If You Go
What: Luke Mehall: "Climbing Out of Bed" book talk
When: Thursday night at 7
Where: Neptune Mountaineering
Luke Mehall sees himself as more of a storyteller than a climber or a writer -- always on the lookout for great storiesfrom everyday people about climbing culture.
His book "Climbing Out of Bed" is a compilation of short stories that describe some aspect of climbing life. Mehall, 34, lives in Durango but will stop in Boulder to talk about the book at Neptune Mountaineering on Thursday at 7 p.m.
What's "Climbing Out of Bed" about, exactly?
It's a collection of 25 rock climbing and mountain town stories. It definitely encompasses a lot more than just climbing. There's some love stories in there; stories about "buildering" or climbing buildings; a story about couch surfing; a story about hitchhiking; a story about a friend who got cancer at age 21 while he was a senior in college and how he dealt with that.
I saw that there's a story in the book about Zen dishwashing. What is that story about?
I've definitely had two major occupations in my life: One is working in restaurants and the other is writing. Zen dishwashing is the concept of a mental state to transform your job. So when I am dishwashing my mind is on writing or my mind is daydreaming of something else and I try to keep a really positive attitude. It's trying to transform your job from, "I don't want to be here," to having a really positive state of mind and transforming your situation. I don't even mind washing dishes, so a lot of the time it's this meditational process.
You're also the publisher of The Climbing Zine. What is that?
I had done some writing for Rock and Ice and Climbing (magazines) and I've also written for the Mountain Gazette. You don't get every story published, so you end up with these other stories that nobody wants to publish.
I found out about zines while living in Salt Lake City. I would go to the library and check out the zine section. I wouldn't really like the writing at all. I didn't really like the content, but I liked the concept. Our focus is on great climbing stories. What separates us from other climbing magazines or publications is that we don't have a focus on the elite. A lot of magazines, you'll see a lot of professional climbers. We're looking at great, transforming stories that encompass climbing, but it's more about that "climbing as life" ethos. It's about a story and what climbing brings into your life. There's a creative writing influence in it, as well.
You moved to Colorado in 1999. What brought you out here from the Midwest?
My story wasn't a typical move-out-West-and-go-to-school story like it is for a lot of Midwesterners. Basically I was really, really depressed and I had just kind of ran away from home. I was on a lot of different substances and I was in a bad place, so I just took off from home and was traveling around trying to find this girl I had dated before.
After a while I got my cool and made contact with my friends and family back in Illinois. I realized I had nothing to go back for in Illinois, so I decided to find a town I like and get enrolled back in college. I had already gone to two colleges by the age of 20. I decided to find another college and that ended up being Western State in Gunnison.
When did you start climbing?
The seed was planted in Illinois. I had a friend who I knew from high school who would take me climbing in southern Illinois, and then I got really hooked on the climbing gym. There was one climbing gym in Bloomington-Normal. They took an old abandoned grain silo, cleaned it out and turned it into a climbing gym. Really getting into the culture and what climbing is really about definitely happened once I moved west.
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