REALLY, REALLY BIG TROUBLE #8 in a series

see all the photos in the photogallery

 

Hi! With any luck, this letter will not have to be pumped out in quite so hurried a fashion as the last one. I cannot believe the speed at which life is currently carrying me along! In the back of my head, there's a little guy going "Aye, captain, but the wee engines canna take this speed much longer", and another one raging "I don't give a damn, Scotty, I need warp factor sixteen now". This is usually followed by a strange grinding noise and smoke pouring out of my ears...

Letter #7 left off with Katie and I slowly sipping glasses of heated Remy VSOP (aka cognac) in a cozy little room with a roaring fireplace, listening contentedly to the piano player sing songs of a big, warm hearted, opened skied Texas that clearly existed only in her demented imagination. Still, it was very pleasant, the more so because we knew we wouldn't have to face the reality of Killeen "I'd rather be in a Hawaiian Airlines 747" Texas for much longer. Although the Road Runner exercise was to continue for another week, an emergency meeting for JESS subtask managers on the subject of next year's schedule had been called for Wednesday. Katie and I were to fly out Monday evening in order to have a day to prepare for it. This was not looked upon with favor by Colonel Clarke, the head of BCTP and the man in charge of the exercise, since his vapid fumblings with JESS operating parameters had created almost as much confusion as would have been caused by JESS outputting all information in Chinese. As it stood, the exercise was not going well at all. It was not, however, our problem, and truth be told, we were planning on going skiing with friends Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the following weekend at Mammoth, and were thus secretly pleased at the turn of events.

We flew out of Austin as planned, exhausted from a week (more in Katie's case) of fourteen hour days running frantically from crisis to crisis. We got back very late on Monday, jet lagged and still on Texas time, slept fitfully, and headed into work at about 6 a.m.. Tuesday was a frantic rush to get our material together for the meeting the next day. Constant rumblings went through the entire JESS staff as rumors of death and destruction in Texas were heard from those poor individuals who had been left behind in the clutches of the evil Col. "Son of Manson" Clarke. Finally, Katie was called in by the project manager. She, he, and the senior division staff member responsible for JESS were going back to Texas. That night. In fact, they had tickets on the 1:30 a.m. red eye to Austin.

Katie and the others flew to Austin and caught a little four prop puddle jumper airplane to Killeen, where a car was being held for them at the curb. They were whisked off to the exercise site, arriving about 9:00 a.m.. Katie worked until about 11:00 p.m. that night, went to her hotel room for four hours of sleep, and returned to the site early Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon, the exercise ended successfully as scheduled, and all of the JPLers boarded their various flights for home. Katie arrived in Los Angeles late Thursday night.

The Wednesday emergency meeting had been postponed to Friday, and we showed up bright and early to discuss schedules. We had mentally kissed any thought of skiing good bye (at least I did...Katie felt like her head had been stuck in one of those silly devices that scramble eggs in the shell, and could not have been accused of anything remotely resembling mental activity), but due to some kind of serious management screw-up the one day meeting was actually finished in one day. We looked at each other. I was still dead tired from the trip. Katie looked like the lead villain from "Friday the 13th". The amount of energy between the two of us wouldn't have powered a digital watch. Fortunately, neither of us had a digital watch, so we decided to expend our efforts on driving up to Mammoth.

Jeff Stern and Alison had already left for my condo the night before along with a larger group of friends that were staying in a different spot. I told them when they left that there was a less than 10% chance of Katie and I making it up. So when we arrived at about 11:30 p.m., I attempted to discretely warn them of our impending intrusion by kicking the front door as hard as I could about sixty times. I began whistling Dixie in a loud, off key way as we walked in. "HI!" I yelled in a subdued "you are about to be run over by a truck" kind of yell. Katie and I listened. There was no spoken response, but the loft was groaning and shuddering like a living thing. Katie looked at me in amazement. "They must be going at it like CRAZED WEASELS up there" she cried. "Relax", I said from three years of prior experience with Jeff, "That's just Stern snoring". I jumped up the stairs, three at a time. "HEY FOLKS, YOU SLEEPING OR WHAT!?!" I cried. A few moments of confused babbling were heard, followed by a more understandable if non-verbal means of communication as the two tossed several pieces of discarded clothing at my head. "WELL, I GUESS I'LL JUST LET YOU GUYS GET SOME SLEEP" I spit out hurriedly as I dodged the evil smelling fruit-of-the-loom missiles. I retreated down the stairs, and I and Katie settled in for the night.

