Wednesday, April 30, 2014

bye, hair

i was looking at my hair last night. it is very unusual for me to have enough hair on my head to notice, but it has a nice color: a kindof honey-red brown with enough interspersed grey hairs to make it look shimmery.

and i got lucky in the grey hair lottery, because some people get that horrid yellow grey and some people get the nice white shimmery one.

but it really is too long. it is too long to be comfortable in the house, and it is WAY too long to be washed out of a jug on the road.

so in an hour or so i'll go into richmond and get it cut. if it's someone besides jason when i get it done, they always want to try to do it with scissors. they do not believe me when i say "get out the clippers", as if i am unaware how short that will be.

if i was forty pounds lighter i would  just have them shave me bald because when i'm lighter it's a cute look for me.

either way, i am eagerly awaiting a return to a comfortable amount of hair.

and you know what? it doesn't gotta be pretty.

in principle i am not here for the visual enjoyment of others. but really, i don't need to have nice-looking hair to go tromping all over the north maine wilderness. i need a head i can damp mop clean in a hurry when it's bedtime.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

open letter to the town of duxbury highway department

dear town of duxbury highway department,

i realize it's a difficult thing to keep your roads open what with mud season and washouts and maybe you do have to close some roads for while but i really think it would be good if maybe you put up signs to tell people who might be using crossett hill that the road is closed.

this would be especially handy since crossett hill road has two entrances and the washout is two miles up the hill away from route one hundred.

since it has been suggested that you put up such a sign and you have not yet done it, i'm going ot give you very specific instructions:

1) get two signboards, a sharpie marker, and some zip ties. write this on them: crossett hill road closed between pollander and westcott.

2) put one up at the northern entrance of crossett hill and the other at the southern entrance.

3) when the road opens again, take the signs down.

this prevents visitors from driving up crossett hill two miles only to find the road is closed and they have to return and come up by the other entrance.

it also prevents residents from having to guess about whether or not the road got repaired while they were out at work.

and no, having the school call the families with school age children to notify them the bus won't be coming up for the rest of the year does not qualify as providing the residents of your town and visitors to your town with adequate information as to the condition of your road.

once again: PUT UP SIGNS.

additionally, the proper location for the signs is ON ROUTE 100, where they will actually give people information they need at the place where they need it.


well, scoot. don't just stand there scratching your head. get out and put up some signs.

i know i have helped you.

love, flask

Monday, April 28, 2014


my hair is about two inches long.

it sticks straight up. this gives me the appearance of being highly charged with static electricity ALL THE TIME or else really, really fond of hair gel.

nope. it does this all on its own.

i can't wait to get it shaved off.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


i'm writing this from my extremely swanky hotel room (paid for by someone else, because goodness knows i can't afford that kind of thing).

this morning is the last morning of the 70th annual neffa festival.

some things i saw:

morris dancers
an intro to tribal belly dancing class
a talk on weird unfretted zithers of the 19th and 20th centuries
a great number of men wearing dresses
people in traditional constumes
people is supremely bizarre costumes
a lecture recital on women of the civil war

things i did:

english country dancing for beginners
international dancing for beginners
contra dancing for beginners
role free contra dancing
a participatory round sing

things i ate:

an excellent plate of pad thai
a big plate of lithuanian food: stuffed cabbage, dumplings, and potato pancake
an indian inspired sandwich with vegetables and grilled chicken in a maple glaze served on naan
a completely fabulous macaroon

it is a lovely heartening thing to see so many people of different kinds all come together for gentle civilized pursuits like singing and dancing. there's such a general unblinking acceptance of however you come or whatever you're wearing and no "let's go over there and beat those guys".

it's nice.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

both sides now

i shaved my legs.

this isn't a big deal; sometimes i keep them shaved. in my youth i made a point to learn to like them furry if i left them that way, but for purposes of biking or jamming my legs into ski boots i usually am more comfortable shaved.

what IS notable is that i often only shave one leg at a time because if i do them both in the shower that takes a lot of time and doing them every other day works pretty good for me and quick showers.

but the last day i shaved was april 5th (i only remember because it was the day BEFORE the giant bruise) and i only did one leg then, so it's been kind of visually jarring. happily, the shaved leg was the bruised one, and tending to wounded areas is much easier if it's shaven.

so it's been one unusually furry leg and one clean shaven but spectacularly bruised leg. i still have that huge goose egg on my shin, so THAT looks lovely.

if by lovely, you mean deformed.

but now they're both shaved so if i go dancing i will be able to stand myself. and maybe not look so weird.

at neffa they're used to women who don't shave and men who wear dresses, but it would just feel weird to get all dressed up with only one leg shaved.

so yeah. both sides now.


