Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mild winter days

If there is something I don't take well at all, it's any winter day that is mild, kind of rainy or just feels that way. It simply depresses me. This, I think, is the only external condition that get me really down. Yet, I can remember these circumstances for as long as I have been skiing because this is not a new condition.

This is it; it's a feeling that I believe only skiers can have and it stands at the very bottom of their “circle of happiness.” This say, I've decided to keep my composure through this painful period, I'll keep on thinking snow, with tons of it and I will maintain absolutely no expectation.

This is my winter worst case scenario M.O.!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The mopping saga (continued)

Mopping the American way didn't prove to be a success and will be abandoned. The drying system that is part of the bucket assembly broke the first day I used it. I returned right away to home depot and got my money back.

From now on, my garage will be mopped the French way, with some terry towels. Simpler, dirtier in its handling (perhaps), but quite efficient. I used to mop years ago, in France, and know what I'm talking about, so it's with great hopes that I'm once more, shifting gear!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Porgy and Bess, take II

A few weeks ago we saw Porgy and Bess for the second time. The first time was just 30 years ago on Broadway, in New York City, and while we appreciated some elements of the show, we couldn't really make good sense of the the lyrics and subsequently, the whole story.

This time, the show had subtitles and it made all the difference in the world; this add-on enabled us to finally get the complete story straight. Sure, the narrative was a bit convoluted like many such stories are, but finally our second impression of the show will be much more than just the famous “Summertime” song...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

From Park City into Vail's culture

I've been delighted to see Vail take over Canyons and Park City resorts, just for the simple reason that I hope they'll link both (which they already announced they will) paving the way to “One Wasatch” the Utah interconnect.

In addition, they are likely to modernize Park City aging lift infrastructure and may be able to solve the Canyons' dysfunctional access. This said, since I started skiing in Park City, I was disappointed that they took down the RFID gates to replace them with hand-held readers.

This definitely is a step backward and I wonder why a prominent chain of ski resort like Vail has ignored this proven and labor-saving device. Never assume too much!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mopping, the American way

To clean a surface, you need to sweep a wet or moist mop all over it to dissolve and absorb everything that doesn't belong. My experience with mopping came from France where we used a flat piece of cloth wrapped around a wood brush handle. We then twisted-dry the wet cloth by hand into a bucket and kept on mopping.

This rustic set up cannot be found in American and to this day, we've imported the flat pieces for years from France. This was until yesterday, when I bravely decided to make the switch to the American looped yarn mop, invented centuries ago by T.W. Steward, along with a mop bucket cart that allows to wring out the wet mop without straining too much and getting my hands dirty.

Our garage floor will be the theater of operation for this vanguard equipment. I can't wait to test it and enter into the modern era of efficient mopping!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Questionable emails

The internet is a repository of what is good and what is abject in the world we live in. A lot of folks I know still like to circulate pieces of information filled with blatant misinformation and terrible hatred that should, in turn, be widely circulated; at least that it is what's asked at the end of these messages.

I seriously object to it and as much as I can, refuse to read and send or forward such objectionable material. It's not that I have never done it in the past, but I can see clearly how bad it is and no longer want to be part of this form of propaganda.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The delivery man

A few days ago, just before the recent snow storm, I was visited by Nathan Rafferty, Ski Utah's president who came and presented me with a wonderful poster celebrating “One Wasatch”, the up and coming interconnected ski project that will spring Utah into a European ski league of its own.

Since a good need always is notice by Karma, the poster delivery was followed by a generous delivery of snow. While the nostalgic-looking piece is being framed before it proudly inside my office, I can only hope the “One Wasatch” gestation is short and its life for as long as snow will be falling over Utah!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ski season opening day

Another ski season began yesterday and what a big job this was. First I had to consciously plan it. Where's my gear, my pass, and all the staff, elements that we take for granted but are absolutely necessary when we embark on a skiing outing.

I first gathered everything, except for my car keys that I had misplaced and couldn't find for a long while, then 30 minutes later, I was in the parking lot getting ready. At first the ankle pockets inside my boots failed to recognize my feet and made painfully sure I'd knew about it. My first turns were tentative while my last ones became very confident as if I had not missed a bit since May 16, in Snowbird.

I can't wait for day #2!