The next morning dawned like a thousand radiant pins jammed into the back of my brain. Forcing sleep numbed eyelids to open took more effort than they expended building the Empire State Building. I attempted to rise, and the little pins started dancing capriciously in and out of my head in a twisted and painful fashion. I stared at Katie's slowly opening bloodshot eyes. "How are you feeling" I asked in a deep rasp. "Fine" she groaned back, "How about you?" I took stock. The pins had been replaced with tent stakes in the process of being driven in deeper by the Los Angeles Rams armed with bowling balls for hammers. My throat felt like someone had run a sandpaper coated rotor rooter up and down it about six hundred times. The used sandpaper must have then been slipped behind my eyeballs. "I feel great" I gasped back, "can't wait to get on the slopes". Katie looked at me for a moment. "Me too". We both collapsed back into bed.

We did eventually make it to the slopes, however. Katie had a set of equipment that had clearly been the fad a while back, like around the time of the Model T. She hadn't been skiing in a few years. Alison was inexperienced, but had that "go for it" attitude usually found in the case histories of recently deceased, suicidally insane individuals. I and Jeff, of course, were power skiers, by which I mean "fearless and stupid". It was shaping up to be a heck of a skiing party.

Alison did take Saturday off to study and thereby missed a rather exciting time. We were returning from the back side of Mammoth after a day of hard skiing. Katie was getting up to speed rapidly on her style. As the sun began to sink into the horizon, Jeff and I decided we needed to take the direct route back to the run at which the car was parked. Unfortunately, we neglected to mention to Katie that the direct route took one directly to the top of the mountain, and necessitated skiing down the other side. Fortunately, the lift didn't end up at the real peak of Mammoth, but a lower part of the ridge called "Scottie's Bowl". Scotties is a relatively easy way off the top, and is vaguely reminiscent of a cliff, only steeper. I knew that one look over the side and Katie would tell us both to jump off a bridge. Luck was with us, however, because the top was shuddering under sixty mile an hour winds blowing rock hard ice flechettes directly in our faces. To look into the sand blaster was to lose the skin and flesh off your face, and it effectively blinded all three of us. As I held up my arms to protect my face, I screamed "GO! GO!" to Katie. She tentatively approached the edge and tried to determine what moronic situation I had landed her in this time. "Trust me!" I yelled over the wind. Katie screwed up her courage and headed down the slope. The wail of terror that immediately followed told me I might have made an error in judgment. We made it down eventually, but it was a long, cold ride.

The next day when Alison was skiing with us, we decided not to make the same mistake again. We were returning from the back side again, but this time we decided to take an easier way down. We ended up on the top of fairly steep slope which flattened out, had a short but steep looking drop, and then flattened out again for a long distance. We glanced at the short drop. It looked like it might be more of a cliff than a steep hill. On the other hand, if we took it slow, we would have to pole ourselves over the long, flat section. "OK" I said, "I'll go first, and if it looks too bad I'll hold my ski poles up in a cross". Everyone agreed that this was an acceptable plan. I jumped my skis downhill and took off. I knew I needed speed, and could only hope that the short drop wasn't totally vertical. I hit it fast, and it was STEEP. I dropped a couple of feet, hit the snow tucked, ripped straight down the ten foot slope, slammed into the flat section with my knees bent, absorbing the tremendous impact, and swished off down the long flat section. "No problem!" I thought to myself. As my speed start to come off, I twisted and looked behind me.

