Thursday, December 18, 2014

Part Sixteen of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," Chapter Condoms, Part Condoms: Condoms.

A review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Chery Strayed
Part Sixteen: Chapter Condoms, Part Condoms: Condoms.
Cheryl just received another stupid book to carry from the resupply package she had sent to herself and she's all excited to point out how brilliant she's become after having learned something from her PCT guidebook, which was the handy tip to burn the pages of books you no longer have use for in order to keep your pack as light as possible (the PCT guidebook had been trying to help any dumbasses who had thought to pack the guidebook itself on their hike and to burn the pages having to do with parts of the trail already traversed, because its authors never thought that someone as dumb as Cheryl would be out there hiking with a goddamned library on her back).  Cheryl makes a big fuss over how much it "hurt" her to burn a book because she doesn't understand how books work and seems to think that she's burning the only copy of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in existence and it makes her feel like a dirty Nazi, but it also makes her feel like an expert backpacker so she gets over it pretty quickly.  She goes out of her way to tell us how much she's been reading on the trail and then this long, rambling bullshit happens which I will now subject you to, and pay attention because there will be a quiz at the end.  Regarding books while on the trail:
"They were the world I could lose myself in when the one I was actually in became too lonely or harsh or difficult to bear.  When I made camp in the evenings, I rushed through the tasks of pitching my tent and filtering water and cooking dinner so I could sit afterwards inside the shelter of my tent in my chair with my pot of hot food gripped between my knees.  I ate with a spoon in one hand and a book in the other, reading by the light of my headlamp when the sky darkened.  In the first week of my hike, I was often too exhausted to read more than a page or two before I fell asleep, but as I grew stronger I was reading more, eager to escape the tedium of my days."
 
Quiz time!
 
If Cheryl spends every free minute of her day either hiking or reading, WHEN IS SHE WRITING IN THE JOURNAL she used to record her epic journey (you know, the one she supposedly went back and used as a reference when she wrote this awful book 20 years later)?
 
A) Never.
B) Never.

Choose wisely. 
 
Also, what the fuck is Cheryl escaping?  SHE IS ALREADY ESCAPING EVERYTHING JUST BY HIKING THE TRAIL, AND NOW SHE'S ESCAPING FROM HER ESCAPE, I DON'T EVEN.

Anyway.

Here comes another example of a total stranger going out of his way to help Cheryl and Cheryl responding by being a pissy, ungrateful bitch.  Albert offers to help Cheryl lighten her ridiculous pack and tells her to unpack and then repack as if she would only be going for a short hike.  Cheryl does her version of this and you're not going to believe it, she doesn't do a very good job because she only gets rid of "the foldable saw and miniature binoculars and the megawatt flash for the camera [she] had yet to use."  Albert comes over to check her progress and then condoms.

"'Do you really need these?' Albert asked, holding the condoms.  Albert the Georgia Daddy Eagle Scout, whose wedding band glinted in the sun, who cut off the handle of his own toothbrush [something ultra-light backpackers do to carry the absolute least amount of weight], but no doubt carried a pocket-sized Bible in his pack.  He looked at me stone-faced as a soldier, while the white plastic wrappers of a dozen ultrathin non-lubricated Trojan condoms made a clickety-clack sound as they unfurled like a party streamer from his hand."
I smell daddy issues.
 
You know what?  Go fuck yourself, Cheryl.  This nice man is trying to help you and you're being an ungrateful, judgmental whore.  So what, if he might have a pocket-sized Bible with him?  First of all, you have a goddamned bookmobile in your pack, so you have no place to talk, and fuck you if his hypothetical Bible is making you uncomfortable.
 
"'No,' I said, feeling as if I was going to die of shame."
If only that were a possibility.
 
Cheryl then pretends to come to some sort of realization that sex on the trail was an absurd idea, but this epiphany only lasts about 2.5 seconds because as Albert continues to empty a crap ton more of useless junk out of her pack,
 
"when Albert wasn't looking, I tore one condom off the end of the fat roll of condoms he'd tossed aside and slid it discreetly into the back pocket of my shorts."
Because of course she did.
 
 
Albert finally finishes doing what Cheryl should have done months ago in preparation and she puts Monster on her back.  It is noticeably lighter and I hope you're sitting down-- Cheryl actually says thank you for the very first time. 
 
