Author Archives: Carl

Skiing on slopes with girls

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Had a magnificent day skiing Mount Snow with the girls and their aunt on Monday. (Lee’s out for the season with a stern warning from the bonesetter against taking even a single fall.) Less sunny than Wednesday, so it felt a little colder, and there was some serious wind on the lifts, but on the slopes it was all nice. Conditions were excellent, and even though the place was plenty crowded, we really only had to wait in a serious lift line at the very outset; after that we stayed away from the main lift and were fine, and things thinned out in the afternoon.
I had been nervous about Bekah, who after all is only six and has been skiing only seven times, all for her lessons last year. So I figured she’d be going too fast and crowding the edges, like Hannah used to, and not really be in that much control. But Bekah’s more of a natural athlete, and this skiing stuff seems like second nature to her. Didn’t once feel like she was out of control or in any kind of trouble, even though she was bombing down the hill. Had to keep reminding her to turn, turn, turn and then turn again . . . she had a kid’s natural tendency to just keep going down the hill. But she was great, and I could even see her doing some natural edging on her turns. Started out on the easy easy stuff and then took some intermediates, and now I’m convinced she could go on almost any intermediate I’d go on. And that makes it easier, because I’d like to be able to take them both out again, even if I didn’t have their aunt’s help. And despite the drive — really, it’s 75 miles but two hours, despite my desire to make it less — I’m really coming to enjoy Mount Snow. The facilities are in great shape, it’s full of good intermediate trails, and I always have a good time there.
Buzzed through Bennington for the second time in a week, made me think of my old roommate Dan and his family. Learned from e-mail that yes, his folks do still live in the same place (which I could find in a hearbeat). Bennington hasn’t changed all that much in all these years, although the fringes have gotten suburbanized (it’s amazing how small a town in Vermont that can happen to) and Walmarted and so on, but the downtown is still healthy and pretty. Always liked visiting there.
Suddenly flooded with searches for gravestone pictures. It’s Christmas so our thoughts turn to . . . tombstones? Maybe it’s the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come at work, but I think it’s odd that all of a sudden I’d have quite a number of people coming to the site searching for headstone shots.
“Headstone Shots” — could be a nasty alcohol promotion. Better copyright that, pronto.

White Christmas, my ass!

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Well, we all want a white Christmas, but not quite this white, and not right ON Christmas day. My mother called on Monday night to see if we wanted to change all our plans because a big storm was a-comin’. Since she is entirely in the thrall of the weather-fear mongers, I treated this with the same personal concern I have for sea level rise — if it happens, I’ll deal with it. Then on Christmas Eve, as all anybody could talk about was the coming storm, we decided we’d better have a backup plan if it actually hit, and that backup plan did not include getting stuck in Rotterdam (“A Nice Place to Live”) for an extra day. So Christmas with my mother and sister has been put off until tonight. Did the other side of the family yesterday morning, and then had a slow but not treacherous slog home around 2 pm, then spent the afternoon trapped in the house watching the snow drift. It’s now up to the top of the tires on the Xterra, so any thought that I’m going on a road trip this morning is out of the question right now. They said it was our first Christmas storm since 1978, and it’s a doozy. Heavy, slippery, and plenty of it. On the upside, perhaps conditions will stay good for tobogganing on Saturday. I’d take the kids today, but . . . oh, maybe I’ll take them today anyway.
The girls were magnificent, and Christmas morning was nigh onto magical. Santa brought them some very nice things, and in a couple of cases their parents chose to take the credit for giving them what they really wanted. Hannah finally got her American Girl doll, which she has been lusting after for a couple of years, and which it occurred to me there was no reason on earth she shouldn’t have except that they’re expensive. I wouldn’t think twice about spending that much on a toy for ME, so I finally realized she should have it. Rebekah had wanted a real magic wand, despite several counseling sessions in which she was told that Santa probably couldn’t give away his magic. She had promised only to do good things with it, too. As an alternative, she wanted flying pills. She got 2 new sets of fairy wings to wear around the house, which she said was even better than flying pills.
More when I can. Much snow awaits my shoveling….

