Monthly Archives: January 2004

Hooky without the guilt!

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Took the kids away from a half-day of school today to finally get in a little more skiing. It was cold and I didn’t feel like driving far, so we went to Jiminy Peak, where everyone was talking about how good the conditions were. I think that’s a sign of how bad conditions have been this year, because although there was hardly any ice, there was also hardly any snow, just some form of rough white formica that was almost skiable. Not dangerous, also not fun. And the wind at the top was brutal. But the girls took a lesson and their teacher showed them how to play in the half-pipe, so after lunch we did that together three times and then we’d had enough of freezing. I could have bombed for a while longer, but I didn’t feel like taking on the diamonds there today in case they were sketchy, and the intermediates were boring, so let’s just call it a technique day for me. The girls had fun, though, so it was definitely worth the trip. And, unlike last year’s big hooky expedition, no bones were broken!

Something of a disorganized morning, despite my having laid out all the ski clothes and made the lunch last night. At some point I took all the helmet liners (hoods, essentially) and put them in a bag together. Then I threw that bag into a laundry basket and covered it with things I did NOT plan to take with me today, which wasn’t all that great a plan. Okay, it was an accident, but it was too cold to go without them, so the girls got new Turtle Furs today, lest they froze their faces. Then I went to all the effort to make coffee and to pour coffee, but not to put the coffee in the truck. I’d like to say that it was still warm in my nuclear coffee mug when I got back, but I’d be lying. I’d like to say that I didn’t take a sip just to be sure, but I’d be lying there, too. I did remember my new winter Camelbak, however — got it after taking my summer one with me last couple of times and realizing that keeping my muscles wet is a very good thing for me. Which of course I knew, but who thinks to drink outside in the winter? So I got an insulated one, and one that’s shorter and smaller than my regular so I can ride the lift properly, without having this big pack of water pressed against my back. But I didn’t quite work out all the kinks, because at some point the bite valve started dripping (probably had a piece of ice freezing it open), and I didn’t realize it because I was skiing, and when I got to the bottom of the mountain the right side of my jacket and pants were coated in a thin, dripped-on layer of ice. Very nice, I assure you. There was no fear of it thawing and soaking me, unless we went inside . . . . which we did, after a while. No problem, thought I, we’ll just get some hot chocolates and sit by the roaring . . . ember. I guess they don’t waste fire on the Friday crowd at Jiminy.


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Things that have broken this week:

  • The clothes dryer (for the second time)
  • My thumbnail, while opening a box of Ben & Jerry’s
  • The box of Ben & Jerry’s, which split on the seam as I dug out the icy deliciousness that is Karamel Sutra
  • My belt sander — well, it didn’t actually break, but it apparently has become obsolete, as I can find no belts for it anymore
  • My iPod, which sent me into a short-term panic, complete with withdrawal symptoms, as it crashed in the middle of Cracker’s “The World is Mine” at the track of the Y last night. Mercifully, Apple’s restart instructions worked, and it seems to be fine now, but it meant I had to go grocery shopping without my own music, a very risky proposition.


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  • If your head is filled with thoughts of death, gloom, the passing of time and the extreme transience of this fleeting mortal plane, and in fact that’s the only plane you have any belief in (and even that belief is somewhat shaky at times), then Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything may not be the read for you, focusing as it does on the extreme unlikeliness of our existence here and the extreme ease with which it could be snuffed out. And, indeed, one day will be. But it’s done in that jaunty Bryson style — if Bryson wrote textbooks, school would be a far more interesting place to be.
  • Stripping the old varnish off a floor is not for the impatient, nor for the weak of will or hand. Highly unrecommended. But the floor in the room I’ve been renovating was the worst in the house, damaged beyond redeeming, and I had the choice of having someone come in and sand the living hell out of it, which would have caused any number of other problems, or strip the old (by which I mean circa 1939) varnish off and try to get it even enough in tone that I feel comfortable putting new varnish on. And by “varnish,” I mean “shellac,” which as many of you know is made from the “exudation” of the lac beetle. Try to think of it as “beetle honey”.
  • Understand that even as a non-drinker, I think there should be more drunken bacchanals that feature poetry readings. The particular one last night that we participated in uses the flimsy excuse of the birthday of Robert Burns to serve haggis and force poetry down the throats of the revelers. I did the tail end of Kerouac’s “Bowery Blues,” having read the room and decided that the Bukowski in my pocket didn’t quite match the mood.
  • The thing I enjoy most about a social gathering is if I happen to talk to someone who reinforces my otherwise non-mainstream life choices. Despite the constant little things going on, I’m not much on home decor, and tend to think of my home as base camp — it’s the place to do things from. If it weren’t for the civilizing influence of a woman, I’d probably have my bicycle in my bedroom, not for lack of space, but because it would comfort me to have it there. So when I talk to a couple who say that many years ago they had twin health scares and decided to chuck the whole idea of renovating their ancient farmhouse and instead just devote every possible moment to getting outside and doing things with their kids, I’m glad to find there’s someone else who feels that way.
  • iPod is serving up plenty of Zevon this morning, which is cool by me, baby.

