So fast forward… we’re nearly up to current times. What a relief to have the stories documented so my spacey memory can try a little less to hold onto everything.
There were two Mr. Whites in my life during the summer of the Midnight Sun, far up north in the shadow of Denali. One, the most wretched soul I have ever had the displeasure of knowing and owner of the rafting company I worked for (I someday hope he fumes to read this entry, and even further I hope he threatens my few sentences with legal action because I find the idea of one pig fighting my Constitutional rights of freedom of speech to be a comical waste of his time at best). John White created an empire on a gorgeous river, and while I am a mortal and devout soul and hold no right in judgement, he did not deserve the wonderous thing he somehow birthed and upheld. At the expense of our very bones, his employees, if a dollar was at stake he would have sold our souls to the Devil himself for a petty green bill, and for that I despise him. Never have I felt so unappreciated as an employee as I did working for that money hungry pig known as John White. For every sexist remark and dog-eat-dog law he enforced, for every threat he hollared (and oh the smirk that grew when I looked at a coworker to say, “witness?” when he held above our heads that he “owned an excavator and knew where to hide a body”), for every senseless and childish tantrum endured, for every hypocritical remark… for all that and more I would be the first to crack open a fine bottle of Scotch at his funeral and applaud the demise of his pathetic existential filth.
But he was only one Mr. White, and early in the season I knew my misery in his company was only temporary, another test of my endurance. And then there was Mr. Blanco (I’d hope your broken Spanish is enough to know that blanco translates to white), a spry half Puerto Rican with a beard to make a Jihad jealous and bereft of a single ounce of fat.
Nick was a quiet soul, and upon meeting him I had two distinctly variable impressions: either he was the manliest man I’d ever encountered, the kind to sling a mountain goat across his shoulders and carry it home to distant mountains where he would prepare a meal for himself beside a fire to be complimented by a fine glass of red wine and enjoy the solitude, or he was dastardly hipster, like a joke straight from Portlandia where the dream of the 90s still thrives. To my surprise, he was both and neither. In other words: a conundrum. He was not the manliest man I had stereotyped. For one, he was a little shorter than I first realized, and two, he’d never kill a mountain goat. Not that he was incapable, he had carried me more than once as if I was a slain cloven mammal, but because he was a vegetarian. Yes, I know. “Manly” and “vegetarian” are contradictions, but trust me on this: his choice in diet was no misrepresentation of his manliness. He was a different kind of mountain man that could compete high into the stereotypes we impose… with a love of hummus. Then there was the hipster aspect. Nick was uncool before being uncool was cool, but he never bragged about the mainstream death of his uncool nature, it just happened and so did he. Nick would wear bright purple leggings, fleece shorts with rainbow giraffes, a long-sleeved Patagonia base layer, and he’d complete the look with old leather sandals. It was so bad that it was almost good, and he’d wear this ensemble day in and day out away from the confines of guide camp into the outside world where people would cock their heads in confusion. It was so bad, that his own sister stopped and stared to ask, “why do girls hang out with you?” So that was Nick. The leanest and most rugged bantam in the coop, with clashing feathers and an indifferent walk all his own.
There are two extremes in every scale, and, generally, neither extreme is good. I talked too much, Nick talked too little. But if ever one could be praised for lacking a necessary element, Nick deserved a medal for a quiet tongue. Locked inside the misery of John White’s domain, there were few of us, hiding like refugees behind the clamour of fouler souls, to support and grow, and when such growth was attempted it was often interrupted or starved by mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. So we had each other, sometimes mutually starving and other times supporting for a brief moment in time while the other threw off the weight (talk about living off of nothing… I’d be a blessed girl to spend time with Nick in a positive environment!). Anyways, when time would come for him to support, which was often the way it played out, he would listen intently as I blabbered my woes. And though he said very little, it was never misconstrued as a lack of focus. Often, his silence or few words were responses in themselves, as if to say, “I am not belittling your suffering in the slightest, but you will survive this because I know you can.” He had the mind of person long relishing peace, and his verse exemplified the beauty of that peace and of content simplicity. For that I am grateful – and jealous – to have experienced it first hand as he navigated with such ease each hardship he was presented.
In my travels, I tend to prefer male companionship, simply because girls are dramatic to a level I deem childish… one minute you’re besties and the next minute you stole her man or lead a more exciting life and she will CUT YOU, BITCH… what? And when I catch myself yearning for a female heart to heart I quickly remember that the female Tyranosaurus Rex earned the species its reputation and that mother scorpions eat their young if they can’t find other food… we’re a brutal gender. So I spend my time with my male counterparts, though they have their own dramas… dear God there have been times I’d have preferred the T. Rex. These interactions I lump together into the mental category, “quesadillas with boys,” because each, strangely, makes their own iconic quesadilla that in its own way reflects their nature. Nick made a mean, crispy bean and cheese quesadilla… nothing extragant, but it was comfort food at the end of the day. Simple. Though I’d like to make the sappy argument that perhaps I did not share these quesadillas with a boy… but with a wonderfully unique man of the mountains.
God bless your travels, Nick, you shithead.