The Art of Being a Man...and why nobody cares

by talkbackty on May 30, 2011

This weekend on a whim I decided to go to Yellowstone national park. I live about an hour and half away so it's not exactly like I was crossing the country to go there. The weather report said there was going to be overcast skies with temperatures in the 60's and 70's. Not bad for a place with an average elevation of 6,800 ft.

The weather report was wrong.

It rained. And after it rained it got colder. And when it got colder the rain turned to snow and hail and all sorts of horrendous things that human beings living outside of Antarctic are not supposed to deal with in the summer.

Furthermore, I was unprepared. I own a tent, sleeping bag (rated for 0 degrees), and an air mattress. I packed a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and a change of underwear. I had on me a pair of jeans, t shirt, and a windbreaker.

The craziest thing is that I was staying at a campground with ~750 other people. Most were in tents, some had RV's or campers. I doubt any of them were truly aware of the incoming weather because, after all, every weather report said that it was going to be a nice memorial day weekend.

Now to the essence of my post. Nobody in there right mind would consider me a "man's man." In fact, those who are only somewhat aware of my existence probably think I'm gay. I find it enjoyable to throw in little homoerotic comments every now and then just to see people's reactions. The fact that I live with 5 other guys doesn't help. I think the best box to put me in, if boxes are how you do things, would be to say I'm androgynous. Truth be told, I just don't care that much. I am what I am and stopped caring what other people wondered or said.

So my androgynous self decides to go to Yellowstone. Hoping for some good photographs from the spontaneous trip. Remember- not a man's man, but I'm also not an idiot and am plenty able to take care of myself, be it in a city or the nation's first national park. It starts to get cold. Then it starts to hail. Beating my tent senseless and making anything resembling sleep impossible. Then it gets colder and the hail turns to snow.

I left my tent. Moved to the car and hunkered down for the rest of the night in there. It wasn't much warmer (illegal to idle your car in Yellowstone) but it wasn't nearly as wet.

My alarm goes off at 4:15am. I needed to get to this certain spot by sunrise. As I drove out of the campsite I noticed my fellow humans in their tents and their RV's, most who were probably feeling more miserable than I. And an idea started to creep into my head at this point...the world doesn't care about us.

It's not karmic, it goes against most major world religions, and it's something I'm still dealing with. All I know is that 750 people were treated to a pretty rude awakening the previous night. Regardless of how manly they were, how womanly they were, how much training or experience they had. No amount of boy scout preparation can ever deal with the fact that nature doesn't care about your plans. It doesn't care about your equipment. It doesn't care about your manliness.

And so with this pleasant thought formulating in my brain I continued to drive. A truly beautiful drive...minus the unplowed roads, the twists and turns and sudden drops, and the accumulated 3-5 inches of snow. I did have a good time. I like being alone in nature and this was about as alone as one can get. No cell reception. Nobody around for 50 miles in any direction (and when I say 50 miles, I mean that every 50 miles there is a bathroom and an emergency phone...not actual people). I blazed the trail. I took my truck and my unmanliness and drove through the wilderness.

I got to my destination about two hours later. The Yellowstone canyon claims to be the only rival to the Grand Canyon in the USA. Had to see for myself. The canyon is the last stop on the map at this point in the season. It's as far north as you can go before all the roads close. And so there I was at 6:05am at the edge of Yellowstone.

My car slid off the road. Not dramatically or dangerously. About 5 miles from the canyons I hit a spot of ice (remember I'm trailblazing still at this point) and slowly slid off the road. What happened next?

I didn't butch up. I didn't man up. I didn't grow a pair. I stepped out of my car, got my shovel from the back and started clearing the snow out in front of me. It took 20 minutes or so of hard work with a shitty shovel but it got done. I backed my car out and kept going. Nobody cheered. No triumphant music played. I didn't feel any more manly than the moment before.

I reached my destination and like any good photographer I began to freeze my ass off waiting for good lighting. It's not deathly cold (around 30 degrees) but in six inches of snow with jeans and a sweatshirt I wasn't exactly doing well. Once again I was reminded of the simple fact that the world doesn't care about what other people say you are. It rains on the just and the unjust alike.

The sun broke through the clouds for all of 20 minutes. I got some good shots and some bad ones. I packed up my gear and started to drive home.

The road was closed.

The same road that I had come in on maybe an hour or two hours before.

There was an accident. Somebody had driven off the road.

I waited. Maybe an hour went by.

When the road finally opened they drove us through with a lead car in the front. Don't pass and don't fall behind that car they said.

The car probably went off the road 20 miles or so before I did. Undoubtedly he was following the trail that I originally blazed. That my manliness was able to conquer and his was not. The accident wasn't in one of those "it's no big deal if you go off the road here" spots. It was a straight drop about 10 or 15 feet at a 75 degree angle and then trees.

The car didn't look good.

No word on the people inside. Could be just fine. Could be dead. I have no clue whatsoever. What I do know is that the world didn't pay him any special moments before he drove off the road following my trail. It didn't ask if he was a nice man. It didn't ask if he payed his taxes. It didn't ask if he beat his wife. It didn't care about how manly or how feminine he was.

And so here I am. Still the same man I was before but slightly changed. I have this theory that people don't really change all that much, just that the blank areas of their portrait get shaded in. I don't know if I'm right or wrong about that but it's how I feel right now.

On my trip I was cold. Sore. Happy. Exuberant. Content. In love. There was never a moment when I would have considered myself manly.

The truth is that I don't really know what that means.  If someone wants to give it a shot and explain it to me I'm all ears.

Until then I'll wake up and greet the world with a smile on my face and a little adventure in my heart. To go out and seek a great perhaps.