Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Skiing! Ah, what a wonderful sport indeed! I made my first attempt at downhill skiing this past weekend at Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. I say "attempt" because I believe that most aptly describes what I accomplished: some four hours of skiing in a "training area" (also known as "Wolf Creek Hollow"), followed by a descent of a "beginner" slope. After some five or six tries, I had the hang of the rope tow at the training area, so I spent the morning repeating this over and over and over and over. Finally, breaking for lunch, I had a chance to rest and take stock of my accomplishments, which I deemed were very limited.

After lunch, we attempted the beginner slope, known as "Easy Way", and on its lower elevations, "Rabbit Hill". Ha! Two major misnomers. Easy Way looked great from down on the ground, but not so good from above. After some four or five zigzag paths down the hill, much of which was spent sitting on the ground, I finally took my skis off at the bottom and walked the last thirty feet, a feeling of disgust and sadness overcoming me. But not to be daunted, I took a short break, then once again stepped into the cruel straits of fiberglass for yet another try at the training area.

Throughout this whole ordeal, Karen had been trying to teach me something -- anything. Many times, I plunged the poles into the ground and tried in vain to raise myself up again to a standing position. On occasion, I could actually get myself up and ponder what to do next. Oh, the anguish!

But then after it was all done, I headed to the lodge bar and had (in fairly rapid succession) two Jack Daniels and Cokes. After that, the ski area seemed to mellow a bit -- the whole idea no longer had the feel of doom that it had possessed earlier in the day but now appeared to be a fulfilling, relaxing activity. Yes, I thought, I might do this again.

And now, as I gaze at the wallpaper I have downloaded from the Snowmass web site, I realize that I have been pulled into a strangely addictive endeavor, one which is not without risk, but which holds out the promise of making one look pretty good while turning from side to side, swooshing down a mountain. Of course, for me, that might be a while!

Monday, January 9, 2006

It was 1973, the year in which more interesting things happened to me than all my other years put together. My bass player friend David and I were on a choir tour with our Memphis church. We were in Toronto and, as with many choir tours, we were booked to stay with a host family when out of the crowd stepped a long-haired man who volunteered to have us stay with him instead. When he did this, all the local people at the church agreed that it was a good idea, and David and I were simply too interested not to accept his invitation. See, this guy was a guitar player like us, only a few years older, and his name was Joe Probst.

The evening with Joe turned out to be one of the most curious and interesting in my life. Joe was a mail carrier who had a humble third-floor apartment in the town of Brampton, just outside Toronto. When we got to the apartment, Joe lit a couple of candles and mounted them on the horns of a moose head which hung on the wall. We talked, played guitar, and sang most of the evening. Joe was a very decent guitar player who had recently released an album entitled "The Lion and the Lady", and his record producer dropped in for a while later in the evening. We drank Oktoberfest beer, perhaps a little late for the season but ice cold and illicitly good nevertheless. When we turned in for the evening, Joe instructed us on how to operate the electrical appliances the next morning so as not to blow a fuse (he would be off to work by the time we awakened).

Joe Probst was a sincere, funny, and talented guy, and although his album was never a commercial success, it remains as one of the most listenable in my collection. A few years ago, I located the CD online. If you are a fan of Harry Chapin or the softer ballads of Bruce Springsteen, you will probably like Joe's music. I wish him well and hope that wherever he finds himself tonight, there are candles on a moose head close at hand.

Here's the link to Joe's CD:

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Happy New Year, even though it's the second week and all. Last year, I posted my resolutions on my blog and, as a result, I managed to keep all of them. I attribute this at least in part to the fact that when everything is right out there, you feel an obligation to try to keep your resolutions. In the same spirit, I am again listing those things which I hope to accomplish this year:

  • Stop repeating myself. Is this early Alzheimer's or what?
  • Stop sweating the small stuff. I can be pretty bad about this at times.
  • Get together with friends more often. Some of you I've found in the past year, and I want to make sure that I don't lose touch again.
Here's hoping that 2006 brings happiness, peace, and prosperity to you all!