Katie was about to hit the steep section. A moment's doubt struck me. It was a pretty big impact when you transitioned from the steep slope to the flat part. Katie went over the edge, and I could see her body stay up as she extended her legs to get the skis back on the snow. She zipped down the slope and hit the inflection point, her legs collapsing under the impact of the transition. Fortunately, she sat back on her skis and didn't fall. She pulled herself back upright, still skidding along on the flat section, and got back under control about three feet short of the woods. She lost most of her velocity, however, and started slowly poling her way over to me. Alison was next. Alison went over the lip with all the grace of a whooping crane in a tornado. Arms, legs, head and body were all facing in different directions as she desperately attempted to windmill her way back to the top of the dip. Unfortunately gravity, velocity, and inertia conspired against her and she hit the bottom of the slope with the splat of pancake batter hitting the grill. Her flattened body slowly spun in circles as she slid along for a few feet. Jeff Stern stopped to help her up, and I was relieved to she that she was apparently unharmed. They slowly pushed themselves across the flat section. As they approached, I lifted both of my ski poles above my head and made a cross with them. Alison was not amused.

The after skiing activities were fun as well. We joined Jeff's friends for dinner Saturday night. Jeff headed over early to help cook while Katie, Alison and I got ready. I looked at Alison. "What's Jeff cooking?". She was staring off into space with a dreamy look on her face. "Chili", she replied, "he makes the cutest chili". I looked at her strangely. She snapped back to reality sputtering. "I mean tastiest ... the tastiest chili". I had to laugh. Alison was clearly ga-ga over Stern. It would, of course, have been downright despicable to give her a hard time over a little slip like that. So I discretely mentioned it to everyone at the party, who immediately began bringing food over to Alison in a kind of "dinner beauty pageant". Alison's eyes glinted at me in a way that spoke volumes about additional uses for ordinary kitchen appliances, like knives for instance.

I'm sure at this point you've heard enough about skiing at Mammoth. "God", you are saying to yourself, "can't he talk about something other than all the skiing he got in in Northern California?". The answer is "sure I can". So let's proceed to the next topic,

SKIING IN UTAH

Way back at Eric Haine's wedding, Marty Connell and I had discussed skiing in Utah for a week during the winter. Marty ended up buying a house instead of "wasting" his money on skiing, but not until after I spoke with Alex Simmons and he expressed his interest in going. Katie was psyched, and Larry Finkel returned from China just in time to join the mini (* expedition. We were all supposed to meet on the llth of February at the condo in Park City, Utah, that Alex had arranged, and ski until the 18th.

The first order of business was getting the airline tickets.. As it was, a week in Utah skiing was an expensive proposition for two. Round trip tickets between LA and Salt Lake City were running about $278 a piece. I decided it was time to burn a few frequent flier bonus miles on TWA. What I did not take into account, however, was the murphyism of air travel, which reads something like "travel plans involving airlines will not work". TWA exceeded this minimal criteria in a truly impressive fashion. They had no flights between LA and Salt Lake City. In fact, the only route available was to fly LA to St. Louis, and from there to Salt Lake City. Since St. Louis is about two thirds of the way to the east coast, this made about as much sense as flying Boston to Washington DC via Miami.

Fine. If I was going to fly 3,000 miles to reach a destination 800 miles away, however, I and Katie would at least fly first class. So I asked for two first class tickets. "Yes, sir" the agent replied, "and who is the immediate family member who will be traveling with you?". "Immediate family member?" I replied, "can't you just take your girlfriend?" "Oh, no sir" answered the agent. I thought for a moment. "Ummmm... ya, its me and my wife". "Yes sir, and your wife's name?". "Katie" I replied. "That is Katie Dickie, correct?" the agent asked in a no nonsense tone. "What if it isn't?" I replied cautiously. "Well, sir, then you would have to send us a copy of the marriage certificate" the agent replied icily. "Yes, indeed, it is Katie Dickie" I answered quickly. A week later, I had a pair of first class tickets for Dave and Katie Dickie.

