Friday, February 06, 2009

second snow

moguls, carving, jumping, outrageously high speeds, that sensation as you turn your board from a perfectly stable flat to a narrow, ridiculously steep and definite "down", and surfing powder snow like an electrified butterfly

24th, afternoon

the foghorn was sounding, the mother city smothered in her cool, white shroud. i needed that sleep, and that on the plane as well - it had been a rough couple of days. i was already packed, so i shaved and made a bunch of last phone calls that i should've done the day before - most of them were to give the following advice: use facebook.

the cost of those final chats, having a long discussion with my second mum, and the extra hugs came not only in the form of a R1000 penalty, but also in missing a day on the slopes, which is considerably more painful.
the primary lesson, which was to be repeated towards the end of the trip, is not to leave too short an amount of time between connecting flights. i'd rather have a few hours to kill than have to stress and run only to miss the flight anyway.

friday night's dinner, by the way, was actually very pleasant and i was drawn into a very interesting argument that lasted for most of it.

back at the airport, the passport switch was worrying as usual. especially when one of the security team whisked it away to his superior - i didn't know that he was merely concerned about the hebrew.

standing in the line for check-in, i saw a man walk past and was absolutely certain that i recognized him. i stared and stared, eventually walking right up to him and continuing to eyeball him meaningfully. then i got agitated, and begged to interrupt. his friend disappeared, and i introduced myself - it was my brother's brother-in-law, whose sister-in-law i took to the prom and abandoned slightly more than ten years ago. we were both surprised and impressed that i'd made the connection!

i must remember to tell the picasso story sometime.

i stopped for coffee, and bought a sinisterly expensive muffin because the man didn't have change for me. it was actually quite delightful. i read some, listened to music, played around with the camera (i had no idea what was coming), beat myself up over the previous day's mishap, discovered that my old headphones were probably alright, and shopped for things i didn't know would turn out useless (like a crap inflatable pillow).

24th, evening

i was a bit paranoid getting on the plane, primarily about carrying so much money. in fact, the money that i had went with me everywhere during the week, including onto the slopes as the chalets had no safes.

my brother's brother-in-law's friends caught up with me to introduce themselves as my brother's friends as well, and one of them was introduced in the following strange manner: "everyone knows who he is". all except me? i'm in the dark. at least i didn't have to see them again.

i was slightly disorientated and slightly excited - i got progressively more so the more i thought about getting on a board again.

8426km TO GO

the damp towels were labelled STD: if i give it as a gift to myself can i call it an auto-infection?

i woke up with a start from a dream about a klingon with his eyes taped open being reprogrammed to become a morning person.

the cute girl beside me struck up a conversation that took some fascinating dips and dives. i'm usually very unfriendly on planes but she turned out to be extremely interesting and the chat became surprisingly intimate and enjoyable.

unfortunately, neither of us could sleep and we spent the night switching between some of the weirdest airplane positions imaginable (no, really) in sheer desperation. at least we fared better than the woman behind us, whose eye developed issues from the lack of pressure and was temporarily blinded. i'd freak out too.

25th, morning

hello winter! the transfer was blazingly fast, in spite of having won a victory lap in the special room because fishermen's friends are not your friends. it's the damn aluminium lining that makes things beep.

i love security - they'll never simply point to whatever's making them suspicious. i've had so much grief because the idiot on duty doesn't know what a harmonica is...

---

it was a sunday morning and the poor man's till wasn't working - so no simcard for me and that was the only place one could be activated before monday: a useless proposition in my case.

getting used to the train system took a few moments, and i was not feeling good. at all. i had "grande" coffee at the second station (my french is non-existent), and then hung around for customs who surprised me by letting me straight through without so much as glancing at my papers.

the train to bourg st. maurice was mostly pleasant, i had a cute run-in with some policewomen and their sniffer dog and discovered that 2nd class toilets blow instead of sucking, in which case i'm really glad that i pushed on the lever when the lid was down.

