When my friend, Alex, was diagnosed with lymphoma, I didn’t know what to do. I retreated to what I always retreat to when I’m similarly confused: writing. I asked him, in a coffeeshop in South Philly, mere hours after his first chemo session, if I could write his story into a book. I intended it to be my gift to him, to be the panacea an author could offer.
I had never written book-length non-fiction before, but was enthused at the prospect. After all, I’ve long thought of myself a Writer (capital W) rather than a novelist or a poet or a journalist or an academic writer or an emailer. I write. That’s my identity. So why not try writing that I hadn’t done before?
From the summer of 2018 through 2019, I’d meet Alex at various coffee shops and ramen bars throughout Philadelphia, slowly learning his story, recording his voice, filling notebook after notebook of information. I know how to research, but researching a person, a friend, was different. Our efforts, five years later, are this book.
Back in that first coffee shop, Alex exhausted because of the chemo, he thought for a second before agreeing, then said: “We’ll do this on one condition.”
I thought oh great.
“We have to hang out and climb together throughout the process.”
And so began five years of outdoor climbing and writing, laughing and drafting. Too much coffee and too little time.
Endless thanks to Alex, Conrad Anker for writing the Forward, Fred and the staff at Sharp End Publishing for picking up the book, and all the readers.
We hope you find something important inside.