An Early Bah Humbug (and other random thoughts)

Random recent thoughts and notes:

• Happy Holidays. “Black Friday” repulses me. Better yet for such days: make a personal statement and don’t buy a goddamned thing. I’ve said it before, in a Dirtbag Diaries podcast about my years of working dead-end jobs and clashing with a heinously materialistic boss: “Shopping” as a stand-alone endeavor is not a valid passion. There’s nothing legitimate about buying scads of worthless crap you don’t need, just for the sake of filling some void. I also reject the notion that celebrating the holidays should have anything to do with the disgusting religion of mindless consumption that’s become a defining American value; never have, it’s a doomed road, there must be a better way. We’re all part of the problem, which, like most things, exists on a continuum. Solutions aren’t easy. But this morally bankrupt “Black Friday” madness represents our very worst. Better: get outside, walk, climb, breathe, spend time alone or with loved ones, give something away.

• Reading the list of Black Friday shopping crimes, including multiple episodes of violence nationwide at Wal-Marts (the same place at which the horrors reached a pinnacle a couple of years ago, when herds of stampeding mouthbreathers trampled one another to death while rushing through the doors), wouldn’t one think it a dangerous place? Surely more dangerous than the Occupy Wall Street camps that were raided and dispersed by authorities. (More dangerous aside from ideology, of course, and notwithstanding the well-documented police brutality against peaceful protesters.) The camps were disassembled due to, ostensibly anyway, filth and unruly behavior. Ironic, considering the filth of corporate greed and corruption that they were protesting. The greed and corruption has led to the biggest disparity in wealth in our country’s history, which, one could reasonably surmise, might contribute to the desperate and even violent search for “deals” on Black Friday. Again, the irony. In the immediate sense, Wal-Mart on Friday was far more dangerous than any Occupy camp.

• A bunch of grants are available for qualified adventurers. Some are due soon.
-Due Dec 1 (tomorrow): The Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award application, made possible by generous contributions from Lyman Spitzer, Jr.
-Due December 15: The Mugs Stump Award application, courtesy of the generous people at Alpinist Magazine, Black Diamond, Mountain Gear, Patagonia, and W.L. Gore.
-Due December 31: The Polartec Challenge Grant application, made possible by the generosity of Polartec.
-Due January 1: the McNeill-Nott Award, thanks to the generosity of Mountain Hardwear.

Get on it.

• Patagonia is, hands-down, the best company I’ve ever been involved with, and my respect for them just grew. Check out the ad in Friday’s New York Times – and before you make a snap-judgment, read the text as well (and for further explanation, read their blog post) – hypocrites? Sure. Just like you. Just like me. Every one ofPatagonia's ad in The New York Times on "Black Friday." us. More importantly, they’ve got the balls and intelligence to examine themselves amid our toxic, mindless, dead-end consumeristic culture. Sure, the ad might also be good marketing, something we’ve come to automatically regard as equating to bullshit in today’s bullshit world. But Patagonia isn’t like most companies. For 30+ years Patagonia has led the way, as they continue to do, in showing that business doesn’t have to be all rape and pillage, greed and short-term dividends. What a concept, eh? The simplistic idea that we shouldn’t even discuss our problems is home of the frontal lobe impaired; pretending the elephant doesn’t exist just gets you trampled in the name of ignorance. Yes, the ad makes you think, elicits a reaction. Intentionally provocative, and they have the track record to back it up. Hell yeah, Patagonia.

• Speaking of which, upon returning home the other day – between Pakistan and other travels, I’ve only been home for about two weeks since mid-August – I was again struck by my wardrobe. (“O-M-G. You have, like(?), the most incredible wardrobe?!”) Beater car, 580 sq ft home, I pretty much wear the same three T-shirts over and over, but have accumulated too much “stuff.” Kinda gross, I know. I’ve accumulated a lot of Patagonia and Polartec clothes over the years, and as a result my size small friends are well outfitted with my hand-me-downs at this point. But I have more that I don’t need – mostly baselayers and midlayer insulation, with some shells and some climbing pants. Some casual wear as well. If you’re size small and need the clothes (meaning, not just if you want “free stuff” (yuk), but that you promise you’ll actually use it for getting out and being active), or if you know someone less fortunate and cold and in-need this winter, drop me a note. And let me know what you’re doing if you want, I’d love to hear it, I get psyched hearing of people doing cool shit. My email is on the bottom-right sidebar of this blog, and I’m on the Facebook. If I have something you could use, and you’ll really use it, I’ll gladly send it to you – on me, for free, merry holidays. Now get out and do something good.

