Vegas Baby!

Good decisions make for boring stories. Nowhere is this more evident than in the modern Walmart of human depravity:

Las Vegas, Nevada USA.

Hmmmm. This is way better than SkyMall!

Hmmmm, this is way better than SkyMall!

Partying in Vegas for five nights straight is a terrible idea. I came to this realization while standing motionless along the Vegas strip nine-years ago.

Frozen there on the sidewalk, in broad daylight, staring down at the freshly-birthed turd resting solemnly on my shoe as strangers whirled by me, it took me a moment to process what had happened. Yep, it was undeniable. The evidence was overwhelming. I had stepped off an escalator and shit myself.

I immediately began running through my options. Spotting a nearby casino entrance I started waddling toward it. Fearing detection I crept forward slowly at first, legs spread wide, trying not to rub my cheeks together, which proved to be a terrible idea.

I quickened my pace when snack-sized Snickers Bars began dropping conspicuously from my boxers. They dotted the sun soaked, bleach-white sidewalk like dollops of chocolate cookie dough waiting to be baked.

Halfway to the door I became keenly aware of the stench emanating from my sagging Banana Republic shorts. It was the smell of rotting, week-old animal carcass that’s been salvaged from a summer highway, pressed into homemade Hot Pockets and burned in the toaster oven.

My concern turned to full-blown panic as I entered the casino and spotted the bathroom, situated oh-so conveniently on the far side of an expansive, brightly carpeted room. Terrified of being spotted by a pit boss, I deftly made my way through the clamoring slot machines and slipped silently into the bathroom – only to find that ALL of the stalls were occupied.

My brain screamed FUUUUCK!!! so loud my ears considered dripping blood.

Minutes later, after scrubbing myself with the vigor of an amateur prostitute, I emerged from the bathroom and headed straight to the nearest roulette table, put all of my cash on black, figuring it was the color of the day, lost and walked back to my hotel to shower.

You may be wondering, why on earth would Morris share this story with me?

Fast forward to two nights ago. I was back in Vegas, sitting in a bar listening to a local explain why Vegas is so great. “Anything you want, it’s here,” he said.

An hour later I was at Vegas’ hottest night club, listening to one of the best DJ’s alive, standing amongst the world’s hottest women, watching the greatest Jersey Shore douchebags of our generation vie for their attention, as I casually sipped Budweiser from a stainless steel bottle and asked myself if he was right?

Surveying the crowd I found a lot to like, but it wasn’t enough.

More than snow-capped mountains, more than a true sense of community, more than exhilarating slow-motion landslides and shitty country-swing music, what Vegas lacks is authenticity.

Everyone there is looking to represent, rather than to present themselves for who they are. It’s as if they are all working tirelessly to create the perfect avatar in an effort to convince one another that they’re worthy.

In contrast, I believe in the power of authenticity. Sharing your faults can be scary, but it’s a great way to build trust – and allowing others to pull at the cracks of your imperfection is the only way you’ll ever build truly meaningful relationships.

But, let’s give credit where credit is due. While the residents of Sin City may not be gurus of introspection, they are a diverse community of hard-working posers who built an amazingly luxurious city forged from mobster urine and hedonistic escapism that I fully embrace, endorse and enjoy.

Judge it. Hate it. Vilify it if you want, but do so knowing that you’re already embracing Vegas in some way. Whether you watch reality television, read crappy magazines or play video games – that’s all Vegas baby. It’s escapism at its finest.

While we may choose to get on a plane or turn off the TV and return to our boring lives, rather than allowing ourselves to live lives dictated by our shallowest desires – we aren’t completely different from them.

Whether you realize it or not, we all shop at the Vegas Walmart of life from time to time – and without exception, we love every bit of useless, self-indulgent crap we load into our squeaky-wheeled shopping carts of superficial cravings and wanton misadventures.

If Vegas has one lesson to teach us, it’s that we’re only human after all.

Embracing Imbalance

Do you remember as a child sitting on the end of a teeter-totter, your feet dangling loosely below you, feeling weightless and perfectly still for one fleeting moment?

Here, you were balanced.

