Monthly Archives: December 2013

Dear Santa

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It is me, Huey.  Really, my name is being Huey The Wonder Horse, but I am liking you very much so it is OK if you are calling me Huey.  My rider is saying that you are only coming for good horses and not naughty ones, and she is also saying I am being a naughty horse so if you are coming you will only be bringing me nasty things like bute paste.  But it is not being true.  I am not being naughty.  I am just being bored. Even though Peaches is there next to me and trying to boss me around over the zapping fence, I am still being bored.  But not naughty.  So I am hoping you will be coming for me and not bringing anything nasty.

Last year I am asking you for my rider not to be spraying me with smelly pink stuff, and I am getting that!! I am still getting sprayed, but now it is with different stuff, it is not pink, and it is not smelly!  So I am knowing that you will give me what I want.

Here is what I am hoping you will be bringing me, Santa.

I am wanting some more of the German Horse Muffins.  I am wanting a bunch of them, like maybe enough to fill my whole stall.  I am telling my rider this and she is saying I would only be making myself sick by eating them all at once, but that is not being true.  I will only eat a lot of them, not all of them.  I am wanting some of the regular kind, but I am really wanting the special kind with the PEPPERMINT.  I am having a picture of that so you are being sure what it is I am wanting.  This is it.

That is being the best kind of Horse Muffin, the one with this thing on it.  When I chew that Horse Muffin it goes CRUNCH on my teeth, and then makes a BIG SMELL in my nose!!!!!!!!!  It is being a GOOD smell too!!!!!!  And all the other horses are saying I should give them some, but they are MINE.

And then I want carrots.  I am wanting a big pile of carrots.  I am wanting a pile of carrots as big as me.  My rider is not telling me I will make myself sick by eating all of them, so maybe I will eat all of them.  But I can only be doing that if you are bringing them to me.

And then I am wanting a new pair of Glitter Boots.  My rider thinks this is because the ones I have now have a broken strap on them, but that is not right.  I am wanting new Glitter Boots because the ones I have now are purple.  Purple is not being my color.  It is being Clay’s color, and it has been being very nice with him telling me all the time that I am wearing his boots, even though they are really mine.  But what I am wanting is a pair of green Glitter Boots, and that is because green is being my color.  I am looking VERY good in green!!!!!!!!!  So I would like to be getting some green Glitter Boots.  I am not needing them right away, though, because I am not wearing boots in my paddock when it is all snowy anyway.  They can get here by the spring, when it is time to start riding again.  Lot of spangles, please, Santa.

The last thing I am wanting is more snow.  I am not wanting snow that is all the way up to my tummy.  But I would be liking some snow that is up to my knees.  It should be being soft snow because that is the nicest to roll around in.  We were having some snow before, but it got warm and rained and now that snow is going away.  Also, it is being hard and not nice and soft to roll on.  I would be liking some big fresh snow and a lot of space so I can be running around in it a little, but mostly it is for rolling in.

Do not be listening to my rider, Santa, because she will be telling you not to come.  And that is not being fair.  I have been being as good as a horse can be!!  I am holding still for the farrier and I am not even trying to taste his shirt when he puts it right in front of my nose!!  I am not squirming around when I am getting my leg cold lasered, like I was before!  And I am not even trying to eat my rider’s boot!!  I have been staying put when I am getting brushed and not trying to walk all over the place, and even waiting while my tail gets combed all the time!  So I have been being a VERY GOOD horse, not being a naughty one at all!!!!

I will be in my stall waiting for you tonight, Santa.  Do not be bringing those flying deer, though, because they will be scaring Pumpkin and making the dog bark.  Just you, and all my Horse Muffins, and my carrots, and the snow.  Because I can be getting the green Glitter Boots later.

Your friend,

Huey

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Four-Letter Words, or Why Being A New England Skier Is Like Being A Knicks Fan

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We’ll start with the long words and move to the short ones.

Start with two words, in particular:

Crushing

and

Heartbreak

Roy is a die-hard Knicks fan.  Or, rather, he is unless you start looking at really die-hard Knicks fans like his friend Helen.  You can tell these people because they look like kicked puppy dogs.  Only, in some creepy way, they also look like the sort of people who do the kicking.

You know…masochists.

Every year Roy faces the new NBA season – well, when there’s not a lockout, anyway – with the sort of chirpy good humor and resillient optimism that one associates with True Innocence.  Every year, he knows it, deep in his heart of hearts:  This Year Will Be Different.  This year, the Knicks are going to win more than they lose.  This year, the Knicks are going to make the playoffs.  THIS YEAR, the Knicks could be Contenders.