When Katie and I arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) , I had her take the car to remote parking while I checked the luggage in. She roared off as I grabbed one of the attendants outside the terminal. I told him we were headed for Salt Lake City via St. Louis, then spent several minutes explaining that I didn't need a lesson in United States geography and that the route was not my idea of fun. Finally he understood that I was not completely brain damaged, just cheap. I slipped him a five spot and asked him to make sure our luggage made it. He seemed rather happy with the tip and guaranteed no problems would be encountered. I headed into the terminal to get the boarding passes.

The clerk at the counter took a look at the tickets. "May I see some identification, sir" he asked politely. "Sure" I replied, doing my best to look confused. He glanced at my drivers license. "And Mrs. Dickie's drivers license?" he asked. "She's off parking the car" I replied with my sincerest "bambi eyes" imitation. The clerk raised an eyebrow. "You're having your wife park the car?" he asked incredulously. I narrowed my eyes. "Why", I asked between gritted teeth, "you have some problem with women DRIVING CARS? Are you some kind of SEXIST BIGOT that thinks women can't handle DRIVING!!!" The clerk drew back in surprise. "Oh no sir, no sir" he replied hurriedly, "I merely ... I mean... ahhhh, why don't I just run off your boarding passes now?". "Yes", I growled, "why don't you just". I picked up the boarding passes after they clacked out of the printer and smugly waited for Katie to show up.

We boarded a DC 10 wide body for St. Louis. First class was first class, of course, and we went through a reasonably impressive quantity of champagne. By odd coincidence, the stewardess in charge of our section was named Kate, and she and Katie hit it off immediately.

We had a long wait in St. Louis, but finally boarded a smaller narrow body jet for Salt Lake City. The first class section in the narrow bodies is only twelve seats, so the stewardess had the opportunity to spend alot of time on each person. She came over to our seat. "Mr. and Mrs. Dickie?" she asked. I glanced at Katie with a smile on my face and she smirked back at me. I turned to the stewardess and said "yes". "Are you NEWLYWEDS?!?" she cried excitedly. I looked at Katie. Katie looked at me. We both suddenly burst out laughing. "Sort of" I intelligently replied to the obviously confused woman. "Is this your HONEYMOON?!?" she continued. I and Katie burst out with new peals of laughter. "Sort of" I replied as I gasped for breath. "When did you get married?" she asked. A pregnant pause followed while Katie and I waited for each other to answer. As the pause lengthened to seconds, we both started laughing again. "Two months" I choked out as Katie pounded on my shoulder. The stewardess was staring at the two of us like we were out of our minds for some reason, and the expression on her face just drove both of us further over the edge, laughing until the tears were streaming down our eyes. Finally the stewardess realized that something was up and left us to our own devices.

We landed in Salt Lake City about 9:30 p.m.. We checked in at the "North Star transportation services" counter to find out about the shuttle that was supposed to pick us up and take us to the Powderwood resort. Alex and Larry should have already made it there earlier in the evening. The first of many glitches in the transportation arena during our stay cropped up. The shuttle wasn't due in until 10:15. "But we have 10:00 reservations!" I cried. "That's right", the clerk replied, "and your reservations will be honored as soon as we have a shuttle to take you". I stormed back to Katie to tell her what was going on. Katie was waiting for the luggage to arrive. As I walked over, I could tell from her expression that something was wrong. "Dave, everything is here except for my large suitcase" Katie said. This sounded like good news until I noticed that the luggage bays were all shut down. I looked at Katie. Katie looked at me. "Well, I'm sure they have it, Katie", I said, "after all, I slipped the attendant at LAX a five spot and put 'GOING TO SALT LAKE CITY UTAH1 in six inch tall letters on the side". "Besides," I continued, "even if they lost it temporarily it will be back within a day". "Dave, my ski boots were in that suitcase!" Katie exclaimed. "Well, I'm sure the airlines will allow you to rent boots, Katie" I said. "Dave, MY UNDERWEAR WAS IN THAT SUITCASE!!!!!" Katie screamed back. I looked around. Only twenty or thirty people were staring at us. "Perhaps we should talk with the baggage people" I suggested. Katie agreed, and we headed over to baggage claim.

