Saturday, January 3, 2015

Part Twenty-Seven of a review of "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," The Rest of Chapter Twelve and a Hint About the Movie

A review of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed

Part Twenty-Seven: The Rest of Chapter Twelve and a Hint About the Movie

We left off with Cheryl describing herself as "a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen," and that's when I couldn't take it anymore.  Oh, hooray, today is a new day and I get to keep going.  Awesome.

Here's a little background on the Amazons. 

"In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a race of warlike women noted for their courage and pride who lived at the outer limits of the known world.
"In mythology, the Amazons were daughters of Ares, the god of war.  In legend, the Amazons burnt off their right breast in order to better use a bow and throw a spear, indeed, the word amazon may signify ‘breastless’. Interestingly though, Amazons are not depicted in Greek art with a missing breast. They are most often depicted wearing hoplite armour and frequently ride a horse. The most common weapon is the bow and spear but there are also examples where Amazons carry axes."

And from Wikipedia:

"In some versions of the myth, no men were permitted to have sexual encounters or reside in Amazon country; but once a year, in order to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans, a neighbouring tribe. The male children who were the result of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the girls were kept and brought up by their mothers, and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. In other versions when the Amazons went to war they would not kill all the men. Some they would take as slaves, and once or twice a year they would have sex with their slaves."

Seeing as all Cheryl can think about twenty-four hours a day is banging anything with a penis and also bases the whole of her self-worth on what men think of her, I'm pretty sure the Amazons would have killed or banished her for not understanding the assignment.  Cheryl is not a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian anything.

But anyway, sure she is because she's Cheryl Strayed.

She sits in front of the store for a few hours while everyone marvels at her awesomeness until the mailman and the UPS guy finally show up and oh my goodness, NO BOOTS.  She calls REI again and has a really dumb, super boring conversation and let's just skip all this.  The boots will be waiting for her at Castle Crags, eighty-three miles away, and how exactly is she going to hike eighty-three miles in her too-small boots when her feet are supposedly shedding toenails and exploding blood and awful all over the place.

Don't worry, Cheryl has an ingenious plan: she's going to wear her "flimsy camp sandals" that she'd purchased "at a discount store for something like $19.99" for the next eighty-three miles because that sounds realistic.

"I cradled them in my hands, as if by examining them up close I could bestow upon them a durability they did not possess.  The Velcro was matted with detritus and peeling away from the black straps at the frayed ends.  Their blue soles were malleable as dough and so thin that when I walked I could feel the contours of pebbles and sticks beneath my feet.  Wearing them was just barely more than having no shoes on at all."
Stop using unnecessary words. 
Really, Cheryl?  Detritus?  Just say dirt or debris.  Put your thesaurus away, you sound like an asshole.  Also, you're going to hike eighty-three miles in what are essentially flip-flops, huh?  Okay.
She thinks about quitting again and throws another temper-tantrum:
"I picked up a rock and whipped it hard as I could at a nearby tree, and then another and another."

And then she says this:

"I thought of the woman I always thought of in such moments--"


Who is this magnificent woman she thinks of in such moments?  It's:

 "an astrologer who'd read my natal chart when I was twenty-three."

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH MY GOD.  Of course.  I can't even be shocked by the fact that Cheryl firmly believes in this sort of ridiculousness.  Get ready for a flashback.

A "no-nonsense middle-aged woman named Pat" back in Minnesota was the astrologer who had read her natal chart and because I don't believe in this sort of nonsense, I have no idea what a natal chart is and I don't know what she's talking about.  Anyone-- psychic, astrologer, whatever-- who claims to know anything about your life and your past and your future and all that jazz is simply a clever con artist and of course Cheryl is the type of person who will fall for this exact type of bullshit because self-absorbed people love hearing about themselves and will believe anything.

During the stupid flashback, Cheryl claims that at first she was super skeptical but then the astrologer says something that totally blows her away even though what astrologer says is 100% inaccurate.  Pat asks about her father:

"'Was he a Vietnam vet?' she asked."