Now that Monster is so much lighter, Cheryl decides to go skipping through the daisies while wearing Him and please just shoot me in the face right now, she discovers another man.  It's Doug of Doug & Tom, and he's just so excited to finally meet her.
 
"'And here I am,' I stammered, taken aback by his enthusiasm and good looks."
Thank goodness you kept that condom.
 
Cheryl then spends a whole paragraph creaming her filthy panties about how Doug is just the dreamiest and I shit you not, actually writes this:
 
"As I stood next to him, I had the feeling that any moment he'd reach for my hand and together we'd parachute off a cliff, laughing as we wafted gently down."

WHAT.  THE FUCK.  WAS THAT.

Jesus.

Tom finally shows up and he's nowhere near as dreamy as Doug.  "I could tell even from a distance that Tom was Doug's physical and spiritual opposite-- bony, pale, bespectacled," so I'm sure she's relieved by this because she only saved the one condom. 

Tom's feet are a mess and Cheryl, for the first and only time in this book, offers some help, but I'm sure she's only doing this to impress Doug, and she can't even do this one simple thing without sounding like the whore that she is.  She offers Tom some of the 2nd Skin patches, and of course:

"Seeing them in their translucent blue wrappers brought to mind the condom in my back pocket.  I wondered if Tom had packed any; if Doug had any; if my bringing them had been such a dumb idea after all.  Being in Tom and Doug's presence made it seem slightly less so."
Keep it in your pants, Cheryl.
 
After everyone settles in, they decide to go get something to eat at a nearby restaurant and Feminist Cheryl realizes that she "was going out to a restaurant with six men, and [she] had nothing to wear."  She says something that makes no sense whatsoever-- "By necessity, out here on the trail, I felt I had to sexually neutralize the men I met by being, to the extent that was possible, one of them."  What was that, condom lady?
 
Cheryl feels the need to tell us how amazingly beautiful she is and how all men are and have always been enchanted by her with this load of pap:
 
"It was a version of myself I'd first tasted way back when I was a child of eleven and I'd felt that prickly rush of power when grown men would turn their heads to look at me or whistle or say Hey pretty baby just loudly enough that I could hear."
She seems to enjoy attention from pedophiles.
 
"The one I'd banked on all through high school, starving myself thin, playing cute and dumb so I'd be popular and loved."
It's not 'playing dumb' if you're actually an idiot.
 
 
Doug comes to fetch her from her tent and goddamnit, "When I sat up, the condom made a crinkling sound in my back pocket," just shut the fuck up already.  WE'RE AWARE OF YOUR CONDOM.
 
They go sit by the water with Greg and Tom and Doug gives her a present: "It was a shiny feather, about a foot long, so black it shone blue in the sun."  He tells her it's "for luck" and Cheryl just about orgasms as he hands it to her because omg he touched her arm
 
They start talking about that weird white stuff that falls from the sky up in the mountains and Cheryl eventually confesses that she doesn't know how to use an ice ax.
 
The next morning, Greg attempts to give Cheryl a tutorial on how to use the ice ax and upon simply naming the parts of the ice ax-- the shaft, the spike, the head-- Cheryl acts like Cheryl.
 
"The shaft?  The head?  The spike?  I tried not to crack up like an eighth grader in sex ed class, but I couldn't help myself."
Good luck trying to use your dildo in a mountain emergency, you stupid asshole.
 
Greg doesn't understand why she's giggling because he's a hiker and not a 12-year-old girl like Cheryl, and he tries his best to explain how to use the ice ax which was undoubtedly a waste of time because I'm sure Cheryl isn't paying attention one bit.
 
Cheryl then clumsily tries to fake use the ice ax on "a muddy slope" while Greg watches and tries to coach her, and because Cheryl is People's Most Beautiful Woman Alive, she says this: "Doug and Tom sat nearby pretending they weren't paying attention," and go fuck yourself.
 
Blah, blah, blah, Cheryl finally decides to get back to hiking, says her goodbyes and goes back to the General Store to mail her foldable saw, miniature binoculars and megawatt flash to her friend back in Portland because while she feels free to take things from the Hiker Free Box, she does not feel the need to put anything in it.  The chapter ends with this because of course it does:
 
"As I sealed my box shut with a roll of tape Ed had loaned me, I kept having the feeling that something was missing.
"Later, as I walked the road back to the campground, I realized what it was: the fat roll of condoms.
"Every last one was gone."

