Gnar-monia

That lingering scratchy throat, the persistent cough that won’t dissipate, the groggy exhausted feeling on Monday mornings. It’s cold season, but that has little to do with this lack of personal wellbeing.

The slow moments at work spent passionately poring over weather forecasts, the impossibly slow drives through the middle of God-knows-where spent diligently scanning the roadside for any sign of the next hood ornament, the shrill call of an alarm clock at some hellish hour on a day off: these are the cause.

Signs and symptoms vary between individuals. It’s hard to pinpoint what causes the onset of such a self imposed affliction, but a rapid onset of irrational behavior and decision making start to become noticeable by friends and loved ones around Thanksgiving. It can be earlier in the higher elevations, and by the end of the year it is too late. 

The sudden onset of severe symptoms have been observed in males and females as young as 13, and once afflicted the disease seems to linger for life. The disease takes hold, conversations go unfinished as gazes freeze on snowflakes falling. Laundry begins to pile up in the hamper. Vehicles start to take on a hazy glaze of salt and grit. Stubble hangs onto jawlines and hidden legs, hair gets longer and knotted from being stuffed into helmets and toques. Living rooms are perpetually littered with cans of beer, sleeping pads, dirty long underwear, and the wretched scent of rot and mildew seeping from damp boots.

Social skills revert to the limited esoteric slang and pathetic romantic commitments reminiscent of male adolescents. Personal hygiene can begin to suffer; daily bathing begins to disappear from the routine. Technical clothing with GoreTex laminates begin to trap the odors of stale beer, sweat, blood, and tears. 

It’s hard to comprehend how dramatic the change can be. Even more startling is how quickly symptoms dissipate. Social skills and personal hygiene can come back in a matter of weeks. Raccoon tan lines, stubble, and patchwork beards are shorn for the looks more consistent with the impending warmer weather. Simultaneous to the disappearance of outward physical symptoms; the scratchy throat and persistent cough recede. The only documented permanent change is the glossy eyed stare survivors have when in the mountains. A look of longing, seemingly as if they are dreaming, cascades over those who have come down with it, and this is the life long affliction.

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Pumpkin Spice Lattes

The crispness of that first dark and brisk morning, when the air temperature gets pushed over to the red side of the dial for the first time. The scent of inevitability is picked up weeks before the colorful cacophony of fall.

The colors pop, dropping a cascade of leaves. Wind billows through the streets kicking up a rainbow spectrum of debris. It’s all for not, for winter soon pulls the colors back from view. Achromatic landscapes, a visual indicator of the bleakness of the weather, smother these months almost as heavily as the darkness.

It seems like only days ago the sun sat high above the horizon late into afternoons that didn’t give way to evening. And now the nights only give the days a few short moments before artificial heat and buzzing fluorescent lights swallow them whole. Just as the sensation of autumn’s approach is a reminder of what is to come, the darkness triggers a different signal.

The harsh cold reality of winter’s twilight is a stark reminder of what it is to live. The season crushes desire and challenges even the most eager. Yet each time around winter ignites an inner conflagration of motivation and drive to truly experience life.

It’s been a few months since that first note of fall hit the palate. The sharp bitterness giving way to the robust sweetness of winter. A complex concoction of flavor that like any great dessert can be too rich, yet rewarding to the gluttonous who are willing to indulge.

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Midweek Working Class Blues

This is how it feels.

 

Bleary eyed, bored, tired, unsettled.

 

That is how it feels.

 

Back aching, stomach grumbling, ears ringing.

 

This is the real world.

 

Eyes burning after staring at a computer screen for hours, it feels like the worst hangover (only it is a different type of toxin causing it), and if the buzzing from the fluorescent lights doesn’t stop it’s going to cause an aneurysm.

 

Words with friends isn’t enough to stave off that feeling and Facebook just increases the anxiety, because for the first time the fear of missing out isn’t a fear any more. Missing out is a requirement for a job. Sure a paycheck and stable living situation is awesome, but does it rival the freedom found every hour not spent at work?

 

Who knows?

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My Valentine

Valentines day, that awesome way to say I love you in the most commercially advantageous sense. To express an emotion we shouldn’t need an explicit holiday as an excuse to express.