"May I help you SIR!!" the smiling young man behind the counter asked in a cheerful, friendly voice. It was the kind of voice that immediately told you that the individual using it has the authority to cluck regretfully over your problems and suggest you talk to the daytime manager to fix them, but has no way in hell of actually doing anything about them. I and Katie snarled sullenly at him. "I lost my suitcase" Katie said. The guy beamed at her. "I have a lost luggage claim voucher here" he replied, "just fill this out in triplicate and I'm sure we'll recover it by end of day tomorrow". "Can't you at least query the computer to find out if anybody has reported anything on it?" Katie asked.

"Certainly" said the man to my complete surprise. "What is the name on the suitcase?" he asked. "Katie Barhydt... no, I mean Katie Dickie.... damn" said Katie. The man raised his eyebrows questioningly. "The name on the bag is Katie Barhydt, said Katie, "but the name on my ticket is Katie Dickie". The man looked at her suspiciously. "We're newlyweds" said Katie as she grabbed onto my arm, "and I haven't had time to get my maiden name off of everything yet". The man looked doubtful but began entering the information at the terminal. I turned to Katie and told her that I would check on the shuttle while she did her thing with the baggage people.

It was about 10:05, and the shuttle had actually arrived. I and the driver began loading the skis and suitcases in the van. "OK", I said as I turned and stared for the baggage claim area, continuing over my shoulder, "my girlfriend... ahhh, my wife is filling out a voucher for a lost suitcase, but we'll be ready by 10:15". "No rush", said the driver, "I'm not leaving until 11:00 anyway". I froze and spun on my heel. "WHAT!" I replied heatedly, "The clerk at the counter said you were leaving at 10:15!". "Oh, no, that's the time I'm supposed to arrive at the-airport, not depart" he replied. "But I had 10:00 RESERVATIONS" I shouted back. He grinned sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders. I shook my head and headed for Katie.

We finally left for the resort about 10:45. The drive took about forty five minutes, and we were dropped off at the main lodge around 11:30. We went to the front office. A large sign was stuck in the window that read "OPEN 7 A.M. TO 7 P.M. DAILY FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE". The door was locked. I was about to lose my cool when I spotted a smaller sign that read "if checking in after 7:00, please get your key out of the late check in box". I looked around and found a box labeled "LATE CHECK IN". It opened on several sets of keys tacked to the inside with little name tags hanging off of them. Since we were a late check in, of course, our keys were not there. The main lodge was supposed to shut down at midnight. When the maintenance guy arrived to lock up, however, we explained the situation. He opened the office and spent several minutes riffling ineffectually through stacks of papers. Finally he found Alex's name. "You're in 13B" he explained, and I an Katie headed for it, wondering what would have happened if we arrived after midnight. Alex and Larry were already at the condo when we arrived, and we settled in for the night.

The Park City area includes three separate resorts. Park City resort is the largest. Deer Valley is a smaller but more stylish resort. It was also the most expensive. Park West is the smallest and cheapest of the three. We decided to start our skiing adventure at Park City.

We got off to a late start, but the skiing was outstanding. Katie had to rent equipment, since her bag had not arrived from the airport, but the airline had promised to cover rental expenses. Unfortunately, none of the sports shops rented ski pants, which Katie needed. A sympathetic attendant at one of the stores, however, was kind enough to loan Katie an old pair of his ski pants. The fit wasn't quite right it looked kind of like Abbot and Costello had switched clothes, with Katie playing Abbot but it worked.

