Sunday, March 28, 2010

one year later

In honor of one year since setting forth towards that M word many men fear, I thought I'd share the story. Names have been omitted, as usual. No sense in getting too personal!

“You’re next,” the groom whispered to me as we’re saying farewell at his wedding reception. I laughed; little did he know I’d paid the deposit on the ring and was picking it up as soon as we returned to Virginia.

All the pinball ideas bouncing around in my brain about how to do it. I knew the answer would be yes, but the question had to be memorable and unique. Everything that we’d done together over the time we’ve been together has been such. A proposal over dinner was too cliché and expected. I wanted to surprise her, and soon. Our upcoming trip to California presented too many obstacles to keeping it under wraps.

Morning of, I’m sneaking around, getting everything together for the day. Ring Pop, check. Camera, check. Scavenger hunt, check. What am I forgetting?

Oh, yeah. The ring. As soon as I pulled the box out, my pulse started racing. It wouldn’t quite slow down until I laid down that night.

We returned to the scene of our first date under the guise of preparing for an upcoming field trip. It was plausible, and she was none the wiser. All my sneaking would be unneeded; she never suspected a thing. Strolling through the city from Metro Center presented many occasions in my brain. How about there? No. Ok then, there? No.

The internal argument of where the best spot would be was silly really. When I asked her out, I picked a place she’d already been as an option. Turns out it had been on another date. Oops. Our first kiss was memorable in setting, but I interrupted her mid-sentence long after several “perfect” moments had passed.

Waiting was killing me inside. Walking in the door of the museum, I took a deep breath. The opportunity would present itself. It had to. My scavenger hunt was a blur. I added a few questions, racing through the museum, often racing ahead of her like a five year-old in Toys-R-Us.

And then it came. We took a breather on a small balcony overlooking the Oceans exhibit. I’d already stashed the Ring Pop in my pocket. “It’s now or never,” I thought, “This is it. The ‘moment’.”

I lean over to her, dry throat, mind swimming, and squeaked, “Marry me.”

Her eyes got really big, as if to say, “Is he serious?” Which is exactly what she said, I think.

“You’re not even on one knee,” she challenged me. Dropping to one knee, I repeated my request phrased as a command.

“Psssh. That’s not even a real ring,” she said with a glimmer of hope mixed with fear mixed with confusion in her eyes. I reached into my bag and pull out the ring. She immediately started crying and laughing and jumping.

Now it’s her turn to squeak feebly, “Ok.” So I was wrong about the answer, but then again, I didn’t give her much of a choice.

Of course, I didn’t have a chance when we first met either.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

the gnar

In the quest to ever improve and go big, this snowboarding season was momentous. Now, some will cry, "The season is far from over, brah." While that may be true out west, 'round these parts 'tis true. When four feet of fresh snow become a lumpy, packed mess, my season is done. Wisp was great last weekend, but it would have been amazing had I been there soon after a fresh snow.

Back to the point of the post at hand. After my third season of riding, I failed to meet her prediction/challenge, "You'll be better than me, and I'll be sad." Season one, the goal was to spend more time upright than not. I think I met that one, despite fracturing the pedicel of one of my vertebrae and inducing traumatic spondylotheosis. The following year, I quickly remembered how to link my turns, carve in the local parlance. I started rocking blue runs like it was my job. This year looked like it was to be epic in growth. My size (comparative to my better half) and seeming lack of fear should have combined to make the student surpass the master.

Well, this year, peer pressure kept me off the trails and put me in the terrain park. No Shaun White tricks up my sleeve yet, but I did land a jump or two. Ending the season running black trails and goofing off in the park was still improvement. I run the blues with certainly more speed than last year and am no longer intimidated by a diamond.

The best part of this season by far was riding confidently with her and my friends. I got to hit up two new resorts and ride outdoors after our historic snowfalls. I no longer feel inferior to most on the mountain. I'd say I'm somewhere near average. I may never be stellar, but that's not my goal. Never was.

Since I can't climb outside much in the winter up here, I may as well make the best of it. Now, a climbing spring is afoot. I have less than three weeks until Horse Pens 40. Time to break through the plateau and send some projects...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

oncoming headlights

I do stupid things sometimes. Things that jeopardize life and limb. More often latter than former, but that's beside the point. Despite all the things I've done in the past, I rarely get an injury that can't be treated with ibuprofen.

Rock climbing. Snowboarding. Jaywalking in D.C. Biking on M Street. Driving on New Year's Eve. Passenger of a not-so-stellar driver.

Last night, it almost came crashing down doing something so routine that the sheer absurdity of it took almost 24 hours to sink in. We were on a late night drive to a hotel for an early morning start snowboarding at Wisp in western Maryland. It was about 10:30; no later than other long distance, late night trips I've taken to get to the crag. (Rolling into Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina past the witching hour comes to mind.) Barreling down I-68, getting close to our trip terminus, I saw headlights ahead. I didn't think anything of it until I passed them.

Those oncoming headlights were on my side of the median in the left-hand lane. Going the wrong way. The car seemed as if it were standing still, but that must've been because of our highway speed. Not knowing the number for Maryland Highway Patrol, we called 911. We gave the mile marker, and prayed the cops would show up quickly.

Riding back today, licking my normal snowboarding wounds, I reflected on what had happened. I'm more shaken up about it now than I was then. There would have been no walking away from that crash...

Will it make me more cautious in my dangerous pursuits? Possible, but unlikely. Will it keep me from driving at night? Not a chance. I'm not real sure of the effect it will take, but judging from my past, it's going to rattle around in my brain for a little while before I figure it out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

long overdue snow stories, part two

The day after my fresh powder riding experience, I got a call from Snow. No, really, that's his name.

Anyhow, he was stuck at home due to the snow and wanted to go snowboarding. Free riding fresh in my mind, we set out for the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Netherlands Carillon in search of a slightly taller hill with a less exhausting approach than the one I'd tried 24 hours prior.

He packed a shovel to build a learning-sized kicker on the side of the hill we found. A hill that many gather on in July to watch the fireworks over the National Mall. In view were the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and U.S. Capitol. Clear, blue skies above, and nary a soul nearby.

As we hiked and rode over and over again, we got a few curious stares from passing cars and a few walkers. Before too long, I was getting better at catching air, though my landings were still spectacular failures. My partner-in-crime slash instructor was hitting all of his 180s, but couldn't quite manage the 360s he was working on.

After a while, an SUV rolls up, and two guys get out. They say their from the BBC and want to take some footage of us on the hill. Um, sure?

To be honest, I wasn't exactly jazzed with the idea. Cameras intimidate me in my best pursuits, which is why perhaps I hide behind mine while shooting my favorite hobbies. After a dozen or so falls on my part and much better success on his, they pack up their gear, stick a microphone in our faces, and ask us a few off-the-cuff questions. Our answers were less than eloquent, but we were apparently on that night's news on BBC. Too bad we never got to see it, despite giving the crew our email addresses.

The story's not done yet. A guy in a Navy (capital N for branch of service, not color) sweatshirt shows up toting two better-than-mine Nikons. He sets himself up for some photos of our view and also asks if he can shoot some of us. Content to be captured by still frames this time, we both think, "Why not?" I think I was more excited for this prospect because even if I fell every time, there were bound to be a few shots that at least made me look like I knew what I was doing.

I was not disappointed. By and by, he emailed me the files, and they were excellent. Check out some more of Justin Sen's photography, featuring yours truly at his website.

...and now you know the rest of the story.