Milkpowder plot

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Twice this week, our local Stewart’s has been out of milk. Just plain out. A stray half-gallon carton of the hi-test stuff here and there, but otherwise, pas de lait. Considering that Stewart’s is, first and foremost, a milk store, this is somewhat disturbing. So when the history books finally tell the story of The Conspiracy of The Cows, remember that you saw the first signs of its coming right here.

A Place in the Dark

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Last night, I had an incredible drive up to Lake Placid. This is really not a drive to be done in the dark, in the winter, in the extreme cold, alone. The winds were howling, and even on the Northway there were occasional patches of black ice (areas where either water has melted onto the pavement, or where blowing crystals of ice have settled into patches of hell designed to throw your previously in-control vehicle careering through the rails and down an embankment). Once off the Northway, travelling up 73 into Keene and then the Cascades, it was high-speed treachery.

It’s hard to explain how dark the Adirondacks are. Dark, and darker than that. Along the streams and rivers, where the roads wind, the mountains are steep and lined with evergreens and birch stalks, and there’s only a narrow slice of sky. Even if the moon and stars are visible, they only take up a little piece of the view. The rest is the little wedge illuminated by your salt-encrusted headlights, and absolute blackness on the other three sides. The roads were covered with salt and edged by recent snow, so lanes and other markings were indistinct. There were lines of black ice, and drifted snow across the lanes. There was hardly any other traffic, so there were no lights to follow into the abyss. There was one idiot rushing behind me with those million-watt blue headlights, plus halogen fogs, throwing light all over the place in ways that kept confusing me, making me think there was oncoming traffic when there wasn’t. There are very few straight sections, and hardly anywhere to pass — the few turn-outs and parking areas came up too quick and were mostly snowed in. Eventually I was able to pull over in Keene Valley, sliding across the parking lot of the Noon Mark Diner while Bright Lights sailed on past. I was happy with that. After a quick stop at the Stewart’s in Keene to wash my headlights (again), I trudged up the Cascades, where the winds coming down the valley at one moment moved me an entire lane to the left. Un-fun.

That sense of utter darkness, nothing ahead but headlights, a little patch of mountain road, and blowing snow, was one I hadn’t had in many many years. I don’t remember the last time I drove in the Adirondacks on a winter night; I’m usually there in the summer. But that sense of being enveloped by dark and howling cold, all the time inside a nice warm car, took me back to when I was 12, a February ride to a Boy Scout outing in Lake Placid. My father driving his big Plymouth Fury III. Paul and Sudi and their fathers along with us, driving snow all the way up the then-newish and novel Northway, more snow all the way up 73. A stop at the Elm Tree Inn (still there at the fork in Keene, though minus the elm tree growing through the porch, and probably minus what was already then a very very worn taxidermied bear inside the bar). Back then it wasn’t considered unusual to bring kids to the bar — at least not in my family. The men went up to the bar to have a beer and a shot, and we boys got to have soda and quarters for the pinball machine (dime a game, three for a quarter). Then, back in the car for the rest of the drive. (It was the early ’70s – I’m sure the conventional wisdom was still that people drove better if they were “more relaxed”.) It was warm in the car, and the only thing we could see out the windshield was falling snow. We couldn’t see anything out the side windows at all. Sudi’s father was from India, and while he had lived in the states long enough to have seen snow, this experience was something new to him. Paul’s father then told us a story of how as a boy he had been somehow plowed into a snowbank while walking home from school in his hometown in Hungary, and had been stuck there overnight until his family found him in the morning. To this day that is my entire perception of Hungary – being frozen into a snowbank, and how different that would be than being snug in a car with a nuclear heater, bombing through a snowstorm in the darkest place on earth. And then we arrived in the magical little winter village of Lake Placid, a place then and now just alive in the winter in a way few other places are.

