Tag Archive | Warren Miller

Travel bragging: Self-indulgence or artist’s date?

Wassily Kandinsky

People who regale others with tales of their travels are one of my pet peeves. In part, sheer jealousy’s to blame. My budget doesn’t allow for gallivanting around the globe, and folks who brag about their various excursions strike me as insensitive to those of us in their captive audiences who may have less discretionary income.

Besides, too much travel bores me. As an author and artist, I’m much happier creating new work of my own than engaging in passive appreciation of others’ creations at museums and galleries, and lounging around in bars or on beaches just doesn’t do it for me. And is taking a break from daily routine truly restorative? For me, it wreaks havoc with my natural rhythm, and I often need a day of recuperation before getting back into my normal groove. On the other hand, “artist’s dates,” as Julia Cameron calls them, can help replenish our creative wells.

Nonetheless, this past week I went AWOL from my blog and treated myself to a few days of self-indulgence right here in New York and New England. In part because of looming deadlines, I took four trips in four days – skiing on Monday and Wednesday, New York City on Tuesday and Thursday. I had coupons for free lift tickets I’d picked up at the Warren Miller extreme skiing movie before Christmas, and the one for Windham expired on January 15th, so I drove southwest into the Catskills on Monday, blasting my recently acquired reissues of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver all the way down and back.

Tuesday I caught the 7am double-decker Megabus to New York City and spent five hours at the Guggenheim, taking in the Kandinsky retrospective the day before it closed. Trudging repeatedly up and down Frank Lloyd Wright’s ramp, I found I’d come through Monday’s exertions on the mountain in surprisingly good shape. Wednesday meant another 7am bus, this one to Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont with the Out of Control Ski Club to take advantage of another freebie. The view from the mountain top was magnificent, and I shared a memorable gondola ride with six men, whom I regaled with my ideas for a short story or perhaps a scene in my next novel featuring a gondola murder. They came up with some pretty good plot twists of their own. Then there was the aging ski instructor in the bar . . . but that’s fodder for another post.

Thursday’s jaunt was triggered by the need to visit my 80-year-old brother in the Bronx, plus my husband’s decision to attend a college reunion party in SoHo, our old Lower Manhattan neighborhood. Since we fled the city in 1979, the area has turned into an overpriced luxury mall with endless designer boutiques and trendy restaurants. But the Broome Street Bar where we had our second and more significant “cute meet” remains essentially unchanged since 1973. Oops, I sense another post coming on . . .

So there, I’ve indulged in exactly what I said I hated – travel bragging. I admit there’s a certain smug satisfaction in writing about my relatively privileged life. No, I can’t afford those cruises that cost thousands, but I’m fortunate to have the wherewithal to indulge myself on occasion. And these excursions – especially the solo trips where I’m accountable to no one – definitely restore my soul and spirit. They’re what Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way describes as “artist’s dates.” We artists and writers deserve them – they help replenish our wells of creativity, and they need not cost a fortune.

What about you? Have you treated yourself to an “artist’s date” lately? If so, what was it? And if not, why not? I’d love to read your comments here.

Too old for downhill skiing? No way!

I’ve been thinking about downhill skiing, but I haven’t hit the slopes yet this year. It’s been abnormally warm in the Northeast, and most ski areas opened much later than usual. Today my daily e-mail from Jiminy Peak reports packed powder conditions, but I know the snow is machine-made, and the wind chill is below zero. I’m putting it off till we’ve got a few inches of the real stuff, a calm, sunny day, and minimal lift lines. Chances are that means January.

I wrote the following poem several years ago, when I took up downhill skiing after a hiatus of many years. When I wrote of the skeptics who told me I was too old, I really meant my husband, but I was too diplomatic to say so. He was relieved today when I told him I might not ski as much this year  – he still thinks I’m too old, and he’s still wrong.

Downhill Skiing

Too old for downhill skiing? The skeptics told me so.

On the downhill side of sixty, my brittle bones might shatter

If I fell. My reflexes, never all that great, were no doubt shot by now.

My Rossignols, state of the art in ‘69, were obsolete today,

The leather run-away straps flat-out illegal. Now metal brakes are in.

New equipment? Rent if you must, they said – you’ll soon get over this insanity.

The skeptics spurred me onward to the slopes.

 

On the first day of downhill, I thought they might be right.

Muscles screaming in pain by mid-day, trembling, weak.

My brush-up lesson an exercise in panic, my instructor a sadistic drill sergeant.    

Don’t work so hard, he barked. Face down the fall line!

No more cowardly traverses – carve big, arcing turns!

You’ll pick up speed, but it’s all right – let the mountain take you down!

The falling was easy, the getting up, well nigh impossible.

 

On the second day of downhill, I gave it one more chance.

A four-hour twilight ticket, alone under the arc lights.

A full moon flanked by Saturn, the mountain glistening white

With dusky shadows, snow boarders hurtling by.

Fleeting glimmers of hope, elation when turns felt right.

My falls were fewer than the first time. Once, two men skied to my rescue,

Made sure I was unharmed and helped me to my feet. I have trouble too, one said.

The rigid boots don’t let you flex your ankles. It’s hard for everyone.

 

On the third day of downhill, I wasn’t quite so scared.

Another night excursion, a few more runs this time, and just one fall.

