Friday, October 29, 2004


Sliding sideways down the road, he wondered how he had come to this point. So far, he had traced it back to 7th grade.
He had found a seat in the back of the class, where he was comfortable. Just out of private school, and assigned seating, he was starting a habit that would last for a while. He definitely wasn’t outgoing. The only person he met in that class was to be his best friend through high school, until they drifted apart. Sneaking in just before the bell, he had asked ‘Is this seat taken?’.
Matt had shaken his head. No, that seat was open. Just don’t talk to me. I don’t know you, or this school, or this town. I just wanna make it home today. The class had been the typical; Hi my name is _______, I teach ______. My life story is boring [chuckle] but I’ll tell you anyway. David, the sneak, had been pretty quiet. Every once in a while, he’d give a huff of sarcasm at one of Ms ______’s comments. Then class was over.
Ironically, they shared the another class that day. Then another. By the afternoon, they realized that they shared the same main classes, so they sat by each other.
Fast forward. Weeks going by, blurs, freeze frames of unfamiliar faces, glimpses at memories of grade school crushes. David and Matt were closer now, always talking in class. Chit chatting. David was a bit of a rebel, so Matt was regaled with stories of smashing ketchup packets in library books, stealing cookies from the cafeteria, potato guns, the works. He was a regular middle school mischief-maker.
Of course, Matt liked what he heard. He liked the unstructured life outside of school. He liked being able to bike over to his friends house. He liked pushing limits.
But then, in ninth grade, he had met her. Oh yeah, the beautiful Christian girl who changed his life. She was straight arrow, and saw him as a template: good looks, and good personality, just needed a few improvements on the character. So she went to work. High school flew by, he broke her heart more than once, but she always took him back, knowing that he’d be what she dreamt of. And one day he was. But you can’t cage a tiger and expect him to be happy.
He always dreamt of that wild lifestyle. He’d always wanted a motorcycle, tattoos. He’d never gotten enough of the ocean, and wondered where it would take him. So he’d set off, wandering the countryside, looking for a thrill.
First, he’d found booze. It was easy enough. No small town bar ever ID’d him, and he never got rowdy drunk. He’d cruise around the small towns, hearing the best stories from the locals, and moving on. That was the part he really loved: a good story. He’d be on a construction job, and an old-timer would say “This reminds me…” and he’d be set for the day. He’d daydream about the day when he’d be telling young whippersnappers about the one time he’d driven for three days without sleep, just to see if he could.
But these times always brought him back to her. She wanted so much better for him. She knew what he was capable of, and it was certainly a lot more than what he was doing, and she’d remind him of that every time they talked. He wanted better too, but he couldn’t see himself tied down, not yet. He wanted kids, sure, but he wanted to live first.
Not all of his history lessons were firsthand. Whenever he’d stumble across a college town, he’d stop in the library and head to the lonliest corner in the back of the study carrels, and spend the whole day pouring over history books. He was enthralled with the different strategies used in war, different styles of psychology used. He’d become a familiar face, staying for as long as he could find work, always washing up and heading to the library until late at night, then repeating in the morning. But the road would call again, and he’d disappear. More than once, he’d made it into college newspapers, but he never knew. He never stayed around to read about it.
The road loved him, the road owned him. He was a slave to its call. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he’d get the call. Deep down in his gut, it would start, and worm its way into his dreams, then he’d wake up, pack his things, and skip town.
Lately, the call never stopped. He’d stop for the night, but he’d be so restless that he’d leave after only a few hours. He went places he’d never been. Further North, he’d pushed. After weeks of this, his body had been pushed to the limit. All it took was a deer standing in the middle of an icy road to send him sliding sideways.

(c)2004 Chris N

Friday, May 28, 2004

And for my 200th post I will tell a tale. A tale that many of you have heard, but it scarcely seems real. Aye, even to this day, I can hardly believe that it happened to me. Gather around, lads and lasses, as I begin my yarn...

