Look. What do you see? Shut up. I’ll tell you what you see,” says Scrappers, grabbing my arm to save me from straying off a Happy Valley path to more-courteously light another cigarette.
It’s way past bedtime and way, way past deadline–but we’re wandering in hopes a few beers might wash away the day and renew our vigor for yet another late night at MauiTime.
Scrappers describes the adamantine dirt, barren but for a few spurts of angrily evolved weeds more thorn than leaf. Weeds though they may be, they’re resilient and it’s beautiful. They argue with feet to never again trespass, and they win.
After too much talk and too, too much beer, we stumble back to work reeking of the same disaster.
OK. Time to write and wonder where all the time has gone. This week’s topic: my third year moseying around the 16th annual XTERRA World Championships (somehow by kind invitation, I promise), held Sun., Oct. 23.
Seems like a fun task, right? I get a shiny press badge and a chance to ride in a van with journalists from around the globe while helicopters, dirt bikes and ATVs (oh my!) buzz about as the world’s best tri-athletes push toward glory (and a $105,000 purse).
But it isn’t fun–the writing part, that is. It never is. And I can’t quite figure out why. Writing whips me with all nine tails, but it’s all I ache to do, for better or worse.
Usually worse. (Just ask my ex… And my family. And my creditors. And…)
For the first year writing about XTERRA, I borrowed from Hunter S. Thompson, which is apropos given the whole sports thing. The second year I wrote in true-blue Kula Kid style (if there’s yet such a thing–this is only my 66th entry on this rear-book page): flowery and vainly introspective. South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz had won by an unprecedented lead, and attributed his win having dedicated his race to his father, who was at that moment dying of cancer…
So this third year–well, I’m not sure. Maybe I’m struggling because I’ve mucked it up for myself by attaching all sorts of sick reverence to XTERRA World Championships. See, that first year, it was the last story I wrote before waking up in a hospital on the Day of the Dead. The doctor pat my hand with a sad look in her eye and told me some stuff I couldn’t hear through the confusion. But the air ambulance’s paperwork was as clear as it’s carefully penned blue ink, and it read “acute promyelocytic leukemia.”
Now, two years later, I’m tired of writing about cancer. I’m tired of talking about cancer. It’s all I seem to do, anniversary or no, because I love cancer. (One of those, you-love-your-spouse-but-you’ve sometimes-gotta-get-out-of-the-house sort of things.) Really. It was the most fascinating experience of my life–which is saying something given my whole shiny press badge advantage and so on.
Hell, I’d do it all again if I could be so lucky! But a recent bone marrow biopsy reports all that chemo did the trick. Nonetheless, as each year goes by since diagnosis, it never seems any further away.
So who was I kidding that I could escape a cancer reminder at this year’s XTERRA? And no less when the event’s golden boy was none other than seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong. THE seven-time Tour de France winner: king of testicular cancer and the reason the world’s polluted with billions of plastic bracelets reading everything from “Live Strong” to “Wrist Strong” (Semper Colbert!) to “WWJD” to “Place Your Order With Oriental Trading Co. By Calling 1-800…” Even local rockers Owaila have their own (which is kinda cool).
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is super famous, if you didn’t already know. So it was kinda weird crouching like a creep in the brush to watch as he zoomed by on the Kapalua Trails (this year, the event changed sites after 15 years in Wailea).
Normally when athletes race by, people cheer. The photographers seem to do it in hopes of a better shot (some competitors will show-off by doing wheelies and stuff–seriously). The visiting journalists do it to support their countrymen; and as I’ve learned, shout out splits (i.e. the time they’re lagging behind the athletes ahead of them).
But whenever seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong whizzed by, everyone shut the hell up. Star struck, I guess. I for one wasn’t going to risk seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong toppling with naught but my well-meaning “woo hoo!” to blame.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong didn’t win anyway. He came in 20th. He bumped his head on a branch while running (someone else’s “woo hoo!” not mine). But who cares? If he can kick cancer in the nuts, I’m sure a little boo boo won’t phase him for long.
Instead, Austria’s Michael Weiss won (overall/the men’s division), as did California’s (via Scotland) Leslie Patterson (in the women’s). But if I thought I felt bad because no one cheered for seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, I felt really bad for Weiss and Patterson. At the press conference, all they were asked about was what it was like racing seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
Oh, our poor world champions! For all their effort, there’s little fanfare but at the finish line–and that’s when you win.
I suppose I shouldn’t feel bad for people who are better and more beautiful than me, but I do. They’re our species finest examples–their excellence and endurance epitomizes the Goldilocks evolution that’s built us for a level of endurance running unsurpassed in all the planet.
They’re resilient weeds-turned-trees, growing from even the hardest of things. It’s beautiful, and I’m inspired by the chance to simply admire them from the path.
To read more Kula Kid with links and photos and stuff, and to leave comments, visit mauifeed.com/kulakid