Into Thin Air

I just finished Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer last night. It was the first book I have finished since I took on the 1,000 Book List task and it was a phenomenal book to start with.

I was recommended the book by a dear friend of mine who had also pointed me in the direction of Into the Wild, my opinion of which she said would be a good indicator of how I would enjoy Into Thin Air. Since I really enjoyed the fire-side story style Krakauer used in Wild, with all of his side stories and round about explanations, and the outdoors/adventure theme I decided that I would tackle Air as well.

Similar to Wild, the outcome of Air is already known to the reader at the beginning of the book. In fact, Into Thin Air begins with Krakauer telling the reader about the outcome of the 1996 Everest expedition just in case you weren’t already familiar with it. While I think the beginning of the story would be much more gripping if you didn’t already know the end, that is not why Krakauer decided to write the book at all. Krakauer speaks plainly to the fact that he told the story and wrote the book not for the entertainment of the readers but because he felt like he had to. There is a big difference between telling a story to entertain and telling a story because you feel compelled to. Krakauer absolutely felt compelled to, so much so that he braved the fire of his fellow climbers and their families who were uncomfortable with the story being published.

Krakauer’s dedication to telling the story as accurately and bias-free as possible is pretty remarkable. It would have been quite easy for him to half-ass the research or give up on those who were initially hesitant to be interviewed. Additionally, Krakauer makes it clear throughout the book that while he took great lengths to provide the most accurate details of the expedition the story inevitably has his own opinions laced into it. The official title of the book, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, makes this clear before you even put the first wrinkle in the binding. This being said, I thought that Krakauer did a very good job of being upfront about what was opinion and what was fact. For the most part, this was seen in the way some of the characters were portrayed throughout the book. Krakauer made it clear who he had connected with and befriended on the mountain as well as those people who he had very little interaction with. I did not think he let his personal relationships with any of the characters affected his telling of the story. If anything Krakauer downplayed his relationships with people and for the most part described his relationship with the person merely another adjective that went along with what their career was or the family life they had. While I understand and Krakauer admits to it that the story is far from completely subjective, at no point did I think, “He is going easy/being tough on *insert character here* because he does/doesn’t like them.”

The actual story in and of itself is extremely depressing. Since Krakauer gives up the end before the book even starts, I am not worried about spoilers here. Into Thin Air is the story of Rob Hall’s 1996 expedition to summit Everest. Eight clients (including Krakauer) were on the trip as well as several guides and Sherpas. The expedition shared the mountain with several other ventures, most notably a Mountain Madness expedition lead by Scott Fischer, an IMAX expedition whose ventures (although mostly unrelated to Krakauer’s team except in the most dire of situations) were recorded and put to film in Everest, a South African team, a Taiwanese team, and several others.

The beginning of the Air is mostly about how Krakauer came to be on the expedition in the first place as well as his relationship with climbing as a hobby, then as a lifestyle, then as a force that he simply could not completely rid his life of. He also takes time to tell the reader how his personal thoughts on summiting Everest morphed through the years. The upshot of all of this is a slow read that takes a long time to explain that Krakauer was a journalist who was hired by Outside magazine to write an article about the commercialization of Everest. That is to say, Krakauer was going to go on a commercial (defined as a for-profit venture) expedition to Everest so he could write an article about the pros and cons of this development, which is a heated debate in the climbing world. At first Krakauer said that he was not going to summit but as the time got closer and his enthusiasm took hold he admits that it was always his intention to summit.

The middle part of the book is also a relatively slow read about the team’s time at Everest Base Camp and their acclimation climbs. Being completely ignorant of anything related to climbing past what I learned from my afternoon classes at Rock Quest when I was in elementary school, reading about this entire process was very interesting to me. I had no idea that it would take that long, that climbers would ascend and descend several times as opposed to just a constant, gradual ascent, or that there was actually a massive sanitation/trash problem due to the said commercialization of Everest. Really fascinating stuff but it did go slow. Even though I am used to character-overloaded books such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, I found myself going back to the expedition reference pages to keep everyone straight. I think a big reason for this is that Krakauer was not trying to develop these people as characters. Into Thin Air is not a novel and Krakauer merely reports the known actions and behaviors of the people he was on the mountain with. His opinion is laced throughout, of course, but other then that the characters are not developed to a point where the reader can become attached to them.

