Out the window I hear the grinding, crushing jaws of the trash truck picking up it’s Monday morning breakfast from the south-western edge of my front lawn. I say south-western edge like I have some grand estate. Make no mistake, I could leap from the porch and land on the “south-western edge”. And the north-western one too for that matter, but I am simply trying to paint a picture here. We are on a one-way street in the heart of the city, in a Dutch Colonial over a century old that leans more towards charming-fixer-upper rather than noble-historic-dwelling. Either way, it leans. I squint my eyes and peek through the blinds with the intent to inflict some sort of telepathic control over the trash collectors precision of keeping at least a percentage of the refuse from exploding into my driveway.
If required in a rousing game of Pictionary I could probably do a fair job of recreating the thuggish mechanical beast that collects my scraps and leftovers every seven days via deft line-work and a keen photographic memory(aka googling it on my iPhone). I’ve seen them my whole life, so I should be familiar with them, right? Do you know what color your neighborhoods trash truck is? Mines blue... wait, green. Black? Every time I am in another country I take note of things like the way the police sirens sound different; how many versions of the box van there are; how people dress, and yes, how their trash trucks look different than mine.
Everything is different... to somebody.
I look at that trash truck in front of my house and think how someone visiting my neighborhood for the first time from another country might find it fascinating. And what about from another era? Or Planet.
Suddenly with new eyes I see something architecturally and mechanically miraculous.
IT PICKS UP THE TRASH, CRUSHES IT, AND TAKES IT SOMEWHERE ELSE! Eat your heart out, quantum physicists, for clearly, this is genius on wheels.
I close my eyes, became a Neanderthal in a cave and reopen to see a wheeled Tyrannosaurus Rex from the future. I grab my club to bash it’s brains out then think better of it. I close and open again- I’m “Grimal” a smoke shop owner in Bali sitting on my front stoop. I notice the fact that the truck loads from the back instead of the front, and has six wheels instead of four. It’s... different.
I close my eyes and open them again as a child. EVERYTHING is new and different when you’ve never seen it before. OH MY! IS THAT A CARDBOARD BOX TO PLAY WITH!? IT MUST BE CHRISTMAS!
A thought pattern like this infects my morning runs. Maybe it’s just a survival instinct developed intuitively to fight a threat of boredom with unchanging daily surroundings. If so, I don’t mind the mental placebo. I see the intricate, organic accents on the capstone edging of the hotel down the street. It’s not the Vatican by any means, but someone put a lot of thought and effort into that at some point, right? Who? I have no idea.
I see the way curves on a sedan are crafted, and how they differ between makers. Someone somewhere designed those curves and they are proud of how it’s different from the others.The sedans each come in silver, maroon, black or blue no matter who makes it. How predictable. Unless... you aren’t from here.
Everything is different... to somebody.
I see a homeless man shuffling his way to his daily panhandling perch on the corner of Main and 47th street. What is his story? Did he grow up in this neighborhood? What did his great great grandfather do? Was HE the one who put the intricate details in the masonry work down the street? I close my eyes again and picture him as a 10 year old. What was his reality? Did he like playing “memory cards” like my kids do? Did he say “I want to beg people for money when I grow up”?
Everything is different... to somebody.
I see the debates over who should or shouldn’t marry who dependent on their relative gender. I see arguments erupt amongst strangers with keyboards and thesauruses. I do my best to avoid divisive politics, especially amongst friends. But these days “friends” are counted by the numbers on your profile, and maybe when everyone’s your friend, no-one is. I don’t get fired up when someone’s opinion is different than mine too often, unless its changing lanes on the highway, then I go full on Incredible Hulk. To quote Bruce Banner, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m cut off from the right” or something like that. I suppose that makes me a passive passing pacifist?
I close my eyes and re-open them and no longer do I see color, or gender, or race. Just glowing pillars of blue light moving about in the space time continuum, and then I think- What is worth arguing about amongst these glowing beings? When do we discover the majority is only as good as the wholeness of it’s minorities? What is worth discussing? Fighting for? Against? What is worth our finite time? We flicker out so quickly.
Everything is different... to somebody.
I close my eyes and reopen them and we are on another planet, spiraling afloat in the cosmos. We are slick-skinned, genderless and olive green with big, emotionless almond shaped eyes walking tall and speaking in clicks and whispered breaths.
“Higher beings”, they call us.
How do we respond to each-other with our similarities and differences as aliens? When we all look the same, it takes more digging to find them.
I recline in a hovering chair with no apparent legs that floats 18 AMU’s (alien measurement units) above the soil, supported by an invisible buried magnet. In my hands is what looks like a credit card. I place one of my six, green webbed fingers on it as it reads my endocrine and insulin levels, then displays what I should have for dinner based on what my system needs.
I get up to go inside and help my partner get the prescribed meal ready. A loud crunching sound catches my attention from the front of our dwelling pod. It’s a rolling, magnificent mechanical device with large articulated arms that seems to be picking up refuse directly from the ground and taking it somewhere. It is not floating like our normal vehicles, but anchored to the earth by four black, circular rotating tube-like drums. It’s blue, metallic and looks like it might be from another planet.
I whisper in my alien tongue “it’s magnificent”.
A common question I get about what I do whether it's the making and selling of art, or the planning and realizing of international remote adventures is "What Does it Cost"?
The question assumes I can answer like a travel agent, accountant, or gallery owner, each of which I am not.
