As a person who has accidentally made a half-assed career out of writing, I’m always in awe of the literary skills of the writers at The New Yorker magazine. The sign of a good writer is when you can take a seemingly mundane subject (elevators, shoplifting, MapQuest, etc.) and turn it into a story that readers can’t put down. In this regard, the New Yorker is the tops. It is one of the few magazines I subscribe to and I read through almost every issue in hope that more than just the ink will rub off on me.
A few years ago, Nick Paumgarten, came out to Utah and wrote a profile called “Dangerous Game” on ski mountaineering for the New Yorker. Nick is an excellent skier, we had a great time and the article was a classic New Yorker piece. As part of the annual New Yorker Festival, Nick put together a panel to discuss “Extreme Sports” where he was the moderator and Greg Child (Alpinist), Lynne Cox (open water swimmer) and myself (ski mountaineering geek) were the guest speakers.
The talk was a blast and the hour-and-half seemed to go by in a flash. I’ve known Greg for years, and it was a true honor to met Lynne, especially after reading the profile on her in The New Yorker and her book “Swimming to Antarctica” which was 21 years in the making. A very cool thing about meeting Lynne was that even though I have zero interest in swimming, there were a striking amount of similarities between ski mountaineering trips and long distance swimming expeditions.
Lynne started out with long distance swimming (The English Channel) and is now focusing on swims that connect different cultures, especially ones in cold regions. She recently swam in Greenland where she completed a mile of open ocean in 28.8 degree water! For reference, most people would barely survive five-minutes in water like that. When asked what the scariest part of a swim was, Lynne said that it was the first contact with the water (they/she jumps in – no easing) as there is a big risk of cardiac arrest when a nerve in the nose somehow shuts down. It sounds incredibly painful and grueling to me, but I loved the chance to meet someone who was the personification of a sea mammal and was so good (and excited) at what she does.
We also got into other festival events including a talk by Malcom Gladwell (dangerously smart and sharp), cartoonists Lynda Barry and Matt Groening (oozing humor) and an “out of character” talk by Stephen Colbert. The Colbert talk was packed, so they shuttled the free-loader festival “talent” off to a waiting room to make sure they had enough room for the paying guests. While we were there, a very distinctive looking woman walked in with her “talent” pass on and we started talking. She said she was an author and had been on a panel discussion earlier today. Greg introduced himself and she said “Glad to meet you. I’m Joyce Carol Oates.” It was probably the highlight of the show for me, although meeting David Remnick (editor at The New Yorker) and the fancy party at the Gramercy Park Hotel rooftop were right up there as well.
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Category: Trip Reports