The last part of the book is where things speed up and shit hits the proverbial fan. At this point we have been along for Krakauer’s team’s acclimation climbs, gone through camp drama, and dealt with various physical and mental health issues. Finally, we are going to summit Everest! It is May 10, 1996. Krakauer writes a lot of foreshadowing into the beginning of the climb and talks about how there had been signs all along that something would go wrong. As the team moves higher and higher up the mountain, things get steadily worse and uncomfortable for them. But Everest is almost more of a mental conquest then it is a physical one so they push on. The summit day accounts for at least a quarter of the book and that is because this is when everything goes wrong. You know how you joke when it seems like, “Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong?” Well, everything that could have gone wrong really did go wrong on this day and it just so happened that they were over five miles above sea level.

While each of the events that lead to the disaster by themselves seem inconsequential, together they proved to be an incredibly unfortunate mix. Guides not wearing oxygen, oxygen being used too quickly or not effectively, time tables being pushed back, climber’s physical condition being underestimated, weather signs being ignored, a general “only out for myself” attitude between teams and teammates. All of these are just a few of the things that Krakauer talks about being factors that lead to 8 people (5 of whom were associated with Krakauer and his team) dying on the mountain that day after the climbers got stuck in a blizzard. I found myself surprisingly attached to the outcome at this point, despite the lack of character development and knowing how things would end. I also had to put the book down for a few minutes when it got to the part about the other teams doing everything they could to assist in the emergency.

While I was vaguely aware of the events surrounding the 1996 Everest season, Into Thin Air was by far the most details I had ever received on it. Consequently, I was also aware of the major controversy over Krakauer’s account of what happened and portrayal of certain individuals who were involved. I found this out in the lengthy post script that has been added by Krakauer addressing these arguments and, for what it is worth, I find that Krakauer did a very good job of consistently qualifying his account through acknowledgment that this was his own recollection and research, that oxygen deprivation and exhaustion makes it hard for anyone to think clearly at those heights, and by never claiming that without a doubt he knows exactly what happened that day and why. So while it was interesting to get a little insight to why people do not agree with Krakauer, I personally never thought he ever attacked anyone or made claims that he did not subsequently back up.

NOTE TO READERS: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CLIMBING OR EVEREST OR WHAT HAPPENED ON MAY 10, 1996. Anything that I have said in this post is my interpretation of another individual’s interpretation of what happened on the mountain that day. Please, for the love of whatever God you believe in, do NOT call my mother terrible things or try to argue with me about what happened on Everest that day. Because not only will Becky find you and call you by your full name (trust me it is terrifying) but I will ignore you and you will look like an idiot because (unless this blog gets REALLY popular in the next day or so) I know for a fact that you weren’t on Everest that day either and therefore have no grounds to argue with me anyways.

Why don’t Eskimos run marathons?

For those of you who have been tormented by the question that serves as the title of this post, I have some answers for you.

1. Dehydration sneaks up on you literally with EVERY BREATH and suddenly pretending you are a dragon running through the Germantown streets is not nearly as much fun. Until just recently, I have always associated dehydration with extreme heat and the morning after a night at the bars but now ‘running in the cold’ has jumped to the top of my list.

2. Ice is slippery. To my readers in warmer climates, that thing you use to cool down your Coke is a major pain in the ass (pun intended) when it covers the streets and sidewalks in sheets of translucent death.

3. Cleaning up the roads actually makes running harder! Take the difficulty of running through a few inches of snow and now add mounds at every intersection, unlevel piles where ever people decided the part of the sidewalk they are responsible for ends, and an even higher likelihood you will encounter the translucent death mentioned above. Dreadful.

Okay, I have gotten my complaining out of the way for the day. In reality I have very little to complain about. If the worst thing in my life at the moment is that some snow has made it inconvenient for me to train for a marathon I am willingly participating in then life has got to be pretty damn good, huh? However, I am dismayed that with every day that the Arctic Vortex hangs around I fall further behind in my training. So resulting to short runs through the better-maintained neighborhoods and a minuscule side of treadmill work will have to do in the meantime.

All my love.

2 years down, 3 years left

Ready to have your mind blown?

Two years ago today, I was on my flight to Australia.

It is so unfathomable to me that it has already been two years. I was 20, not entirely a bonafide adrenaline junkie, and was so far from the wanderlust-stricken state I find myself in today. I was also terrified.

