The Olympics isn’t just sharing articles about how many condoms get used in the Village (like world-class athletes bother with condoms — pfft) or how many Heinekens get crushed by the curlers before competition. It’s not about short-sheeting Bob Costas’s bed and farting on his pillow (sorry ’bout the Pink Eye, Bob) and it definitely isn’t about Johnny Weir’s wardrobe or Ashley Wagner doing her best Bachelorette stink face when the judges reveal her scores.
The Olympics is about aspirational living.
Because somewhere in there, between your third glass of Syrah and biting into a Chicken McNugget like it’s a gold medal, the idea comes to you. It’s the same instant message in your mind that pops in just after midnight on a coworker-drinks Friday when you declare you want to open a craft brewery brewing with only locally sourced hops and barley “also from somewhere close” and you’ll do a sweet Pilsner because double-IPAs are so 2013.
It’s the same seed planted the last day of vacation in Hawaii when you decide you’re going to text Maui Kimo, the guy who helped drive you around in the catamaran, and say you’ll help him get the funding he needs to start his own surfboard shaping company — you’ll even call it Maui Kimo & Friends designs because you’re that friend with seed money.
It’s the quirky post-dinner/post-bottle-and-a-third-of-wine-digression-with-your-longterm-significant-other about how you could maybe take that old, neat brick dry cleaner building and clean out the toxins and jackhammer out the back parking lot and use that area to grow an urban hipster victory-slash-beer garden, raise pygmy goats and little lambs and herd them all with a mini Aussie and not build a chicken coop because that’s so 2012; instead keep quail for their eggs to put in custom cocktails. You’ll grow your pack of tiny pink curly-tailed Wilburs and use them to cure your own Charcuterie. You’ll build a still and open a tiny-co-op-specialty-drink-and-passed-plates hang where the chalkboard menu won’t change daily because that’s so 2011.
…Or, you’ll just say fuck it, all that’s too much work, “I’m just going to move to a mountain town.”
One word of advice: Pleasedon’t.
Below, seven dirty little mountain town secrets/the reason(s) why you should not say “fuck it” and move:
1) You will not find a job: There are no jobs in mountain towns. No jobs. None. There are no jobs. And the jobs that are there are either jobs you can’t do: Ever attempted to groom in a blizzard at 3 a.m. when you’re still half buzzed from the night before — the night before = 20 minutes prior to getting behind the wheel? It’s a skill set that would make Chuck Yeager wet his flight suit; or jobs you don’t want to do: Ever get up at 4 a.m. to make the lowest possible salary the state will allow to pick up the dog shit of dogs who belong to the same person you once used to be? It’s a kind of excremental existentialism.
There’s this sort of pervasive common knowledge from folks who DO NOT live in a mountain town that the steps to moving to a mountain town and making it work are as such:
a) Quitting your job in a flurry of emails and snarky texts. b) Selling your car and giving away most of everything else you accumulated from Etsy/eBay/Amazon/O.co over the last half decade as workimpulsebuys on Craigslist. c) Buying a used Tacoma for $2,500 over KBB. d) Finding a sick chalet, like the one your co-worker had on ski lease three seasons ago when it didn’t really snow but was fun to go party at and play late-night drinking strip Jenga with a 24-year-old marketing girl and go get in the hot tub even though for some reason it never got above, like, 80. And e) Just get a job as a bartender.
This is where the record needle scratches.
“Just get a job as a bartender” in a mountain town is the idea equivalent of moving to New York and “just becoming a VP at Goldman Sachs” or renting a studio in Silver Lake and “just getting your sitcom picked up by Netflix” or crossing over to Hawaii and “just surfing Pipeline.”
Bartending jobs are the Skull and Keys secret societies of mountain communities, often passed down through generations upon generations of bro inbreeding.
Even a shitty barbacking gig can take eight to 10 years to come by and usually only happens if the current barback happens to freeze like Jack in the final frame of The Shining trying to dig out his ‘93 Supra to get to work and you, luckily, are just then walking by with your mini Aussie who was supposed to be herding urban ewes en route to your actual job which is working the gas station Subway counter for families whose kids “couldn’t wait to get to the cabin to eat because the mountains make them hungry” off the 80.
In other words, you will not find a job.