i ran into an israeli couple on the platform that had apparently been with me since geneva, and we all went up to arcs 2000 together. it was all very confusing, but i was relaxed and we managed everything just fine. i even got a snowboard with a "space city" design on it, which was really pretty.

it was too late to go out, though :(

the first thing i heard from my room-mate when i walked into my chalet was "just do whatever", and my automatic response was "just because i can doesn't mean i should". that was pretty defining for the rest of the week.

we had a big dinner for the entire group, and i'm still surprised at just how many names i recall. the food was decent but i still couldn't eat, so i forced down a little salad before the camera crew came to interview me for a documentary they're making on the group.

ghost writing
as i stretch out
with weak, fumbling finger
disjointed, its tentative connection
breaking my heart again

gripping history's pen of its own accord
broken hand scribbling idly, unconsciously

i watch in horror as my story unfolds


27th, night

after two days of HARD boarding i've learned a ton of shit and been reintroduced to the myriad muscles that have been ignored for a year.
there are sections of the inner thigh that one shouldn't really be able to differentiate.

my equipment is insufficient.

the weather yesterday was snowy but more or less clear, today was just white and spooky. our instructor is a sadist - which is great! i got totally lost this morning after a serious tumble, and it took a number of blind runs before i found someone who could point me in the right direction.

the group is really cool, lots of fun.

today i went to the sauna, swimming pool and steam room for the first time - the girl from my class traded me an excellent massage. when i got back to the chalet i was sent off for firewood, and once i'd acquired some i had a hot shower and had finally developed an appetite!

from that point on i was the healthiest that i can remember being for a stupidly long time.

---

the night before we'd gone to a rather fancy restaurant. the prices were simply exorbitant. while there i got stuck into one of the british on creationism vs. evolution, and i had to explain to him that the reason why i get hot under the collar is because there isn't actually a debate which makes it all very frustrating.

that night an ac/dc cover band happened to be performing, and their second song was SO bad that i had to make a hasty exit. the singer's voice wasn't bad, the drums were fine, but the lead was doing something really wrong with his guitar and i just couldn't take that sort of heresy.

---

falling into deep snow sucks. getting out and back on your board is so freakin' complicated and cold - and tiring.

---

my thermos - i began the week filling it with hot chocolate. i then discovered that a well-known drink served on the slopes (for about €5 a cup) is hot chocolate and rum. the guys brought me back a bottle of boel guille rhum, 40% and the most fiery stuff that every touched your lips. the rest of the week saw me drinking from early morning on the slopes, and by the end of it i'd gotten so used to it that anything else is simply boring.

later that same night

sledding is one of the most exhilaratingly stupid things i've ever done, and this was after discovering the potency of the rum and eating my first real meal in days. the food was good.
cleaning up for 20-30 people is a bitch, and my room-mate doesn't believe in hygiene... he did make an effort eventually, though - if only to get me to shut up.

oh! and my first snow-fight was ridiculous. unfortunately i didn't know that you're supposed to check for ice before throwing. oops.

it worries me that the dutch guys have never heard of kevin smith's movies and trent reznor is a complete unknown.

...

rum and hot chocolate for breakfast tomorrow??

28th

we did have a rum start.

when i first looked out the window, the weather was stunning - the sun was shining brightly over an incredible morning session. two minutes later one of the others looked outside and began bitching, and by the time i got there to see for myself it was a complete white-out!

and then it went back to being beautiful again.

we immediately lost the skiers, and made a mission for an insane red run. i had surpassed my personal top speed by a lot, and the silliest thing happened: i thought about what would happen if i moved my foot wrong, and a second later i clipped an edge and went sailing through the air, head first and face up, landing really hard and really awkwardly on my shoulder and wrenching my rhomboids and putting me into shock.

i found out later that the guy with the video camera caught me just before and immediately after that happened, but i will never get to see just how bad it looked.

i spent a minute regaining my senses and hunting for the missing piece of my broken sunglasses, and then discovered that my oh-so-awesome oakleys have a nifty clip mechanism that doesn't need the usual pin that i thought was lost ^_^

the rest of the run was pretty good, but when we got in the lift i started feeling it and by the time we were at the top i was completely immobilized from the back up.

