Teacher, Photographer, Giver of Hugs

That used to be my bio on Instagram.  It also says “still pronounce my R’s despite living in Boston for ten years.”  That part I’ll have to change soon because the word “habar” has come out of my mouth recently!!!!!

I recently changed it recently to “skier, photographer, giver of hugs.”  I put skier first now, because I like to brag like that!!!!

But here I’m going to focus on the giver of hugs part.  That part took the longest to develop.  For once, this wasn’t a lesson I got from skiing.  This I got when I started being a teacher and from church.  Empathy or comfort was not natural for me until I started being a teacher and I had to cope with a million emotions a day from the students.  It made me grow patience and empathy.

Well I guess skiing had a little to do with it too.  When I started going skiing, I saw a lot of adaptive skiers at the different places I went.  I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw a guy wearing a sign that said “BLIND” and he’s zigzagging down the hill.  One of the ski instructors told me the blind skiers go faster than the sighted skiers.

I remember another time seeing a skier wearing a special Olympics lanyard.  He was in line with the rest of us and he had about 50 ski tickets attached to his jacket.  There he was, the same as us, in line waiting to zoom down the mountain.  I was even envious of all of his ski tickets!!!!

What also really got my attention were the paraplegic skiers or those in the adaptive sitting skis.  Skiing has been such a psychological life line for me and I can imagine it is very much the same way for a person who has a disability.  I am always happy to see an instructor going up on a chair lift with one of those skiers.  Not only is the person on the adaptive ski getting to learn about an amazing sport but they know that the instructor is going to be there for them for the entire day.

Skiing has given me so much over the years.  Most of all, it has given me a feeling of confidence.  In the pictures below, there is one of a trail at Loon I skied.  It was very steep but I assessed it and handled it.  When I see myself handling the bumps and the steep parts of the mountain, I know I can pretty much handle everything else too.  Because life is full of black diamonds, some easier to handle than others.

I’ve heard within the past few days that Betsy “Ten Yachts” Devos, that empty hairdo in a pant suit, tried to get federal funding cut for the Special Olympics.  I’m going to leave further ridicule of her to the late night talk show hosts.  I try to stay apolitical up here.  What I will say is that it takes a really special kind of a cruel person to deprive people whose abilities are different than ours the chance to experience sports.  For a person like me who is abled and is privileged enough to go skiing, the sport has given me confidence beyond measure.  I’m more accountable and more organized, thanks to skiing.  It has made me care about my own well being and fitness level to an extent I never had before.  I can only imagine what skiing or any other sport can do or mean for a person who has been told their entire life that they will never live the life that we all take for granted.

Thanks Loon for this unbelievable season.  And I got to ride the little train!!!!!  I might be a little excited about that!!!!

new hampshire loon ski resort flume 2new hampshire loon ski resort mountain viewnew hampshire loon ski resort octagon lodgenew hampshire loon ski resort steam train 1new hampshire loon ski resort steam train 2new hampshire loon ski resort steam train 3new hampshire loon ski resort steam train 4

This Never Gets Old

I’m getting crazy nostalgic this year.  This is the year that marks ten years of me living in Boston.  As I write that, it seems unbelievable to me.

My initial plan when I came here was to stay a year, at the most.  I didn’t even think I’d make it the year.  I’d learn to be an English teacher and move to Paris or Rome and just live there.  Falling in love with Boston was a slow process.  The first year, I thought what is there even to do here?  The second year, the skiing thing started and it has happily continued into a crazy all consuming obsession.  I mean I don’t really need to talk about that because a lot of my entries cover that already.

Its funny because I’m almost continually here.  I never really leave, maybe for a week or two weeks at the most.  I realized that not only have I lived here longer than any other place I have lived in my life, but I’m continuously here.  I go to Vermont or New Hampshire for snow related fun but I always return.  I’ve lived in Boston longer than the total time I spent in my life in Poland, longer than the time I spent in high school and college put together and longer than I lived in Manhattan.  Crazy.

I realized too that I’ve also been in so many different buildings here.  I went to college in Albany, New York and there was a concert hall there as part of this concrete complex named after Nelson Rockefeller.  There’s also the state capitol building.  I never went into either, never had any curiosity about those places and really didn’t care about them.  Here I’ve been in the state house upwards for 100 times.  Same with almost every museum in this place.

And somehow it never gets old.  I love my weekends in Vermont, my afternoons in Coolidge Corner.  Ten years.  Is a long time.  But it can also be a good time.

