I’ve heard it countless times: He is really friendly. Or, she just wants to play. Never mind that the subject in question flattens its ears, starts growling, barks and generally looks ready to attack. And even if it is genuinely friendly, I am not. That is, I have no inclination to play with strangers’ dogs. Befriend me first before you expect me to pet your four-legged companion. He’s afraid of your trekking poles. The last one was addressed to Damian who started hiking with poles after a minor skiing injury. I knew trekking poles were a sham but didn’t realize dogs and their owners shared my view. And if that’s the case, dogs with that opinion have no business on a hiking trail, at least not without a leash.
Snowstorm dumps a foot or two of white goodness. You are getting ready to snowboard the next morning when overnight warm wind turns powder to slush. Then the temperature drops converting the man-made snow to ice. As soon as you give up on riding in the near future, it starts snowing again. You cross your fingers and hope it’ll last this time. But you know it won’t. Vermont winter is a big tease. And it rarely grants the holy grail of snowstorm followed by a perfect sunny day coinciding with your ability to hit the slopes. Last season I was adamant not to miss it. I moved us to Killington and I was ready to ride everyday. And I had gotten lucky precisely once. The monster snowstorm came, brought so much snow that for a day I forgot what ice is and rode calmly in the eerie silence offered by powder. Sun was glorious and I was in bliss. And then it was over. Back to ice - hard-packed powder in marketing speak - for the rest of the winter.
It catapulted me off at the top. I knew it was going to be tricky. It’s hard to make your body unlearn the mechanics of lift loading and unloading. You start wondering: will the chair catch up with me before the loading platform ends? And while I can understand wanting to help newbies to get on the lift, I can’t believe it helps anyone disembark. Only the gentleness of the slope saved me from being turned into a projectile barreling down at full speed. For a brief moment I knew how groceries feel at the checkout register.
Another year, another turkey. One of the 90 million eaten between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. Almost one per household. Combine wingspan of all those birds is longer than the equator. If atomic bombs did’t prove that we were dealing with a superpower here, surely the logistics of raising, killing, packing, distributing and consuming this Everest of poultry has to convince the doubters. There is actually no law stating that one has to eat a turkey in November or December. At least none that we are aware of. But we don’t want to push our luck so we elected to do our yearly animal sacrifice on Thanksgiving and be done with it. We’ll have leftovers as a proof of our compliance. Not that we expect anyone checking, but just in case.
This is not the first snow of the season in Killington. But so far whatever is falling from the sky at night melts the following day. Even the mountaintops are not white. Except for the smidgens of man-made snow on Killington trails. People here often remark that, being from Poland, I must be used to cold and snow. It’s been some time since I gave up trying to dispel the notion. In Gdańsk, my hometown in northern Poland, temperature doesn’t drop as low in winter as it does in New England. And Gdańsk gets about a third of snow compared to Boston, Massachusetts. But facts do not matter much. We are all attached to our favorite stereotypes and Poland sounds like it’s at the pole. Protesting only makes people more suspicious so if you want to think I grew up playing with polar bear cubs on the way to school, be my guest.
This is the first time I am voting in American elections. And I am dead serious about it. I need to decide whom I like the most. And I do mean an emotional positive response, not the result of a rational analysis of pros and cons. The neuroscience finally excused us to pick politicians on looks and other superficial factors: a decision making process is about emotions not reason. That’s not the first campaign we witnessed in US but we’ve spend the last 6 months traveling and completely missed all the campaign adds and candidate canvassing. We’ve arrived home the night before election day and the only option I have is to try to learn all about candidates from their websites.
Damian, like 90% of the society, needs his coffee in the morning. Without it he becomes cranky and unfocused. I, on the other hand, am not like the remaining 10% who happily go about their lifes without the daily stimulant. I am in the class of my own: I drink hot milk with a drop or two of coffee for the smell and color. It’s an easy drink to make at home: two minutes in the microwave for the mug full of milk plus whatever coffee Damian has left at the bottom of a French press. Et voilà I am as happy as I can be in the morning - which, truthfully, is not very much. But who needs mornings.
Reality is a tempting thing to ignore. All those inches, centimeters, cubic feet. Who wants to keep track of them. Who needs a painful bargaining with physical world. This is more or less what I was thinking when observing a pile of our of luggage assembled haphazardly in front of the suddenly and painfully shrinking truck. It was clear, well, to me it was clear, that we cannot take everything. No superpowers that I and my better half posses can squeeze everything into the car. But I know better than to argue. I don’t really do hardware in this arrangement conventionally known as marriage. Come to think of it I do not really do hardware in any arrangement. So I patiently handed over bags. Rearranged packages. Carried our bikes in and out.And finally it worked out much better than I suspected. We could take nearly everything that we wanted. With the exception of skis and some winter gear. But winter is far away and we figured out couple of ways we can retrieve our stuff. In the meantime I can get back to ignoring reality. Everyone should try it from time to time.
We were just getting used to how our truck makes us feel: all manly and rugged, passing for real Vermonters lacking nothing but a dog (and a cow, and a farm, and a cute name for our own brand of goat cheese). However, the thought of carrying anything of value on the truck bed was more than we could bear. The vision of flying suitcases, of our bikes magically unchaining and suicidally throwing themselves into the following traffic, made us act. We decided to cap our irrational fears once and for all.
Next step in a preparation for the trip is to make sure we can play our painstakingly put together selection of music 24/7. Because once you get used to carrying your entire music library with you there is no going back to playing CD or, heaven forbid, searching for a station that doesn’t play country. And since we will be living out of our truck for a foreseeable future (or so is Damian telling me) we need to be able to connect it to our iPod. The factory radio was lacking that capability; or rather it was reserved to people on the West Coast - the only Nissan Frontier with short cab, V6 engine and iPod connection was in Washington state. Now you know why we want to go there.
When we planned our trip we resigned ourselves to getting by without some of the perks of civilization (regular meals, hot showers, morning coffee or morning commute). There are however things on which I simply refuse to compromise. One of them is the access to printed word. I am very much so a Gutenberg junkie. In an hour of despair I have been known to plunge for a fix into a flowery language of washing detergents’ blurbs. Which, for uninitiated, is quite similar to Ewan McGregor’s plunge in Trainspotting. Let’s just say it’s not mentioned in polite society.
Droid really does many things. Quite frankly I am not sure what it doesn’t do. Well, to be honest I am not 100% sure it actually does the whole phone thing. I live in a near perfect cell phone wilderness. As far as cell phone companies are concerned, some parts of Vermont didn’t quite make it into 21st century. There are cell towers somewhere in the neighborhood, at least according to droid, and - during skiing seasons - there are plenty of people who annoy the rest of us babbling in the gondolas and on the lifts. But they might be just showing off their latest phones to the captive audience, not actually talking to anyone.
I never wanted a truck. Let me say it differently: the truck is the last thing I ever wanted. Especially in the current (bad pun intended) climate. I can just picture all my liberal I’d bike to work if I could friends making snide comments. And all my conservative friends secretly hoping that the truck is the sign of the things to come. Well, it isn’t. It’s just that Natalia and I took some time off to travel across this beautiful country. And when we started making lists of all the things we wanted to take with us; and when we pictured our bikes, our diving gear, our hiking gear, our camping gear and - last but absolutely not least - our computers crammed in the trunk and back seats of our poor sedan, we came to the conclusion that nothing else will do.