May 2009

Learning to ski at 63

By Art Goodtimes

SLIPPERY SLOPE … The older we get, the more locked in we get to the habitual, to what we’ve known. The less likely we are to explore the unknown, attempt the unexpected. That’s a very human trait. But like so many things in life, I’ve found myself a contrarian. I don’t look the way most folks look. I don’t share the same beliefs most folks have. So it’s hardly a shock to find myself sliding down the Galloping Goose run at the top of Lift 12 in rented equipment — learning to ski the same year I’m eligible for Social Security … How could I have lived in a ski resort all these years and not learned to ski, you ask? Easy. I’ve raised kids (my own and several stepchildren), with several different moms, living on a shoestring. Who could afford skiing? … Athletic as a young man, and active still (if a tad paunchy), I always wanted to ski. Call if a “life goal,” as folks do these days. But honestly, since I primarily clothed my kids from the Free Box, spending a couple thou on ski gear and passes seemed extravagant. Plus, I moved to Norwood early on in my (now) 30 years in Colorado. I had a home foot in the West End and a work foot in the East End of San Miguel County. Running a chainsaw was a skill I learned, skiing was a frill I just couldn’t justify enjoying … And as the years went by, work got busier, joints began to ache, and I wasn’t sure that I’d ever get to know the skiers’ Telluride. … Luckily, my youngest son would have none of my excuses. He loved skiing (I had of course made sure that all my kids learned to ski – that had to come first, since their passes were cheap [thank you, Telski], they got free lessons, and gear could be found as hand-medowns from friends or at ski swaps). Gorio wanted me to come ski with him. And since he kept badgering me, as kids will do, I said okay – if I win the next election, I’ll let you teach me to ski … Well, as you know, I won, and so I bought a six-day pass. Eventually, having been cleared medically, there were no more excuses. It was showtime. And so I went to the Boot Doctor up at the Mountain Village, got fitted up with the latest in rentals, and Gorio took up me on the mountain for a first run … Everyone had tried to suggest lessons with this friend or that. But I was glad I politely refused all those kind offers, and stuck with my original thought of letting my boy trade roles and teach his clumsy dad how to snowplow down a slope. He liked the role reversal. And he was a good teacher. Not telling me too much. Letting me find out for myself things like balance and speed and how to stop while standing on two boards racing down a slippery slope … Truth is, I loved it! Back-to-back weekends helped get me comfortable riding up Lift 10. My daughter Sara taught me turns. Not that I’m good at them. But I’m getting comfortable … So, by the last day, too slow for my friends and children, but happy to be skiing alone, I was schussing down Double Cabin at a fairly good clip swinging left and right and actually feeling (almost) in control. Certainly having fun … So, it was no surprise to myself that I made a commitment to skiing next year (and for years to come) by buying a pair of Head boots. As one of the good folks at the Boot Doctor explained, “There are only two things I never buy used — underwear and ski boots.” I found everyone at the Boot Doctor helpful and friendly and wise in the ways of ski gear. I got a good sale price, and a personal fitting that was amazing. … There you have it. After 30 years living in San Miguel County, I finally feel like a native. I can run a chainsaw and make ski turns. I know the mountain, not just Fat Alley and the Opera House. I’m 63 and I ski!

THE TALKING GOURD

The Woman in the Park

Says it isn’t really a park. Is only open space
required for the development of a complex.
Something about so many square feet for every
renter … She waves a hand towards the little girl
who has climbed the hillside with your son. Says
the child isn’t really hers. Says sometimes I want
to trip her and then spills out the details of a
spectacular crash. A cracked brow, a blown out
knee. How she knows it wouldn’t solve anything,
but at least it’d break the routine … Says
it like it’s the most common thing. Like, how am
I supposed to love her when I can’t even stand
the sight of her? Common as a bomb in Times
Square. And you’re watching the child with your
child. How much she resembles her mother with
all that wild red hair beneath the sweet pink
hood. How her small mouth purses, moves,
purses … Mommy watch, the girl screams, and
then she is running down that hillside. Bobbles
a bit but stays upright. Her eyes are fearless …
The woman lights a cigarette. Makes a point of
looking away.

Susan Culver
Nucla
from her book “Comfort Street”

SAN JUAN ALMANAC … If you haven’t run across Ken Wright’s blog about “All Things Southwestern Colorado”, then check it out <http://sanjuanalmanac.blogspot.com> … Kate Niles has a great take on “success” and if you scroll down to “Videos of Ed Abbey Night at Maria’s – 2 of 2”, you’ll find a three-minute video of yours truly ranting about ol’ Ed hisself.

GEORGE GREENBANK … George was the reason I stayed in Telluride to begin with. He gave me my first job – something I’d been looking for on my rambles around the country back in the Seventies. It wasn’t much of a job, just a construction laborer. It didn’t pay much, definitely not union wages. But it had great bennies. Banker hours and elk steak for lunch. I think I even got paid to write poems on the framing’s 2x4s … George had been inviting me to his fabled Cortez ranch for years (where grazing cattle ate the hay out of the walls of his first adobe home). Finally I accepted and made it down with my boy for his legendary birthday bison roast. George’s daughter, Eleanor, joined us, as well as a clutch of old Telluriders and some of George’s Montezuma County neighbors … A great time hiking out to Goodman Point, Ancestral Puebloan shards scattered in the Gambel oak like lichen on sandstone. And in the morning, snow on our dome tent under blue skies. Colorado in the spring — like we love it.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “We're having the weirdest weather — an ochre-red dust storm, colored by the sunset that we can't see, mixed with spitting snow and high winds... it looks like something you'd expect on Mars!” — Lee Taylor

SUSAN CULVER … Reporter/editor of the San Miguel Basin Journal (the oldest newspaper in the San Miguel Watershed), Susan also writes poetry, and has begun to read her storypoems to local audiences. The Talking Gourd piece this month comes from her latest chapbook, “Comfort Street” (lulu.com, 2008). These are tough, honest, uncompromising portraits — etched in the familiar, but graced with a smoothly cadenced, lyric intensity.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.