Monday, February 25, 2008

Taking To Snow Like A Fish To Waterskiing

This past weekend I went cross-country skiing with my Japanese tutor Yuka and her friend John, a man who likes to ice climb and do other sports that show he really isn't concerned about staying in one piece. Yuka invited me along because John has a habit of skiing too fast for her and she wanted someone to talk to. I assumed this meant she thought I'd be slow. She was right. We went to a place called The Summit at Snoqualmie in the Cascade Mountains just east of Seattle. Before I go on, can I just say how great it is having mountains within an hour of my place? Mountains with snow, no less! It's almost too much for my Florida brain to comprehend. ("What's with all of these piles of crunchy sand? Hold on, that's not sand... it's water. But like no water I've ever seen! It's all cold and... non-liquidy. I'm so confused! Somebody find me a coconut.") As you may have guessed, I've never cross-country skied before. Or skied at all for that matter. Actually, I did snowboard once, way back in 1995. (In Australia. In July.) And I really enjoyed it. It just felt more natural me. Snowboarding is very similar to surfing, a sport which I'd spent most of my life in Florida pretending to do.
It's easy to look cool when you're not moving.
But skiing is the opposite of natural. And I took to it with all the grace and style of a greased-up newborn giraffe trying to sprint across a frozen lake. Blindfolded. I was awful. My arms flailed, my knees bent in all sorts of unhealthy directions, I kept falling on my face. It was so embarrassing but, eventually, I got the skies on. We stuck to a lower trail thinking that perhaps, sooner or later, I'd get the hang of it and we could move on to bigger and better trails. Yeah, didn't happen. I knew I was doing poorly when I realized that even tiny, polite Yuka had left me behind. Course, I wasn't much in the conversation department seeing as I had to focus all of my mental energy on my feet and on not dying. John, was surprisingly willing to hang back and encourage me. But perhaps he was just enjoying the show. Eventually I told him he could catch up with Yuka. This gave me a chance to wallow in my own pity without an audience. As I struggled to keep moving forward without destroying my knees or tumbling off of a cliff, a guy who was around my age glided by me, ever-so-gracefully. "Wow... he's good," I thought. "He's probably been doing it for a while." I tried to impersonate the bobbing/weaving motion that propelled him along and promptly fell on my ass. A little while later, a guy in his... oh, I don't know... late-90s passed me. "What the...??," I thought, "How is that man standing, much less skiing?? OK, yeah... he's definitely been doing it for a while." As I fought with the embarrassment of being lapped by a near-centenarian, two 6-year-old girls zoomed by me. As they passed, I think one was calculating long-division without a calculator and the other was both chewing gum and patting her stomach. "...," I thought. Thinking my self-esteem could sink no lower, I was passed by - I kid you not - a special-ed class. "Oh come on!" Determined not to look stupid, I picked up the pace and tried to get into a rhythm. And promptly fell on my ass. One of the students who passed as I fell shouted back to me, "You can do it!" before going back to eating a crayon. I suppose cross-country skiing is fun once you get used to it. Especially when you don't have to concentrate on your feet or falling to your death. One thing's for sure, the view's a whole lot better.
Other people's view: My view:
Note the slight difference.
Despite the problems, I had a great time and I made it back in one piece. Sadly, my sunglasses did not. In 13 years, I've gone through 3 pairs of Arnette Catfish sunglasses. I bought my first pair the first time I went snowboarding. (In 1995. In Australia. In July.) They lasted several month before I somehow managed to run over them with my bike. (Still trying to figure that one out.) The second pair was lost in the confusion of my first day of training at the Hard Rock Cafe back in my bartending days. At least this pair was destroyed while I was doing something that sounds cool. Even if I didn't look it.
Rest in pieces.

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