As far as the tiny community of supertopo goes, this will do for now. Many of who have already read most of it as part of a previous post.
I have moved things around, and added a lot.
If you’re antsy, skip to the end.
To Clare, the positive ion in my life which I could never truly touch, else the world would explode. Thank you for being there when I needed you.
To Danny and John, the big brothers I never had. It was nice while it lasted, but I hope it’s not over.
To Monte Truitt, Ron The Bomb, and all the other deckhands whose ghosts watch over us now. May your legends live forever on.
And to Frank and his Sacred Tower. Thanks for answering the call.
The following stories are false, completely fabricated, and in no way represent any real persons.
However, If I turn up dead somewhere, hopefully you all will know where to start looking. Before the end, there will be many clues.
Call me Zay.
I was born in Fort Collins, Colorado, and that fact means everything to me now.
My dad had a wolf, whose name was Tundra, and they were tight. Mom had a hard time getting their attentions. One day, Tundra started following my mom.
She was pregnant with me.
One day, Tundra dug a hole under the fence, and disappeared for several days. When he came back, he had a large Big Bird doll with a built in cassette player. He dropped it at my crib.
I remember listening to music on that very player, and was sad that I never met Tundra.
When I was two years old, my family moved my brother and I to Kauai. We ate hot dogs and applesauce by the water. Dad would bring home lobsters; he worked on a zodiac. I don’t remember what my mother did.
When a hurricane appeared on the forecast, the one featured in Jurassic Park, we moved to California. The town was called El Portal. I was three.
My mom worked in the Ahwahnee Hotel, and my brother and I played hide and seek in its architecture. My father was a ranger, and was involved with Search and Rescue. I myself sought easter eggs behind the chapel after sunday school.
I remember a mother bear and her cub in the back yard a few times,
“Mommy, the bear’s back.”
I was in the cold room, as we called it. It separated the garage from the kitchen, and had two large glass doors for walls on either side. It didn’t heat well, but it had a great view up the hill when animals walked by.
At night time, I stayed away from those windows. Especially when the crickets stopped singing. June Bugs hit them sometimes.
Up the hill was a forest of oak trees. We had a rope swing, and would run up the it, holding the knots, and jump. One day, my brother, Seth, panicked and let go. He fell twenty feet through the sky, and to this day the image is fresh in my mind; I can still feel the warm, dry air.
The hill took him like a ski jump at Badger Pass; our neighbors helped carry him off on a wooden board to keep him flat until they knew he was okay. I think one of them was a famous climber.
In the autumn, we would jump off the roof into piles of leaves.
One of my favorite pastimes was catching grasshoppers, alligator lizards, and frogs.
One time my mother screamed, “Zay get in here!”
There was a large insect in the bathtub; I think it was a cicada, as big as my hand. I picked it up, and put it outside. That sort of thing happened a lot.
The tarantulas were cool.
We had a pet Iguana, and I named her Lizzy. She would escape sometimes and we would find her under the house, or sometimes on the chimney of the iron fireplace, clinging to bricks. She never seemed to mind hanging out on my shoulder while I played Warcraft II: The Tides of Darkness.
I tried to make her happy by catching her an alligator lizard for a friend. I got yelled at, for that one.
One day, in 1997, the Merced River showed no mercy in its rage.
We lost power to our home for a long time.
Lizzy could not keep warm, and went to sleep forever.
It was around that time that the marriage between my parents really started to fall apart. As far as I can remember, that was around the time my mother took my brother Seth and I to La Jolla, Ca. Dad stayed in El Portal for some time.
I began to notice my father’s absence more and more. Eventually, I would find myself crying to mom, “When is dad coming home?”
I don’t remember many straight answers.
Interestingly enough, La Jolla was where my father was from. His mother, my grandma, was once married to a man named Bob.
Bob cursed us all.
During my father’s own childhood, Bob left the family for a woman named Roberta.
You do not speak her name in The Manor.