Speaking of things I return to a lot, here are some pictures of Boston covered in snow.  That also never gets old:

The League of Professional Museum Goers

Here I go again.  Yesterday I visited the Museum of Fine Arts, for probably the 400th time.  I’m exaggerating, but maybe not by much.  It was a really fun afternoon with a big group of Japanese high school kids.  I took them around to see what I thought were the funnier parts of the museum, like the sculpture made out of paper cups, the painting in the American wing where all the faces are the same and a little history lesson with the portraits for the first couple presidents of the United States.  One of them even asked me what my favorite painting was in the museum.  It’s a John Singer Sargent of a lady wearing an amazing red dress, but it seems to have been moved.

Walking around though, I realized I hadn’t shot the place using my wide angle lens yet.  It was fun to do, just kind of give the place a new look.

See if you like it:

museum of fine arts rotunda up stairs viewmuseum of fine arts rotunda upwardmuseum of fine arts rotunda round viewmuseum of fine arts balloons ceilingmuseum of fine arts modern wing paper cup sculpturemuseum of fine arts modern wing wide view

This Persistent Vagabondage

Yeah self important title, but stay with me.  It will get good.

So its time for my annual skiing contemplation blog entry.  Scroll down for the photographic magic if you are not a fan of reading.

Good.  You decided to stay.  Well, here’s a bit of what I have been thinking about on the ski lift of late.  The first thing I thought of lately is that skiing is hugely private for me.  We leave in the middle of the night for the trips.  Getting up at 4:15am is normal.  Sometimes its 3:45am.  I get on the bus and I fall asleep IMMEDIATELY.  Then I wake up and we’re magically in Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire.  None of my friends ever see me do this and my family doesn’t either.  I don’t see anyone I know on the mountain.  Sometimes I might run into people from the ski club that I go on the trips with, but mostly I do this solitary.

Maybe this would bother some people but not me.  Skiing is my own private thing that I just do alone.  I also like the fact that I’m mostly silent for the entire day.  I like talking to the people on the lifts, especially ski patrol but sometimes its just me and my fellow skier heading up the mountain, alone in silence.  Sometimes people start conversation with me in the lodge, sometimes not.  But this silence helps me straighten out whatever I need to straighten out for the week or from a long time before.

Ah yes, the vagabondage that is included in the title.  It refers to a line from Philipe Petit, my favorite folk hero, the crazy person who swung a tight rope between the two towers of the World Trade Center.  He said that when other worlds invite us, that we must go.  That’s how I feel about skiing.  He also said that his walk between the towers was an intimate performance between him and the towers, which is also how I feel about skiing.  My persistent vagabondage, testing the laws of gravity with the waxed boards on my feet.

I’m up there hitting my own goals and milestones too.  They aren’t milestones that make sense to most people.  I skied this black six times in a straight line.  I skied it four times and I carved half of the way down.  I need to do that run again because I was turning too much.  I could go faster than I was going before.  I stayed on black until 3:45pm, the end of the ski day.  Perfecting, perfecting, perfecting.  I was talking to my mom recently about skiing and of course I used an analogy from my other favorite sport, gymnastics.  I’m more Morgan Hurd than Olga Korbut.  Morgan is the pint sized, glasses wearing, incredibly poised 17 year old who was world champion in 2017.  Her gymnastics is about perfect execution and beauty.  She’s not a daredevil like Olga Korbut.  Neither am I.  Early on, I realized its a sport about form, not speed.  Then I really fell in love.

Well, anyway, some photography here at the end.  Sorry I didn’t take more pictures.  I was too busy skiing:

sunday river barker mountain march 3 2019 1sunday river barker mountain march 3 2019 2sunday river barker mountain march 3 2019 4sunday river barker mountain march 3 2019 shadow me

A Little Snow Changes Everything

All you need is a little snow to change everything.  Sometimes just a little thing changes everything.  Boston covered in snow is really delightful.

This was from a couple of days ago.  I had a lot of things to do but I still ran home to get my camera to go out and photograph the snow.  I love how the snow changes the city and makes it all so silent.  Its not just pretty but it changes the mood.  The night time also adds to it and makes it look kind of surrealistic.

The Boston snow globe:

The Coolest High School You Never Went To

So I wore my Patriots hat and my Gronkowski Polish for Touchdown sweatshirt.  I went skiing on Super Bowl Sunday and I didn’t watch the game.  Of course the Patriots won.  It was because of me.  I know.

