It snowed most of the morning. Geoff and I went for a two-and-a-half hour cross-country skiing excursion. The sheer time on the skis helped me build confidence and some speed. It also left my hip flexors so sore that even walking now is more of a shuffle. I'm also feeling it in my much-neglected arm muscles and my Susitna "camelbak injury," a knot in my left shoulder that seems to just be getting worse. There is something to be said about cross training, and my lack thereof.
The 2006 Winter Olympic Games are almost over, and the pictures in the newspaper make me nostalgic for the balmy February nights of 2002, tearing through the crowded streets of Salt Lake City with a massive Canadian flag, just to stir things up a bit.
I came of age in the shadow of Olympic anticipation - learned to drive on streets under massive construction, lost my favorite wrong-side-of-the-tracks concert venue to a beautifying "Gateway" project, watched my alma mater squeeze out students to make way for an athletes-only Olympic village. Everything seemed to be closed down or off limits or reserved for the Olympic elite. By the time 2002 finally came around, I was about as close to anti-Olympics as they come. I thought the entire thing was an elaborate publicity sham. I thought that Salt Lake City was delusional to think it could host such an sweeping international event with any success. And I was pretty sure I was just going to hole up in some place far away and wait for them to be over.
But then they came. And I was living four blocks from downtown Salt Lake City, watching the sterile city streets transform into something colorful, loud and wholly alive. There were people everywhere - dressed in elaborate costumes, gyrating to ghettoblasters, guzzling from suddenly-legal open containers and lining up by the thousands for the free medals ceremony rock concerts. Athletes showed up at all the hot clubs. Latvians and Croatians and Slovakians were dancing in the streets. People waved flags from their balconies. How could you not get caught up in that?
One particularly memorable night, we set out with a video camera and all of the sense of a horde of 6-year-olds set loose in Disneyland. The rest of the night generated a series of caught-on-tape outtakes that at the time came so naturally, and now seem so surreal: an interview with Barney the Dinosaur, absurd arguments with anti-Mormon activists, "short-track street skating" in downhill ski boots; crashing a street rave; and taking on Canadian identities to join a group of real Canuks in full-gusto cheering.
It's kind of funny that those street parties became my Olympic experience. The only actual event I saw was the Men's Super G. Tickets were so expensive - and by the time I realized that I was in fact completely in love with the Olympics, they were over. Sometimes I wonder if I'll have to explain to my grandchildren someday about the time I was sitting right on top of the Olympics and missed them, but I don't think so. I think I saw the Olympics for what they really are - one big, surreal party. And everyone's invited.