The Manor was actually everything but, being the most humble and quaint of homes surrounded by the sea of ever growing mansions in a sea of palm trees that loomed over Scripps Pier.
Grandma, at one point was suicidal, and my family has told me dark stories about my dad and his siblings camping out in front of her bedroom to catch her on her way to the kitchen; she would often go for the knife.
Other stories described her passing out drunk with a lit cigarette, and catching the bed on fire. My uncle Mike remembers putting out those fires.
Bob left Dad, Dad left me, and I left Willow… but we’ll get to that later.
Middle school was when I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. I was around 12 years old when they prescribed me Adderall, and for those unaware, Adderall is basically methamphetamine.
Even before my diagnosis, I could not sit still. Teachers would often throw me out of the classroom, and I relished the chance to be outside. Even just a walk to the principal's office was a welcome reprieve from the hell that was sitting in class. To this day, I can often be seen tapping my feet, standing up, and sitting down again, over and over.
Making friends was hard during that time; rather, connecting with other kids proved difficult. In my mind, they all had good lives and I didn’t. In my head, they had parents at home and all I had was pain. On the rare occasions that dad did come home, fighting was never far away. I remember once seeing my parents bare naked, rolling across the floor in a fistfight.
They divorced around the time of my diagnosis.
It was high school that my life turned around.
Around that time, my parents started talking again. Eventually, they decided to make things work. While things were still never perfect, they decided that the best thing for “us” was to move back to Mariposa, California to be closer again to Yosemite.
They met in Yosemite, by the way. At the time, my dad was renting out bicycles to tourists, and my mom was managing the cafeteria at Curry Village. As I’ve been told, mom was far out from dad’s league. Somehow, he gained her affection before becoming a ranger and working YOSAR (Yosemite Search and Rescue). He eventually went on to become a Swift Water Rescue Trainer.
So we moved back. Mariposa County High School became a haven the day I was told that a girl thought I was “hot.” That jarred me on a profound level; up until then, I considered myself completely undesirable, and never would have expected a girl to want me.
I also started smoking weed.
My best friend was Sam Paul, another boy whom many girls adored. We shared something on a spiritual level, Sam and I.
I almost died with Sam Paul.
We snuck out of Mariposa under the full moon. We hiked up highway 140 to the bottom of Grosjean Road, and came down on our skateboards. We had no flashlight or helmets. We wore only T-shirts as we bombed those long three miles. I got speed wobbles, but was eventually able to correct them. That was a long five seconds. When we finally slowed to a stop, Sam kicked his board up and the back wheels fell off. The nut on the kingpin had fallen out. We found it the next day, at the top.
I eventually was expelled, temporarily, from MCHS for bad behavior; I simply couldn’t hold still or stop causing disruptions. They sent me to Spring Hill Secondary School for one year. It was one of the best years of my life.
I fit in with the misfits, and fell in love with the very band “The Misfits.” We skated; We played volleyball; We smoked cigarettes and weed; We snowboarded; We made grafiti; and we were the kings and queens of the summertime river holes.
But eventually I was called back to MCHS with the promise that I would never go to college should I graduate from spring hill. I kept friends from both school to this day.
One day, while our friend Mike was walking down the road from Spring Hill, he looked down the ridge and saw something: it was a large field of Marijuana. By the end of that night, He and many of my friends had raided it, filling black trash bags with copious heaps of buds. For various reasons, I was excluded from the raid.
I resented them for not including me, though my scorn turned to thanks when they all started getting busted. It didn’t take long for them to be found by the law: half of the weed belonged to a crooked police officer. We will call him “John.”
A handful of my friends went to jail and some went to prison. It was sometime later that Sam and I found ourselves in a small party at the St. Andrews Apartments (essentially the “Ghetto of Mariposa”). A knock on the door found a stoned teenager opening it to the welcome of three large cops. They barged right in.
One of them was John.
“Everybody sit down,” he yelled.
He looked at Sam.
“You,” pointed John, “Why do I know you?” He was shouting.