"What does it cost" is a personal investment question. We inquire because we wonder if we HAVE what it COSTS to acquire what we find desirable. "What does it cost?" asks the question- how can I get that?
But asking a dreamer "what does it cost" is like asking a mother "how much do you love your child?".
They LOVE with what they HAVE. To follow dreams, the same is true. It COSTS what you HAVE.
Yet... “What it costs” cannot simply be defined in dollars and cents.
The costs are not analyzed in well gridded spread sheets, or displayed in logically organized receipts neatly arranged in small manila envelopes with the red string closure.
What does it cost [to follow dreams]?
It costs long nights at your desk alone, with doubt creeping in the shadows.
It costs awkward conversations about our worst ideas just to get it out.
It costs time.
It costs money, yes, it’s true. Lots of it- money hard earned and quickly burned.
It can cost a relationship.
It costs patience.
Following my dreams has cost me many nights of sleep, sacrificed to a staring contest with the ceiling.
It costs weight loss. Weight gain.
Muscle loss, Muscle gain.
Confidence loss, confidence gain.
It costs risk, over and over, with the stakes growing higher and higher.
It costs time with my wife. My children. Myself.
It costs constant effort and belief.
It costs adaptation.
It costs skin, sweat, and blood.
It costs starting.
It costs STARTING OVER.
It costs years and years and miles and miles.
It's cost me 9 vehicles in 20 years.
It costs honesty with others.
It costs minutes, and days, and a lifetime.
So, what does it cost to follow your dreams?
It costs everything you have.
9:40 pm, CST, Somewhere in The Heartland of America.
A 30 minute moonlit run somehow evolves into an hour.
Beneath glowing streetlights I watch my shadow go from behind-to-in-front, behind-to-in-front as I slap down urban roads blasting through minuscule clouds of my own breath colliding with the winter air like a giant with his head in the clouds.
Pounding up cold concrete stairs, my lungs start to do their thing. They are used to this. My body temperature is rising and I drop my hoodie. And all I can think is “I am so FORTUNATE. I get to run! My legs go up and down. I CAN DO PUSHUPS! WHAT?”
Since I was 12 years old, I have spent roughly 300 days a year doing something physical, something taxing, something... satisfying. Along the way, I have been so FORTUNATE to sweat with such inspiring athletes. NFL stars, Olympians, World Record Holders, and for the last decade I have been so FORTUNATE to climb with some of the greatest athletes to ever touch rock.
But it’s not only the accomplished who inspire me. It’s the dedicated.
I have been so FORTUNATE to live in the desert, the mountains, and yes, now, in the flatlands.
I have found it’s THE FARTHEST from the mountains where you see the truly dedicated, obsessed, committed. hair-brained, and most nutcase mountain athletes. These are my people. My tribe.
The crazy ones. Those whose STOKE is not limited by proximity or access.
As I finished my run tonight, I pass by the museum where I took art classes in 4th grade. I pass by the art institute where I teach classes now. I feel so FORTUNATE.
I think of people who have either let go of the quality of life that comes from freedom of movement, or had it taken from them.
If this is you, I encourage you- whatever it takes- FIX IT. Hips or knees too jacked for running? Go to a chiropractor or physical therapist and get your joy back.
Elbows too tender to crank at the gym? Forget the gym, climb slabs. Think of Fred Beckey who was out climbing at Joshua Tree last week for his 90th birthday. A FORTUNATE man who GETS IT.
Say YES every time you get invited and leave the excuses on the couch. Say YES when you feel the impulse to grab a quick run before bedtime. SAY YES when someone asks you to join them on a fresh fitness routine.
We have such a tiny moment to be on this planet, and we are SO FORTUNATE to be able to play here. So... take care of it, and yourself, and find your FORTUNE.
Okay, now on to post run stretching...
From time to time I receive interviews from art students. Yesterday I did one for a Latvian student studying in Grenoble and thought his questions were well constructed.
1. Your paintings are "different" from others, they are original! I'm talking specifically about the Alpinist 33 Cover, I just love the colours you've chosen and the way you accent the lines. So i would like to know where did you find the inspiration to create such a unique style?
Imagine dragging your toes through the sand, your hand through the air out the window of a car, or a rake in the dirt. Those lines inspire my lines.
2. Has drawing always been easy for you or it took a lot of practice to get to this kind of level?
I have been practicing my entire life and I continue to. I appreciate that people enjoy my art, but all I want to do is to keep exploring, much like I do with climbing. I wouldn't saw drawing is "easy" for me, but it does make me happy and so the more I do it the happier and more proficient I get. We all are artists in one way or another at birth. The noted ones aren't always the most talented, but those who just cant live without creating.
3. I'm wondering, what kind of artists do you like, what are your favorite ones?
My tastes are quite broad- from fine art to street grafitti and influence is everywhere, daily. My "favorite" current artists are the ones who have something to say and have found a way to say it. I lean towards people who work hard, evolve, and empower others, rather than those find a way to make money and regurgitate it for a career. Not that its a bad thing to make a living, but regurgitating isn't living.
I like Chinese brush work done in art "camps" in the 16th century. I like Van Gogh. I REALLY like Gustav Klimt. I like Smashing Pumpkins. I like Sigur Ros. I like Lars Henkel. I like Joe Sorren. I like James Jean. I like Mumford & sons. I like Josh Garrels. I like Marshal Arisman. I like Quixotic. I like Renan Ozturk. I like Zoe Keating. Okay thats a lie. I LOVE Zoe Keating.
BEST OF LUCK AGRIS!!