A Hike in the High Sierra

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View from the top: Emerald Bay and Cascade Lake from Mount Tallac.

I did reach the top of Mount Tallac, the craggy mountain that dominates the Southwest shore of Lake Tahoe. But only just.

The last few hundred vertical feet had been very hard, because my thighs were in that pre-cramp phase where you have to control each step up to stop the cramp settling in, and I was feeling a little dizzy. Maybe it was the altitude above sea level – close to 10,000 feet – maybe it was feeling so drained by that long slog up about 3,500 vertical feet.

But I was finally there, with views to die for in every direction. I sat down on one of the jagged rocks that make up the summit, carefully relaxed my limbs so that nothing would lock up, ate some cheese and crackers, drank some more water, and topped it all off with a sugar-free bar of chocolate.

Looking the other way toward Tahoe Keys and, above and behind them, the casinos.

Looking the other way toward Tahoe Keys and, above and behind them, the casinos.

Not a bad lunch on top of the world!

After taking a few photos of the now miniature lakes below, I started clambering over the rocks to head back down, a voice said “Ian, you made it!” It was Fresno, an attractive brunette in a group from Fresno I’d asked directions from on the way up. She’d remembered my name.

“Yep, but only just, the cramps almost set in.”

“Oh, do you have some ibuprofen?”

Looking the other other way, still from close to the summit. Falling Leaf Lake.

Looking the other other way, still from close to the summit. Falling Leaf Lake, the the Keys again above it and to the left.

No, I didn’t, because of course I hadn’t set off to climb Mount Tallac, just to hike a few hours in Desolation Wilderness (yes, that is its real name!) to commune with the high Sierra. She pulled two gels out of her pocket, gave them to me, and the hike back down went off without a cramp. Thanks, Fresno.

And that started me reflecting about women, something which of course happens a lot, even when I’m not daydreaming my way through paradise. Fresno had the maturity to be thoughtful and kind, even with a man whom she had barely spoken to. Many women don’t, I think because they are scared of attracting unwanted attention. So I was thinking about how each of us, men and women, could make that attention less of a threat. That would be in men’s interest as well as women’s.

One more time! Looking west from Tallac summit toward Gilmore Lake. The other lake is Susie Lake, I think.

One more time! Looking west from Tallac summit toward Gilmore Lake. The other lake is Susie Lake, I think.

I remembered Jody’s little story about a homeless man whom she had “made the mistake” (her words) of smiling at once, and who had pursued her with smiles and attempted suggestions whenever she crossed paths with him ever since. I remembered being hurt as a teenager when no girl on Marlow High Street would smile back at me. That was a lot of girls!

Needless to say, this train of thought barely left the station, because it takes so many changes in attitude, so much elucidation of subconscious prejudices, to even start making unwanted male attention less of a threat for women.

Finally, a different perspective! Looking up at Mount Tallac from a meadow between Lake Tahoe and Falling Leaf Lake.

Finally, a different perspective! Looking up at Mount Tallac from a meadow between Lake Tahoe and Falling Leaf Lake.

Still running this thread as I walked, I ran into a group of Palo Alto High School kids, and they were sweet and horrified to hear me badmouthing Brock (“Stanford”) Turner, the dumpster rapist, and the institutional prejudices which enabled his conduct to go so lightly punished. Cal’s law Dean resigned this spring after accusations of sexual harassment were made against him: it’s not just Stanford.

But that institution’s administration has banned hard alcohol at campus parties as its hopelessly inadequate and stupid response to the Stanford rapist scandal, and its website counsels women there not to get drunk, to avoid “high risk behavior.” As Lisa Plank points out in this terse and funny (if it wasn’t so awful) video, https://www.facebook.com/Vox/videos/563893040464969/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE, that is tantamount to holding the victim responsible for getting raped. If she hadn’t drunk too much, she wouldn’t have passed out, and the whole dumpster ordeal would never have happened. GOOD GRIEF!

One of the stunning meadows on the way down, between the summit and Gilmore Lake, peeking through the trees on the right. Beautiful and fragile plants dotted the landscape.

One of the stunning meadows on the way down, between the summit and Gilmore Lake, peeking through the trees on the right. Beautiful and fragile plants dotted the landscape.

Then I remembered a friend’s observation about sexism in the workplace. She has her own startup company, which is doing very well, and is a poster child for women entrepreneurs, one of an impressive list of her achievements.

Here’s the observation: she noticed that when women and men applied for almost minimum wage jobs with her company, the latter regularly asked for, and received, a higher hourly rate than the women. Almost all women applicants were fine with the hourly rate that the company was offering.

So ladies, ASK FOR MORE!!! This is business, commerce, betterment through bucks: ask for them!

