On Pooping. And Snakes.

The following information may be considered… oversharing. Should I ever run for political office, I’m sure this will be used as part of a vicious smear campaign. That being said, I find it interesting that something we’ve managed to do for thousands of years has become so complicated. That something is pooping. Specifically, pooping in the woods. The modern outhouse and toilet paper (or “bathroom tissue” as it’s known so as not to offend anyone) is a relatively modern invention. In a short span of time, modern society has become horrified at the idea of dropping trou in the outdoors and letting ‘er rip. I know people that when confronted this situation will become instant poop camels and hold it in for the better part of a week to avoid exposing one’s buttocks to the breeze.

This is not me. My intestines run like the German train system. Orderly, on-time, and on a precise schedule. It’s all good unless that schedule is interrupted. If the trains get backed up, anarchy and chaos soon follow. The unhappy commuters rapidly begin to send more and more urgent messages that the trains need to get back on schedule ASAP. Trust me, we like to keep the trains running on time.

Which brings me to the woods. I’m not one of those folks opposed to pooping in the kiltwoods. It can be downright peaceful at times. There are of course the positional challenges. Leaning against a tree, lean back holding on to a tree, sitting over a log, or the traditional squat and hope your aim avoids the trousers bunched up around the ankles. There are times the Scottish kilt in the backcountry has its advantages. As fascinating as all this may be, it is not my point. My point is snakes.

If you know me, you’d know that I have an unnatural fear and adversarial relationship with snakes. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was a librarian, but unfortunately I like the outdoors. Snakes have a tendency to live in the outdoors. This is an issue. Which brings me to my latest encounter. I recently got back from a long river trip to a remote area that, coincidently, is infested with rattlesnakes. Even though snake fears kept me from getting out of the boat unless absolutely necessary, I was having a great time until midway through the trip. After unloading all the gear and getting camp ready, I sat down in my chair to enjoy an adult beverage when I heard something in the grass. A large snake slithered by, not six inches from my foot. My river mates commented that I have an impressive vertical leap for someone my age. A little girl scream may or may not have been uttered, but that detail will stay on the river.

Which brings me back to my original point. As I sat in my tent that night, refusing to come out for dinner, it dawned on me that if I wanted to keep the trains on schedule I was going to have to wander through the snake infested grass and rocks first thing in the morning. absFaced with two undesirable choices, keeping the trains on schedule or being chased by snakes, there was little sleep that night. I made the only choice a rational person would make – I went into camel mode. No coffee, no breakfast, little water. Thank god I’ve been diligent with the ab machine. The cramping became bearable after a while. Major fist-bump to the ladies if this is what the monthly visitor is like.

The fatal mistake came on the second evening of operation anhalten der Deutsche Bahn. Succumbing to hunger pangs, I ate one of those freeze-dried backpacker meals. While they may be tasty going down, they impart a certain… urgency to the train schedule. Early that next morning, with a pounding heart and clenched cheeks, I made my way into the woods to perform a ritual our ancestors have done for thousands of years. Who knew my heart rate could sustain 200 bpm for so long? Fortunately for me this story has a happy ending. Like a Christmas morning miracle there were no snakes and the trains were back on schedule. It’s rumored I may have had a skip to my step when exiting the woods.

My point? As usual, I’ve forgotten. Maybe it’s that snake chaps are a real thing. And that I own a pair. Now to figure out how to wear them with the outdoor kilt. Under or over?


[Upon opening the Well of the Souls and peering down]
Sallah: Indy, why does the floor move?
Indiana: Give me your torch.
[Indy takes the torch and drops it in]
Indiana: Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?
Sallah: Asps… very dangerous. You go first.


Neville Flynn: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
[the terrified passengers on the plane turn to Neville]
Neville Flynn: I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING PLANE!

