A few weekends ago, Brad and I went to Boulder to visit Megan and Ward. It was wonderful to meet the man who makes my friend so happy, and as I'd expected, Ward is a helluva guy. Funny. Supportive. Smart. Skilled at making things out of wood and steel. Nice to be around. I really like him.
In addition to meeting Ward and hanging out with Megan, Boulder afforded Brad the opportunity to climb with his buddy Fremont in Eldorado Canyon, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I didn’t climb, but I did boulder a bit on Sunday.
I miss Boulder almost as much as I miss Megan, who has been a sound voice in my life since our first run to the old airstrip in Carbondale, probably a month after we met. (That private airstrip, incidentally, is reportedly how Hunter S. Thompson got his drugs into Aspen. Entirely hearsay, but nevertheless, running up to it always made me feel part of the Gonzo Journalism movement.)
Megan is far kinder and more forgiving than I am, and her actions always make me act a little more nicely than I otherwise would. At the same time, she’s got a better sense of humor than 99.9% of the people in the world, and can make me laugh like few others. David Sedaris and Stephen Colbert excepted. Oh, and Germans. The Germans always make me laugh, with their “make photo” and their, “Schnell! Schnell!”
Saturday, after wandering through town and patronizing my favorite outdoor store (I needed new climbing shoes, and I like to support Outdoor Divas as much as possible), I went for a beautiful run up the Creek Path and into Boulder Canyon. Along the way, I passed moms pushing Chariots, adolescents pushing drugs, professional runners (actually, they passed me), speed-walking co-eds, labs straining against their leashes, homeless people sleeping on blankets, drummers pounding out beats, frat boys tossing footballs, high school girls trying to get their attention, old men mediating, couples napping by the river, families picnicking in the shade by the library and cyclists trying to cross town. It was Boulder – all of it mixed up and interacting – as diverse and beautiful as I remember. (It really is diverse, even though many people would have you believe otherwise.)
The night before, when Brad and I got into town, we went with Megan and Ward to the Med, which was always one of my favorite restaurants. As soon as we walked in, we saw two old friends, Chuck and Jonny, and found a small table in a crowded section across from the rowdy bar. Perfect. I’m not being sarcastic; it was perfect. It was busy and noisy and hard to hear and overwhelming, and it was nice to just sit with friends and drink vodka lemonades and talk and soak in the Boulder of it all: college girls dressed like hookers, dirty climbers with leaves in their hair, older academics frowning around and playboys out-talking each other at the bar. Everyone was different, and everyone was fine with that. I think I saw Matisyahu, but Megan says it wasn’t him.
Over the weekend, Megan and I went for a couple hikes around Flagstaff and Chautauqua, and I realized how much I miss her company, her advice and the Front Range.
As Brad and I walked through the parking lot of the Salt Lake airport after landing Sunday night, I focused on the thwacks of our wheelie bags rolling over the cracks in the pavement.
Boulder was my first great love, even though my years there weren’t always easy and blissful. In fact, they were peppered with hard lessons, heartbreak and loneliness, but still Boulder remains foremost in my heart, the setting for many of my fondest memories and a place I'd love to live someday with Brad and Arnie and Red.
Thwack, step step, thwack. Brad sped up on the down-ramp, and I shifted my interest from thwacking in unison to thwacking on opposing beats - first his heavy bag (filled with climbing gear), thwack, then my light one (filled with clothing that I didn’t need or wear), thwack. Thwack thwack.
I wondered if anyone else does things like that - listen for rhythms or actively change course to create rhythms out of the banal. I suppose the childhood warning, "step on a crack, break your mother's back," is of the same vein – a superstition that affects kids' footing the way my need for emotional stability affects my thwacking of wheelie bags.
It's probably not normal, but it’s a defense mechanism I use to avoid thinking about the things that might hurt, the things I’d rather avoid. It provided my mind with a safe task that didn't involve picturing the Flatirons at dusk, or the Mesa Trail at Dawn, or climbing in Eldorado after work. It allowed me some presence instead of situating me firmly in my life 10 years ago, when I arrived in Boulder a naive intern.