2) You will be cold: We get that you get that it’s cold in the mountains. Something about how it needs to be cold outside for the sky to make snow. But did you know a place like Truckee, CA, which looks woodsy and rustic but with shiny concrete floors and a throw-back round hot tub and staged vintage cocktail shakers with snow as ice and a nice small-tile backsplash for every kitchen to toast your good mountain town fortune in copper Moscow Mule cups, is actually the coldest place in the US?
It is. And you know why? Because it’s fucking cold there. And it’s not just cold in a dead-of-night-before-a-powder-day-a-couple-weeks-a-year way or a “well, I’ll just stop at the Patagucci outlet in Reno and stock up on discounted $83 baselayers” way.
…It’s a stuck-swimming-320-days-a-year-in-a-stainless-milkshake-container-with-permafrost-condensation-on-the-outside cold. It’s a hamster-wheel-endless-dirge-of-not-having-enough-dry-wood-to-get-the-stove-fired-up cold.
It’s not-having-thick-enough-socks-to-turn-your-toes-back-to-a-shade-of-actual-skin cold.
It’s discovering-a-family-of-raccoons-led-by-a-bandit-faced-rabid-Jim-Jones-who-have-taken-over-your-vents-and-ducts-and-gnawed-through-any-kind-of-meaningful-heat-delivery-system-before-finally-deciding-to-commit-mass-suicide-right-in-the-middle-of-the-hardest-to-get-to-ever-spot-in-any-house-ever cold.
The latter cold weather event results in getting two guys in appropriately workstained and worn threadbare Carhartts to come over. Their mountain town job is to lurk around a crawl space and fish out rodents whose pelts you’d now gladly wear as a coat after getting your last heating bill. They charge you something in the neighborhood of $973 to get the vents cleaned so when the heat does happen to turn on, it doesn’t blow dead-animal smell like an exhaust pipe during the dinner party you host that nobody comes to because they couldn’t shovel out of their driveway.
So now you’re not only cold you’re…
3) Broke. See: Reason one, but now take that $18k savings you managed to not fritter on Banana Republic flash sales and small plates dinners with gigantic checks, and, well, spend it all.
A crash course on how to spend $20k on simple mountain town living in less than 90 days:
Month one: $8,700. First and last month’s rent plus deposit. The deposit will be somewhere in the $1,800-$2,700 range and you will never get it back. Nobody in the history of a mountain town has ever gotten his rent deposit back. Do you like small-claims court? Good. Move to a mountain town. General set up including replacing some of the furniture you just got rid of and trading in the Honda Fit for aforementioned well-above-market-price Tacoma or ‘07 Outback with only 167,000 miles.
Month two: $6,900. New/used 29er from occasional pro at bike shop selling his gear out the back: $2,300. New/used groomer skis for quiver from Dynastar/Lange/Look rep down the block: $780. New/used indie fat skis from someone knows who knows someone down at the Reno plant, with reverse camber AND burly core shot! Stoked!!: $641. New/used backcountry gear, beacon, shovel, probe, pack, Fritsche bindings and used Scarpa boots that you plan to blow out and “make fit”: $2,728.
Month three: $4,300. There are certain unavoidable start-up costs to being accepted in a mountain town. Saki bombs and all-you-can-eat sushi on you by way of introduction. Still schlepping six packs of $9.99 craft pale ale over to your new bro’s house every time you go visit, like, because, you have the money, right bro? General mountain town first-time rip-offs, like paying $850 for a delivered/not stacked cord of “cedar” or that first-through-third time at your new/local friendly mechanic, “looks like the alternator, maybe” and one week later returning it because the heater and defroster mysteriously stopped working; your new/used car never broke so much. Then, of course, since you’re there but still not from there, you’re still buying stuff you’ll eventually get for free like ski passes and Jagarbombs and plow service.
4) You will not get laid: This is kind of a big one because everything else just kind of disappears when you’re getting some, especially in a mountain town. Nothing is as good as being at a bar when all the people you used to work with from the city pile in on a steamy February three-day-weekend evening and are trying to hit on the girl with the windburned face and the lips that have been blanched three shades whiter than the cheeks of her bum and you — yes you — the guy with the house that smells of dead vermin. The guy with like three of those ramen packs of spices spilled on his counter and eggs from the first Obama administration in the fridge. The guy who has no matching socks to speak of, is taking her home.
This small victory is only momentary and, because mountain towns are the self-fulfilling-prophecy-where-every-cliché-is-actually-true capitols of the world. The adage that “she’s not yours, it’s just your turn” is a reality you will face almost with the same frequency as pulling up to the gas station, late for your morning shift, knowing there are fewer dollars in your bank account than there are degrees on the thermometer and holding your breath hoping the gas pump doesn’t demand those three dreaded words: “Please see attendant.”