Cultural references, filtered

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I was sitting outside Nutcracker rehearsals yesterday. Another dad was sitting with his son and younger daughter, who took classes there but wasn’t in the Nutcracker. At one point the studio door opened and the music spilled out, and she exclaimed, “Barbie In the Nutcracker!” A pause, and then, “I never get to dance to Barbie In The Nutcracker music….”
Well, I’m sure Tchaikovsky, P.I., would be, at the least, confused to find that a child of the Aughts thinks his most famous work was produced for, or possibly by, an 11-inch plastic doll with a serious shoe fetish. Popular culture used to be a doorway to “higher” culture, and I think some of that has been lost, especially in cartoons of today. Shows like “Rocky & Bullwinkle” and their subsets were loaded with references to historical events and the arts that formed the basis of my understanding. I had seen some form of the Mona Lisa in cartoons dozens of times before I ever saw a picture of the real thing. There was an entire arc of Bullwinkle that featured “The Ruby Yacht of Omar Kayam” — believe me, it was YEARS before that meant anything. Bugs Bunny, with less wit and success, did a few historical cartoons as well. Nowadays there is a little bit of that again in shows like Spongebob Squarepants and The PowerPuff Girls, but that’s after a very long drought.
So, if a little girl thinks that the Nutcracker music (which can be just as brain-sticky as “Holly Jolly Christmas”) came from a highly annoying computer-animated feature that has almost nothing to do with the original Nutcracker story, that’s fine. Someday she’ll discover the original and it will already be full of associations for her.

Enough with the wood rosin already!

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I’m not trying to be informative or anything, but if you came here looking for glycerol ester of wood rosin (I mentioned it in passing in one blog long long ago, but it took me high in the search engines’ rankings), I suggest you look here, or consider this excerpt from that site:
The Health Canada approval allows up to 100 ppm of the wood rosin derivative in beverages. The product improves the stability of citrus-oil flavor concentrates and beverages and is used as a weighting/clouding agent in such beverages as sports drinks. Most thrillingly of all, this tremendous improvement meant consistency in beverage production worldwide. PowerAde in San Francisco and PowerAde in Beijing are guaranteed to have the same level of clouding. Think of it!
Enough!

Burl Ives must die

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It is time to end the tyranny of “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a song which gets stuck in the heads of millions each year, driving them to a slow, sputtering insanity, and if desecration of the grave of a beloved old leftist folksinger is the only way to end this, count me in. For starters, I always hated that “Rudolph” special. For some reason, the animation always creeped me out; plus, it was the same animation used for the electric shaver ads featuring Santa riding a Norelco, an image I could neither understand nor wipe from my mind. So, that’s one strike. Also, I could never stand Burl Ives. I didn’t like his voice, I didn’t like his fatness, and as a child I suspected there was something more than slightly evil about the guy. (And that was before I knew he had played Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” big blubbery hand on Maggie’s belly, raging about mendacity.) On top of that, one of the only record albums we owned when I was a kid was a Burl Ives platter of “children’s songs,” horrifying ditties rendered in that jaunty Burl Ives style, including a bowdlerized version of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” that, even with the removal of references to “little streams of alcohol,” was a completely inappropriate song for children. Cigarette trees? Jayzus. Two strikes. And then, there’s that hideous, unstoppable song, which seems to be nothing more than an endless loop of the chorus. Once in your brain, it never leaves. It’ll be April and a few bars of it will still sneak out. I hesitated even to name it, for fear of infecting others.
The song must die. And the singer with it. This is my fatwa.
(Great, now I’m going to get Googled for fatwa.)

