Monthly Archives: August 2005

A Word a Day

I’ve got rhinorrhea. Don’t be alarmed. It’s just a runny nose. I just hope I’m not banned from the flu shot again this year. I begged and begged last year: “I work with little kids! I got eight colds last year!” but they gave my flu shot to some 80-year-old woman with asthma instead. Damn them.

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Go Mills!


Mills College was named America’s most liberal college today in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges: 2006.

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Oh Tenaya!


We were looking for a multi-pitch 5.5 in Tuolumne to climb. Two, maybe three pitches. Janelle at Ironworks suggested a one-pitch on Puppy Dome or maybe a two-pitch on Hermaphrodite Flake. Then Tanya suggested this 14-pitch climb, and Martin and I said what the hell and bought two inexpensive walkie-talkies at REI. We arrived at Tuolomne (after a long day of TA orientation at Mills College for Tanya and I) at 11:30 p.m. to find that our campsite wasn’t posted on the bulletin board like we were told it would be. After thirty minutes of waking up someone in every group campsite to ask if they knew where Rock Rendezvous was, we decided to crash in an emtpy group site and hope the rangers didn’t evacuate us before dawn. We went to bed at 12:30, woke up at 6:15, ate breakfast, tore our tents down, packed up our gear and left the campground at 7:45. We drove 20 minutes to the parking lot just before Tenaya Lake, spent 30 minutes arguing over how many backpacks to carry, how many headlamps to take and how much gear to bring, then began hiking up the mountain at 9 a.m. Bushwhacking, I mean. Over boulders, across streams, through trees. My foot got caught at one point in a tangle of shrub branches. At about 10:30 we reached what we realized later was the top of the second pitch and set up an anchor. Martin led the first pitch. I led the second, and Tanya the third. Once the leader had set up an anchor, (s)he top-belayed while the other two simul-climbed, one tied in at the end of the rope and the other about 15 feet above him/her. Two pitches up, I dropped the walkie-talkie while setting up the anchor. It landed near a piece I’d placed, so Martin and Tanya retrieved it on their way up. Ten minutes later, Martin dropped the sunscreen – my favorite lavender-scented sunscreen! – about 15 feet down. Once Tanya was anchored in above us, he downclimbed and retrieved it. Then I asked him for a sip of water. As he leaned over to hand me my CamelBak, the walkie talkie fell out of his pocket and back down the face. This time it didn’t stop. One bounce, two, three, “It’s still going”, four, five, and on down the face it went. Then it was back to rope signals and yelling. (“On belay!?” “Did she say on belay?” “I think so.” “You’re not sure?” “Was that two tugs or four?” “How many times do I tug?” etc.) Several pairs of climbers (usually a man leading and a woman following – Tanya and I were the only women on the peak doing any leading. Women, what’s wrong with you!?) simul-climbed passed us without ever setting up anchors. While Tanya and I were stood (we couldn’t sit because there was no ledge, only foot holds, and we couldn’t lean on the anchor because Tanya said it might not hold – our feet were killing us) on a slippery slab – a guy soloing the peak climbed up to our feet, had a chat, then continued on his way. Not long after that, Tanya took off leading the next pitch. After 20 or 30 feet, Martin and I asked if she were planning to place any pro. Right then and there, she placed a piece. When we arrived to clean that piece we found a sling with a spare nut hanging from its biener slung on a tiny branch, barely strong enough to hold my shoe. That’s rock climbing humor for you. In our race against the clock, we never had time for a break (we snacked and peed when we weren’t leading or belaying. Ever peed on a leash?) We reached the summit at 8 p.m., about ten minutes after the sun set. We took a few quick pictures with Tanya’s camera (one of those old-fashioned kind that use film), swapped our climbing shoes for our tennis shoes (time to buy new Asics Tigers), then hiked down as quickly as we could. This is when Martin and I started arguing over whose brilliant idea it was to lighten our load by leaving one of the headlamps behind. Even though I knew it was my fault, I let Martin hike down after I nearly sprained my ankle on a rock. He walked in the middle, headlampless, while Tanya led the way and I took up the rear, trying my best to shine my light in Martin’s path. More than once Tanya stopped and say, “Whoa – drop off” and steered us left of the void that lay over the edge of the ridge. Staying left meant we took the long – very long – very very long – way down the peak. After twenty minutes of walking as fast as we could, I thought for sure we must be halfway down. It wasn’t for another two and a half grueling hours – over boulders, across logs, between trees, through meadows, past streams, that we landed (Tanya jumped up and down) on the trail that circles Tenaya Lake. Again we walked as fast as we could, this time taking breaks every five minutes instead of every 30 – until we reached the beach, shuffled through the sand, past picnic tables (civilization!) onto the road and finally back to the parking lot at 11:15 p.m. At midnight we were back in our empty group campsite. And for the first time in my camping history, I went to bed without dinner. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but anyone who knows me knows how much I love to eat and knows I would have to be paralyzed or near death to forgo a huge pasta bowl of with vodka tomato sauce, zucchini, mushrooms and sundried tomato turkey sausage with lots of parmesan, red wine and vegan chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t move. I sat in the car in the fetal position while Martin set up the tent. I used my last ounce of energy to blow air into my Thermarest and change out of my sweaty clothes. At 8 a.m. I woke up ravenous and needing to pee. I cooked a huge breakfast – oatmeal with bananas and apples, a hard boiled egg and a giant cup of caffeinated tea – then went back to sleep for three more hours. Later that day Martin and I devoured chicken sandwiches and large swirled frosty cones at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill, then scouted the nearby domes for multi-pitch (uh, like three or four, not fourteen) 5.6s we could lead next time we were in the high country. My friend Laura asked me if I would do it again. Uh, no. But it was fun to do it once. The image is from the SuperTopo website.