Nope, turns out Cheryl's father was not a Vietnam vet, but I can see why the astrologer brought this up: it was 1992 when this reading was happening and Cheryl was twenty-three at the time, so guessing that her father had been in Vietnam would have been a pretty logical guess just based on having a vague understanding of recent history and subsequently doing the math.  Cheryl, who "had never had a mind for math" (remember Chapter Nine?), can't see that this woman is just making general guesses and falls for all of it.  She tells Pat that her father was not, in fact, a Vietnam vet, but Pat tries to cover up her wrong guess:

"'It seems he was like a Vietnam vet,' she persisted."

What the fuck does that mean?  Oh, that's right, it means that the astrologer is totally wrong but needs to cover up her mistake, so she makes up this bullshit:

"'Perhaps not literally.  But he has something in common with some of those men."


"He was deeply wounded.  He was damaged.  His damage infected his life and it infected you."

 The astrologer continues,

"'And you're wounded in the same place.  That's what fathers do if they don't heal their wounds.  They wound their children in the same place.'"

A bunch of other stupid shit is said that I'm skipping and you're welcome, and then Pat says,

"'To heal the wound that your father made, you're going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior."

That's the end of Chapter Twelve.
Blogger's note:
I saw the movie yesterday.  Yes.  That happened.
I know, I know, you're asking how I could spend money on this nonsense-- money that will end up in Cheryl Strayed's pocket-- and I get it, I really do.  But, two things:
1.  I did not spend money on the movie.  My friend, Jaime, treated me because I "deserved it for suffering through this review of the book," and while two tickets were bought, the money did not come out of my pocket.
2.  Who do you think you're fucking kidding with your logical arguments.  If you're reading this blog, you're just dying for me to review the movie and you know it, so just stop.  Sacrifices have to be made in war.  You're welcome for my sacrifice.
I was tempted to review the movie immediately upon returning home but soon concluded that a review written in all caps would probably not go over well, but-- BE ADVISED, IT IS SO FUCKING AWFUL THAT I MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO HELP MYSELF IN THE FUTURE.  IT'S JUST THAT BAD AND I MAY VERY WELL FEEL THE NEED TO SCREAM MY REVIEW AT YOU.
I honestly had expected the movie to maybe be almost good.  It was far, far worse than I had expected.  I was willing to sit through any amount of bullshit for the sake of this blog.  I will tell you: if I check my watch once during a movie, it's a bad movie.  IF I CHECK MY WATCH THREE TIMES, IT'S A TERRIBLE MOVIE.  It was so bad, and I'm not just saying this as an anti-fan of Cheryl Strayed.  This was simply just an awful movie.
Jaime and I discussed it afterward and we both came to the same conclusions: 1) it was awful, 2) without having read the book, the movie itself will make very, very little sense and 3) it was just awful.  I know that points 1 and 3 are almost identical, but I can't stress it enough:  IT WAS AWFUL.
You will have to wait for my review of the movie.
End of Blogger's note, and end of Chapter Twelve.


  1. I'm about to this point in the book. I stumbled onto your blog a few days ago while looking for a link to the hobo magazine that Jimmy Carter worked for that she references. Some of this was just coming off a little too embellished for me so I wanted to see if there were any other sources out there that could corroborate her story.

    One part that's been troubling me was how she was supposedly able to continue her journey with feet as blistered as hers were. I'm a recreational cyclist who does lots of endurance rides and I know a little bit about overuse injuries. They don't get stronger or heal without rest and rest isn't something she ever seems to make time for unless it's forced while waiting for her new boots to arrive. I would imagine if her feet were that bad they would've become infected by now in the story but so far there's no mention of that that I can recall. Unless she's got a super high tolerance for pain she would've been stopped dead in her tracks hundreds of miles earlier. Say nothing of hiking with an overloaded pack on her back in that condition.

    And the part about hiking in slip-on sandals with duct tape to hold them together. And didn't she say she managed 17 miles in one day with them? That's asking a lot of the reader me thinks!

    Yeah, I really wanted to believe all that she's saying but some of this is just too much. I don't necessarily have a problem with her adding a little to her story to keep the reader interested but it has to add up and this isn't for me.

