…At least I’ll try not to. Promise. Maybe.
I recently mentioned how much I
look forward to rely on POWDER’s annual buyers’ guide/kick-off issue dropping into my mailbox of floating as if by magic carrier owl onto a news stand. I like everything about it. It is one part guilty pleasure, one part aspirational guide to living and one part pretty, pretty pictures.
More than the gear itself, I’ve come to admire the folks who test it out. Here are about two dozen sinewy, tan in the right places (and some of the wrong ones), toothy, hard-charging, hard-partying rippers. People you would like to know or would at least lie and say you met at some point were someone to ask, “Do you know ___?”
Local heroes and denizens of some of the biggest peaks in the land who have dedicated their lives to living their EDM-filled neon snow globe dream.
Nothing seems beyond the realm of possibility for these folks and while I sit and admire them underneath spectral office fluorescents inhaling a special as-yet-undiscovered breed of asbestos, they are somehow able to cobble together a hoary offseason existence harvesting alpaca yarn, running rowboat cartels off the Nicaraguan coast and Instagramming for whatever type of cave-dwelling posterity that’ll exist a thousand years from now. They put it all together house sitting for Dick Cheney or nannying Scott Glenn’s grandkids while skiing a million vertical feet per season and still have enough in the legs and coffers for an epic Gaper Day featuring a vintage pair of red, white and blue iSki mirrored shades and a Look fanny pack. Whether it’s through multiple jobs or multiple trust funds, they make it happen. And I fall for it — for them — season after season.
I ingest the gear guide, because when one of them cleverly quips, “Buttery in the trees but not on toast” I not only feel like I’m in on the joke — but I wish I’d made it. Purchasing top-reviewed picks for skis, boots and misc. accessories (is this the year I get an airbag? I mean, it’s not just for conversation-starting, it may save my life like it did Saugstad’s) is my way of surreptitiously joining their club, doing more than just peeking behind their prized curtain of white smoky bliss. Pulling the same stuff off the shelf and skiing the same terrain means I eventually get to join them, to be one of them. Right? Right?
^ This is the reason we all want things. Things make us feel like a part of something. Things make us feel like someone, or maybe closer to someone. For some, it’s cars or handbags or scarves. For others it’s books or records or plants or pets. For the majority of us, it’s food.
We are all raised to want. And we want what we want and we want a little more what we can’t have. We admire people who live in houses bigger than ours for which to store more of their stuff. We thumb through catalogs to see sample homes — what we want ours to be. But really what’s on display is a tasteful discourse in lack of clutter. That’s what we want, clean surfaces, dishes without dried red sauce on the rim, a piece of fruit that sits proudly on still life summit, not melting in a dreadful moldy mash at the base of the bowl. Somehow all of this will make the tension go away.
For the majority in this country, there are serving trays and candlesticks and wreaths for every calendar page turn. Some crafty broad on pinterest who has enough time for all that and to create chalk art chalkboards that look like a gentrified neighborhood coffee shop menu to announce what grades her children are going into this year.
A giant lot next to the pool I swim at broke ground a few months ago, and on what used to be a bell pepper field a trio of suburban Phoenix-looking tan buildings rise a mile from downtown San Luis Obispo. It was a perfect infill project, I surmised. Urban-type live/work housing where some magic courtyard brings people together in a…in a Piazza. A Piazza, just like Dave Chappelle says it back to Tom Hanks on the treadmill in You’ve Got Mail.
Will it become this? A Piazza? No. It’s going to be three massive storage units things. Boomers who sell their homes in Los Angeles or the greater Bay Area are here to downsize and they need a place to store all those wreaths and dishes and graded papers of yours they don’t want to throw out. Plus all those trays.
No matter how many things we acquire, the eventual outcome for all of us is we die. There may be a few things we leave behind that are important. Maybe a letter (if you ever bothered to write a letter or two I guarantee the recipient would be so mystified that they would keep it to their own grave and certainly recall it at yours.) Maybe some kind of artwork you either curated or created. Maybe a book you gave or received with something written on the inside cover red paper next to the part of the jacket where you carefully scissored off the price. Maybe you traveled with it and stuck your used boarding pass to Buenos Aires in between page(s) 322 and 323. And maybe someone will run across it in a used bookstore one day and decide to travel too. This way, and only this way, is how your former property can elicit change.
But new skis, boots, pants, goggles, gloves and poles — all of that matte-finished glory spotted with your fingerprints — that goes away. It goes away like a seersucker suit or a evening bag or the left-behind one of those pearl earrings grandmother gave you for 8th grade graduation. No matter how cambered or how dynamic the center axis of the ski is for better balance in powder but keeping it appropriately explosive off the snow, it’s all going to fade.
Should I give in and buy a pair of skis this year, maybe in a decade they’ll occupy the dusty corner of the ski locker, still clinging to the tattered edge of the quiver just like the phone I was using five years ago sits terminally black and permanently off in some drawer. I come across it once in awhile and wonder what photos are on there and who may someday see them one day. I think of selling it online, or fixing the cobweb cracks on the forlorn screen, one that I so tenderly used to rake my thumb over and over and over to bring me some type of temporary respite. Now that it’s been discarded, I view those moments trapped on there only as pieces of real life that were missed, not captured.
Right now we have on this earth what appears to be enough stuff to get us through the end and even a shit ton of leftovers to create relics for whomever comes next. We have enough homes and enough cars and enough pools (both above and below ground.) There is enough chemically treated hardwood from China and double vanities for seemingly everyone who goes on TV as a house hunting couple. There are enough jars and door handles and staplers and old video game units floating somewhere in space and accessible only via eBay. SUVs with third row seating to suck poison fuel from the ground like fruit punch, we have tons.
I know the whole thing — the agreement we’ve reached in this country — is that there’s always something we need to get. It helps with jobs. It helps cover up these inevitable truths about the planet becoming less habitable for all mammals by the day and our role in the consumer food chain directly expediting that process. Giant drink cup to concert t-shirt to a garden hose that looks like a crumpled bit of foreskin and recoils back when you’re not using it. All the shit. We need it. We need it all like baby Moses needed a basket to get on the river and find his new life.
My grandmother used to shop at I. Magnin. She put on white shopping gloves, which seemed to make her fingers almost too slippery to handle her giant Cadillac steering wheel, as she navigated the aquamarine two-door with the aquamarine leather into the city for a binge. A few of the artifacts she rescued from the dust-free glass shelves of that era — a ceramic serving bowl centerpiece with hand painted Meyer lemons stacked atop it and a print of a California poppy that looks like it was smooshed in a giant dictionary — can be found in my mother’s current home.
Today, I look at these things with wonder as they will always seem out of place not embedded with the rest of my grandmother’s unblemished wicker furniture, spectacularly clean stove top and backyard pool shimmering like an agate after dusk. These things are set to crawl through at least another generation or two, hopefully, before they are broken or discarded or swallowed whole by this rebelling planet. I recognize that at one point these iconic family items were new and purchased that way. Perhaps they came in an impressively wrapped box with a silver bow and a signature I. Magnin sticker. And my grandmother, in the moment, was ultimately proud and satisfied.
So maybe the skis I want so badly but am trying so hard not to buy will fall down the generational elevator shaft to someone who will appreciate them, or, at the very least, find them interesting enough to affix a shot glass to the top sheet or hang them on the wall. These, after all, were grandpa’s skis and what a life of pleasure he did lead in the extraordinary time of snow.