Well of course not, but I feel like I played a part in it and living in Boston, it feels like we all play a part in it.  A friend asked me what it is about the Patriots that makes them so appealing.  Of course you have the QB that keeps getting better, the Gronky man child Golden retriever who reads from his own erotic fan fiction, the curmudgeon of a coach and the owner, who intentions and instincts are good but whose friends could stand to be a bit less…. orange?

But these are all characters?  What makes the Patriots so appealing?

I was not a football fan until I moved to Boston.  I could name maybe five football players and I absolutely did not care about football, even a little bit.  People would tell me when the Super Bowl was and who was playing and I couldn’t have cared less.

When I moved here, I became a Pats fan.  Slowly.  Very very very slowly.  Of course there’s Tom Brady, who everyone knows.  He’s handsome and humble and good natured.  I knew about him.  Then I got introduced to the man child, Rob Gronkowski.  I was watching an episode of Top Chef and he gets there and demands a Polish sausage because he’s Polish.  I bought my sweatshirt and I was in love.

A couple of years ago I bought a Patriots hat that I wear for the entirety of winter.  Its kind of funny because I see everyone in the city of Boston wearing the same hat or similar hats.  I realized over time that the Pats are like our high school team.  Robert Kraft is like the principal of this mythical high school and the Pats are our football team.  We all proudly wear our Pats gear because we all want to show our allegiance to our team.

This has particular resonance for me as a proud high school hater.  I wasn’t part of the popular crowd and far away from the football team and that whole thing.  But secretly I always wanted to be part of it.  I didn’t understand why I wasn’t.  Those people always looked a lot happier than me.

So now I have my high school football team, even if I graduated from high school oh well, let’s say MANY years ago.  And Tom Brady is much more attractive than the quarterback at my high school anyway!!!!!!

Our high school football team, but with more bling:

boston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 bill belichek sweatshirtboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 cheerleaders 2boston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 cheerleadingboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 julian edelman confettiboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 lombardi trophyboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 nate ebner jumal wiltzboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 patriots owner robert kraftboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 player with wwe beltboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 players 3boston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 playersboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 rob gronkowski beer cansboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 shaq mason marcus cannonboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 sign LA is our bitchboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 tom brady wavingboston new england patriots super bowl celebration february 5 2019 tom brady with son

On Being A Non-conformist conformist. And skiing. Of course.

Buckle your seat belts in my blog reading public.  It’s going to be a long read tonight for our fireside chat.  Scroll down and skip the prose for the pictures.

So I promise this will circle back to skiing eventually, but right here we’re going to discuss the aforementioned non-conforming conformity.  Or the conforming non-conformity.  I can’t remember which way it went. Oh well.  Let’s just start.

So up until 8th grade I was major league, out of control obsessed with the Beatles.  I could tell you every song, every album, everything about the band.  I could tell you their history, about their time playing the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.  I mean i took it upon myself to learn what the Reeperbahn even is or was in the days when the Beatles played it.  I loved that band.

When I got to junior high school in the god forsaken hell hole we moved to when I was 12, I found out quickly that liking the Beatles was profoundly uncool.  Not only had I made the mistake of having spent the first four years of my life in the wrong country, but now I was listening to the wrong music.  I was still in my Beatles t-shirt in a sea of New Kids on the Block t-shirts.  But I stuck to my guns through it all.

Well in ninth grade, the New Kids on the Block t-shirts got turned inside out and became Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts.  I stuck steadfastly to my Beatles until a friend made me a mix tape with a few heavy metal songs on it.  Among them was Unforgiven by Metallica.  I really thought this was a great song and they were very musical.  The guys in the band seemed to have some kind of integrity and their drummer was from Denmark, geographically close to Poland.

Music in general in that time period changed.  Pop went quiet for a while and grunge sort of took over.  Music became serious.  Everyone was angry.  At what I have no idea.

A lot of bands suddenly became famous during the time period like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  Still others got more famous like Metallica and Guns and Roses.

As soon as I kind of declared myself to be a fan of this music, I was labeled a poseur.  No where was this more evident than the song “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  To this day I consider this to be one of the most perfectly created pieces of music ever created.  I remember sitting in my teenage bedroom just listening to this song.  It made an impact that’s for sure.

But here was the thing.  You couldn’t just like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  One does not simply like the Chili Peppers FOR ONE SONG.  So I found out at the age of 16.  You weren’t a Chili Peppers fan if you just liked that one song.  You were only a fan if you were a Chili Peppers fan before Under the Bridge.