The summer of 2003 it was, and Sean and I had decided to take a trip to the Grand Canyon. We loaded up my mom's Honda Accord (I couldn't afford the Gas it would take to get my Jeep there and back) and took off. We went from Houston to Balmorhea State Park the first day, then saw the Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell, New Mexico the next. That night we camped in a tiny little campground with an awesome view West We made it to camp the third night in an area that looked only an hour south of Flagstaff, on the map. We got up the next day and drove the insane (read: 8 hour) drive to the North Rim of the canyon. We kept pace with a friendly trucker the whole time (I brought my CB). We helped him pass when needed, that sorta stuff, he was quite thankful, and was surprised when we told him we were just out of high school. Methinks he won't hate on teenagers so much now.
Sean drove 90 the entire way from the entrance to the rim, through the park. We set up camp, and dilly-dallied around, then went to see the sunset. That night, we made a fire (Two Eagle Scouts, what did you expect?), and cooked, sat around chatting and finally went to bed, deciding we would hike down to the Colorado River and back the next day.
So we got up at 6, ate a quick breakfast, then drove to the entrance of the trail, took a deep breath and started walking.
We get to the rim, and we see this. Good start, eh?
Background: The trail is 14 miles each way, and there is a 6,000 foot elevation change from the top of the canyon to the river. We were going to go down this, then back up in one day. Here are some warnings that are posted:
"The North Rim is over 8000 feet/2438 m above sea level. Visitors with respiratory or heart problems may experience difficulties. All walking at this elevation can be strenuous.
The park strongly recommends that you not attempt to hike from rim to river and back in a day. This is a strenuous two-day journey for most. In summer extreme temperatures can be life-threatening. Rangers respond to an average of 400 medical emergencies each year. Search and rescue operations are often difficult and expensive due to the remoteness of all Inner Canyon trails. During the summer months, when inner canyon temperatures are extremely high, access to inner canyon trails may be restricted to early morning and evening.

For more, see here.
I was carrying the larger pack, which contained almost all of the water and food. Sean was carrying a daypack with some water and snacks, as well as his raincoat and other assorted clothing.

