The day had been the kind of day that makes a guy happy he chucked the whole money, power, success and urban rat race thing to become a ski bum. The crowds were midweek thin, the snow was perfect, soft and plentiful with relatively unmolested hidden lines of boot-high powder beckoning. Sun and cloud played hide-and-seek, casting shadows and light across the high alpine bowls of Whistler Mountain. Seldom was heard a discouraging word save yelps of happiness morphing into muffled exclamations of resignation as ski tips crossed and faces met slopes. The rye on the chairlifts didn’t hurt either.
As Seppo mighta said, "Yust a’udder day in paradise."
Having committed the strategic mistake of parking at Base II, I had a sense of foreboding. Days this good deserve, nay, demand après at Dusty’s. After all, the sun had finally won its tug-of-war with the clouds and was drenching the ever-inviting Creekside patios with heat, light and the acrid smell of stale ski clothes, spilled beer, congealing nachos and early whiffs of desperation emanating from All The Young Dudes prematurely resigned to their status of losers in the evening’s ultimate shagathon. Where else would a guy wanna be?
While I momentarily weighed the stay, drink, take the bus option, duty called and I couldn’t get the picture out of my mind of Zippy the Dog standing anxiously, legs crossed, at the door each time a car drove by the house, hoping it would be me to release him from his exile-on-the-couch for a squirt and frolic. Hedonism 0: Duty 1. Rats.
The ski down to the Village side was, as usual, more video game than alpine reality, an exercise in carefully threading my way through the confusion of human gates. I made a humanitarian stop along the way when I saw a terribly confused couple consulting a trail map… on Lower Olympic… within sight of the bottom. I had to satisfy my curiosity. What in the world could they be hoping the map would tell them when they were close enough to the end of the run to hear the din from the Longhorn patio? It was an eye-opener when it turned out they were apparently spatially dyslexic and thought they were coming down to the bottom of Blackcomb. It was pointless to explain their confusion to them so I just told them they’d gotten their hands on an old map, that we’d switched the names on the mountains last season and if they kept going the way they were going they’d get to where they wanted to be. Where’s Search & Rescue when you really need them?
Kicking off my skis, fumbling around inside my jacket to dig out my pass, I heard an unmistakable, "Yo, Bro!"
My response was a practiced nonchalance; I ignored the ground glass voice as though it was no more threatening than a fart in the wind.
"Yo, Bro! Max!"
The voice was coming closer and the game was up. I was caught. Like a condemned man shuffling the last mile, I turned slowly toward my inevitable fate.
As usual, I was mildly stunned at what I saw. J.J. Geddyup, Whistler’s original and, as he liked to point out, only real private eye – "Not one of those boxtop, security cop weenies pretending to be a PI." – looked almost businesslike, in a scruffy, David Mamet kind of way. The suit, an obvious Re-Use-It find, a bit snug through the shoulders and just a tad long in the legs, was cut in a style reminiscent of the faux Saville Row excesses Tip Top Tailors enjoyed limited success with in the late ’70s. The handpainted, silk Hoochie Koochie girl under palm trees necktie screamed post war sailor chic and the shoes were way too shiny for any season where slush was a major barrier to walking.
But the capper was the brushed aluminum power briefcase. "Left over from the spook days," J.J. explained, pointing out the reinforced through-the-case ring where he claimed the handcuffs used to attach.
"You look like a business Dandy, J.J." I said. "What’s up?"
"Very perceptive. I’m dressed for success. I’m taking the plunge. I’m… aligned. Aligned for success."
"You sound like maybe you’ve taken a blow to the head recently, J.J. What in the hell are you talking about?"
"I’m goin’ into business, Dude. Enough of this pissin’ around snoopin’ on people, peerin’ through keyholes and skulking in the shadows. I’m startin’ a business. C’mon, I’ll show you where I’m settin’ up shop," he tugged my sleeve to drive home the point.
"I don’t know exactly how to say this, J.J., but unless you’ve forgotten to tell me something else about your past, I don’t remember anything that would even remotely qualify you as an entrepreneur. What kind of business you opening?"
"A sandwich shop. The Holy Panini Sandwich Bar, Yoga Studio, Esthetics and Wellness Centre," he said, proudly.
"Yeah, I’m gonna make sandwiches with the likeness of Jesus grilled into them in bas relief. Actually, you can pretty much choose your religious icon. Jesus, the Virgin Mary, any of the apostles, maybe even The Prophe…."
"Don’t go there, J.J. That’s the last thing we need. No cartoons; no panini. That one’s off limits. Let’s just stick to mocking Christians’ beliefs; at least most of them have a sense of humour."
"It’s cool, Dude. Muslims don’t like cold and snow anyway."
"Correct me if I’m wrong Mr. CIA covert operative, but isn’t about half of Afghanistan and Pakistan hip deep in snow right about now."
"Whatever. But you’ve got to admit, the idea’s cool."
"Yeah, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted a Peter and Paul grilled cheese after some yoga and reflexology. I think you’ve got a winner on your hands with this one. Just one thing? With all the bidniz people in town moanin’ and groanin’ about how tough things are, how they aren’t making the dough they think they should and how so many of them are likely to go tits up this spring, what makes you think this idea is going to work?"
"I’m aligned, Dude. I’m so aligned I’m downright linear. They’re not aligned. They’re all over the place. They’re… they’re… unimaginative. Hell, anyone can go outta business with just another cheesy T-shirt shop or just another spa. You can’t cover the stick-em-up rents the dirtbag landlords are asking for commercial space around here with an out of date, unaligned business idea that’s as old and tired as that. I’m gonna have it all, Dude. Have it all and serve it up with Jesus paninis!"
"What exactly is panini, J.J.?"
"Uh… it’s kind of like… oh shit, look at the time. It’s later than I thought."
"It’s later than a lot of us thought, J.J. Good luck."