27-سخنگوی مارس نوارکتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 27
27-سخنگوی مارس نوار
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متن انگلیسی فصل
Mars Bar Spokesperson
When I was about twenty-three, I got a call from my agent with the breakdown of a Mars candy bar commercial. The setup was a young guy rappelling off a huge rock, while a snappy tune played in the background. The guy expertly drops to a landing and pauses to chomp into a Mars bar for energy and chocolaty goodness. You, too, can be young and adventurous . . . just start eating Mars candy bars.
I went to the first audition and they said, “Tell us about your mountain climbing and rappelling experience.”
“Wow, where do I start?” I said. “I love going with the family to Mount Shasta to camp. You see, the best climbing is deep in national and state parks, where there are a lot fewer people, and it’s easier to attempt more difficult climbs and rappels. Unfortunately, we’re all so busy that I have to settle for closer mountains to get my thrills, and frankly, they’re not as challenging . . . but it’s better than nothing.”
I had never been mountain climbing or rappelling in my life. Mountain climbing was, in fact, one of a few recreational activities that I had no desire to do. I love hiking in the mountains—but that’s not what we were talking about. This was mountaineering, ascending and descending the faces of huge rocks. A mistake could kill you. And there I was, presenting myself as Edmund Hillary. But it worked. I received plenty of smiles and nods at the audition—good signs a callback was probable. The very last thing the casting director said to all the prospects was, “The clients would need to see you actually rappel off the three-story office building next door. How would you feel about that?” A few of the other actors in the room hesitated, a couple said, “Okay, I guess,” and I said, “Cool, let’s do it now!” Another lie. I knew that they weren’t set up for rappelling at that time—so it was an easy, hollow boast.
I had a strong impression the callback was imminent, so I got to work. I called A16, an outdoor outfitter that catered to everyone from the day hiker to the seasoned mountaineer.
A guy named Chad answered. These guys are always named Chad. I asked if he could recommend an instructor for basic climbing with emphasis on rappelling. He said, “Dude, I’m your guy.” We settled on $100 for a one-day, five-hour crash course, and since I knew the callback would come within a week, we arranged a time and place to make it happen ASAP.
I met Chad up at the Chatsworth Rocks, not far from my boyhood home. As I’d expected, Chad was blond-haired and spoke with a serious Valley-girl inflection. Did I want to put my life in the hands of a guy who said tubular and who was probably stoned out of his mind? Not particularly. But I wanted the job.
We hiked back into the rock formations with the gear in tow and stopped at a spot next to the face of an enormous boulder. Chad let the equipment drop and pointed to the top of the boulder—about forty feet high. “This stone is choice ’cause it’s got some gnarly vertical,” he said.
We circled around the back side of the rock and quickly ascended. We were soon about four stories up. Chad got busy tying off a thick climber’s rope he called a “gold line” to a large boulder nestled roughly twenty-five feet from the edge of the forty-foot mother rock. Then he gave me complete step-by-step instructions and a lesson on all the equipment: carabiners and figure-eight descenders and belay devices. Once I got the jargon down, Chad had me go back to the bottom of the rock and watch him. He descended the rock effortlessly, springing off the face twice before floating gently to the ground. He moved with precision and sobriety and grace. Totally gnarly.
We hiked back up to the top of the rock. He then secured me to the line and carefully guided me through the steps again. Then he left to continue his tutelage from below, where he’d have a better view.
The transition from standing on a huge boulder to “walking off” and dangling by a rope forty feet off the ground is physically simple but psychologically complex. The proper way, per Chad: step off backward with one hand guiding the rope in front of you while the other regulates the descent speed from behind your back. Your body is perpendicular to the vertical mass of rock and you’re facing the sky.
Chad yelled out encouragement and told me to get into proper position. I had to gather all my courage just to hear him. Following his instructions was a whole other story. Both of my hands were clutching the rope in front of my body. And my body wasn’t perpendicular to the rock. Instead, I was dangling at the top of the boulder, my face so close to the rock I could kiss it.
Chad tried to assure me that I wasn’t going to die. He told me how to correct myself. “Take your right hand off the rope and grab it from behind your back!”