11 comments:

  1. This chapter shoud've been titled "Mudwrestling with Condoms".

    You've said everything so much more eloquently than I could.

    One teensy, tiny note about her "journaling". In 1995, I couldn't get a bic to write for three days straight if it was cushioned in a moist, panda skinned pen holder...but Cheryl, never talks about the journal and has someone managed not to lose, damage, or run out of ink with a pen she's carried through the goddam wilderness in Monster. BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT!

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  2. Omg! So, this was bugging me last night and so I called my trail Angel friend in Lone Pine to ask about the trail in 1995. You see, my trail friends has hiked from Tehachapi to The John Muir Trail, over Kearsage and then down into Onion Valley. Every. Fucking. Year. Sometimes, she has to do it in September due to work or fires, but usually, she hikes in tandem with the herd.
    She remembers the talk on the trail that year and she said that a group of them contacted the production company to address some issues with the tale as told in Wild. They were told that the story, and the movie, didn't "claim to be non-fiction" and weren't interested in the hiking truth because "this was a project about loss and redemption". Ok. Fair enough...but, then, stop marketing it as a fucking PCT hike. Stop using her fudged distances in the marketing and what not.

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  3. This information pisses me off so much. I'm looking at her dumb book right now and it inexplicably says "biography" on the back cover, which confuses me because it should say "autobiography" if it's her own life she's writing about.

    Two things:
    1. She is playing this off as if every fucking word of it is true, which, by definition, means it is supposedly NON-FICTION.

    2. What the fucking fuck are they talking about with this "project about loss and redemption" nonsense? When did the "redemption" part happen? Not anywhere in the goddamned book. She starts off as a stupid, self-absorbed whore and ends as a stupid, self-absorbed whore.

    Fuck everyone involved in this big bag of bullshit.

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    1. Oh, and merry Christmas if you celebrate. I know you had said you're an agnostic, so I can't be sure. I'm a full-blown atheist, so instead of spending the day singing happy birthday to a magical, wish-granting sky wizard, I'm going to be writing about how much of a big fucking liar Cheryl Strayed is. Merry Thursday, friend!

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  4. Sorry, I'm just catching up.
    I'm an agnostic by name, weak atheist by belief.
    I took my seven year old niece for a PCT section hike the day after Christmas. That's how we celebrate. My niece hiked from Kelso Valley Road to Walker Pass in three days with nary a bitch, piss, or moan....or throwing her shoes over a cliff. We slept in a tent for three nights, one at 5700 elevation with a dusting of snow and she enjoyed every moment. In all fairness, her dad ATVed in to check on us near Yellow Jacket, but she wanted to keep going. So, to summarize, a 7 year old girl did a forty plus mile hike in less than 18 hiking hours on the same trail section Cheryl likely skipped cuz' hikin' is hard.

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    1. Oh get real. That's not the same thing at all. Maybe you don't like her or her book, but at least give credit where credit is due.

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    2. And what credit might that be?

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  5. Oh, I believe Doug and Tom were surreptitiously watching, all right, but not because they were checking Cheryl out. They were enjoying the comedy but had the decency to hide their smirks.

    Unlike you and tori, I'm no hiker. What I am is a voracious reader and all-around bibliophile, and here's where it's my turn to call out Cheryl on some of her bullshit. See, I actually understand where she's coming from - or pretending to - when she isn't thrilled about burning books. I know there's a difference between the destruction of an individual copy of a book and Nazi censorship, but the sight of a book on fire is just painful to me ... similar to how I know America isn't going to fall because some idiot burns a flag, but that doesn't mean I want to see something I love desecrated. Anyway, I don't actually think Cheryl gave a shit about burning books. Then again, I'm not sure she really burned all the books she says she did.

    I'm at least familiar with most of the books she claims she read on the PCT, and in fact I own several of them. "As I Lay Dying" and "Lolita" are fairly average-length novels, maybe around 300 pages. "Dubliners" is half that length. "The Novel" is over 400 pages, which is actually pretty short for James Michener, but it's a mass-market rather than a trade paperback, meaning that it's printed on a smaller size paper. These are NOT heavy books.

