Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The New American Road Trip Mixtape by Brendan Leonard

Happily semi-rad. That's what the sticker said. I ran into this sticker and its creator, Brendan Leonard, at Red Rock Rendezvous - a rockclimbing festival outside of my own stomping grounds. The pricetag is absurdly expensive - $100 for two days of climbing where I climb every weekend? - but it's a chance to work with AAI guides for super cheap (a private guide would cost upwards of $350), and it's so much more than climbing. 

It's drinking free beer from Fat Tire, watching Steph Davis BASE jump into the festival grounds, drunken slacklining in the dark, having a dance party where everyone is wearing a puffy and a headlamp, watching a dyno bouldering competition, being surrounded by people who love doing what you love doing. I also won a totally sweet little pack in a raffle. I also bought an amazing tent off an older couple in the parking lot - that tent went with them all across America and Europe as they climbed the world, and in the two years since it has been with me to Indiana, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and California. 

But back to the dude with the hair and the stickers. I took one and slapped it on my car having no idea what I was advertising. Semi-rad is a blog that covers everything from The Rules for Dating A Dirtbag to A Big Shout Out To Rocks to life's most important question: Do You Have the Stoke?  (For real - in my friend's group you are judged based on your Stokemeter. Randy and I have had a conversation about Billy's stoke levels - don't worry, they're high). In the two years since, I have read every article on his blog. It is also how I found my favorite podcast, The Dirtbag Diaries, which Brendan is on regularly.

Of course I was going to buy this book, and I knew I was going to love it before I even read it, and I also would probably not recommend it to you. Not because there's anything wrong with you. It's really the book. It's disjointed, illogical, unorganized, repetitive, and if I were his editor we probably wouldn't be friends anymore. It's hard to tell who people are because they are undeveloped and pop in and out of the story out of order - even if both memories come from the same time period. Nonetheless, I am totally going to gift this book to my friends. If you're a climber, hiker, backpacker, biker, camper...if you absolutely are jealous of dirtbags who live out of their car...then you'll totally dig this book (particularly if you like your climbing with some philosophy and failed relationship therapy which is how I started my climbing career). It's part Road Trip book, part Getting Over Her, part Dirtbag. 

Brendan can be totally disarmingly charming at times
"Cellulite is fine. Sweatpants are fine. You can snore, sleep with your mouth open. You can take all those moments of your life that you are not sexy, and you can multiply them all by 100 and add them together, and they disappear when I'm lying behind you and I put one hand on your hip and kiss the back of your neck."

He can also be totally hilarious
"Mountain goats love pee. Our urine is salty, and animals love salt. At high altitudes, we pee on rocks instead of plants, because mountain goats will eat pee-salted plants until an alpine meadow is barren. So I walked away from the goats because I wanted a little privacy. It was if the sound of my zipper was a dinner bell. A narrow white face, curious, popped over a ridge 20 feet from my crotch. Then another one. Jesus Christ, talk about stage fright or performance anxiety...A few months earlier, the National Park Service had advised hikers not to urinate near trials in Olympic National Park, after a mountain goat attacked and killed a 63-year-old man on a trail there. It was the only known fatal mountain goat attack int he park's history...I zipped my pants and briskly walked away. I could wait."

He spends a lot of the book asking the question
What is a life?

Is it what he's doing? Is it what his friends who are childfree but coupled and adventuring are doing? Is it what his friends who are having babies are doing? 

Unfortunately, I do think his writing is better suited to shorter essays and stories, and I think it would be stronger if it were presented as a collection of short stories with a little bit more exposition about the characters in each bit rather than details about his inner/outer life (his toothbrush is mentioned maybe four or six times - put all the toothbrush bits together in one toothbrush section of one story and be done with it!)

This book is a book to read if you want to be inspired, reset your stoke, read ramblings about love, life, and relationships from someone in their 30s, and be reminded of all the reasons you love live an outdoors life and a few reasons why you live an indoors life. I am already planning out a few routes for this summer's camping trip which will be, I hope, semi-rad. 

Hours before meeting Brendon Leonard, we enjoy a birthday toast at Red Rock Rendezvous (we have the same birthday, and it was our birthday, which we announced to every person.)

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