“Okay,” I said unconvincingly. I stared at my hand and mentally commanded it to move. It didn’t. My extremities suddenly had a mind all their own. I felt a chaos spreading throughout my body. I was sweating. My breath was shallow. I was having a panic attack. I also realized that I couldn’t hang from a rock all day—even that was becoming exhausting. So I stared down at my hand and gave it one more stern command to move around back. MOVE, GODDAMN IT!
Surprise! My right hand let go of its death grip, swung around back, and grabbed the gold line. Oh my God, it did it! The hand actually did it! Good job, hand. Welcome back to the team.
With my right hand now governing the amount of gold line I let out, I planted my feet onto the rock and began to push away from the face until I was a perfect right angle to that bitch. My confidence starting to return, I let out a little more line and backstepped down the rock toward the ground. Easy does it. Although my organs still felt as if they were forty feet above the ground, eventually I made it to the bottom. I took a few deep breaths, wiped the sweat off my face, and in a sickening flash I knew I was in trouble. I had a desperate feeling in my bowels.
I disconnected the harness and told Chad I needed to run back to my car. “Forgot something,” I said. I was too embarrassed to admit what was really going on. I was having an intestinal emergency. I bolted and made it halfway back to the parking lot before I got the feeling I was about to be opened up like the chest-bursting scene from Alien. I found a relatively secluded spot and dropped trou. Getting down off of a forty-foot rock had caused a sort of internal avalanche.
“What did you forget?” Chad asked when I returned.
“Uh, I forget what I forgot.”
I returned to the rock feeling . . . lighter. I scaled the serpentine path to the top with a bounce in my step.
Harness on, gold line in hand—left in front, right in back. I made my way down the rock, one steady step at a time. Done. Back up top again.
The third time down I was shrieking with joy like a child in a bounce house. The fourth time I was leaping off the rock and twisting into the air, doing a 360, then landing on the rock, light on my feet, as if I had been doing this for years. With the fear factor removed, I was able to move with abandon. I was able to enjoy the experience.
Two days later, I got the callback. Now was my chance to show them what I’d learned. The casting session was held outside the three-story building. I was up against four other guys. A random selection placed me third. The first guy took the elevator up to the roof, where a professional stuntman hooked up the harness. I saw him peer down, fearful. I knew the feeling. He took halting stutter steps down the face of the building to the ground—as exciting as three-bean salad at a picnic. The producers and director whispered to each other and shook their heads in dismay.
The next guy was up. They instructed him: Give it some energy! Have fun. He tried to outdo his predecessor by yodeling a few times, but his maneuvering on the rope was equally lethargic. The producers and director were now starting to panic. They sold this concept on the premise that outdoorsy fun equals Mars bars. If they couldn’t find the right actor, they might have to scrap the whole commercial.
I knew what they wanted—what they needed. They looked to me. You’re up. I said to them, “I see that the guys are rappelling using a double gold line through their figure-eight descenders. Is it all right if I hook up with a single? It’s kind of like packing your own parachute.”
They had no idea what I was saying. I barely knew what I was saying. Sure, they said. Whatever.
On the roof, I told the stuntman to allow me to thread a single line through the descender, but I asked him to watch me so that I did it correctly. “It’s been a little while since I’ve done this,” I said modestly.
Standing on the edge of the parapet wall, I peered down and asked if they were ready with the camera. They gave me the “okay” signal. I took three deep breaths. I smiled, waved to the crowd, and leapt backward off the ledge. After getting some significant air, I hit the middle of the building’s face like a bull’s-eye. I immediately reloaded my legs with a deep squat and pushed off, soaring high into a 360-degree turn and landing back on the building. One more big shove and I zoomed into the air before I alighted on the ground.
As I unhooked myself, I saw that the decision-makers were ecstatic. The other actors were deflated. Two other guys would go after me, but it didn’t matter. The part was mine. I knew it.
Two weeks later, I received directions to the location where we’d shoot the commercial. I shook my head. Chatsworth Rocks, where just weeks before I had struggled with my confidence, argued with my hand, and lost my bowels. We’re capable of so much. So much more than we know.
My accomplishment made me a little cocky. As we were getting ready to roll, I told the producers, “You’re not going to believe this, but Chatsworth Rocks is where I first learned how to rappel.”
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