the guys went for another run while i sat at the restaurant bobbing my head like a taxi dog, eventually (about two hours later) loosening up enough to feel right about getting back to the chalets... we picked a red run with crazy moguls, and not having a clue how to deal with them took an inexorably uncomfortable time getting through.

in a repeat of my first day's experience, i decided to take the lesson anyway. that was, without any doubt, the most ingenious decision of the week! we were taken off-piste onto powder snow for the first time, and that is an experience i will never forget, including falling into deep snow and requiring a few minutes of exhausting effort to free myself.
the feel of surfing powder is fantastic and addictive!

my mp3 player cut out halfway through the lesson, and i discovered that as cool as it is to have music in the background, it really does detract from one's concentration. as a beginner, it's just not a good idea.

the rest of the lesson was about nutty speeds and eventually we went up really high to learn how to deal with the moguls - all in all it was a brilliant lesson and i started to notice what the next couple of days would prove: with a damaged back i can't sleep, but snowboarding is just fine. it's probably because i'm a regular boarder and my back and neck stay twisted left almost constantly.

the doctor, the masseur and the physiotherapist all had a go at me in the steam room, and i attribute my relatively quick recovery to them. i made a big mistake on the way there, however, by giving my room-mate the key to the chalet - i was the only one who didn't know that the stoner had already lost two keys.

so i left in my boardies, a thin shirt and flip-flops, skidding and chattering through the freezing cold only to find the chalet locked and the whereabouts of the only remaining key unknown. not cool.

---

dinner with my snowboard partner at the kosher smoker's chalet. the french guys are great even though it's difficult to communicate with them, but the religious israeli annoyed me. we ended up having a really ugly argument about drug legalization, he got quite preachy and then demanded to know if i take drugs because only an addict would suggest something so immoral.

i tried to explain to him that there are a handful of people who really believe that there are more pressing matters and better ways to spend tax money.

we played a silly card game (similar to "asshole") and my partner and i had a funny bet about the next day's lessons - the loser would have to carry the other's board for an entire day. she became panicked when the organizer couldn't give her an immediate answer, and i was confident and assuming and patronizing :P [it turned out the next day that i'd been right]

---

i left to visit another chalet, and a couple of us sat in their sauna (not operational) drinking screwdriver's, eating salted liquorice, fooling around and generally having a jolly old time.

---

for most of the week my nose was running almost perpetually on the slopes. i guess it's better than having it dry out, but it was a bit strange.

29th

for most of the night i slept on exactly the wrong side. i woke up in agony about two hours before my alarm was set to go off, switched sides, and was only slightly corrected by the time i had to get up. fortunately the masseur got hold of me before we left and he really helped.

after the first corner i'd managed to lose absolutely everyone. i guessed wrong and ended up at a lift i'd never used before, which took me terrifically far away from the usual areas. it would take me an hour or two to get my confidence back, during which time i got lost in a forest, found my way back off-piste, took the wrong lift... i was having fun :)

i sat next to a couple of dutch girls on the second lift, and when they opened their map i got them to help me find my route home. i picked a blue run and did it fairly slowly, then sat down in the sun next to a couple of beautiful french girls to catch a tan and drink half the thermos. i'd arrived a lot earlier than anticipated, and about an hour passed before the rest of the guys showed up.

after the long lunch we went down to the lessons, and my instructor was great and let me join even though my ticket had expired ^_^

to summarize my last lesson: crazy, intoxicating speeds on powder snow, visit the peak of l'aiguille rouge (red needle - 3270m) and really carving on the way down, then finishing off with some flying and piping, and emptying the thermos together to say goodbye.

