Category Archives: philosophy

Leave Trace Club

Confession alert:

I’m not perfect. I totally-otally LEAVE TRACE. On this hike alone I’ve “left” (aka lost) a pair of sunglasses, a bamboo spoon and two bandanas somewhere on trail. I’m not happy about it but accidents happen. 

That said, today I must address a particular brand of Trace seen almost daily in wilderness areas. 

TP. 

Now – people – I get it. Our culture trains us to use TP at every possible moment. And for women it’s expected every time we tingle to practically wipe the area raw – lest a single drop moisten our panties. But please… PACK IT OUT!!! Or, use a pee rag, like a normal human.

I don’t want to smell like an outhouse either. So do what you need to do to stay fresh. But for the sake of all that is holy in nature (i.e. Everything) PACK IT OUT.

while I am sort of relieved to know you also pee right by the trail… please … PACK IT OUT

if I could make a wish on this crane… it would be for you to PACK IT OUT.

while its cool you can twist it into oragami shaped like a snail… PACK IT OUT

while you’re at it, that bag of poo you thought you’d pick up later is still sitting here. PACK IT OUT (NOW)

thanks for letting me know you peed on these huckleberries so i don’t forage here … but actually I’d rather not know… so PACK IT OUT

teamwork makes the dream work. but can both of you PACK IT OUT?

cool! I ALSO sometimes use a baby wipe – in addition to TP. that’s a great town prep technique when youre gearing up for a hitch. but in that case PACK EM BOTH OUT.

I’m really sorry for whatever it is your body went thru to make this mess. and maybe you even buried part of it and a squirrel dug it up. so next time PACK IT OUT (then use some hand sani)

putting it next to coyote poop doesn’t camoflage it for the person behind you on the trail. PACK IT OUT.

aw. I almost missed this one it was so cutely hidden in the brush. but actually no… I still totally saw it. pack it out.

TFW you changed your baby’s diaper and then pee and then leave both by the tree at Grand Lakes because nature will take care of you. hi five.

but seriously tho… a diaper??

bored yet? me too. PIO.

now, much like baby albert, everything white reminds me of your bodily functions. i beg of you. PACK IT OUT

I know you are used to dropping it on top of your pee in the toilet but that pile of moss doesn’t flush. PACK IT OUT

hey! a nice flat spot to set up our stove for afternoon coffeeeeeee… oh wait.

how thoughtful! keeping your TP dry right under the footbridge. i still found it when i was crouching down to filter my water. do you get why this might be gross for me? PIO.

Tips for not joining the leave trace club:
1) carry a “used TP/baby wipes” ziplock with you. And hand sani. 

2) after peeing or pooping, wipe and put used TP in your Baggie. Seal Baggie. 

3) sanitize hands

4) repeat until town.

5) Throw away Baggie. 

A closing reminder: it’s fun & fine peeing in nature, without the ‘effluvium of human waste’ in most restrooms (sez Groucho, who’s not a privy fan). But when pooping please do so far off trail, 200 FEET AWAY FROM WATER (at least), in a 6-8″ deep cathole.   Refrain from burying wipes, especially scented or if your hole is too shallow. Critters WILL dig it up and share your secrets with the rest of us. And don’t be afraid to give that poo a stir! Mixing it with your cathole backfill helps it biodegrade faster.

Also, I totes recommend buying one of these excellent Deuce of Spades poo trowels. As Future Dad reminds us “the poo never ever should touch the trowel”. Wrong Way Gang trowels are all named for stars of stage and screen. Mine is named Brent Spiner, aka Data. 

❤ Harpo 

Riding on a Cloud

IMG_4356I went to see a great show at On the Boards last night. OtB is known in Seattle as the premier presenter of new theatre and dance works. Riding on a Cloud, by Rabih Mroué, fits squarely in the modern theatre category – featuring a single ‘actor’ seated at a table with various props (a cassette machine, a DVD player, a stack of DVD’s, some paper notes, a glass of water) and a large video screen. The piece seemed simple at first, even minimal, yet revealed its complexity in very satisfying ways.

The work plays on the balance between fictive and real narratives, the precocious nature of memory, and the problem of representation. Yasser, the ‘actor’ plays himself on stage (thereby frictionally representing his ‘real’ self, as everything in theatre is fiction), occasionally wandering away even from his role as himself to observe the audience. The audience tries to determine what is true versus fictional in Yasser’s narrative, which is presented through a series of DVDs he plays throughout the performance. It’s telling that after 20 minutes of performance we learn that the DVDs are made in the wake of Yasser’s traumatic brain injury, the result of a sniper’s bullet during sectarian fighting in Lebanon (a true story, as it turns out). The DVDs are footage created in response to a real event which dictates the dramatic action of the show, rather than the other way around. We learn that Yasser has difficulty with representation – he is unable to create relationships between objects and photographs of the same objects, even photos of himself. The show is full of things which could be true, and some which might not. Other things are only hinted at, and then revealed over time – these reversals highlight the tension between the dramatic narrative and the nearly silent actor on stage, who’s story is represented only through media – otherwise he exists only as he is, somewhat charming and a little bit injured.

A Brother’s Tale, the New Yorker review of the show, does a good job of situating the work in it’s national and political context. I found myself more interested in it’s exploration of our relationship with language and representation. Creating our personal narrative – our portrayal of ourselves to others, is our most significant act of representation. This practice often hinges on language, our most basic tool. When we share our experience with others, we depend on language to bridge the gap between us, to ensure the continuity of our experience, to reassure us of our assumed truths. These are narratives that we depend on being true – our memories, relationships, our personal history and moral code. Language and (Bataille would argue) sex are the only hope humans have of overcoming our inherent isolation.

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My x-ray after brain surgery – the result of a bike accident, I was in a coma for 12 days. The last thing I remember was having dreadlocks (I hadn’t had a haircut in a decade)… imagine my surprise at waking up unable to speak, fully intubated, and with a rat tail. Also, my business partner at the time had press released my injury to the Stranger, and while I know not to read the comments, my moms did not – which caused her considerable anguish – and overlays another layer of ‘unreality’ on a very surreal situation.

The experience of the traumatic brain injury (TBI) brings into sharp focus how narrative is plastic, flexible, and often uncertain. A sufferer of a traumatic brain injury, I experienced aphasia similar to what Yasser describes. The radical shift aphasia engenders is a restructuring of language, which in turn drastically shifts how we understand our relationships with others and ourself. I relearned how to speak, the names of things, and beyond that, redefined my relationships with people. Or more accurately, taught myself to believe the stories people told me.  If we can not assume that any narrative is true, then even memory becomes an uncertain and slippery thing. I had the hardest time connecting to close friends, where I could not connect emotionally to the narrative they presented – I felt cut off from intimacy, alienated and alone. Retelling stories of people around me, including my own, eventually allowed me to reconnect with myself and others – to recreate myself in my own image – yet for me the certainty remained that I was a completely different person before and after. For any survivor dealing with aphasia, there is a very real and continual question about what is true versus what is believed, and there is no clear way of distinguishing which is which. I have spent years trying to dovetail these two competing realities, sometimes more successfully than others.

Ultimately, Riding on a Cloud is a dark but uplifting show, addressing heavy issues with poignancy, humor and a genuine and interesting voice. Yasser becomes a poet after his TBI – after his loss of language he sees through the broken words to discover the most direct and beautiful phrases. His life, along with the framing of his personal narrative through the device of a theatre show, are victories of identity over insecurity. His story, whether true in whole or in part, allows us to examine our own stories. Yasser’s overcoming is an affirmation of personal narrative, revealing the inherent validity of our struggle for identity, the value of our own stories and the importance of telling them.