Well this year I’m guilty, I have a valentine (they’re actually twins), and I think I’m hers too (maybe theirs?). I haven’t told them I love them in a while they just aren’t around enough. They come and go, but when they’re around it’s perfect. They are one of the best things to ever happen in my life, and they are always patiently waiting for the next time we get to meet up.

They haven’t been around much this year. That’s how it always is, we see each other occasionally, usually this time of year. But no matter when we all meet up, we hit it off. We pick up right where we left off. Full speed ahead from the get go, complete bliss out of the gates. They always make me happy, make me confident, make me feel like a superhero. I know exactly how to coax them into what I want and they know exactly how I want it.

Fast and firm, slow and cautious, or a free for all romp they are all in, and I know I am too. It’s only for a few hours, then work, errands, nightfall, something gets in the way and I have to split. I should feel guilty, saying I love you on Valentine’s day after I take them for granted, I never treat them how they deserve, yet they never say a word.

 

I just don't treat them right

I just don’t treat them right

 

When I’m lucky I see them a few times a week, sometimes only a few times a year. Every time it reaffirms my love, strengthens my need to be with them. I still can’t spend enough time with them, I’m always dreaming of the next encounter. Dreaming of their curves, the way the seem to float around when I’m with them, and the way they make me feel.

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I swear it’s not abusive

And now as I watch it snow from my desk today, on Valentine’s Day of all days, they come to mind. I’m wondering if they are thinking of me. The way we ‘click’ together and plunge face first into whatever we can get with each other. The way they make me scream and yelp in pure exhilaration like no one else can. The way I come home exhausted after a day together, and sleep like a baby. The way I dream of our next meeting.

So I’ll say it, Happy Valentine’s day ladies. And I hope we have more fun together. I know I can’t wait.

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My Valentines

What we do together

What we do together

Deep Turn

Money Shot…why I love them so much




 

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Skid

It doesn’t hurt at first. a lot like when you fall riding your bike as a kid. the skin hits the ground and rips away. you cannot even comprehend pain until you see blood.

It’s a lot like that. it hurt at first, the heavy impact, the crushing blow of inadequacy. the destroying nature of rejection. it hurts.

But then it’s worse. they move to something unexplainable. they destroy the confidence further. they take inadequacy and rejection and flip them around to mirror the very faults you thought you had.

And then you pick at the wound. you stay out late, you see them (yes both her and him) at a bar. you get home and instead of continuing the party you write a lame blog post about the fact that you can’t handle the rejection, the naivete, or the ignorance of the last one. and then you realize.

You’re over it. And it doesn’t hurt.

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Flashbacks

My eyes popped open, burning:

Last night merged into a miserable pre dawn wake up. Ears still ringing from the horrible electro-dub-pop pornography being pumped through the bar at volume 11 all night long. Disoriented and fumbling I find my phone unplugged in the middle of my floor clinging to the last of its battery life, blaring some horrible sort of warning tone. The day was off to a stereotypical early-twenty-something-ski-town-dirtbag start. I scramble to my phone, find I’m already late to work, clamber into the bathroom down the hall and gargle with some mouthwash as I vault down a flight of stairs on my way out the door.

Work is always a bit more challenging in this state, last night clinging to the insides of my mouth and the incessant bass continuing to disturb my equilibrium. I stumble around the rental shop, ushering overweight customers’ sweaty feet into cavernous mildewed rental boots, repeatedly checking their age, weight, height, and boot sole length to ensure a proper binding adjustment, and driving them towards the cashier stand at the exit. When I can find a brief hiatus in the tourist gear lending carnival chaos I wander into the back of the ski racks to curse my hangover, embrace the dry heaves, and try to stop the spins.

The morning finally ends, I find myself alone with my manager and some new employee from the Midwest somewhere. After a few mumbled apologies I run to the tune shop, strip down to my skivvies, and gear up; it’s time to ski. Everyday I look forward to these hours, when life melts away and I’m purely living. The lack of motivation and money, the sting of repeated female rejection, the bleakness of the snowpack all vanish; I find freedom. It must be like flying for a bird, I rise above the trivial worries I plague my mind with day in and day out, finally take an easy breath, and soar.

