Read this first: Brooklyn's Finest (Part I of II)
The next day we visited Brooklyn Boulders, a rock-climbing gym that my grade school friend, Lance Pinn, founded and owns. In high school Lance was suave with girls, passed advanced classes without trying and seemed born able to read people and business opportunities like I was born able to tolerate Adriamycin. After college and seeing an enormous market for climbing gyms, he and two partners collected the capital for Brooklyn Boulders.
I had emailed Lance two months ago about my 10-year cancer-free anniversary and how I wanted to celebrate at his gym. He immediately made arrangements for us. “What Lance says, goes. Lance is the man,” one of the gym employees told me.
Lance first escorted us to the Fairfield Inn & Suites across the street where he had negotiated for two rooms to be available to him indefinitely. “These guys are going to stop by to shower later this afternoon,” he told the front desk clerks.
Lance brought us to the hotel roof where we looked down on Prospect Park, Park Slope, Barclays Center and the public park across from his gym that Lance helped create as a member of the neighborhood recreational board. “Welcome to my town!” he said.
Lance gave us a tour of his rock-climbing gym, soon to be the largest in the country after a future expansion. His company is building several more, including one in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he returned an hour later. He came to Brooklyn for us.
Lank joined my group to climb, though he didn’t need to take the “Learn the Ropes” course Lance provided us. Lank began climbing in college at Virginia Tech, where I met him through mutual friends. When I rock-climb back home it is always with Lank. If not for having to focus as his belayer, I would gaze as he stretches for holds that he seems to create by mere friction with his rubber sole or finger chalk on the wall.
Lank and I went searching for routes, hoping our three amateur friends learned enough in “Learn the Ropes” not to kill one another while belaying. Given the same route “grade,” Brooklyn Boulders was far more difficult than Sportrock in Alexandria, Virginia, and offered unique routes that employees re-set daily.
My favorite was “Brooklyn Bridge,” the first route I’ve encountered where three walls meet. I experimented with different ways to get above the jut using the jug. One giant jug is all I need—unlike Lank’s grace, I climb using pull-up explosion, which is how I compensate for missing a left pelvis.
Facing the wall, I couldn’t reach the jug above me no matter which way I leaned. Bracing with my left hand on the adjacent wall, I reversed direction and felt for the jug with my right. I wasn’t in position to see it, but on the third try I touched it, latched on and pulled as the fire danced between the fibers of my forearm.
I made a video of my Brooklyn Bridge climb:
Exhausted, my friends and I departed for the hotel to shower and enjoy another of Lance’s gifts:
We completed my remaining requirements of a successful trip with additional friends including Lank's wife, Vina, Fiery and my literary agent; and bratwursts and pints at Radegast Hall & Biergarten.
As the clock ticks further away from my cancer journeys, I am touched that people in my life continue wanting to celebrate my health with me. Like I wrote two weeks ago in The Huffington Post: to many more climbs and celebrations and bratwursts.