“Sam Paul,” replied Sam with bad ass dead pan.
“Sam Paul! Why do I know that name? Do you know who I am, Sam Paul?”
Sam said his name, stoically.
Suddenly the radio cracked off some message we couldn’t understand. All three cops ran to their cars, and we never saw them again. We left The Ghetto, immediately.
College was a wild time, and I fear its story may be too long for this text.
It was during my first semester that I was diagnosed with “schizoaffective disorder.” That started Halloween night, after ingesting some psychedelics, some ecstasy, and smoking lots of weed. Five nights later I hadn’t slept a wink, nor had I had any food or water.
Do you know what happens to someone who doesn’t eat, drink, or sleep for five days?
I’ll tell you.
They go insane.
I called my father and told him that I had found scientific proof of the existence of God.
Zay is getting old now, but who isn’t these days? Not really old, one could suppose, but turning thirty is a landmark for a good reason... It’s scary business.
His birthday is in a few days, and last night he quit his dream job. He wished he didn’t have to.
Allow me to explain.
Zay is, or perhaps was, the captain of a whale watching boat, and a fishing boat. On occasion, he would have the good fortune of also narrating trips, which he liked more anyway. He could channel Steve Irwin, and seek out leviathans along with other creatures large and strange.
Last night, he quit.
A huge problem with boats is that they rock. Every now and then some passenger will manage to abandon a hand hold, lose their balance, and discover a lawsuit.
After a bad spell, Monterey Whales’ insurance company decided to drop them.
They were dangerous people.
The search for a new provider before the term is up, is ongoing.
In the meantime, Monterey Whales has had to rethink their opinion of danger.
If it’s rough seas, don’t go out. Pretty simple. But like hurricanes and big walls, rough seas have a scale.
How far can one push it?
Now, Charter boat captains are by no means money hungry savages who are willing to take passengers into danger; In fact, they are far, far from that.
The question is, “How likely is a passenger going to fall onto the deck, and hurt themself?”
They would often size ‘em up, but could never see it coming.
Sometimes, it’s hard to make up your mind,
“Looks nasty out there, we’d better not go.”
“Can’t you just go out, and poke your nose into it a bit?”
It’s not easy being a small infant company.
Last night, Zay learned that he was scheduled to captain a whale trip. A storm was on the forecast. Rain was coming, but they never cancel trips for rain.
The wind was their God.
Zay made a few phone calls to see what the other captains were doing.
Two other whale watching companies had canceled out right. One was poised to attempt a single trip in the morning, and for the most part, it was against his will. The only captain who hadn’t yet made a decision, was Zay.
He called the shop at 4:00pm, one hour before they closed.
“Would you rather I cancel now, or wait until the morning when we actually see it get bad?”
“Can we cancel now?”
Rain had covered the windows then, and wind rocked the truck back and forth in the parking lot of Sanctuary Rock Gym. Zay loved that sound.
As he stepped out of his truck to the welcome of cold, he saw her.
It seemed she always wore that ridiculous leotard, and every man and every boy in Sanctuary Rock Gym bit their knuckles when she walked by. Her face alone made men with poor self esteem avert their eyes. When was she prettier, with or without the glasses? Worse yet, she was a badass. Every now and then Zay would see her riding that longboard, on her way to work by the Wharf. She wore dark denim overalls; she played with fire for a living. She was fascinated by serial killers, and it creeped Zay out… just enough.
One might as well have called her “Ramona Flowers.”
But you know what they say,
“Wubba lubba dub dub.”
He could see the tattoos on her arms, even from outside, as she instantly waved at him from within the gym, enthusiastically.
Normally, Zay was too scared to really talk to her. Every now and then he might get a few comments out of her, but their conversations were rarely more than a few sentences.
Looks aren’t everything; she liked adventure.
Last year, he somehow convinced her to join him on an ascent of an excellent climb in Pinnacles National Park, called Feather Canyon. At the time, he was in a relationship with Molly Jenson. Gorgeous in her own right, Molly was just too young for him. He kept his thoughts to himself as he and Jessica crawled their way up nine hundred feet of chimneys and crumbling mud.
