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Aron Ralston Has A Cold

I’d rather forget how to make a gin and tonic than have laryngitis behind the bar.

My strategy for good health has always been that if I convince myself that if I am not sick then I won’t get sick. For the most part, this technique has worked pretty well. Even though I eat like a raccoon and have whiskey coursing through my blood, I rarely get sick. While I am constantly cutting, scrapping and bruising my body through negligence, I have avoided most illnesses ranging from staph infections to N3H7 (hippopotamus flu). The problem is that when I do get sick, that internal switch in my constitution gets toggled to whiny, needy baby. I try to be stoic about it but as we have discussed earlier, I am a massive wuss. Fortunate for most of you, the brunt of my complaining is leveled on Erin—seriously Congress, can you get this woman some sort of medal? I locked it up at work simply because I know that I have to make money. Besides, nobody likes hearing anyone complain about nagging coughs and upper respiratory problems when you’re pouring their drinks.

I got sick sometime after Thanksgiving. I think I did it to myself by gorging myself on food and my friend, Gwyn’s, homemade wild plum wine. I love this new renaissance of DIY where people are making liquor out of things that grow in their yard. I can see in the foreseeable future somebody making a lawn clipping gin that would give Hendricks a run for their money. Anyway, I over did it at the dinner table and I think the combination of the season change and my Herculean intake of plum wine put me into the early stages of pneumonia. Fortifying myself with twelve types of cold medicine and hot toddies, I was able to make it through last weekend’s shift. I probably looked like the early stages of the walking dead but people don’t care providing they get their JagerBombs and Bud Light.

I rested up Sunday and was feeling like I was on the mend by Monday. So well that I decided that it was time to get back into my normal routine and start contributing around the house. The dogs haven’t been walked in a couple days, so I decided to load up the hounds and head to Tanner Park to stretch our respective legs.

We are a twelve paw house. We have three dogs: Samson the Beavergoat, Shelly Belly and Roxie. We’ll discuss Sam at another time. His friendship and service to the house merits not just its own column but probably a five-part series. Shelly and Roxie’s life story, on the other hand, could be summarized in a tweet. Shelly is a chocolate lab that got the nickname “Shelly Belly” on account of the large benign tumor on her undercarriage that resembles a camel’s hump on her stomach. She is neurotic, grey in the muzzle and very loving. Her most unique trait is that she is obsessed with drinking water yet does not like being wet. Roxie is another story. This nine year old chubby black lab is swimming machine. Taking her for a walk anywhere near water always results in her plopping into the drink and swimming until she collapses. She has a soft face, a rat-like tail and half a scoop of brains. Are they good dogs? They’re the best.

We hopped into my truck and headed up to Tanner Park. It was getting late in the afternoon when we got to the park and stated down into the gulch.  Off leash, the dogs ran wild pursuing their own interests. Roxie was on the hunt for a pool of water to get her Mark Spitz on while Shelly was looking for discarded trash to eat. I was listening to a podcast on my IPhone and trying to stay warm. Tanner Park is on the south side of I-80 and in the winter months, it is blocked from the late afternoon sun by the hills. I figured we would walk the mile or so to the end of the park where the tube for Parley’s Creek passes under the I-215. During the summer months, sliding down the tube is a great retreat from the heat of the valley. It’s cheaper than going to the swimming pool and you can bring beer with you.

The dogs looked happy to be out of the house and for the first time in a couple of days, I was feeling pretty good. It was freezing cold outside but it felt good to chase after the dogs, throwing a filthy tennis ball for them to fight over and check out the secluded park. Taking our time, we got to the back of the park where the tube empties into a pool in about 30 minutes. Parley’s Creek tube is about four feet wide and is encased in concrete. There are steep walls lining the sides of the tube stretch up to road above and the water empties into a large pool lined with rocks. Through the years, swimmers had added rocks like beavers to build a deep pool that they can safely dump into when shooting the tube. Standing on the edge of the pool, listening to the water rush down the tube over the sound of my podcast, I commented to myself that this upcoming summer I will head out here and finally shoot the tube.

Shelly had fantastic success finding treats along our walk. She was in a constant state of chewing something she found on the ground. As far as Shelly was concerned, the hike had been a triumph in eating human food. Roxie, on the other hand, had not found her allusive water until we got to the end of Tanner Park. With me standing on the edge of the pool, Roxie nudged past me and plunged into the icy waters. I smiled as I thought about how dirty the inside of my truck was going to be on the drive home. She started swimming to the other side when something unexpected happened: she shot like a dart upstream. The undercurrent of the creek was so strong from the force of the water coming through the tube that she stated heading towards the mouth of the tube.

