Brian Keaney

Tag: skiing

Arctic Omegle

“What color is your underwear?”

I was not expecting such a question, and especially not one from such a cherubic little voice.  While it immediately pulled me back from the day dream I was in, the giggles and the maternal chastisement that immediately followed the question let me know that this child was not making a pass at me.

“Who said I was wearing any,” I called back.  The little kid succeeded in shocking me, which I am sure was her intent, and I’m pretty sure my response affected the same result in her.  I think we both also got a chuckle from the encounter as well.

Our brief conversation took place as we passed each other yesterday afternoon on a chairlift shuttling skiers between two peaks.  I had been thinking earlier in the day, while chatting up some fellow skiers in the gondola, that the lifts are much like Omegle, the web service that connects two strangers for a brief web chat.   I only tried Omegle once or twice to see what it was all about after watching the below video, but was much less impressed with the quality of people I found on the other end and did not return.

 

Maybe it is just because I am so shy, but I find that I almost never have a silent ride up to the summit, even on days like today when I am skiing solo.  During one gondola ride today I was explaining how YES worked, where I  teach a lesson to some city kids in the morning and have the afternoon free to ski by myself.  “That’s very admirable,” my fellow rider told me.

I thought about his comment for the next few runs, and then even on the bus ride back to Boston.  I don’t volunteer with YES or any other organization to earn anyone’s admiration, although I do strive to live a life that is admirable.  It also made me question whether or not I even want to tell people in the future that I volunteer with the group.  Just as I try not to drop the H-bomb, I don’t want people on the lifts to think that I am bragging, and I would be perfectly happy for my left hand to not know what my right hand was doing.

I came to the conclusion that because I think the mission of YES is important enough that it should be spread – especially among those who know what gliding down a mountain on a pair of planks can do for the psyche, and who might be in a position to help – that  I’ll continue to tell people if it naturally comes up in conversation.  Besides, like on Omegle, chances are I will never see them again, and so the impression  that they will walk, erm, ski, away with, is that of the organization, not of me.

Great Day

When I moved back to New England from my island paradise, it was with the intention of becoming a teacher.  Only a day after landing I arrived at the MTEL testing site in Quincy at 7 am, though my jetlagged body thought it was 1 am, and I passed on the first try.  While it was not an experience I’d particularly like to repeat, it was memories of my days as a substitute – and the idea of making teaching a full time vocation – prior to my departure for that small rock in a big ocean that made it worthwhile.

During one such day at a middle school a gym teacher requested that I fill in for him.  While not my favorite class to sub, it did have its benefits.  One of those pluses was that there was a radio in the gym, and the music the students chose was usually tolerable.  I also really liked this particular group of kids, and was always glad to spend a period or two with them.

On this particular day a large group of 7th grade girls who were waiting their turn to get in the game decided it wasn’t enough to push the limits of acceptable volume while playing Daniel Powter’s Bad Day, so they also decided to sing along.  About halfway through I took a momentary respite from my refereeing duties to ask them to turn the radio down for a moment and then inquired,  “Who sings this song?”

 

With a solitary voice they loudly proclaimed the singer’s name and, when I told them that they should keep it that way, they sent up a barrage of mock indignation as only a group of 13 year old girls can do.  To this day I think about those girls every time I hear the song, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.  I was also reminded of them today when teaching a very different set of girls a slightly different skill.

This morning I taught my first lesson as a volunteer ski instructor with Youth Enrichment Services.  It was a unique experience with four students ranging in abilities and ages far beyond what should normally be placed in a class together, but somehow I muddled through, and I think at least half of them gained something from the class.  One was simply too good for me to really be able to teach much to, and the other was good enough that I focused on the two who needed the most help, regrettably to her detriment.

It was also a learning experience for me, as I was acutely aware that I was responsible for their safety during an activity that may have given me my first concussion a few weeks ago. (Since I don’t believe in medicine I never had it checked out, and thus will never know for sure, but I think the memory loss and scar on my forehead is a pretty good indication there was.)  I also discovered my own limits as an instructor in what I was able to teach, how well I was able to teach it, and how I was able to – or not – combine both a general lesson and some individualized instruction in the few short hours I had with them.