that was a phenomenal finale ^_^

i had tea with my newly disabled partner (she'd damaged her leg the day before), joined in for the group photo, then went with a beginner for the night ski session who'd promised that she'd be okay if we split up.
first of all, the times we'd been given were wrong and we had far less time than we'd thought.
secondly, she fell after only a few metres. she didn't fall badly, but i made the mistake of waiting for her and she'd lost confidence and was in tears.

crikey. it took a while to be assured that i could leave her, by which time i only *just* managed to make the last lift. i would've gotten a little pleasure out of the red run except that i made a wrong turn and had to walk up a couple of hundred metres, so i was unimpressed by the time i got back to the chalet.

the bath and the bacon & egg burger cheered me up a little, and we watched fat and furious [i couldn't find a link to the snow mag, this is all i got] which proved quite inspiring.

i visited the crying girl who was doing just fine, then returned to have my room-mate tell me in a huff not to say that he never helps out... this after i had to plead with him that morning to do some tidying up after we spent our first 45 minutes slaving away. idiot.

if my camera had been working i would have photographed my feet - amazing how much damage snowboarding can do. i decided that i really, really like the rum. how did thursday come around so fast?!

i went to bed not feeling too good, and slept really badly again.

30th (written at 4am on the 31st)

"you look like a snowboarder"

a day of super-high-speed chases and the first attempts at jumping. i came out alright from an intersection with another boarder (and it was my fault, pooh), a fellow capetonian helped out with translations, bolognaise was followed by an interesting version of charades, we got separated off-piste and i made the mistake of trying to rejoin the group by walking :(

i stood soaking in the sunset of the week before returning the gear and hitting the sauna. we met for sabbath prayers and took the million flights of stairs to our friday-night dinner, enjoyed good starters and great conversation but ate too much before the main course.
the singing and general craziness was infectious and funny, and i was informed that i didn't have to deal with the gorgeous drunk girl sitting on the floor of the bathroom.

i picked up the rum, paid a visit to a couple of buddies and then went to the kiddies chalet to join in the drinking games and be disturbed by a large number of drunk people. it was all very stupid, although the drunk kid trying to explain porn to the stunning and unimpressed journalist was highly amusing.

i didn't appreciate the liquorice being tossed around instead of eaten. oh, and my room-mate demonstrated wonderfully that when you're drunk, the asshole really does shine through.

it's really sad that the week came to an end, but i'm glad to be in one piece and i'm happy with the majority of the group. i left the slopes with a white face and a red neck, and in desperate need of obtaining the original video footage from the documentary because it includes my last day.

"you remember i said the right side? i was wrong. but the diagram i drew in the snow was accurate!"

which we should have recorded

31st

we woke up early to pack and get ready, cleaned up, and met in the lobby. organizing tickets for the train was relatively painless (i couldn't understand the websites, but one of the organizers didn't seem to have too much difficulty), and i went poster shopping. this turned out to be quite a mission, but eventually i found what i was looking for and after spending €4.5 on it i received a couple of large postcards with similar prints.

i really don't know at which point in my travels the poster disappeared, but i'm rather upset that it did :/

lunch was super-fast, and i got a ride to the bus down. it was strange driving past pistes that we'd boarded down way faster :)

i got to the train station with time to spare, read a bit with some good coffee and then headed for my train. i looked on the board, saw the platform that matched the time that i needed, and found myself a seat. from there i had a great view of the train i was supposed to be leaving on as it skimmed past, and i was shocked.

so now i know that there are TWO screens, one for arrivals as well. you learn something new every day.

it was a hassle and a hurry, but i managed in my panicked state to catch a bus to geneva instead, and even got a refund on the train ticket :)

i only had twelve hours to kill in geneva.

---

i should learn dutch - i like dutch people.

---

i find it interesting that on ice i'm a snowboarder and not a skier, but on tar i'm a rollerblader and not a skateboarder.

---

less than 1/100 of my year is spent in the mud, less than 1/50 of it on the snow, yet these are the two primary views that i have of myself. these comprise the force majeure of my reality, this is the creature that's trying to care about the human race.

i'm a loner, but i don't want to be (being both desperate for companionship yet completely intolerant), i'm such a "real man" that i'm as far from it as can be, i have no patience for stupidity and so i wrestle with it tooth and nail instead of accepting it... i really am crazy, but i'm completely rational and stone-cold sober.

