BY CARL L. BANKSTON III
Why do human beings like mountains so much? We speak of the “high points” of our lives and “peak experiences.” Drug users try to get “high.” In San Francisco, many years ago, I liked reading on one of the many small summits around the city. When I used to live in the Bataan Peninsula, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting on a crag looking far down at a river running through a deep valley. This is not the kind of experience I often have now, below sea level in the New Orleans area. So, the best part of my attendance at the American Sociological Association meetings in Denver was playing hooky on the first day and going up into the Rockies.
A couple of old friends met me at the airport Friday morning with a rental car. After lunch in a Mexican restaurant in the old mining town of Morrison, we drove to the Red Rocks around the amphitheatre and hiked around a little before proceeding to Lookout Mountain, where we ran through the woods and enjoyed vistas of Golden and Denver. Then, we drove to Mount Evans, the second highest point in Colorado. Driving up the winding, guardrail-free road to the top, I remembered about forty years ago when I caught a ride up a similar road to Aspen with a rugged, tax-resisting old anarcho-libertarian cowboy who was hauling a horse trailer behind his speeding pick-up truck. The Aspen road didn’t faze that guy at all, but my friends and I lacked his nerve and we had our fingers crossed the whole way. I was glad I was not the driver.
When we reached the end of the road and got out of the car, I had to sit down. That’s when I realized I had traveled that day from below sea level to over 14,000 feet. But we were soon able to scramble the rest of the way up to the top of Mount Evans, intoxicated with the thin air. We lost enough judgment to drive back down worry-free.
After that, the meeting was metaphorically and literally anti-climactic. As I’ve mentioned before, I did not like the “Real Utopias” theme of the gathering, since I thought the theme was just another vehicle for pedaling politically correct forms of social activism. But I managed to avoid all of the thematically related sessions, fulfilled all of my obligations, and met with a representative of the publisher with which I have a contract to produce another book by this coming spring. I was also gratified to receive a minor award, one of the “outstanding reviewer” awards of the journal Sociology of Education. My award consisted of a t-shirt with the phrase “Revise and Resubmit” on the front. I have to confess that I enjoyed seeing colleagues and talking with them. My secret vice is a fondness for people as individuals, even though I’m leery of humanity in the abstract.
The Moral Liberal Sociology Editor, Carl L. Bankston III is Professor of Sociology at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. He is the author and co-author of a number of books and numerous articles published in academic journals. An incomplete list of his books includes: Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (with Min Zhou, 1998), Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (with Jacques Henry, 2002), and A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (2002), Forced to Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation (hardback, 2005; paperback, 2007), and Public Education – America’s Civil Religion: A Social History (2009) (all with Stephen J. Caldas). View Professor Carl L. Bankston’s Amazon.com Page here. He blogs at Can These Bones Live?
Copyright © 2012 Carl L. Bankston III.