You know that juicy gristly sound you hear when yarding the leg off the Thanksgiving turkey? The creepy gurgling pop and rip? Well I didn't have to wait until Thanksgiving this year - I heard that four days ago when I was 75 feet out a 100-foot 45-degree overhang (damn that sounds cool to write that) and just three bolts shy of the onsight. I tucked in a left kneebar to help grovel atop a huge stalactite. Don't know how many "Salt Lake City aiders" I'd used up to that point, with their help I was barely pumped and just crushing this pitch. Nevertheless something about this kneebar disagreed with my meniscus and now I'm counting the days until surgery, wondering what to do with myself for my remaining time on Kalymnos. With my bad knee I'll never chase down any sheep or goats, and with the time change this morning, happy hour is sixty agonizing minutes further out. Which means you'll be stuck learning my recipe for peace in the Middle East.
But first a brief summary of the Kalymnos experience. Limestone? - check, and not that chunky sharp until stupidly polished Western US choss. Tufas? - like Snakes on a Plane. Jugs? - start training on the ADA shower bars. Bring shorts for the beach and long pants for the tufa grappling. Bring a helmet for the scooters and belaying (saw a belayer nearly get brained last week when a cantaloupe-sized tufa blob snapped on his partner). If you can't wait to get back from a pumpy day at the crag to a frosty pale ale or yummy IPA - stay away. You get your choice of lager or lager so time to get your Bud on. On the other hand, if you love to cuddle with kitties, especially feral ones who may or may not have hookworm, then Kalymnos will feel like heaven.
"But Verm," you say, "I'm a sport climber, I could care less about rock quality or boring beer. Tell me what I really want to know."
Okay you asked - for the sporty types it couldn't get any better - the bolts are fat and closely spaced and best of all the grades are so soft they make Charmin feel like sea urchins. Naturally this appeals to sport climbers of all nationalities and the crags are as choked as a Tokyo subway car. Nothing like having beta spewed at you in five different languages at once (not to mention five different sequences). Have fun playing the Stereotype Game where you guess the nationality of a climber based solely on looks. The chubby gray-haired 60-somethings - undoubtedly Brits - this place is a virtual UK climber retirement community. Long straight hair, unnaturally ripped, skin-tight manpris and needle tracks - I'm guessing Austrian. Russian Mafia Thug Scowl, shaved head, built like the Hulk - maybe Czech? Looks however, can be deceiving and yesterday I had the tanned surfer-build dude with the shoulder length salt and pepper Jerricurled rocker perm pegged as Italian. What a shock when he spoke in a thick Brit accent. A Brit with a tan? Damn. So this brings me back to the puzzle of what brings us together as climbers and for that matter human beings. We just can't assume things about other people and cultures based on sweeping generalizations like "everybody loves democracy - lets put a gun to their heads and turn them on to this awesome form of governance."
For me the Greek experience has shed light on this whole War on Terror/Democracy in the Middle East thing. The Greeks invented democracy over half a millennium before Islam or Christianity were invented. If the Middle East wanted democracy, they've had plenty of time to adopt it on their own. "Your religion stinks." "No, your religion stinks." "Not as bad as your form of government." "And yours is any better?" And so it goes. But there is one thing that everybody agrees stinks. Shit stinks. And it stinks more when you've got lousy plumbing and there's no shortage of that in Kalymnos or the Middle East for than matter. Every toilet on Kalymnos has a sign telling you to place your used wipe in the trashcan because the plumbing can't choke it down. I've lived next to the Mexican border enough that this is no surprise and not as stinky as one would expect. Where the Greek plumbers have upped the aroma ante is with the slip-and-slide toilet design. I don't care how much olive oil your dinner is soaked in, your turd just ain't gonna hit that porcelain apron and roll down Blueberry Hill into dinky little Golden Pond below. It's going to glom onto the back of the bowl like sticky rubber on a Joshua Tree slab and within seconds you'll come to the realization that your shit actually does stink. Two flushes later and the once-over with the bowl brush and you'll finally stagger out to some fresh air.
So Mr. President, please reconsider the 40,000-troop surge to Afghanistan and instead send in an army of plumbing contractors. Once the rest of the world experiences the joy of idling about on an odorless toilet and chucking their wipe in the bowl I'm sure that they too will turn around, pull the handle, watch their shit spiral away and gratefully embrace the American Standard.
PS Mr. President, while you're in Stockholm picking up your prize could you put in a plug for me - my Mom would be thrilled.