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Jack White is an Asshole – Buy His New Album


I saw The White Stripes in concert at the Greek Theater last night in Berkeley. What a great place to see a concert as long as you have two blankets, a North Face down jacket and plenty of bread and cheese. At $7 a plastic cup, I had just one glass of bad red wine with my double cream gouda and brie on cranberry walnut bread. The concert was great and I love their new album, Get Behind Me Satan, which combines the Stripes’ signature thumping bass drum with a piano, a xylophone and a lot of blues. Blue Orchid, The Nurse, Passive Manipulation, As Ugly As I Seem, My Doorbell, I’m Lonely (But I’m Not That Lonely) – every song on their new album is fantastic. So why is JW an asshole? Halfway through the concert, someone accidentally bounced one of those concert beachball/balloons up onto the edge of the stage. It lodged between two speakers or two lights, right at the edge, several feet from where Jack was playing the grand piano. For about ten seconds, Jack continued to play, then he stood up, yelled, “This is bullshit!” and stomped away from the piano. He picked up the balloon, stomped around the stage some more, read “Live 105” on the balloon and announced that he wasn’t going to finish the song, that he was taking a five-minute break and that everyone should think about how Live 105 was responsible for that break while driving home from the concert that night. (Of course, Live 105 is the only big Bay Area station that plays The White Stripes). Five minutes later, he came back and announced that “That break was sponsored by Live 105.” During that five minutes, audience members boo’d him and jeered him much to my delight. “What’s a matter, Jackie? Can’t play the piano with a balloon sitting next to you?”, “He is such a primadonna! I’m leaving! I swear I’m leaving!”, “Think about that while you’re driving home in your limousine, Jack!”, and “This is a rock concert! I ate a churro during that last song, Jack. What are you gonig to do? Kick my ass?”

The fun wasn’t over until, during the last song, a drunken audience member jumped up on the stage while Jack was singing, “There’s No Home for You Here” (I might be getting the song title wrong), ran up to the microphone and sang into it, “There’s no home for you here, Jack!” Before the black and red roadie could get the guy off stage, he jumped back into the audience. The audience members held their collective breaths after witnessing Jack’s reaction to the balloon on stage. First, Jack told everyone to be “very very quiet” then to stare at the man in the audience. Then he began speaking in a sarcastic baby voice and said, “Now are you getting the attention you wanted? Did Mommy and Daddy drop you off at the rock concert tonight?” then turned to the audience and said, “Don’t worry, he’ll get his come uppance. He’ll be doing coke and beer after the concert.” He then shouted, “Do you want me to finish the concert?” to which the audience (except me) shouted, “Yeah!” and Jack responded, “Well, I’m not gonna!” But, after a moment’s reflection, Jack decided he couldn’t let audience man have the last laugh and announced he would sing one last song (oh thank you kind concert master!).

When I got home, I researched the shocking rumor that Jack and Meg White are not really brother and sister. (He even introduced Meg during the concert as his “kid sister.”) I listened to Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview, during which Jack said he grew up the youngest of 10 in a Catholic family while Meg said she was not raised Catholic and that her family was “significantly smaller.” Jack refused to answer whether he and Meg were once married and babbled on a lot about the Godliness of the number three. One website reports that Jack once said he and Meg were married and that both marriage and divorce certificates have been produced by reporters and posted on the web. However, the BBC website says: “Despite evidence of a marriage license and divorce certificate, they were never married. But they did go out with each other back in 1999.” There is no further explanation. Maybe all the secrecy is to get attention. (Did Mommy and Daddy drop you off at the rock concert, Jack?) Like me, the dynamic duo is from Detroit, and Seven Nation Army is my favorite song on my iPod jogging playlist. I will listen to “Get Behind Me Satan” over and over, but I still think Jack White – really John Gillis – is an asshole. Meg White, by the way, is her real name. And I wish she’d sing more. So there. (The photo is from the BBC website.)

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