It always ends too quick, the several hours I get free from it all always come to a premature end and I find myself back in the shop. Sweat drenched, last night seeping from my pores, and stomach still in a knot from the excess of formaldehyde laced beer. Except now I have an ear to ear grin and can’t help but be excited to greet the same people I struggled to make eye contact with this morning.

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119

Click.

It ended just as innocuously as it started. The door closed, almost as uncertainly as it opened a few years ago; without much resistance or conviction. A door that led me to some of my best friends, memories, and moments. It also led to some of the darker moments.

I first opened that door with a friend while in college looking for a place to crash. A friend of a friend offering a couch to a complete stranger in a snowstorm. That’s how i made it to Flintstone Lane. There was not even an inkling of the type of relationship I would have with the street.

Six years. Four seasons, three full time, several overnights, and a lifetime of memories.

I met Mike in college while I was skipping class to ski with a friend, it was snowing and I was in the midst of a storm chasing binge. He showed me around Breck and I would run into him a few times a year. When I was searching for a place to live I figured I’d see if Mike knew of anything. A month later I was moving into the place on Flintstone.

Chris was a friend of Mike’s, one of the boys up on Flinstone, and he happened to work at the Market. So we ran into each other on and off the hill and would catch up when we crossed paths.

Clay I had met a few times in passing through Chris and Mike. It was always brief, usually while shredding, and that’s always a crapshoot with remembering people.

Alex I met sitting on the couch, an hour or two after I moved all my stuff into the place. I was sitting on the couch watching TV by myself, in a house where I had only slept on couches in college. We introduced ourselves, tried to find common ground, and then awkwardly said goodnight.

And that was the group, a motley crew at best, but each of them have played a major role in the past few years. Some of the best friends anyone could have asked for, and we all moved into the house on Flintstone at the beginning of the best season Breck has ever had.

It was what every college grad-cum-ski bum dreamed of. A mix of an easy occupation, plentiful snow, and late nights lacking in females. We closed the bars only to wake up early and stumble out the door to another powder day. We knew of all the shacks, stashes, and secrets; I finally knew what the point of living in a ski town was.

I moved into the house that was legendary. My younger friends would come up and stay on the same couches I had used in college, to chase storms and party while searching for the dream. It had come full circle.

We cleaned the house, finding memories that outdated my tenure. We talked about our futures. We embraced the uncertainty. And after it was all said and done, I know that it is always going to be one of the best memories of my life. It will be a period I reminisce about. My kids are going to hear about my two years at 119 Flintstone Lane. It was some of the best days and nights; and some of the worst days and nights.

And it ended just as innocuously as it started.

Click.

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Autumn

That crispness is back. It’s tactile, visual, aural, olfactory, tasted.

The brisk air is starting to catch when inhaled too deeply. The hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you walk out the door in the morning. Gray clouds stretch from horizon to horizon embargoing the sun’s warmth. Clouds of exhalations linger as pedestrians pass. Leaves rustle through the neighborhoods free from their summer internment. The smell of  change is in the air, the days are short and not nearly as warm.  The freshness of the air invigorates your palate as it is inhaled.

And today it finally started in an ethereal layer of white. It was only an inch thick at most, but groggily stumbling to the door and opening it to a sneak peak of the next few months made it real. Autumn has arrived, Winter is knocking, and Summer…Summer, is slowly fading. Change is here, and as the leaves finish their turn atop the trees snow will begin to take their place. The days are going to continue to shorten, the temperatures are going to continue to drop, but soon it will all be worth it.

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Kazakhwhat?

“Later.”

The greeting of choice for a generation. No matter how far the distance it fits. Jon was leaving for a year and that’s as creative as it got. A friend forged through miserably cold days on mountainsides throughout the Intermountain West; and equally miserable mornings couch-bound throughout that same Intermountain West.

Jon Jay is one of the smartest people, period. He is also a beast on snow and dirt. Mr. Jay should be your hero. Right now he is halfway around the world in Kazakhstan, chasing down a dream. Jon has been hungry for years, longing to explore and to push the limits of his world. When he said he was going to serve abroad in Kazakhstan and bag first ascents/descents in mountains halfway around the world, few doubted him. He moved less than two weeks ago to teach English at a university and to explore the Altai mountains (wiki link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altai_Mountains). Huge mountains in a land most of us have only heard of through Borat.