They stopped in Soledad that day, covered in grime, and sat in a Mexican restaurant...
That was months ago, and they hadn’t been talking much since. It seemed Molly had something to do with that, and that was fair.
Three weeks ago now, Molly Jenson and Zay broke up.
As he stepped into Sanctuary and escaped the rain, Zay walked straight up to Jess. Flirtatious banter ensued, and by the end of it he had gifted her one of his ropes. He had a few of those.
“One condition,” he said with coy,“You have to catch me at some point tonight.”
She accepted the bargain with a smile, and he moved off to do his own thing for little while.
Some time later, he noticed her putting on her shoes, the normal ones. She still wore her harness.
“You just about done?”
“Yeah, you still want that catch?”
So they wandered up to some candy colored route. It was one that Zay hadn’t yet been able to lead without a fall but, but he figured he’d probably get it this time. Something told him he would.
As Zay tied his knot, Molly Jenson materialized like quantum foam.
Girls were weird.
Molly and Zay were still on good terms, and she called Jess a friend. The three of them chatted openly for a bit but Zay could smell honey, and he heard buzzing.
At last, Molly flew away and Zay started climbing. He finished the route cleanly, and was feeling quite pleased as Jessica lowered him down.
They sat down on the giant rubber tire that lived in the climbing area, and started talking. This talk was a little more serious, if only a little. They talked about housing, Jess’s kid, work, and mountain bikes.
Looking at her was electrifying.
Finally, she looked towards the door and stared at the rain drops as they flew by in the fading twilight.
There should have been lightning.
“Well, I better go.”
“Let me walk you out.”
He grabbed the rope, and walked barefoot with her to her truck.
Then he confessed something,
“Sorry, but Molly and I just broke up, and I didn’t want her to see me giving you my rope.”
He opened the door and threw the rope into her front seat and said something inane like, “Alright, you drive safe.”
But he accidentally spoke over her.
While cold needles poked at his ears and his bare feet, he asked her what she had said.
“You can come in the truck and get out of the rain, so we can talk if you want.”
Without hesitation, Zay threw the rope into the back and closed the door.
They sat there for a second.
Then he asked,
“So your dog doesn’t eat books?”
With those words he had confessed to something.
One night, some villain had thrown a book into the crack of her truck’s window. He had looked back and forth as he did it, and saw no one in the dark outside Sanctuary. As Supertopo’s “High Sierra Climbing Guide” slid into the crevice, a white dog raised its head inside, and startled him. Luckily, the dog said nothing as the book slipped right over his head. The culprit thanked him for his silence with a finger to his lips, laughed, and absconded. Nothing of it was said for a week; the criminal had told no one. Then, a week later, Jess texted Zay, “Did you put a guidebook in my car?” At that moment Zay was drunk, as he was often one to be. He was visiting his parents’ home in Waimea, Kaua’i. Molly was sitting next to him. He instantly responded.
“No f*#king clue what you’re talking about.”
They hadn’t really talked for a long time, anyway.
And now, there they were.
“I knew it was you.”
Zay was too hesitant to come out right with his feelings, as he didn’t want to come on too strong, and this was a delicate situation. He waved off the admission with regaling the comedy of watching the book skid unexpectedly over the dog’s white head. They laughed at that, and started talking some more. Nothing about “them” came up. They talked deeper about life, careers, getting old, and adventure. Zay enthusiastically proposed that they ought to attack the Tuolumne Triple Crown: climbing Tenaya Peak, Matthes Crest, and Cathedral Peak in a day. Zay stressed its beauty.
“Yeah, I’d be down.”
As his heart raced, he said it.
“Well, I better get out of your hair.”
She had been playing with her hair.
“RIght on, I think I left something in the gym.”
They both walked back inside the building, and Zay felt eyes.
