.  I went all sorts of crazy, totally fascinated by this relative stranger so many of my friends already knew and loved, whom I felt I’d missed out on knowing.  I was also reading Kerouac and Novakov’s Lolita, which may have influenced me more than I realized.  Either way, I became obsessed with the nuances of this person’s character.  I wanted to know more, be in his presence more, somehow make up for the eight years he lived in Arizona and I didn’t know him.

This was the start of not sleeping, because I was going crazy reading Dharma Bums (Kerouac always makes me crazy) and because there just weren’t enough days in his last week; I had to use up the nights, too.   did things like swing dancing, waffle-housing, poker playing, football-game-watching, etc.  I eventually just had him over one night to talk into the wee hours of the morning.  Everything was exciting, new, and fun!  I was on pins and needles, on the edge of my seat for what would happen next.  Not just with him but with everyone and everything that week.  Everything was exclamatory and who eats food when you’ve got Kerouac and new friends?

He took off to another state on a Sunday, and I (having left his apartment around one-thirty, give or take) drove home weeping for lost friends.  I’m not exaggerating.  I was legit weeping.  I wept all day Sunday, too, even dragging my older brother into my sorrow.

I realized I was a wreck because this guy has all these close friends, has lived in the same apartment with the same roommates for five years, is totally invested in his friends, his life, his surroundings, and I’m just not.  I wrapped myself in self-pity, yearning for the same ancient circle of friends he had.  I told my brother I’ll never be a part of a close-knit community, because I’m so drawn to a transient, no-commitment, vulnerability-free existence.  He was great and just brewed me tea and let me cry.   Maybe I was just exhausted from lack of sleep and poor nutrition (woman cannot live on red wine and cliff bars alone), but the week after he left I was a mess.  They even let me leave work on Monday because I was so haggard and depressing.

Then I started reeling over the loss of Cheetah.  Maybe that’s why I felt so panicked and urgent to understand and know this new friend; I’d become stagnant in my friendship with Cheetah and lost the urgency to love her.  I took for granted that she was always there, that we’d regroup again sometime later and everything would be normal.  We’d fall about the place laughing at our lives and feel young forever.

One night in particular it felt like my skin was absolutely burning up from the loss of her touch, forever.  My oldest friend, the heart and soul and movement of my adolescence, is gone forever.  I started to panic; who will help me tell our stories?  They’re so funny, but how can I be expected to deliver the punch lines she always did?  The things I tell my friends and counselors now, she was in.  I didn’t have to tell her because she just saw it all.  Then I was angry, because she was never really there for me.  I remember when my pet  died and she’d been shipped, sans cell phone, up to Minnesota, a family’s desperate attempt to keep her from drugs and the bad man.  I remember clenching my fists in anger, because how dare she go and screw up so badly they had to hide her in another state, where she couldn’t mourn with me?  And I felt the same here and now; how dare she go and get herself murdered and leave me to grieve her all alone?

Plus, as mentioned, I’m reading goddamn Kerouac and every word is dripping with memories of my dead buddy.  Take this; “He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it… and he knew I knew … but I didn’t care and we got along fine.”

Oh heart!

And really, how it feels to be all of the sudden without my heartbreaking friend?

I was suddenly left with nothing in my hands but a handful of crazy stars.”

So I clutched my stars and couldn’t sleep.

I realized (at my brothers’, and my fathers’, insistence) that I just needed to bite the bullet and do something crazy; call a friend and invite her over.  I gulped, called Ginny, and we hung out like normal one night.  And two days later I bought a car.

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Now, this flies in the face of my travel goals, my simplicity idealisms, my tattoo aspirations, and my loathing for all things big and bulky and owned.  However, given my last couple weeks of mad elation and then depression, and the desire to have real friends who really love me and who I really love back, I decided I needed to be less of a burden to everyone and stop being such a transportation-less hermit all the time.  Its been three days since buying said vehicle and I’ve already taken myself swing dancing and to a job interview at a vegan restaurant.

I want to get behind my life, believe in what I do and who I spend my hours with.  I want to be able to sleep.Its funny, because I started this blog assuming and planning on starting a vagabond journey all over the globe for a number of years, before coming back to the states (maybe) exhausted with a heart full of people, places and things.  I even self-professed my lifestyle as transient.

Things have taken a turn, as they tend to do when we plan, and these days all I really want is to love and be loved by true, earnest friends.  I will travel (or not) later.  Right now I’m aching for connection.

Hence the car, and the potential job at the vegan place, and the soon-to-start-up volunteering at the farm downtown.

More on all this, and my baby brother, soon.  For now, blogosphere, I wanted you to know that its important to feel urgent for your friends, and to love them and your family fiercely.  Not just when they’re about to leave the state, but every day.  Don’t get jaded.  Do get vulnerable.

Anyway, I think I’m ok now, but the non-sleeping habit has been formed and its pretty annoying.

On another note, I baked a cake for a friend as ransom this week (he has my camera) but my roommates and I slowly ate the entirety of it in spoonfuls here and there.  Lolz all over.

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Complexities

I spent this morning with a good friend who’s just lost his sister in an accident.  We shared stories of grief, of numbness, of sarcastic come-backs to our friends’ awkward sympathy.

I came home hurting for him, for myself (because I miss my own dear dead friend) for this broken world.  I am reading Kerouac (“I love you but you have no idea what you’re talking about”) and a collection of meditations by Henri J.M. Nouwen called The Dance of Life.  I found these gems today;

Complexities

“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment.  There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our life.  It seems that there is no such thing as clear-cut pure joy but that, even in the most happy moments of our existence, we sense a twinge of sadness.  In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of its limitations.  In every success, there is a fear of jealousy.  Behind every smile, there is a tear.  In every embrace, there is loneliness.  In every friendship, distance.  And in all forms of light, there is knowledge of surrounding darkness.

Joy and sadness are as close to each other as the splendid leaves of a New England fall to the soberness of the barren trees.  When you touch the hand of a returning friend, you already know that he will have to leave you again.  When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun-covered ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same.  Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your heart that you can’t find words to capture your complex emotions.”

-Nouwen

But its also fun, isn’t it?  Being alive I mean.   used to take things very seriously and I was quite depressed.  (I was also in high school and weren’t we all pretty moody back then?  Ooh the angst of being sixteen!)  Now I think everything’s funny, in a bitter, calloused sort of way.

“I cried for all of us.  There was no end to the American sadness and the American madness.  Someday we’ll all start laughing and roll on the ground when we realize how funny its been.”

-Kerouac, On the Road.

And finally, this tongue-in-cheek gem via Douglas Adams, in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series;

“In the beginning the Universe was created.  This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

Because none of us had any say in our being born, and being born human nonetheless.

I dunno, just pondering today.  Just introspective about how pitiful and hilarious being alive is.  Tragic comedy or comedic tragedy?  Love and hate it.