So this weekend, America will be introduced to adrenaline-junkie Aron Ralston, the smart one who got his arm wedged between a boulder and a mountain, and was stuck like that for 5 days, or 127 hours. Audiences will ooh and ahh in amazement, as well as disgust, at the raw brutality of this man vs. nature true-life story. Afterwards, people will either steer clear of any mountainous terrain for the rest of their lives, or, if smarter, buy a next-day plane ticket to Robbers Roost, Utah (where Ralston’s near-death incident took place) and see if they can find the exact boulder that trapped him (only to then be caught off guard by the boulder’s asshole older brother, and, well, 127 hours: The Sequel will be made).
Meanwhile, in my safe, sheltered nook of an apartment in New York City, I’ll be reminiscing over that one time I got lost in the desert mountains of Palm Springs, California when I was only ten-years old; true story.
It all started when my typical suburban John Goodman of a father decided to take my brother, my mom, and I to the exotic Ritz Carlton Hotel in Palm Springs, California for summer vacation. It was all going well — swimming in the pool, playing on the tennis courts, eating room service at midnight — until, early one morning, my mother decided to go on a hike. Being only ten-years old at the time, and restless, I decided to follow her; why I did, I will never know.
We began our hike on a trail that the Ritz Carlton had artificially made for guests at the hotel. If you’ve seen 127 hours, you’ll know that the “trail” Ralston was “hiking” (or galavanting on like a male gazelle amped up on yeyo) was not artificially created by any hotel. It was a freak of nature. A beautiful one. Like a girl you want to do, and you do do, but then you find out that the girl is really a guy.
But here’s what happened. About an hour into our hike, my mother, being nearly fifty, decided she had hiked enough. This was on top of a cliff sort of thing that overlooked miles and miles of more trail. While resting, she told me to continue hiking the trail and come full circle to meet up with her on top of the cliff. If you’re not sure what this means, that’s okay, because I wasn’t sure what my mom meant either; but I was ten-years old and so “resting” while outside in the open wilderness on a massive mountain in the middle of the burning desert at five in the morning was like hell. So I continued on the trail.
If you’ve ever gone hiking before, you’ll know that trails have many offshoots, some of which aren’t actually part of the trail at all (they just appear that way due to natural causes such as animals running around, mudslides, rain, wind, God sneezing, that sort of stuff). So while continuing on this trail, I come by an offshoot which I assume is some kind of shortcut, and I take it. I must have been dehydrated or something because I didn’t notice that this offshoot was more like a narrow, jaggedy crevice that screamed, “I will eat you.” If you watch the 127 hours trailer, you’ll remember that scene where James Franco, who plays Ralston, jumps down that narrow path, only to have a boulder fall on him. This was almost identical to that path; whether you believe me or not is up to you.
So I jump down this narrow crevice, only to realize upon looking back up that there’s no way I can get back on the trail. I was like, what, 5 foot nothing at the time, and so my ability to jump was worthless. At this point, being only ten-years old, which I’ve said only like ten times already, my heart rate has elevated significantly, and this sick, nauseated feeling fills my stomach, because I realize that this offshoot isn’t a shortcut at all; it is, quite simply, a mountain crevice in the good ol’ Californian desert wilderness. I don’t know what pushed me to go forward — perhaps it was the fact that, being ten-years old, going forward was the most logical thing to do — but forward I went. Ran, actually. I ran forward, jumping down more rocky, crevice like terrain, and crying, but the kind of crying you do silently where only tears flow from your face and nothing leaves your throat. Along the way I passed a wild bee-hive, torn-up, bloodied human clothing along with backpacks and water bottles that appeared to have been no less than thirty-years old (no, really, I did, and when I did, the terrifying image of a mountain lion flashed before my eyes), and a lot of boulders and rocks, none of which fell on me. Maybe I was too small to cause any boulder to move from its place and fall on me. Or maybe I wasn’t enough of a douche bag to be running through the mountains intentionally like a wild man until having karma kick me in the face by having a boulder move from its place and fall on me.
The important thing is that, unlike Ralston, I didn’t have to cut my own arm off because after running — or jumping downwards and forwards through an obstacle of bulging rocks, I should say — for about four hours (okay, so I was lost for more than 127 minutes; it was more like 360 minutes, which is six hours, but I needed to draw a parallel somehow between the movie and my piece so as to give people a reason to read this self-indulgent recollection that serves no real purpose other than convincing people never to go mountain hiking all by themselves) I reach the other side of the mountain where a trailer park for the elderly conveniently appears. Now, later I would learn via some news story on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings how Palm Springs, California had become some sort of freakish hot-bed for serial killers. (Had I known this at the time, I wouldn’t have carelessly knocked on the door of some trailer park home.) But I didn’t know this, and I was tired, hungry, and scared, so I knock and this old grandpa opens the door.
Long story short, I tell him my story, he walks me all the way back to the Ritz Carlton, which I learn, is only a couple of highways away (I had literally hiked through an entire mountain), and I go back to my room where my mom is waiting, shocked and speechless. Apparently, my father, brother, and the police, with a helicopter and all that good stuff, are still searching for me in the mountains. My mom makes the good-news phone call to the police, and it’s a happy ending.
To this day, I’ve never really told anyone about this experience of mine, I guess for one simple reason that takes only three words to say (and is something Aron Ralston clearly doesn’t understand the concept of): no big deal.