Friday, November 21, 2014

A good outcome

Building our home has been a pretty big job and a continuous challenge, but today this is long forgotten as we love the end result. So when we met yesterday with the contractor to finalize the ultimate details and settle our accounts, we almost got what we wanted and we're now turning the page on the whole adventure.

It all ended well because, from the get go, we knew exactly what we wanted, we worked very hard at every step of the way, never assumed anything would go smoothly, kept excellent records, spent an inordinate amount of the time on the site and maintained the pressure on the entire time.

A good lesson learned and a wonderful outcome. Are we ready for another one? Why not!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The importance of the daily check

I don't know about you, but when I first glance at the mirror in the morning as I'm brushing my teeth, I look at the man facing me, long enough to get puzzled, scared and concerned. I look at my reflection like you would look at the old car you're still driving even though you should have traded it in a long, long time ago.

There is visible damage on the body and the interior looks even worse, not to mention under the hood or the body that you no longer desire to see. That's the moment when you ask yourself the question. That good old automobile already shows 133,000 miles on the odometer; how in the world will I be able to take it to 200,000?

That existential question generally calls for more questions and concerns, as well as a vague road map, for plotting the remaining 67,000 miles. Concepts like managing the old vehicle, not speeding too much, easing up on the brakes, watching the payload and changing the oil even more often, to only list of few of them.

Now that you've got the picture, do I still have to launch on a point-by-point comparison with the old guy still blankly staring at me in the mirror?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The “accidental” birth

Right, I'm this kind of kid. I was born long after my sister and brother when my parents thought they were all done. That's when I showed up; I must have been a bittersweet surprise for them and it was shear luck for me. Had modern birth control be popular in those days, my chances of making it on the planet would have been at best, very slim to none.

So here I am and happy to have made it by jumping just through a few feeble hoops. I can also guarantee you that if I had not showed up, humanity wouldn't have miss a beat. My jobs would have gone to others folks, my wife would have married someone else and the only other losers beside me would have been my two children and my grandson.

So once more, I'm delighted I made it on this earth and only regret that I haven't done much, much more with that extraordinary chance that fate gave me, but that's a totally different story!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Is Utah worth dying for?

This morning I received an email from a friend of mine, back in France, who alerted me on a recently published study by Perry Renshaw, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah.

What Mr Renshaw stressed is that despite ranking as America's happiest state, Utah also has a disproportionately high rates of suicide and associated mood disorders compared to the rest of the country. He said that Utah was the No. 1 state for antidepressant use, something I already knew.

This paradox generally attributed to gun use, low population density and the Mormon culture is, according to Renshaw, caused by altitude which impacts our brain chemistry by changing its levels of serotonin and dopamine, that help regulate our feelings of happiness. My immediate reaction is that Colorado, still higher than Utah, should be number one, but of course it has far less Mormons in its population, so in my view, the fault full rests on the state's religious culture.

Do I feel like hanging myself? Absolutely not, especially when skiing season begins just a few days from now!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Skiing the Alps from America

For years, I believed it made sense for Americans to fly over to the Alps and ski. It was before I traveled too much, suffered from all kinds of jet-lag and worked in the hospitality industry.

I learned that what I call “negative-jet-lag” (the one you get when you fly Eastbound) is the worst, and that if a week is a minimum time segment to allocate for a European ski vacation, it's no longer available as skiers come for stays ranging from 3 to 5 days.

This is why, more than ever, the fabled Austrian, French or Swiss ski vacation for Americans who live in the USA is all but a pipe-dream!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Evolving slalom technique?

I'm not sure I'll get up at 5 am every time and watch many ski world cups this winter, but I stumbled out of bed today to watch the 2nd run of the Levi men's slalom. Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen, won magisterially and my take-away, after watching the incredible new breed of Swede and Norwegian slalom specialists, was their peculiar style in which their hands appeared to be totally free in relation to their feet. 
Let me explain; for years, skiers' arms appeared to trigger their foot work and both arms and legs operated in perfect synchronicity. The Scandinavian top slalom racers seem to have broken away from this regimented rhythm and their arms appear clearly free and independent from their feet. A much freer impression emanates from their skiing style, in which the arms are following the motion, when in the past, they seemed to have been the action's catalyst.

Have you noticed it? Do you agree?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So much too learn, so little time!

I'd like to learn something new and with technology, these days, learning is just a few keystrokes away. There's so much on line that there is in fact too much.

