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Monday, March 1, 2010

The Day I Learned To Ski

I was a kid when we lived in Vienna, Austria.  It was during the Frau Olga years when the food was spectacular and the wine flowed freely.  For some reason, I was allowed a glass of red wine with dinner every night unless I requested Fanta.

At the time, my father was dating a stewardess (that's what they were called back then), named Suzi who had a very rich father.  One particular weekend, he invited Suzi,  my father, my brother, Frau Olga, and me to his chalet  in the Austrian Alps for a weekend of eating and skiing.  I knew how to eat. I didn't know how to ski.

At the top of a very big mountain, everyone took turns teaching me how to ski. How to turn.  How to stop.  How to ride the lift.  Even now, I have a short attention span.  Back then I had NO attention span.  So, thinking I had mastered the art and sport of skiing, they placed a schilling in my mitten, for the lift, and told me to go down a few yards, then turn and stop.  A quick shove to my back to get me started, and off I went.
I didn't know how to turn, much less how to stop.  Down the mountain I flew screaming at the top of my lungs.  I was avoiding trees and bumps and most everything until I slammed into some people taking a "ski break" toward the bottom of the mountain.  Down we all went.  No one was hurt.  I was too horrified to even be embarrassed.  Unfortunately, I lost my schilling in the snow and had no way to get back to the top where all my people were.  I saw people side-stepping their way back up, but my skis were teeny weeny and it would have taken an entire day, so I sat in the snow and waited.

Eventually my people, my caretakers, my ski-instructors came down from the mountain top to find me.  They were laughing and joking about what I good job I had done "skiing" down the grown-up mountain.

I wanted to hide.  I wanted my schilling back.

Thankfully, that was our day of skiing.  Time to stop, get changed and go for lunch.  That I could do.

The place they chose for lunch wasn't a restaurant, really.  It was more of a butcher shop with tables.  Food is food when you're cold and tired.  There was beer for them and hot chocolate for me.  We sat at a table with a big glass window overlooking another room.  A white room.  Inside the room was a gigantic skinned and be-headed cow, tied and quartered from wall to wall, suspended in mid air.  I was fascinated, at first.
A big man dressed in white walked into the room, took a very large knife, and split the cow from top to bottom, letting all of the inside stuff spill onto the concrete floor.  A big pile of bloody stuff.  It was quickly hosed down into a drain The cow was taken down and removed  Everything went back to normal.


I didn't say a word.  I didn't eat.  I sipped on my hot chocolate, staring into the white room.

That was the day I learned to ski.  I haven't tried it since.

Not even with the enticement of great food as a reward.

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