"The Matrix is like a bowl of cereal. I'm like the milk," explains Keanua Reeves.

“The Matrix is like a bowl of cereal. I’m like the milk.” – Keanu Reeves

 

Now… do you remember four seconds later? How, fueled with desperation you began kicking, bouncing, pushing and pulling to get moving again – longing to experience the exhilaration of extremes.

Here, giggling excitedly, pitching yourself to and fro, you were basking in the glory of imbalance.

Forget finding balance. Focus on embracing imbalance. Moving from high to low and back again is the essence of life. That is living. Sitting idle, although comfortable, is fucking boring.

I remember sitting on a beach one day with a beautiful girl, smelling the salt air, watching seagulls circle above and listening to some honest words I really, really didn’t want to hear. After stating my case there wasn’t anything left to say, so I slowly turned away, smiled the smile of a best friend attending an Irish wake and confessed, “Wow, this fucking hurts. I’m really living right now.”

We are all searching for ways to bring balance to our lives. To feel more content and less agitated. To think less and feel more. To widen our awareness, connect to others and become more grounded and whole.

But ultimately, there’s only one thing that’s guaranteed to bring you into balance and it isn’t your friends, family, job, passion, children, sex, money, love or therapist – it’s simply your ability to keep perspective. It’s perspective that serves as our counterweight to imbalance, returning our emotions to center when it feels as if everything is about to slide off one end of the table.

Just cus’ you get crushed doesn’t mean you’re ruined. And just cus’ your legs have grown too long to dangle freely beneath a teeter-totter doesn’t mean you should stop kicking, bouncing, pushing and pulling in hopes of soaring to new heights and delving to new lows, because that’s when you know you’re really living.

Seven Climbing Commandments To Live By

7.

If you’re going to have unprotected sex with a climber dude, you really need to get some digits before he vanishes in whatever mobile 4×4, light truck, pop-top, shitbox, dirtbag, shagin’ wagon he rode in on leaves – rather than smoking a hand-rolled cigarette and dreaming about the epic organic garden slash free-range chicken coop y’all discussed over the campfire the night prior.

Seriously bro, check your Facebook page!

A note left on the climber’s board at the City of Rocks, Idaho.

A recent note left on the climber’s board at the City of Rocks, Idaho.

6.

Stoke trumps weather. In my opinion, the NOAA report should never change and always read:
Expect highs and lows with intermittent pain, blood, suffering, terror, laughter, triumph and ecstasy mixed with a small chance of death or bodily injury.

5.

Know thyself.

When climbing, the difference between leading and following is massive. Leading routes puts you in grave danger. When following, you are protected. I think most new climbers dream of leading right up until the moment they’re gripped with terror, staring down at their first potential twenty-foot whipper. It’s in this moment that every climber learns who they are. Leader or follower?

Leaders make the conscious decision to push on, willing themselves to overcome the obstacle ahead in spite of the risk.  It’s by making this decision that they become a leader. Whether they succeed or not is secondary.

Leaders get scared like everyone else. Leaders fall like everyone else. Leaders bleed like everyone else. And ultimately, it’s their willingness to do so that makes them stronger than than everyone else.

4.

Climbing is not a sport for posers. Ego is not rewarded. The hubris that gets you on the route will not get you through the route. The mountain does not judge you, but it will most certainly humble you.

3.

If you’re a dude who’s new to climbing, as I am, you need to know your place. You are not a climber. You are a Sherpa, bartender and campfire bitch who’s working an apprenticeship. In exchange for making coffee, building fires, sharing your beer and carrying lots of heavy shit, all the wondrous knowledge of the climbing world shall be bestowed upon you. It’s hard work, but it’s well worth the effort. Conversely, while still labor intensive, the female apprenticeship can be a far simpler process. (See Lesson 7 for potential pitfalls.)

2.

Choose your partners wisely. A good partner is trustworthy, loyal and dependable. This isn’t golf or tennis or any other bullshit country club sport. You are putting far more than faith into the hands of this individual. You are going to fall and when you do, you need to know that your partner will be there to catch you. That’s a good partner. A great partner not only catches you, but encourages and motivates you to reach new heights. As with life, who you tie yourself to determines how far you’ll go.

