Postcards from the Trailer Park
When I received Cameron Burns' book for review I thought; "Piece of cake. It's 30+ short articles/stories/vignettes/essays (whatever you call them), all about climbing, I can read a half-dozen, dash off 200 words and I'm done." Well, as it turns out Postcards From The Trailer Park is like that classic potato chip ditty - "Bet you can't read (er...eat) just one." (Note to editor - The reason this review has taken so long is that I actually read the whole damn thing.) In fact PFTTP hasn't been off my nightstand in the 2 weeks since I got it.
While many of the essays in the book are about the trips he has done and the people he's done them with, they are far more than that. Burns is much more than simply an observer of the climber animal. He is both a connoisseur of humanity and of his own surroundings. His descriptions of his surroundings, the recounting of the conversations and the every present exaggerations add up to very enjoyable reading.
Two of my current favorites (almost every story was my current fave as I was reading it) are his portraits of Fred Becky and Warren Harding. Completely different, they are presented with clarity, humor and (yes even) affection.
"The Unbearable Greatness of Fred" for example, is divided in to two sections. The first, a scathing account of a '91 trip to Mexico with Becky, presents a view unlike what any of those of us who have never met the man would have imagined. That said, in spite of the criticism of Becky's personality based on the experience on this trip, his appreciation for Becky's accomplishments is clear. The postscript, written 3 years later after they become reacquainted and following several subsequent trips, ties things together in a way that is far more satisfying than if it had been left with only the bad taste from the Mexico trip. Here are two excerpts, the first from the 3rd paragraph, the second from the last:
"Fed up with Mexican service, Fred Becky stands up, grunts, farts, and heads for the door. Taken aback, Mike and I stare at each other. Becky, a personal hero for both of us, is proving anything but a hero."
"...certainly, during these half-dozen or so other climbing trips, we didn't do a lot of climbing. But I'm incredibly glad I went with him. He is a genuinely great guy, and he deserves a prominent position in every climber's pantheon."
That's just the top of the iceberg. There are stories about climbing Aconcagua with a "hideous blue and yellow" $45 Wal-Mart Wilderness Trails tent, "hoopsticking" desert towers in New Mexico, his first outdoor climbing trip with his then-fiancee (now wife) Ann, an hilarious account of a '93 ascent of El Cap, and the ultimate tick story - Ticking a Few Routes in Montana. Just when you think you can't laugh any more, he hits you with another line that lays you out. Example:
"Tell 'em I watched a dozen ticks crawl up your shorts while you were climbing," my wife pipes up as I poke the keyboard. "Remember those nasty, tiny Coq Sportif shorts you had? Oooooh. Dunno what was worse: the shorts or the ticks..."
Well, I think you get the picture. My wife is glad I'm finished reading this book 'cause when I was I kept waking her up at 1 AM laughing hysterically. Cameron reminds me of my favorite partners. No matter what happens, they always manage to find some humor in everything. Guys like that make climbing trips a lot more, fun and life on the edge more bearable.
Postcards From The Trailer Park is a great read, don't pass it by. And, from what I can tell, if you get a chance to climb with him don't pass it by. Even if it rains the whole trip, you'll have a great time.