Climbing in Sierra Nevada: the Prettiest Road Goes up the Cliff

This is not my image, but this is what we climbed

It is 11 pm Pacific time. I am dreaming of granite walls merging with the sky, of snow patches hiding from the sun in the north facing gullies, of boulder fields and screes, of the city of rocks, of occasional pine trees and small lakes glistening far below, of an adrenaline rush, of fear and excitement, of happiness. I am dreaming of mountains.

I started mountaineering late, in my mid-twenties. It crept up on me over the years, slowly turning into an addiction. Why do I climb, spending days and weeks stuck in the mountains and on the cliffs, suffering through cold and heat, bleeding, eating power bars, sleeping on the rocks and fighting altitude sickness?

A journalist once asked George Mallory (one of the greatest mountaineers humankind has seen), “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” 

Mallory answered, “Because it is there.” 

He disappeared while trying to climb Everest in 1924. His body was found 75 years later. Some time ago, I tried to explain to my mom why I climb. “Mom,” I said, “All the roads don’t lead to Rome. They all lead to a cemetery, but the prettiest one climbs up a cliff.”

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Dance Me to the End of Love

Tonight, Barclays Center sports arena is packed almost to limit of its seating capacity. 19,000 people came to hear Leonard Cohen. It is strange to see all these people quietly waiting for a performance to start. Barclays feels more like Lincoln Center than a sports arena.

cohen 1

The overhead lights dim and only cell phone screens glimmer in the darkness below me. The scene lights up in bordello red and blue and the band arrives. Seventy-eight-year old Leonard Cohen sprightly scampers across the scene, like a winner of the octogenarian Olympic Games. He starts the performance with ‘Dance me to the End of Love’. As his voice fills the stage, I am left to ponder on why I like him so much.

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Meet the Subway People

This is a stream of accidental images and encounters describing the people I see in the New York City subway. I will keep updating it.

Comments are welcome. Stories are even more welcome. Add them as comments and I’ll append them to the main file.

1.
A 300 pound guy and a 100 pound girl are holding each other hands.
And gazing at each other tenderly. Good luck guys.

2.
A plastic butterfly rides the black girl’s sunglasses.
Like Benigni in Night on Earth, driving a cab at night.
Nice boobs though.

3.
Fashionable holes on fashionable jeans.
Mosquitoes’ favorite.

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Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Birthday

taxidermy

What does a woman want for her birthday? Flowers? Jewelry? Shoes? Dinner in a nice restaurant? An intellectual girl may like an interesting book. A musically inclined one would prefer a ticket to Metropolitan Opera. In spring, a romantically inclined girlfriend would want a trip to Paris.

But, what does a woman do if she has already tried all of this boring stuff and she is searching for something new and exotic, unique and different?

If the woman in question is Yvonne, she will ask her boyfriend (i.e. your humble servant) to accompany her to a four hour workshop on…

ANTHROPOMORPHIC MOUSE TAXIDERMY

Honestly, I had no desire whatsoever to go there. My interest in mice = my interest in taxidermy = 0. My interest in mice wearing human-like costumes approaches absolute zero.

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Priest Alexander Shumsky on Mark Zuckerberg’s Visit to Russia

Priest Alexander Shumsky is an influential priest and writer residing in Moscow. His views are endorsed by the Russian Orthodox Church. I found this article as fascinating as it was repulsive.

Translated from http://ruskline.ru/news_rl/2012/10/03/lomonosov_ili_cukerberg

A few days ago a young American millionaire with the characteristic name of Mark Zuckerberg showed up in our country. He is the creator of so-called Facebook. Zuckerberg arrived as a big boss who cares not in the slightest for the aborigines. He even demonstrated it in the way he dressed – he wore a grey T-shirt. I wear this clothing under my shirt after I go to sauna. American Mark Zuckerberg strolled around in this underwear while meeting the representatives of our scientific and political establishment.

He came here like a thief, a TV anchorwoman Tatiana Mitkova told us. Apparently Mark Zuckerberg came for our bright people. He wanted good software and IT engineers, naturally young ones. Somebody would say, “Oh, he is not forcing them to go, he is buying them. Why do you call him a thief?” Formally speaking, Zuckerberg is not a thief; he follows the law, otherwise he wouldn’t be a Zuckerberg. But, as Vladimir Lenin used to say, “It follows the letter of the law but it mocks its spirit.” I think it’s a thieves’ law that allows some Zuckerberg to visit us and buy whatever he wants at his pleasure.  It was impossible in the Soviet times and we created great science, stepped first into the space, and built the best weapons in the world. What’s better for Russia – to ban Zuckerbergs from robbing my Motherland or this liberal one-sided system where we lose everything and gain nothing back, except Zuckerberg’s dirty T-shirt as memorabilia?

