Jan 292010

After an ungodly wakeup time of 4:30 a.m., and I hit the road at about 5 a.m. toward Crystal Mountain Resort, near Thompsonville, MI. Four hours and an uneventful drive later, I was signed up, suited up, geared up, and ready to fall on my ass. Repeatedly.

There were only two of us in the class: me and a 14 year old named Kristen. The instructor was the beautiful Jessie Jones, a 23 year old woman from Traverse City. We started with the parts of the board, then how to “pedal” it: scooting it along flat ground with one foot out of the bindings. Once we practiced sliding down a short section of Totem Park, the practice slope, we put both feet in and learned the difference between toe- and heel-edging: basically which edge of the board to apply pressure to in order to stay upright, move, and steer downhill.

We practiced that for a bit and it started to make sense, until we chained heel-edging with toe-edging in order to make C-shaped turns down the hill. My initial early progress kind of fell apart, but I persevered until the lesson was over at noon. It was during the first lesson that I really appreciated having a helmet, after banging the back of my head on the snow a few times, and understood why Jayson recommended hip pads, which I didn’t have.

Andy and I regrouped for lunch, then he took me back to Totem Park to continue lessons, as he used to be a snowboard instructor himself. Things went along relatively well, until he dragged me up one of the lifts to the top of Main Street, the first slope above Totem Park in difficulty. In my initial terror, I expected he’d just send me down on my own, but he pretty much held onto me part of the way down and reinforced what Jessie had already taught me.

Things didn’t fall apart until he turned me loose, at which point I spent more time in the snow rather than on it. After a head-smack that really rung my chimes, I yanked off the board in frustration and anger and walked the rest of the way down the hill. A guy from Ski Patrol pulled up a couple minutes later and asked if there was some reason we were walking. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of, “I can’t do this shit anymore.”

After I cooled off, I asked Andy to leave me on my own in Totem Park for awhile, so I could work on the basics until it started to click. I was overloaded with info, I just needed quiet time to process it all and start turning it into muscle memory. By the time we left for Andy’s parents’ house in Kingsley, I’d made a little progress, but it was becoming clear that the kiddie hill was so short that it was actually hindering me. I ran out of hill before I could really get a feel for what I was doing.

I met Andy’s parents (who are great folks, by the way, and perfect hosts) briefly before they left for the night. We took turns showering and, since I felt like I’d been beaten with a 2×4, I tried to nap before we went to dinner. I dozed off twice but when I closed my eyes I was back on the slope, and kept kicking myself awake.

Jessie had suggested we stop by the Firefly Cafe and Lounge, where she worked in the evenings as a bartender, so we took her advice and had a really good meal. They serve sushi and small-plate items, so I had to try a Leelanau Roll of salmon & dried-cherry cream cheese, along with an Empire Roll (Blue Crab and cream cheese), chasing it down with a pomegranate mojito. Good stuff.

After dinner we had a drink at the bar and talked to Jessie and her friend Keith for awhile, who were heading to Grand Rapids the next day to party. It says something about northern Michigan life when getting away from Traverse City means going to Grand Rapids, but everything’s relative I guess. I also swear Keith was gay, but Andy didn’t pick up on it.

We called it a night after one drink, since we were going cross-country skiing with Andy’s dad the next morning on the Vasa Trail. Shortly after we returned, so did his folks, and we talked for awhile as we put away a bottle of Riesling they had picked up from Left Foot Charley’s, a local vineyard/wine bar. At last I dragged my battered carcass to bed.

Dec 182009


Made it safely to Aruba. The huge lines for immigration were just as I remembered, as is the VERY long traffic light at the intersection to leave the airport and head into town. Renting the car was much faster than we’ve ever experienced, and we got a brand-new Hyundai i10 for the week. It even has aux and USB jacks in the stereo! It has a blistering 76 horsepower, 85 ft. lbs. of torque, and it goes from 0-60! Despite all that, it’s very comfortable, handles well, and it perfectly suited for island driving. It’s also very cute, in the way that hamsters are cute.

The hamsters under the hood, specifically.

