Monday, December 15, 2008

Gladys Goes Skiing-Sort of

The weather outside is frightful but the fire inside’s delightful… Oh hush! I’m not going to sing to you. I would never torture that way. I was just giving you a weather update. It is cold and will be cold then it will get really cold then it will warm up to just cold. The ski runs have opened and everyone is hopping aboard the ski buses for quick runs before or after work, well everyone but me. You see I’m not much of a mountain buster, mogul skier, downhill dolly or whatever the heck you call ski bunnies. I am more of a lodge sitter. I am dangerous to myself and others in any and all endeavors athletic and some not so. You see I’m a bit of a klutz. Like I said before I go where I’m looking instead of look where I’m going. Oh I’ve been skiing a couple of times. Alright you got me, I lied. I wouldn’t call it skiing exactly, more like falling, crying freezing down the bunny slopes.

The first time I went I was in college and there were about 30 of us that went. We caravanned from our little college in Texas up to the slopes in Northern New Mexico. I was dirt poor and didn’t have the money to eat much less ski. I went anyway. I didn’t rent skis, I didn’t have any ski clothes and I didn’t eat any real food for four days. I did spray my jeans with Scotch Guard Weather Guard and put on my hiking boots with 4 pairs of socks. I wore every sweater I owned wrapped my neck and my head in a scarf borrowed from a friend and played in the snow until my sock covered hands were frozen. Then I sat in the day lodge for the rest of the day and drank hot tea from the tea bags I brought and the hot water the lodge provided. I ate crackers and canned cheese that one of my friends had brought and slept in a sleeping bag in the condo that the 30 of us occupied and split the cost of. It’s amazing what you’ll do when you’re young.

The next time I went skiing was years later. It was close to Thanksgiving and my sister invited me to go with her family up to Utah. Tadpole and I planned it out, she was about 10 years old at the time, and flew to Las Vegas to meet my sister and her husband. We spent the night in Lost Wages. My brother-in-law, Papa, had a streak of luck. The man could not loose. Every slot machine he stuck money in spit back five times the amount he contributed. The slot machine would spit money out and my sister, Matilda, and I would gather up the money and go cash it in giving Papa just enough to play again. This went on for hours.

I have to take a minute here and tell you that Papa is a very giving person. He really is a kid at heart and loves to have a good time. He is they type that if he’s having a good time he is going to make sure you’re having a good time too. He is also has a huge heart and a gentle soul hidden inside a rowdy rough exterior.
Doesn't he have a sweet smile? A sparkle in his eye? A large forehead?

We gambled until late in the evening, heck it may have been early in the morning. You never know what time it is in Lost Wages unless you stumble glassy eyed and weary into the desert sun waiting just outside the doors. We did finally stumble out early the next morning and piled into their Suburban. It was piled high with cold weather paraphernalia and people. We drove several hours to Parowan outside of Cedar City.

Since this was Thanksgiving Papa’s whole family was there as well as assorted friends and their families. There was quite the crowd. I believe there were nine or ten people in Papa’s condo including his dad, Grandpa. Grandpa would be freezing cold in the middle of the day in the center of the Sarah desert wearing a parka and wrapped in a blanket. Grandpa liked to keep the heater set on about 180 degrees which made it a little uncomfortable in the condo. This would result in one of the less circulatory system challenged people to open the front door. Now Grandpa who was in the United States Navy for 500 years and resembles Popeye just a little too much had no problem barking orders. The front door would open and no matter where Grandpa was or what he was doing he would bark out “CLOSE THE GAWDDAAMN DOOR! IT’S COLD IN HERE!” So the condo was pretty much a sweat lodge and we all sat around in boxer shorts and t-shirts while the temperature outside was dipping below zero. Another character that was in attendance was Papa’s brother-in-law Jim. Jim was a paramedic in Los Angeles and a part time ski ranger. Jim told great stories especially when he had too much “Beetlejuice” better know as blackberry brandy.
This was the only picture I could find of Grandpa in the snow.
Now that you know the players I’ll get down to the ski story. We rented our skis before hand and the guys filled me in on the basics of skiing. Get on the ski lift, go down the mountain, get back on ski lift and go again. How hard can that be? My sister on the other hand, being worried about her klutzy little sister decided it would be better if I took a ski lesson. Tadpole and I enrolled in ski school and within 15 minutes she had it down. She took off for the black slopes with the rest of the party and left me there to maneuver the bunny slope. I on the other hand did not get it. The ski instructor decided that the little girl in the really tight ski outfit with her cleavage showing above her turtle neck sweater needed more instruction than anyone else. He left the rest of the eight year olds and me there to fend for ourselves. I got the hang of getting on and off the ski lift. I got the hang of putting my skis on and off. I did not get the instructions that involved the two important food groups, pizza and hot dogs. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Yeah neither did I. I would go up the slope on the lift glide off, maneuver my skis around until they were pointed downhill and then close my eyes and push off. I would make it three maybe four feet until I would fall. I would lay there in the snow, tears flowing freely in frustration until I would force myself to get up and attempt to don my skis to make it to the bottom of the hill. Each and every time as I sat in the cold snow, snot running down my face, tears freezing to my cheeks I would tell myself this is bullcrap! I’m taking these dang skis back and I’m going to go sit in the lodge and drink hot toddies! Then I would find myself thanks to a little eight year old boy back on the lift going back up to try again. That little 8 year old boy helped me up a dozen and half times. I think he might have been trying to earn a Boy Scout badge or something. I mean they get them for helping old ladies across the street why not helping old ladies up on the ski slope? I did this all morning long until finally it was lunch time and the rest of the gang came down off the upper slopes to find me.