So I say again, choose your partner wisely.

1.

Shit every morning. Shit everyday. Shit every chance you get, before you’re on belay!

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of great skiers in Teton Valley. I am not one of them.

I was reminded of this recently as I “tomahawked” through a no fall zone, cartwheeling my way toward a 300+ foot cliff and certain death.

Falling skiers left of Shady Lady Couloir is not recommended.

Falling skiers left of Shady Lady Couloir is not recommended.

Looking back up the mountain, the bug-eyed, slack jawed expression of helplessness and terror I glimpsed on my ski partner’s face moments after I self-arrested filled me with a mixture of emotions. Bursting with endorphins and euphoria, I was overcome with joy to be alive.

First, I chuckled like a giddy schoolboy who’d just stolen liquor from his parents. Then, after carefully navigating the face to a safe area, I took a moment to fully bask in the horrific amount of misery I had just put my best friend through and I laughed even harder.

What was dramatic for me, was truly traumatic for him.

On the skin out to safety I thought about a lot of things. Things I’d like to do. Places I’d like to go. Who I’d like to be. But mostly I thought about telling my friend that it wasn’t his fault. That if I were to die, he shouldn’t carry a burden of guilt, not even for a single minute. That I was there of my own volition and I alone was to blame… but instead, I said nothing.

A week prior, while skiing in the park, I ran into a member of the Jackson community who lost his best friend while skiing together in the mountains. His face was tanned and weathered like a perfectly worn saddle. He was touring alone. On a “solo mission” he said, while standing beneath the sheer granite cliffs of the Teton Range that had once claimed his best friend.

Unlike myself, his partner never got the chance to say what every backcountry skier would give their final breath to relay to their partner:
It’s not your fault my friend. It was my decision. Don’t waste a single minute feeling guilty. I alone am to blame.

I can only hope, whether by way of a gentle wind or a faithful friend, he has already heard these words and taken them to heart.

 

Good vs. Great

Life would be a lot easier if epiphanies were a solid punch to the balls. Unfortunately, they’re typically a bit more subtle, like a “hangry” woman who’s starving but refuses to admit it.

Tonight my own mental hunger manifested itself into a concise yet profound arrangement. “Good, not great, Morris” became my momentary mantra as I watched Russell Crow deliberate over slaughtering two newborn babies in Hollywoods’ latest biblical epic; Noah. Lord Of The Rings-esque, ark-building, rock monsters aside, the movie grades out as a solid two-star offering, much like a warm roadside motel that doesn’t give you crabs.

Inspired by Russell’s show of mammoth benevolence (ultimately sparing the lives of two hour-old, twin girl infants), I began contemplating whether I’d be better served to start concentrating on being good, rather than becoming great. Truthfully, I’ve spent the majority of my life believing that I’m destined to do great things – while simultaneously expending .05% of the effort required to accomplish anything above average… but, who knows, is it possible that all those lazy mornings and drunken evenings have actually served as my protector?

Case in point. Sunday after the Michael Franti concert.

Case in point. Me, seeking shelter Saturday after the Michael Franti concert.

After all, chasing greatness is akin to putting faith in a false prophet, right? As alluring and fulfilling as the relationship is, you’re destined to wind up feeling empty in the end. Not because you’ll fail, but because you’ll inevitably miss out on everything that’s truly important in life, while scrambling your way to the top of whatever mountain it is you’re hoping to conquer.

Russell Crow’s magnificent man-beard is starting to make me think the secret to life lies in finding meaning in everyday actions and encounters, as opposed to dreaming of and working towards one seminal moment of greatness. Duhhhh, you say? While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an idiot, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

If you’re anything like me and you long to be recognized as great, be careful that your search for validation doesn’t blind you to what you love most and ultimately keep you from being happy. Tonight I’m left pondering how my life would change if I began focusing on being good, rather than becoming great. In the end, isn’t it more important to be remembered for the goodness you imparted to others than the greatness you erected for yourself?

Each of us builds an ark over the course of our lifetime. What do you plan to fill yours with?

m.w. 3/14