Mt. Killamanjaro and Failing to Ask Andrew McCarthy the Ultimate Question!

Road Schooled by Joe Trey: AKA Adventure Hermit

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I admire those that set out to conquer mountains, But it's not really my thing. I'm not saying if given a chance, I wouldn't give it a go. But I prefer passes. A pass gets you from one place to another. Going up a mountain only to come back down the same way holds little appeal to me. Even when I used to commute to work, I rarely drove the same way there and back. 

I have come to learn that seeing a view in the opposite direction can sometimes reveal new experiences. But, if given a choice, I avoid walking back on a route I have already traveled. It's a shame since I live in Colorado with 58 fourteeners (14ers). These are mountain peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. My sister has summited several, ranging from simple to quite complicated. She assures me, and I have no doubt that each offers a unique and glorious view.

One mountain that does intrigue me is Mount Kilimanjaro. Why Kilimanjaro? It's all because of Andrew McCarthy. Yes, that Andrew McCarthy. Less Than ZeroMannequinWeekend at Bernie'sSt. Elmo's Fire, and much more.

David Shankbone, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Many people know him only from his movies. I grew up watching him, and yes, I suspect I wanted to be him for a time. After all, he beat out James Spader for Molly Ringwall's affection in Pretty in Pink! I often wonder if he brought that up when he directed James "Steff" Spader around on three season-two episodes of The Blacklist

Throughout this article, I struggled with how to refer to Andrew McCarthy. Using Andrew seemed too familiar as we've never really met. McCarthy and Mr. McCarthy felt far too formal. But repeating his full name throughout felt excessive.

So, I apologize for any confusion. Please accept that in most cases, when I say, "he, him or his," I am referring to Andrew McCarthy. Occasionally I may slip up and use the formal or the familiar. In that case, sincerest apologies, in advance to Mr. McCarthy, eight years my senior!

Brat Packer to Andrew McCarthy (The Writer)

He continues to act, produce, and direct. But, what reignited my interest in him was his lesser-known occupation. When he put his Brat Pack history behind in 2010, he became a travel writer for National Geographic Traveler

Not formally trained and lacking any journalism pedigree, his gift for storytelling was enough to convince Keith Bellows to give him a chance. Mr. Bellows was National Geographic Traveler's Editor-in-Chief, and he gave him his first assignment. I learned all this from McCarthy's book, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down. I recommend listening to it on Audible. He narrates it himself, making the entire story feel like an intimate conversation over coffee. 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Image by Greg Montani from Pixabay

The book includes a story about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, a short time before his wedding! His wife was understandably concerned. His knee had been giving him trouble, and she was insistent that they dance together on their wedding day. Rather than seeking surgical treatment for what turned out to be a torn meniscus, he went to an Osteopath.

He was healing quite well. But his doctor also informed him of something unexpected. Explaining that knee problems can be a sign of issues with ego, commitment, and relationships. Some believe a person's ability to kneel is a form of humility. When we fight it and stand in pride, such injuries may come about as a way to force us to be subjugated.

From his book's title, you can see how this might have impacted his feelings on his impending nuptials. For him, the journey was not only about summiting the mountain but committing to do so. Proving this commitment to himself was a way to acknowledge his readiness to commit to his approaching nuptials.

Meeting Andrew McCarthy (Almost and Sort Of)

Rescue Dog? Yeah, that's How I felt. Envato Stock Image. Used with Permission.

In 2019 I saw Andrew speak at the live Travel & Adventure Show at the Denver Convention Center. I sat in the back. Watching as he soldiered through several technical difficulties. He had come with a message about making connections through travel. How it opens up our hearts and minds. Making us more accepting of others and changing us in the process. I was most excited to hear him expound on his book.

However, during the Q&A, many people seemed to miss his purpose entirely for being at a Travel and Adventure Show. Their questions were all about his young life as an actor. I suspect he is accustomed to this, but I felt he deserved more.

His book came out in 2012. A year later, I listened to it through my motorcycle helmet while on my own soul searching adventure. I, too, associate travel to connect with myself and others and figure out life's questions. 

