Only two things I know about Albuquerque – Bugs Bunny should’ve taken a left turn there. And give me a hundred tries, I’ll never be able spell it. (Slippin’ Jimmy, aka Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman)
If you hadn’t noticed, Mom and I are huge Breaking Bad fans. Even though Breaking Bad is the best show ever made, Mom and I had never actually been to Albuquerque. So obviously we had to pass through while we were in New Mexico. It turns out that there aren’t as many dirt roads through empty desert as it seems like on TV, so we wound up spending the night in a campground on the outpants of the city. While Mom was made her poop juice in the morning, she kept staring up toward where the sunrise should have been. Instead of a sunrise, there was a giant mountain covered in an armor of thorny rock spikes. Puffy clouds were stuck in the spikes like trash stuck a fence along the freeway, and those clouds were lit up from underneath by the missing sunrise. The whole thing worked like a trap to pull on Mom’s eyes like a giant billboard that said CLIMB ME.
“Mom, we’ve got to go,” I said. “If we don’t finish our hike early, then we’ll never make it to Colorado before bed time.”
“I bet there are trails on that,” Mom said. “Let’s stay in New Mexico for one more day.”
So Mom found a long trail with many pictures of rocks in its AllTrails listing, and we hit the road. When we arrived, Mom had to use the potty. “Oh good! There’s a bathroom here!” she said, leaving me behind and running across the car kennel in a big hurry. She came back a moment later. “There’s a sign that says that the bathrooms and trash pickup have been canceled until further notice because of Covid-19. That makes no sense.”
“It’s because they don’t want the virus spreading, duh!” I explained.
“The only thing that that’s going to do is ensure that people litter and make a mess of the parking lot. I’m not picking up my crap in a bag.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll show you how.”
“If they really wanted to prevent people from spreading germs, they would keep the hand sanitizer stocked. I think that people are starting to use the virus as an excuse to put workers on furlough to cut costs.”
“What’s a furrow?” I asked.
“It means that they’re forcing people to stop working so they don’t have to pay them, basically to have the people absorb the loss rather than the business. They’re counting on people being happy that they’ll have a job to go back to someday. But it’s a false dichotomy. People are forgetting that this will end someday. It’s not a good sign.”
“What’s a false decronomy? What are they giving up on?”
“A false dichotomy means a choice that you don’t actually have to make. Like thinking that you can’t spread money without spreading the virus. So businesses are already finding ways to save money by paying people less. And because workers don’t have money, they’re not spending money. The whole economy is going to deflate like a windsock with no wind.”
“But Mom, the virus. People need to stay home so it doesn’t spread.”
“True, but people who can work need to keep working so there are jobs to come back to. There are plenty of ways that people could spend money without actually coming in contact with other people. We have the internet, remember? They can keep online appointments that they would have normally had in person. And people whose jobs don’t require contact with other people like trash collectors can keep working.”
“But Mom, this is an emergency. How can people go on as usual in such circumstances?”
“In the past, carrying on through huge crises like these have brought nations together and made people proud of their country’s resilience,” she said. “Have you ever seen the Keep Calm and Carry On meme?”
“Yeah, it’s from a getting drunk ad, right?”
“It was from World War II when the UK was getting bombed every night, and then people would leave the bomb shelters in the morning and go straight to work as usual. Churchill was seen as a great leader for keeping his nation together through that. And after 9-11, people were encouraged to return to ‘business as usual’ so that the attacks didn’t destroy the economy in addition to the thousands of people they kill.”
“Mom, germs don’t care about politics…” I told her, since she didn’t seem to know much about germs.
“It’s not about politics, it’s about self-preservation,” Mom said. “This virus is going to blow over in a few months, but there are going to be a lot more people who are having trouble make ends meet for years after we’re allowed out of our houses.”
While Mom was explaining ecomomics to me, we had begun walking up the trail. It was one of those trails where there was too much to look at, and no way to take it all with you in photos. At first we were surrounded by hills made of thousands of rock spikes like an upturned broom. In between the spikes, lonely trees hung on to tiny rock balconies by their root tips. Higher up, the mountain rose above our heads in one enormous wall that was at the same time featureless and covered in cracks and seams that made you want to look at it forever. And through the whole climb, there was an enormous fin of rock soaring above everything, and looking so high and thin that it seemed impossible that it hadn’t been knocked over under its own massive height. Mom spent the hike taking pictures of my chin, trying to capture the savageness of the trail. But the rocks rose so steeply above our heads, that trying to take a picture of them meant taking a picture straight into the sun.
The trail folded up on itself, twisting up the mountain in that way of mountain trails to keep you guessing. For the whole hike I was in suspense about what lay ahead, and how this trail would conquer these impossibly steep slopes and competing peaks. I kept expecting the trail to find some saddle and drop us on the far side of the mountain where the mountain was made of slopes rather than cliffs, but each twist revealed a new stretch of flatish ground that didn’t seem to exist from below.
We climbed until all the rocky peaks were looking up at us, and only the huge fin and the main hump of the mountain rose above our heads. Then, as if planned, we reached a sign that said, “Snow and ice may make the trail impassable beyond this point,” and right below, the white dirt covered the trail, packed so tight it was clear and slippery. The mountain was so steep that there was nowhere to walk beside the hard shell of ice that the trail wore. We could see the white line swooping this way and that along the slope ahead of us, until it climbed up a ridge under the base of the rock fin and disappeared.
“Wow! It looks like you could almost climb to the top of it!” Mom said.
“Great! Let’s go!” I said, running out onto the white dirt and smearing my face enthusiastically against its cool, hard surface.
“No way!” Mom said. “I’m not hiking on that. We’d slip and fall off a cliff.”
We turned back, and gradually worked our way back down the mountain. “Mom, I’ve been thinking about mountains,” I said. “Have you ever noticed that sometimes a mountain looks so steep that there’s no way that someone could climb it…”
“Sure, I thought that while we were standing down at the bottom this morning. I thought there was no way that someone could walk up that.”
“Yeah, but this trail has actually been pretty easy,” I said, looking down the deep, steep drop where two boobs of the mountain held hands and free fell into the valley.
“And thank god for that! We’re at 9000 feet!”
“Well, what I was thinking was that sometimes when you look at something big all at once, you think you can never climb it. You think it’ll be too steep, or rocky, or dangerous. But then, when you’re on it, it turns out that it’s not so bad and you can get much higher than you think, so long as you packed enough supplies to get there.”
“Yeah… So many times it’s not the trail that’s the danger, it’s that people weren’t prepared and they run out of food, or water, or daylight,” Mom agreed. “Or toilet paper.”
“Good thing you know the secret to toilet-paper-free living,” I said. She learned that from me, because life coaches know the importance of being prepared. “But sometimes you put yourself on furrow before you even try. And then you miss out on a lot of cool stuff.”
“I can’t believe this place isn’t as famous as Yosemite Valley,” Mom said. “It’s so rare to find a trail with such spectacular scenery and a relatively accessible trail. If people knew this was here…”
“If people knew it was here, then it would be closed because of the virus,” I told her.
“Good point,” she said.
Oscar the Pooch