Now, as far as I can tell – not being a Knicks fan, myself – the Jury Is Out on why, exactly, the Knicks suck so much, and suck so consistently.   Some people blame the salary caps, and say that the Knicks don’t have any problems that can’t be solved by throwing money at them.  Others disagree, and say that the Knicks are incapable of recognizing Potential if it stepped up and popped them a good one in the chops, and that giving management more money to toss around just means more money going up in little flaming piles of paper.  Plenty of people just blame Carmello Anthony, but in my opinion, this is at best a second-order effect.  Others simply believe that no north-eastern city can field a respectable basketball team, because all the best players came up in the south and won’t move north.  This does not, however, explain the Bulls or the Celtics. It does, however, explain the Nets.  Or whatever they’re called now that they moved from Jersey to Brooklyn. Yet others just believe that New York basketball is evidence that God Hates Yankees.  Whatever the cause, the fact remains: the Knicks completely suck, and they have sucked for as long as I’ve been paying any attention to them at all, which is exactly as long as I’ve been with Roy.

Thing is, any city can field a sporting team that sucks.  Including, and possibly especially, Dallas.  May their sports teams be cursed into perpetuity.

But the Knicks deliver a special kind of torture to their fans.  It’s the kind where they recognize those nascent, ever-blooming beads of optimism embedded in the human soul, and they nurture those beads until they begin to evolve into shining rays of hope, burning out into the night with a nearly religious fervor.

And then…they reach out and CRUSH it.  The bigger and prettier those shining rays of hope become, the bigger the pounding fury of death that the Knicks unleash upon them.

It would be different if people just started out with no real hope at all.  That’s the kicked puppy that just cowers in the back of its pen.  Savagely cruel, but less so than the villain who coaxes the puppy out, showers it with just enough affection that the puppy starts to fawn, and THEN kicks it as hard as can be.

That’s the Knicks for you.

So how is that like being a New England skier?

Our season started out with a dashing cold snap that let the hills make plenty of snow before Thanksgiving ever emerged on the horizon.  Then it delivered plentiful flurries, and two snowstorms in the space of four days that left the mountains with spectacularly soft snow, and plenty of it.  Ski areas were beginning to approach the magic 100% open finish line.  Skiers everywhere had sharpened their edges, waxed their boards, and were rarin’ to go.  I, myself, have been out ten times already this season, and was happily looking forward to a mountain of fluffy white for the winter holidays.

Just as the Knicks appeared to have had some signing triumphs, and came roaring out of the gate, pulled together, working hard, and winning.

It’s not like I shouldn’t have known.  Our regional UberLords at Ski The East actually created a film called “Born from Ice” because that’s how we roll around here.

I couldn’t help it, though.  The hell with sugarplums dancing, the vision that was dancing in my head was one of soft, friendly, carvable snow, with more falling from the sky every three days just to keep things fresh, and vast expanses of white streamers pouring down through a forest of green trees.

And, sadly, just as every Knicks fan on the planet does, I bought into it. My little seeds of optimism started to bloom into shining rays of hope. This year was going to be different.  This year, I wasn’t going to be skiing on ice all winter.  THIS year, I was going to be skiing on snow.

And just when those rays got ready to fly out into the universe, it happened.  Mother Nature, that bitch, crushed them under her wicked hard heel, giving them an extra grind just to be sure.

On Thursday, Life Was Good.

On Friday, even, Life Was Still Good.

And then the thaw arrived.  There’s your first four-letter word.  THAW.  I want to cringe, curl up, and hiss when I say that.

The next four-letter word for you is rain.  Hiiiiiisssssss.

And thaw + rain = the next, and most devastating four-letter word: melt.

Two days ago we were all lined up for a White Christmas worthy of Bing Himself.  Today, all is gone to mud and water.  It took just two days to destroy our local snowpack.   I can’t even bear to think what’s happened to the ski hill.  Last time I looked the Live Cam showed brown spots where two days ago was a foot and more of snow.

This isn’t your usual thaw, it’s a wicked evil stinking bad thaw.  It’s close to 60 degrees outside right now, after 9pm, in Massachusetts.  Hiiiiiiissssss.

Now, there’s a cold front supposed to move in tomorrow night, and the ski hill expects to bring the snowmaking system back on line tomorrow night.  But the next day is Christmas Eve, and Christmas begins a week of intense use of the ski hill.  And what I know from the past, in the same way that Roy knows the Knicks are circling the drain again is that when you get a thaw and rain followed by the cold front, is that the mountain melts and then freezes, turning into a veritable iceberg.  And it’s going to do this just in time for a period of hard use, and abuse.  Which means that it’s going to be impossible to ski on Tuesday (when I’d planned to), and ugly on Wednesday, and insanely awful on Thursday.  After that, my pass is blacked out until New Years.  And, depending on what happens then, it could be that conditions will suck (your next four-letter word) for weeks.  Hiiiiiiiisssssss.