Sudi’s father was transferred a year or so later, and we lost track of him. Paul died. His father died. My father died. And yet last night it was just as if it were 31 years ago, straining to see the road through the snowflakes, amazed at how much blackness there could be all around.

(Much sunnier pictures, from the much less spooky trip back down, will be at my fotolog , with a few new ones added every day. It was breathtakingly beautiful today, all that crystal ice settled on the limbs of the trees.

Le weekend

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Finally got to ski on Sunday, and though the weather wasn’t as nice as predicted and the going was extremely slick coming down the pass into Wilmington, VT, and though Mount Snow was absolutely jammed (by my reckoning, because I don’t go on holiday weekends as a rule), we had a great day. The girls both had real breakthrough days — Bek’s first time on shaped skis, and she was doing pressure changes like a pro. Hannah, who last year was really getting the rhythm of small turns down before she broke her collarbone, picked it right back up and started ticking off her timing with her pole plants. And Lee, who was out last season as a result of the broken wing, got the next to last private lesson in the place and said it all finally came together for her. She’s got the jones now, studying the map and figuring out what she’s going to try next. Very cool. And I had what I like to think of as a “technique day,” when I get to focus very hard on turns and stops and don’t have to worry about bombing down the mountain. We actually mostly stuck to the greens; we were going to take on a couple of blues I know the girls can do, but the visibility at the top was terrible and Hannah had an entirely rational fear of descending down a slope she didn’t know and couldn’t see 10 feet down. It was one of those days when you can’t be sure that the grown-ups around you aren’t as much of a threat as the kids, because on a holiday weekend everybody’s either just learning or skiing way beyond their ability, and even though Mount Snow has more trails open than anybody else around, there are still chunks of the mountain that aren’t available. So come on, snow!

It was Young Couples in Looovve Night at the grocery store last night. Isn’t that sweet? Or maybe it’s sickening; I can’t remember which. I finally figured out that what annoys me about it is just the memory that once upon a time we had so much free time that we could actually go grocery shopping together. When we were in our early twenties, just married, renting, no kids, we could go out and do our huge ($80) grocery shopping late on Friday night, come home, put the stuff away, and then stay up late late late watching Bowery Boys movies on WSBK. We could get up ridiculously early and go to the Regional Market in Syracuse to do our weekly produce shopping. I wouldn’t go back to my twenties for a gazillion dollars (that’s roughly a thousand pazusas — and that’s a lotta pazusas), but sometimes I feel a pang for the idea of not having so much that just has to be done — house repairs, house cleaning, all the kids’ stuff, exercise, and the need to advance in Grand Theft Auto. The pressure of too much to get done.

Making slow progress on the new room, stripping the floor a little square at a time. It’s going pretty well. Need lots more stripper, though; been laying it on too thin. Also got our new rug, the one we promised each other for Christmas, installed in the living room, and it looks fantastic. We almost look like normal people with a normal living room now. The girls are hugely disappointed at the new “no breakfast in the living room” rule, which had provided them with exceedingly leisurely Saturday mornings, but that’s the way it goes.

Still great

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One movie, two albums that are still as good as I thought they were: Moulin Rouge, Lou Reed’s New York, and U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind.

One of the odder, perhaps more disturbing things about Sweet Lou’s portrait of New York from about 1987 is that while he dared to go topical, most of those he went topical about are still around: Giuliani, Jesse Jackson, the Pope. Well, there was that reference to “Iron Mike Tyson” that probably referred more to his strength than to the material from which the bars he needs to be kept behind are formed . . . .


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I just never know when an Aimee Mann lyric that I’ve previously paid little attention to will sneak up and kick me in the ass. Last night while running the track, it was the opening of “It’s Not” from “Lost In Space”:
I keep going round and round on the same old circuit
A wire travels underground to a vacant lot
Where something I can’t see interupts the current
And shrinks the picture down to a tiny dot
And from behind the screen, it can look so perfect
But it’s not

C’mon every beatblog

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Gotta give props (though not mad props . . . not just yet) to the Albany bloggers page, which has been filling my logs with visits from people who are blissfully unaware of my blog’s long and dismaying association with glycerol ester of wood rosin (I almost hesitate to type the words again) or the meaning of Tribeca. And I’m really glad to have ya, because I’m a little dismayed, disturbed, discombobulated at the thought that my rollerblading page has been getting a lot of hits the past few days. I don’t know what it’s like where these websurfers are, but right here it’s about 0.0 degrees Fahrenheit, and blading is not going to be a comfortable option.