This weekend while getting a haircut, I picked up one of my favorite outdoor magazines and began reading. This edition featured an inside look at the men on the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" series. The article explained more about the unique work environment and the men who risk their lives to earn a year's salary in only two weeks. This article had me hooked, because I enjoy watching those men work atop rolling decks, manhandle 30 pound crab, and flirt with the frozen, fluid death all around them. For them it's dangerous and profitable work, but for me, it's exciting and comfortable entertainment.
Although slick and well-edited, the Deadliest Catch is reality TV at its best. When was the last time you and 15 others were stranded on an island complete with obstacle courses, survivor challenges, private bungalows with 5-star surf and turf cuisine, and $1 million for the winner? (The "reality" we entertain ourselves with and the reality we live are often vast distances apart.)
So, as I was admiring these fishermen for living an authentic adventure/lifestyle few will ever experience, in walks the real deal. Not a crab boat deckhand, but a real outdoorsman. The female barber poked fun at him, asking where his pet bear named "Ben" was, and teasing him about cutting off his four-inch-long facial scrag. His hearty laugh filled the serious room with a joyful presence. He was a good sport, and I liked him immediately. He looked a bit out of place with his crimson beard, which did not fit his face, and his bright blue Hawaiian board shorts. His close-cropped hair didn't need trimming in my book either, and I wondered why he was in a barber shop in the first place.
I skimmed the remaining paragraphs of the article, but kept being distracted by his conversation with the barber. He spoke about going to Oregon, Arizona, and Utah for the summer. "Like Portland Oregon?" she asked. "Not that far over, but in the mountains of Oregon," he said.
I put my magazine down. Not many people in this area even know there are mountains in Oregon, more or less travel there for an entire summer. I was in the presence of an real outdoorsman.
My mind began to wonder how to begin a conversation with him. I waited. "So are you going out there to work?" I asked. "Sort of," he replied, and I liked him even more. It didn't take long before we began chatting like friends. He used familiar terms such as "thru-hiking" and "southbound," as well as in encrypted acronyms such as "AT," and "PCT." I realized that this 22-year-old had hiked the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail alone as well as the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail.
An inferiority complex settled in; I felt like a poser, and I didn't like that feeling.
Many years ago I learned the definition of poser. When I was 12, my family moved from a rural wide spot of roughly 2,000 people to a town of 25,000. My mother's friend had a son who skateboarded, and I was invited to come over and skate with him and his friends. I was a few years younger than them, so the only things we had in common were bad haircuts and the right chip riding shotgun on our shoulders. For me, the major component missing was the ability to skate. When I saw these guys drop their boards on the asphalt and push off with ease, I knew I was in trouble. They skated around town, "thrashing" the streets of Madisonville. I couldn't even keep up, and I was humiliated. My best tricks were beneath them, and soon I was alienated, never to skate with them again. I was quickly labeled a poser, the highest insult in the skateboard world. I looked the part, but was not an insider.
When it comes to the authentic outdoor lifestyle, I often feel like a poser. I own great gear and live in an awesome wilderness area. Miles of trails surround me, natural rock structures beg to be conquered, yet, I am no where to be found. I always have the desire, but never the time. Even squeezing in an overnight camping trip is difficult with the hours I work and the family obligations at this time. Every so often I can fit in a day hike or, at best, a driving trip. And therein lies the difference between the bearded guy I met in the barber shop. He has made decisions, career choices, and sacrifices that allow him to take five months off to hike and enjoy the outdoors.
I am putting stock that moving to Albuquerque will change that side of me. With no family around and fewer hours to work, I plan to explore Southwest America more freely than I have the Midwest.
(By the way, I began skating alone on a dead-end street, reading magazines and watching videos. In only a few years, I became one of the best skaters in town. Sixteen years later, I can still ollie, kickflip, and shove-it.)