I traveled across the United States, on dirt roads, from Tennessee to Oregon via the Transamerica Trail.  I also carried a copy of Ghost Rider. Written by Drummer and Author Neil Peart

I felt strongly about sharing with Mr. McCartney how he inspired me. So, when a break in the questions about hair product choices came up, I saw my chance. I let go of my wife's hand and walked to the microphone. She was kind not to wipe my sweat from her fingers until I was a few rows forward.

I still hadn't thought of a question. The hall was silent, and he looked my way. "The Andrew McCarthy" was looking at me! His green eyes pierced me. His eyes have been described as chalkboard green. But he didn't seem like a teacher ready to call me out for a wrong answer. His expression was friendly and expectant. Like he was hoping someone, at last, was finally going to ask him about travel and not his Brat Pack past.

As he waited, smiling, I panicked, offering only silence. Then I croaked out a generic compliment about his book. I then turned to the crowd and said, "everyone should read his book, uh, it's really good." I really should have asked him about directing James Spader. Ugh!

I was like a terrible, unsolicited audience plant. Sent to stir up business and failing miserably. Offering a signature Andrew McCarthy sideways smile, he nodded and said thanks. I awkwardly slinked back to my chair, and the room was silent.

No one else approached the microphone. My visions of asking a great question that would energize the room and send Andrew McCarthy on an enthralling story of adventure failed. I felt like Ralphie from a Christmas Story.

My query was to be as glorious as his essay. The one praising the merits of "an official Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time!" Instead, like Ralphie, I had just shot my own eye out! In front of Andrew McCarthy, no less.

I had walked up to the mic, thinking I could save him. Not that he asked. I left, feeling like I let him down. Not that he probably gave any of it a second thought. All in a day's work for a pro like him. But I really wanted to acknowledge his excellent work as a travel writer. To tell him how he was such inspiration beyond his good looks and acting chops.

The Q&A was over. Many of the women in attendance could be seen applying lipstick. Beginning to jockey for position in the meet and greet line. They were excited to meet Andrew "Blane" McCarthy. I was excited to be lost in the crowd. I looked toward my wife. As I did, I swear she was putting her lipstick stealthily back into her purse.

I couldn't blame them; not even my wife, I wanted to meet him too. I started walking toward the meet and greet line. But then I stopped. I turned and walked away. My wife, feeling my change of direction, asked me if I was sure. "Yes," I said. Subtly pushing my copy of his book deeper into my man-purse. I was too embarrassed to stand in line and ask for an autograph. Besides, I had forgotten my favorite lipstick. 

Still Inspired

At home, I dug deeper into McCartney's storytelling. I devoured it all online; his work for National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many more.

From my perspective, he was living my dream. He had achieved great fame and fortune as an actor. A success that most people would see as the apex. But he instead chose to pursue other passions and interests. He didn't let the world define his success. Deciding to live life to the fullest over merely existing.

So What? Why Climb Kilimanjaro?

So why would I climb a mountain just because Andrew McCarthy wrote about it? I suspect it is because of how he wrote about it. He inspired me to want to get in touch with a side of myself that might be missing. Something that might require going up AND back down the same hill. Albeit a 19,341 foot hill (16,100 above its plateau base) in Africa.

Will I ever hike Kilimanjaro? I'm not sure. But I'd like to. If I do, perhaps after I'll have a chance to meet Mr. McCarthy again. If I do, I plan to be much better prepared with my questions or have, at the least, have my lipstick handy.

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Joe Trey is known in certain circles as Adventure Hermit! A moniker fitting of his ambivert nature. Visions of rock stardom drove him to get a BFA in music from the University of Connecticut. Not long after, he abandoned his dreams of NYC and relocated to the Rocky Mountains! He has been known to "drink a toe." Don't ask. Or do! His work and love of travel have brought him nearly around the world. Writing, Hiking, Camping, Music, Motorcycles get him up and out each day. Hugging his wife and teenage daughters at night, bring him home! Not a tortoise, not a hare (but a bit hairy in all the wrong places), Joe only competes with himself. Through his writing and adventures, he encourages others to do the same!

Aurora, CO

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