Papa and Matilda were convinced that since I had a full morning of ski school I was ready to at least try the intermediate slopes. So off we went from one chair lift to the other. Matilda was impressed at my almost adequate ability to load and unload from the chair lift. We arrived at the green slope and she pushed off from the chair lift yelling “follow me” as she gracefully swooshed onto the slope. I on the other hand wrestled my way off the chair stumbling over crossed skis and hung up poles on to the slope. Matilda turned to make sure I was behind her when whoosh I zoomed by her screaming bloody murder. She started chasing my hurdling screaming form down the slopes hollering stop! Stop! I turned in pure terror and screamed “I DON’T KNOW HOW!” Her eyes widened and I saw panic on her face. She hollered back at me “WEDGE! JUST WEDGE, YOU’LL SLOW DOWN” I looked at her confused and said “NO I DON’T HAVE A WEDGIE BUT I WILL IF I DON’T STOP!” That was it. She didn’t want to be responsible for calling my mom and saying “Yeah, um, Momma, um, I let Gladys ski down a mountain and um well she is in a full body cast. Yeah, I know, she’s a klutz, no ma’am I don’t know what I was thinking. Yeah, well what I want to know is, can I stick a straightened out coat hanger up her body cast so I can scratch her nose? Yes ma’am well the upside is her face is in a cast too and she can’t talk. Yeah it is weird. She is the quietest she’s ever been.” So she hollers at me again “JUST SIT DOWN! S*I*T D*O*W*N!” This I understood so I did as I was told. I mean she is my big sister, she wouldn’t steer me wrong. I sat then I slid then I tumbled and then I stopped. She was right! She saved me from certain death or at least full body cast. Luckily one of the kids in our party came by about that time. My sister sent the child up the hill to get Beetlejuice Jim and Papa. Matilda stood guard over me to keep any errant meteors or swooshing skiers from hitting me. She asked me if they taught me to wedge to a stop in ski school. I told her that they hadn’t taught anything in ski school because the instructor ran off with a bunny. Then the Calvary arrived.

Beetlejuice Jim helped me to my feet, Pappa helped me back into my skis and Matilda held on to me and brushed the snow off my soaked ski suite. Beetlejuice asked me “Gladys do you know how to wedge?” I looked at him and said “What do you mean?” Beetlejuice said “Well, the best way to learn how to ski is to remember Pizza and hot dogs. When you want to stop your skis should look like a slice of pizza and when you want to go they should look like hot dogs. Now take a drink of this” and he whipped out his flask of Beetlejuice. Then he got behind me and positioned my skis between his. He handed me the flask again and told me to take a big drink. I always do as I’m told so I did. Then he said “I’m going to ski you down the mountain. All you need to do is follow my movements. You ready?” and he again handed me the flask encouraged me to empty it and off we went. It was exhilarating; it was invigorating it was scary as all get out! We whooshed and swooshed and gooshed all the way down the hill until at the very bottom Beetlejuice made a graceful swooping swish to a stop all the while keeping my skis between his, my poles away from both of us. I was so relieved to at last see the day lodge in all its hot cocoa and aspirin containing glory. I thanked BJ and told my sister not to worry. I would sit the rest of the day out in the lodge drinking cocoa and trying to sober up from the exorbitant amount of brandy watching the rest of the happy wind burned pinked cheeked skiers go up and come back down the mountain.

Now don’t think I forgot about Tadpole. Oh no not at all. All the rest of the day I had reports about her from everyone on the mountain. I had complete strangers come up and ask me if I was the mom of the little girl who was on the expert runs bombing the mountain. Evidently once she left ski school she hooked up with one of the teenagers from our party. They were on the ski lift going up to the black runs when she turned and looked at him and said “I’m gonna wrap this mountain up like a package” and she did.

A couple of weeks from now we will have all of the kids here, all except Tadpole and Pud. They are coming to don their parkas and beanies. They will grab their snow boards and boots and head to the slopes. They will wrap it up like a package complete with curly ribbons and glitter. I will be on the bunny slopes; snot running, tears freezing. Hopefully there will be an eight year old boy scout trying to get a Good Samaritan badge to help me up.


Train Wreck said...

THanks for checking on me! Yes I made it. I have a few little goodies. You will have to keep your eye open! I am sooo very far behind , I hope I can catch up with everyone...

Anonymous said...

What a great story, and great photos, too! I love how you find all those old photos to go with
your stories. I went "down-hill" skiing once, if you count a bunny hill as down hill. Now I prefer cross country skiing, but I'd really just rather sit in the lodge.

babbler said...

I loved the ski story! I was telling my husband how we will go skiing this year, he is frightened, I am seasoned, he hates cold and I love it. He has agreed to go because I have promised him a better experience than he had as a kid when everyone left him at the top of the hill to fend for himself. No wonder he hates it!