Friday, September 4, 2009

Colonel Flagg

When I was a kid, M.A.S.H. was the biggest thing on television. My dad watched it faithfully. One of the characters, Colonel Sam Flagg, was a strange and mentally imbalanced intelligence officer who would frequently appear out of nowhere and then disappear in an equally mysterious manner. He was like the wind - no one saw him come, no one saw him go.

I have a friend who has been traveling the globe rather extensively in the last few years and he showed up unexpected in my office the other day. I was unjamming the printer, back to the door, and I turned around and there he was. Just like Colonel Flagg. Scared the hell out of me. After my heart rate dropped, the kid in me kicked in. I bailed on work and we clipped bolts and pulled cobbles in our old stomping grounds – Maple Canyon.

We've both put on 10 years and twice as many pounds since the last time we were really "active" climbers. It makes me a little sad to think of how it used to be. Man, we were on fire. Now we are "old guys" surrounded by a generation of scrawny, super-fit teen uber-climbers with attention deficit. They belay with one hand, text with the other, and send 5.13 like it's casual jogging. My friend, who was always stronger, bolder and more cut that me (and still is) is now past 30 with a wife, kids and a career. And it shows. I guess we really are twice the men we used to be. The consolation is that we were pulling hard when the current gen was still in pampers and they are earning bragging rights on routes we bolted and established 15 years ago. It's STILL cool to be first, isn't it?

The important thing is, that as short lived as the afternoon was I had a ball. And if climbing days and coolness come as Coloner Flagg then I'll embrace this new oldness and ride the wind. And turn off the cell phone.

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