Friday, April 25, 2014

hey, thanks.

when i pass traffic control workers on the road, i wave and say thank you. they can't hear me, but most people know what "thank you" looks like when you say it.

plow drivers, road graders, janitors.

these people aren't doing work typically valued and considered important but think what a clustertangle things would be if nobody was there to do that work.

i am also of the opinion that a lot of things would go nicer on the planet if we valued people and the work they do and if we said so.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


let's talk about my drug dependency.

i've been hearing a lot these days about benzos and how bad it is for people to become dependent on them.

i am dependent on not one but two classes of sedatives. this is not a matter of choice for me.

here's the short version: i have a severe bipolar illness. i prefer the term manic-depression (as does kay redfield jamison), but bipolar is what they're calling it these days.

long ago if you carried that diagnosis, it was kind of a death sentence on your career and your relationships, sometimes on you.

because there was no good treatment prior to sometime around 1972, doctors were less apt to diagnose it. chances are if you carried the diagnosis, you had already gone off the rails once at least.

then along came lithium.

lithium is cheap and effective, but it can have some bad side effects. i took it right up until my body stopped metabolizing it, and i got lithium poisoning at doses way below the therapeutic window which everyone said wasn't possible, but when your lab work comes back at panic levels, people have to rethink what's possible.

i had to stop taking it.

and then there was depakote.

depakote is a miracle drug. it was better than lithium, and it's not terribly expensive. it has relatively few side effects. "so THIS" i thought, "is what normal people must feel like."

i took depakote for two and a half years before i developed an allergy to it. it was such a good drug that we tried every formulation of it and did an allergy challenge test.

the allergist told me that if i kept taking it, one of those doses was going to be the LAST dose.

years passed. meds changed. i tried what there was. some were marginally effective. i developed intolerances or allergies to all of them.

what that leaves me is very careful management of my sleep and eating and stress levels. sometimes this means that with care and diligence i'm ok for months, and sometimes it means i can't even go to the grocery store.

which brings me back to the sleep thing.

sometimes i can sleep just fine all by myself. sometimes the crazy comes and sits on me in the night and i get hours of horrid dream hallucinations where my brain speeds up and doesn't clean itself out and i'm headed into a death spiral and the bad thing is i can't tell ahead of time which kind of night it's going to be before i get there so i take two classes of sedatives - one to slow me down, and one to knock me out- that nearly guarantee at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

it's not as nice as sleep that isn't drug-heavy, but i can depend on it mostly and eating and sleeping regularly are things i have to do or else there are serious consequences.

i can handle regular eating on my own.

but one of the things the illness does is it screws with your sleep.

i am thinking about it a lot this morning because i had to pull the sedatives for two nights running on account of having had anesthesia yesterday. the second night is never as bad as the first, and plus with the fasting you can't even have a cookie to get your head on straight so while i am now two nights without sleep, i was only ONE night without food and water also, so i feel very much improved today.

the worst thing about it yesterday was knowing that i wasn't done with sleeplessness yet.

but today i am allowed to eat and tonight i can resume my meds and in a couple of days i'll be good as new.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

tweeting delorme

let's start here: i have a big black leather satchel full of delorme street atlases, because sometimes you just need a paper map. for the state i live in, i have THREE delorme street atlases so i can have a clean copy and some with annotations.

and quite frankly, if you are trying to do outdoor activities in maine, you are stupid to go without a delorme atlas for maine, because the delorme atlas does an extra-good job of noting important things like where you can camp and where there are gates on the roads.

so i was already a fan. i wasn't buying a lot of new delorme product because the ones i have hold up pretty well, which is incidentally a thing i like about a company's product: durability.

you need to update map sets every now and again, but you should do it when YOU want to have the most up-to-date version, and not when the company that makes your mapset decides they're ready for you to open your wallet again.

it comes down to, i think, who has control over your consumer experience.

i want control over my consumer experience. i want to be able to buy stuff i like and use it how i like and shop for it how i like.

which brings me to my problems with garmin.

i have a garmin handheld GPS receiver. i have a garmin receiver because it's what my mom gave me for christmas all those years ago. i like the garmin line. i'm used to it. i like the feel of it.

but garmin wants me to use its products, all of its products and ONLY its products and it slaps some very proprietary controls on those products to keep you from using the products in ways they don't like.

my mapset has needed updating for a couple of years but i didn't want to lock myself into the punitive and restrictive garmin model so i put it off and put it off to the point that i had to do SOMETHING because my maps were far enough out of date to cause some significant navigation errors, and i had a hardware failure and couldn't get the garmin product i owned already to work on the new machine without updating to garmin products i did not like as well, but that helped garmin to control my experience more tightly.

so i was looking at the delorme mapsets and it turns out that not only do they have some very nice and reasonably priced maps, but they have a super cheap bundle that comes with a no-frills usb GPS receiver.

on top of that, once i got over the initial learning curve of how to use the software, the reasonably priced software/hardware bundle does everything that the garmin product did and a great deal more.

well, there are some things that the garmin product did that i didn't give a fig about, like the ability to use garmin's social media mapping in their very restrictive environment and let garmin track all my travels and store that information on their servers so they can sell me stuff.

the delorme mapset does not do those things.

and by "reasonably priced",  i mean at roughly an eighth of the cost.

and get this: delorme apparently does not give a wet slap if you use entirely delorme products with your delorme maps. you can import/export your data however you want and use third party equipment and applications to your little heart's desire and delorme even puts instructions in the manual about how to do it on their end.