So what should I sink my teeth into? Programming, movie-making, political science, architecture or sport psychology? It's pretty embarrassing to admit that I'm literally paralyzed by this plethora of options.
My daughter also directed me to look into MOOC (Massive open online course) and I have just begun to drawn into its super rich content. I better get thinking, organize and going before I have no more available time left!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Early exposure to religion

Seeing an old picture on me on skis, revived memories about my early experience with religion. Should I say that while I got hooked on skiing from the get go, this wasn't the case for the Catholic Faith.

I remember that religion in the family (evening communal prayer) was utterly boring while Catechism, up to a point, was an entertaining story, plus I loved history. I don't remember if I believed in Jesus Christ's miracles that were enumerated all along the course, I just took them as original tidbits.

Obviously the most effective and potent tool used by the church to convince us, little kids, was fear and it certainly worked wonder. So for me religion was extreme boredom, plus a potent “don't do this” list held together by the cement of fear.

Fortunately for me, that temporary bound crumbled before I could find any good reason to become a believer.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Really cold shower!

When we changed planes in Denver, yesterday morning, it was a freezing 1 degree F at the airport. The day before, we enjoyed a balmy 69 degrees in Washington, DC and today our Park City day started at a cold 7 degrees.
Hard to adapt to this drastic changes, but winter is upon us and we must get used to it. Nonetheless, I went running early this morning and we just finished a walk this afternoon. We seemed to have accepted that new state of affair. Just another six short months and we'll shift back to Spring!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ski line-up from yesteryear...

This weekend, a former primary school classmate sent me a picture taken during the winter of 1957 or 1958, on the occasion of a ski test, called “étoiles” (a test similar to Nastar that came with a snow-crystal shaped pin adorned with 1, 2 or 3 brass stars, depending on the achieved level of ski proficiency.)

This was the beginning of a traditional sporting rite of passage in elementary schools located at, or in close proximity to, a French ski resort. The photo was taken in Morzine, less than 2 miles away from Montriond, my hometown. Monsieur and Madame Losserand, our teachers, had taken us there to take that test and what was remarkable was our attire at the time. 
No ski eye-wear, few ski hats and quite a few berets, caps, hoods or even scarves for girls (certainly no helmet!) and our gloves were all hand-knit mitts. One remarkable detail, though, I had no parka, but I already wore in-the-boot stretch pants... Skis were rudimentary (mine were handmade by my Dad and their tips were flattened) and yet, we seemed very happy. At least I looked like I was enjoying myself (bib # 18).

Now, that I've seen that shot, I was reminded that I obtained my “deuxième étoile” which consisted of being able to make a few Stem-Christy turns, traverse and side slip. Enough to launch me on any slope. I was already hooked on skiing, thought it was super cool and yet still ignorant that the sport would become my lifetime pursuit. To me this picture is priceless stand as the gateway to what has made my life so rich and so worth living.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My concept of old and recent

As I grow in age, what is recent for me is getting older and older for younger folks. Take something that happened 10 years ago. It's still recent for me, whereas is represents a good third of a thirty year old life and is therefore very ancient to him or or.
I need to adjust when it comes to my musical or cinematographic taste and while I try, the raft of life takes me inexorably to the museum of my antique life. Nothing I can do about it; especially not pretend that yesterday has already passed its elusive expiration date.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Handling disappointment

When success is normal, failure is much harder to stand, yet alone tolerate. I came to accomplish a hard project in my daughter's apartment and just partially succeeded (let's say, three-quarter of it) and felt less than whole when I had to admit defeat.

For a while, I tried to invent a collection of excuses, but none of them succeeded at deflecting the sad reality of failure. So, I embraced that undesirable state of affairs, smelled it fully, experienced it through my whole self and very soon, before I know it, the stigma had vaporized.

I don't know where all these hard and unpleasant feelings went. Probably, in some dark corners of my persona, but they are more than welcome to dwell there for as long as I own myself. Next project?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pirandello; a first!

I have always heard great things about Luigi Pirandello's the famous playright, but never saw any of his work performed in a live theater. I saw it tonight and I liked it a lot.

