Sunday, March 02, 2008


Ruth tagged me: seven things about myself. I could only come up with three. And I don't tag anymore, so I'm not really doing it right. But this is what came up.

1. At the age of six, or so, I performed in a musical Christmas show. To the tune of "Frosty the Snowman" I and a dozen of my fellow six year olds danced, brandishing brooms. Brooms? Do I remember that right? Are snowmen supposed to carry brooms?

Well, whatever we were carrying, I remember the performance vividly, because before the opening bars were played, my snowman costume had rucked around so that the eyeholes were somewhere over my ears, or possibly at the back of my head, rendering me blind as well as confused, and I blundered forlornly over the stage, occasionally hopping a little and waving my broom, to signal my good intentions, to indicate that if I could have seen I would have tried to dance. I could hear people laughing. I was mortified. No doubt I was adorable.

To this day I can't hear the tune of "Frosty the Snowman" without dread and foreboding descending upon me.

2. Somewhere in British Columbia is a green island, with a empty stone tower on it. To climbers, it was irresistible, straight up and down, yet loaded with good holds. It seemed, with good hand- and foot-holds everywhere, that it would be far easier to climb than some mountain faces we had handled. My Dad went up the stairs to the top and let down a belay rope. I tied the rope around my waist. There's a ritualized protocol for this:

"Belay on!" he called.

"Climbing!" I called back.

"Climb!" he called, and I began to climb up.

But it turns out that mountain faces are not straight up and down, not usually. There are harder places to get up, but there are also more resting places. Halfway up, twenty yards up maybe, my hands began to tremble. "Tension!" I called. The rope tightened.

There's a protocol for this, too. "Falling!" I called

"Really?" came my father's startled voice, and his face peered mildly over the stones. Reverting to protocol, he called, "Fall!" as my hands slipped from the rock.

He caught me, and lowered me steadily. Ten yards below, a couple yards over, was a window onto the stairway inside. I managed, dangling and breathing with difficulty, to make my way to it and scramble over the sill.

3. Spokane Washington. Out on the railroad tracks, three of us young teenage freaks, longhaired, jeanpatched. I wore a jacket but no shirt, and an army helmet. Some of the local kids started to shout and chase us. My two friends ran. I've never been much good at running. So I didn't. Without looking back, I walked grimly, unhurriedly along. The sound of running feet on railbed gravel. I didn't turn.

"It!" said a voice, and tapped me on the helmet. Then they took themselves off. Just counting coup.

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