On the patio, basking in the last remnants of Tuesdays direct sun, watching high wispy clouds roll in, the vanguard of a storm front holding the hint of a promise of face shots sometime in the near future, I lamented the utter failure of yet another experiment. I can report, with almost complete scientific accuracy, that walking Zippy the Dog and mixing drinks without the aid of mechanical devices is an insufficient exercise regime if you want to be at the top of your form for the beginning of ski season. Not even close.
Id rocketed carefully down the available terrain at Blackcomb in what can only be described as near-hysterical control. Rock skis Id never skied on before seemed to sense my indifference towards scraping their bases over barely hidden rocks and reciprocated by tracking as though they had a mind of their own. A wandering mind. An imprecisely focused mind. A mind not unlike recent presidential and prime ministerial candidates promising but sloppy on details and short of attention span.
Surviving the season, I decided, meant admitting defeat and heading for the gym. Such a bleak prospect deserved extra careful consideration, hence the patio, the sunshine and a refreshing Mothers Pale Ale from our hometown brewery. And then another.
I stretched my mind a prelude to stretching the rest of me to try and remember just where I might have carefully put the 10 visit card I bought last fall for the Wreck Centre. I was sure it had eight or nine unpunched spaces left on it and was knee-deep in mental detritus looking for it when reality intruded like a priest busting in on a peep show.
Oh no, I thought.
Peeking under the bill of my cap, into the low-angle sunlight, I saw him shambling towards me, a back lit apparition of hallucinogenic proportions. Half for the weirding out effect it had on people and half because dumpster divers cant be too picky about their wardrobe, J.J. Geddyup looked like something out of a margarita-fuelled nightmare. Ratty Deerstalker hat, Peruvian sweater with corduroy patches tearing loose at each elbow, skin-tight, faded blue, padded stretch ski racer pants and snowboard moon boots, J.J. could have been a skid row paper doll dressed by a colourblind, mentally deranged two year old.
"J.J. my man," I said, waving at the chair next to me. "Sit down before I get dizzy looking at that outfit."
He shook out a couple of Gauloise Blues as he sat and offered me one, knowing Id prefer to just throw blazing tobacco into my mouth than suck on one of those foul, French cigarettes, equal parts D grade tobacco, floor sweepings and the best dried Turkish camel dung.
"Ah, no thanks. So, whatcha up to these days, J.J.? Havent seen you since the beginning of the month. The Company got you down in Florida dimpling chads?"
"Whered you hear that?" he said, looking serious. "I didnt have anything to do with that and I dont do work for the Company any more."
J.J., Whistlers only private eye and way too scary a guy to actually consider a friend but even scarier to think of as an enemy had alluded to his past involvement with American intelligence types over the years Id known him but always seemed particularly uncomfortable at the suggestion he might still be on retainer.
"I only went to Florida to see some old friends. Thats the truth."
"Yeah, okay. You up on the mountain today?" I dropped the subject.
"No, man. It was the weirdest thing. I was about to go up and some dude in a mountain uniform stopped me. I thought they might have clued into my homemade pass but that wasnt it. He asked if I wanted a free lift ticket. I said Sure. He said Id have to be part of a focus group for a couple of hours. I figured, why not?"
"They must not have been very particular about who they were focusing on," I said. "Youre not exactly the mountains target market, you know. Whatd they want to find out?"
"There were half a dozen of us. We went up to the big building at Base II, down some stairs, along a long hallway and into some secret looking room with hard chairs and two-way mirrors. I thought the dude lied to me and I really was busted but then some happyface in a lab coat came out and started describing programs to us, asking us what we thought."
"What kind of programs."
"Stuff the mountains thinking of doing to stand out since it doesnt have the butt-kicking snow yet this season like theres been the last few seasons. High touch stuff to pamper the foreigners. Things that dont rely on waist deep snow."
"You wont believe some of this stuff, dude. Bucklers."
"Yeah. Guys who wait at the top of lifts and buckle your boots for you. Like porky boomers who cant bend over to buckle their boots without almost passing out. Theyd have some guy up there whod come over to do the buckles for them. Real valet-like, you know?"
"Humm, I like it. Particularly if they had some of them at the bottom of lifts to unbuckle your boots as well. Hope you mentioned that angle. What else?"
"Guys," everyones a guy to J.J., "wholl do your shopping for you while you ski. Especially at Christmas but even the rest of the year, people need to get souvenirs and gifts, so theyd do like a small questionnaire about who they needed a gift for and how much they wanted to spend and some guy would go around to the mountains shops and get stuff and bring it back to their hotel all wrapped up and cha-ching their credit card."
"The mind reels. What else."
"Ski dates. Like a computer dating thing for singles at the resort."
"Stop. I dont even want to hear about that one. What else?"
"How about an oxygen bar at the Rendezvous and the Roundhouse?"
"The mountains arent that freakin high, J.J."
"So what. Its very chic. Flavoured oxygen. Its all the rage in New York and Tokyo."
"Tell me youre kidding. Was there more."
"My personal favourite. Ski school for pets."
"Ski school for pets. Like, why should you just shove Fido or Fluffy in a kennel when you go on vacation? Dontcha think theyd like the mountains too?"
"Oh God. Theres more, isnt there?"
"Tell me later, man. Ive got to get to the gym. See ya, J.J."
"Hey," he yelled after me, " Hey, I havent told you about the squeegee kids in the parking lot idea yet."