delorme would probably like it if the receiver you were using was one of the very nice delorme receivers, but just in case you prefer something else, they're happy to let you use their product with somebody else's receiver.

there's a trend in marketing to try to get consumers to use one brand and only one brand of thing. some companies want to be your one-stop source for everything.

some companies are just happy to make a quality product and let you decide how you would like to use it.

so a couple of days ago i made my final tweet in the series of tweeting every day how many times my garmin GPS receiver froze up and had to have its batteries removed to be restarted. garmin did not take notice.

garmin does not care.

but delorme took notice.

yes. you do rock at maps. your company rocks at maps. it rocks at consumer service.

you guys just rock.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

tweeting garmin

i'd like to start by saying that i am a map nerd. i'm not a cartographer or a surveyor. i am not a GIS specialist. i just like maps. i like trail maps, hand drawn maps, printed maps, online maps. i am delighted because the New York Public Library just came out with an online archive of maps, yay them! in a large sense, maps are just one fascinating way that we, small people, encode information about our world and try to make sense of it.

so when i took up geocaching, it was a sport i had only been waiting for my entire life.

this is where garmin comes in.

because i got a garmin GPS receiver.

now, i like the garmin GPS receivers. mostly. they feel right in my hand and they work pretty well.

one of the newer product lines, however, has a known "feature" in which the screen just freezes for no apparent reason and there is no way to fix that except to take the batteries out, wait a few seconds, put the batteries back in, turn the unit back on, and wait for it to boot up.

this is super annoying, especially if you're using the thing to, oh, i don't know, navigate or something and you have to get in the habit of checking it every fifteen seconds or so to see that it hasn't frozen, not that it will do you any good when you don' know if this is your turn or not and you have to take the batteries out of your GPS to find out.

what i'm saying is there were a lot of missed turns. or potentially missed turns. and if i wanted to do all my navigating myself, i'd not bother with the GPS. because really, if you have to keep checking your GPS and second guessing it in case it freezes up (on average twice a day), you basically have to navigate for yourself anyway.

for a couple of months i started tweeting daily the number of times my garmin GPS unit (one of the expensive models, mind you) froze up.

did garmin take any notice? no, they did not.

i also had a set of garmin maps on my laptop which worked pretty well but occasionally broke down for no apparent reason and the garmin customer service queue is a byzantine nightmare of a phone tree and the website is just as much of a clustertangle.

see, now, if you're garmin, these things do exactly what they're designed to do, which is to upsell you into the entire garmin universe of only garmin products.

but you can't go to the garmin website and just browse the catalog. you can't just look up what you need done and find out the units that will do it.

because garmin wants to channel your experience starting with you should decide BEFORE you can see any of the merchandise what activity you will be using it for.

and garmin wants you to buy some VERY expensive maps and some VERY expensive updating subscriptions and here's the thing: they make sure all the data YOU generate using their products are in THEIR proprietary format, which means that to use your own waypoint or route data you have to use it on garmin products, even crappy ones like basecamp.

and they make it so that your data that you generated using garmin products can't be easily reformatted so you can use it on older garmin products and your old mapsets can't be updated without breaking your data and new garmin mapsets can't be used on the old garmin products.

don't even think about using your another company's product with your garmin device or your garmin maps. while we're at it, don't even think about using more than one  garmin receiver with your garmin maps that cost you hundreds of dollars, because you have to buy a registration code for EACH DEVICE you want to use with the maps you bought and if for some reason your primary registered device breaks and you need to plug in your backup, the one set of maps you have installed suddenly won't give you anything but the basemap, which has only major highways.

this is what i want: to have maps i can use with whatever device i own, and to be able to manage MY DATA and stick it on whatever maps i have bought and while i understand that a company might prefer that i use their products uniformly to do that, it really starts to suck when their proprietary policies and controls interfere with YOUR USE OF THEIR PRODUCT.

in short, garmin's own restrictive controls made me want to look for some other things not garmin that might have the functionality i wanted.

garmin does not care. garmin is too big to care.

i still like my garmin receiver, even if it does freeze up twice a day, and i don't even care anymore about it freezing because i found a good alternative and because this is a long post, later on i will tell you how the problem got solved.

i may have been tweeting garmin every day, but it was a different company that finally took notice.

Monday, April 21, 2014

feet up

ok, so i still have a gigantic goose egg on my shin that looks a lot like my calf muscle when it has a lot of definition. it's not supposed to look that way.

i am behind in my blog reading list.

my ipod is dead, or the battery is.

my new map software is working well, but i am having the usual troubles learning to use the new software.

i am trying to clean up my winter gear to put it away for the year. i am also trying to check and assemble my spring gear.

my hair is too long. i need a haircut in the worst way but i am putting it off for may 1, which is the traditional day i get my head shaved because when i go on my roadtrip i have to jug wash and a shaved head is an easily cleaned one.

i've sort of figured out where i want to go, because i found an interesting geocaching project near some campsites i already know about. it will involve hiking, biking, and kayaking.

it could just take a couple of days, or it could take a couple of weeks. after that, i don't know where i'll go.