The same went for Metallica.  “Unforgiven” was very popular at the time, but again, you weren’t a REAL Metallica fan if you only liked that one song.  You could only call yourself a fan if you had listened to Master of Puppets and Kill ‘Em All.  The fact that these albums came out when most of my peers were still carrying Flintstones Lunch Boxes to their fourth grade classes seemed immaterial.

There was this one kid who was a fan of Green Day, before they were really popular, before their songs were played at every single prom and college graduation in the Western Hemisphere, including mine.  He was crazy about Green Day and they were poised for fame.  The band was just there on the edge of it.  I knew that once we all started listening to “his” band, he would let us have it because “he liked them first.”

For what its worth, one of the most memorable moments from my college graduation was hearing Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”  Somehow it felt like exactly the right thing to hear at exactly the right time.

When I went to college, the whole thing got even worse.  In my freshman year, I fell in with some people who were into hard core music.  Well more specifically, my college roommate, who is still my best friend, her boyfriend at the time was a fan of this music.  At the time I would have called him a friend but now I’d call him an age equal peer whose interests dovetailed with mine.  Slightly.

There wasn’t much to do at our upstate college so we went to a lot of “shows.”  This is how the shows went.  We’d be gathered in a room the size of your average finished basement.  Then a heavily tattooed young man sporting many piercings would take the stage.  He’d make a call out to the spirits and begin to yell into the microphone.  This was the “show.”

After the show, everyone would gather back together.  Usually there was a discussion afterwards about music.  But not one where a person could freely express what they actually thought.  It was more a discussion of which bands had “sold out.”  If you think that means that they sold out every ticket at their show, you’d be wrong.  No, it meant that this band had gone corporate.  They had sold out to “the man.”  Even then I found this talk tiresome and boring.  The conversations would go something like this.  A random group member would name a band.  Inevitably, there would be a chorus of “they sold out.”  OMG, their video was on 120 minutes!!!!!!  (A show at the time on MTV that highlighted lesser known rock acts).  (Deepest eye roll).

I think I might have said at some point that I liked Metallica, which was meant with a chorus of “OMG, they SO sold out.”  They were actually popular and popular things were to be derided.  “Popular” things were only liked by the sheeple.  Being a “nonconformist” meant you didn’t follow the sheeple.

I know if you’ve read all the way down to here, you are very tired of all of this.  Don’t worry.  We’re getting there.

I remember even at the time thinking that all of this talk was downright stupid.  It is the dream of every professional musician to make a living playing music.  Only a small percentage of even professional musicians make enough money to live on from their music.  I guess once they did, there would be a bunch of haters nearby to judge them.

After all of this, my taste in music basically became a state secret.  I NEVER shared this with anyone.  I mean why would I after being so harshly judged for it, right?

Then something kind of interesting happened and its connected to skiing.  Thank you for patiently waiting for this all of reach a conclusion.  The ski resorts blast music a lot of times on the slopes.  It adds to the general atmosphere and hey, it makes people feel good.

I was at Wachusett recently and they were playing Good Vibrations by Marky Mark.  Another time I was at Sunday River and they were playing Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison.  At the same resort, I remember there was a band playing Billy Joel covers in front of the lodge.  The music just adds to the great atmosphere at the resort.

For quite a few years, I would tell myself that it was wrong for me to like this mass market, conformist kind of music.  I was a “sell out” for liking these songs, even if I did actually like them.

Last Saturday I was up at Loon, in New Hampshire.  It was one of the top ten skiing days I have ever had in my entire life.  Everything was perfect.  Perfect conditions, perfect temperature.  It just all lined up.

In the lift line, they were playing classic rock, which is usually going in these places.  The Lenny Kravitz song “It Ain’t Over, Til Its Over” started playing at the base lift area.  Everyone was in a really good mood and people started singing along to the song.  I was singing and kind of moving around, as were many of my skiing compatriots.  It was one of those types of beautiful moments you only see in skiing.

I realized at that moment that music should unite us, not divide us.  I know I took too many paragraphs to say this very simple statement, but its true.  I certainly did not stop my fellow skiers and quiz them on when they started liking Lenny Kravitz or if they thought he was a “sell out.”  We just enjoyed the moment all together.

Photos go here.  If you have just scrolled down here, you missed a spirited discussion about musical preferences.  But again, photos go here: