Friday, July 27, 2012

A Quarter Century: Summer breeze, makes me feel fine

As you may recall, I started the A Quarter Century series to chronicle my journey OUT of a quarter-life crises. But it has recently occurred to me that I am currently in a depressing paradigm shift regarding summers.

Just last summer I was still the "student." I graduated in May and moved to Salt Lake City and while I did have to work full time, it did not go unnoticed that when I went home after and turned on the television I wasn't putting off a research assignment or assigned reading: I was just watching TV. It was an intoxicating feeling.

Flash forward one year and that is gone. I don't remember what it's like to have homework. I don't remember that feeling of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as the semester's end approaches, one crazy weekend at a time. I'm an adult now, the light at the end of the tunnel is death. My life is now just one un-ending chain of 40-hour work weeks where recreation has to be scheduled and the only marker of the passage of the time is the gradual transition from one season to another.
Summer as an adult is a perpetual disappointment.

I know I'll adapt to this eventually. I realize that soon I'll be content that a "good day" is one where the traffic on my morning commute isn't congested. But until that numbing acceptance washes over me, I will bask in the memory of summer's past.

Sonic Youth

My father is an educator. As a profession, I can understand why a lot of people might not be interested in receiving aggressively meager pay to deal with children (two bad things) but as anyone who's ever been/had a parent who taught, it is awesome to be an adult with a summer break.

Every summer my dad would pack in a year's worth of adventure in 2 months. From June to July the Wood family was in a constant state of vacation, often getting home on a Saturday with enough time to do laundry, go to church, buy groceries and pack up to head back out on the road Monday morning. We weren't a particularly affluent family (and there were 7 of us) so we were always road tripping, which is why I may not have the international experience I would like, but I know Utah and the Intermountain west like the back of my hand.

Our keystone trip was a yearly voyage to West Yellowstone. Our family friends owned a cabin on Hebgen Lake and my mom reminded us every year that we were guests and were to behave as "happy slaves." We'd go into West Yellowstone and shop for souvenirs and spend a few days wandering through the park, hiking and driving by the buffalo.
Mostly, though, the cabin was THE attraction. Nestled privately in the enormous trees with an endless amount of adventure and recreation in every nook and cranny; it was like some Shangri La.
We'd spend a week there, then fill the rest of our summer rafting on the Snake River or hiking through Zion's and Arches National Parks.

Florescent Adolescence

One year, our family friends sold the cabin. By then my older siblings were reaching adulthood and I was near that phase where the incessant string of family trips was making it hard for me to spend time with friends.

Friends. If only I knew then what I know now, that friends are temporary fixtures in your life that fade, fray, disappear and are continuously replaced like your best pair of jeans.

The cabin trip gave way to an annual stay at Sweetwater Resort (a.k.a Ideal Beach) at Bear Lake. We'd bike into town for a shake at LaBeau's and in the early years, before everyone started procreating, we'd rent wave runners and beat ourselves silly on the choppy, pristine water.

At home, I'd travel almost exclusively by bike and I'd fill the days rock climbing in the canyon or boating at Pineview. I'd go to scout camp, where every year someone almost died and, as a sidenote, my troop gained a reputation for being inordinately clean for a bunch of 13-year-olds sleeping in the dirt. We had a great group of guys.

Legal Adulthood

Then I got a job, and pretty soon the bulk of my summer was taken up by the pursuit of money that would allow me to not sell my body. First it was waiting tables, in high school, then it was baking bread. As a sidenote, I didn't have enough money to not sell my body and have the plasma donation scars to prove it.

But part time work leaves a lot of time for play, and Logan is an adventurers paradise. We'd camp (what seemed like) every weekend, grabbing little more than a sleeping bag, some chex mix and pallets to burn and heading up into Green or Logan canyons. We'd cliff jump at Porcupine and just about any day there wasn't too much wind we'd shoot a round of Disc Golf before the weasels at the Living Learning Center removed the course.

We'd play Ultimate Frisbee at least once a week, sometimes twice. We'd spelunk, or set up a projector in whatever dark space we could find to lay out under the stars and "watch a movie." On Thursdays we'd voyage to Salt Lake for our weekly Wendy's/Free Concert ritual.

The family would still travel and go to Bear Lake, and the gang would usually put together at least two trips: a quick backpacking venture in the Uintahs and something else more Urban out of state.


I wake up at 7:30 and jog two miles 1) because I don't have time to run any more and 2) because I'm a weak old man who gets back to my apartment wheezing and coughing like a dog after the Iditarod. I got to work. I come home. I eat pasta (or rice). I read. I go to bed.

I haven't played Ultimate in weeks and nearly broke my leg the last time I did. I finally got in some mountain biking with my dad last week but I haven't camped or been on a boat in more than a year. Most egregiously, my summer has involved a criminally-low amount of general water-based recreation and beautiful women in bikinis.

But I've had some great pasta.

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