Once of my most intense memories from the entire trip… shit from my entire life… is stepping out of the airport in Melbourne (which I then pronounced Mel-born). I think I walked in and out of that welcome terminal four or five times in a span of 20 minutes. Each time I would venture further than I did last time. Because, for whatever reason, leaving the airport made it real. When you’re in an airport you can be anywhere and (for the most part) everything is consistent. The language on the numerous coffee stands might change but they are still there every 10 feet, ya know? It is enough to give you that false sense of security that you in actuality aren’t completely alone on the other side of the world. But when you leave the airport that all goes away right quick. Of course now I yearn for that feeling, but two years ago it was the first time that I had ever really felt it.

But for every fiber of my being that was terrified, two were excited beyond measure.

Sitting here on my lunch writing this and looking back on everything that happened in those six months I can’t help but smile. Those were the best six months of my life. I met so many incredible people and every other week I was doing something that most people would describe as “once in a lifetime” things. There is some sadness there… for friendships that didn’t survive the time or distance, Kimchi Lunchbox not being in my belly, and being slightly underwhelmed at where I am right now… but so much genuine happiness from remembering that time. Sorta like a ‘only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low’ kinda thing.

Australia pulls me up more then it gets me down though. My life was so incredible there and it motivates me to get back to that point.

However, I know now that it matters little where you are in this world if you are not with the right people. So I want to thank everyone who made Australia such an incredible experience. For some reason, almost all Tuesday nights are foggy but I think that is just a coincidence. Backpacking New Zealand, driving the Great Ocean Road, and diving the Barrier Reef would not have been the same without all of you.

I gave promised myself that I would be back within 5 years. Two of those have passed, so if anyone needs a travel buddy to the Land Down Unda in the next three years I am your guy!

Cheers!

2014 Louisville To-Do List

In the spirit of finding out the best things to do in Louisville and this whole bucket list kick, I have compiled a Louisville To-Do list for 2014. I don’t know how much longer I have in Derby City so want to make the absolute most of it while I can. Because even after almost 5 years of living here there is A LOT that I have yet to do.

There are few places that are as eclectic, weird, and random as Louisville. Where else can you find a world-class park system (which includes multiple Fredrick Olmsted parks as well as the largest municipal urban forest in the United States) right next to a world-renowned sport venue that is right down the road from where 95% of the world’s bourbon is made? That’s right, NOWHERE. So while it may not be galavanting across the globe with nothing but a backpack, my time in Louisville is very important to me and this list has given me a great ideas to make the most of it!

I have included all sorts of museums, events, concerts, restaurants, and landmarks across Louisville. Some of them I have done before, some of them I have not. Either way, my goal is to get through as much of this list as possible so I can say that I have truly experienced The Ville. I will post applications for Louisville exploration buddies here shortly. Just kidding, you are all more then welcome to join me!

2014 Louisville To-Do List

  1. Game or Concert at the KFC Yum! Center (John Mayer!)
  2. Louisville football game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
  3. Take someone to 4th Street Live! for the first time
    1. Claimed by Christy Adams over the summer… but don’t worry I am sure she will share
  4. Waterfront Wednesday
  5. Bats game at Louisville Slugger field
  6. The Thirsty Pedaler
  7. Forecastle Festival
  8. Light Up Louisville
  9. Muhammad Ali Center (January 19; sub/chaperone for Hebrew High School field trip)
  10. Louisville Slugger Museum
  11. Frazier History Museum
  12. Ohio River Walking Bridge
  13. UofL Planetarium
  14. Abbey Road on the River
  15. Dinner and Tour on the Belle of Louisville
  16. Explore the Falls of the Ohio
    1. George Rogers Clark Home
  17. Hot Brown @ the Brown Hotel
  18. Explore Old Louisville
  19. St. James Art Show
  20. Louisville Science Museum
  21. Eat a fried Oreo and see a concert at the Kentucky State Fair
  22. See a play at Actors Theatre Louisville
  23. Ride the Louisville Loop
  24. Bourbon Trail
    1. Evan William’s Experience, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, Town Branch
  25. Louisville Zoo
  26. Brew at the Zoo
  27. Mega Cavern Zipline
  28. Go see stand up at Comedy Caravan
  29. Fat Friday Trolley Hop
  30. Valhalla Golf and Country Club
  31. People watch on Bardstown
  32. Cherokee Park
    1. Hogan’s Fountain
  33. Iroquois Park
  34. Visit Colonel Sanders’ Grave
  35. Siltstone Trail in Jefferson Memorial Forest
  36. Complete the Louisville Triple Crown of Running
  37. Kentucky Derby Museum
  38. Go to a race at Churchill Downs
  39. Oaks
  40. Finally attend the Kentucky Derby
  41. Downs after Dark
  42. Kentucky Derby Festival
  43. Thunder over Louisville
  44. Get a funnel cake and frozen lemonade at the Chow Wagon
  45.  Restaurants
    1. Feast BBQ
    2. Louisville Originals
    3. Captains Quarters
    4. El Camino
    5. The Holy Grale (January 29, 2014)
    6. Gralehaus
  46. Urban Bourbon Trail
    1. Ramsi’s
    2. Equus and Jack’s Lounge (January 2014)
  47. World Fest
  48. Zombie Walk
  49. Bambi Walk