Come now, children, gather round. This here's where me tale gets good!
We actually get on the trail around 7:30. Downhill, this was a breeze. We made it to the 7 mile mark, which is also where you camp, if you plan on going to the river. Skimming by, we were confronted by a ranger that told us we would be in deep sh** if we didn't have a permit and decided that we needed to sleep there overnight. Ominous, but we shrugged the one-eyed cripple's warning off and continued.
We stopped to snap a picture or two. As you can see, we are doing fine. The second 7 miles didn't pass nearly so quickly. It got pretty flat towards the end, so, being invincible teenagers, we decided to take on a quick jog. We passed a couple of families out on day hikes from the cabins at the bottom of the canyon.
Reaching the cabins, we chilled, called our girls, and took a quick breather for the short trip to the river. We made it to the river, and on the way, noticed how the walls of the canyon acted as oven walls, retaining the sun's heat. Cooking a lunch of Lipton noodles and canned chicken (who said you can't have Chicken Fetucinni Alfredo on the go?), we got going again quickly. Getting past the cabins, we picked up our run again. It was roughly 1:00 now, and the sun was beating furiously down on us. I had taken my shirt off and had it sopping wet and draped over my head. I was still carrying the heavier pack, which we had refilled with water. After a short time, I realized that the run was an effort that would kill me, so we slowed down to a fast walk. It was not the last time we would run, nor the last time we would slow.
After hiking out of the shade of the relatively small canyon we had been in, the true heat hit us. Constantly sweating, I was pouring water in my mouth. It was only 7 miles to the next available water source (we also had my Pūr water filter, in case we needed to pump out of the stream that we were following). About 2:30-3:00, I was miserable. I could hardly take 10 steps without stopping. We were spending more time stopped than walking. Not that it helped, there was no shade, and the sun was sitting in the prettiest blue sky I have seen. I was praying for rain, clouds, locusts, anything. Be careful what you ask for.
This is all my doing, as Sean was fine. I was not dehydrated, as I was had about 3/4 of a gallon of water on the trip back alone. I had no more electrolytes. I had water intoxication. After about 45 minutes of this, we made it to the rest area, where, in the shade, I enjoyed a good snack of Easy Cheeze and Crackers, along with two electrolyte tablets. Ever squirted Easy Cheeze directly into your mouth? I don't reccomend it. After a 20 minute break, I was surprisingly refreshed. Trading packs (finally), we got back to the hike, attacking the trail with a newborn energy.
We made it about 2 miles, and reached an Igloo drink cooler outside of a trailside cabin. It was filled with Lemonade, the powdered kind make with LOTS and LOTS of powder, the good way. I left $2 in the donations jar, and with a positive outlook on mankind in general, we marched on. Now we were reaching the extremely steep part of the trail. Sean still had the larger backpack full of water, and I was carrying the smaller one. This part of the trail is about 4-5 feet wide, with a wall on one side and a drop on the other. There is no place to hide here. After about an hours worth of slow climbing, Sean decides to dump some water out of the pack. I agree, as the sun has moved over the cliff and we are in the shade. I notice some ominous clouds off to the East of us. They are fun to watch, lightning dancing from ground to cloud, leaping through the sky, tearing it apart. During one of our rest breaks, I listen and hear the faint rumblings of what must have been grand thunderclaps.
Climbing some more, I turn around to see the clouds advancing on our position. I urge Sean to hurry, and we pour out another gallon of water to lighten his load. About 4 miles from the trailhead, all hell breaks loose.
The heavens open up and send torrents of rain cascading down on us. The sky has now grown black with the clouds. Lightning prances around us, the deadly strikes reminding me of how weak we actually are. Another 20 minutes later, and the rain has not let up a bit. But now, the hail descends. Dime size hail crashes down. We hunch over, hoods over our heads, accepting the beating.
Then we reach the bridge. This bridge spans a minor canyon, but it is still about 50 yds long. And it is 200 feet in the air. And it's made of metal. And we happen to be sitting in the middle of one of the worst storms either one of us has experienced. We take one look at eachother, and sprint across. I don't remember much, but that bridge sure flew by. Once on the other side, we trudge up the now muddy trail, feet soaking wet. The rain has made little rivers run down the middle, side, and basically all over the trail. The hail still pounds down on our heads, keeping time with our pounding feet as he gasp our way up the slippery trail. Twice the rain slackens, and the hail disappears, only to pick up where it left off.
Finally it slows to a sprinkle as the mass of the storm that has been swirling overhead moves off to the South and West of us.Then we hear rockslides. Yes. Rockslides.
Since we are still in a canyon, it is hard for us to tell if they are in front of us, behind us, or across the canyon. So we speed up again. With the slackening rain, and the nice incentive, we make good time. Then, less than 30 yards in front of us, we hear the earth move. The largest slide we had heard. And it was definately right there. We wait for it to stop, and slowly move forward, hearts pounding in our ears. In the low light, we see nothing. When we reach what we think is half way to the slide, half expecting to see the trail washed out, we see a switchback. I have never been so happy to see myself backtrack in my entire life. The slides continue around us for a while, then stop completely. Apparently, the record amount of rain that was dumped creeped under the rocks after eroding the soil, shaking them loose and sending them tumbling down the cliff.
A little bit of fading sunlight returns to mock us as we head for what we think is the home stretch. It's funny how time can be stretched by our minds.
The sun sets, and we are soaking wet. In the dark, we are guided only by a mini-mag and the occasional flash of lightning that taunts in to remind of how close the storm still is. Then Sean goes dillusioal.
He starts walking like he's drunk, weaving all over the trail. Thankfully, we are in the wooded area, away from the cliff now. I offer to take his pack as well as my own, as I feel fine, but he is babbling. Finally he looks me in the eye, being strangely focused for a moment, and says, "I can't go any further, I need a break."
I know this isn't a good idea, as we are still surrounded on three sides by a lightning storm, and as I try to point this out, I realize he's right. He has gone back into babble-mode. All he is saying is, "I need to stop, I need a break".
So I stop, pull out the space blanked (actually a tarp, with silver lining on one side) and have him sit on it. I then hand him the legs to his zip-off pants, then his sweater, then his raincoat, and finally, an emergency blanked (read: Big ole piece of aluminum foil) and help him get wrapped up. He is now shivering in the cold, and the foil makes an eerie crinkling sound in the relative silence of the dripping forest.
I decide to cook him the rest of the food, another serving of Fettucini Alfredo, with chicken. After wolfing most if it down (I had some myself, as it was my last chance for a break before we reached the top), he slowly came back to life. Re-animated, he helped me pack everything up, and I took the larger pack back from him. The last mile was relatively easy, the hardest part being the darkness and a wimpy flashlight. We made it to the parking lot at 9:30 pm, a mere 14 hours after we started. "Two day trip" be damned! We rocked!
To celebrate, we changed out of our soaking clothes in the parking lot, and lit a firecracker. No more fire danger.
Driving back to camp was tough, as the Honda is a Manual, and my legs were worn out. We got there, slipped into our sleeping bags, and passed out. The next day, I was awoken at 8:30 by the familiar sound of thunder and hail. Opening the rain fly, I looked outside to see it pouring and hailing, similarly to what we had survived the night before. After it let up, I walked (very stiffly) to the ranger station and asked the guy about the rain. It turns out that Sean and I had survived record rainstorms. The storm had circled back around during the night and sat above the camp for a while. I told the ranger what we had done, and he gave me the 'look' and said "Well, at least you are alive to tell the story."
That day we hit a few scenic overlooks, did some drifting on dirt roads, and I fell asleep underneath a lean-to outside, watching the fire. On my cot there in the cold darkness, I slept the best sleep I can remember.
That day, we shook the water out of what we could, packed up and headed out to Gallup, New Mexico. The following night, we stayed at Palo Duro Canyon. It sucked. Don't do it. We made the trip home that day, and have told this tale many a time.
Well there it be, kiddies, beleive it or not, e'ery word of that is the truth. May this be a lesson to ya: Remember that ye are but mortals, but don't be afraid to live like the gods.

