September 19, 2013

Species Discovery: Monte Oppidum Elitists (Mountain Town Elitists). ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photo: Jenna Penielle Lyons. (I tried to disguise myself as an MTE in this photo in order to lure them in for further study.)

Their markings include Patagonia everything, Dansko clogs, expensive and sporty sunglasses, and some kind of other branded accessory (i.e. bag, hat, etc.).

How to identify:

Unlike more urban species of elitists, they generally drive a Toyota Tacoma, a Prius, or a Subaru Forester or Outback. They inhabit outdoor gear shops, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, any farmer’s market, university district neighborhoods, or their own photography exhibits of their last trip to Glacier National Park in the art walk.

If you’re on the prowl for them during working hours, you can find them almost undoubtedly in coffee shops (never Starbucks).

You’ll see them skiing on occasion, and they will generally be talking about their last trip to Whistler, B.C. or Switzerland. Or Dubai. A subspecies of the elitist family, they have pronounced calf muscles. They can run, jump, and climb faster than most species of elitists.

They are what I like to call MTE (Mountain Town Elitists).

None of this would generally be an issue, except I typically feel so uncool around this type of organism.

Even though I’ve been climbing, skate skiing, and mountain running since I was a little girl, I always feel as if I will never achieve the pinnacle of coolness around these godly creatures. I feel this way when I visit Jackson Hole, Boulder, Flagstaff—you get the idea.

I grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, which is a blue collar railroad town with a decent ski hill, climbing crags everywhere, and single track mountain bike trail circumambulating every ridge around it. I grew up running around with my friends and mostly playing outside. We were always very inclusive of other kids who wanted to participate. If they didn’t have the gear to play with us, we’d get it from our parents or other friends so they could join. If they were too scared to climb with us, it was okay  to sit down on a rock and eat a burrito and watch everyone else.

Nobody was ever snooty about mountain sports.

What it feels like when MTEs attack:

Though Pocatello is a high desert, it gets a lovely amount of snow in the winter (usually). Thankfully, the MTEs haven’t found it yet, or else it would be the next kingdom to be overtaken by Whole Foods and other gentrification trademarks.

When I moved to Missoula, Montana, I was startled by the number of MTEs there.

Though I found friends who resembled the inclusive group I had grown up with, I also identified the elitist group quickly. Even though I was good at skate skiing, mountain biking, and climbing, I still couldn’t hang out with them. In my mind, I blew it off and said, “What in the f*** is wrong with me?”

It got even worse when people started telling me that I was probably gluten, lactose, and white sugar intolerant. The word on the street was that I was going to get sick more if I didn’t eat kale or organic yogurt or Kombucha. God forbid I make a slice of toast in the morning. I always knew I was lactose intolerant, but every Missoulian (almost) has some sort of eating disorder they have developed over the years. People in my town didn’t even know what gluten was. Ha. They ate burritos and beer every day and were still healthy because there is nothing to do there except recreate.

What they feed on:

If it’s not organic, they say they won’t eat it.

The thing about the MTE diet is that because of their environments, they have adapted to be intolerant of white flour, white sugar, and though most of them are white, they are pretty much allergic to everything that is white except snow, expensive pastries, locally made donuts, and gourmet pizza crust. A lot of the time, the gluten and lactose intolerance is mental—a perceived intolerance.

If an MTE spots you eating a candy bar or any other type of processed food, it will identify you are a weak animal—something it can prey on.  If you like to hunt and that is how you obtain your food, the MTEs will automatically hate you, event though most of them enjoy fly fishing.

Emotionally, they feed on the inferiority of others.

MTEs typically attack by making you feel inferior, and then they chew slowly until you ultimately leave their territory.

Where they hide:

In the winter, you’ll generally notice a pattern of MTE mating rituals. The female MTE will find a manly, recreationally savvy MTE to shack up with. They leave their den only to ski and get their morning coffee. The morning hours of between 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. is the prime time to see MTE couples feeding, so make sure you go to the nicest pastry/espresso shop in town. Most of them hate all religious organizations, but they will sometimes subscribe to some form of New-Agey spirituality.

You will not ever find MTE couples in the following places: Diners (too fattening), Wal-Mart (too corporate), movie theaters (movies are for fat people), metal concerts (not indie enough), work (takes time away from skiing/biking/climbing/coffee drinking).

How they reproduce:

The interesting thing about older MTE couples is that they hardly ever end up getting married or having kids because they realize at some point that they need to leave the mountain town habitat or the MTE woman will decide that having children will make her body explode to enormous proportions and she will no longer be able to shred on the ski hill or fit into her bike shorts or climbing harness without cellulite eeking out in weird places.

God forbid she can’t fit into her prAna climbing top without wearing a bra.

So for these reasons and others, the MTE couple will disband (usually in the summertime), the man will go on a climbing trip to Red Rocks or Joshua Tree with his friends, and the woman will move away from the mountain town to pursue a new life in a different mountain town. The pattern will repeat itself next winter.

The strange thing is that MTEs don’t sexually reproduce. They reproduce parthogenetically by coercing others into their lifestyles. In some cases, they will adopt children and bypass all biological processes entirely. This would normally lead to extinction or endangerment, but the MTE has developed a special niche.

How to locate MTEs lurking at night:

The thing about MTEs is that even though they are all allergic to gluten, they love craft beers and microbreweries. So, at night, you can generally find them at breweries. There will typically be a string band playing, as MTEs are attracted to the sonar vibrations of the fiddle and slide guitar.

The MTEs will ride their brand new bikes to the brewery in the summer seasons. In the winter, sometimes you will see an MTE wearing an avalanche beacon into the brewery or bar, just in case there is an avalanche inside and he or she needs to find his or her friends.

After the MTE gets nice and tuned up and buzzed, he or she will drunkenly drive his or her Prius or Tacoma or Outback home; this is a risky behavior that many MTEs engage in.

How to protect yourself from an MTE attack:

The best way to arm yourself against the zombies—I mean MTEs—is to just ignore them and keep doing what makes you happy.

If you enjoy eating Snickers bars or corn dogs, then eat them. If you (gasp) don’t enjoy mountain sports, then don’t do them. If you like video games and TV, then play them. If you like shooting guns, then you are allowed to do that. If you shop at Wal-Mart, then understand the economic implications of shopping there and keep shopping there because Whole Foods is a corporate setup too (but don’t tell the MTEs). Go to church if you want to. If you own a Grand Prix or Dodge Charger, then that is okay and you should drive it around with pride—blasting metal or other non-MTE tunes out of the windows. If you want to reproduce with your mate, then you should do it.

If you’re not allergic to foods that are white, it’s okay. If you don’t like snow, that’s okay too.

Just don’t let them think it is a weakness.

And most importantly, don’t wear your beacon inside, because they will be able to find you.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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