After we returned from skiing, Katie and I took a shower. She looked at me pleadingly after we got out and said "Dave, I can't stand the thought of getting back into that slimy underwear". I grinned lecherously at her and replied "well, I guess you'll just have to do without... but I. won't take advantage of the situation, you can trust me!". Unfortunately, Katie already knew me too well. She ended up wearing my underwear. Later in the evening, however, the airline called to say they had recovered Katie's bag. She was speaking to them on the phone. "What do you mean, you can't get them here until 10:00? I need that bag" she shouted into the mouthpiece. The airline wasn't buying it, however, because Katie continued arguing for several minutes. Finally she said "look, I'm WEARING MY BOYFRIENDS UNDERWEAR, OK? This makes me REALLY UNHAPPY, not to mention HIM!". Whatever the rules by which the airline baggage people live, this was apparently enough to convince them it was an emergency, because they immediately agreed to ship the suitcase out ASAP.

Monday, we tried Park West. A light snow was dropping manna from heaven (aka the finest, lightest, most skiable powder it has ever been my privilege to ski) from a small storm that would last through most of the week. The lines were shorter than those at Park City and the skiing just as spectacular. The smaller size of the resort was really inconsequential since there was enough variety to keep anyone happy for a lot longer than we had to spend. We were skiing mostly advanced intermediate stuff, since Katie and Larry were not up to the expert trails yet. Alex and I kept skiing off the sides of the trails as a result, looking for something a little more exciting. As we slipped down one fairly steep slope, Alex skied up a ridge. He came out on top of hill that dropped off quite rapidly into a cliff that was about fifteen or twenty feet tall. From his perspective, however, he ^ couldn't tell how bad it was. "What's it look like, Dave" he cried out. I looked at the cliff. The bottom was several feet of untouched powder. I looked back at Alex. I mean, with all that powder, he probably wouldn't hurt himself seriously... he would just lose it when he hit the ground with the velocity of a crashing jet airliner. "Looks good, Alex," I called out, "maybe a eight, ten foot drop at the end". Alex strained to see over the ridge. "Really?" he cried doubtfully. "Sure, trust me!" I answered. Unfortunately, Alex knew me as well as Katie. He skied back the way he had come and used the normal trail to ski down to us. He looked at the cliff in disbelief. He turned to me. "TEN FEET! ARE YOU TRYING TO GET ME KILLED!!!!????". "Ummm... well, it looked like ten feet to me, Alex, but you know my sense of measurement and..." I trailed off weakly. Alex squinted at me and said in a husky voice "paybacks, Dave, are HELL". The rest of the day passed without serious incident, however.

Wednesday, we decided to ski Deer Valley. Deer Valley was indeed much more stylish. The men's room had marble counter tops, gold plated and intricately cast nozzles for the sinks, little colorful tiles for the floor, and was spotless enough to be used in a "Mr. Clean" commercial. What this had to do with good skiing, however, escaped me. Deer Valley also took grooming the trails very seriously, and most of the runs were converted from a foot of powder into packed down skiing superhighways. What this had to do with good skiing was beyond me as well. We worked our way to the back of the mountain, however, and found more advanced trails without the grooming.