it's nice to have a project, though.

wednesday morning i have to go to the hospital to have a pair of little procedures done which would not particularly worry me except that i historically do not do very well under general anesthesia. my better experiences with general anesthesia involve screaming, searing, nightmare-inducing pain when the chemical goes in.

my least happy experience with it involved a white knuckle ambulance ride, because my allergic reaction to the meds only manifested hours after i was already home, and i live about forty minutes from the hospital.

it makes me kind of nervous.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


i think i have mentioned that i've been eating a lot of frozen burritos these days. it counts as real food, because if you go tot the trouble of making burritos and freezing them, you cooked them.

i showed up at my mom's office last week with a frozen burrito to give her, which i handed to her saying "i am only giving you this because you're my mom and i love you", because i like these burritos so well that it feels like a hardship to part with even ONE.

and she wrote back to me to say

that burrito was awesome. i think it was probably the best burrito i've ever had. can i have the recipe?

to which i answered, more or less,


taco filling made with quorn grounds TVP (use any premix taco season you like)
black rice and beans (there are premade mixes in the mexican aisle and the rice aisle)
onions cooked down not quite caramelized
vegetarian refried beans
grated cheese
burrito wrap

cook the parts up, put it all in there and roll

it's a lot of pans at once but it takes only about an hour and then you have a freezer full of delicious burritos. and there's no stopping you eating it with a little lettuce or something.

my mm is impressed, i think, because  my childhood was one in which there was always a freezer full of burritos. when we had taco night at our house my mom would make enough for a small army and after dinner lay out dozens of burrito wrappers and fill and freeze them.

i think the primary difference is the beans an rice and the onions, plus when mine are frozen, i bag them in freezer-weight ziplocs and squeeeze the extra air out. while in my childhood there was no shortage of frozen burritos at snacktime, there was also no shortage of slightly freezerburned burritos.

it's important, also, to roll the burrito properly, which i think my mom did not know how to do. i only learned it last year when i saw a youtube video about it.

and if you have a freezer full of burritos, you never have to worry if you're too tired to make dinner or don't have anything you can eat for lunch.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

george carlin sums it up.

george was a great man.

and right about a lot of things, unfortunately.

Friday, April 18, 2014

cliffhanger pudding

it was like totally a long time ago i wrote an entry talking about how i arrived at how i make my chocolate pudding. you can read that here if you want.

but here's the basic instructions, without any cute story attached.

you're going to need:

about 3 tablespoons of cocoa. if you care about using good cocoa, use it.
about two tablespoons of flour
about a tablespoon of instant coffee
somewhere between a third and a half cup of sugar

two cups of milk. whole milk recommended

a tablespoon of butter
about a third of a cup bittersweet chocolate

vanilla and almond extracts.

do this, more or less:

whisk the cocoa, flour, cofffee, and sugar in a large saucepan. when it's really well mixed, stir in the milk. stir it in slowly like you're making a roux because that's how you're not going to get lumps. there are two steps here where you might get lumps. if you like lumps, just pour the milk in willy-nilly.

heat the pan under mediun-low heat. you can mostly ignore it until just before it starts to thicken, but the key here is just before it thickens, so you should keep and eye on it and stir it from time to time. the higher your heat, the sooner and faster it will thicken, so you'll have less margin of error if you lack patience.

when it starts to thicken, stir it and keep stirring until it's thick enough. this is kind of hard to define, but most people consider it thick enough when you can take the spoon out of the pot and the pudding doesn't escape too fast. i like my pudding thick, so if i'm going to err i like to err on the thick side. i like pudding i can chew.

yeah. when it's ready, take it off the heat and toss in the butter, the chocolate, and the extracts. i am very fond of both vanilla and almond, so i go heavy on those. you should put in as much as you like.

put it in little dishes and toss it in the fridge.

mmm, pudding.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

more pudding!

first off, i'm only doing this because cookie wants it. second, i am super honored that kristin used the bread pudding recipe from a week or so ago as a jumping off point because i read what she posts about in her kitchen and i think i am just a small fry.

uh, anyway. today i am experiencing pain that i would describe as intermittently subsuming. today because it was warm this morning i did not put on my tights. more specifically when i woke up i took them off and did not put them on again. i was feeling jaunty, so i called up a friend and offered to make a light dinner and a little light geocaching after.

so i took pizza dough out of the freezer and started making chocolate pudding and because i was feeling a little jaunty, i cleaned the upstairs bathroom, emptied the trash, did a little vacuuming, and washed the front windows.

then the pain started.

the kind of pain where you just lie on the sofa panting, trying to figure out what the hell you DID.

so. ice, elevation, compression.

but i have half made chocolate pudding and shaved asparagus pizza, so bit by bit i'm forcing myself to get up and finish those tasks.

and i realize that i've just made a long post about how i came to be making pudding, but i hate it when i'm looking for a recipe on someone's blog and i have to wade through tons of story to find out HOW TO MAKE THE BLASTED PUDDING, so i'm going to make that a separate entry. sit tight, it's coming.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

holy diluvial inundation, batman!