As I was saying…

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Crazy day. Reminded me why I needed to take yesterday off. But that crisp, cold air is still in my lungs, and there’s a little bit of weariness in my quads, so I can feel like I still have some of the mountain with me.
I only started skiing two years ago. I had done it a few times in high school, with a few Exploring friends up at Oak Mountain in Speculator. I was decently good at it, but it was hellishly expensive (for instance, if I recall, the lift ticket and rental together were $12. Well, that was about 6 hours work at the time.) Then I moved to sunny Syracuse, home of plenty of snow but inadequate hills, and I much preferred to blow my money on alcohol and rock ‘n’ roll than on skiing. Did a little cross-country now and then, but that was about it. Then we moved back here, and there was much more of a ski culture around, and the Nagano Olympics piqued my interest. Then, after several winters stuck inside with little children in various stages of sickness, resulting in raging cabin fever for me, I decided that Hannah and I were going to take ski lessons and be forced to get outside on a regular basis. So we looked at all the programs around and picked the one that was cheapest and closest, over at Bousquet in Pittsfield. Small mountain, very friendly, and enough steep terrain to terrify a beginner. Then last year, Bekah and Lee started in, too, and we’ll do it again this year. We’ve added some occasional runs to Jiminy Peak or, more often, Gore, and now I’m really coming to enjoy Mount Snow. I’ve gotten good enough to get in over my head, and I’ve got skis that are too fast for my own good.
Let’s see, started skiing AND running at 40, re-started biking at 42 . . . starting to look like a midlife crisis? Only to the untrained eye. I think that when the average guy turns 40, he gains an unprecedented interest in running and the Civil War. Not sure why, but it’s happened to many people I know, including me. Besides, it’s not like I started shopping for sports cars….
I’ve been doing in-line skating since I was 34, so that’s in no way implicated in this discussion.

Winter wonderland

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The main problem with skiing in Vermont is driving into the sun all the way out, and driving into the sun all the way back. But in between, it’s magnificent. Went to Mount Snow, a longer drive than usual because I got stuck behind the Sysco truck headed for, of course, Mount Snow. But I wasn’t in a hurry and the place was pretty much empty. 14 degrees when I arrived, but the sun was out and there was no wind, the conditions were fantastic and there was virtually no one on the slopes. Ice on the trees was crackling and falling, the air was clear and sweet, and on the first run I remembered where all those muscles were and how to use them. Paradise. One of the most peaceful places in the world for me is on a chairlift, all by myself, breathing it all in. It’s church, outside where it always belonged. Mount Snow is great, lots of interesting intermediate trails, though I do find the naming conventions could be a little more informative. Got in over my head just a little on a couple of trails — tried the bumps and fell in so deep I had to dig out the tail of my ski; ended up staring at a part of Committed for about 3 minutes before deciding I didn’t like any of the lines available from where I stood, so I walked up and across the trail to improve my drop-in, and then everything was fine. I skied hard and got in a little over 3 hours on the slopes, but then my quads were screaming and my feet weren’t turning exactly when I told them to, so I had to invoke the No Injuries Policy and get out of there before I took a fall. Great fun though, and a couple of good conversations with some older guys on the lifts. Went hard and went home.Still a bunch of signs up in the area honoring Kelly Clark, last year’s snowboarding gold medalist, and that for some reason fills me with that aw-shucks-ain’t-this-country-great sort of feeling, the same sort of feeling that Jim Shea has pouring from him. Very cool to see a town support its local athletes, and very cool to see the definitions of athletics constantly being pushed to encompass more and more human endeavor. More tonight.

Me for skiing

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Off tomorrow. Thinking Mount Snow. It’s going to be cold, but I take what I can get, and the conditions are supposed to be fantastic. First ski day of the season! Very psyched.
Passed a very pleasant hour last night watching running on OLN (Outdoor Life Network). Coverage of marathons, triathlons, and a duathlon, which I wasn’t familiar with. It’s 5k run, 30k bike, 5k run. Leave off that last 5k, and I could definitely do it. Hoping today’s therapy session will kick out the ITB problems, which my therapist actually thinks originate further up my thigh. She gave me a couple of new stretches to try, though it’s hard to stretch such a long muscle. I’ll get at it tonight. More work on the Indo Board, too, which has been good for my legs overall and has strengthened me up around the knees. I just keep letting myself get out of balance by slacking off on parts of my body that I think are in good enough shape. But now, having watched some world class running — not something you see often on TV — I’m psyched once again to get back into it and get over these injuries.
But tomorrow, the snow! Time for some fun.

