Because you asked for a dirtbag update:
Usually, I celebrate dirtbag Christmas at work. This is how it goes: Bri-Bri, My-Only-Friend-In-The-Entire-World-Jeff-Hess, and I scour the multiple “lost and found” boxes for a week. We find the most useful items, in sizes that fit the others, wrap them in school-issued newspaper, then have a gift exchange on the Friday before break. I’ve gotten a good travel coffee mug out of the exchange, a nice sweatshirt, and an excellent shell that I use all the time, plus a few other items that I use on a semi-regular basis.
But we didn’t celebrate this year. We let ourselves get too busy to have fun.
And although I didn’t celebrate dirtbag Christmas at work this year, Jennie and I made each other gifts at home – instead of buying them – and I still felt sort of like a dirtbag.
See, I’ve had some very undirtbag moments this year. The weirdest?
In October, a public speaking gig got me put up in the fanciest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. They flew me first class to the event and rented a late-model, bright red Mustang for me to drive. At the rental counter I said, “Oh, no thanks. I don’t need a Mustang.” But the rental agency woman just smiled at me and said, “You’ll love it. It’s such a great car.”
In classy style – as if I was fighting against the new me – I did accidentally flip the car into reverse as I drove forward into valet parking, grinding the gears so loudly that all of the valet parking boys doubled over laughing.
That felt dirty. But still, there was valet parking at this hotel. Only valet parking. No other option but valet parking.
Yet a dirtbag is a dirtbag is a dirtbag…
A dirtbag spends less money, believes in time over money, believes that working is only worth it if it means that he is buying more time. A dirtbag would rather lay his sleeping bag in the dirt, the free dirt, than pay for a campsite, a motel, a tent, or anything else. More time outside. More time climbing. Swimming rather than showers. Sharing food rather than networking. Sleeping on someone’s floor to save money. Surfing more. Biking more. Skateboarding in the street. Laying in the sun and reading. Climbing a tree and staring at the clouds.
Another thing: I’ve been injured this year. I tore four ribs off of my sternum joint in an accident in February and spent all year doing physical therapy. I’m mostly healed now, but the doctors told me that the dent in my chest wall will never go away and I may never climb like I did before the accident. Being injured is funny for a physical person because it’s hard to feel rugged when you’re in pain all of the time. How rugged is a man laying in the fetal position on the floor, high on Percocet?
But I did get out this year anyway. And here’s a Dirtbag-6 list for those who like lists:
1. Nights camping this year: 29
2. Months wearing the same pair of shorts: 2 straight
3. Best outdoor endurance climbing day: July 17th, 36 routes, The Columns, Eugene, 1692 vertical feet, 5.8 to 5.10a
4. Backpacking trips: 3 (The best: Alder Springs, Squaw Creek Canyon, Central Oregon)
5. Days swimming in a river this year: 37 (most recently, December 18th, Polar Bear Swim, Willamette River, Oregon)
6. Nights slept on a floor this year: 13
I’ve also eaten a lot of free food, taken donations from my friends’ deep freezers, gone two full days just on food-scores from a single staff meeting, waited until people left a pizza place then finished all of their leftovers, and scored a box of Twinkies from a trashcan.
But let’s see…Proudest dirtbag moment of the year?
One night, a few weeks ago, Jennie returned home from a walk and said, “I found us a Christmas tree, and it’s perfect. I just need help getting it because it’s at a dumpster.” Nine feet tall, with the top broken off, I cut and reshaped it into one of the prettiest 7-foot Christmas trees anyone has ever seen. Forty dollars saved.
And finally, two nights ago, I was given my brother-in-law’s “too tight new jeans.” They’re Ralph Lauren jeans with the sales tags still on. My daughter turned to me and said, “Take ‘em back, dirtbag. What could you do with all that money?”