1,000 Book List

As a goal on my Life List, I have taken upon my person the challenge of reading 1,000 books. Here I will keep track of my progress on this daunting task.

I will do my best to include reviews on the books as I complete them but I might be too busy reading my next book to do that. You understand.

Also, I am only including books that have finished reading recently. That is to say, the plethora of books that I have read in the past two decades will for the most part not be included in this list. Unless I re-read them of course, which is completely possible. I solemnly swear that I will not mass read Dr. Suess or Give a Moose a _______ books to pad my reading stats, either. *crosses fingers and laughs maniacally*

1,000 Book List

  1. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (January 2014)
  2. The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkein (January 2014)
  3. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (December 2013)
  4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (December 2013)
  5. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (Summer 2013)
  6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Fall 2013)
  7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Fall 2013)
  8. Modoc by Ralph Helfer (Fall 2013)
  9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Fall 2013)

The Life List

“I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” – Augustus Waters

We’ve all been there, that moment when you are trying to keep your eyes on a single blade of your ceiling fan as it twirls around thinking, “What the fuck am I going to do with my life?” And while I still do not have the answer to that question, I did come up with this list out of that deep contemplative trance.

Now I know that the idea of a ‘bucket list’ is far from original, but this is something more. This is like a bucket list on steroids that just drank a double dose of pre-workout and then stubbed his big toe which incensed him into an uncontrollable rage. This list is that awesome. This list will not only give me material for my daydreams when I am bored at work but will also help to make sure that the roller coaster of my life stays on this glorious upward trend.

This list is not a bucket list in the sense of ‘Here is a static list of the Top 10 things I want to do before I kick the bucket written on a piece of paper that I will spit a piece of gum into in roughly 4 months’ but rather is a Life List; a list that will live, grow, and change with me from this day until I too kick the figurative bucket.

This is my list for life. I’d put a ring on it if I could. I will constantly be crossing things off, adding new things, and pushing myself beyond the limits that I have already achieved. And you can follow it all right here, on this beautiful blog; partly because I have found that keeping records and memories of events is extremely motivating, partly because this blog and all its readers will hold me accountable for not letting this list go to the wayside, and partly because I know how lost you all would be if I didn’t update you on my incredible life. So without further ado…

The Life List

Life in General; Adventures to have and things to do

  • Answer the question, “What the fuck am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
  • Raise a puppy
  • Track my lineage as far back as possible
    • Go see where my family came from
  • Be a best man
  • Own a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda
  • Own a boat
  • Concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater
  • Staff/Lead each CISV camp
    • Summer village, Summer camp, Interchange (Cincinnati/Sao Paulo 2010-2011), Seminar camp
  • Staff a Taglit Birthright trip
  • Write a book
  • Solve Rubik’s cube
  • Read 1,000 books
  • Stay in an underwater hotel
  • Own a World Record
  • Be in a movie (I will settle for an extra!)
  • Stomp grapes
  • Sleep under the stars
  • Take the MENSA test
  • Fall in love
  • Leave a $100 tip
  • Get my kids ‘drunk’ on O’douls (video promised)
  • Have a viral hit wedding proposal
  • Talk with Mom and Dad about what they wish they had talked to their Mom and Dad about
  • Ask an elderly couple their love story
  • Sing karaoke
  • Be in a food fight
  • Carve my name into a tree
  • Couch surf
  • Live on a boat for 2+ months
  • Don’t shave for a year
    • After a year of not shaving, shave
  • Hold breath for 60 seconds
  • Rent 20+ person cabin/house with closest friends
  • Go all out decorating for every holiday for a year
  • Build my dream home