sunday morning it rained.

monday morning it rained.

tuesday it rained. alllllllll day.  i went out to find a geocache. there's a lot of flooding. mostly the culverts and bridges are holding, but down on governor peck there's a four foot culvert that rose from a foot of spare room to over capacity in about a half hour and once the culvert fills, water all upstream back up and the dominoes back up.

the jericho road crew is hot juggling tonight to keep from losing the road. water is coming over it and part of it is washed out.

all along nashville road the water is lapping at the edges of it.

and only tangentially related, today on nashville i was behind a schoolbus with three cars behind me. we were all moving along at about twelve miles an hour, which was not fast enough for the red car two cars back.

idiot. if that schoolbus COULD move faster on this jelly-soft road, it would. and if i could pass it, i would. but there's not point chafing abotu stuff that's not gonna happen, so i settled back. and the red car worked REAL hard to pass the car behind me and then me and then sat on the schoolbus's bumper for the next three miles because she'd learned what we all knew: you can't pass the schoolbus on this road today.

you just can't.

yesterday it was eighty degrees out.

tonight it is not raining.

you know why?

because it's snowing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 Month of MAYhem Blogging Challenge™

hey, boys and girls and everybody else on the gender/age spectrum!

it's almost time for the 2014 Month of MAYhem Blogging Challenge™!

of course, you may choose to perform any of the old Month of MAYhem Blogging Challenge™s, but the important thing is that you  DO perform one of them.

it's time to start talking about it on your blog and on your twitters. be sure to spread the word that you are participating in this year's Month of MAYhem Blogging Challenge™.

instructions for this year's fun activities will be posted later.

in the meantime, please enjoy the archive of past Month of MAYhem Blogging Challenge™s:

Monday, April 14, 2014

bumpalumps and bruisles

they're more fun if you give them a cute name.

ok, that's an out-and-out lie.

today is day nine of the bruises and i am now quite firmly bored of it. quite frankly, that time i was run over by a truck on route two i got less bruising, plus it SOUNDED more dramatic.

"fell skiing" just does not have the same ring to it as "run over by a truck", even if it is only a light duty pickup.

today was my first day without the compression sleeve, and i felt pretty good walking around up until the part where i had to go out and find a geocache. more to the point, i felt pretty good up until the point i was looking for my THIRD UNFOUND cace in a row and sadly moving on to another cache i might be able to find without too much suckage and my the time i started on that fourth attempt, i was moving only slightly more sprightly than my grandmother, who is ninety-four years old and has a broken hip.

i don't need to look sprightly, or even stylish for that matter. all i need to do is find one geocache.

and if i'm going to be brutally honest, all i NEED to do is continue breathing in and out. performing basic life maintenance tasks like bathing and eating are a plus.

the sun will go down soon.

then it will be bedtime.

meantime, i have a little dish of pudding to eat.

mmm, pudding.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

new generation

last week i was on the interstate behind one of these puppies. it's a spectacular looking vehicle, sporting advertising on the sides that it includes such and such many beds and so and so many screens.

it's kind of like a huge bus, only it's a converted big truck rig.

and apparently it is a new thing in luxury bus transport.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

mud derby

ok, so you're just driving along a familiar road and you notice a driver careering wildly across the road, traveling at erratic speeds, weaving from shoulder to shoulder, sometimes taking the oncoming lane, and sometimes taking the center. they move along at a clip in their own lane, and creep to a dead crawl most other places.

do you call the state police to report a drunk driver?

do you honk at them and yell at them to STOP TEXTING and get off their frakking phone?

do you silently fume about the incompetency and rudeness of other drivers?

or do you silently thank them for testing the five mile track of axle-deep quiver-sucking mud that the roads have suddenly become because it's MUD SEASON and that's the way we all drive?

woo! mud bogging! we drive in any lane we want!

usually there's a path you can pick that will hold up under the weight of your car.

if not, someone will come and give you a push.

Friday, April 11, 2014


At about five past six thursday morning I was standing in the dark outside the lodge at Bolton Valley waiting for my ride.

If you're anything like me, you think the two coolest things about seeing The Shining were the opening scene in which you suddenly realize that the Dies Irae is playing in the soundtrack and the super cool footage of the snowcat.

When you're skiing sweet corduroy first thing in the morning you should carry an awareness that someone worked all night driving a huge and complex machine up and down the slopes. I have always wondered what it's like to be inside the cab of one of those things.

So Thursday morning I met Mike, the snow reporter, in the hotel lobby at six o'clock and he walked me up to the place where the driver would pick me up on his downhill pass.

It is very quiet on the mountain in the early morning, and very dark. I am often on the mountain when the first chair spins, but that happens after sunrise, so I don't often see the mountain during hours of darkness. Yes, I know they have night skiing and I used to go sometimes but really the best hours of my day are before noon and with my minimal skiing skills and my failure to have a full set of connective tissue in either knee it's best if I go when i'm fresh and the trails are fresh.

It is a weird, silent landscape and I am straining my ears to hear the machine. I see the light way up through the trees and I'm guessing It's on Lower Fanny. Slowly the huge machine comes into view. It drives just past me, then stops. The driver gets out.

