Monday, January 12, 2009

No tree trimming!

Sorry for the long delay between posts but life has been very busy of late. Proofs for my book had to be reviewed and sent back to the publisher last week, and I also had a story to write for the Cubs. Things have slowed down on the mountain, as the holiday rush is over. They've scaled us full-timers down to four days a week and even on some of those days there isn't enough work to go around. As you could imagine, new guys like me are SOL and get cut loose first. At least we get paid for three hours of waiting around for potential students.
A hidden benefit to working here has been skiing with some of the best ski instructors in the country. The down time is perfect time to take clinics, which are free and cover topics ranging from teaching mid-level skiiers (intermediates) and teaching in the assisted skiing program for handicapped. So when there wasn't enough work to go around on Saturday, our supervisor found me and two other rookies standing around with Tim, a 29-year veteran instructor who grew up surfing in San Diego. "How about a clinic?" our supervisor said. "Tim, wanna take these guys up?" And an impromptu gathering of about a half-dozen of us attacked the mountain.
Tim's pretty quiet initially but a funny guy and incredibly knowledgeable about skiing. Two days earlier we followed him down one of his favorite runs, which would have been much more enjoyable were it not for the icy conditions. So there I was steering past him and the rocks and trees and the bushes in my path, when my left ski swerved up onto the low branch of a small tree and SNAP! The branch cracked off and my ski tipped slammed to the icy surface. "No tree trimming!" Tim scolded.
Saturday's venture was much more successful. Getting some awesome tips and relearning how to ski...on the front of those boards!
We've also explored around quite a bit more and have discovered a few local bars, such as Whiskey Dick's and Steamers. Ziggy and I have been taken it to these young kids on the pool tables. After winning one game the losers asked for some quarters for another game. "There's a change machine right over there that takes dollars," I told one of them. "But all I have are half-dollar coins," he replied. So we worked out a trade and I've got me a little souvenir from a victory for the Silverbacks!
New Year's around here was pretty crazy. About 40,000 people (mostly college kids) swarm out into the streets between the casinos and just hoot and holler at midnight. Police were out in riot gear but no violence to report. I couldn't get close enough to a bar in the casino to get a drink, which may have been a good thing. So we stopped for a beer at McP's, our favorite Irish pub, and called it a night.
We are in strong need of a "Zeke," which is our new name for a dumping of snow. Toons regulars can probably imagine where we came up with that name. We haven't had any snow since Christmas day. It's sunny 300 days a year here, which is nice and picturesque. But c'mon, Chicago is getting more snow than we are!
The teaching is going fine. Every day I get a new group of people who've never skied before and try to get them to a point where they can link turns and not kill anybody. There have been some lows--like the seven Pakistani's I had on Jan. 2 and the woman who nearly ran me over when I was adjusting another guest's boot (I barely got out of the way, she crashed over my skis and had to be taken away on a stretcher by ski patrol!) But for the most part it's pretty cool seeing the looks on their faces at the end of the day, when they're skiing down a mountain and taking in the beautiful views. Kinda the same look I saw when taking people on tours of Wrigley Field and they walked through the catacombs from the clubhouse into the dugout...and there was the beauty in their adventure!
Oh, and the photo attached was taken by  Ziggy of yours truly on Christmas night, I believe. Not a creature was stirring...except Zig, who found it funny to decorate me with a lighted Christmas tree, the mechanical snowman his mom sent him for Xmas and a lit candle. (Yes, I moved, and it spilled all over the back of the couch.) An iron and a towel later, the couch was all cleaned up (and slightly burned).
I'll be in Chicago for a few days this weekend. Come to Toons on Thursday night for the splashdown night. Then it's off to the Cubs Convention and promoting my book over the weekend.

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