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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Zion's Narrows, Part II: A Guide Noir Perspective

It was a cold, dark day in a canyon that knows how to keep its secrets. . . . But from the confines of an antique Lazy Daze RV, one man tries to find answers to life's persistent questions... Guide Noir, Explorer Man.

It's been drier than cat litter in Utah's canyon country this fall… leaving the Virgin River the way a man likes his woman… calm, shallow, and submissive.

I played it real cool in front of the RV Babes…cardholding AARP'ers since about the time Jesus was in the third grade. It was like a bad scene cut from the script of a nursing home play…grunting and farting at the effort of wedging themselves into rubberized dry suits and river booties smaller than my Proctologists finger-condom. The Babes caught me on a slow day in the "business," said they needed a Guide Noir to lead them into Zion's Narrows where they had heard there was a spring reported to have miraculous waters—a fountain of youth that would restore elasticity and tone to sagging body parts.  

I could tell the rental clerk wasn't from around here, he had the complexion of an albino who grew up in the shade, lacked the tale tell red dirt ring around the collar, and bore no scars on his chin or shins from crashing a mountain bike. He finally got around to me, handed over an extra large body suit. "This ought to fit ya."
"I'll just do the boots," I said, looking him dead in the eye. "I don't need no sissy pants." 
"Ya sure? water's down ta 45 degrees."
"Yep, I'm good."
"Shoe size, then?"
"Fif-teen." I let it roll off my tongue with emphasis on the "fif."

I was sweating like a pig at a pork-roast after prying the Babes out of their gear, had a stab of pain in the old groin where a piece of flimsy mesh is all that stands between my ripped abs or a gross external rerouting of intestines. These are the pathetic jobs one must take in the off season in order to make it in "the business," the Asian bus tour groupies wielding 20 pound Nikon weapons, the AARP'ers trying to relive "Glory Days," and Mormon families with more kids than wedding anniversaries. 

It's a tough business… tougher yet being Guide Noir, the best. I was feeling a little off my game the next morning...in the grip of shivers yo yo-ing up and down my spine. I felt cold and naked as a butcher in a meat locker, and we hadn't even set foot in the water yet. I don't know why a butcher would be naked in a meat locker; that's just how I always picture them after catching Mr Wilson in the buff through his shop window when I was about nine years old. Deep inside, I was already second guessing not renting the "sissy waders." 

But a "Guide Noir" can never let his high school macho nacho complex down. He must always show a tough exterior that instills confidence, even when on the inside he's crying like a little boy whose puppy just got run over (it happened!). Look, ladies, you got stuck with childbirth when Eve fell from grace, but that's over in a few minutes. A man must live with your mistake 24-7 till the day he dies. It was you, your gender, that put the curse of Testosterone and Lust on Adam, and subsequently the rest of us, full well knowing a man never turns down a bite of food!

With the Babes bundled up in attire suitable for an expedition to the North Pole, I led them to the banks of the Virgin wearing only denim shorts and a long sleeve tee shirt. I was as frigid as a post-menopausal nun, already stuttering from jaw vibrations hard enough to chip teeth. Wading in, ice water breached my rubber booties and poured around delicate ankles. It was going to be a long day in the shadowy trench.  

The Babes were giddy as freshmen at a sorority sleepover. I silently cursed Adam and Eve, fumbling against current and a serious case of Depth Imperception. It was as if I was wearing Coke-bottle glasses, balance was skewed by distortion, and the deep water rushing past my legs was disorienting. 

The brain told me one story, but my feet were the one's in the field…relaying depths and velocities that got over ruled and shit-canned by a serious case of mental denial. Water tumbled and churned around my calfs, then knees, then quads. I tried to roll up my sagging denim shorts with fingers that refused to obey orders…a Digital Mutiny. One by one, things began going numb. Circulation was redirected from "sacrificial lamb" extremities to vital internal organs. I sucked up my "nachos," trying to put them in the same room with the rest of the vital organs... a desperate attempt at preserving something I felt still had a few pleasurable miles left in them. 

Major shrinkage set in, such that henceforth, I couldn't clear the zipper in order to tinkle. Insult to injury, now I must squat to pee. Damn you Adam!

I had set a good pace out in front of the Babes, one, so they wouldn't see me squatting in the bushes, and two, trying to fend off frostbite in the DMZ. Cotton, you know, the "fabric of your life?"  was rapidly wicking away the last critical "six degrees of separation." Mr T. was about to become Vanilla Ice. "Ice, Ice, baby!"   

I stopped and waited for the Babes to catch up. They seemed warm enough… even Gayle, the ultimate barometric judge of when temperatures are too cold to support life. If only the sun would shine down here, if only I'd brought a thermos of hot chocolate, if only I'd have gone into banking.

