Old School

It keeps coming to my attention over and over again that I am "Old School." I don't feel "Old School," and I hope I don't look "Old School," but there is a corroborating set of evidence that is growing to that effect.

Exhibit "A" would be my typewriter collection.

This is one of my seven old typewriters. This is a L.C. Smith.

Exhibit "B" would be the book.

I read books. Real books. Books that have covers and pages that you turn inside.

I guess Exhibit "C" could be my studio in Seattle.

It looks "Old School." More like "Old Schoolhouse."

There are many more "Exhibits," but I'd be embarrassed to show you my television set with rabbit ears. I watch it in the sense that I watch it collect dust. I prefer those "old books" to the TV any day. There is nothing flat about my television set, in fact it's quite 3D- but that doesn't mean what it does now. It just means that it takes up too darn much space in the room for an object that is hardly used.

There is an "Exhibit" that I'd like to show you, however:

These are my skis.

They are Olin Sierra V's, 180cm, to be exact. I think I bought them new in 1998.

I started skiing when I was eight years old.

This is a photo of me from my high school newspaper. I was a ski instructor in high school. Mostly I taught little kids how to ski. I worked at a small ski area in Tuxedo, New York called Sterling Forest. It seems to have a new name now: Tuxedo Ridge. But it is the very same place and to my "Old School" amazement, the trails are still the same names. You can see that on the map. (wow... this brings back memories... I could write a book. On paper. With a pen.)

But what I want to say is that I have been skiing for (yikes) forty-one years now. When I learned how to ski they made you lift your arm straight over your head and they gave you wooden skis that went to the tip of your middle finger. That's about two feet taller than you are in ski boots. (And by the way, the boots were  hard leather and they had laces. Not buckles. Laces. Never mind about the bindings. They looked like bear traps, and that's what we called them. "Bear Trap bindings.")

I will admit there have been many fabulous advances in skiing equipment since then. In that photo above, I'm skiing on a pair of Rossignol Freestyles. Before that I had K2 Killy Riders. I couldn't find images for them on Google. But I did find a photo of my next pair of skis: Rossignol 4S Kevlars.

I still have these in the basement. They are 195cm long. That's over my head. Which brings up the topic of length. Skis have gotten shorter and shorter over the years. In my lifetime they have gone from almost as long as pole vaulter's pole to practically the length of the average skateboard. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but not by much.

This past week I went skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.

This part of the mountain is called 7th Heaven, and it is. Especially when it is sunny and there is a ton of fresh snow. 

I went skiing by myself, which had its advantages: one of which was that I went in the "singles" line and got on the lift much faster than the groups waiting for the high speed quads, or the gondola. I also got to talk with many strangers. Strangers from all over the world. It was enlightening and fascinating. And the one topic that came up the most was: 

My skis.

One gentleman (and he was older than me) called them "Vintage."

I replied, "I guess that makes me "Vintage," too."

Vintage? What is vintage? Here is the online free dictionary definition:
1. Of or relating to a vintage.
2. Characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal; classic.
3. Old or outmoded.
a. Of the best: played songs that were vintage Cole Porter.
b. Of the most distinctive:

I'm not really sure what he was saying. Could be #2 or #4 a or b... but I actually think it was #3.

My skis are thirteen years old. No, they are not the latest shape, size, or technology, but they work fine. I would go so far as to say that they work excellently. People on the lift rides kept telling me that the new, shorter, more shaped skis "turned for you." That made me laugh. I know how to turn. I have spent years learning and perfecting the sport of skiing. If I'm "Old School" for using these skis, then fine. I'll live with that. Even if I was a little hurt that one man called them "olive skewers." (Skis don't have pointy tips anymore.) Also, it was pointed out that Olin- the company that made them- doesn't exist anymore. (That is also true of my car: a hybrid Saab-Subaru which was only made in 2005 and a few in '06.)

So what does this all mean? Personally, I think it means that "if it works, don't fix it." "If the shoe fits, wear it." "If it's "Old School" be proud of it."

I will keep skiing on my old, vintage Olins... but I will confess that several men on the lift- older men- shamed me for not wearing a ski helmet. I've never owned a ski helmet. I wear fleece or knit caps. That's very "Old School" now.

Okay. I caved. I bought a helmet. Call me "Old School," but I'm not a dummy. I know it's smart to protect your head.