This is Bruce.

He comes around to my side and he shows me how to work the door handle (rubber covered and not where you might expect it) and where to step on the steel treads and where the handles are for climbing up into the cab.

Already this is way cool.

The door handle, by the way, once you are up in the cab is not so much a handle as it is a pedal.

The striking thing about the cab is how much of it is window. Past that, the seats are huge and comfortable and there's plenty on foot room right up to the bottom of the windshield, where there's a sort of footrest. That footrest will seem more important to me later.

Bruce has a wide array of controls around his seat: he has a pair of levers for his left hand, and a joystick for his right. The joystick has more buttons than a bassoon. 

OK, not. A bassoon has nine buttons for your left thumb alone and the joystick in this vehicle probably only has six or eight buttons total.

It's still a lot.

And at Bruce's elbow is a console with rows and rows of switches. One of these switches controls the snazzy heated windshield wipers. I can only guess what the other switches do.

Above the driver's seat is a set of controls that works a really cool spotlight that shines out ahead of the cat and swivels very usefully so he can see way out ahead. That's really handy when you're driving a thing the size of a small condo on a ski slope.

Sometimes, Bruce tells me, you slide it a little.

It makes sense, but the idea of sliding a thing with that much mass sounds a little scary to me. When we go up a steep trail, we are nearly lying back in the seats. Going down, nearly standing on the footrests.

We're on trails I know well, but it's a little disorienting because bruce is driving up and down, around and around in circles. up one trail, down another. He makes a pass to smooth the trail and a pass next to it and then one to smooth out the seam until he gets all the way across.

He is so skilled that he seems hardly to be paying attention but I am noticing a lot of complicated machinery making a lot of subtle movements. On the front of the tractor is a 12-way plow. At first I mishear bruce and I think he is telling me it's a 12-weight, and I make a mental note to ask later what that means. 

The blade goes up and down and side-to-side and it tilts and also has remarkably agile side flaps. 'Member that joystick with all the buttons?  Yeah, that.

He uses the blade to scrape snow from where it's too high and to fill the bellies where there's not enough snow. It's kind of delicate; it's important to smooth the snow out so it skis nicely, but also you want to keep most of the profile of the underlying terrain.

The weight of the machine and the tracks themselves pack the snow down quite a lot behind the blade. Those levers for bruce's left hand? They control the treads, which move independently.

Behind the cat is the tiller. This is a huge wide thing with a spinning bar of teeth that chop up the snow very fine and then "dumbo flaps" that shape and comb it down after.

Bruce gives consideration to how many passes he needs to make to make the trail ski well. He thinks about whether beginners will be on a trail, or where bumps should be left in or how the snow will drift and which trails should be done just before the first lift spins. Trails off the Vista Chair need to be done before Vista opens and then he's got another hour to work Timberline.

After that, he grooms a terrain park, which is some fancy driving. 

All those boxes and boards and jumps in the park? They're dug in. You can't just drive over them.  The snow is only right once you have gone over it FORWARD, so anything that has an edge needs backing up and then pulling forward.  Bruce has to back up to the edges of both the takeoffs and the landings and then pull forward. It's close quarters in there, with a lot of turning.

The most impressive driving of the morning, I think, is the part where he does the ramp at the top of the Timberline Chair. When we're there the chair is already spinning, so he has to back the tiller in and pull forward between chairs. 

He could ask the lift op to stop the chair, he tells me, but if he can time it right he doesn't have to. He does it so smooth you almost wouldn't notice.

If he's showing off any, he's got a right to. It's a very good show.

The sun is up. The lifts are spinning. A little boy riding a lift above us waves. We wave back. The boy keeps waving. We wave some more. The boy's dad waves, too. It's the end of Bruce's shift. Before he goes home he has to clean the snow off the blades and fuel up the cat. He drops me off at the lodge and drives off toward the shop, snow falling.

The mountain is waking up. The snow is perfect.

I'm going home.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

two modes of dinner at my house

mode 1: i plan a meal, assemble the ingredients, and prepare the meal in such a fashion as the elements arrive on the plate at more or less the same time. this is then eaten on the sofa.

mode 2: i wander into the kitchen and begin eating whatever is in reach while preparing items that may or may not be entrées or side dishes and more often than not eat them as they become ready. even when i have consumed enough food to make a meal, for some reason i am not yet not hungry and so wander around the house thinking: maybe i should eat something crunchy. no, wait. i HAD something crunchy. what i really want is some of those horrid little gummy candies, but i don't have any, so maybe a little dish of bittersweet chocolate chips will suffice?

man, i really have to get a grip.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

from a cold morning

i wanted to show you this earlier, but you know. hard drive problems.

this is sunshine through mist on a wicked cold morning.

and see that brown streak on the snow? that's the shadow of the smoke from a neighbor's stove.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


i would love to show you pictures of the bruises, but it's too hard to take off my tights except if i really need to pee, and if it's ok with you, that's not the best time for me to be taking pictures.