Another fine evening in Washington and a lot of fun watching “Absolutely! (perhaps)” an adaptation of “Cosi è (se vi pare) that revolves around the concept of craziness and what we think of that state.
Great actors, great production in a small “boutique” theater and continuous stream of fun. I'll go back to sample more Pirandello!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

While my cello gently weeps

Would I chose to go on my own to a cello concert? I don't think so. But since this performance was Maya Beiser was my daughter's treat I went and was quite amazed to hear and appreciate what was coming out of the giant violin.

The artist was on top of her game and her program that included compositions from Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and Jimmy Hendrix, to name just a few was both contemporary and eclectic. I had a great evening but have not decided yet to take on cello lessons!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Choppy run in the big city

In recent months, I've become both a much lighter and somewhat weaker runner and I now realize that running in the streets of Washington, DC, isn't pure pleasure, as I must stop at traffic lights, wait for my turn, and get a very choppy run for my money.

The older I get, I like things that run smoothly, so stop and go traffic isn't for me anymore. I certainly enjoy running around the White House or the Mall, but it takes lots of traffic lights and much patience to get there.

This said, I can handle it. These days, urban running is just but a few weeks each year!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Is Obama still relevant?

The recent election has been extremely hard on the Democratic Party and of course, the President. Which begs the obvious question; is he still relevant? 
Probably not, because he's not cornered between a congress that will be exacting its pound of flesh from him, that he turn he won't want to make happy and his succession (Hillary) that he doesn't care much for.

So my prediction is that it's not going to be pretty and even though his hellish road was paved with noble intentions, it remains what it always is: A road to Hell.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Afraid of thieves?

Not in my neighborhood! At least from I've been able to witness. These homeowners have been tearing down his garage to build some living space above it. In so doing they have opened up the space and it's been that way for weeks now.

They moved the cars away but left the skis and the boots on the rack though. Perhaps the owners didn't care for them anymore and hoped that someone would stop by and help themselves, but no one has. Today, as I was passing by, the new structure is framed, but the garage space still has no doors and the ski gear is still there.

Probably dusty, but who cares? Seems to prove the point that only thieves need to be afraid of... thieves!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The accent in question

There isn't a month, rather week, that goes by without someone asking a question about my French accent. The inquiry generally goes like this: “After 37 years in America, how have you managed to keep your accent...”

I'm so sick and tired of it, that I am going to address that ill-informed remark by a rather harsh comment that will serve of lesson to the inquisitive – should I say “nosy” - individual who dares to ask... It will go like this:
“If you really want to know, I will have to teach you a lesson in physiology that you may or may not enjoy, and that you will have to listen through. It will take a couple of minutes, but I guarantee you that you will remember it forewer and that you'll end up being less ignorant than when you triggered the question...”

Then I will give my standard explanation that I have polished over almost four decades...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Can you afford not to be jealous?

That's one of a kind question! As I've written countless times, jealousy is in American culture “the elephant in the room” and is alive and, thank you, very well. Yet it is suppressed as much as appearances will let it.
Many folks struggle through life and always have a hard time accepting others people's success and often time will second guess their material achievements, most of the time rightly so, especially on account of Lady Luck's unpredictable interventions.

It's only among the super, super rich that jealousy – normally – fades away, because their social status is so far higher than the rest of us, that they can easily afford to trow us a bone, remain totally non threatened and can feel somewhat good through the whole process!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

End to mountain bike season?

That's it, snow is falling this morning and with it, a record mountain biking season is perhaps coming to an end. Never say never, but it's might be a stretch if we could ride again after this storm.

This said, we've been shattering records these spring, summer and fall and I logged more days mountain biking than skiing last winter. Just shy of 90 outings; a first in our 9th season on fat tires!

Our last rides felt close to perfection and we're glad we took them even though, some mornings, the first minutes were freezing. Well if November happens to close the doors on riding, another riding season is less than 6 month away!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween 2014: The Dead Zone

Since last year, we've moved to a very, very quiet street, so we were quite curious to know whether we would even be visited by one single trick-and-treater... My wife said, we'd get on 10 and I went for a slightly higher number, 14.
By 9 pm, we we closed-up shop and turned off the lights, we had seen twice this number with 7 groups and 25 visitors, but we were a mere third of what we had last year, when we lived in a much more trafficked street.

Glad I didn't choose to wear my haz-mat suit to welcome the goblins; they would all have run away! Well, we can just hope to do much better in 2015...