Oh, and if you’re a woman, ignore this. You will get laid — too much. This brings an entirely different set of problems …which you well know.
5) You’re not needed up there. You’re needed down here: You know the feeling you get at work when you’re watching a ski porn trailer and one of your direct reports creeps up behind you and you can’t hear a damn thing because some brotastic bro is just hucking the biggest line ever probably in Haines because everything you’ve ever seen that’s cool happens in Haines and you’re wondering if that’s a Wolf Parade song or maybe it’s TV on the Radio or maybe it’s neither because it’s Passion Pit (it’s always Passion Pit) …but you’re just completely in the zone and the pesky charge taps you on the shoulder and tells you something’s wrong with whomever’s XML and you could give two shits short of a fuck and then they say something like, “Skiing, huh? Do people still ski or is it all snowboarding now? My nephew snowboards.” Even though they’re just trying to be nice, you just want to be like “I am among you but not OF you and a mountain town is my destiny …bro” and you realize, at that moment, you do NOTHING.
Like nothing’s getting done, ever and then you go get drinks and talk about nothing and then you go to CrossFit and nothing happens and wouldn’t it be a better workout just to shovel snow and open cans of beans and put your own snow tires on your car and run around the woods for seven hours trying to find your missing mini Aussie because isn’t that at least something?
But the problem is, you’re down there so you can come up one weekend a year and spend your money and perpetuate that dream for one. More. Season. Because you doing nothing means a whole lot to the mountain town’s economy which you would actually be taking away from should you move there. Why? Because if everyone stopped doing nothing and instead moved to a mountain town, even fewer people would have something to do in the mountain town.
If enough of you decide to move, then it all goes away.
6) You will miss lots of things: Ready? Book signings. Concerts (especially the ones that go too late on a Tuesday with the opener that’s better than the headliner that nobody’s heard of yet and when they come into town in another eight months as a headliner you can tell everyone you saw them when they were the opener and downloaded their music that night). Restaurants that serve something besides wings and Coors Light pitchers. Girls. Conversations about current events that don’t include the extended forecast. The at least tacit acknowledgement of your advanced degree. Wearing clothes that aren’t stuffed with feathers. Flip flop weather. Having more than one friend (and then dealing with missing that one friend when he breaks his wrist and decides to move out of the mountain town.) Those random parties when you walk in and start a conversation with someone about something you thought nobody else read in the New Yorker and how you’d wished you’d written it. Finding someone at a random party who doesn’t think your reference to the New Yorker is about your roommate from the East Coast. Houses that don’t smell like bong water and drying-out socks (yes, that’s every house in a mountain town). Dry towels. For some reason, towels never seem to get fully dry in a mountain town. They’re either kind of wet, or frozen stiff. Cars that start. Girl/guy ratio better than 1/9. Public transit.
Plus, as lead in to number seven, there’s this strange thing that happens with your “city” friends, they all sort of decide to grow up and marry and ask for that raise and have children and you’ll go down and check on them and you’ll actually feel (and maybe look) the same age as when you left but you realize, looking at them that…
7) …The years just disappear: Mountain towns are four-season time sucks. After awhile it’s not days or weeks or even months or years on a calendar page that matter, it’s snow and it’s summer and then it’s the time when you don’t work and all your mountain town friends go to Mexico for a month and come back and talk about how everything was like $3 a day. Then it’s snow again. And suddenly, your hands are old-looking and cracked and your hair’s sort of super long and stringy and there’s grays sprouting on your chin and you can’t remember the last time you slept in and your shoes are treadless and duct tape is your new best friend and everything around you just kind of happens or doesn’t.
And you find your old resumé on the desktop of your old computer that you haven’t turned on in three seasons and you think about the people you used to work with and the concerts you missed and the shopping you didn’t do and all the stuff you used to have that’s floating around someone else’s apartment and you realize, all of it — including time — just kind of evaporates.
Then one day, in line at the store, usually in December, you catch the glance of the guy in front of you buying sugar-free Redbull and Goldschlager. He turns around and looks, half sort of scared/half curious, and asks you if you had a good day.
You say “No” but nod yes and garnish it with a cocksure half grin.
And for the rest of his vacation he thinks: That guy knows something …maybe I should say fuck it and move here.