Monday, February 26, 2007

Big Bear

We made our second annual snowboarding trip to Big Bear last week. This time we went with the family of my younger son Henry's best friend Josh, and we stayed in a rented cabin. Nice place, much better than the hotel we had last year. Being able to cook our own meals and having some other people around for company didn't hurt either. We were directly across from the Moonridge Zoo, which is a curious collection of animals like American bison and reindeer.

On our first morning at Snow Summit we saw somebody fall off the ski lift on the beginner's slope. It was scary, and made me hyper-sensitive all week to the dangers of skiing and snowboarding (it seemed like there were far more paramedic visits this year). All of us have graduated from the beginners' slope to the intermediate runs now, so we were on the faster, higher ski lifts; and i was nervous every time one of the boys got on. Both of the boys have become fairly proficient though. Henry in particular has advanced far beyond where he was last year, which goes to show the power of peer pressure.

Our first real day of snowboarding was Wednesday, which turned out to be very warm. By early afternoon, the slopes were slushy, and we left before 2pm. We spent most of the afternoon at the house, with the door open because it was so nice outside. Other than eating and watching American Idol, we didn't do much. On Thursday, the temperatures were a bit cooler, but we still didn't last much beyond lunch. Two days of falling takes a toll on one's body. I managed to improve a bit. I can transition from heel edge to toe edge occasionally now, and i got pretty good at getting off the ski lift. On my final run, i accomplished one of my main goals-- i got off the lift without falling, and at the bottom i got out of my bindings without dropping to the ground first. There were a few falls between those two points, but i attribute those to experimentation.

Thursday night it snowed heavily, accumulating about 8 inches. I shoveled the steps down to the cars on Friday morning. The snow was perfect-- a thick, even layer of white powder-- and i really wished we could do one more run just to experience new snow. But we'd already turned in our rental gear, and we had to check out by 10, so we packed up the cars and headed for the nearest Starbucks. Afterwards, we started down the mountain. The first 5 miles or so were still snowy, despite having been plowed. Down to about 5000 feet it was a nerve-wracking drive, even with 4 wheel drive. Of course, i grew up in that kind of weather, but in Indiana if we went off the road, there wasn't a thousand-foot drop.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Globetrotters

The whole family went to see the Harlem Globetrotters at San Diego's IPayOne Center last night (yes, that's what it's really called-- it used to have the cryptic name "The Sports Arena", but the new name is much better, don't you think?). The show is basically the same as it was when i was the age that my kids are now, way back in the neolithic when they played with rocks and flew from town to town on pterodactyls (like in the Flintstones, get it?). There's the famous passing circle, and Sweet Georgia Brown, and lots of clowning and trick shots.

Except when i was a kid, the Globetrotters were a big freakin' deal. People knew the names of the players, and they were on TV, and they had their own cartoon. But in the ESPN era of the NBA and the "And 1" teams and college teams comprised of 19 year-old mutants who can fly, the Globetrotters don't seem all that special. Even though the schtick is essentially identical, it doesn't really work any more. I think my kids found it mildly entertaining, but for me it was kind of like crashing at a Holiday Inn in Nebraska and finding that the The Eagles are the lounge act (or substitute your favorite 70s band). Even the players seemed bored. What really struck me though is that nobody can shoot anymore.

When i saw the Globetrotters in the 70s there was still also the memory of the time when they could play and defeat NBA teams, and there was a conceit that Globetrotter players could have gone to the NBA had they so chosen (after all, Wilt was a Globetrotter at one time). That's gone for good though. Even a 9-year-old kid knows that nobody would pass up an NBA paycheck.

Monday, February 05, 2007

White Dragon, Golden Bagel

This is where i've spent much of my free time for the past 5 years. I used to be skeptical of the strip-mall martial arts schools, because popular culture promotes the idea that traditional martial arts are learned in remote temples on misty mountain tops. But i've learned that in China any space that's available is adequate, and it's not unusual to train in, say, a restaurant after closing hours.

The shop next door is a cafe called The Golden Bagel. I'm amused by this accidental pairing, more so than probably anyone else. The school moved this past weekend, across the parking lot, into a much larger space. I'll always have a sentimental attachment to this place though, even when they turn it into a taco shop.