Climbing From Nederland



“This is heavenly. Beautiful people, a beautiful place, beautiful music. We’re the luckiest people on Earth. We’re at the top one percent of the one percent.”-sunglassed Mickey Mouse-ish grinning tall dude at a daytime DJ party outside Queens museum PS 1 MOMA

I’m sandwiched between a Colorado consultant-turned-lineman and a Kansas Baptist-turned-tattooed programmer on a spiffed-up four-wheeler. We’re hiccuping up a red dirt road lined with Douglas firs towards the tree line.

(How many people have you been sandwiched between? Today. This week. This year.)

This is my second time hitchhiking. Only a 10-mile or so ride from the edge of a tame old mining town to a Rocky Mountain trail head, but I like that I’ve stuck out my thumb.

Like shouting, “all’s good! Thumbs up to this dizzying air!” Slash “if you look close enough you’ll see I’m wearing mermaid-colored nail polish!” And “Hey, my dad wouldn’t approve but he sort of pressured me to do it via a romantic hitchhiking essay he published today!”

A few couples in SUV’s turned us down, and my new Kansas friend blamed it on his tattoos (and the fact that he was not a female). But tattoos don’t count anymore, do they?

The one tattoo parlor in town was actually replaced by a pizza shop. But the storefront kept the “Tungsten Trail Tattoo” sign and is now the most hoppin’ pizza place in Nederland. It’s even more popular than the Carousel of Happiness, an actual carousel whose 103-year-old ostriches, monkeys and zebras are just a hop and skip away in the shopping center parking lot.

Goodbye, pizza. Goodbye, other humans tumbling away under the growing sky. The wind from the open front windshield leaps at us and the men on either side of me bond.
They like the idea of leaving it all behind.

So do I. Do we all?

The lineman did leave it all behind: he’d rather climb utility poles through the dead of winter than sit behind a desk and fumble with numbers. The Kansas guy was shoved out his girlfriend’s car in Texas and never went home for his belongings, so he ended up here. I bought a round-trip plane ticket two days ahead of time for a five-day hiatus from Brooklyn August, so here I am.

We all connect in the lineman’s boss’ vehicle as we edge up a docile elephant back erupting from the ground.

“Romans 3:23” is needled into my Kansas friend’s arm to remind him of his grandmother’s cross stitching framed on his childhood headboard. She sewed the verse after he came home distraught, picked on for having shabbier clothes than his friends.

“Never forget,” she said of the verse: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Translate: Everyone is equal, and equally inadequate.

Another line she coined: “It’s made with love.” Translate: “It’s made with either bourbon or butter.”

The lineman drops us at the trail head and we gallivant up rocks, dip our toes in streams, patter across tree trunk balance beams, weave through a maze of green.

Emerge in a flat open wildflower field. I crumple, unfurl, melt flat on my back, swallowed by the stems. Die for a minute.

Then we return to town, inhale a few drinks and “made with love” dinners in a Nederland tavern, and call it a day.


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