Knots, Just Knots

The phone rings. Rarely a good thing. It’s Zuckerman calling, the wannabe auteur of Monte Nido. He has a notion he wants to take a rock climbing lesson and he wants Weinstein to partner up with him.

“C’mon, don’t be chicken shit”, he says, “The first lesson is knots, just knots, no climbing”. 

Weinstein, not yet fully aware that whatever Zuckerman says is pure Hollywood vacuity, agrees to go. It’s a monstrous decision because Weinstein’s fear of heights is redline and he is putting his trust in Zuckerman’s assurance. Just knots, no climbing.

They drive together to the base of a soaring cliff face in the San Gabriel Mountains where they meet up with a group of climbing students, including three attractive girls, and two instructors from the climbing school, a couple of wiry young men whose body fat appears to be about zero.

A half hour is spent upon knots. While Weinstein works assiduously on a half hitch it does not escape his attention that the three girls are more than attractive; they are hot, they are in fact lithe sun-bronzed muscle toned beauties, members of a then burgeoning breed of proto females who frankly intimidate Weinstein down to his socks. It is also becoming clear to Weinstein that Zuckerman’s words were pure crap. A long nylon line is being prepared, a belaying line, and the taut male instructors are issuing instructions that are clear and unambiguous. Use your feet, test your footholds, don’t rely on arm strength. Your feet are the key. We’re only going up a hundred feet or so but remember that a ten foot fall can be just as fatal.

Oh sweet Jesus, Weinstein, can you run and hide? No, you can’t run and hide. The proto femmes aren’t scared. Look at their expressions. The bitches look like they’re going fucking shopping. They’re happy, elevated, energized and you are a quaking two hundred pound piece of shit.

“Zuckerman, you asshole, get me out of this”.

“C’mon Weinstein. It’s nothing. Look at the size of my ass. You’re in much better shape than I am”.

Fear has a color. Fear is purple. Weinstein’s face is magenta but there’s no escape within the bounds of any human dignity here. The line is cinched to Weinstein’s waist and three lead climbers including big ass Zuckerman and two of the khaki clad uber femmes have already begun to make their way up the cliff face. Weinstein is climber four. The line is tugging. Get up there Weinstein. Test your footholds and for God sakes don’t look down. This is no time for an anxiety attack. Remember, the purple is only a message. Think, you schmuck, your father once told you fear can be either your foe or your friend. Make her your friend.

Weinstein is thinking way beyond, “What the fuck am I doing here?” Weinstein is thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this”. But Weinstein is busy. He’s busy testing footholds and despite the instructors’ admonition he’s also relying on arm strength to keep ascending the cliff face and get this goddamn lesson over with as quickly as possible. Fear has a smell too. Fear smells like wet rock. Think of fear as having a bell curve. Weinstein’s fear hits the top of the bell curve when he reaches a narrow ledge in the cliff that is the terminus of the climb, nothing more than a niche in the cliff, a niche that is ten stories high, a niche that has barely enough room for the climbers to gather together and chat. Everyone chats. Zuckerman chats. The uber chicks chat. Weinstein can’t chat because he can barely breathe; he is in the midst of a deeply personal private crisis, a struggle to control panic that is quickly going from magenta to black. If fear also has a taste Weinstein can’t taste it because his mouth is as dry and desiccated as the Atacama Desert. His foci problem is that he and his fellow climbers have been temporarily disconnected from the security of the belaying line so it can be reconfigured into a rappelling line for the trip back down. Allow panic to overbear you now Weinstein and the coroner will be called to pick you up with a spoon. The instructor is giving a talk about rappelling. Weinstein hears not a word he is saying. He just wants to get buckled again to the security of any fucking line in the house and get back to Mother Earth who he now knows he dearly loves. After interminable minutes, minutes that seem like millennia, Weinstein is rappelling downward, not well, awkwardly, but downward at last, and when his size twelves finally clomp down on terra firma, his body, his mind, his spirit is at once suffused with a kind of relief he has heretofore never known. He believes he has met his worst enemy, he who lives within his own self, and survived to tell the tale.

“Weinstein”, Zuckerman says when the group gathers at the base of the cliff to chat some more, “Let’s sign up for another lesson, a more advanced climb, what do you say?”

“Zuckerman, you know your pal Paparian, your Armenian buddy who carries a loaded Uzi in the trunk of his car in case the Turks show up again, he who drinks Jack Daniels right out of the bottle, he who does pull ups from your ceiling beams? Let’s give him a buzz when we get home, I need a quiet evening”.

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