He left his hometown of Glenwood Springs, CO to travel to the last Soviet republic to declare itself independent of the former USSR, in search of a dream. Jon is living his dream, finding himself deep in the mountains, in situations involving skis, ice axes, hard plastic boots two sizes to small, and sub-zero temperatures. To must of us it sounds like some sort of sick-perversion of a dream, but it is what he loves and it is what he is chasing down at a rate most of us would be lucky to ever move at.

Jon knew what he wanted, he thought it through long before he graduated, and he did it. Everyone hears about these people, but it always seems to be out of a fairy tale. He is actually living abroad for a year, hungrily awaiting those first snowflakes. It’s motivating.

“Later.” That’s all I could muster. I vaguely hinted at the sense of pride I had in calling Jon a friend with a two syllable sign-off. So this is what I’ve resorted to, trying to put some words behind a friend that deserves a better description.

Jon, only one last thing, just remember when you finally start to ease your hunger by getting out into those peaks, to say grace before you eat.

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In a Hailstorm

It was in the 80’s when we clambered out of the cars at the old dredge. “Too hot,” is all we could agree upon. We begrudgingly got our bikes out of the cars and off the racks, geared up and began to pedal. Small talk filled the miles along the dirt road. Swift cadences propelled us through the first five in what seemed like only scant minutes. “This climb is a bitch,” came mumbling back from the first few hundred yards of the singletrack climb. The cadences slowed momentarily, only to find the right gear to meet the sustained climb. Breathing grew raspier and heartbeats began to burst out of our chests and swell our cranial cavities. We climbed, for almost an hour, our only spectators: a few deer staring in wonder at these monkeys on moving circles. Puzzled their cocked heads and perky ears asked “heading to what?”  We began to slip apart, “this climb is a bitch” floated amongst our thoughts, legs still churning in a never-ending cycle. “Too hot” came to mind as relief was only available momentarily in the clumps of non-dead lodgepoles, the beetle had mercilessly killed our savior. Eventually we rendezvoused, “it has to be near the top” was being shouted by non-verbal signals by the two rookies in the foursome. Breathing slowed, hearts fluttered back into their cage of ribs, sweat dried into salty film on skin, hair, and lips. Above us water was gathering into ominously dark bodies. The sound of thunder far off motivated us to saddle up and start moving again. The climbing finally ended, our legs sighed in relief, “now for the fun” was all we could think. Thunder was chasing us down through the corners, as we meticulously followed the ribbon of trail through the forest, over its roots and rocks. The skies darkened, the slow pitter-patter that accompanies the onset of summer rain was hunting us through our thin cover of pines. Big drops began soaking the landscape, in increasing intensity they fell. The drops started bouncing on impact, the electricity in the heavens was distorting reality causing water to fall as balls of ice in the 70 degree atmosphere. Peas began rattling off helmets, dinging off frames, and stinging uncovered skin. Once the peas grew to marbles we sought refuge under a tree. The barrage continued for several minutes, keeping us in our arboreal bunker, watching the forest coat itself in an unseasonal layer of white. The precipitation stopped rebounding upon impact, we searched the skies in hopes of a break, and only found grey uninviting canopies. We threw our legs over our frames and began our dance with gravity and the forest again. We followed the route through lodgepole thicket to montane sage meadows and back, down the hills through the valleys and eventually back up. The light rain began to intensify yet again and its uglier sister, hail, came back to the party uninvited. We fought through the onslaught for as long as possible, but had to seek refuge in a thinned cluster of beetle-infested forest. Frozen peanut M&M’s were being dropped from on high as we again watched the landscape coat itself in an eerily wintry shade of white. We could watch our breath hang in the air as we pondered the fate of our ride, watching hail bounce off our frames just off the trail’s edge. Our hair began to stand on end as the cold air began to dry our sweat. The front eventually passed and again we climbed aboard our two wheeled steeds. Steam danced mystically above the trail as we pursued each other around switchbacks and through the trees. Water funneling through the runnels formed by past storms led us down the drainages and along the run outs that led back to the dredge. We began to play in the mud and puddles, jumping into them while still riding, reminiscing on the simpler days of youth when a day playing in the rain was enough for all of us.  “That was surreal” flittered through the group, laughter interspersing the conversation on the fleeting end of the trail. And all we could do was smile.

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