sunday was closing day on the mountain. unless you just came in in the last ten minutes, you know this.

so i went skiing. and it was FABULOUS. and run by run i said goodbye to my winter mountain. last run off number one chair. last trip to the firetower. last run down cobrass. last run down fanny hill. ticking them off.

and finally i got to last run of the year.

it was going well, too. i was moving fast.

until i caught an edge and suddenly was not going much of anywhere.

which is sort of not true. the way i remember it, i was going fast and then i was lying in the snow.

the way the eight or nine teenagers who stopped to help described it, "dude, you hit hard.",  "you bounced and flew and bounced again."

apparently i bounced two or three times. and i laid motionless in the snow, unable to even lift a hand. the kids, i think, took my skis and crossed them in the snow above me in the snow, which is a caution sign to uphill skiers. when i got up later they had put them in the snow for me to step into, but the holes were there in the snow from the crossing.

they wanted to know if i needed ski patrol.

i didn't think so. i told them i was going to need a few minutes before i'd be able to move. i did not explain to them that it's a known thing with me that a hard body blow usually results in a temporary total paralysis and sometimes unconsciousness.

i felt myself going dark, but didn't actually pass out. it was weird. it's like when you go halfway through a door and then realize you weren't going there anyway.

one by one, my arms and feet came back online. i could feel all my parts, and i could feel some very bad bruising on my right leg. pretty sure nothing broken. no familiar snap of connective tissue, but obviously a lot of, burning pain. felt like broken skin, but under layers of ski clothes. gasping, breathing hard from pain.

i got up. the kids stayed with me until i looked all right. i got back on my skis and very gingerly skied down. at the lodge i managed to get myself out of my boots and into the muck boots i wear between home and the mountain. they're not exactly tight boots. they slip on.

the swelling of that right leg filled up the boot pretty firmly. by the time i got it off,  there was a clear line where the boot had compressed the bruise.

ice, NSAIDs, elevation, good compression tights.

it is a spectacluar bruise, and the swelling was sufficient to prevent me bending the knee much. and yes, i managed somehow to tear the skin. there's a wedge-shaped place where the top layer got peeled off and i guess the flesh twisted enough to tear. it's not too wide, but it looks deepish. i've never see a wound like it, so i don't know exactly  how it would have happened.

today, even through clothing i can see the leg is swollen, but it bears weight ok and as long as i don't jiggle the bruised muscles too much, it's only mildly painful. ice packs are my friends, and i have spent a lot of horizontal time today.

and really, it's no hardship wearing the tights. i pretty much wear athletic tights 24/7 eight months a year by way of long johns and / or pajamas. i am simply choosing to wear my springiest, most supportive pairs for a while.

it's funny, because as the bruise (which is very deep) blooms, the color of it it shaped by the pattern of the wrinkles and seams.

wow. ouch.


but it was an awesome day skiing, and since the mountain is closed, i care little. i'm not missing much.

Monday, April 07, 2014

weeding out

some of the photos i am able to view now that i have my photo library back include such fine images as this one.

in my defense, i took that one sort of by accident while i was learning how to use my new camera.

still, i can't tell it's rubbish and not the thing i wanted to save until i am able to look at it.

and i happened to have had THREE copies of that one and six others like it.

excellent use of disk space.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

open letter to bolton valley ski resort

dear everybody who makes the mountain work,

today is closing day 2014.

that makes me cry a little. it makes me cry a little to say goodbye to the mountain for the year, goodbye to ricker, goodbye peggy dow's, goodbye number one chair.

it was a hard season, what with the failure of a lasting and deep snow to arrive especially while all over the country OTHER people who didn't want it so much were getting record snow dumps.

but you guys did all right.

i mean, i don't know how you guys did in terms of ticket sales because while i have more than a passing interest in the financial viability of the mountain, really all i know about is how the skiing looks and what the people say.

the snow was nice. thank you, snowmakers and groomers. it was not lost on a lot of us out here that you took what snow you had and what snow you could make and you did a good job giving us nice skiable surfaces for a season.

and while we're at it, thank you also work crews who service and maintain the trails in summer because i have SEEN those trails in summer and it takes somebody thinking about how the winter trails will groom out later to keep things nice.

and thank you, people who run the lifts. not just the great gang who shuffle us on and off the chairs and keep our takeoffs and landings clear and groomed, but the people who maintain those things because it's a heckuva lot of moving parts. yeah, we notice when you take the time to beat the ice off that seat we're going to sit on, and we notice when you have the golden touch and slow the chair down just right so it doesn't clip the backs of our boots as we get on.

we thank you; our knees thank you.

most of us don't come to the mountain and think: how nice that the lifts aren't all rusted and broken down today. we don't think it because you guys take care of it out of our sight.

and you guys working in the parking lot: thanks for directing the peak traffic, thanks for knowing when to move the cones, and thanks for watching out for us.

hosts, ticket sellers, food workers, hotel workers, all of you: your work it noticed and it is appreciated.