    1. Kevin, I'm so glad you can confirm that there is absolutely nothing to be found about the great Cheryl Strayed in The Hobo Times (and I also find it terribly amusing that what you found instead was this blog). Welcome, and thanks for reading. Cheers, friend!

    2. Also, I, too, find it very surprising-- even for a super-human like Cheryl-- that none of her bleeding, oozing wounds ever get infected. She is just that remarkable.

    3. Thank you...I'm an experienced backpacker and I knew, right off the bat that she was lying. I gave up at chapter 4 but before then, she had blisters on her feet, her shoulders & hips were bleeding from her 50 lb backpack (ok, right there: 50 lbs-no way). You cannot hike (let alone average 14 miles a day, as she says) with bleeding blisters all over. She could NOT haul 50 lbs uphill and she'd be tumbling downhill.

  2. I have to admit, although it's shameful...and I didn't wait for you: I saw it as well. Holy-hit-garbage-juice, that was the worst novel adaptation I've ever seen...and I like Reese Witherspoon! The book is bad because it's a big, fat, fucking lie and the author isn't all that skilled at creating a readable narrative. What's frightening about the movie us that it purports to be a movie about a woman who comes to know herself better and gains strength from this Herculean feat. Sadly, the
    movie can't quite get the trail to fit in as the character it should have been and is. Monster isn't a backpack. We all carry our worries, troubles, and past on our shoulders. The irony of actually hiking the trail is that, like it or not, you have to put all that shit down and focus on the nitty gritty, solely minded purpose of just surviving on the trail. This movie could have been set in Bloomingdales for the same story and that's a travesty.

    I went and did a last minute section hike last week (hence my absense). It was cold. It was long. It grounded me. It humbled me. You never really see Witherspoon (as Strayed) make that transformation from fuck up, newbie hiker to... a human being who appreciates the experience. It's never about the trail or the people she met.... the movie us even more self-centered (as if that were possible).

    I'll quote the 16 year old kid who was sitting in front of me: "this chick (Strayed) is as dumb as a glass box of hammers and as deep as a puddle in the Gobi."

    1. "This movie could have been set in Bloomingdales," oh my god, that's awesome. And pathetically accurate.

  3. Re: Strayed and astrology. From Vanity Fair: "[Strayed] attributes her impressive attention to detail to being a Virgo: “I’ve always been able to remember tiny facts—the name of someone’s mother mentioned in passing, birthdays, the thing we were eating when we had that conversation. It’s unsettling to some.”

    I suppose that an example of a lie covering up another lie, but remember, its not a lie if ~you~ believe it.

  4. Ok. Former park ranger here again. No way she hiked in flip flops carrying that much weight without rolling an ankle. I've backpacked the Grand Canyon and climbed Mt. Shasta and have hiked hundreds (probably thousands) of miles in national parks. No way. I day hiked seven miles this summer in the North Cascades to a lake and thought I could get away with doing it with just light trail runners. Nope. Should have had boots. My shoes were shredded and my ankles were nearly rolled. No way no how she did this without ending up on crutches.

  5. Here's where my bullshit meter flew off the hook.

    PCT thru hikers collect memories of colorful characters. They write about them in their journals and regale the family with tales of these characters at the Thanksgiving table. In 1995, some even posted their journals online.

    Am I to believe that not one person recalls the lovely and talented Cheryl fucking Strayed, she of extreme beauty and no Trail Name with her missing toenails and taped up sandals?

    No. Someone would remember that shit. "Remember Cheryl the No Trail Name Lady with Her Taped Up Sandals?" would be passed around as PCT lore and brought up at reunions. No one talks about it because it didn't happen. The PCT isn't some remote desolate stretch of land. Sometimes it's downright rowdy with hikers.

    How convenient that Cheryl insisted on riding, I mean, hiking alone so no one could corroborate her story. Tool.

  6. The joke's on you. Astrology happens to work, and you are the small minded idiot creating bad karma for yourself. Go walk the trail yourself to help you grow up.