Maine Event

Today on Alphabet City: Frequent trips to Maine help Jon Paul realize why he doesn’t ski.

I’m just not cut out to be a ski bum.  You might think I would have learned this valuable lesson much earlier in life.  But since I’ve never hit the slopes on a regular basis, it took several recent trips to Maine to reach this important realization.

Growing up in Texas, my family took exactly one trip to Colorado for a ski vacation at Christmas.  While my older sisters flirted with their hunky instructors, I spent most of my time worrying about breaking my leg (a phobia to this day) and wondering how Santa would fill my snow boots with presents.  The return flight on the propeller plane was so choppy that I vomited all over my mother’s expensive coat, which she left in the airport (and has never let me forget).

For many years I avoided snowy sports, until Chef began pestering me about going skiing.  He acted as if in Mexico City he ran Black Diamond trails down the pyramids.  I finally relented one New Year’s and we journeyed to Vermont.  Wanting to level the playing field, I insisted we learn a new sport together, so we took a snowboard lesson.  I declared myself an expert when I made it to the bottom of the bunny hill in one run, while Chef toppled over immediately and had to roll his way down.  Once triumphant, I’ve never felt the need to ride a board again.

Competition at check-in

Skiing reared its powdery head again when my client Doug Hall informed me a few months ago that I’d be spending a lot of time in Maine for a project.

“Try to turn down the New York thing.  And I hope you like to ski!” he said.

I tried to tamp down my panic by reminding myself that recently I’d been building my athletic confidence by playing lots of tennis.  I figured I could take on skiing next.  I imagined sexy mountain men and picturesque snow.  This would be fun!

Then on the first trip, Maine’s bitter cold slammed into me, and I felt like a wimp walking around the University of Maine campus.  While I was bundled up in no less than four layers and three hats battling the temperature of 10 below, undergrads sauntered around in shorts and sandals like it was Spring Break in Cancun.

Would have never dawned on me

But I have to say, other than over dressing for the weather, I’m doing a pretty good job in the wardrobe department.  I work hard at leaving behind the flamboyant (some would say faggy) floral pattern shirts, instead choosing solids and plaids.  With my new waterproof hiking books, I’m just a few degrees shy of butch.

But the good times didn’t last forever.  When I was dispatched to Sugarloaf Ski Resort for a conference, things went downhill fast.  There was the three-hour drive from the airport past pistol shooting ranges and Elks Lodges; a sign in the lobby recruiting participants for a casserole competition; and a warning in the men’s room at the health club about wearing diapers in the Jacuzzi.  No, I wasn’t in Kansas any more.  But I might as well have been in Texas.

The two states might be semi-opposites geographically, but demographically they’re pretty similar.  Take away the Texas brashness, and you’re left with the Maine “don’t-tell-us-how-to-do-things” authenticity.  For a place filled with frigid weather, the citizens are as warm as Southerners.  They are friendly greeters, constantly push food on me, and never once teased me about wearing too many layers or being ski-phobic.

Maybe I’m doing a better job of toning down the New York attitude than I imagine.

Come to think of it, I’ve got the perfect recipe for King Ranch Chicken to enter in that casserole competition.  But diapers in the hot tub—that one I’m still trying to figure out.

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