The adventure in today's update is pretty much just like the movie Cliffhanger, only with more excitement and Stallone.Day 1 - Base Camp
What am I doing? I ask myself this same question before every climb but it somehow seems more pressing than ever today. Danger is in the air, and it's making my hair frizzy and unmanageable. Ahead lies a seemingly impossible task: reaching the peak of the largest hill in Florida. With the aid of high-powered binoculars I can see my destination, a daunting 85 feet up a frighteningly gentle slope from my current position. Part of me screams that this is madness, that I should cut and run before it's too late. Of course, I won't. The thrill of adventure and discovery is like a secondary heartbeat to me. I could not live without it, could never endure a safe and boring life such as yours.
I have also invested too much to turn back now. The past three years of training by repeatedly visiting the local baseball field and giving myself five hours to climb the pitcher mound. The expensive hiking equipment I mortgaged my house to purchase. The vasectomy. But perhaps more important than any of this is the fact that no one has ever managed to reach the peak before. I will tread on virgin soil, and in doing so lay claim to the mountain. As experienced a climber as I am, I have never had a mountain named after me. Like everyone else I've used a Sharpie to impose my own name over every named feature in my atlas, but that doesn't count. Trust me, I know: I went to court over the matter and lost.
I am not alone in my journey today. With me as always is my sherpa and longtime friend Meep. He is every bit as silent as he is intelligent, and has saved my life on many an occasion. Carrying our gear and provisions are sixteen thin yet muscular Indonesian men with broad smiles, all inexplicably named Randy. As you might imagine, having sixteen men with the same name can present a problem from time to time, like when we go to a restaurant that only has seating available for fifteen of them. Aside from tragic moments such as that though, things work out smoothly. Some people question what would happen if life was in the balance and there were only seconds to act. Wouldn't communicating to one specific Indonesian Randy out of sixteen be near impossible? No, of course not. I speak Indonesian quite fluently.
Meep has just given me the thumbs up, a traditional Tibetan gesture indicating that his thumb is in working order. This is the last step in his routine preparation checklist, so it is time to begin our adventure.
Day 2 - Altitude: 10ft
The altitude has already begun to wreak havoc on us. As we go higher the atmosphere continues to thin, depriving us of oxygen. It is hard going, and the unpredictable harsh breeze threatens to knock us off course or down the hill to our certain deaths. Several Randys began to weep openly today in the face of these hardships. I berated them and urged them forward, but inside I wanted nothing more than to stop our progress and join them. I must stay strong.
Day 6 - Altitude 25ft
We suffered a blow today from which I doubt we will be able to recover. This afternoon Meep tapped me on the shoulder and pointed backward. I dug my pick in the ground for purchase and turned in the direction he was pointing. A sense of vertigo settled in, but when it cleared I was able to focus on a chilling sight. We had left the tin of hot chocolate behind in our base camp. My knees buckled and my hold on the pick gave way but Meep gripped my shoulder, saving my life for the umpteenth time.
A decision had to be made. Turn around and set back our progress by a fortnight or attempt to press on and somehow complete our quest without the hot chocolate. We attempted to vote on the issue, but the Randys unanimously raised their hands to vote yes for each option. We'll try again in the morning.
Day 15 - Tragedy, Betrayal
I haven't had the opportunity to pen my thoughts as the situation has taken a turn for the worse. We decided to go on without the hot chocolate, mad as it may seem. Morale was low yet we managed to trudge on at a steady pace. By the third day it began to feel as though the hot chocolate incident was an anomaly far behind us, but it turned out to be a chocolatey harbinger of things to come. Around an hour before sunset, a wild beast sprung into our path. This "deer" (as Meep later described it) caught us completely off-guard. It stared us down with large, soulless eyes, and Meep wordlessly cut the lifeline supporting the Randys. As they fell screaming to their deaths, I stared at Meep in horror and revulsion. He hadn't hesitated to act, and there wasn't even the slightest sign of sorrow in his features. Time seemed to stop completely. The deer turned and hopped along its way, satisfied with the bloodshed.
Did Meep simply panic in a misguided attempt to save our lives, or was the incident part of a bigger plan? Does he mean to kill me next, to reach the summit alone and take all the credit? I no longer trust my companion, but the simple act of survival keeps me from speaking up or taking a course of action. When the Randys were lost to the abyss, our supplies went with them. Meep and I have been forced to eat his ceremonial hat, a forty pound accessory composed entirely of cans of tuna. I'm not sure how much longer we can survive like this. We don't have bread to make sandwiches, and the tuna isn't my favorite brand.
Day 20 - Chaos, The End In Sight
I caught Meep reading my diary. He's dead now. We had set up camp for the night and planned to finally reach the mountain's peak by noon of the next day. Sleep did not come easy, and I awoke in the middle of the night to find Meep sitting by the campfire with my diary in hand, uncovering my true feelings of mistrust and undoubtedly planning to kill me. Suddenly his eyes darted up from the book and met mine. We sprung to our feet and started toward one another, and just then a gentle breeze kicked up, sending Meep tumbling end over end. Instinctively, I reached out and grasped the hand of the man who had saved my life so many times. Our muscles strained, and several feet behind and below Meep the broken bodies of the Randys loomed ominously. My strength was giving way. Would I allow this man to fall to his death in order to save my own life, or pull him up? I'd like to say I decided and acted with certainty, but before I could the typically silent Meep whispered "finish the climb" and simply let go.
In spite of all that had transpired, I wept as I watched him fall. Tomorrow I finish this.
Day 21 - Resolution
I am at the top, a hollow victory. There is no joy. No celebration. I've decided to die here. With no provisions, there is no way I could possibly survive the climb back down even if I wanted to. It gets much colder at night than I had anticipated at this altitude. The temperature during the day is a comfortable seventy degrees, but overnight it violently drops down into the sixties. My extremeties have been stricken by frostbite, and before the night is through my blood will freeze over. If anyone should come across this diary in my frozen hands, please carry out this one final request: see to it that this hill is named Mount Meep.
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