Monthly Archives: November 2010

all i need is one channel

my turkey soup is delicious and yet…

i feel so dirty.

i ordered satellite tv.

i needed to do something positive for myself.  and tv was it.

no thai hookers, no bombay sapphire, no new skis.

i have had this debate numerous times before…usually just as winter sets in and the hallowed halls of my memory think of hockey and football and how those sports have vanished from my life.  so…

i also ordered nhl center ice.  40 games a week. 

which seems like way too much hockey.  and it isn’t just the hockey…

i also get the byu channel.   

distraction is all i seek.

and all that hockey won’t interfere with my skiing, as the 8 km i put in this afternoon on absolutely sucky trails will suggest.  last year, my first ski was on the 22nd of december.  this year, i’m already over 50 k.  i’m ahead of the game.

plus, i seem to be easily bored/unfocused since love got lost.

i think the byu channel will help me with that.

now,  if only the food network could taste my soup.


skiing with a stranger

sometimes, things happen. there is alignment.  the hand fits the glove.

when i stirred this morning, my legs felt shortened.  muscles complained.  every attachment point for every leg tendon protested aloud. 

early season k’s will do that to an unseasoned athlete. 

i believe i am that person.  still.

despite the ambulatory alarms and a lazy, off-grid day in the forecast, i made it to the mount oberg trailhead at 11:30. 

i had to ski, dammit.

i was surprised to see but one vehicle in the parking lot.   i thought the lot would be full of those with the same “fever” that has coursed my system for the past week.  i moved to the trailhead and connected boots and skis.  the only other skier on the system approached and asked about the trails.

“fuck,”  i thought to myself….”if there are two blackbirds on a phone line do they perch next to one another?  no they spread out.”

happy thoughts.  put away mr. sour.

“oh….they’re good”, i said,  “but, the grooming has been a bit confusing so far.  it’s our first early season, skiable system since 2005, and the grooming has been virtually non-existant.  that said…i skied it yesterday and it’s pretty dang good.”

the first 100 m of the road are slightly downhill.  i pushed off, double poling, and the stranger followed.  glide begets gossip and so, we engaged in conversation.

he worked at the university of minnesota in plant pathlogy.  he has his doctorate.  he loves to ski.  his family has a cabin on caribou lake. 

“do you know linda kinkel?” i asked.

“i work in the lab next to her.”

linda is the wife of my m.s. advisor, dr. david andersen.

“surely, you know peter jordan?” i asked axed.

“i live right down the street from peter.”

then he asked “do you know john tester?”

at that point, i felt wellings of something…i don’t know… perhaps they were sentimental reconnections…but john tester…make that dr. john tester, was one of the faculty members at the u who was instrumental in getting my sorry ass into grad school.  he encouraged. he asked questions.  he saw the passion in me, nevermind the confused, sometimes academically bereft student i tended to be.

same for peter jordan.  same for bud tordoff.  same for gary duke….all names that my serendipitious skiing partner knew of and had rubbed elbows with, both professionally and socially.  and intrinsically, he knew of all the lives those individuals have shaped and melded and twisted and turned into functional erudites.

my facebook page has a number of friends i met in grad school while john tester and peter jordan and david andersen and pat redig and bud tordoff and gary duke and francie cuthbert were doing their work… just before sending us down the perilous path of reality. 

those were some outstanding classmates who are now renowned  teachers and scientists and philanthropists and fathers and mothers and role models and brothers and sisters and periodic senders of amusing, reconnective, affirming e-mails. the same classmates who never seem to be satisfied with their last achievement.   

meanwhile, i am humble and insecure and like to ski.

at the trail head, after our 11 km ski, i shook jim’s hand and said good-bye. 

i would have missed this had i been 5 minutes early or 5 minutes late. 

when the snow flies and winter’s passion stirs, life sometimes provides gentle reminders of vitality and purpose you thought was gone, and of functionality you are convinced is perhaps now, ill-defined.  

