This is my favorite time of year in Arizona. We’ve got 7 months of absolutely gorgeous weather in front of us and as an avid hiker, I use this opportunity to the fullest: I find the tallest mountains to climb, the most isolated trails to follow, and generally become one with nature until such time as it becomes necessary to stab nature in the fucking eyes.
I mention this because I came close to having to do exactly that this last weekend. I was hiking on a 7 1/2 mile trail when I heard a snuffling, grunting noise behind me, off to the right. This was when I was confronted by this snarling beast:
Yes, the fearsome baby javelina, otherwise known as the peccary, or the desert pig, and let me tell you something people: You haven’t lived until you’ve looked death right in the beady little eyes and… Oh, who am I kidding? You are ADORABLE baby javelina! Yes you are! Who’s a good wittle piggy? Who’s a good wittle piggy? Oh, I bet your momma just loooooves you! Yes, she does! Yes… she…
Yes, momma javelina was about 10 yards behind baby javelina, keeping a close eye on things. Javelina will get as big as 90 pounds and can seriously fuck you up if they put their mind to it, so while baby javelina’s charge was adorable, the prospect of getting charged by momma was decidedly less so.
It would have been funny if someone had come along just then because they would have seen me brandishing a survival knife, throwing rocks and screaming at what appeared to be Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. “Get the fuck out of here, you bacon-smelling motherfucker! I’ll carve fucking pork chops out of you and drink beer from your goddamn skull!” You can’t be harsh enough with adorable baby javelinas, trust me.
About a mile down the trail, I then heard what sounded like the Rattlesnake of Doom coming from a cactus patch six inches away from the trail, which I deftly sidestepped by going a little bit off-trail to avoid it (at one point, I’m pretty sure I was in Canada). No one wins when man and snake encounter each other, although once I saw a guy take a snake’s head clean off with a 2 iron on a golf course, which I guess you’d have to consider a win seeing as that shot calls for a 5 iron at most.
And then in the trail head parking lot, standing next to my Jeep and looking at my phone to figure out how far I’d gone, I noticed some motion by my foot: A hand-sized tarantula, slowly making the rounds on the off chance that somebody had dropped a baked ham, or something similar that the spider could have eaten as a light snack.
I was driving home, happy to have survived such a close encounter with nature when it dawned on me that since it had been sitting there for 2 1/2 hours with no top on, there was no telling what might have crawled into my Jeep. That tarantula might have been looking for his huge, spider-body-building cousin Butch who was CRAWLING ON THE HEADREST AT THIS VERY MINUTE! This is not a fun thought to have while traveling at 70 miles per hour. I got home without being devoured by Shelob, of course, but there’s no sense in taking chances: I filled my Jeep full of gasoline, and pushed it off of a tall cliff.
It was weird, and a bit frightening having my own personal Charlotte’s Web played out for me in the middle of nowhere, but that’s not going to keep me from hiking as much as I possibly can while the weather lasts. Because it really sucks when the taint-searing temperatures set in, and you know that you’ve got 5 full months of insane temperatures in front of you.
When I travel and people hear that I’m from Phoenix, they always ask the same thing.
Some Dude: So what’s the hottest temperature you’ve seen down there?
Greg: Well, once, on top of the Hoover Dam, I looked at the thermometer and it read 123 degrees.
Some Dude: WHAT?!? 123! Whoah! Hey, is it true you can fry an egg on the sidewalk?
Greg: Dude, you can fry an egg in your Jockeys. 123 degrees is not a good thing.
So during the summer I don’t have a lot of exercise options. I could go to a gym, I guess. But even though that freaky looking lady may really look like a javelina, they get very upset when you hurl rocks and obscenities at her, and they won’t even let you in with a survival knife. Also, the people who spend all their time admiring themselves in the mirror drive me nuts, and I can’t help but give them a new goal to work on: “Looking good! Now you need to work on that double-chin.” And for some reason, they have a problem with this.
Another reason I don’t go to the gym is that they don’t let me in anymore.
So instead, I go to the mall. I work across the street from a large mall, a one level building whose loop measures almost exactly a mile. So over lunch time, I’ll go over there and put in a couple of miles in the comfortable air conditioned environment. Putting in two miles, actually has benefits beyond the cardiovascular ones.
