Chomolungma 2017

What’s going on and why doesn’t it stop? That’s what concerns me. How can Ueli Steck be dead? Not right. I remember Ueli. I patted him on the head when he was two years old. Today, what you don’t do is pat an infant on the head.  You can’t get near a kid to do that and it’s because of their mothers.  You’ll be killed.

Summit Snowfield

But you’re not supposed to get wasted on a so-called mountain.  And then just this week, just this month, three or five or whatever it is more aspiring humans beside Ueli wasted on old Chomo.  All I remember is it’s one mile through the Khumbu, three miles to the Lhotse face, and a mile or so up to the “South Col” as it’s affectionately called.  Then it gets worse. Get in line.  It looked absurd to me and I climbed down.  Time.

I can’t believe it’s already 30 years since Kanchenjunga.  I’m an old man now, relatively speaking.  Unless I’ve lost my mind I was up there with Scott and Veikka and a select group of other clowns.  You can’t make stuff up.  You either handle it or you don’t.  I was a tourist.

The old saw is you never step up on the absolute top-out on Kanch.  The Gods’ll kill ya. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. Actually, I doubt it.  More than that is just too much to ask.  I trained hard but that will not stop the delirium at the top. Something I learned.

You’re in your own little world.  Maybe that’s the attraction.  Own little world.  Skill yes, but stamina.  Stamina.  And luck.  Treasure-house of the five lucks.  Having some luck, of course, is one of the five lucks.  Having a sense of humour is one of the five lucks.

Having love is one of the five lucks.  Living in two worlds is one of the five lucks.  Having a good eye is one of the five lucks and in my deranged world as I recall it’s the reason I made it down, as a complete amateur, off old Kanchenjunga.  Once is enough.

You can’t pursue things to the death.  What kind of life is that?  I guess it depends on your own, personal pathology.  That sounds good.

Veikka’s cool.  He’s still around.  Wanda Rutkiewicz.  What I remember most of all is that patch of pink.  A patch of pink way off down there in this crazy white world on an incredible day.  Wanda’s climbing suit was pink.  She’s still up there but at least people know where she is.  Cool.  Your reach exceeds your grasp.  Doesn’t matter.

They’re coming up from the Tibet side again.  The PRC is in step and the North Face is open.  You can talk about the North Face and you can wear the North Face but how many people have ever been on the North Face?

Everest North Face

I remember these comic descriptions of the north face.  It’s too funny.  “First Step” “Second Step”.  Absurd. “Kangshung Face”.  The “Pinnacles”.  “I’m afraid I’ve got some tragic news.”

It was Steck who came across American Alex Lowe on Shishapangma about a year ago. Stuff like this  from the “savage arena” always makes for interesting reading.  Lowe was wasted in an avalanche in 1999.  I wouldn’t say he was perfectly preserved. More like in not bad shape for being dead that long.  Frozen stiff.  There’s just nothing else to do but lay there until somebody finds you and in many cases nobody ever finds you.

It’s not callousness.  It’s just fact.

I managed to pick up this material at “Dollarama” for two bucks and thought I’d throw it up and see what sticks.  Have a beautiful wknd.


Posted in Absurdities, Certainties | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

D. H. Lawrence (1885 – 1930)

Lines from Lawrence’s poem “Manifesto”.

I remembered it as:

“A man is so afraid of strong feeling
And that fear is the root of all cruelty”

And the actual lines are:

“A man is so terrified of strong hunger
And this terror is the root of all cruelty”

It’s a poem about love and desire and a woman. It doesn’t make a lot of sense much of the time, but these lines hit me hard and have stayed with me. The book was a pre-owned “Penguin” paperback of Lawrence’s poetry.

There was no help for me in that era. Who would read anything by Lawrence today? But in that era I was supposed to be reading everything. Let me give you a piece of advice, my children. You can’t do it.

Last night I got “A man is so” and “strong” and “the root of all cruelty” right. I couldn’t remember “terrified” and “hunger” and “terror”.

Lawrence was very good, on the other hand. He never joined the writer’s block community.  He lived in the next block.  He just wrote. And wrote. “The Rainbow” was good. “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, frankly, was a bit of a bore.  I enjoyed “The Plumed Serpent” and “Kangaroo”. And “Sons And Lovers” and “Women In Love” were good old, nineteenth century novel-ing at it’s finest.  They’re 20th Century novels but you’re not going to hold us for that, are you?

“They think I’m an ordinary man. But I am not an ordinary man.” That’s something I remember Lawrence saying, quoted in some book I was reading.  What does that tell you about D.H. Lawrence?  Not much.  Except he had no doubt about it.

It doesn’t matter now. We were afraid of that but this is the best copy we could afford while the site is down.

These tulips keep popping up too.  They’re getting into everything.


Posted in Certainties | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Last Book Review

In case you missed it this is the last book I reviewed for the Vancouver Sun newspaper.  The review also appeared in certain other papers owned by “Postmedia Network Incorporated”.

The “books” pages in the Sun are being shut down by executive decree of the paper’s owner effective this Saturday (April 22, 2017).  For a long time those pages have numbered two at the back of the “Weekend Review” section of the print paper and found as “Books” under “Entertainment” under “Arts & Life” in the main header of the online version of the paper.  So you always had to do some digging to find what you were looking for, and sometimes, especially if I had a review in there, it was almost worth it.

My review of Daniel Zomparelli’s excellent stories published by “Arsenal Pulp Press” here in Vancouver appeared March 31 so I was glad to get something in there at the end.  The Sun’s weekend review of newly published books, many of them local, has been around for a long time.  I’m not sure how long but certainly many decades.  Things change, but what does this cancellation mean?

Many people have very little or no interest in books, but there are also quite a few people who do including writers, publishers, editors, agents, designers, academics, librarians, readers, and, who knows, even people who make a living selling books.  Because, strange as it sounds, there are still people around who do that too.

Does the cancellation mean that in the eyes of the very small, select group that controls Postmedia Network none of these groups matter and any feeling of estrangement and alienation from Postmedia that might arise from this move can have no impact on Postmedia’s already absurdly frayed and tenuous bottom line?  Nah.

Just as Postmedia deems this or that section of their various papers irrelevant and it disappears, doesn’t that also ease Postmedia down the road of it’s own irrelevance?  You can keep hacking things off, Paul, but a corpse is a corpse.

This natural fact hasn’t stopped “Postmedia Network Inc.” from issuing a press release on its own website on March 31, 2017 heralding the launch of a “Powerful New Editorial Brand Campaign” called “Built on Trust”.

The strategy seems to be, yeah, a lot of our papers have been around a long time, some of them more than a hundred years, so while we’re going broke we gotta promise readers we’re gonna continue to publish the excellent content they’ve come to know and, ah, um, trust.”  For sure.

It was funny because before I wrote about “Everything Is Awful And You’re A Terrible Person” I’d already decided that I’d done enough book reviewing, with the thought ever in my mind that once upon a time I’d never had any intention of reviewing books at all.  Why would I want to do that?  Now I remember.  To “hype” my career.  Later it was discovered that it didn’t matter what I did, I had no career.  It was simple.

I wrote 17 reviews for this current version of the Vancouver Sun and about the same number in an earlier epoch when the exalted paper was owned by an entity called “Southam Newspaper Group”.  But those days are gone now.

Now I can get back to what I do best.  I remember that famous line from who was it?  Apollinaire?  Bukowski?  Somebody.  “I don’t know why, but sometimes I just want to look at the sky.”

Have a great evening.


Posted in Absurdities, Certainties | Leave a comment