CO to MI to KY and beyond

A couple months ago, Emily (Harrington) and I were invited to attend a very exclusive and secretive live art performance in Detroit by the American artist Matthew Barney. Though we certainly respect and appreciate art, and find many parallels between art and sport/climbing, we are not art fanatics, nor are we very knowledgeable about the art world. I’d like to think that he invited us as friends and colleagues, based on the work that we did with him in Basel, Switzerland in June. Whatever the case, getting to know him and his crew has been enlightening and is a distinguished blessing. They exist in a realm of pure and raw passion and creativity, and they work tirelessly as well. I value all of these things, and so when this opportunity arose, Emily and I decided that we HAD to go. Thus, we booked our tickets for Sept 30 – Oct 5. The only information we were provided is that there would be a dinner reception on the evening of the Oct 1st, and the performance would be all day long on the 2nd. Since my family lives in Detroit, and some dear friends, we allotted a couple days before and after the deal to chill with everyone. A few weeks after booking these initial tickets, Emily and I were asked to attend the Rocktoberfest on behalf of The North Face, Oct 8 – 10 in the Red River Gorge, KY. We eagerly agreed and changed our tickets accordingly (Sept 28 – Oct 13) to allow the time in Michigan, and also extra time in Kentucky to climb, with the plan being to borrow a car from my folks and drive the 6 hours from Detroit to the Red. Thus, on the whole, making for a wildly varied little trip…and so it was.

In the days before the Barney performance, Em and I chilled with my family and close friends. We climbed a day in my home gym, Planet Rock in Pontiac…where it all began for me. I have the deepest respect and admiration for this place, and it’s people, past and present. As well, the Detroit Rock Climbing Company (DRCC) is held with my utmost regard.

We went to the Barney performance opening dinner on the night of Oct 1st at the Guardian building in downtown Detroit, which was a totally badass venue. The following morning we were to be at the Detroit Institute of Arts by 11 am. From this place and time, what we did was complicated to depths of which I am uncertain. Rather than trying to communicate everything I saw, or trying to describe any of the numerous back-stories, or try to incorporate “meaning”, via how I or anyone else may have interpreted the events; Let me just say that we were among only about 200 hand selected esteemed people from the global art community for what some said was one of the most elaborate and important live art performances in history. See HERE for the details. Needless to say it was fucking badass, and Matthew is an absolute genius. He asked me after the performance was over, “We did Detroit proud, right?” I say, “God damn right dude, and so much more.”

The very next morning, Sun the 3rd, we packed the car, and departed to Kentucky. We arrived at the Lexington, KY airport in perfect timing to retrieve our good friend Andrew (Bisharat). After some grocery shopping and a stop at the lick-lick, lick-lick, Liquor Barn, we proceeded to Miguel’s in the town of Slade for dinner. It is the climbers’ haven, serving as a pizza restaurant, a climbing retail shop, and a campground all in one. This place is very special to me. I lived and worked here for the season in 2005, and it is where I had my first experiences of the climbing ‘lifestyle’. Eating, sleeping, breathing, working, resting…all for climbing. There is really nothing else to do down there. I was a lost college graduate not making use of my degrees, not willing to go back to school, had tried and rejected the 5 day/40+ hour a week job, and was merely wanting to unravel the ball of yarn that I felt my life had become. Sure, I climbed and I moved there to climb, but I wasn’t a climber. I was just someone that needed a place to simplify and slow down. The seasoned veterans and long time residents of the area showed me real and pure and proper devotion. They inspired me to live a deliberate and committed life, and helped me to make sense of my path. I try to carry these lessons with me now. But, I often loose sight of them; so returning to this place always helps me to remember.

Miguel's Pizza and Climb Shop

All in all we had awesome weather, and climbed 6 days. I saw so many of my friends/mentors from near and far. One of my best friends, Beck (Kloss), came in from Minneapolis, MN to stay and climb with us. He lived and worked down here in 2004, and again in 2005 when I first came around. Em and I had a few formal obligations. We did 2 different slide shows and poster signings; one at Phillip Gall’s, a retailer in Lexington on Thursday, and one at the Rocktoberfest main event venue on Saturday night. On Sunday, we taught a clinic about climbing technique and footwork.

It was all damn good fun, but as with all things both good and fun, they never seem to last quite long enough. On Tues Oct 12, we packed up and went to Lexington for lunch and to drop Beck and Andrew at the airport. Em and I then drove back to Michigan, and flew back to Colorado the next day, which was yesterday. It is now Thursday, Oct 14, and we have only today to spend here, unpacking and repacking, because tomorrow we leave for China. Hot damn, here we go again.

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