when i am on the mountain i talk to people. and the thing i hear from the people who come and buy lift tickets is that the come and keep coming because you are friendly and affordable. i talked to a group of people who came to vermont to ski stowe and ended up skiing bolton instead. i talked to a group of people who come up from virginia every year to teach their kids to ski, going back three generations.

and me, personally, ricker mountain is the home of my soul. i have been skiing long enough at bolton that my first pass is old enough to vote. do you remember that horrible year the mountain didn't open?

i do.

i had to ski that year at a different ski mountain, a more famous one, one people seem to like a lot.

it's a nice enough mountain, but i hated it. i have no happy memories of that season. the parking was wrong, the lodge was wrong, the trails were wrong, and i was far from my home.

do you guys get what i'm saying here?

it is half about my mountain and it is half about YOU.

my mountain, the mountain i love, is a place i can hang out and have a good time and make myself comfortable because of your work.


it's the last day of the season. when you shut down the lifts today i won't be there. it would be too unbearably sad for me.

but you guys go have some drinks and a nice dinner or something. put your feet up. you have done good work and you deserve to rest.

i'll come up and see the summer mountain when i can, and i'll look forward to seeing you when you start the lifts up again next season.

is it a date then?

thanks for this season, and see you next.

anyone who follows my story knows that i habitually sign all my open letters "love, flask", but some days i really mean it.

like today.

love, flask.

  peggy dow's
today at bolton valley

Saturday, April 05, 2014

end of season

friday afternoon may or may not have been the last of the good skiing for the season. the mountain closes for 2014 sunday afternoon, but right now (friday night) it is raining.

i'll probably go up there this morning anyway, though, since today and tomorrow they will spin the number one chair and even if it's not beautiful skiing, it's still my beautiful mountain.

flicker gallery: today at bolton valley


Friday, April 04, 2014


news flash!

it's official: yesterday morning the audobon society declared that the peregrine falcons have returned to a nesting site (somewhere near here).

i was on my way tot he mountain for some morning skiing and on my way i came across a couple of people standing in the road with spotting scopes.

now, i have been birderwatching before, so i recognize the look. and quite frankly if something interesting is going on i will pull over and ask about it.

it's kind of a way of life for me.

so i got to talk with the nice lady from the audobon society and her associate, and i got to look through their very nice spotting scopes.

a peregrine falcon is an impressive bird, and it is super cool to see the male bring lovely gifts of freshly dead stuff to the female.

so the cliff is closed to climbers until the chicks hatch.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

bread pudding

"flask", i hear you ask. "how can i make awesome bread pudding like yours?'

well, i am here to help.

start with stale bread. i like to use homemade bread, and maybe a quickbread that got freezerburned. you can use any bread but if you start with good bread, you're going to get a pudding with more flavor.

i use about 3/4 of a loaf. take whatever bread you're using, cut it up into cubes and toss it into a big bowl. toss the cubes with spices. i always use cinnamon, and usually cloves and a little ginger. i also like coriander and cardamom and today i tried out a little sumac.

then put in raisins. you can use as many or as few as you like. i like a lot of raisins, both black and white.

meanwhile, take some nice eggs, two or three, and beat them lightly. splash in about three cups of milk and some vanilla. i tend to go heavy on the vanilla. put maple syrup in that mix. don't skimp on the maple. and use good maple. don't even bother to measure it. put a lot in.

then pour the wet mix in on the dry mix and stir it up some. mash it more for a denser pudding. mash less for fluffier. tuck the whole thing into a lightly greased loaf pan (i like a baking spray), and pour a couple of tablespoons of melted butter over the top.

stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for a while, until a knife comes out dry-ish if you stick it in. not dry, like a bread, but you shouldn't be drawing out liquid.

when it's done, take it out of the oven and let it rest until it's cool enough to eat without burning your mouth. then but it on a flat plate and put maple syrup on it. use a flat plate so you can lick it clean without pulling a muscle.

it's kind of like french toast loaf.

i like it. i like it very much.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


the fun doesn't end when your data gets recovered and you fire up your photo program.

today i held my breath and opened iphoto to start importing the photos that i took during the hiatus and discovered that while the photos are all there, they lack the sorts of labels that i am accustomed to enjoying, such as the dates they were taken.

and there was a lot of video i shot before the crash. video takes up a LOT of room.

a  LOT.

and some of it is garbage, but some of it is stuff i needed.

but you need to be able to look at it in order to determine which things are the ones you need.

and because of the panic of the crash, i needed to make sure i had things saved and because of a downloading glitch i had multiple copies of some of it.

it is taking time to review and delete the copies because i can't trust the labels. and i have to relabel the whole library. while i'm in there i'm doing a little housecleaning and throwing out pictures that on sober reflection i don't need anymore.

short version: i still have no photos to show you.

in other news, i made bread pudding today.

why? because for some reason cookie seems to think i should make pudding.

stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


i know you were all dying to know: i got my hard drive back today. i also had a meeting with the mediator. i'm never good for anything after those meetings, so this morning i did an amazing proactive thing: i made a batch of freezer burritos.

so. food.

and drumroll:


all my photos are back.

maybe tomorrow i will post some.
maybe tomorrow i will make pudding.


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