It’s Getting Hot In Here

I’m down in Palm Springs visiting family. It’s not my first time here so I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but… it’s hot. Early May and it’s reaching the upper 90’s by afternoon. That’s degrees for my European friends. I don’t know what that it is in celsius. Somewhere around 275 I think. I never could figure out all those zeros and decimal places with the metric system. I remember the “metric unit” in grade school. There was some sort of national push in the 70’s to convert the US to metric. I think there was some sort of uprising by 4th graders at the time. Rioting in the lunch room and sit-in’s on the playground convinced the president to abandon metric. Thank god. A royal with cheese just isn’t the same thing.

Anyway, it’s hot. Not surprising since it’s the desert and life isn’t supposed to exist here. Take a gazillion gallons of water from Northern California via the Colorado river, build approximately 20,000 golf courses and viola! You have a thriving city. What’s funny about the population here (besides the wacky golf clothes) is how they treat the heat. One of two things happens. This time of year when it’s merely hot and not melting your eyeballs they all say, “oh but you should have been here last week. It was absolutely beautiful! It’s a little warm, but when that valley wind howls through and blows all the sand off the patio it’s really lovely out.” Everyone lives in a state of weather denial. Sure it’s hot now, but there’s approximately 6 days in January  and a few in February when it’s perfect.

The second state of mind happens in about a month when temps reach 115+ (2,300 in celsius). The residents seem to take it as a badge of honor. “You think this is hot? Last August it got so hot all the rubber hoses in my car melted while I was driving to the mall.” Comparing AC bills seems to be some sort of desert living status symbol. The house I’m in has not one, but three AC units. Not joking, I wear a sweater (cute v-neck!) in the house to ward off hypothermia. Walk outside and you get hit in the chest with heat that rivals an iron smelting factory. Remember to bring your jacket to the mall because the temp inside will be subarctic. It’s amazing more old folks aren’t dropping off left and right from pneumonia.

When viewed from the comfort of your living room, it truly is a gorgeous setting. The beautiful San Jacinto mountains, lush green golf courses, faux spanish/Mediterranean/San Diego architecture, acres of high-end shopping to rival Beverly Hills, all combine to make a special place. A place too hot for rattlesnakes. Given my unnatural fear of snakes, maybe I should give this area a second thought? Hmm, no. Bermuda shorts just aren’t flattering on my figure.

Yo, Pay Attention

So I’m out on a mountain bike ride yesterday. A good climb up and over a ridgeline that drops down into a valley. At about the halfway point it’s fairly isolated. Probably six miles from the parking lot. Singletrack and semi-wooded. Later in the day and the sun is dropping below the ridge and shadows are creeping in. Zipping along having a blast I spotted a hiker up ahead on the trail. Female, young-ish, alone. I slowed down, skidded my tires a bit, cleared my throat, tried to make some noise so I wouldn’t startle her. Clearly she didn’t hear me, so at about 20 yards I said “good afternoon – coming around on your left”.

This poor girl jumped about 5 feet and looked like someone just set a firecracker off at her feet. I’d clearly scared the hell out of her. She wasn’t wearing headphones or talking on the phone. Just meandering along in her own world, completely oblivious to everything around her. It amazes me how clueless people can be. I have no problem with doing stuff solo, but for gods sake have a little situational awareness! I’m certainly not advocating that folks need to practice military type tactics when hiking or jogging, but take a second and think about your situation. Look behind you from time to time, don’t wear headphones if you’re alone in an isolated area, look around the parking lot before you walk to your car, etc…

I love seeing people getting outside and enjoying nature. Everyone should take a risk once in a while and get of the paved walking path at the neighborhood park. Head out somewhere away from people. We’ve become a society too conditioned to everything being sanitized and safe. Just be aware of your current situation and what’s around you. Besides, when you’re paying attention you have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

I, of course, am a hyper-vigilant person. For a very good reason. Snakes. I’m petrified of ’em. I spend my biking and hiking time avoiding sticks and shadows, convinced it’s a snake. I pull my earbuds out for much of the time when I’m running for fear of not hearing the rattle of the giant fifteen foot diamondback waiting for me around the corner. The worse part of my fear is that I’m a frigg’n snake magnet for some reason. They’re usually just garter snakes, but I’m convinced those are just the advanced scouts for the bigger snakes.

Sigh… it’s exhausting being me sometimes.