A tree sculpture on the way down.

A tree sculpture on the way down.

That brought me round to dating ethics, and the ease with which men pay for women in a dating context even when the latter profess to want to keep things even. Maybe this is not the case for everyone, but as a lawyer it’s certainly the case for me. What does it suggest? Does the same woman who may have a difficult time asking for more in a professional context have no trouble accepting more in a dating context?

I think so, and that is a terrible thing for the women concerned. Ladies, ACCEPT LESS on dates! If it remains easier for you to obtain cash or its equivalents in a dating context than in a professional context, your professional aspirations will be muted and and your dating aspirations polluted. That is obvious, right? I don’t need to explain it further?

Well, after leaving the question unanswered for a few days when I did not have the time to follow up on it, I’m actually going to answer it, at least in part.

Suppose that you’re a young professional woman with an active single life. You could end up letting the man pay on dates because you know that you’re likely earning only about 70% of what he earns for the same work. (I don’t know the actual number, just that it’s a disgrace!)

Further down the mountain, the terrain includes the occasional waterfall.

Further down the mountain, the terrain includes the occasional waterfall.

The logic is reasonable: from each according to her ability; to each according to his needs. Except for the gender issue. When you let him pay, for whatever reason, you’re allowing his spending money on you to be tied up with any intimacy that the two of you ever share. Without using the obvious words, I think that your intimacy is then polluted, as is his.

I also suspect that as you’ve figured out a way to get relief from financial pressures in a dating context, you have less incentive to obtain relief from those pressures on the job. Of course, there are many other factors that have come into play in creating that gender-based income disparity, and those you may not be able to overcome even if you don’t accept disparate payment on dates. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do all that you can to resolve the work disparity at work. Maybe then you’ll ask for more, as my friend’s job applicants did not.

Another tree sculpture on the way down. Stunning.

Another tree sculpture on the way down. Stunning.

I really was thinking this sort of thing plodding down the rocky trails and across the flowering meadows of Mount Tallac. Hiking in the High Sierra opens my mind. It’s a kind of mindful meditation, only this one plays with thoughts and feelings, not just the beautiful sights and sounds of the tableau evolving around me.

At some point I started thinking about John. He’s an artist friend from more bohemian times who now collects art in his Tahoe home. A visit there is better than a visit to a well-staged gallery: objects and lighting are beautifully and apparently effortlessly arranged. It is always heart-warming to visit him, hear his anecdotes about the fascinating provenance of his pieces, and sit with him feeling those treasured and cosseted works of art silently illuminating us.

The man has cancer, is undergoing chemotherapy after surgery, and this is what he does with the flowers on his deck. Way to go, John! "Don't let it bring you down."

The man has cancer, is undergoing chemotherapy after surgery, and this is what he does with the flowers on his deck. Way to go, John! It’s all still beautiful.

It’s been a bad year for him, with cancer rearing its disgusting head and chemotherapy giving him terrible symptoms. At his place the evening before Mount Tallac, I had tidied up the kitchen for him, over his objections of course, because his hands appeared almost arthritic under the chemo and he couldn’t do it himself.

He and I had watched a movie later, called “The Sorcerer.” It’s a William Friedkin thriller, one which I had never seen. John estimated that he had seen this underappreciated 1977 movie about 30 times. Its dark message is one that a cancer sufferer might well select. “No matter how much you struggle, you get blown up, ” as the director put it. Roy Scheider gives a convincing performance as a New Jersey gangster who must flee to South America after robbing a priest of his bingo proceeds. The priest’s brother was a mafia don.

John standing in front of one of his paintings, back in his loft in Oakland. It was late 1982 or early 1983. We would hang till the early hours.

John standing in front of one of his paintings, back in his loft in Oakland. It was late 1982 or early 1983. We would hang till the early hours.

On that long hike down, I was comparing Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea with this film. Not a sophisticated critical comparison of course, just reflecting on both the book and the film. The darkness of the movie is shared by the book, the sense that whatever wonderful or amazing things you accomplish, however much skill and panache you display, will ultimately be devoured by cruel fortune.

Yet that was never the case for either Hemingway or Friedkin, each of whose work continues to enthrall, effortlessly proving its author wrong, and it’s not the case for John. He was a painter in his youth, and his paintings will last. The pieces that he has brought together in his own personal collection will last in a way, even if they are shared among his heirs at the end. His vision will inevitably be black when he’s suffering through chemotherapy, but his life’s work throws off its own light in the darkness.

Feeling it at Gilmore Lake on the way up.

Feeling it at Gilmore Lake on the way up.

That was my hike, seven hours in the High Sierra culminating in a few gorgeous photographs. They too will last.

Well, okay, you’re right, maybe not!

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