Sweat cracked across my forehead, pooled in my eyes, and stung my cracked lips. The skin peeking from beneath my collar turned from irritated to burned. When my hands touched the granite, I smelled charred flesh."Do you know where we are?" I shouted up to Tony.
"I think," Tony said, peering from beneath the shade of his hat brim. "If we keep going this way, the waterfalls are behind that ridge."
"That's what you said an hour ago," I reminded him.
We decided to forge ahead instead of turning back.
"Eight American Hikers Found Dead in Mexico," I imagined the headline.
Eight of us were camping in Cañon de Guadalupe to celebrate our friend Renee's birthday. We heard of a waterfall and natural pool high atop Guadalupe Peak and set out to find it.
That was this morning.
"Bones of American Hikers Bleached to Crisp White in Mexican Sun," the headline would read. "Rattlesnakes Slither through Eye Sockets of American Hikers' Skulls."
I told myself that if we didn't find the waterfalls after the next ridge, I would have to turn back. I didn't bring enough water. My foot crunched in the sandy crevice of a boulder. My sunscreen had worn off. I reached up to find a handhold in the rock. I pushed with my leg and pulled with my arm, up and over, onto a flat rock, and I looked out upon the sparkling blue-green pool and rushing white waterfall.
"AhahawooooooOOOoo!" I yelled. I pulled my left shoe off and hopped toward the water. The right shoe came off and I was closer. My shirt fell across my sandy footprints seconds before I breached the cool surface of the water with a splash.
After swimming, splashing, diving, and jumping in the water, the eight of us lay in the shade. When you've just accomplished a task and tasted a reward so sweet you will remember it for the rest of your life, the conversation turns from the mundane to the heavy. "So, what do you do?" discussions are replaced with big topics.
"Let me get this straight," I said. "I'm the Skipper and Tony's Gilligan."
"That's right," the group assured me.
"Ed and Brianna are the Professor and Ginger; who wants to play the millionaires? Who wants to be Mary Ann?"
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, June 30
Fugliest Rock Stars
MTV 7:00 a.m.
I am in a theoretical band. A theoretical band is a band that exists, has a name, members, the whole nine yards, but has never played a note. In fact, no one in our band knows how to play an instrument. We have theoretical costumes and an album that exists in our imagination. We're a hard-rock band that dresses in the period of the late 1800s. Theoretically, we have large mustaches and cravats. Our band name is the Foppish Dandies. Our first single is called "Whorish Strumpets," an ode to our theoretical groupies.
FOOD, 3:00 p.m.
While camping last weekend we realized that the price of beef jerky is close to $50 per pound. "We should make our own jerky out of good steak," Renee said.
"You don't want to use good steak for jerky," I said. "You want to use the cheapest meat you can. Which means we should probably jerk Spam."
"Can you jerk Spam?"
"You can jerk a lot of meats" is the last serious thing I said before my sixth-grade sense of humor took the conversation right into the gutter.
Friday, July 1
Best Week Ever
VH1, 11:00 p.m.
In my youth I chased obscure music. If a kid played the sitar with a pair of scissors, I was his only fan. If a British woman made electronic music from the sound of copy machines, I had her album special-delivered from the U.K. Until I realized I was listening to crap. My only criterion for selecting music now is that it has no special significance to the world of music. The song must hit me hard in the hypothalamus and leave no room for intellectual discussion.
Saturday, July 2
The Man in the Mirror
Discovery Health Channel, 9:00 a.m.
I locked myself out of my apartment. My plan was to reach through the mail slot and unlock the front door, but my sausagelike arms
wouldn't fit. I was looking around the neighborhood for someone with skinny arms when I came across a kid in the Laundromat. He was standing in front of the consoles and pretending to play video games because he didn't have any money to activate the games. "Hey, kid. You want some quarters?" is the single creepiest phrase I've ever spoken. After the words fell out of my mouth, I clutched at the air in front of my face in a futile attempt to unsay them.
Sunday, July 3
Independent Television Service, 7:25 a.m.
Crystal and I chose a word that was repeated often, and we made it our "word of the day." The words were silly, smart, funny, or common. At the end of the weekend we jumbled the words to make the phrase: "Tepid Mud Butt and the Bananas." My theoretical band, the Foppish Dandies, is trying to work this phrase into our next single.
The WWE Experience
SPIKE-TV, 11:00 a.m.
I don't consider myself a short man, but rather an enormous, towering dwarf. I am Andre the Giant of midgets.
Monday, July 4
It's the Fourth of July, you commies. The holiest of the High Holy Hillbilly Holidays. Put that tofu down. Wine? Bah! Crank up the classic rock, drink watery beer, and eat barbecued steak, like God intended. TV? To hell with watching TV. Get so drunk you talk with a pirate accent and pass out in a patio chair. It's what George Washington would've wanted, damnit.
Tuesday, July 5
Tri Vita Health
FAMILY CHANNEL, 5:30 a.m.
Now, get a little coffee to, you know, feel human again. If you've got any B vitamins, take a fistful of them. Advil and Gatorade are your best friends today.
Wednesday, July 6
KGTV, 10:00 p.m.
After leaving our campsite, we set out to cross the dry lake bed and catch Highway 2 into Mexicali. Five hours later, the men of the group were huddled around a map drawn in the sand, and we were saying things like, "We've driven the wrong direction for three hours," and "I have half a tank of gas and two gallons of water," and "How can we signal someone to find us?" The women in the group were hugging each other, and some were crying. Twelve hours after that, I am sitting on my couch sipping coffee through chapped lips and typing with cracked, burned fingers. Even when things look bleak, they tend to work out for the best.
Thursday, July 7
Dirty Dancing (1987)
FAMILY CHANNEL, 8:00 p.m.
My friends and I share a phrase for when we say something stupid. The line is from Dirty Dancing , when Baby meets Patrick Swayze -- her dream man -- for the first time, and the only thing she can say is "I carried a watermelon." When one of us utters a particularly obtuse sentence he can say, "Oh, man. That sounded dumb. I really carried a watermelon," or the rest of us will chime in with,"Nice. You're really carrying a watermelon there."