Katie and Larry were really coming along as a result of the previous two days, and the four of us began skiing "Mayflower", a groomed expert run. Near the bottom, I noticed a huge rock jutting out of a ridge. The rock provided a flat top with an edge that dropped off about eight feet into powder. The way it was positioned made it difficult to get too; you had to hit the ridge fast, ski up to the rock top, and lose all your velocity just as you hit the top in order to "perch" on it. Then you could jump your skis ninety degrees and ski off the edge. I looked at Alex. "It's only about ten feet, Alex" I said half hopefully. He glowered at me. It was obvious that Alex would not play guinea pig on this particular jump. I sighed. "No guts, no glory!" I screamed as I headed down the hill toward the ridge. I hit, climbed rapidly, did a small christi to check a little velocity, and ended up in perfect position. Perfect position, except that it must have been the wrong rock, because it looked like about a six hundred foot drop from up there. Katie and Larry stood below, further down slope, waiting for me. Alex was ready up the hill, willing to try it if I didn't break anything in my attempt. I jumped my skis around, hunched down, And screamed "BANZIIIiiiiiiyyYYYIIIIIIIII!" as I proved once again that cold will freeze brain synapses and cause a person to do really, really stupid things. As I went over the edge, a glance down made me realize that the rock wasn't vertical after all, and that if my velocity coming off the top was too low, I would hit solid rock rather than sweet powder. Then I was in the air, supremely confident that no matter how badly things went, they would undoubtedly be able to recover most of the pieces of my body. The fall to the ground seemed to take forever. Then I hit the powder in a small explosion of white talcum, rocking way back on my skis, but staying under control. I skidded to a stop near Katie and Larry. I smiled. "No problem!" I yelled up to Alex.

Alex skied to the top of the rock in the same fashion I did. He looked down, and I waved encouragingly. "Just pick up enough velocity to get a few feet past the bottom, Alex, because you have to clear some rocks" I called out. Alex took a deep breath, jumped his skis about forty five degrees, and tried to go off the side of the rock much, much too slowly. It was like watching a dive into a pool in slow motion. Alex hit the end of the rock, coming to an almost dead stop. He pivoted over the edge, his body toppling forward in a graceful curve. His legs and skis slowly rotated above his body in mid air, and Alex plummeted ten feet into a head first dive into a snowbank, then rolled down the rest of the steep slope in a powder flinging pirouette. He finally stopped at the bottom with a muffled thud. It was enough of a fall to keep us from skiing for fifteen minutes... not because Alex was hurt, but because Larry, Katie and I were laughing so hard we couldn't stand.

That was February the 14th Valentine's day. I casually mentioned to Larry and Alex that they might want to hit the main lodge or something else outside the condo for a few hours that evening. Alex and Larry explained that they were tired, and really just wanted to relax. I casually mentioned that I had brought along a baseball bat and would BREAK EVERY BONE IN THEIR BODIES if they didn't vacate the condo PRONTO. Larry and Alex suddenly remembered that there was a ski movie showing in the lodge that evening that they really wanted to see. I and Katie exchanged Valentine's day presents in some privacy. My gift was one of those romantic, silly, sentimental type things that really make a relationship work; a copy of the humorous cartoon strip by Matt Groenig called LOVE IS HELL.

We spent the rest of our time skiing at Park West (except for Alex, who spent one day at Snowbird). The skiing in Utah was just phenomenal, the best I've ever done. From what other people have told me, these were merely "moderately good" conditions for Utah. Katie and I are already planning on a trip next winter to Alta or Snowbird, or some other large resort (anyone interest in joining us?). If you love skiing, it is highly recommended.
The Powderwood resort, however, was another story. The condo was nice enough (although it had a noticeably insufficient supply of kitchen utensils, like having only three coffee mugs), but the resort management was the pits. The Jacuzzi was a case in point. After our first day of skiing, we tossed on swimsuits and headed through the bitter cold to the outdoor Jacuzzi. It was inside a iron fence with a locked door, but our keys would open it. There was a huge gap in the fence, however, so you really didn't even need the key. As we crowded in, everyone immediately noticed the scummy green algae that was growing on the sides. It' wasn't hideously disgusting, but it was less than pleasing.