Story and all Photographs (c) Chris N

Sunday, May 23, 2004

He had his daughter, that's all that mattered.
He would give up his shop for her. The shop that he had worked his whole life to build up. He had never remarried, rarely dated. He focused all of his efforts on her. It was the only thing he knew.
He had loved her mother, but she had left. He spent his days sifting through his life, hoping his daughter was happy. He knew she loved him, but was it enough? Money wasn't a problem. She needed a mother, just didn't know it yet.
It wasn't that he needed time away from her. He cherished every moment they spent together. He loved the way she was so simplistically happy with him. He would watch her soccer practices, sitting in the grass and watching her run free. She loved the outdoors. He would take her camping and admire her as she wandered about, staring through the dense pine forests.
Not that she was unhappy at their house. She loved having friends over, and he was more than willing to watch the kids while a mom got her hair done, or whatever. He played all of the roles. During the day, he would drop her off at school, work, then pick her up. He would cook, watch some kids, hang out at soccer practices, chat with the moms and dads, then go home and tuck her in. He would work out a bit, then go to sleep to start it over.
Then he got the call from Christa.
They had been high school sweethearts, inseparable for 3 years. Breaking it off when she moved off to college, they had kept in close contact over the years. It had taken a lot of effort, but he had finally gotten over her. She had married, and it had gone wrong. He helped her through it, as she had helped him through his times. Now just friends, they chatted all the time. But now she was back in town. She had quit her job, and moved back with her parents for a while, to get herself together. It was that call that changed things.
"Hey Chris"
"How's Hailey?"
"Wanna go to dinner tonight? My treat."
"Yeah, I'm back with the 'rents for a bit. Figured I'd pay ya a visit."
Sure deal, but I'm paying. How's the Colleseum, I'll pick you up at 6?
"Awesome, man. Oh, um.. can you leave Hailey with a friend? I want to have a good talk."
Yeah, no prob, I'll just call in a favor.
"Good deal. See you then."

- that's all i got right now -
(c) Chris N

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Then someone fell down, landing with a thud in the wet earth.
Spinning around, I saw Allan, laying there, facedown. Blood flowed
with rain, washing back to mother earth. The light faded from his eyes
as he stared into mine. There was no pain, just acceptance. I flashed
my careful eyes over the damp walls of the jungle that surrounded us.
It was just like the other times, I couldn't see another soul out
there, but I felt him there. His soul weighed against mine as I closed
my eyes.
We stopped to bury Allan, the remainder of the group sombre and
watchful. Jaded now to the death, we felt nothing. He had no family,
none of us did. We knew the risks of the job. It's easier not to care
when you have nothing to live for. Moving on, we kept our eyes on the
path, rarely venturing a glance into the deep terrors of the trees.
They never changed. The same trees, it seemed, repeated endlessly,
like a poorly made video game.

