1. As a child, I used to wheel my red wagon into the living room with a pillow and a blanket and lie in it to watch cartoons.
2. I was probably around 5 and maybe it was my birthday. My mom and I went to visit her sister, my aunt Leslie, who was living close to LSU. She gave me a pair of blue roller skates. They reminded me of Montgomery “Good News” Moose from the Get Along Gang. He wore a blue turtleneck, yellow pants, and brown loafers, and was an excellent athlete.
3. My dad and I used to horse around a lot. My mom would always say, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”
4. My dad and I climbed the magnolia tree in our front yard. He was way up towards the top and I wanted to go there too. The branch I was on broke and I fell, hitting the bottom branch on my back and flipping over, landing face first on the ground. My mom looked on in horror.
5. We had another magnolia tree, which was taller. I always wanted to climb it. I never did.
6. I spent a lot of time in the small town of Donaldsonville, LA. My mother was born and raised there. My grandparents and two sets of great grandparents lived there. They potty trained me and taught me to talk. As kids, my cousins and I used to play by the bayou, run through our paw-paw’s garden, eat loads of boiled seafood, collect pecans, and drink tiny cokes out of green glass bottles.
7. My poppa, Ed Bahry, was Lebanese. He owned a record store that specialized in R&B. This is where I first learned about race relations.
8. My parents divorced when I was around 10. This was the first time my father could be openly gay.
9. Dad moved across the street from us. I thought this was the best thing ever.
10. When I was 12, my cousin Shawn died in the hospital after being in a terrible car accident on River Road. She had been driving, she was 15.
11. I was raised in a Catholic school. We had nuns as teachers. My dad’s homosexuality was in direct conflict with what I had been taught at school. This marked the start of my departure from organized religion and a move towards trying to understand what it really means to be oneself and about acceptance of differences.
12. My parents were great together. They were cool, loving, and had fun. I know it was hard for them but they did their best.
13. I was a good tennis player but an even better runner. I ran track until I started hanging out with the kids who smoked pot.
14. I went to a public high school much to the disappointment of my mother. It was a Magnet arts and science school. I studied theater there.
15. The summer I was 15, I learned to rock climb at a camp in North Carolina. My life would be forever changed.
16. I went to a lot of raves and took a lot of LSD. At the start of my junior year in high school I ran away from home. I left a note for my parents apologizing and leading them to believe I had joined a commune in Texas.
17. In reality I was slumming it on the floor of an Iranian exchange student. Her name was Layla. She was beautiful, she was Muslim, and she was a stripper. She found out I had Catholic Lebanese blood and she kicked me out.
18. I worked the graveyard shift at a chicken shack. It was a terrible job.
19. I homeschooled myself via correspondence courses and earned my high school diploma from Baton Rouge Magnet High when I was 18.
20. My dad lived in New Orleans through my high school and college years. I developed an intimate relationship with that city. Weekends and summers were spent there. I went to my first gay bars with my dad, had my first alcohol called a Separator. I wore low-top Dr. Martens and we always went to Tower Records. I frequented late-night coffee houses, had numerous snow cones from Plum Street Snow Cone, and learned what a Gutter Punk was. As I got older, I saw a lot of music there, learned where the best pizza by the slice was, had too many beignets, and rode the streetcar from uptown to downtown more times than I could ever recall.
21. I weaseled my way into a better job at a college bookstore. I worked there for 6 years before being fired for failing to return from a trip to Venezuela.
22. I started to rock climb more on the weekends and holidays. The closest place was a tiny crag in Alabama called Sandrock. My friends and I built a climbing gym in their garage. I was always “training” for Yosemite.
23. When I was 20 I was driving home from visiting my dad in New Orleans. I came upon 3 puppies in the middle of River Road. I gave away two of them and named the other one Sidney in honor of Sid Vicious. I had her for 9 years. She was the best dog a girl could know.
24. I had a housemate named Allison. She was funny. We lived together just off of River Road. She was from the small town of Gonzales. In 2007 she passed away from an infection. I think of her all the time.
25. My dad moved to NYC. We traveled to London together and accidentally got lost in the Red Light District. He opened up the world to me in many ways.
26. I moved to Austin, TX two weeks after I graduated from LSU. I ate a lot of Mexican food, bought cool clothes, and spent a lot of money. I lived there a couple of years and did a lot of climbing on Texas and Mexican limestone. I worked at the climbing gym, I coached the youth team. We took a winter trip to Hueco Tanks. I decided I needed to pursue a life more centered around rock climbing.
27. I packed my truck with all I could fit and drove to Yosemite. I had a job working for the NPS in the Valley campgrounds. On a July 4th weekend I was pulled over around 2am after working a night-time Bear Roving shift. I failed to come to a complete stop on a right-hand turn at a stop sign. They arrested me for .2 grams of weed in the form of a roach. It had been sitting in the ashtray, illuminated by their flashlights. I spent the night in jail. I wore an orange jumpsuit with blue tennis shoes. I was cuffed and then locked in a cold, white cell. They made me feel like a bad person.
28. I lost my job with the NPS. It was a true blessing in disguise. I worked for the Yosemite Association in the visitor center, then I worked for Ken Yager and the Yosemite Climbing Association. We put together an awesome museum exhibit. I did a lot more rock climbing.
29. I met Surfer Bob — he taught me how to climb Offwidths. I bought a pair of La Sportiva Kalkulators. I met Ron Kauk one winter day at the Cookie while I was putting on those blue suede shoes. We became best friends.
30. Ron taught me how to climb on hard, technical granite. He showed me the importance of good footwork and how to move with confidence. In 2009 we created a youth-based non-profit called Sacred Rok.
31. In the late spring of 2010, I almost fell off the side of El Cap and died. I walked away with two broken ribs, a partially torn left MCL, a concussion, and 17 stitches to the head as well as many bruises and a deathly fear of wet slabs.
32. I met Ben Ditto that spring.
33. In 2012 we got married at Rock Creek. Our wedding looked a lot like a Who’s Who of Rock Climbing. We spent our honeymoon in the Cirque of the Unclimbables. I gained an affinity for wet cracks and learned how much of a brat I can be.
34. Ben has also taught me a lot about climbing. More than I can really say actually. Since 2010 we have spent a little over a year in total climbing in Europe. One could be so lucky to have gone to places like Ceuse, St.Leger, Gorge du Tarn, Freyer, The Verdon Gorge, Chateauvert, Siurana, Montsant, Terradetts, Oliana, Col de Nargo, Rodellar, Picos de Europa, Poo, Cicera, and where we currently are — Chulilla.
35. It’s nearing the end of 2014. I am 35 years old. We live in a van in the Sierra. We have a storage unit in Bishop and a PO box in Yosemite. I work for Sacred Rok and Eddie Bauer, but we spend most of our time rock climbing. We travel a lot. Sometimes I feel hiraeth. I love my life, it’s always been different, there have always been social norms looming around, but I still seem to keep living on the fringe.
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