I'M FACED WITH a crisis of identity as I sit here in front of my electronic typewriter. After an entire lifetime of knowing DEEP IN MY BONES' HEART'S GUTS' SOUL that I hate spending time in the outdoors, I find myself enjoying time spent in the outdoors. Now to clarify, I mean the OUTDOORS—not just outside. I mean the kinds of places where out-of-breath fit people go on hikes so they can talk past each other about previous hikes they've done. I mean precariously trying to distribute your kayak weight in such a way that you don't plummet into some thudding, careening rapid. I mean fucking camping.
The reasons for deploring such activities were clear to me. The bathrooms are horrifying (if they exist at all), you essentially sleep on the ground, you have to build a house out of telescoping sticks and some kind of fabric REI invented, you're too hot or too cold, all your stuff is back at your normal house, and you can look at pictures of beautiful things on the internet now.
Fuck the outdoors. This was one of my most deeply held beliefs.
Now, for no reason I can easily pin down, I feel the opposite. In the last couple of years, I can feel the concrete around me. I feel the roads, not as a means of conveyance, but as a means of entrapment. "WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO TO YOUR JOB OR TO ONE OF FIVE STORES YOU EVER VISIT OR THE COFFEE SHOP OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY HERE?" I don't know if it's because I live in LA, and more specifically, if it's because I live in LA and I'm from Portland that it's happening to me. I think one of two things happens to native Oregonians growing up—either you realize the wealth and bounty of natural beauty around you and appreciate and make use of it, or you completely take for granted that you're surrounded by ancient, consequential nature and massive, breathtaking geology. I was certainly the latter, and my career-based exile in LA is making me feel the former in a big way.
Maybe it's getting older, maybe it's being in my 30s now. I'm 31—as a kid, that's the age I assumed people started preferring VH1 to MTV. I'm VH1 years old now. Maybe I feel like I should see things and feel things and be made to feel small. This is also part of my dilemma, though. I don't know if I really need to feel those things, or if I'm intellectualizing my anxiety about age and my dread at a future lifetime spent in Los Angeles, and trying to treat my anxiety holistically by going on hikes and renting kayaks and even fucking camping.
I don't know if I like the outdoors, or if I like liking the outdoors. There I am, anyway, at the top of a long hike, out of breath, taking pictures for me to look at later, taking pictures for people to look at right now so they'll think, "Whoa, Ian Karmel is kind of outdoorsy." It's certainly a look, but who cares if that's why—it's also a view.