What do you do that's "Old School?"
With Love,


Love Me Tender

This is not a valentine. Okay, well maybe it is, but not in the traditional sense. How many of you have ever been disappointed by Valentine's Day? Come on, raise your hands. I can see them. What is up with this culture of sappy cards, cheesy chocolates shaped like roses on stems, butt-ugly baubles bought under the auspices of "maybe I'll get lucky tonight?" And the flowers... that are half-way dead and smell that way.

Last week I was in Portland, Oregon speaking at the Oregon Reading Association. The conference was great. It took place in the Lloyd Center Doubletree Hotel. I have stayed there before for other conferences, but this time things had improved. The hotel went through a major renovation and upgrade. I also think I went through some kind of upgrade. Sometimes I am somewhat unaware of the total picture of my surroundings. I'm good at blocking things out, which can come in handy in certain circumstances. For example, I had never realized that the Doubletree was across the street from the Lloyd Center. The Lloyd Center is a mall. 

Malls. I hate malls. I worked in malls when I was a teenager. I was a salesclerk in Chess King in the Nanuet Mall when I was fifteen and sixteen. I was also a salesclerk in Foxmoor Casuals in the Paramus Park Mall when I was sixteen. I do have "mall memories" like double-piercing my ear when I was fifteen without asking permission. Drinking with my co-workers from Chess King after work when I was fifteen. (My fake ID said I was twenty-one and no one questioned it. Scary.) Buying fuzzy velvet black light posters at Spencer's Gifts.

But now I hate malls. I avoid them like I avoid greasy fried junk food. However I saw online that the Lloyd Center had a Verizon store, and I was about to receive my new iPhone 4. Yes. I caved. I've been using a six year old Samsung that does nothing except work like a phone, and I had to get the contacts off of it. I figured that a walk into the mall wouldn't kill me, and Verizon could get the contacts off my phone for me. 

Walking into the mall, which involved crossing one street and entering through Macy's took maybe all of five minutes, but it was like I had walked backwards into some time warp. Not only that, but I walked straight into a balcony overlooking a skating rink. Apparently the very skating rink that Tonya Harding cut her first figure eights, and probably clubbed her first shins. 

There were little girls twirling, a Tiger Mother chasing her perfectly poised daughter and giving her constant critiques. Then there was the mall itself- a behemoth of teen-oriented retail sturm und drang now blazing red and pink in its full Valentine glory. In shock, I made my way in the general direction of Verizon's store while salesclerks tried to put products in my hair and sell me bad jewelry. 

Post Verizon, as I headed back towards the relative Zen peacefulness of the Doubletree Hotel, I was visually assaulted by three lingerie stores in a row. One was Victoria's Secret. I had never heard of the other. But the third was none-other-than Frederick's of Hollywood. In the Lloyd Center Mall. Lured by the site of lace, fur, pleather, rhinestones and skimpy pieces of polyester, I entered the premises. Me: dressed in faded jeans, puffy black parka, black baseball cap with a pirate skull and cross bones courtesy of Archie McPhee's... the saleswoman must have been seriously disappointed, but she did her best to point out the crotchless panties and the French Maid's outfit. Re: the French Maid outfit: I told her that I hated cleaning on a regular basis; why would I want to dress as a maid as a fantasy?

For a few minutes I fondled some fur trimmed negligee wondering how you would launder it or if my cat would attack it. I made a joke or two about surprising my husband, but mostly I got the heck out of there, leaving the mall with phone contacts waiting in cyberspace and some bad hair product in my pony tail. ("It's ceramic," the girl said. Great. Now I can use my hair as a coffee cup.)

What I did take home from the mall was a bad feeling about what Valentine's Day has meant in my past. We build ourselves up on this romantic notion of what love should be, but it really has nothing to do with the poorly written cards, the flowers that will pollinate your dining table, or the French Maid outfit that as my husband put it, "is much better lying on the floor in a pile." 

My husband and I will cook dinner for each other this Valentine's Day. This is something we do all the time. There may be good dark chocolate involved at some point. We are lucky to live near the Theo Chocolate factory, so we get amazing chocolate no matter what time of year it is. We neither glorify nor put the kibosh on Valentine's Day. 

But as I've gotten older, what I realize is that Valentine's Day is an opportunity to remind yourself that you love YOU- in all your imperfect beauty. Treat yourself lovingly. Make the vow to love yourself tender, partner or no partner. Buy yourself chocolate anytime. Don't wait for someone else to do it. Paint flowers on your toenails. They last longer and smell about the same as those commercial roses. And if you really need the French Maid outfit, I bet it will be half-price next month.

So this is my card to you. (apologies to Elvis)

Love you tender,
Love you sweet,
Never let you go.
You have made your life complete,
And you should love you so.

With Love,