Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Les is More

I recently blogged about several attractive fellows from the Discovery Channel, one of whom was Les Stroud, aka "Survivorman." Well, you know how it is: you can never predict what particular person is going to capture your imagination, and in the intervening days, Les has trapped mine. I've also learned there's more to Survivorman than I originally realized.

I have a strong theory why I find so much appeal in a man who specializes in survival. If you'll pardon the arrogance of this statement, I'm a pretty capable person myself--intellectually and emotionally, anyway. Meanwhile, however, I was raised in the early 60s with the romantic ideal that men are strong and protective. In spite of my independence, deep down I have always craved a hero to rely on, someone almost supernaturally able to deal with challenge.

So it was only a matter of time until I found myself attracted to Les, particularly considering the format of his show. He's all alone in these beautiful but dangerous locales...just the man and the camera that connects him to you. When he looks into your eyes (via the lens) and shares with you his most intimate reactions to his plights of survival, you feel yourself bonding with the guy. You suffer with him when he shivers with hypothermia, you pray with him that he won't be attacked by bears, you hunger and thirst with him as days pass and his body pines for nourishment. That kind of shared experience has its effect.

Nevertheless, I confess the allure of Les Stroud crept up on me slowly. He is capable but not dashing, pleasant-looking but not gorgeous, manly but not macho. He can seem almost ordinary at times (if you ignore what he's doing), as he goes about his business quietly with moments of humor and occasional annoyance. After I had spent enough time with him to notice a friendship forming (if familiarity with a TV personality can be called "friendship"), I suddenly realized I felt more than that. One day I kinda liked him; the next I was holding pretend conversations with him in the imaginary wilderness of western Ontario.

Yesterday, however, things took an even more intense turn.

I was killing time and decided to see if I could come up with a nice Les wallpaper with some spectacular natural backdrop behind my new hero. In the course of this, Google turned up someone's personal blog page that featured the line: "Les Stroud--I want to have his babies!!" I figured I'd found another "Survivorman" fan. But when I clicked from Google to the page, I found the reference was in this girl's "favorites" column, listing him as her favorite musician.

I knew Les was a musician, as I reported here before. But it isn't his primary claim to fame. My curiosity piqued, I dug a little deeper and found a page of Les's on which he spoke more about his musical career. It included three free MP3's of songs he had composed and performed. I chose one entitled

It was an interesting folk fusion sort of song, with acoustic guitar (Les) and fiddle taking the lead roles. I liked it a lot, and it was certainly out of the ordinary. Then over the music rose the narrative voice of Les, the one I knew well from watching his show, speaking softly and slowly of his childhood daydreams. And abruptly, without warning, he began to sing.

I am not exaggerating when I say, I had an intense physiological reaction to this. A flush of heat flashed in the core of me. It was a kind of shock, a gasp of delight but more awe-full than happy. Why shock? Well, it wasn't that it didn't sound like Les: it did. And yet, I had truly never guessed his singing voice would be that beautiful. I stopped breathing, ceased moving, experienced nothing but that weird flush and the sound of Les Stroud's music in my ears.

I haven't had a reaction like that to music since when I heard Ewan McGregor open his mouth and sing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" at the beginning of "Moulin Rouge." As on that occasion, I found it hard to believe what was happening--that this person possessed that voice--even though the proof was in my very ears.

I listened to the other two songs. All three were wonderful. Les's guitar playing was wonderful, and the fact he wrote these songs was just one more fact at which to marvel.

It's hard to find men who excel in the esthetic realm and the physical one. Sometimes the survival master's comments on "Survivorman" do verge on poetry, and clearly his love of the natural world and his camera work also mark him as having artistic sensibilities. But there is something about music that, at least for me, transcends all. So this discovery proved to me Les Stroud's soul is a match for that mind and body that I've seen endure and conquer the physical realm's toughest challenges.

What is it about hearing a man sing that just makes you want to lay your heart at his feet?

Over the years I've gotten quite good at mastering celebrity attractions. I know they are 90% fantasy and 10% fact, and I stay conscious of that. That said, Les Stroud is almost too much for me. None of this is acting, it's all the real Les. I fear the fantasy/fact ratio with him is more 40/60. I find myself actually aching a little if I think about it too hard. I'm sure his wife could tell me plenty about his faults and the downside of living with him (as if I could, as she did, live with him without electricity, plumbing, or even metal tools!). But this time the wonders of this man are rather irrefutable.

As much as that pains me, seeing as I won't ever even meet him, it's also really marvelous.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. Les Stroud is a joy to watch. He is many times more real than some of those 'Monster' hosts Discovery tries to pass off as real men.

Diana Laurence said...

EXACTLY, anonymous! It's bravery rather than bravado.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100% I am glad I am not the only one that feels this way.

Diana Laurence said...

I know there are PLENTY of us, Anonymous! Thanks for posting.