Welcome back to me, from me. It’s good to be here. Back, that is.
The focus of this post will be my recent ski trip to Utah, which was pretty epic and blog-worthy. I went with my Dad, who skis lots, and my dear friend Marty (and travel buddy–we went backpacking in Costa Rica the year before), who had only skied once before boarding the plane to Salt Lake City.
Here’s Marty. Huge bender.
Again, that’s Marty, whose ankles are bent. Above Marty is the sky, which is very blue. Lastly, there are mountains behind him, which is the first topic of conversation as per our title.Mountains. The mountains in Utah are pretty cool looking. They are dramatic, covered in winter snow (in the winter), and numerous. Also, you can ski down them, which is fun. There’s not much more to say. Pictures of mountains:
As seen from our back porch, in the morning.
More back-porch morning mountains.
Back-porch evening shot.
Marty and I on the top of Powder Mountain.
So there’s five pictures of mountains, which again, were all pretty nice. The last thing to mention about these mountains is that Marty actually got pretty damn good at skiing down them, even though he was only on skis for a few days. My Dad and I were wildly impressed.
The next topic of conversation is cocaine. On our third day of skiing, at about 1230pm, Marty and I decided to head in and get beers. It was almost white-out conditions, meaning the snow/wind is blowing so hard that you can barely see where you are going. Skiing in these conditions is not fun, so we decided to get beers. Snow, blow, cocaine?
Anyways, after carefully laying our equipment by the fire and ordering our drinks, Marty casually posits: “Wolf, why don’t you want to try cocaine?”
Before expanding on this conversation, however, it is important to provide some background information on the problem-solving/evaluative tendencies of each party involved.
Marty, who has never done cocaine:
Marty is an English and Spanish double major, who is aggressively original in his ways. While this is not to suggest his actions are necessarily swayed towards liberalism, Mr. Marty is never afraid to act and think differently, and to passionately justify his position. Furthermore, he fully believes in the value of experience, in that you can’t judge something unless you try it. Finally, Marty is often tedious in argument, as he is pretty big on the Socratic element of asking “but why,” “but how do you know that,” or “but how can you be sure” to the point of me wanting to pour my beer on his head.
Will, as told from the likely perspective of Marty, because if I were to say good things about myself, that would come off as cocky. Again, no cocaine:
Will is an Industrial Engineering major with a minor in Mathematics, would can be painfully formulaic in his thinking. He likes to break things down in numbers, and is heavily reliant on math and logic. While his mind is sharp, he often fails to see the merit in some of my ideas, usually on the grounds that they are unrealistic. However, to his credit, Will’s thinking has greatly evolved since his days as a shrewd 17-year old entrepreneur. He’d probably be quite alright as an English major, and sooner rather than later, he’ll realize that my world views aren’t so crazy after all.
Time for cocaine.
Again, Marty starts by asking just why I have no real interest in trying cocaine. I, Will, respond by first stating that cocaine is bad for you. Marty agrees. Next, I go on to say that if I did try cocaine, only one of two discrete outcomes would be reached: the experience would be bad or good. If bad, I say that I would have wished that I had not tried it in the first place, and if good, I’d likely want to do more. However, since we agreed that cocaine is physically (and probably emotionally) harmful, I submitted that the latter outcome could actually be considered bad as well.
In response, Marty begins by saying that I am a pretty disciplined person. Therefore, if I did enjoy the experience but still acknowledge that coke is harmful, I actually wouldn’t have the urge to try it again. Also, since we agreed that one-time cocaine use isn’t going to kill you, the harmful physical affects would essentially be negligible. I concurred. With this new piece of information, our discrete outcomes have changed, and like a true engineer, I will keep a record of these updates.
Bad: Headache, vomiting, whatever.
Good: Great time, but internal struggle over future use. Also, havoc wreaked on body.
Bad: Headache, vomiting, whatever.
Good: Great time, but internal struggle over future use. Also, havoc wreaked on body.
As you can see, the expected value of our problem increases, as one of our potential outcomes becomes more positive. However, I still show that in our ideal iteration, the bad outcome is bad and the good outcome is only kind of good, and we therefore still lose. Marty won’t accept defeat.
Next, he tries a different approach, saying that you can’t judge an experience as good or bad. There are many factors that describe an experience, any experience, and most cannot be written on paper. An experience is a much more abstract, bodily entity, and that even I have been known to see the value in many “alternative” experiences. Even though cocaine is bad, and even though I wouldn’t want to do it more than once, the experience still might be worthwhile.
To this, I introduce financial models. When a complex financial model is coded, the decision to buy or sell can be based on hundreds of thousands of variables. At their core, these variables contribute a yes or no, 1 or 0 value to the greater decision. The program, which could take hours to evaluate these variables, is really only going to give a buy or sell answer at the end of the day. An experience can be broken down the same way. The hugely abstract word can be discretized into smaller parts, and in the end, this particular experience should give a simple yet robust answer of good or bad.
Predictably, Marty tries to break it down further. “How can you say the smaller elements are good and bad?” “How can you be sure?” In response, I bring up Socrates, who pretty much went around Greece asking all of the rich and “smart” people how they could be sure about their reality. “But how do you know the sky is blue?” “Why does gold have to be better than silver?” When these people failed to give Socrates a good enough answer, they became angry. In the end, “The Oracle” tells Socrates that he is the smartest man alive, because while he doesn’t know anything to an adequate degree of certainty, he knows that he doesn’t know anything, while others don’t. Socrates was a very important dude for philosophy, but for his individual, the practicality of his questioning just wasn’t there. Surprisingly, Marty had never actually heard this story, which actually made me feel like the smartest man alive. Regardless, I just found Marty’s questioning tedious. You have to agree on the small things to dissect the large things; people aren’t going to be arguing about calculus if they can’t agree that 1+1=2. Marty concurred.
