Thursday, December 14, 2006

Snow Bunny Part 2: Something New

During the last winter Olympics, I watched snowboard prodigy Shaun White tear up a half pipe with style and ease as he took home the gold for the U.S. I’d have to say, I was inspired. This kid made it look so easy and cool, and I wanted give snowboarding a shot. It would be Something New to try and experience.

Anytime I try Something New, I secretly wish and fervently hope that I have some blistering raw untapped talent at the Something New. I have always wondered if women do this, but I suspect it is something practiced only by males. Regardless, I always imagine that at my first time out trying Something New, I will emerge a natural, a previously undiscovered prodigy who completely conquers the Something New with amazing, effortless perfection.

As I stood at the bottom of Copper Mountain and watched skiers and snowboarders glide (so smoothly!) down the final yards of the slope, I convinced myself this was in fact the case. This was my time to shine. Years of fruitless Something News had all lead up to this moment. While my brother and some of his buddies imparted tips on the basic mechanics of “rippin’ it up,” I listened, nodded, and said “uh huh” and “gotcha” a lot. All the while, inside, I became more and more confident that this would be the Something New by which I would burst forth in wunderkind glory. My unrealized snowboarding talent would be unleashed at last, a real Cinderella story. Shaun White would have nothing on me.

My first challenge, though – before the unveiling of my dormant snowboarding skills – was to actually get to the top of the slope. To get to the top of the slope, you have to ride a “lift.” Getting to the lift involves strapping only one of my two feed onto my board and awkwardly hobbling/skidding/loping along the turnstiles to the lift. (The sensation was not unlike that time long ago when rollerblading was my Something New, and I ended up gripping the rink rails for most of the evening.) Once the turnstiles are successfully navigated, you actually have to coordinate your peg-legged hobbling/skidding/loping in such a manner as to not miss or be struck and killed by the rotating lift. Determined that none of these things should happen, I totally managed to stick the landing, if only by the narrowest of margins. I was off to a good start. Butt firmly in seat, kung-fu death grip firmly on lift rail, I began my ascent.

Continued next post...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Snow Bunny Part 1: The Prologue

I just went snowboarding for the first time ever. Here amidst the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, folks apparently do this sort of thing often. Maybe it is because of the awesome snow here. But I think it may also have something to do with the high altitude and really thin air.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with snowboarding, allow me to explain the raw elements of this sport. Even though I am only a one-time snowboarder (snowboardist? snowboardiac?), I feel my experience has lent me enough knowledge to share with you. It is really quite simple. Snowboarding involves, as you may have guessed merely from its name, some snow and a board. Basically, it meant strapping a board that was the approximate height of my wife to both feet and hurling myself down an insanely steep and snowy mountain. By hurling, I mean falling, tumbling, rolling, scooting, careening, and/or any combination thereof.

Let me say, before I elaborate on my snowboarding experience, that I am a man. I do not mean that I am the man. I only mean that my gender is male. Although it may surprise some of you, when males are trying something new, they typically do not want to give the impression that they are new at it. In fact, males often will actually go to great lengths to give the impression that they are thoroughly familiar with things they know absolutely nothing about.

This was the case for me as my brother, an avid ‘boarder who was treating me to this adventure, took me to an equipment rental place where he gets a military discount. Not wanting to be immediately pegged as a newbie, I approached the fifty-five-year-old lady behind the counter of the equipment rental office with just the right combination of confidence and nonchalance. It did not take me long to realize I was in over my head. This revelation came right about the time the fifty-five-year-old lady behind the counter of the equipment rental office told me I was “goofy-footed.”
Me: (adopting a slight Californian surfer-ish accent for unknown reason) “Yeah, my bro is taking me snowboarding, but I don’t have any gear with me. Can you hook me up with a board here?”

55yol: “Sure. You need boots, bindings, and bibs too?”

Me: (realizing I have no idea what 55yol just said) “Umm… absolutely. I think. Hey, my son has a bib. Would that work?”

55yol: (laughs politely) “Righteous. Hey, which foot do you lead off with?”

Me: (awkward pause) “I really like my right foot.”

55yol: “Cool. So you go goofy then, right?”

Me: (awkward silence)

55yol: (apparently confusing my silence for deafness and speaking slightly louder to compensate) “You’re GOOFY?”

Me: (more awkward silence, followed by a nervous grin and a shrug that clearly says I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing here. None.) “Yup. Uh huh. I sure am.”

55yol: “Yeah. You’re goofy-footed. I thought so. Right on.”

Me: (nodding wisely) “Mm hmm.”
Gear eventually procured, initial humiliation eventually past, it was off to the slopes of glorious Copper Mountain, a couple hours drive outside of Colorado Springs.

Continued next post...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Snakes Allah on a Plane

snakes on a plane?Six Muslim imams were removed from a U.S. Airways flight in Minneapolis just before Thanksgiving. They were questioned by police for several hours before being released. Their offense: saying their evening prayers together on the plane.

Good Will Hiking points out that most of the media coverage of this event centers around allegations that this being a case of racial profiling and religious infringement. He also references this article, which gives a much different opinion: Given that Islamic terrorists continue their obsession with turning airplanes into weapons of mass destruction, it is nothing short of obscene that these six religious leaders ... chose to turn that airport into a stage and that airplane into a prop in the service of their need for grievance theater. The reality is, these passengers endured a frightening 3 1/2-hour ordeal, which included a front-to-back sweep of the aircraft with a bomb-sniffing dog, in order to advance the provocative agenda of these imams in, of all the inappropriate places after 9/11, U.S. airports.

While I think the author makes some interesting and valid points (assuming her facts regarding the details of the incident are accurate), I can't help but wonder if this particular reaction is simply indicative of a spreading paranoia regarding Muslims.

At any rate, this is the first thing I've read referencing the word "Islamophobe." So it's got that going for it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

So Help Me Allah

"Now that the first Muslim has been elected to Congress ... Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison intends to take his oath of office on the Quran, rather than the Bible, and his decision is bound to spark a difficult debate with no easy answers."

This is an interesting clash of America's Christian tradition versus cultural/religious inclusiveness. Read the rest of this article from Travis McSherley at BreakPoint.