sometimes life does that. 

sometimes though, it turns just another ski into the best ski of my life.


my muscles forgot what i was going to say

evidently, i have reached the age where muscle memory has been replaced by the decadance of sit-on-my-ass atrophy.

the excitement of winter and groomed trails is not as pressing today as the fact i can barely walk; that my groin muscles feel like they have been shrink wrapped.  

there’s good pain and there’s get-into-ski-shape pain.  it only hurts when i move.

so, i choose not to move. 

the existential north woods paradigm.

 if only i had dish.

yesterday’s ski was measured and conservative.  it had to be.  my inactivity the past few months, save for frequent jaunts to the nets to extract saw-whets,  means the elan of youth takes a back seat to a cautious, pragmatic approach to exercise.  i want to be able to move ski  in a week and so, my once-eager muscles will be baby-stepped back to the podium of athletic mediocrity.  

yesterday’s ski occurred during a lazy snowfall, on wind-blown tracks. 

 it was beautiful.  an aesthetic, nordic, lathered, wintertime indulgence.

meanwhile, the golden child will be gracing the north shore in a couple of weeks.  i would assume his verbal repertoire has improved since the august retort to his charming, patient, ebullient father that sounded something like this…”fuck off dad.”

it’s time to ski.

more lather.


no prescription needed

winter has meted out its early season dose of intoxicants, and it was perfect timing. 

sunlight after snow, oberg flocked in white.

the trails are getting a taste of “what for” by the groomers right now, and while i was somewhat eager to ski, my back is telling me it is not a good idea and that instead, i should have another 0xycontin and glass of wine. 

it is 6:30 in the morning.

as i push past middle life and enter the golden, incontinent years, i know i need to be a bit smarter.  i can’t just go out and put in a 10 mile trail run or a 50 mile bike ride as i did so many times during my halcyon years.  no…i need to stretch and expand the range of movement in ligaments and tendons and muscles and while i am at it, i should do something about my inflexible self-image. 

my hips appear to be bearing the brunt of rigidity.  not that i am bitching.

and how could i when the pine grosbeaks have been visiting my feeders regularly and the squirrels have made a sensory connection between my presense and intense, localized pain.

tomorrow, he said in a procrastinative tone, i will ski and do so with the elan of my youth.  i will scamper up the hills and glide effortlessly on the descent, utilizing my 50 extra pounds to provide momentum that knows no limits.  and on those descents, you might want to make sure you move out of the way because i am starting to think i might be on a mission this winter.

get it while you can. 

we may not be here tomorrow.


ski on, old man

last night, weeks before i am typically bathed in a winter landscape, i got my ski on. 

i was expecting gravel and sudden face plants.  i got glide and nordic synchronicity.

okay, for a good skier, it is synchronicity.  for me it is more like “i was able to make it up the hills.”

i have kept a ski journal for most of my time as a homeowner here at the center of the universe.  i do it so when i finally reach my 1000 km goal each season, i know when to quit; know when to start eating massive bowls of nachos and putting on fat for the summer tourist season. 

over the past few years, skiing before thanksgiving was unheard of.  last year, my first ski occurred on december 8, during a winter that produced only 3 significant dumps (snowfall > 6″) and ended in early march with my tomato seeds 3 inches high.

it was a fluke.  a non-sensical, tea-party approach to winter. 

everything was forgotten last night on the onion river road, though.

the groomer had been out in the late afternoon and although he asked me not to ski on it because it hadn’t “set up”, i summarily dismissed him because i needed to be the virginal skier on the sugarbush  and because from experience, i know how anal groomers can be. 

