Thursday, January 31, 2019

Eva-lution


After another great powder day skiing in Utah’s Wasatch mountains, I was soaking in my backyard hot tub enjoying the orange-pink alpenglow hues on the surrounding hills. I had spent the day charging ahead of the maddening crowd with good friends, outflanking the competition, seeking untracked runs while searching and destroying pockets of pow.  My soaking was a fitting respite from the dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest war that is the new age, powder day at our crowded, corporate ski resorts.  I was complacent after enjoying some of my favorite old haunts and ski lines by thinking outside the box and trying new and different strategies for survival and optimization.  Zig when they zag.  Evolve or lose. 


My brand new puppy Eva was out in the backyard with me, exploring the trenches I had stomped for her in the virgin snow.  A soft, black cattle dog nearly 8 weeks old and only two days removed from her mother, siblings and heated barn bedding, she knows only snow and has never seen or smelled the ground.  She is fascinated with our us, our house and with the heat that comes up magically from a vent in the floor. 

As she snuggled the pure powder and pounced on imaginary leaves and mice, I saw her look up quizzically with a flake frosted face and follow a shape across the evening sky.  I looked up as well and saw our local Barn Owl glide by, with his silent four-foot wing span fully extended and his head down, not twenty feet off the ground, considering and calculating.  I jumped from the tub, in all my naked-isity, and scooped up young Eva from the fresh, white snow.  I stashed her quickly back into the safe warm house.  She needed more time to grow and learn, experience and analyze this Darwinian world.  We will both live and learn and evolve to see another powder day. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Winter Renegade


I ran in slow motion, as if in a dream or a nightmare, through the deep and dirty, uneven snow piles stacked up by the plows on the side of the road the stormy night before.  My frozen, wet galoshes felt like concrete blocks and I could hardly lift each foot off the ground as a mad man chased me down for pelting his car.  My two pre-teen, 1960’s compatriots, Michael Powers and Kenny Boufart, scattered in opposite directions, abandoning each other quicker than Judas Iscariot.  Mike was quiet, funny, and loved BB-guns and the Beatles while Ken was older, stronger and a lady’s man.  Partners in crime but not in punishment, it was universally understood; each man for himself. 

I looked over my shoulder and saw the irate motorist gaining on me in his pinstripe suit with a wide red power tie and slick Italian loafers, his car door flung open out on highway 31.  He was yelling something about ‘getting you god damn kids’.  Kenny headed upstream against traffic, recklessly on the muddy shoulder while Michael headed downstream quickly with it.  I chose the high road, up and over the artic roadside mounds, heading towards the familiar backyards and open lands I knew so well. 

Seconds before we three amigos were engaged in a harmless past time of throwing snowballs at the big panel trucks rolling by in the dirty Levittown alpenglow of the suburban sunset.  The thick east coast snow packed down into hard and dense snowballs, too hard to throw at people or cars but perfect for making a beautiful thud when they hit the hollow trucks in the evening rush hour.  A high, hard fastball got away from me and hit a passing black Cadillac Coup-de Ville with red interior, a classic Mafia type sedan in our young minds.  The surprised Wise Guy slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car before I even knew what had happened.  My friends and I exchanged surprised glances at each other and instantly had the same thought.  Run!!!

I made it around to the first corner house, Lenny Arkinore’s.  He was a weird skinny kid with greasy hair, dandruff and flakey skin, a mean mother with no husband and a barky dog called Tennessee Jed.  The low front fence was scalable but when I tried to jump over it I missed heavy and low and it hit me at the waist as I tumbled over it into the snow.  Jed was on me instantly and the irate Henchman was not far behind.  I jumped up but the big Goodfella reached over the fence and grabbed me by the collar, my scarf and the scruff of my neck.  I wiggled and shook wildly, spun around and dropped to the ground, crazily freeing myself from the man’s grip of everything but my scarf, which I abandoned with no remorse and headed across the yard with Jed nipping at my heals.  I had obeyed he first rule of a street fight:  Go nuts early. 

Another fence scaled, and I was in Bobby Bacarella’s back yard slipping around the covered underground pool and behind the pool house.  Bobby was younger but was a good athlete and a funny-cool kid with a ‘built-in’ pool so we hung out occasionally, especially in the summer.  No one was home so I went undetected as I stealthfully skirted the property perimeter like the two-bit outlaw I thought I was.  My last glimpse behind me revealed the mad man standing there hopelessly holding my scarf and looking at Jed and all the backyard fences.  Michael and Kenny were nowhere in sight, safe due to my distraction. 


I slipped thru the last slatted fence and into the open field behind the Mandra’s small farm stand.  They were the last rural holdout in this land of suburban sprawl.  They had goats, chickens and an old barn complete with a crazy old Aqualung type farmhand and a hoot-owl.  With my hands on my knees I caught my breath and contemplated my fate.  With some remorse I understood the man’s startled rage but never expected him to chase me down or rag-doll me on the fence like some Dickens Trollop.  I was just 11, a kid, having some fun.  Couldn’t anyone take a joke anymore. 

I shook it off but started to chill down a bit after running and sweating in the damp twilight cold.  I walked down the thin snow covered farm road rustling out a small white rabbit and slipped into the grammar school field behind my house.  I scaled the last fence into my own back yard where, through the dark play gym and monkey-bars, I saw my mother working at the kitchen window.  She was making dinner in our small and cozy, steamy-warm, middle class Irish home with a cigarette between her lips and a drink at her side, in her pearls, grey pants suit and rubber kitchen gloves. 

I burst through the backdoor onto the plastic mat set up for snowy boots and began pealing the wet layers, dropping hats, mittens and boots to the floor.  I jostled my kid sister in her baby-jumper roller-chair as my Chinese Pug dog named Ling-Ding clawed, licked and sniffed me like a long lost friend.

“How was your day”, my mom asked.
“Fine” I said. 
“What did you do” she countered.
 “Nothing” I admitted.    

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

On the Other Hand


I was skiing some pow bumps in the woods with a friend yesterday and as I turned over an innocuous rise, I landed a loaded ski on a rock on the back side.  It tossed me steeply and quickly downhill, on to the back of my head and helmet and I heard a crunch in my neck on another rock as I let out a low groan. 

I sat there for a bit and my trusty friend Paul came up and asked me if I was OK.  “I’m not sure”, I thought, “I’m too old for this shit”.  I could move my head around gingerly, so my neck wasn’t broken, and It didn’t feel like a concussion, so we sat there for a minute and got it together slowly.  “I’m fine.”

As we skied back to our band of brothers, I felt the stretching soreness down my back and in my chest, into my lungs and heart.  I skied cautiously and conservatively for the rest of the day.  I could not fly.  I feel better today after a night of icing and a morning of heat, but a seminal feeling remains in the back of my head.  “Don’t get cocky kid.”