After we got back to the condo, I called the management and asked them if they could do something about the algae. "We'll call maintenance" they promised. The next day, we ran out to the Jacuzzi again. The door was padlocked shut. The huge gap in the fence was still there, but we didn't know why they had locked it up, so we ran back to the condo. I called the office again to complain. ' "The Jacuzzi is locked up", I explained, "and I would like to know why". "The Jacuzzi is locked up?" they replied, "we didn't know that". I stared at the phone for a moment. "What do you mean, you didn't know that?" I exclaimed, "You guys are MANAGING THIS PLACE". "We'll call maintenance and call you right back" they promised. I waited a few minutes. Finally the phone rang. "Yes, it was maintenance that locked the Jacuzzi up" the manager said in a satisfied voice. "OK", I said, "why did they lock it up?". "Why?" replied the startled voice, "I don't know why". "Look" I answered back, "I don't care about the lock. There's a four foot gap in the fence anyway. I want to know if its safe to go in the Jacuzzi!". "We'll call maintenance and get right back to you" the manager said. I waited by the phone until it rang. "Yes, the Jacuzzi is safe" said the manager. "Then why is it locked?" I replied. "Ahhhh... I forgot to ask" said the manager. I could tell this was a less than useful conversation. "Fine" I replied in a tight voice, hanging up. We ran out to the Jacuzzi again, slipped through the hole in the fence, and jumped in. The algae was happily burbling in the warm Jacuzzi water. We headed back to the condo. I called the manager and explained in slightly less friendly terms that the jaccuz still looked like a set from "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and that I would be REALLY PLEASED if they could get rid of the algae. "We'll call maintenance" they promised.

The next day, we headed back to the Jacuzzi. The water was buried in one to two feet of frozen soap suds. The suds looked better than the algae, but when we jumped in, we found out the water was luke warm, the frozen soap suds were colder than hell, and the green algae was happily burbling underneath the white foam. We headed back to the condo. I called the manager. "Look" I began in a quiet voice, "I didn't mean that I wanted the algae covered up so I can't see it, nor did I mean I wanted to take a bubble bath. I WANT THE DAMN JACUZZI TO BE CLEAN, HOT, AND USABLE". The manager seemed a little taken aback for some reason. "Sorry, sir, I'll call maintenance right away" he replied. I gritted my teeth and willed myself to believe that the manager of the complex was at least as intelligent as the algae I wanted disposed .of. The next day, we headed for the Jacuzzi. Somehow, I wasn't surprised to see the door padlocked and a huge sign that read "WARNING. CHEMICALS HAVE BEEN ADDED TO THE JACUZZI. THESE WILL BLEACH YOUR HAIR AND BURN YOUR SKIN. STAY OUT", with a little skull and crossbones underneath. We never went back to the Jacuzzi for the rest of our stay.

We headed back to LA on Saturday morning the 18th of February. We almost missed the flight out of Salt Lake City due to North Star Transportation and their "if you need to get there on time, don't call us" attitude. Otherwise we had an uneventful flight to St. Louis. The flight back from St. Louis, however, was interesting. We had the same crew going back as going out, and the stewardess Kate remembered us. Katie and I were wearing matching Deer Valley sweatshirts, and we were prepared this time. "Are you guys NEWLYWEDS!" cried Kate. "Yes, yes we are" I answered back, "in fact, this is our honeymoon". Then we got down to the nitty gritty "tell me all about it" type conversation. Katie and I improvised some truly outrageous lies about the mythical wedding, many of which I am simple too embarrassed to mention. We were grinning like fools the entire time, of course, but I suspect that wasn't unusually behavior for newlyweds. Well, Kate told Susan, another stewardess, about our stories, and Susan told Albert, and by time we returned to LA, every steward and stewardess on board had stopped by to chat about getting married, and how wonderful it was, and so on and so on. Then they started bringing us heated cognac, signed flight plans from the pilot, TWA stewardess's insignia, and a variety of other memorabilia. It was one of the funniest, fastest trips by air I've ever taken. And my nose is about sixteen inches long.

Well, I've managed to get half way through February by blowing off the eight page limit. Sorry if this has been a little long I'll try to keep it within limits from now on. Hope life is treating you as well as it is treating me!