Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm an Old Lady With Bad Knees, or, First Fall of the Season

First, let me say this; I'm not a great skier. For someone who grew up steps from the Laurentiens and whose mother is from Magog, (which has turned from a factory town into a fancy schmancy ski resort) I'm barely average. There are a lot of reasons for this, mostly my general unco-ordination and the 10 years I took off skiing after I moved to Toronto, mostly caused by lack of money, lack of transportation, and lack of desire to ski Ontario's tiny hills.

I got back into the swing of things about 4 years ago when my better half suggested a trip to Horseshoe "Mountain". I snapped on some snazzy new parabolic rentals and skied like Bode Miller. (It's hard to ski badly down 300 vertical feet). And just like that, my winters were transformed. I went from hating winter, hating the cold, hating snow, to loving all of the above. And I mean looooooooooooooving. Now when I see flakes start to fall, I do a little happy dance. Every time someone complains about -15, I smile so wide my teeth almost pop out. People can't stand it.

So I'm not a great skier, but that's not my problem My problem has to do with chair lifts and chair lift related disasters; stopping them, falling off of them, and - even - pushing others *cough* John *cough* off of them.

The chairlift has become my nemesis. Particularly the ones at Blue Mountain, our regular winter hangout, which, even though it's a barely respectable 720 feet of vertical, is the 4th most visited ski resort in Canada. So, basically there's lots of traffic + high speed six pack chair lifts. Six people going in different directions at once on skis? I smell disaster brewing.

So, a few weeks ago, John and were out on our first trip to Blue of the season. About halfway through the night we got on the chairlift with a kid I knew was going to be trouble. He was swinging his snowboard under the lift and smacking my skis and yapping in a loud, obnoxious voice about his exploits to the dude sitting next to him (for a fourteen year old, he has had a lot of exploits). As we got ready to disembark he crouched down and slid off the lift with his elbows up, his board almost sideways, and his head up his ass. Almost immediately he hooked the back of his board (snowboards have a slight curl upwards at both ends) under my right ski and started to pull my leg out from underneath me. Instead of lifting up my leg and releasing his board, which would have been a lot smarter, I was sort of caught in a daze, thinking; this little bastard is going to take me down. And I'm an old lady with bad knees. Unsuprisingly, about 2 seconds later I went down, my right and left skis pointing towards each other in a jaunty 90 degree angle, one that generally indicates that you've just mangled your meniscus. And I couldn't get up, because this was the first fall of the season and I had no clue what I was doing. After a few seconds of malingering I clued in and remembered; aha! This is how you get back up. And I did.

I think it's the height of unfairness that I have to re-learn how to fall and how to get back up again every single winter, and I did a suitable amount of feeling sorry for myself afterwards. Unfortunately, this is also where I'm at with my writing. I've got exactly one paragraph written of my new book and I can't remember what the hell to do next. I expect the answer is, just like skiing, to get up and keep going. And here I thought it was going to be easier this time around. On the bright side, it doesn't involve chairlifts.


PS. I'm back to Blue this weekend - Super Bowl Sunday is the best night of the winter to ski because everyone's at home drinking beer and waiting for another glimpse of Janet Jackson's boobies. If I embarass myself horribly in another chairlift brouhaha, I'll be sure to let you know.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Thank You, Strange Guy at the Queen's Quay Loblaws

On the day before New Year's Eve, we were hosting a dinner for some friends of mine. For any and all dinner parties I take a run over to the St. Lawrence Market, (a market so scrumptious it was voted one of the 25 best markets in the world). Conveniently, the market is just down the street from the Queen's Quay Loblaws (a grocery store so sexy it's rumoured to be one of Toronto's best pick-up spots), where I get all my non-market related sundries. Unfortunately, I also had to go shopping the day before New Year's Eve, a move only contemplated by utter maniacs.

I was in a wickedly bad mood; the fancy schmancy new Canadian Tire tree stand that we'd just bought had leaked while we were on our ski trip in Quebec and warped our recently refinished hardwood floors (more research on hardwood floors reveals that this type of damage is called cupping. Just thought you might want to know.) We had tried to staunch the flow, but I had just discovered some new damage before I left the house and I was officially pissed off.

I made the short trip downtown, muttering to myself while I steamed in my own juices in my little red car. As soon as I neared the market I realized that I was headed for disaster. My regular parking lot looked packed to the gills, the four-way stop was being overrun by SUVs bullying their way through the intersection, and people were *everywhere*. (I have a phobia about crowds. It's not pretty.) I managed to squeak into a parking spot, narrowly avoided getting squashed by a minivan, and escaped being flattened into the pavement by a family with a double-wide stroller, but by this point, I was almost purple with angst.

I managed to get through the throngs of people, sidestepped the crates of writhing lobster lining the walkways and ended up in front of a store where they were hawking - literally - yummy little Cornish Hens. The butcher was ├╝ber friendly and quite funny and I felt a little warmed. I went over to the veggie store and picked up a bunch of green beans and shallots, but couldn't make it to the potatoes because of the wall of grumpy teens being dragged around by their mothers. I cut my losses, bought my handful of organics and headed out to the Queen's Quay Loblaws, but I was in for a surprise when I got there. It was the first time I've ever seen the massive main level parking lot look full, so instead of circling like some kind of parking lot predator I scooted up to the second level, thinking I was super smart. Nope, it was packed too. I knew I was in for a miserable time; I still wasn't feeling all that fantastic, the traffic was freaking me out, and I still had to clean the house.

I got my buggy and started to navigate the mess of yuppie/hippie/chichi/new-age couples and families with little less than a snarl on my face. It was almost impossible to navigate the store. Unfortunately, I'd been to the downstairs liquor store first, so I had three bottles of nice wine in my cart. Paranoid that someone was going to relieve me of $50 worth of spectacular booze, I didn't want to leave my buggy. I had been in the store for only about 5 minutes when the most interesting thing happened; I was trying to navigate the potato section when I came head to head to with an attractive older man in a nail-biting grocery cart standoff. I needed to get around him to make it to the all-important baguette section and he was in my way. And I wanted him to move.

And then...he did. He smiled at me, a smile that reached his eyes and transformed his face into a delightful maze of wrinkles. He backed up his cart, navigated around me, and said; "Happy New Year". It was a perfectly charming moment that rendered me so flustered I didn't move forward, thwarting the attempts of the person behind me, who pushed his cart ahead and ended up wedged against my ass. Instead of murdering him with a potato, I turned around and smiled. He backed up his cart, apologized, and smiled back.

My bad mood evaporated and I continued on my way, listening to snippets of family discord and strife; to husbands not giving a shit that their wives *had* to have organic beets for their side dishes instead of canned; to wives who didn't want to suffer through another torturous dinner with their mother-in-law; to mothers chastising their slouching Goth teens and screaming Gap-swaddled toddlers. The ever present, ubiquitous Christmas charols were playing in the background and they were...lovely. As I smiled at my cranky fellow shoppers and ceded right-of-way to their grocery carts, I thought about how lucky I was. I thought about how I was going to go home and make a yummy dinner for good friends and an unmarried/common-law/domestic partner who I adore. I thought about how thankful I am for what I have, thankful that we can all define who our family is in our own demented, quirky ways, and that living a happy life is sometimes all about perspective. So, thank you, strange guy in the Queen's Quay Loblaws, thank you for smiling at me instead of horribly mangling my foot by running over it with your buggy.

A very Happy New Year's to everyone. I wish you and yours all the best in 2007. And don't forget to smile at random strangers every once in a while. Just 'cause.