I know this because – just like the Knicks folding and going down the tubes – it happens every. single. year.

I keep thinking of this song I heard on the radio, “we need a little christmas” – but what we really need is a lot of snow.  Soon.  Sprinkle some snowy crystals on my crushed and withered skier’s soul before it dies.

Please.  I don’t want to understand what it’s like to be a Knicks fan.  Let it snow.

One Day, Two Posts, and a RED Letter

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Because, you know, sometimes what you want to see is something really GREAT.

Back in the fall of 2011, not long after I started keeping my blog, I had the misfortune to be writing about the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irene, not – thankfully – as a direct participant, but as kind of a neighbor-down-the-street.

This is because one of the hardest-hit areas of Vermont was the ski town for my home mountain, a place where I spend an inordinate amount of time and have a fairly large collection of personal contacts. If not exactly “friends”, then very regular business partners with whom I am on a first-name basis.

One of the most tragic victims of this event – in many eyes – was Dot’s Diner, in Wilmington.  It’s the building in the lower right hand corner of this video.

Downtown Wilmington is built on the banks of the Deerfield River, typically a peaceful stream.  The storm rains sent a flash flood down the valley, and when it was over, people’s lives had been destroyed.  And Dot’s.  Home of the best onion rings, the best berry pancakes, and the best meatloaf on the planet.  And a cheerful spot populated with a rotating cast of characters directly out of a Normal Rockwell picture.

Dot’s was everyone’s home spot.  Everyone’s.  And when the storm was over, half of it was washed downstream into Massachusetts.

For years, you have been able to cast an utter Pall over any random group of skiers – normally a cheery optimistic bunch – simply by uttering the word “Dot’s”.  Vivacious groups will immediately fall into a silent dejection.  Any number, any group, we all of us mourn the passing of Dot’s.

Incredibly, the owners – and the community – vowed to Rebuild.

In. The. Same. Spot.

Now, some might say, with justification, that this is insane.  The restaurant washed away once, why build there?  As far as I can tell, the answer is that this is how it is.  Dot’s is on the river.  The building was the post office, possibly the original post office for the town.  Some of the building was left after the flood.  I think, to some degree, that building there, using what was left of the original structure, is a shout of defiance against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  It is an echo of the Eternal Yea.  Not so much triumph of man over nature, but triumph of the spirit of man over catastrophe.

And so, for the last year, the thought has been winkling its way into the common awareness that Dot’s Will Rise Again.  And for the last month or so, there have been candles lit, in the finest New England tradition, in every window of the building, blazing out against the early darkness of the onset of winter.

And yesterday, as Roy entertained his little shred of hope again, and said “Can we drive by Dot’s to see when it’s going to be open?” one more time, to which I agreed as I always do, because he’s not the only one with the little shred of hope, we saw it.  O-P-E-N.  We nearly had a wreck, right there in the falling flurry.  It’s open.  

Dot’s Diner, in Wilmington, is open.

And if Dot’s can be open, then, really, anything is possible.  Reindeer might fly, you know.

Today, I received a call from Roy, who was waiting in line to put the car into the municipal garage so that our driveway can get plowed tomorrow morning.

“You’re never going to believe this.” he said.  “Dot’s is on the front page of the National News section of the New York Times.”

And so it is.  Right here. 

I am telling you, reindeer can fly.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow…

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I’d planned, this morning, to pay a visit to The Wonder Horse, dust him off, bond with him, give him a treat, and send him back to the Great Outdoors (or, at least, as much of it as is enclosed by his electric fence).  A quick glance at the weather changed my mind.  It’s 11 degrees.  I just can’t see stripping my horse nekkid, even in the barn, and obliging him to stand still just so I can fluff his air and shine him up.  Yes, he needs to be groomed for health reasons.  No, it doesn’t need to happen today, not at 11 degrees.  Besides, the thinsulate in my barn gloves is wearing out.  I discovered this when I went by to say a big “hello!” to him, give him four carrots and two horse muffins.  After that fairly brief foray, the tips of every one of my fingers was on fire.  Also, anything liquid in my grooming kit (like his Anti-ZAP Spray) was frozen like a rock.  The heck with this, he’ll get clean on another day.

We’re under our first winter storm warning of the season, and it’s just started to snow.  National Weather Service is saying maybe 6″, maybe a foot, maybe a little more.  I have the inclination to be thrilled because my ski hill is rolled into the Warning area, which means more trails open, more fresh snow, and a whole lot of fun.  I have the leisure to be thrilled because school’s out of session, I don’t have to commute to anything but the grocery store, the barn, and the ski area, and I can afford to keep the terrifyingly ancient and massive barrel in my basement full of heating oil.  So, from where sit, this winter storm is great news, pure and simple.