Fitness

  • Run a 5k (2013), 10k (2013), 10 mile (2013), half-marathon (2013), marathon
  • Complete a sprint, Olympic, half-Ironman, Ironman, and KONA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP triathalon
  • 10 freestanding handstand pushups
  • Earn six-pack abs and have shameless mirror selfie photo shoot
  • 100 consecutive push ups
  • Bench press 225lbs for 10 reps
  • 10 pullups
  • Century ride
  • Do yoga in public
  • Run a sub-6 minute mile again

Events to Attend

  • Olympics
    • Summer and Winter
  • Full Moon Festival in Thailand
  • Yi Peng Floating Lantern festival in Thailand
  • Times Square on New Year’s Eve
  • Stanley Cup
  • Drink beer @ Oktoberfest
  • World Cup
  • Super Bowl
  • Music Festivals
    • Sasquatch, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonaroo, Burning Man
  • Carnival in Rio
  • Sanfermines Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain
  • Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  • See the cherry blossoms in Japan
  • Celebrate the Chinese New Year in China
  • Drink green beer on St. Patrick’s day in Dublin, Ireland
  • La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain
  • Holi in India

Travel

  • All seven continents
    • North America (1991), South America (2011), Asia (2013), Europe (2002), Australia (2012), Africa, Antarctica
  • Throw a dart at a map, go where ever it lands
  • Walk into an airport and take the next flight that leaves
  • Swim in every ocean
    • Atlantic (uhh?), Pacific, Indian, Arctic, Southern Ocean
  • Do a Getaway Backpack
  • Travel for an entire year
  • Earn dual citizenship
  • Go to every Hard Rock Café
  • Trans-Atlantic cruise
  • Australia and New Zealand
    • Drive all of Highway 1 around Australia
    • See a show in the Sydney Opera House
    • Play a didgeridoo
    • Scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef (April 2012)
  • North America
    • Hike the entire Appalachian Trail
    • All 50 states
    • Northern Lights
    • Drive cross-country
  • South America
    • Easter Islands
    • Drive to Patagonia (inspired by 180o South)
    • Aztec and Mayan ruins
    • Camp in the Amazon jungle
  • Asia
    • Angkor Wat in Cambodia
    • Ride an elephant in India
    • Ride a camel in Israel
    • Taj Mahal in India
    • Petra in Jordan
    • Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
    • Walk on the Great Wall
    • Old City of Jerusalem (May 2013)
  • Europe
    • Ski the Alps
    • Walk up the Eiffel Tower
    • Acropolis in Greece
    • Drive the Autobahn
  • Africa
    • See the Pyramids in Egypt
    • Go on a Safari
    • See a wild Gorilla

Adrenaline Rushes

  • Scuba Dive (PADI ProDive Cairns in Cairns, Aus 2012)
  • Swim with
    • Whale sharks
    • Manta rays
    • Great White Sharks (cage or not!)
  • Climb one of the World’s 7 Summits
  • Climb a 5.10
  • Kite surf
  • Bungee jump (Nevis Bungee in Queenstown, NZ 2012)
  • Hang glide
  • Be in a mosh pit
  • Cliff dive (min. 40 feet)
  • White water raft on Grade 5
  • Go to space!
  • Base-jump
  • Win a street race
  • Dog sled
  • Hop a train
  • Deep sea fish

Minimalist

  • Go a month without internet
  • Go a month without a phone
  • Go to a nudist beach
    • Do 50 jumping jacks

Things to Learn

  • Master diver certification
  • Conversational in three languagee
    • English (since day 1)
    • Hebrew (in progress)
    • Portuguese
    • Spanish
  • Krav Maga
  • Surf
  • Ride a bike (I know, I know…)
  • To play a musical instrument
  • Go to culinary school
  • Go to bartending school
  • Learn to sail
  • Learn to fly a plane
  • Learn to dance
    • Salsa, breaking, waltz, tango

Help the World

  • Host 10 couch surfers
  • Be an emergency responder/volunteer for a natural disaster
  • Volunteer firefighter
  • Build a Habitat for Humanity house
  • Teach abroad

People to have Staring Contests with

  • Shake hands with a President of the United States
  • Meet Anderson Cooper