Good day

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My advice is that one should always start the day with a therapeutic massage, grab a cup of Starbucks on the way in, then arrive fashionably and casually late to a meeting on philosophical issues (as opposed to actual crises). This will, in my experience of the last several hours, set you up for a very pleasant day.
Transitions around here, which will be going on for a while. Last night was the sendoff for a treasured colleague, of the sort they don’t make ’em like any more (and if they did, they’d be subject to any number of lawsuits, I’m sure), a great person to shoot the breeze with, and one who always reminds me to get home to the kids. Lots of nice tributes of just the right tone. I was going to say a few sarcastic things but I just couldn’t do it. The Governor came for a bit, which was very touching and a real testament to how important this guy has been to our program here for the past several years. Real shot in the arm just to listen to the Gov for a few minutes — he has a tremendous ability in a few words to remind us why we got into this and what we’re trying to do here, the legacy we want to leave for New York’s environment.
AND, even cooler than that, other of my treasured colleagues brought me a signed copy of the bill we got through Congress late this summer, which just blew me away. For one thing, nobody can even remember the last time we got a stand-alone bill through, and it was against tremendous odds, caught up in various national political agendas, and a very tricky thing to craft. But we got it done. And while these days it may not be all that hugely impressive to have something I worked on signed by W, someday the politics of it all will have fallen away and the idea that I was an integral part of that process will be all that remains, and I think that’ll be cool. How many people get their work signed into law? And I got paid to do it… And now it’s hanging up in the dining room — Stephanie had it framed for me. She’s too good to me.
The absolute key moment, when I knew we had the wrapped up, I wasn’t even in D.C. I was at home, talking on the cell phone while herding the kids to the school bus on one of the first mornings of school. I don’t like to divide my attention when I’m with them like that, but sometimes it’s necessary, and since I couldn’t be in DC at the time, it was the only way to get it done. Felt very odd to be negotiating legislation while standing on the corner with the neighborhood kids, waiting for the bus to come on a sunny September morning.

Nutcracker, survived

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Very interesting drive to Taconic Hills, as we did not get the threatened combination of sleet, snow and freezing rain, but instead got plain old rain, which when combined with a big pile of fresh wet snow on the ground creates a tremendous fog in the valleys of the Taconic Parkway — and the fog on the way out, which kept visibility down to about 200 feet in the afternoon light, only worsened once darkness fell. Beautiful, thick, white fog, like a deep snowstorm without the graininess. Got there and back without incident, but as I’ve said, no one falls asleep on the Taconic.
The performance was perhaps the best I’ve seen, and now I’ve seen a few of these. Hannah was good as a pink polchinelle (a clown, for those not immersed in Nutcracker-speak), and the rest of the show sparkled. I took a lot of pictures, of which maybe a dozen came out well, which ain’t a bad ratio considering the limitations of shooting a lighted production from a seat. After the show, Hannah and I had dinner at the Martindale Chief Diner (“A 1958 Silk City Diner”), which is one of those diner landmarks you’re never quite sure about . . . could be great, could feature the original food. Well, it was about what would be expected, but it was fine. Very odd that a roadside diner in Claverack would be hit with a post-theatre rush.
Lee went to my niece’s birthday party with Rebekah while we were out in Taconic Hills, and we all hit the driveway at the same time. Got the girls in bed as quickly as possible and hit the couch together, where we watched, and, I’m ashamed to say, laughed at, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” I just want to apologize….