In the end, the conversation took a bit of an erratic turn. Marty begins to argue that cocaine is everywhere, and we live in a “cocaine culture” where instant gratification runs our live. Cocaine is not everywhere, Marty, and while “cocaine culture” is a cool literary term and the implication is pretty reasonable, it has no bearing on our original argument. In the end, the battle of the titans ended in a draw, and I still haven’t done any cocaine. However, the snow was still blowing hard, and the gnarliest of mountain-goers were still out skiing rails.
By the time we finished our beers, it was only 2:30. My Dad wasn’t going to be leaving until around 4, and we wanted to get back home to bro-chill. So, we decided to take the bus back to the base of our development, and hitchhike the rest. Another interesting commentary on human nature ensued.
Once off the bus, we started to brainstorm the best way to get picked up by strangers. Ski equipment is heavy, so initially, we just stood in the driveway and stuck out our thumbs. A bunch of cars passed by, and we got a bunch of different reactions from the respective drivers. Here’s a list:
Reaction 1: Disgusted. Hitchhiking? Are you kidding? Call a fucking taxi, this isn’t a charity. Goodbye.
Reaction 2: Perplexed. Hitchhiking? Really? Do you guys actually expect anyone to pick you up? Do you watch the news? There’s crazy people out there!
Reaction 3: Contemplative. Ehhhh. I’m thinking about it. I’m not thinking about it that hard, but I’m thinking about it. Yea, I’m probably not going to pick you up. You’re already 15 feet behind me, anyway.
Reaction 4: Guilty. I’d love to pick you up. I really would. But you are probably a crazy person. I watch the news, you know.
Reaction 5: Empathetic. I’ve been there, man, but I just don’t see myself giving back to the system. I’m probably just going to feel really bad about not picking you up for the next 6 seconds, until I’ve driven way past you. Then I’ll get over it.
Reaction 6: Sorry! There’s like 9 people already in my car, as you can see. I would have absolutely picked you up if I had room!
Unless you were one of the few who chose Reaction 6, the cynical sit-behind-the-comfort-of-my-computer-screen blogger in me is going to call you an asshole. Why are you an asshole, you ask? Well, the selfish sit-behind-the-comfort-of-my-computer-screen blogger in me is going to say that this is because Marty and I walked/waited for about 40 minutes until my Dad eventually picked us up on his way back. The house was only about 1.5 miles away, mind you. Lastly, however, the thinker in me, one which Marty has possibly come to respect, would say that there is a more important issue at hand. This issue does not have to do with finger-pointing, either. Or maybe it’s thumb-pointing?
Anyways, the issue. The issue is actually a question, and this question is a plain one. Why were we not picked up?
Marty and I certainly don’t look harmful. We deliberately put on like a wry smile/puppy face hybrid, and looked the opposite of intimidating in every way. But maybe that’s what a crazy person would do, if they were trying to get picked up? At this point, we had even started to walk a little bit, which we thought might earn us a few more sympathy points. Again, no pick-up.
Hitchhiking is a bit of an experience itself, both for the walker and the driver. In either case, one gets to meet a total stranger, and perhaps, dare I say, learn something from them. Also, a cycle of faceless charity is perpetuated, which I thought many of the ski-bum hippies in Utah would buy into. Ironically, with only a 10 second window to make a decision, the driver’s thoughts probably turn to simple logic, instead of evaluating the abstract concept of “experience.” While I’m sure most could see some fleeting semblance of merit in helping out a stranger (the “good”), their minds likely focused on the “bad” side of the equation, which horror stories tell us can be rather gruesome. Therefore, does math beat out Marty? Are people really just assholes? Did the dudes in the full cars deliberately pack house just to avoid hitchhikers? The question remains, and the walking ensues.
Lastly, there was my dad, who eventually picked us up. Actually, Dr. Larry stopped about 50 feet from us, in his car, and waved and honked for us to walk towards him. We clearly refused. You’re in a car, Dad–were you really being serious?
In the end, Utah was pretty great as always. The weather was good, we ate sweet peppered elk jerky, and drank at the longest-running bar in Utah (complete with bullet holes in the ceiling). Also, polygamy is certifiably encouraged. Win?
Israel in 6 weeks. Till next time,
I can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/willw9, and on Twitter at @willw9. I’ve been told it’s a good idea to mention these things on your blog. You can also subscribe to this bitch and get e-mailed when I write new things. Peace.
first time reading and gotta say pretty good post
I’m reading through your whole blog right now, back to front. This post and your writer in general is really flowy. I love the way you describe the shifting emotional chords based on facial expressions and silly ideas. Awesome blog.
Thanks Sean! Are you a traveller yourself?
I’m about to travel for a few years. Did SEA and japan for 4 months in 2015. Starting off with a brief trip to Mexico this week then moving to South Korea to teach for a year and then hopefully have an internet job sorted by then where I can work while I travel. I’d love to do some similar shit to your cycling trip through central Asia, that was really sick. A tad saddened by the “changing relationship with travel” post at the end, I don’t want my life to come to that where I’m working some normal job in a normal life, relishing my naiveté fervently for the moment