It’s not without its inconveniences, though.  I know, for example, as I look out of my window, I am probably seeing the clear surface of my driveway for the last time until April.  And last night was, in all likelihood, the last night for the next four months when parking my car and Roy’s in the driveway was completely uncomplicated.  And Huey’s farrier is coming out on Wednesday to pull his shoes off for the winter, but right now, things are just a little on the slick side for him, which strikes a little arrow of fear that he’s going to injury himself AGAIN horsing around in his already snow-covered paddock.

Then, of course, there’s the grocery store.

Now, I’m from Texas.  Houston, in specific, but I spend plenty of time in Austin, San Antonio, and College Station.

In Texas-speak, “flurry” means that someone on the freeway saw four things that they thought might be snowflakes.

In New England-speak, “flurry” means that it isn’t snowing hard enough to make it impossible to drive.  It’s been “flurrying” like this pretty much all week up at the ski hill.  On Tuesday morning, we had “flurries” that put an inch and a half of snow on the car in the space of a few hours.  Yesterday, it was “flurrying” all morning long, making it impossible to ski without goggles.  Not that I want to ski without goggles – cold air, contact lenses, stray tree branches, and stuff – but my goggles fogged up on the chair lift despite the anti-fog coating, and started raining inside, so I had to take them off for the rest of the run in order to be able to see anything at all.  But I then had to stop every couple of minutes and scrape the “flurry” out of my eyelashes.  And the plows were out, treating the roads on the way home.  That’s a New England “flurry” for you.

In Texas, a weatherman using the word “Flurry”, or “Sleet” is a Sign of the Apocalypse.  It’s the signal for everyone in town to get in a car or board a bus, and stampede to the grocery store/Costco/Sam’s/Walmart/package store and empty it out.  I’ve seen desperate people brawling in the aisles over the last case of Pellegrino.  You can’t find a can of beenie-weenie, chili, or soup anywhere in the territory covered by the weather station.    Parking lots become a madhouse, but that’s nothing to compare to the violent rodeo of the checkout line.  Panic reigns supreme.

In New England, no one pays any attention at all until the weatherman starts using the words “winter storm warning.”  A watch?  Pshaw.  If it’s not a “warning” it’s not happening.  The weather in New England is inherently unpredictable, according to my Harvard Physicist Buddy who knows about these things.  She says that it’s the density of the mountain range, which makes them act more like a big tall range than the short one they are, and the proximity to the ocean, and the proximity to the giant plains of Canada.  No one here with two brain cells to rub together pays any attention to the long term forecasts, and by “long-term” I mean “more than 18 hours out”.  It was different in Texas, and Wisconsin, for that matter.  The weathermen there could forecast the approximate half-hour when some weather system was going to roll in.  Here in New England, we’re lucky to get accurate forecasting for what’s going to happen in the next six hours.  Both of the days I went skiing the week, for example, had forecasted “mix of clouds and sunshine” and “precipitation 0%” at 8am when I left the house, when what we actually got was a total of 4 inches of snow.

So they don’t use the words “winter storm warning” here unless 1) the storm isn’t on the doorstep, but it’s been sighted walking up the path to the front door, and 2) it’s going to drop truckloads of snow, and maybe some ice.  Or, in the wrong time of year, or under evil circumstances, truckloads of ice, and maybe some snow.

The thing is, even when the forecasters do use the words “winter storm warning” what happens is that some people go check the woodshed to make sure it’s still full, some people double-check to make sure the storm windows are in place, and all the people who planned to do the weekly grocery shopping tomorrow decide to do it today instead.  No panics, no raids, no fights breaking out anywhere.  It’s really quite dull.

Now, what you also have are a pile of skiers paying very close attention to those forecasts, and you might wind up with a minor traffic jam on some country road in the Vermont mountains as a critical mass of people flee into the storm … just to be certain of being a skip and a hop away from the base area and chairlifts when the weather kicks in – or for the saner of us – when the wind starts to die down a bit.  That kind of excitement I can absolutely get behind.  Roy and I were part of one of those epic junkets last winter, as a matter of fact.  I wouldn’t want to be traveling up Vermont 100 right now.  Not because of the snow, but because of the massive exodus of sport utes from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.  With any luck, the Massachusetts State Police Operation Ski Trap is in full swing, lining our coffers and engaging wealth transfers to pay for roads, state parks, and essential social services.

Anyway, there’s nothing that makes me feel quite as Festive as a mid-December snowfall.  It’s feeling like time for a mug of hot chocolate.  I might even have a candy cane to stir it with.    I need to go say “goodbye” to my driveway.  See you next spring, you gleaming asphalt strip!  Au revoir, curbs!  Two-way streets, later alligator!  Catch you when the seasons turn again, and hopefully, that won’t be until April!

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Coming really soon, I hope!