Got checked in very quickly as well; no swarms of loud, impatient New Yorkers at the front desk exclaiming how “harrible” everything is. *eyeroll*

Dropped off our stuff in the room and took in the view from the balcony: pool, lagoon, beach, ocean, palm trees, and pelicans flying overhead. I find that I’ve missed this place, despite the ball of stress and frustration I was last time we were here. Called Aaron’s folks, then went into town to get some groceries, drop them off, and walked to Don Carlo’s for dinner about 15′ from the water. Had a fantastic grouper with lemon sauce and capers, and split an order of fried calamari, which usually don’t interest me, but these were perfectly done.

After dinner we walked back, got the car, and headed to the northwest end of the island to check in with the folks and drop off a half gallon of milk, since the mini-mart near them was out of stock until Monday. Now we’re in the room, decompressing, and headed to bed shortly. I want to be up early enough for a workout, breakfast at t’Pannekoekheus, and picking up Clif at the airport around 1pm. After all the redeye flights he’ll have been on, he won’t be much good for anything but lying on the beach until dinner at 7, which is fine with me.

Heard interesting news from a chatty woman and her husband behind us in the immigration line. Apparently the new Riu resort was built in one year, using foreign workers, and it’s a monster that resembles a giant Turkish palace. This is remarkable because NOTHING in Aruba gets built in a year using Aruban labor. They are all most definitely on “island time”, and it’s hard to accomplish much when only one hand is doing work because the other is holding a cell phone all day; construction, grocery stocking, you name it. There is also a contingent of time-share owners who bought into the place while it was going up, but now whom the Riu would like to be rid of so they can be an entirely “all inclusive” resort. Allegedly, they’re resorting to some dirty tricks to do it: ignoring needed repairs, being unresponsive to time-share owners’ requests, robbing safes, etc.

Now just an hour ago, Aaron’s folks told us that The Aruban Resort behind their place hadn’t paid their workers in two months, went bankrupt two days ago, and turned all the guests out on the street. Now the other resorts, and even the government (who takes damage to the tourism trade very seriously), are scrambling to find accommodations for these people. Aaron and I drove past there as we left La Cabana and, sure enough, the lights were on but no one was home.

On top of all that, the refinery on the southeast side of the island closed recently, putting 7,000 people out of work (on an island of about 100,000 people), many of the shops and restaurants in Oranjestad have closed or changed owners, and the resort construction at the cruise ship docks is still stalled after four years. You can see that the tanking of the global economy has even affected a place like Aruba. Despite this, there is new construction that’s actually being completed, the Seaport Casino shops have been renovated, and (horror of horrors) Starbucks has finally opened a store right by our hotel, signaling that their global domination is nearly complete.

Dec 162009

16 oz. water
2.5 scoops of soy protein powder
1 banana (for insulin spike)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp Splenda
4-6 ice cubes

Add water, protein powder, cocoa powder, and Splenda to blender.
Break up banana and add to blender.
Add ice cubes..to…
Lecture husband about leaving all the ice cube trays empty when he used them last.
Refill ice trays. Grumbling optional.
Put lid on blender and start on low power.
Noticing lack of movement inside, switch to medium power.
Detecting the smell of ozone from the struggling motor, stop the blender.
Add another 8 oz. of water.

Blend on high until mixture tries to escape its confines and roam the city. Should this occur, don’t worry: the first time it tries to find parking in Ann Arbor, it will return gratefully to the blender.

Pour contents into large cup, and peer cautiously over the rim until the bubbling subsides. Carefully take an experimental sip to check if the level of "icky" exceeds the drinkability threshold.

Pleasantly surprised that this concoction doesn’t suck as badly as expected, pour the chocolate-banana-soy cement mix down your throat, congratulate yourself on your dedication to the art of lifting heavy things, and try not to think about how you long to order a pizza.

Posted via email from Nerdimus Prime

Dec 062009

Many of you have seen the bathroom which was purple from the ceiling on down. It is purple no longer. I've spent most of the entire weekend taping, putting three coats on the ceiling, and just finished the first coat on the walls.

The ceiling is now "Sea Pearl", which is one shade of green away from white. The walls are a forest green but at the moment, until it dries and darkens, it's what I'd call "Green Lantern". It really makes the white trim and fixtures pop.

FYI: Painting around a toilet, and a free-standing sink anchored to the wall, is a pain in the ass.

Posted via email from Nerdimus Prime

 Posted by at 7:27 pm
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