Oh boy.

I popped my ear buds out and called for her. The problem was that the cold I had been fighting had rendered my mouth a husky wisp that she couldn’t have possibly heard over the currents of the water. Roxie was able to right herself and aim towards the shore but the force of the creek held her in place. It was like running on a treadmill—she wasn’t making any headway. Instead of making it to the shore, she started bobbing up and down and dipped under the water.  I called out for her again and quickly realized that she wasn’t going to be able to get herself out of this jam. I quickly emptied my pockets and put my phone, wallet, car keys and such into my ball cap and placed it on the side of the creek. I started along the concrete embankment to where she was struggling when this bad situation went from bad to worse.

I fell right into the water.

It literally felt like a million darts piercing every part of my body. On a drunken New Year’s Eve in Lake Tahoe, I joined the polar bear society by dipping into the water at the stroke of midnight but I had the advantage that day by being covered in petroleum jelly and filled with booze. Hitting the water in Tanner Park felt like a baseball bat of cold that slammed the air out of my lungs. If there ever was any sense of purpose, I was in the middle of it immediately.  I quickly righted myself and made my way to Roxie. She was struggling and probably more panicky that I was. I searched under the water and came up with her front paw. Sliding my hand to her collar, I hoisted her out of the pool and shoved her alongside of the wall. The water was about five feet deep but the rocks lining the floor of the pool were slick with algae. We were pushing ourselves the ten feet to the edge of the pool when the second most unexpected thing happened that day: Shelly came swimming right past me heading straight for the tube.

And the hits keep coming…

On the Brightside, there were no more dogs that needed saving. On the downside, I knew that all three of us were in a lot of trouble. I swung my left arm over and grabbed Shelly before she got out of reach. In a moment of rare physical strength, I preformed the world’s first two-dog butterfly pull and positioned both dogs in front of me. Wrapping both dogs up, I pushed to the shore and threw both of them onto dry land. I scampered up the side of creek and escaped the freezing cold of the water. To say that I was frozen would be an understatement like pull pork sandwiches are delicious. I gathered our possessions and started the longest mile walk back to the truck I have ever taken.

The dogs were absolutely no worse for the wear. I, on the other hand, was in a little bit of trouble. My shoes were saturated. Every step was met with a squishiness that chilled my feet. I was soaked up to my shoulders and Tanner Park was dimmed in the twilight of the evening. I knew all too well that there wasn’t going to be a rescue party or life flight out of the park. So, I just put my head down and started walking.

Considering what had happened, I only had two thoughts: how do I constantly find myself in life-or-death situations doing something as simple as taking the dogs for a walk and what the Hell was Shelly doing in the water? To answer the first question, I summed it up that I have made a cosmic trade-off for a lifetime of bruises and scrapes in return for the most adventurous life a guy can lead living in Salt Lake City. The answer to the second question gave me the warmth that I needed to make it back to the truck: Shelly went into the water to save me. Shelly Belly, aka Twinkletoes, jumped into the water because she was trying to save me and Roxie. I am well aware that this is a gross use of anthromorphication but it was the only luxury of a distraction I could afford myself in the cold. This neurotic old lady had this John McClane-like moment where she said to herself she is the only one who can save us. Whether or not this is true, it still made for the only distraction I had on the walk back to the truck.

We covered the mile in quick time and all of us jumped in to my truck. I fired up the heater and started driving home. It’s funny that as freezing cold as I was heading home, I quickly forgot about that the second I smelt the cab of my truck. The three of us smelt like a Thai food in a dirty diaper. Unbearable. I stripped down the moment we got through the front door and I took a blistering shower. I don’t think I warmed up until I got to bed that night.

As well that ends well. After drying the dogs off, they went to their respective beds and slept until the next day. In the end, I am glad that none of us were seriously hurt. However, the biggest casualty of this adventure was that I lose my voice. I am completely over my cold except for the fact that I can barely talk. Working a busy night at Keys On Main means that I have to yell over the pianos for four hours and that is no good. Guys in Affliction shirts don’t give a damn if I can’t talk even though they want to enter into ten minute discussions regarding the pros-and-cons of Red Bull based drinks. Maybe losing my voice is the ever allusive medal Congress owes Erin. At least this way, she doesn’t have to listen to me complain.

Ben Raskin is currently drying out and bartending at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Aron Ralston Has A Cold

  1. Covered in petroleum jelly?

    Posted by Phill | December 4, 2011, 6:30 am

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