It was a slow day and I was in a Christmas funk. The hope of November had finally melted away in the rains of December and all that was left was the faintest of wishes for a hail-Mary snowstorm, if that's not torturing a metaphor beyond endurance.
Doing thigh-burning laps like a sinner in need of penance and seeking enlightenment, I found my mind wandering back to a print ad campaign mounted by Colorado Ski Country a couple of decades ago. Like all skiing ads, this one featured happy skiers in knee-deep, untracked powder under bluebird skies. Evoking a longing to be on uncrowded slopes, the caption was both simple and provocative, reading, "It's been scientifically proven you can't do this and think about the office at the same time."
The point of the ad was both to remind people stuck in their offices they really should be thinking about a holiday, and to drive home the point that ski vacations were superior in every way to beach vacations — the latter being high on the list of misguided people labouring in cold climates everywhere. Skiing requires both focus and energy output; lying on a beach requires bottomless alcoholic drinks and a lobotomy if one is to keep one's mind from drifting toward thinking about the work piling up in their absence.
Of course, this was before the advent of smart phones, slave-driving devices keeping people who think they're on holiday tethered to their virtual offices. These days, it is not at all uncommon to see people stop in the middle of a perfectly good run to answer a call, reply to a text or tickle themselves pink over the cutest cat video y'all ever saw.
And it is de rigueur that they'll answer emails, make and take calls or thumb out texts while riding the chairlift. As a public service, should you find yourself on a chair with someone committing these sins, the most humane thing you can do is distract them long enough to grab their phone and throw it into the nearest deep snow drift... which in this case may be in Alaska but you understand what I mean.
To return to the point of this story, assuming there is one, the reason that particular bit of trivial flotsam filtered through my consciousness — the Colorado ad, in case you've forgotten — was both the irony of thinking about something other than skiing while I was skiing and the particular thought, other than the Colorado ad, that was fighting for mental shelf space at a time when my entire focus should have been on the track before me.
That random non-skiing thought was how totally weird it was to be skiing at breakneck speed on the edge of a ski "run" while observing the grass, dirt, rocks and assorted earthtoned debris whizzing past immediately adjacent to the track the groomers had laid down. Yikes! The line between snow and no snow was as fine as a surgeon's cut.
We'd all still be biking if it weren't for snowmaking, snowmakers being the new embodiment of Ullr. All bow before them.
I was thinking about how unsettling this lack of natural snow was when some bumbling fool pushed his way through the line of patiently waiting people at the Base II load of Excalibur, spilling the holiday-spirit, peppermint mocha frappe coffee drink the woman behind me was warming her hands on, and slapped me on the shoulder.
"Yo, bro. I was hoping to find you up here," he said, in an unmistakably gravelly voice honed over too many unfiltered French cigarettes and too much cheap Canadian rye.
"J.J., for crissakes apologize to the lady," I admonished, turning towards the woman wearing the stylish (sic) white ski jacket with the large peppermint mocha stain down the front. "He's sorry, ma'am", I said, pointing towards my head, "Brain injury from the war."
She seemed mollified, undoubtedly mistaking J.J. for an injured war vet instead of the ex-CIA spook he was. The only brain injury J.J. had suffered was from too much self-medication taken to forget his own role in the Vietnam war and a not insignificant affinity for B.C. bud since he'd moved to Whistler to play at being the town's only private eye many years ago.
After executing a disgusting ruse, the details of which I will not relate since I wouldn't want to see it widely repeated, we managed to purloin a gondola all to ourselves.
"That was revolting, J.J. There were people waiting to get in."
"I needed to talk to you alone."
"I'm not sure I want to know."
"I need to borrow ten thousand dollars."
"Now I'm sure. I don't want to know."
"OK, five. I can squeak by with five."
"What do you want to borrow money for."
"I'm sure I didn't hear you right. Pet salvation."
"Maybe you did suffer a brain injury. What the hell are you talking about."
"Pets in heaven. Haven't you heard? The Pope says all good doggies go to heaven. I'm plannin' to start my own ministry to help people make sure Fido and Fluffy will be waiting for them at the pearly gates. This is a sure-fire gold mine, dude."
"This is the most crazyass idea you've ever had, J.J. For starters, the Vatican has been back-pedalling like crazy trying to explain the Pope was misquoted. Hell, even the New York Times has bowed to the pressure and said the story was in error."
"Who cares. Pet owners are crazy; they don't care what the Vatican mucky-mucks or the Times says. They're convinced the Pope said pets go to heaven and they're bound and determined to make sure theirs does. Dude, this is a dream come true for pet owners. But we have to move quick."
"I'm never comfortable when you use the word we, J.J. Particularly now. It conjures uncomfortable images of incarceration."
"OK, I have to move quick. But you have to loan me the money."
"Let me think about it. No!"
"OK, let's say, for the sake of argument, the Pope did say dogs will go to heaven. That contradicts centuries of Catholic doctrine that only humans have souls and can ascend to heaven. If that's the case then all animals have souls and can to go heaven, true?
"That means the Hindus were right all along and cows are sacred. If they were right, Christianity was wrong and you're setting yourself up to be right in the middle of a coming holy war."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"And I'd feel guilty if I lent you money to put you in harm's way like that."
"OK. But can you buy me a beer?"
"Consider it a Christmas present."