Part of the problem with the varying ability levels in the class was that this was the first time some of the girls had been with the program, and thus we had to rely on their self-reporting for placement purposes.  They all were graded by me at the end of the lesson, so now at least there is a somewhat objective baseline for their future trips.

I was also trying to take stock of my own abilities, of what worked and what didn’t work, so that I can try and measure my own improvement over the course of the ski season.  During my half hour of monitoring the bunny slope this afternoon I know I became more adept at skiing backward (I was carving some pretty nice turns), and I hope that by the Last Run I can say my teaching skills will have improved at least as much.

Perchance to dream

A couple years ago I made a concerted effort to read all the books I was supposed to read in high school.  I was never a big fan of homework, and I got by all right simply by paying attention in class.  I don’t know that in four years I ever read an entire book in any class, but English was always one of my better subjects.  I’ve since come to learn to love to read, but one book I have not yet finished is The Great Gatsby.  I’ve picked it up once or twice, and even though I think I would enjoy it I’ve never made it all the way through.

Particularly after seeing Tom Hiddleston’s performance in Midnight in Paris this summer, I think I would also really enjoy the company of F. Scott Fitzgerald.   Seeing the lifestyles they led in 1920s Paris makes me wonder what his definition of “rich” is, but I have come to discover the great truth in his statement that the very rich are different from you and me.  Then again, not only am I glad that I am unlike the very rich, I also take a small amount of satisfaction in that I am different from most other people.

This winter I am volunteering with a great organization that teaches kids they can literally conquer mountains.  Youth Enrichment Services takes inner city kids to ski resorts across New England and teaches them to ski or snowboard.  While I don’t ski nearly as much as I would like to, I am on my K2s enough to know that rarely do you see someone with skin darker than mine on a chairlift.  Giving low-income, largely minority children the same opportunity I had as a kid growing up to feel the rush of racing down a mountain is better than that rush itself.

After breaking the fast with Senator Paul.

Last weekend I was in New Hampshire learning how to become a ski instructor (and inviting myself to breakfast with a United States Senator – but that’s another post) and, unlike other training trips where they stayed in a chalet, we were being housed in a local hotel.  It was nice enough, but particularly after a couple locals got a little too familiar at the bar across the street, my fellow volunteers all decided it was time to return to their rooms and crash.  Seeing as there were several hours left in Saturday night, not to mention several prime socialable hours in Sunday morning, I was not ready to retire.

In a hotel with little to do, however, I had to content myself watching the 4th quarter of an NFC game I was only partially interested in, reading a couple articles I’d been saving on my phone, and then turning out the lights well before midnight.  It was the earliest I’d been to bed in some time, and it resulted in the most sleep I’ve gotten in a while.

Each night when I go to bed it almost feels like a personal failure.  I don’t like it at all.  My tasks list never gets any shorter, and even if I was caught up there would still be plenty to do.  I’ve got a stack of books I want to read.  There are a million places I’ve never been, countless movies I’ve never seen, billions of people I’ve never met.  Not only do I not know anything about any number of subjects, there are fields of study that I don’t even know exist.  People are suffering all over the world and crying out for help, yet I am expected to spend a third of my life unconscious.

How, with all that is out there, can I possibly spend any more time than I have to asleep?  I fight it each night, even long after I have ceased being productive.  I click around in Quicken, as if I am suddenly going to gain some magical new insight into my finances by looking at the same graph 10 times.  I’ll check the same dozen websites as if anyone is awake and updating them at 2 a.m.  I search in vain for anything worthwhile to watch on TV.  I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid turning out the lights until finally, out of sheep boredom more often than not, I submit to the downturn in my circadian rhythm and close my eyes.

A few hours later I am battling the alarm clock and starting all over again.  The pile of books only grows, the to do list only gets longer, and my ignorance only decreases but slightly.  No matter what dreams may come, there is still plenty more left to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil.  I will sleep when I’m dead.