(c) Chris N

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

No one knows her. She stays shadowed, never brought forth. She shies away from the light, wary of the blinding brightness. Wanting, yearning for that light.
Whispers of 'that girl' float around her head. No one sees her standing there. Will she let the world in? Will the world let her in?
She wants to scream out "HERE I AM", but the fear grips her again. Shaking, she steps back, further into the shadow. The light plays across her eyes; Shining and beautiful, they hold the world. The bad times she needed to share, to lighten the load, they all weigh her down. Faltering, she gasps.
Her eyes fly open, afraid that someone heard, someone may ridicule her pain. They flash over the crowd, wanting someone to see her, but afraid of what they think.
Then she sees him, stepping out of the crowd. Not participating, just watching. His eyes scanning, taking it all in, looking for something worthwhile. His eyes turn, quickly, and find hers, hidden deep in the shadows. Intrigued, he walks over, never breaking contact. She is scared, turning her eyes from his.
He stops in front of her, still in the light. Reaching into the shadows, he raises her chin, staring deep into her eyes, searching. The piercing blue sees all, nothing hidden. Reaching into her soul, he sees her, bare and exposed. She feels ashamed, knowing nothing is safe from his gaze. His expression is stoic, never changing. He sees her potential, deep inside, hidden. Satisfied, he takes her hand, he leads her out of the shadows. Pulling back, she hesitates. She has stayed hidden so long, she won’t fit in. What does he want from her? Humiliaton? Scared, she holds back. He turns, his easy smile assuring her that he was there.
How was she so trusting? Looking into him, she saw herself, mirrored. He knew her now. Squeezing her hand, he walked towards the group. She walked with him, her confidence growing. Easily cutting through the crowd, he led her closer to the center of the mass. Slowing, she noticed the stares. What did they see? Was she sub-par? Her imagination ran wild. Everyone saw a different flaw, peeling her apart. She felt raw, naked.
Then she saw him standing there, patient, loving. She shook her head, looking around. She saw the looks, and they confused her. Pure admiration. She saw them, seeing her as she really was. She turned to look at him, melting in his smile. She was beautiful. She saw that now. Leading her on, they walked out of the room. She had a little bounce in her step, her smile was contagious. He knew her, had known her his whole life, it seemed. He couldn’t help it, he was smitten. The way her eyes showed her emotions, so easily. He knew that he could protect her from harm. He would stay with her, not let her run anymore.
The nights they spent, just being there. He would keep those forever. He had never fallen so hard for someone, never trusted that much. He was aware of the risks, and let them slide. No matter what happened, nothing could ever convince him that it wasn’t worth it. Smiling, he looked into her eyes, no longer shy, and afraid of his. As he leaned down to kiss her, she thanked God that he had walked into her life, and rescued her from the shadows.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

This little gem was created in American Government.

When he sat back and looked at it, he saw what he wanted. He knew all of the things that he needed to do were questionable, would she say yes? Or was she thinking like he was. He knew that it was there, the chemistry. Of course, he had felt that before, and had been wrong. Would he pursue? After all, he knew she would stay his friend, but he didn’t know if he wanted to risk that on a whim. Is that all this was? A whim? He felt more confused, the more he thought about it. He liked her, trusted her, and she trusted him. But how would this limit affect their friendship? Would they keep that if it ended? They were both rational people, both would talk things out. Still, was it worth the risk? He hoped so. Because he was goin for it.
He would ask her what she felt, what she thought. He would talk it out. Or would he chicken out again, and just assume that things were gonna play out the way he hoped they would. The question echoed: To ride or take the reins? He didn’t know where the ride would take them, but that enthralled him. The thrill of plot twists in his life. But he also wanted this, and he knew that it could pass him by if he didn’t take control, grab the issue.
So he would make the move, but how would he do it? Would he ask her outright to date him? Or would he slide his hand into hers, looking into her eyes, waiting for a response, hoping for the right one. Praying that she would realize the offer, and accept it. Was that leaving too much to chance? Would he ask her if she had feelings for him? His head spun with the choices, the different ways to ask, the words, they could flow a billion different ways. So he didn’t plan that, leaving that open for the moment. He hated scripts, he wouldn’t tie himself down, leave no room for flexibility.

(c) Chris N

Monday, December 08, 2003

In response to the question:
When you are with your love, what goes through your head?

The thoughts of a beautiful future with her. The love we share, all comes out when we hold each other, in those moments before the goodbye. We stay there, seemingly forever, lost within. Within ourselves, each other, us. Warmth spreads, the world slips away. No one else exists, there is only us. We never want to return, all we need is there in our arms, in our eyes.

(c) Chris N