    Granted, they're still surplus weight. But there was one book, other than the Adrienne Rich poetry, that she didn't burn: The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. Although she claims to burn the pages she's read that evening before going to bed at night, she somehow made an exception for this one. Remember that house where a kind family of book-lovers invited her to join them for a meal and get washed up, and Cheryl seriously considered asking if she could move in with them because obviously they would have been okay with that because she's Cheryl, but she didn't want to be a quitter and blah blah blah? She trades them the Flannery O'Connor for another book. For some reason, she hadn't been burning that one as she went along, and she'd already finished it and started back up at the beginning just to have something to occupy her time in the evenings. Well, here's the thing: a paperback of the complete stories of Flannery O'Connor is about 600 pages long. She'd already burned her book about the use of map and compass - a little over 100 pages - without having mastered these skills, so determined was she to get rid of excess weight, but now she's carrying around a 600-page book she's already finished. And it's a book of short stories - it's not even like a novel in which you might want to find yourself referring back to something in an earlier chapter. Something about this just doesn't add up.

    (To be continued)

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    1. Okay, let's suppose that Cheryl decided she absolutely *must not* ever find herself without reading material, even for a night. Obviously, you'd think she could read Adrienne Rich in a pinch, but we know she didn't because at the end of the book she opens it for what she admits is only the second time on this hike. And we know she reads for escape, so curling up with the guidebook at the end of a day on the trail isn't going to work for her. So okay, she decides that instead of burning her books a few pages at a time, she'll keep each one and re-read if necessary until she has something new to replace it. But if she'd been doing that, she could send her old books home at the resupply stop, or leave them for someone else to enjoy, instead of burning them. If the O'Connor stories had been the first book she'd had with her, we might conclude that she decided the extra weight wasn't worth it and started burning pages then. After all, she admits that if she hadn't traded it for another book, she would have burned it that night. But she'd already admitted to having burned "As I Lay Dying" in nightly increments before that. So apparently the only book she was willing to burn, but carried around with her fully intact longer than necessary, was the one that was probably heaviest? Even by Cheryl standards that doesn't make sense.

      Thinking back over it, I don't remember anything she wrote that would indicate Cheryl had actually read any of those books. She has a lot to say about the guidebook, and quotes Adrienne Rich, but of the novels and story collections she claims to have read, she says nothing specific. I'm not asking for a book report here - just, perhaps, a line here and there about why she chose this particular book, how she feels about that particular author, how the subject matter in the book she's reading now speaks to her more than the book she read before and why. I mean, this is *Cheryl Strayed*, the brilliant writer: why wouldn't we want to hear her thoughts about the books she reads? Instead, other than an admission that a book by an author who isn't a Great Writer can be worth reading even if it lacks highbrow cred, she doesn't really have anything to say about her reading experiences.

      I suspect that she may have planned to spend the summer hiking by day and reading Great Literature by night, because actually that would be pretty awesome, but of course because she's Cheryl she had to go for a blend of notoriously challenging and semi-obscure for her reading list because she's *so smart* and *so well-read* already. Being the good feminist that she is, she was careful to pack mostly white male writers. Then she got out on the trail and realized she forgot to pack a dictionary (which kind of surprises me, actually, because it's the kind of thing you'd expect her to do) and some of these writers use some big-ass vocabulary words. And their language and themes aren't necessarily what you're up to tackling when you're tired and sore. And there's no one around anyway to appreciate how brilliant and sophisticated she is, so ah fuck it. She chucked Faulkner into the fire in disgust, convinced herself she was doing it for good hikerly reasons, and hey, maybe that's where she found the time to work on that journal of hers. At her first resupply stop she had that nice beautiful Flannery O'Connor book waiting for her, and she was motivated to give her summer reading program another try. Turns out that didn't suit her either, so when the chance arose to trade it for a James Michener novel, she pretended she was finished with it already and willing to settle for something beneath her standards just to have something new to read. Michener's smooth, nonpretentious prose actually provided the enjoyable escapism she'd been seeking, and she convinced herself she was broadening her horizons and rediscovering her mother, because cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing.

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    2. Then she burned the Michener book so no one would catch a glimpse of it at the next resupply stop and fail to be impressed by her sophistication when she pulled whatever her new book was out of the box. And after that whether she kept making an attempt to read her new books or just flaunted them around her fellow hikers and then tossed them into the flames the first time she was alone with a fire is anyone's guess. I don't believe it bothered her for one second. I rather suspect she enjoyed showing some of the most notable writers of the twentieth century who was boss: maybe she'll never write like Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor, but that doesn't matter because they're just kindling to a person like her anyway. If you can't join 'em, beat 'em, eh Cheryl?

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