Sunday, October 22, 2023

Wherever you go, it's bound to rain.

Everyone knows that when you list skiing, Colorado is number 1.

Everyone knows that when you talk about the best skiing place you have to go to it's Alta.  No, it's Jackson.  No, it's Japow.  No, it's Stowe in a Nor'Easter.  No, it's Bridger when the Cloud wait that's Jay, wait, what if they's a hurricane and Sugar and Beech are open in October on like 36 new and, no, it's Mammoth in May, but, no, that's Alpental in May, and

A nice snowperson.  Silver Queen lot, Bogus Basin, Boise County, ID.

Sorry.  I'll start over.  Readers of this blog* will know that we do not choose bests without at least our tongues firmly planted in our respective cheeks, if not outright lies.  (Thanks, Richard Russo, I think.  Read his stuff, just the same.)  If I make a list, I leave spots open on purpose.  Or we make a top ten that's like 40 or 7.

There was one turn, though, one that cannot be beat.  It was somewhere near Flush Gap, whether above or below, I cannot remember.  It was a Thursday in February, the day my friends in a band I used to be in released an album, with a party in some joint in Tacoma I can see but whose name I've forgot.  This particular turn was a left, or a right, it doesn't matter particularly, but it was a turn.  I was on the ol' Jaks, that beautiful matte orange beast, maybe the last actual Karhu ski, maybe not, I can't recall when K2 knocked down their door and ruined everything.

Oh, dag, I loved this ski.  Maybe it was the time in life, like that second Death Cab record.  Who knows.  Still, armpit deep, man, it's a trip.

I can remember many ski days, from all the years.  I don't have perfect memory, like I don't have perfect pitch, but there are just some things that stand out.  The weather the only time I threw a no-hitter and the way Kellen Hall's Pa accused me of cheating.  The second and last homerun I hit, the one that Jewett Gibson argued and argued over until the ump called it a "ground rule triple". Which doesn't exist, but whatever.  Who's counting?  Who's holding a grudge? I'm not mad, yer mad.  I hit that homerun off his younger son, should that matter.

That one run in the Cache Run, February of '99, all alone and, not gonna lie, a little afraid of how things would turn out.  So clean, the first time I ever truly understood.  The Tatoosh, summer of '008, my knees bruised from wearing knee pads under my Carhartts cos I forgot my bibs, to the point where I had to tell Catherine to look the other way at the bottom and top of a couple laps so I could remove or install the pads on my knees with my pants down.  That last run in utterly beautiful summer corn, smooth, unending, ending too soon.  A warm and unforgettably satisfying Guinness at the trailhead with my hummus and Tillamook cheddar and grip of spinach pita pocket.  A long day with a good friend.  That whole pitch, several pitches really, hoping it would never end and I'd somehow simply ski off the edge and never be seen again, like Bo Jackson in '87 after that 91 yard TD and he kept running off the field and to me, six years old, he ran off the earth and to some finer plane, some elevated place where folks like him lived, Usain Bolt, Mikaela Shiffrin, Jimi, Beethoven, Florence Price, that sorta place.  I didn't, though, I just pulled up at the bottom, gave Catherine the low-pole, probly (maybe not, but it was My Thing) said "I like skiing," and kicked the skis off.

That one turn, though, near Flush Gap, February of '006, may it reign for eternity.  Hand forward, snow to my tricep.  Inimitable. Unforgettable.  Lee Cohen deep.  Like the shot that I could never shake, the one that precipitated our ill-fated move to Utah.

This one.  Shot by Lee Cohen, aka, well, The Best. Powder Magazine, way back when.  The Utah Issue, somewhere around the turn of the century. The cover, if I am not mistaken.  You will not be surprised that I still wear leather gloves because of this shot.  I still prefer race poles, too.  Just look at that shadow.

Chet said he was scared, at the bottom of Lower Northway.  He pulled the cord.  I can't remember the words, but I was as breathless as he.  Two straight runs, deeper than anything else I have ever skied.  Deeper than everything else.  Impossible, like the first time I heard Interstate Love Song, or Loowit from the top of 6 on a cold January Monday.  Chet was the Snow Safety guy at the time, number 3 on Patrol.  I bought my second car from him, a red, red GL.  That glorious little wagon and I grew up together.  Moved to Bellingham, failed at school, skied for two winters of ignorance, bliss, lust, who gives a shit cos the second winter, '002, right after we all lost our innocence, or at least us Gen Xers, was yuge, like an ego or a sophomore crush.  One stretch, I skied 20 straight until I couldn't even put the boots on.  That day I drove Twig to the doc after he thought he blew up his knee, where I almost hit Amy Howat in downtown Bellingham with 3 feet of rooftop snowpack when the ski rack finally released the last 3 weeks of puke, I mean, what are the chances of nearly hitting the owner's daughter with a pile of snow 60 miles from work?  That kinda winter.  And still, that day out North, through Flush Gap in armpit-deep, that stood above.  I don't remember the bus back to A Lot, but I remember the grader finishing the Northway Lot and the next run, you couldn't tell he'd been there. Eight inches in less than two hours.  That Cascade Spring speciality.  

I was probly buried like Snowy Owl the 8 foot rock.

I remember now; it was a left turn.  Right foot out front, left knee to the ski, that gorgeous Finnish plank.  Right hand ready to plant the pole, left foot flexed like a bow.  Right tip barely above the snow, left ski buried along with those Bumblebee T1s.  Perfection, if that were possible.  Appropriately, I'm still paying for that turn all this time later.  I can't tele right now, the tendons and ligaments and weak muscles all conspiring against any ambition I may have once held.  Anxiety like a block of lead in my chest.  It's a joke, really; all those years just ended, like any run does.  Reflection Lake and Catherine's green 5-Speed Outback after that long and immeasurable Tatoosh line; the Northway Lot and the bus, Chet frantic on the radio telling Mountaintop to close the gates; the bottom of Ariel on Closing Day of 2013; Sweetzer Summit in a snow flurry, Thanksgiving of 2016; Acme in October of 2000 in the red GL, Katie singing along with Adam Duritz, "gettin right to the heart of matters", knowing, without really knowing when, that something else was next, something different but similar.  More yearning, more longing, that very characteristic Gen X nostalgia for something still here and happening, or conversely, chasing after what is already gone; what was never really there in the first place.

Title is the second part of the line from Suzy Boguss' "Like the Weather". I don't know, I just really like that song right now. I even tole Amy last night it was my favourite country song of the moment. Still, Interstate Love Song.  There's a reason it's got something like 333 milliones of listeners on the Spotifier.

*Joke's on me.  There aren't "readers of this blog".