Flash Friendships

I met a couple of military pilots yesterday. Both flew combat missions over Iraq. The Navy guy flew F-14s and the Air Force guy was in A-10 Warthogs. I didn’t get too much more info out of them, though. For some reason, they kept peppering me with questions and even argued over who was going to ask the next one.

We met up again about twenty minutes later. Kim was with me this time, and after joking that they seemed to be stalking me, we learned they had to drive here because they were staying at their friend’s cabin the woods south of town and were not close enough to any of the bus routes.

I don’t know if it’s the excitement that comes with skiing, the rush of adrenaline from flying down a steep slope, or the simple joy of being out in nature and enjoying the snow. A shared enthusiasm leads to this sense of camaraderie among complete strangers that I don’t find anywhere else.

In the same day, I met a schoolteacher from Ohio who loves cross country skiing — don’t get her wrong, she still likes downhill (“…or I wouldn’t be out here, right?”), but alpine makes her legs tireder faster. A travelling nurse who took an assignment in Denver for a few months ‘cause he and his wife wanted to spend this winter skiing, and a house cleaner who said, “When you leave your condo, don’t throw out the non-perishables — we live on that stuff.”  

Ski lift culture is a unique society which leads to flash friendships that last only ten or fifteen minutes. There’s a fleeting aspect to a conversation with a chair partner. You don’t have to worry about how to end it, there’s a definite termination point, and they almost never ask your name.

Where’s the Garlic?

We arrived in Breck last night. I’ve been coming to Summit County, Colorado off and on since the early 90s and reconnected with Kim on the internet 20 years ago this month while I was up here. Beware the ides of March, right? This time we’ve got a beautiful house a five-minute walk from historic Breckenridge Main Steet, complete with heated garage and gas fireplace.

The temp outside was only 4 degrees this morning, so we decided to make like Europeans and loll about with tea and coffee in bed. It’s said that Americans go on holiday to ski and Europeans ski to go on holiday. We had bagels with cream cheese and lox with a side of bacon for breakfast. And prosecco, of course.

The snow was wonderful! Packed powder, mainly. Kim’s a great skier and utterly fearless, but today was her first day this season and with the elevation and all… Not to mention the psychic residue of our Friday night party in Denver, and still working to digest the Saturday afternoon Reubens (thank you, Cyndi) — we stuck to the blue cruisers.

We skied Peak 9 all afternoon, except for the hour we spent at the bar at Coppertops. Soup of the day was Seafood Gumbo. Kim made a half dozen new friends, of course, and we had to drag ourselves away from them to get in a few more runs before quitting on our terms before the mountain dictated it.

Kim had this idea that I need a pair of yellow ski pants so she can spot me on the mountain, so we wandered in and out of Main Street shops looking for the right shade of yellow. Helly Hansen had a pair, but they were 2xl and that was not going to work. North Face had a pair for $400 and they were 10% off, but that was not going to work either.

It was around that time I suggested we stop into the Gold Pan Saloon to talk it over and work up a new approach. I needed to take a leak anyway. Sitting at the bar, enjoying a nice bourbon, we realized we didn’t have enough garlic for dinner, so I asked the bartender if they cooked with fresh garlic in the back. He looked at me kind of funny, but agreed that they did, so asked him if he’d sell me a clove.

He said, “Yeah, I guess I can.”

The woman next to me at the bar said, “I can’t believe you just asked him that.”

I said, “Why not, what’s he going to do, throw me out of the bar? We don’t have enough garlic for dinner and I don’t want to go to the grocery store.”

By now everyone’s cracking up at Bruce asking the bartender for a clove of garlic. The bartender said, “Don’t worry, I got someone working on that for you.”

Around that time, a guy comes out of the kitchen with a clove of garlic in his hand. The bartender says, “Put it in a ramekin.”

The guy says, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I didn’t actually hear him say that, but I can read lips well enough, and I promise that’s what he said.

I yelled over at him, “Thanks, man. I really appreciate your help.” I don’t think he heard me, but the look on his face said he understood the thumbs up I shot him. He called over, “What are you cooking?”

Kim hollered back, “Mushrooms and garlic for a steak sauce,” and he grinned.

I swear I left a really good tip, and Kim killed the dinner. Here’s a picture.