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Outdoor Clothing for Pregnant Men

I bought a gore-tex jacket from Patagonia online. It came in. I tried it. I shuddered. I wrote an email to Patagonia customer service. With pictures. Here it comes:

Dear all,

Recently I bought a Patagonia gore-tex jacket on the internet (M’s rain shadow 84470 LMA M). Over the years, I’ve worn a lot of Patagonia clothing and I’ve been quite happy. So, I didn’t expect any problems. The package came in, I tore the plastic apart impatiently, happily pulled the jacket out and inspected it. The jacket was quite good. The material was fine, pockets were nice, all the zippers were there, etc… Then I put the jacket on. And, I was in for quite a surprise. The jacket could comfortably clothe approximately 1.5 of me.

Hmm, I thought, maybe I got a wrong size. I looked at the jacket label and it said in plain English Men’s M. As in medium.  

Hmm, I said again, maybe I am not a medium size person anymore. Maybe, I suddenly lost lots of weight and shrank. I measured my weight and height – 160 pounds and 5’10”.

patagonia 1

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Scientists – in Politics and Prison

A major earthquake struck on April 6, 2009. It killed three hundred people in the Italian city of L’Aquila. Hundreds more were injured and thousands were rendered homeless. More than three years later, on October 21, 2012 an Italian court found seven men guilty of this disaster. One of them was an Italian government official, the others were senior Italian scientists. They will spend six years in prison.

To summarize the story of the earthquake:

For a few months, numerous tremors alerted and frightened the L’Aquila residents. The residents were quite worried and experts from Italian Major Risks Committee were called in. Six senior Italian geophysicists had a meeting with a civil official. At the meeting, the scientists considered different scenarios. None of the scientists ruled out a possibility of earthquake. Some of experts considered the earthquake to be not very likely. One of them made a clearly erroneous statement – that small tremors may act positively by dissipating energy, thus reducing the probability of an earthquake. All of the experts specified that it was impossible to predict or completely rule out an earthquake. Later, the civil official presented the results to the public. He stated that an earthquake would not take place and he recommended that the residents stayed.

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Climbing in the Cascade Mountains

Thursday

I am airborne, like a plague.

A plane is taking me away from my work, my girlfriend and my friends, away from my fat black cat and from her white belly, away from the city of New York, my immigrant home.

 Middle America leisurely rotates below me. The quiet corn fields glow in the sun. The smooth round cows wander in the fields, munch on the corn and drool on both ends. The locals stately push their carriages along the extra-wide Walmart aisles, their children wobbling behind. The warm humid air pulses over the parking lots. The little white churches lead to salvation. The flyover states enjoy their summer.

The Cascade mountains are drawing closer at 600 miles an hour, 10 miles a minute, almost 100 feet per one heart beat.

Tomorrow my friend Sprax and I will sort our gear, pack our backpacks, exhale the last gulp of car exhaust and start walking uphill.

The Security of Bread

bread1

I am looking at a picture my girlfriend just took. I didn’t even know that I could look so serene and happy at the same time. Something in my facial expression is reminiscent of a mother looking at her sleeping baby. Cannibalistically.

It’s 10pm on a Wednesday night. It’s dark outside the window, a cold November drizzle smears the lights coming from the Castle Village buildings. I am sitting at a wooden table in my tiny Manhattan kitchen come dining room. My left hand is soaking in a blender – cold water is unsuccessfully trying to soothe the pain radiating from a large burn across my palm. I don’t care. I am happy. I achieved a dream that I hadn’t even have the guts to dream about. The dream is sitting right here, on the wooden table, on a black wire tray a foot and a half away from me. The dream looks like a misshapen slightly burnt brownish lump still covered in a thin coat of whitish powder. It’s about the same size and shape as a human brain but it’s slightly less symmetrical. I gingerly caress it with my fingertips; I run them along the rough folds, grooves and ridges of the surface. Something crackles faintly underneath. I bring my head close to it and almost touch the surface with my ear. Heat irradiates towards my head and I can feel faint noises coming from under thick crust. It’s talking to me. It says, “Hi.”