For instance, once I saw a person so fantastically obese that at first glance I thought it was my ex-mother-in-law. Since I was taking two laps, I could come around for another look without seeming like I was gawking. (False alarm, as it turns out: It was a Volkswagen on display.)
Another time I saw a person walking around wearing a shirt that read “Fudge Packer”. That’s the kind of thing you need to look at on the down-low, in my opinion. I know I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable marching right up to the guy and asking, “Say, does your shirt say ‘Fudge Packer’ on it?” What if I was wrong? What if I was right? So you go around and come back for a second look.
Other times you can use the second lap to come up with a good, snappy comeback to the omnipresent assholes who confront you as you walk along, trying to part you from your money. “Sir! Sir! Do you care to give a donation to the United Nations Refugee Agency?” It’s hard to come up with a witty comeback when they spring that shit on you unexpected. But if you come around again, you’ve got all kinds of time to think up a clever retort.
“Sir! Do you care to give a donation to the United Nations Refugee Agency?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
You also have the opportunity to confirm your long-held suspicion that people are goddamn crazy. I was walking in front of a store called Lids today, when I saw something odd. Well, more odd than a store called Lids. Lids sells baseball caps, the kind that you see douchey-looking hip-hop wannabees wearing, or worse yet, hipsters. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the term “lid” used to be used to denote an ounce of pot.
I once worked at a Fortune 500 company for over a decade (surprising, I know). During a meeting, someone gave a demo of a program that they called L.I.D.S. which was short for Longitudinal Information Directive Service, or something equally inscrutable. Upon hearing the word L.I.D.S., two people at the table looked up with a smile on their face: Me and my boss. We had a wonderful time the rest of the meeting dropping subtle marijuana-related humor into the discussion.
“So, your goal in this meeting is to sell lids?”
“I’d like a lid, I know that!”
“What’s the bottom line? How much does a lid cost? Because when I was growing up, a lid was, like, $20. Yeah, it was pretty lousy, and it hardly got you stoned, but what do you expect for $20?”
“Oh, God, we used to smoke this awful brown shit we called Mexican Dum-Dum Weed, because it was harsh, smelled awful, but turned you into a blubbering idiot!”
“Aren’t you a little young to know what a lid is?”
“Yeah, well, I started getting high after the term was common, but you still heard it from time to time, mostly coming from old fuckers like you.”
“Haha, very funny. Hey, do you know where to get pot?”
“I might. You know Bill, over on the web team? He gets high.”
And then we’d notice that everyone was looking at us, and the next meeting’s topic was employee drug testing. Fortune 500 companies are fucking lame.
So I’m walking by this store called Lids, and I see this middle-aged, doughy woman reach into her halter top with both hands and just flop a boob out of there. She did it with a resigned, irritated look on her face, as if she was caving in to the repeated demands of a toddler. “There!” her look seemed to say. “You’re free. Are you happy now?”
I did a double take, then looked around to see what reaction this was getting from others. Nothing. Everybody was busy talking to someone else or looking in shop windows, and no one else seemed to see it. I shook my head and walked off, wondering what would possess a woman to just whip one of the girls out like that.
Since I had another lap coming, I figured that I’d see her getting arrested, or at least escorted from the building, so I kept my eyes open. And as I approached Lids a second time I saw her standing there again, a few feet away from where I’d seen her before, only this time her saggy tits were properly stowed. I walked fairly close to her, trying to get a look at the crazy I was sure that I’d see in her eyes, but she seemed nothing more than a middle-aged housewife, looking for a few things at the mall.
I’d gotten about ten feet past her when I heard her say, “God dammit!” and I turned around to see her pull her boob out double-handed again, only this time it got noticed.
“Hey!” yelled a security guard on a Segway. “Hey! Come here!” And he began to chase Floppy Booby Lady through the mall at a surprisingly high rate of speed. I mean, I didn’t know Segways traveled that fast, and there was no way in hell that I thought Floppy Booby Lady was capable of moving fast enough to force the security guard to floor it like that, but off they went, down the hall and around a corner, a group of people beginning to gather to watch the madness.
I thought about turning around to see what would happen, but I needed to get back to the office, and besides… If you’ve seen one topless pig running around the desert, you’ve seen them all.