• Like climbing. Which reminds me: here’s a good way to be efficient in acquiring quality memories without wrecking the place. Talking low-impact things, like extra pitches – climbing mileage. One recent afternoon in Yosemite, we started up the classic Serenity-Sons linkup, which I’d never done. We topped out just before dark, in November’s short days, and for once we’d actually bought headlamps. But getting farther down in the daylight beats spending more time in the dark. The route has fixed anchors/raps, so as I belayed-up my partner on the final pitch, I clipped-in to the anchor with a runner, untied myself, and threaded my end of the rope for rappelling as she came up (you need to be using an auto-blocking belay device to safely multi-task like this). As I belayed, I threaded the rope until the middle mark came to the anchors, and then I hitched it off to hold it in place. Since I’d already threaded the rope, within 30 seconds of her reaching me we were on rappel. Not a bad way to do things, as the sooner you’re down, the sooner you’re drinking margaritas.

Serenity Now! Great climbing, Serenity Crack, Yosemite.

10 thoughts on “An Early Bah Humbug (and other random thoughts)

  1. Yeah, man. Black Friday, what a downer. I spent half of Thanksgiving dinner listening to certain folks discussing how much this thing and that thing were on sale for. Great “time with family”.

    Just had an idea for a new “Black Friday” tradition, as a counterforce to the prevailing culture: as a way to celebrate the “start of the Christmas season” (maybe?), give pre-Christmas gifts. But instead of shopping for them, they must be things you already own. Absolutely no buying for Black Friday gifts. Major faux pas. Instead you must thoughtfully consider what things to give away to people who may have more use for them, or who would enjoy them more.

    I’m so tempted to take you up on your offer of stuff, but I certainly don’t “need” any more stuff myself. “Yeah, I could always use a new jacket/baselayer/pair of pants/giant golden calf”. But it’s all just more stuff, weighing one down. Increasing the material burden. Kudos for giving it away, and I hope it finds the right homes.

    Hope that shoulder is doing much better.


  2. I could have used your belay management system a few times over the years. I wish I had been clued in about this 15 years ago–it would have saved me a few epics. Better late than never I guess. Anyway, great post.

  3. good stuff. always really impressed by patagonia’s initiatives. my thoughts on clothes: the more i have, the less often i actually have to do laundry (too much like work and it takes away from fun time). and considering i haven’t changed clothes in like four days now (ok, maybe 6 days), i only have to do laundry once a month. so whatever no one else actually needs, my (gratefully) unemployed gimped-up ass will take. in the meantime, i think i’ll go mindlessly consume some tequila. at least until i’m healed enough to get back outside and get after it.

  4. Really awesome article! I have been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work for Patagonia, and am continually impressed by their morals and anti-consumerism mentalities. I was extremely impressed with the ad that ran on Black Friday, and throughout the store that day I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that mentioned the ad. I hope that people catch on to the idea of consuming less, and giving away more. I’m excited to see the affects Patagonia has on the industry in the years to come!

  5. Thanks for the good post Kelly. Mindless consumerism is one of my pet peeves. Do we really need half the stuff we buy, or are we making a purchase simply out of the desire for more things? I think that in our culture, the latter is true for most people. I’m of the “less is more” mindset, but I certainly have to stop and re-consider purchases on a regular basis. Shopping should not be a hobby, it should be something that’s done simply to fulfill our basic needs, and facilitate pursuit of our hobbies. My family has been recently been discussing the fact consumption has taken over the holidays. Although this is true, there’s still great joy to be had from giving. So this Christmas, instead of buying massive amounts of crap to give away, we’re all buying one thoughtful $25-ish gift and doing a gift exchange. That way we all get the joy of giving, but it’s more thoughtful giving, and it will take the focus off of things and put it back onto spending time with loved ones that we simply don’t get to see often enough. People are what’s important in life, not things. Spend less time shopping and more time investing in relationships and enjoying the beautiful earth we live on.

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