Carving huge curves through fresh powder, conquering moguls,

Remembering the sergeant’s words, facing down the mountain,

Relishing the growing sense of power in my thighs,

The sense of cellulite melting away, vanquished by muscle.

The tingling sense of well being and the hot chocolate in the lodge.

 

On the fourth day of downhill, I knew that I was hooked.

Glorious sunlight, fresh fallen snow and steeper slopes than ever.

Still the young men on snowboards, surfing far too fast,

But I’d learned to trust to fate, to share the chairlifts with them.

I promise not to kick you getting off, said one. But if I do, feel free to kick me back.

They fell often, flailing in spectacular windmill wipeouts, then popping up unharmed.

Me, I didn’t fall at all the fourth time. But if I had, it would have been all right.

 

Too old for downhill skiing? I proved them wrong.

I’ll always be a cautious intermediate, shun the black diamond expert runs.

But I’ll buy those jazzy skis and boots, be stronger, swifter than I was at twenty,

A Viking crone carving graceful arcs on my long slow downhill glide.

©2003 Julie Lomoe

I’ve gotten the jazzy equipment I wrote about, plus a helmet – I don’t want to end up like Natasha Richardson. I rarely fall anymore.  My prediction was dead right  – I’m still a cautious intermediate, and I still haven’t skied any black diamond trails. But I’ve got my coupons for free lift tickets from the Warren Miller movie, and a Value Pass for discounts at Jiminy, which is only 35 minutes from my house. And I’m still a member of the Out of Control Ski Club, which runs bus trips to Stratton and Gore with ample time for après-ski partying.

Writing this post, I’m getting more in the mood for skiing. What about you? Any downhill skiers out there? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re in the Capital Region. Maybe we could carpool to Stratton some Wednesday – that’s when they honor the free lift ticket coupons.

Burying the lead and cutting some ties

Michael Easton

Whew, my Blog Book Tour’s over at last. Ten stops in two consecutive Monday-Friday work weeks. Today I was planning to wrap it all up with a summary, including links to all the sites I visited, but I’m simply too frazzled, so I’ll do it early next week. Today’s illustration, incidentally, is a more up-to-date photo of Michael Easton, from 2007. I decided the photo from his days as a vampire on Port Charles, the one I used in my post on villains, simply didn’t do him justice. And what with all the hype on the opening weekend of the second Twilight movie, the photo seems appropriate – some eye candy for those of us women who prefer our men a bit more mature than Robert Pattinson.

Actually, my post today has nothing to do with villains, vampires or Blog Book Tours, and I’m not frazzled because of the book tour. I’m doing what I believe journalists call “burying the lead.”  I’ve been careful on this blog not to put anyone down. I don’t malign individual writers, even those who write atrociously, and I don’t violate confidences. But today, in the interests of lowering my blood pressure, I need to break my usual pattern and vent.

Today I quit a local organization of fans and writers to which I’ve belonged since its founding several years ago. It’s a chapter of a national organization that will remain nameless. My decision wasn’t taken lightly; in fact, it’s a step I probably should have taken long ago. Here are a few of the issues that came up at our lunch meeting today at an Albany pub:

  • Election of new officers: our new president is fine, but she’s the only writer to hold an officer’s position. The rest are allegedly fans. A writer friend of mine ran for vice president but was defeated by an open show of hands – a mortifying way to hold an election! The winner was a state employee who is not now and has never been a writer.
  • Throwing away $8,000: through a personal contact, the same writer friend was invited to apply for an $8,000 grant for an anthology of short stories by our members. The president, however, ordered the treasurer not to release the documents necessary to complete the application, because “we hadn’t had time to discuss it.” Those present today also expressed concerns: What if we didn’t have enough material to fill the book? What if the foundation wanted their money back? What exactly did they want us to write? They decided they had made the correct decision in blackballing the application.
  • Payment or reimbursement for authors’ appearances: they reaffirmed their longstanding position that authors should not be paid nor reimbursed for mileage for personal appearances. The organization exists not to promote individual authors, but to promote the chapter as a whole. All income from library and other appearances should go to the organization, not the individual writers.
  • My personal book sales: the woman who has appointed herself the chapter’s book seller berated me at length for attempting to sell my own books rather than give her a percentage of my sales. Her independent bookstore handles all the authors’ sales, she said, but she reaffirmed her decision not to handle my suspense novel ELDERCIDE because she finds the title and concept disgusting. The fact that I was named Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library doesn’t cut any ice with her.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I hoped that venting here about today’s fiasco would help tamp down my rage, but I find my blood pressure climbing once again, so I’d better quit. Suffice it to say I asked the treasurer to return the check I’d just written for next year’s dues, tore it up dramatically in front of all those assembled, threw down $10 for my lunch, and slammed the door on my way out. Talk about burning bridges!

With fans like these, who needs enemies? Only one of these fans has ever bought a book of mine.  I still have my writer friends, a couple of whom I’ve met through this organization, but other than that, as Heidi Klum would say on Project Runway, I’m OUT. And I’m not particularly worried that any of those alleged fans will see this blog post, because they’re steadfast in their hatred of the Internet, and my blog in particular.

And now I’m off to see the new Warren Miller extreme skiing movie and collect some free lift tickets. Seeing all those skiers jumping off cliffs and being buried in avalanches is just what I need tonight!