Zay and Jessica had just walked out of Sanctuary Rock gym, disappeared for ten minutes, and walked back in.
He waved goodbye to Jess, turning left as she went right.
As he clipped into an auto-belaying machine, he glanced over and saw Molly talking to Jess.
The bees had begun to sting.
Minutes later, Molly cornered Zay.
Molly declared that it was immensely disrespectful, to her, to walk out of the gym, in front of everyone, with Jessica.
She had other words too.
Girls have lots of words.
Zay had a few as well.
Then Molly said that, upon being pressed, Jessica felt that Zay had been bothering her, and wished that Zay left her alone.
His head spun.
That was a lie.
He felt dizzy as he struggled to come up with who was lying to who.
Did Jessica lie to Molly?
Is Molly lying to Zay?
… or was Zay lying to himself?
“I don’t want to talk anymore,” he said.
He grabbed his belongings, walked out of Sanctuary Rock Gym, and got in his truck.
His feet were soaking wet and cold, as he had not bothered to put his shoes, nor did he remove his harness. His hands shook.
Molly had taken his socks.
Truth is, they were hers, anyway and she had feelings too.
Zay drove straight to Broadway Liquors, and bought a six pack.
Standing in line with his bare-wet feet, his mind raced round and round around the packs of cigarettes before him. It was a month ago that he quit..
The mental war was brief, and for the moment, Zay was victorious. He moved his feet so that the woman behind the counter couldn’t see them. She had tattoos on her face. He was not in the mood to be kicked out of a liquor store.
He handed her his card, and she looked at it for a few seconds.
Then she asked,
“How old are you?”
Zay’s mind furiously projected itself to standing behind that counter, with facial tattoos of his own. Before him now, was a man with long red hair, a bristeled face, and a chipped tooth. His complexion could not be called pristine.
“I’ll be thirty in a few days.”
She extended the receipt, and he said bluntly,
He walked out of the liquor store, barefoot, with a pack of beer into the pouring rain.
The headlights turned on, the wipers awoke, and Zay drove home.
Zay’s room is always a mess.
Dirty clothes blanketed the floor, and Zay shoved the bucket of climbing gear out of the way as he collapsed onto his bed, and emptied the first bottle.
He felt this way before once, nine years ago, when a certain Mindy Trueman left him for his best friend Saul Patrick. Truth is, Zay and Mindy were never an official item. Still, for a while they made love, and he felt for her deeply. His own words ended that relationship; a naked mole rat could see that she fancied Saul.
Zay had a particular history with girls as well as infections.
That was nine years ago.
Did we mention he is also being evicted?
For the second time in a row, a landlord just told him, “Oh, we’re sorry, but we need the house back.”
Month to month is a bitch.
Zay had to be out in a week.
His birthday was in three days, and he turning thirty.
The girl he adored, thought he was a creep.
He turned off the lights, curled into his nest, and listened to the rain.
Then hid phone buzzed.
The phone showed a message from Samantha Jacobs. Samantha and Zay had history, and everyone knew. Years later, she was now dating Donovan Mathers.
Donovan had started Monterey Whales barely two years ago. Just before that, he had worked for five years for a man named Gretchen. Yes, a man named Gretchen. We’ll get to him later.
Donovan was Zay’s captain when he was just a deckhand.
Donovan took Zay under his wing and taught him everything he know about boats and whale watching. After five years of dealing with Gretchen’s bull, he hooked up with an old friend, got some loans, and started a company.
Three people from original whale watching outfit jumped ship.
I will spare you the history that all five of them had shared.
Donovan and Zay had arranged to help make the jump together, but when the critical moment came, Zay baulked.
As everyone moved across, Zay looked back financially. Gretchen was paying him too well, and financially speaking, he couldn’t see what was behind the door. Still, Zay watched in envy from across the Wharf as those captains clinked bottles of beer, every evening, behind the shop. They had a better view of the water, and harbor seals always waited below.
“Throw us a fish.”
