Monday, December 31, 2007

Facing Demons & My Year End Report

playing an imperialist at the calcutta club, kolkata, india

I almost wrote this prior to leaving to India but knew spending the holiday season half way around the world would add more than a footnote to my recap. Ironically, though sitting in a Raj era hotel in Kolkata that is famous for housing writers, chronicling my own insignificant life isn’t coming easy. Given, however, that this is my blog I will attempt to do so nonetheless.

I’ve written a lot on this trip but am happy with almost none of it. India is an assault on the senses. So much so that describing it promotes a tendency towards hyperbole. Though most of my trip is over it feels as though my adventures here have just begun—I’m family now. Therefore, save for the anecdote below, I’ll leave this part of my life alone pending further contemplation.

2007 was another year of transition. Though ending it in Asia, I’ve become a full time resident of Utah. I love the mountains and the place I call home. For the first time in my travels—at least that I can recall—I’m actually looking forward to my return. “Not kicking and screaming this time?” asked my friend Lisa echoing my general sentiments on ending any travel. And, oddly enough, my answer was an affirmative.

The big news of the year has been Beachbody; my primary employer and, thus, my default responsibility. I had cut back my hours to work towards my PhD but was called back into full-time action, most serendipitously, as more of our products took off. Primarily responsible for this was P90X and, for those of you who’ve known me for a while will attest, this is a reward for a lot passion and hard work. We spent years developing this program only to find it tough to fit into the market. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, along with its success, the obesity rate in the US has leveled off for the first time in four decades. Go us.

Most of my other projects have thus been flat. Wall Rats did find a home. Then, in a Hollywood-esque scene right out of The Big Picture, lost it. Then found one again. I think it’s being released at the end of Jan. The long-time California guide book is also near completion—well, volume one anyway. My two other books ideas are being worked on but still not ready to shop around. Hopefully that will happen this year.

Athletically, not much happened though I was about as active as ever. Living in such an amazing playground it’s quite hard to focus on one thing. Ben Ditto, who moved to Utah as a young talented climber in order to further his aspirations put it perfectly when he told me, “I quit climbing so much when I moved here because it just seemed wrong not to experience everything the Wasatch has to offer.” So I ran, rode, raced, skied, snowshoed, scrambled, climbed, explored, and tried to punctuate it with a decent birthday challenge. At the premier of the new Warren Miller film, the best segment was about Utah, which opened with glowing descriptions of the many variations of Gobsmacking scenery you will encounter and the line, “It’s a place where you can wake up in summer and drive into winter,” then segued into a bunch of crazy ski tricks into powder before finishing with “don’t try this at home, people, unless your home happens to be Utah.”

Yep. That’s where I live.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a short tale from India. Happy New Year!

Today I was chased by my demons. On a walk to an ancient mountain top fort I was, as usual, way ahead of everyone else when stir craziness hit me like it never has before. I couldn’t look at another tourist, another “guide”, beggar, peddler, or place filled with the masses living vicariously through things that had happened before them (not that there’s anything wrong with this, but I digress). So I took off, running, across the large plateau the fort is located on, through many of the old remains not inhabited, and then down into the most likely location to spot tigers in the wild on the planet.

with my dad

mom and brian at the victoria memorial

Following my brother’s wedding, I had acquiesced to travel with my family around India. Now I love my family. I love spending time with them. But a Griswald-like holiday trip with six grown people was an absurd thing for me to take part in. While we’re all seasoned travelers, I’m different. I’m different than almost everyone. I’m restless. I move fast. I often lose track of this fact because I’ve surrounded myself with others like me but faced with the masses it starkly apparent how different I am. My family knows this and gives me space. Unfortunately, on this trip there was little space to be had.

some indian jazz bar

So I ran. Into the depths of Rontambhore National Park. At this point, I would have preferred to be killed by a tiger than to endure any more tourism. I’m not a good tourist. When I travel I attempt to disappear into a culture and have no interest in sightseeing or hanging around people from back home. I can’t deal with tourists, and generally avoid them, but this trip had faced me with an onslaught. Nothing mattered, at all, except to get far away from people. I’d made it this far. I only had to endure one more day and then I could travel on my own. But the fear had gripped my throat and was strangling the life out of me. I had to escape its clutches. I ran until all traces of recent human activity were far out of sight and mind. It was only then that I became a bit worried about tigers.

I’ve dealt with plenty of animals in the wild, alone. But tigers scare me. I’ve met them face to face in controlled situations and never felt too comfortable. I don’t have the same rapport with cats as other mammals. In spite of this, I kept going. I needed to. I broke a branch off a tree and fashioned it into a gun, knowing tigers in populated areas are generally scared of guns. It helped. I continued until, jumping off a rock I turned my ankle on a rock hidden in the grass.

I knew it was pretty bad because I had to concentrate in order not to vomit. It wasn’t that bad, but I knew it was going to swell and I’d better turn around because it was going to slow me way down. And, oddly enough, being forced into even the slightest state of survival mode changed my mindset. I was at peace again; living life the way it feels right. I was born to live in a survivalist state. Instead of spending my life trying to make the word healthier, I should welcome its demise and hope for the apocalypse because that’s the society I would thrive in. But I don’t. I try to combat my demons in order to understand them. And thus, until recently, my life had been a series of failed attempts to somehow fit in.

I could no longer run but I could walk pretty fast, so I opted to explore a different path back to the fort. I found an old stone wall (apparently the fort was once surrounded by a seven kilometer wall) and traversed it back towards the tourist area where I encountered my next obstacle.

In my way were a group of large monkeys sitting in a two-tiered court area right in front of me. It was too far to backtrack (not really, but I didn’t want to) and the walls under me were probably 25’ so I couldn’t jump. I approached to monkeys wondering if they’d let me pass. As I got close I knew this option wasn’t going to fly as they were agitated. I found a place amongst them where the wall was lower, about 15’. I could jump, provided I could get there. The first monkey let me pass. The second bared his teeth to threaten me, and then the rest all followed suit and now I was surrounded by a menacing pack, with more right above me. I needed first one that threatened me to move. I didn’t want to be aggressive towards him (a hit or miss monkey tactic that seemed a poor gamble as the group could tear me to shreds). So I looked at him stoically, looked down where I intended to jump, and said “don’t worry, buddy, I’m just going down there” and pointed. He looked down, back at me, and then backed up a step and let me jump.

I limped home.

Icing my ankle gave me an excuse to miss the afternoon safari where the rest of my family would be treated to some great tiger viewing. Telling my brother that, more than my ankle I just couldn’t endure any more tourists; he captured my feelings with a quote from the film Repo Man that was also used in a profile written about me by my friend Bob. “Look at those poor assholes over there. Ordinary fuckin’ people. I hate ‘em.”

I don’t really hate them. I don’t hate anybody. But I do feel better when they’re not around.


Ted said...

Fantastic story, ending with a smooth blend of two of the greatest lines in motion picture history.

Happy New Year Mr. Edwards. When you fit in to this place I might have to snuff it.

Debbie said...

Dude, you are the monkey whisperer. Happy New Year, Steve!