Shades of Gray

Behind the Shadows – The Stair Climb Edition

0 Comments 25 February 2013

It was shortly after New Year’s and the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb Providence edition was in full swing. Details were being finalized, teams are being assembled and generous people the world over are sending in donations.

Around this time rumors began to swirl like a burrito fart being pushed along by a strong wind. Resolutionistas captain Matt Simoneau was in the midst of recruiting long retired eventist and world renowned stair climber “Shoeless” Joel Barth. The press corp from both parties remained relatively quiet until “Shoeless” was officially placed on the roster at the close of the January deadline.

Would “Shoeless” fly on the straight or would this be carbon copy of the events in his past? We all remember the Sandcastle Preschool Sandcastle Build-off of 1986; a nearly 5 year old Barth threw the event in the finals against a local green horn in sandcastle game. In the post build press conference when asked what happened Barth said, “My fucking shovel broke, I couldn’t get the sand to stick and
I nearly pissed myself once I saw what he was building, what more do you want?” The truth is the winning castle was nothing more than a lump of sand with an American flag stuck in the top of it and although the official take is still unknown it is believed that Barth received multiple packs of every Bonkers flavor at the time.

This takes us to the 1992 Warwick Fire Fighters Fire Prevention Poster Contest. Barth, an up and comer on the local art scene, was in the finals in what again should have been a landslide victory and he came up short. After an investigation it was learned that someone in Barth’s camp had given 3 rd grader and special needs student Ella McCord a lolli and a stuffed Sunshine Bear to draw the poster. Barth was suspended for 2 years from the poster circuit and hasn’t drawn in competition since.

Following the D.A.R.E. – whip-its disaster of 1995 Barth officially announced his retirement from all competitions and has been living in semi-seclusion somewhere in France. I flew to Paris and met with his press corps in hopes of an interview.

I arrive in Paris shortly after 9am and meet with his press secretary Josef Gladlaw. We briefly discuss my questions and head off towards the compound.  On the drive I was blindfolded and rendered unconscious by what I assume was a high grade chloroform.  When I awoke several hours later I stepped out of the car and into a stair climbers paradise.  There were different styles of stairs set up inside and outside the numerous buildings throughout the property.  The rise to run ratio on the staircase leading to the roof of the barn was to die for.  I sat down with “Shoeless” in the middle of the courtyard to ask a few questions.

R.H. – This compound is pretty impressive, what is your training like?
Shoeless– I mostly train in a montage style to John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s “Rain On A Scarecrow”
(He starts humming the tune and runs over to the closest staircase goes up a few stairs and comes back down).
Shoeless– the next time the chorus came around I would have been closer to the top.
R.H.- After so long out why now, why with The Resolutionistas?
Shoeless– Team captain (Simoneau) has the gusto I look for in a leader and he’s a strong speaker, a very convincing personality.  Talk to him yourself, you’ll see what I mean.
(When reached for comment Simoneau said, “No comment” and hung up.  I’ve never been more convinced).
R.H.- Do you have any concerns about the event?
Shoeless– Really I just hope that I can make it.  I’ve had a great training camp but I’m choosing to climb without supplemental oxygen.  As the air thins with elevation you never know what can happen.
R.H.– With some of the controversies of your past I think everyone wants to know, can someone buy your result?
Shoeless– What’s the offer?  (At this time Gladlaw comes over and whispers in his ear)…I meant no, the answer should have been no.
R.H.– One last question, Why France?
Shoeless– With their shitty pastries and awful tower nobody would look for me here.  It’s given me the time I needed to become grounded…and I started tweeting.

The rest of the evening was spent talking at length about everything from antique train whistles to underground beehives.  After breakfast the next morning we shook hands, I told him we’ll see each other when he’s back in Providence and I was taken back to the airport by Gladlaw.

I waited in the lobby at 1 Financial Plaza for Barth’s arrival.  As he walked through the door he looked dishevelled and frightened.
R.H.– What’s wrong?
Shoeless– My discman keeps skipping, looks like I’ll have to climb without the Coug’s.

He strapped on his helmet, affixed with a camera, and went up the stairs into the abyss.  At the start of the 4th floor he yelled out “The novelty has worn off!” and then just after the 5th floor he passed out.  Luckily, Grandma Gladus (the events oldest competitor) accidentally put her cane down on Barth’s outstretched foot.  He awoke and shot up the rest of the stairs at a blistering pace.  Collapsing again at the summit he was triumphantly carried down the stairs and over to RiRa’s Bar & Grill for the official times and a beer to wash away the agony.

Official Time for “Shoeless” Joel – 4 minutes, 44 seconds.  This makes the winner of the time trial Jane Barth.  Her guess of 3 minutes 59 seconds is something that only maternal instincts could have predicted.  When reached for comment Jane said, “If his disc man was working properly he would have broken 4 minutes.  I blame technology..and the French!”

The winner of the participants 12 pack giveaway is Amy Barth.  Nice job participating Amy!

We here at The Shade wanted to thank everyone who participated and donated to the stair climb event this year.  Keep up to date with The Shade’s whereabouts at to see what will be supporting next.

Thanks again,

Reins Hagglemayer

- who has written 512 posts on The Shade.

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