Opera As A Weapon (or The Return of the Prodigals)
by The Right Reverend Elmo Del-Shimsky
Several members of the congregation invited me to join them on their trip to Courtright in celebration of the birth of our nation and the eternal quest for climbing days. July 2nd found Bubbles, Betty, Zelda, and I at a secluded (and formerly unknown) campsite just south of the Maxson Dome parking area. A beautiful wide expanse of granite, with a narrow plateau overlooking Woodchuck Country. No crowd, no noise, just starry skies and peace at the end of a long days climb.
The next day, after sign-in (now only three sign-ins away from Purge-atory) at Trapper Springs Campground we hiked into Trapper, only to find that while we had two full racks, a communications error resulted in the transport of only one rope. This did not dampen our enthusiasm as we warmed up on Good Deed (5.5). Feeling cocky (as normal) Bubbles lead Tao (5.7) a bolted route, which upon review by the group, was deemed to be more like a 5.8. Betty followed cleaning and with exceptional grace considering her long stint in rehab (it's the fast crowd she's been running with). A top rope was set at the belay, but as I reached the second bolt, the pendulum which had looked trivial from the ground looked quite heinous. Three quick draws were set from top rope and I proceeded to the top in good form.
Zelda gave us her imitation of a crime scene victim and promptly left with Betty in tow. Betty is not yet fully recovered from her involvement with the fast crowds at USC and wanted to run back to our camp at Maxson with Zelda hiking after. Bubbles and I then proceeded west along the face until we encountered both a troop of Girl Scouts, Mousetrap, and Dingo. Dingo is a classic hex crack whose lead I did covet, however, being both a gentlemen and a man of the cloth, I acquiesced to Bubbles desire to lead MouseTrap. MouseTrap is a flaring finger crack that would confound Mini-Me. After futile attempts, we found a walk up and top roped the sucker. We did manage to struggle to the top and highly recommend this crack to the Don Quixotes in the group.
Upon return to our secluded campground, we found a parking lot. We shunned valet parking, fixed dinner, built a hall fire, watched the stars, and listened to the hum of what we felt certain was a Pagan Sacrifice in the offing not more than 100 feet from our tent. At 10pm we doused our campfire. Fearing for the safety of the virgin (can't have a Pagan Sacrifice without one) I ventured forth amongst the hedonists; counting at least 20 pairs of glowing eyes as I approached their bonfire. I kindly requested they "turn down" their ungawdly music to possibly 70 or 80 decibels. My requests where met with taunts and treats of getting stoned (without the benefit of THC)! Had it not been for my years ministering at the communion rail, my outreach to the ladies of the lamppost, and my work with crack addicts, a lesser man of the cloth would have felt that Satan had surely bested him. Sensing not the presence of a virgin, I returned to my flock and we knelt in prayer through the long (LOUD) night seeking divine inspiration. As we knelt hand in hand each giving testimony, sister Zelda recounted how in her misspent days tending bar the only way to drive the rats out in the morning was a good Aria. As fortune would have it, Betty had brought a CD of over 30 of the worlds greatest Arias! With these words, this group of sinners I had led into the wilderness (literally) was transformed into Christian Soldiers ...bent upon Biblical Justice... an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a rude awakening for a sleepless night.
The Pagans drunken rivalry finally subsided at 5am. Two and half-hours later Jehovah's Holy Ninjas' struck. Bubbles and Zelda donned tyrolean hats, grabbed folding camp shovels and took up positions guarding the flanks. The CD Player was loaded; power fed to the pre-amps; the speakers hummed with the flow of electrons. The doors to the church mini-van were opened; and with the push of a button the wrath of heaven was unleashed through four 100 watt speakers, as "Quarto a Bella, Quanto a Cara" from L'Elixir d'Amone, trumpeted forth upon the unwashed masses. Enraged at being awoken from his drunken stupor one of the unwashed stormed toward Betty, cursing that if God's joyous noise was not immediately silenced, he would silence it. Like a moth to the flame, the unwashed did charge further lured on by Betty's vampish air kiss.
It was at this moment, I stepped from behind the church mini-van, and moved to confront the evil among us. As the pagan's neck craned upward his eyes they did grow wide, and his pace did slow. It was either my 5'-20" frame, or the fact that this pagan had never seen an ecclesiastical collar shining down upon him from such close range. As the pagan approached, it became obvious this wasn't your typical run of the mill dimestore pagan; this man had fallen victim to full Demonic Possession! My knees did quake as I realized nothing stood between me, and the Abyss, but my years of ministry coupled with the spiritual teachings of the O'Sensei. The Devil Incarnate, finding verbal jousting to no avail, attempted to lay hands upon me, but I smote him righteously. His fortitude now rudely shaken, he retreated, forked tail between his legs. I knew I had exorcised his demon, for like the little girl in the movie, his head began spinning and he spewed bodily fluids from his cake hole.
Upon his retreat, Bubbles, Betty, Zelda, and I knelt in prayer, vowing never again to stray from the safety of an SCMA campsite, no matter how idyllic the scenery.
This article first appeared in Southern California Mountaineers Association's Monthly Newsletter, Cliffnotes in mid 1990s.