Once the Babes caught up, I took a step…at least I thought I took a step; it's hard to tell when you can't feel anything below the waist. The canyon spun 360 degrees; Guide Noir was falling down, and London Bridges couldn't have done it better.

Lack of brain circulation caused the event to take place in frame by frame slow motion. A couple of seconds stretched into a full length B movie. Spinning around and down, I saw each of the Babe's faces…Gayle's eyes, slowly getting bigger, her mouth forming a protracted, "Noooo," Laurelee's eye's, retreating, afraid I was going to take her out on my way down, Suzanne, admiring the end of her soon to be lost hiking stick. 

Having fallen a lot over the years, I knew to extend a hand to help break a crash into rocks. What I didn't notice was that my Cannon Digital Elph was in my hand. "Hey, is that my camera underwater? Noooooooo!" 
"Houston, we have splashdown."

Flailing wildly, I couldn't seem to right the ship. Gayle kept saying, "Give me your camera…give me your camera." What camera? Oh, the one underwater? That one? Back on my feet, "I'm ok, I'm ok." I hit the power button on the Elphie. I swear, it burped. 
Good ol' Suzanne lent me her old Elphie… obviously hoping I would fall again and then buy her a new one. Nope. Not going to fall for that old trick.

We paused for lunch in the Deep Freeze portion of the Narrows— only a slit of blue sky one thousand feet overhead. I began to quake in tsunamis of chill. I tried palming high fructose power bars in the general vicinity of my feeding orifice…most of it falling into the river. I must have looked pathetic; I sought to reassure the Babes. "Ha-ha-ha-ha-how you g-g-g-girls doing? Wa-wa-wa-warm en-na-na-na-nuff? Ma-ma-ma-Me? F-f-f-fine…oh f-f-ine. Na-na-na-na-never b-b-b-better."

Under the guise of getting my camera dried out with the car heater, I bid the Babes goodbye and ran out of the cold, dark canyon…soaked to the bone, wearing cotton…that shitty fabric of life that takes an hour and a half and $7.50 in quarters to dry in the average laundry mat. As I type this, I swear to God, two days later and after a day hike in the sun yesterday, my shorts are wetter than a stick-fetching Lab at the beach. I'm going to wear them three more days and if they aren't dry I'll throw them away. Replacement would be cheaper than using a freaking laundry mat dryer.

It was a cold, dark day in a canyon that knows how to keep its secrets. . . . But from the confines of an antique Lazy Daze RV, one man tries to find answers to life's persistent questions... Guide Noir, Explorer Man.


  1. Oh, Guy Noir, you make me laugh! One would think that having hiked or attempted to hike the Narrows several times before, you would have sprung for the pants. At least it was a memorable day for all of us!

  2. Well, as a long time fan of Garrison Keillor's "Guy Noir," I am LMAO....especially since it was Jesus' third grade classmates that pulled you out of the drink! Did we mention how warm our "sagging body parts" were under those pants?? ;-)

  3. Best post ever, Guide Noir! Sorry the inspiration had to come at the expense of such personal torture, but I know the RV Babes were grateful for you captaining the crew. Next year though, I am certain they will strap you down and force you to rent the pants!

  4. Susan here. Maybe you should spend your days with Boonie while those 'calm, shallow, and submissive' women go off on such spectacular adventures?

  5. Boy oh Boy....you must love those fun-filled expeditions huh?

  6. An instant classic. You must have been extremely cold - "I was as frigid as a post-menopausal nun...". How can one ever recover from that?!

  7. Sorry Mark, but, besides a good chuckle, reading this warmed the cockles of my heart (Whatever those are???) I could feel the weight lifting off my poor stooped shoulders as I realized I wasn't the only one out there pulling - OK, let's call them ill-advised stunts - in a desperate attempt to live up to that damn man-card that popped out right along with our pre-pubecent testicles.

  8. Well, Mark, this was a classic post. One of your best. You should try to have it published in the Ouray weekly blatt. Haven't laughed so hard since I listened to Ray Magliozzi's tribute to brother Tom today at noon.

  9. Great narrative!!! I am surprised all the photos aren't a little blurry from the shaking! I hate to say it but you did deserve this for being such a tight wad!! I live with one of those!

  10. I am still laughing an hour after I read this........

  11. Bravo! We readers reap the benefits of your ability to make fun of your tightwad self! ;-)

  12. Brilliant commentary on the trials of being male - we soft-petals of femininity often forget how difficult it is :-))) Not only am I still laughing, but I'm really cold!! Thanks for sharing a very fun perspective of your day in the Narrows. And never forget, the Babes know where you sleep :-)

  13. This is my first Guide Noir exposure! Love it! More! More!


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