---

i will not sign on any more. i will do what i'm asked to and try to affect a positive change, but my focus will be primarily aimed towards my personal life fulfilment, sorting out my home and finances and personal growth, maintaining my friendships, remembering the feel of mud between my toes and snow spraying my face.

my life is perfect because i choose to make it so, i am perfect because i choose to be so, and any and all screw-ups will just have to be incorporated.

---

i'm going to miss having hair again.

---

my TL obviously doesn't understand what snowboarding is all about ^_^
he was harping on about me being careful and taking care of myself, but that sort of attitude lends itself more towards sitting in front of the fire at the resort than screaming down the slopes at breakneck (literally) speeds.

---

i think i was born for the dead of night in the mountain cold + snow + ice.

---

death song
this time, as i close my eyes
i'm ready for my judge
heavy sentence already served
i, with smile, bear no grudge

i am that worthy sinner
an unrepentant heathen
for my god is He you bow before
my soul, forever mine

i stretch my demon wings
my halo shimmers gold
i reach above, and reach below
returning to the world of old


9pm (still the 31st)

i had no idea that i could check in the night before, and no luck by finding that out twenty minutes after the counters closed.

i guess today isn't really my day.

---
    THINGS I'VE LEARNED TODAY:
  1. trains stations might have screens announcing arrivals in order to throw you off

  2. it is possible to check in the night before

  3. it is not possible to use a lounge if you've missed the aforementioned check-in
10.30pm (still the 31st)

great - i managed to sleep for an hour, and now i feel sick / wobbly and everything's closed.

3.45am

i'll be honest, this is not - by any stretch of the imagination - the most wonderful night's sleep i've had these past few days. sadly, not the worst, either. sleeping on a cold floor at funny angles [whoo! lights are back on!] in pants that just aren't warm enough with passers-by every few minutes isn't an ideal way to pass a cold winter's eve.

---

our gods meet
our gods meet
tangled, tentacled thrusting
test, probe, push
slap, stab, slice
and so we must do the same
there's no room for duality
close your eyes and raise your fists
scream and bite and gnash your teeth
paint war and blood
spare no man, warrior or beast
cleansing fire off your palate
spare no dimes for the dead


---

WHAT HAVE THEY GOT AGAINST HARMONICAS??

---

1st feb

"no, don't worry sir, you won't have any problems"

the wait this morning was killer, but i did get a little shut-eye. boarding went smoothly, we took our seats, i passed out, and woke up over an hour later to discover that we hadn't moved yet. interestingly enough, they foresaw this at check-in and didn't think to move me to the next flight - it's that and another pleasant security check (20 minutes this time) that have me sitting here, still in zurich, sweaty and tired and waiting for the night flight.
they couldn't even organize me a shower. and they took away my deodorant.
if i manage to catch a night train from ben gurion i might be home in time to catch the shuttle to work.

---

[ipod meditation]

just sitting and watching the planes, reading every now and again but mostly just rocking out and, as usual, consolidating.

---

THE SHEER RELIEF THAT MY BAG IS ON THE PLANE - I'M GOING TO BE HOME MORE OR LESS ON TIME - HOPE THAT NOBODY'S WAITING [there's nothing worse than being arrested when you arrive]

---

BEST - FLIGHT - EVER. a sympathetic stewardess, decent food and a perfect sleeping pattern (plus, three seats doesn't hurt). in fact, the only thing that wasn't great about the flight was waking up for landing.

2nd feb

one thing about arriving in ben gurion is that you can't pretend to still be in a civilized country - it's pushing and shoving right off the bat. at least i made the train comfortably.



right. i think that was one of the most difficult posts i've ever written, but i wanted to keep it meaningful while still as close to the original scribblings as possible. i hope you enjoyed reading it as much as i enjoyed reliving the week ^_^

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