On the dashboard of the The Holiday, one of “Zay’s” boats, was an autopilot device- about the size of a Gameboy. Just too far from the chair: it was it awkward to lean over to press the dodge-function every time the buoy of a crab trap popped out of the water. Himself, along with captain Brock Swanson agreed that it should be moved closer. Captains modify their boats all the time, and they generally ask for permission only if its something drastic, like painting the boat a purple. This modification did not warrant a request, and Gretchen rarely drove the boat anyway. A few weeks later, Gretchen showed up to drive, and saw that the autopilot made it difficult for him to write in his completely-illegible logbook of “scientific information.” He took one look at it, and ripped it off the dashboard with his bare hands. It was mounted with several screws.
Oh, and another time(!) Gretchen kicked out the window of The Tornado because it didn’t open far enough. He blamed captain Eric for replacing it, and eventually drove him to quit. It was the other owner of that same company, Dick (rest his soul), who told Eric to replace it. Zay actually got to see that one go down.
One time, one of Gretchen’s dogs bit Zay when he moved too quickly by the animal. There was no damage, and Zay only demanded was that Gretchen stop bringing that dog on the boat. His words were these: California is an at-will employer. If you don’t like the dog you can leave.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell who’s on what side of the leash.
...The Gretchen stories could be a book of their own, maybe three of them, but I must be careful...
“His lawyers are on speed dial.”
Another few months later, Zay found himself snarling at Gretchen over the phone. Gretchen commanded Zay not to talk to the other captains on the radio. They were all ass holes, and the were out to get Gretchen in his head. Zay’s finger jabbed at the air, as if to poke out Gretchen’s eyes.
“I don’t have an attitude problem. You do. Stop making problems where there are none.”
Growling, might describe it better.
After that conversation Zay called Donovan, and begged for a Job.
By the time Zay moved over, all positions had been outfitted, and is to be expected. He had to start at the bottom again. Whale watching wasn’t the only business that Donovan’s procured; after five years of being on the water, Zay had to learn how to fish.
Charter Boat fishing could be the greatest job in the world, if only.
Fish spines jabbed Zay’s fingers. Infections swelled. Cutting bait and fish hurt his wrist. Blood and the guts of squid caked his jeans. Mexican men from the Central Valley argued with him about how many fish they were aloud to catch, while the smell of beer on their breath made him sick at seven o’clock in the morning.
It was actually pretty fun.
He ate fish whenever he wanted, and once in a while, he got a crab or two. He would give fish away to friends, filleted and all.
Jessica worked across the street from the Wharf, and he started dropping off bags of fillets. One time, she actually sent him a photo of the fish tacos she had made with them.
Eventually, he worked his way up the ladder, and found himself driving boats again. He would also narrate trips sometimes and the truth is, that was more to his iking. Steve Irwin was a hero, and to this day he would consider himself a damned fine naturalist.
We can only hope that skill does not go to rust.
As he sat there in the darkness, four beers in, he stared at the message. It said something like, “We just found out you cancelled the trip tomorrow. Donovan wanted you to wait until morning to see how the weather played out. Better communication next time.”
On any other day at almost any other time, that message would have been most benign.
I’m turning thirty in a few days, He thought.
I’m being evicted.
The girl I like, thinks I am a creep.
I was supposed to climb El Capitan with Brett for my birthday.
Forecasts change, don’t they...
He stared at the screen for about ten seconds before typing the words,
Samantha objected sweetly, but he shot it down,
“I’m not kidding. I’m sorry but I can’t do this anymore. I love you all so much, will help you out if you really need me, but consider this my two weeks.”
He rolled over and typed up another message to Jessica. He told her what Molly said, and that this would be the last time he bothered her, and how embarrassed he felt. He closed this message with,
“Please make good use of the rope and book.”
He threw the phone aside, and prayed she would respond.
As of this date, she never has.
There are four ingredients for suicide:
Loss of home,
Loss of income,
It takes fifteen minutes of talking to save your own life. Pick up the phone and call someone you love.
Angels are all around you.