“fuck you darren, i’m skiing”, i said…and was off.

it was glorious, save for the lack of wax on my rock skiis because well, i was expecting rocks, and not a pristeen layer of corduroy that invited me and massaged me with affirmations of “come on fat boy” and “get your mojo going”.

i did. 

it’s in my journal for november 23, 2010.


get off your asses, groomers of the sugarbush

it is now official:  there is enough snow to begin my ski-on festival.  a thousand k with 2 extra weeks to get busy except…

the bastards haven’t started rolling the trails down here on the sugarbush. 

i don’t know what they’re waiting for because surely, they can feel my nordic ju-ju from miles away. 

when it started to snow this afternoon, it did so with lake effect intensity…an inch in a half-hour.  then on my way home, it let up and lo and behold, the radar is showing most of the snow is gone. 

three to 6 inches my ass. 

the pincushion trails have been rolled and evidently, are setting up nice for skate skiing. 

out of the blue this morning, i received an e-mail from jim duncan, owler extraordaire from canada, author of books and many owl-type publications.  it was nice to hear from him, nicer that he axed  me about owl surveys and conflicting nighttime sounds.  i met jim in winnipeg in 1987, at the first international owl symposium…the same symposium where i was blessed with a case of nasty, projectile vomiting, food poisoning.  it took some of the fun out of the symposium, but also gave me my first case of owl fever.  

take that, you liberal arts bastards.


radar don’t lie, bizzatch.

the radar’s shadowy grays have turned to light blue, have turned to dark blue, have turned to bright green. it is snowing hard. 

dear god please…all i need is 3 inches. 

that’s what she said.

for all the weather caused by the big puddle, the big lake called gitchee gumee, today’s snows are perfect.  i will be skiing soon.  an early season start.  no more lingering until mid-december to get my ski on. ski on old boy, never mind the pain radiating through your arm.

last night, i had dinner with greg and liz and charlie and lucille and scott and nancy and another couple, whose names i cannot remember. 

i represented myself.  i do that very well. 

the dinner served as the pre-season kick-off for skiing on the sugarbush trail system, and has become somewhat of an annual affair… just as my ribald meeting of the onion river road social club in march heralds the end of the ski season and a hale, home brew-induced hangover.

charlie is 80 years old and is still as tough as galvanized steel.  he was the guy who started the grooming and trail construction on the sugarbush system in the mid-70’s.  that was before skiing went high tech, with tillers and hydraulics and gps and snow doctors and consensual grooming plans.  all that did is made everone bitch about the grooming, as if they could do a better job themselves. 

when he started, charlie did everything with a lumbering snowmobile and tracks and a roller he welded together himself.  there was little tag-teaming of groomers.  when he started, he was often gone for 12 hours; often making repeated passes on the same trail with the sole intent of enjoying what winter provided.

to hear him tell the stories of being out in lake-effect snows, of dancing with wolves, of grooming with the certainty that “tonight, i will not come home” was as satisfying as it was unsettling.  in his fanny pack, he always carried a .38 caliber pistol.

“just in case”, he said.   

grooming aside, he remains a technique-perfect skier.  given his grooming history and unflinching irrascibility, it is no wonder he is one of my north shore heroes. 

when i was hired by the sugarbush to groom trails in 2004-5, i didn’t know what i was doing.  i had no mechanical aptitude and felt my owl-driven ability to dress warmly was my only redeeming, nordic quality.  after frequent phone calls to charlie, i started to figure things out. 

yet for all the confidence i gathered in grooming, charlie was pleased to remind everyone last night that in all the history of ski grooming,  i was one of the few groomers who has managed to get the pisten bully…a mammouth, tracked, tiller-driven,  german groomer…stuck. 

i can laugh about it now, but when it happened, it was a fatigue-induced nightmare.  

up a creek without a paddle?  nope, grooming in a massive lake-effect dump without a shovel.

around the dinner table we all laughed about it, but charlie knew that when it happened, it was some serious shit.   

the dinner was about hope and promise and rejuvenation that occurs during the starkness of winter.  skiing.  perfect tracks.  perfect corduroy.  kick and glide.   

and the guy who started it all.