Once my nerves had settled down over a multi-week period, and I had finally established by my place as at least a quasi-regular, I began to enjoy the conversations of the Thursday night Pizza Port sessions almost more than the food. Don’t get me wrong – there was nothing bad about having a cold pint of stout in one hand and a slice of wheat crust pie in the other, but the downside was that those only provided brief – but filling comforts. The conversation, on the other hand, filled my soul for the later part of the week. It provided me with emotional sustenance after the daily grind where meaningless phrases were bantered around at work. Sometimes, the conversation even provided mental leftovers to ponder on the drive home or tidbits that I could relate to other parties later
The conversation was absolutely free-flowing and completely random. It was always peppered with questions from far sections of the table as people had to deftly maneuver their ears to hear exactly what was said over the general ruckus of the crowd. Inevitably, the conversation was punctuated with raucous laughter, derisive, sarcastic comments, and good natured banter. It was the ultimate stream-of-consciousness creature, morphing from the elephant of sports talk (always about the Padres or Chargers, of course) to the serpent of work related news, or to the white rabbit of philosophical questions. There was also plenty of time spent admiring the brightly colored birds that were the stories of recent trips people had taken, spiced up with entertaining personal reminiscences.
That week, whatever week it was, at some point in the mid-summer of 2007, when “the idea” arose, the topics had already been all across the board. If I remember correctly, and I might not, we had already discussed the merits of the fifth spot in the Padres rotation – Greg Maddux or David Wells; various types of cheese from California to Wisconsin; the philosophy of Ayn Rand as it applied to gaming, and several other items. I was seated next to Nutsmatic, who was relating one of his short long stories when something he said made the person – whoever it was – on my other side ask me some type of question about mountaineering.
Somehow, my answer attracted the attention of Lumonox, who was sitting across from us. I didn’t quite catch what he said at the beginning of his statement, but at the end he most definitely said, “…and I went to Whitney, but it was really difficult and my Dad I just didn’t make it to the summit”. Just as I was about to nod sympathetically and say, “Yeah, Whitney is a really hard climb; I’ve done it a lot”, E-Rock jumped into the fray, and casually mentioned how he had always wanted to climb Whitney. The person next to him wanted to know who was mountain climbing, and across from her, someone asked what we were climbing, which in turn caused Nutsmatic to pause his story momentarily and smack me on the shoulder and ask why he hadn’t been invited to climb the mountain with everyone.
All I could do was laugh. It was a bad telephone chain all over again. It had happened that evening for the tenth time, and for the sixty-seventh time that month. I then tried to explain that it was a difficult climb and that, as far as I knew, no one was planning to climb the mountain. But, for some strange reason, I felt compelled to leave the option to climb the mountain open with the group, so I said, “but we could do it, if we wanted to”. I wasn’t sure why I said it, but I was sure that no one would ever follow up on that floating concept, as it was probably lost among all of the other words that were destroyed in all of the general competing Thursday night conversations.