One week in the life of Dan Tasse

Well, first, read my last post. Then come back and read this post. It’s a story that deserves telling, as its subject has left for a very long time.

So last winter, it was getting around Novembery Decembery times, and I was home on shore leave. Must have been Thanksgiving. A friend of ours on the East Side invited us to a party, for this group of us that had somewhat congealed over our last summer. Let me explain the group first:

We knew each other mostly through class. We tended to be in all of the same classes, because we all tended to take a lot of honors/AP classes. Not that we were all the smart kids, but we all did very well in school, and were exactly the kind of upstanding young St. Ignatius High School gentlemen- “Men For Others”- that our parents and teachers wanted us to be. There is little doubt that we will (mostly) all be successful- we were, to some extent, the leaders of our high school class; the movers and shakers; the ones the teachers knew and liked; the ones who dominated the school awards ceremony; the ones who balanced school and friends, enjoyed life, and were primed for Success, in whatever field we chose. Mostly white males, mostly a little over average height. You get the idea.

We knew each other throughout school, as classmates and possibly friends we’d see outside of school. What brought us together in 2004? Mostly graduation parties, and the respect we had for each other, because, after all, we were the leaders of our high school class, the movers and shakers, the… the winners of high school. I am lionizing this group too much- we were not the only Great Ones of our school, nor were all of us Great. But a senile outsider of age 60+, out of touch with our generation entirely, would look at us and smile. At any rate, we would gather sometimes during this post-graduation summer at grad parties, which soon became poker parties when the grad parties ran out. Really, my closest friends and I had little to do with them, besides this respect; we didn’t really even like poker that much. And Halo was just annoying. So when 3 Xboxes materialized and linked themselves together, and a dozen Winners began mashing buttons and screaming about the injustices of an inanimate and, therefore, entirely unbiased system… well, Pete and I began looking for something else to do.

Boredom spawned conversation, conversation spawned discussion of winter breaks, and discussion spawned his invite for me to join his family on their vacation. The destination: Summit County, Colorado, home of Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain ski resorts.

Wow, I was hooked like Rafael Palmeiro on steroids. It was, I think, about the only thing I asked for for Christmas, and, through the magic of Frequent Flier Miles, I received a plane ticket to Denver. Hey, lodging was free: some of Pete’s relatives own a house there, so they stayed there. Food was mostly free too, although my parents sent them some money for food for me. Even lift tickets were cheaper- they knew how to get the best deals (rent transferrable lifetime passes from people for $39 a day, instead of paying $73 or something)… basically, even given the late notice, this trip was doable, and I was thrilled.

Ever skied a huge mountain, 3000+ft vertical, with one of your best friends and his brother who is also a good friend of yours? And stayed with their family, a fantastically nice and welcoming family, in a house nearby? Going to the Rec Center after skiing and playing racquetball? Staying in Dillon, Colorado- beautiful Dillon, wonderfully pedestrian and spartan compared to lavish Breckenridge or (shudder) Vail, Dillon, where you can taste the mountain air instead of the artificial heating from the nearest souvenir shop? Playing bridge or Bang at night? With no worries except where you’re going to ski the next day?
It’s nice, let me tell you. That week is pretty much listed in my dictionary under “halcyon.”

Again, I may be praising it too much- while I was there, I had a cold, I didn’t sleep well, my ski boots didn’t fit quite right, so I was a little out of sorts for a bit of it. And there are downsides to skiing Summit County- like 15 minute lift lines. Mountains like Breckenridge, which have no soul. (Seriously, don’t go to Breckenridge. Unless you’re awesome and can ski the top bowls. If you’re that awesome, can I go skiing with you sometime, just to watch and learn? Seriously, I’m not being facetious.) But then, Thursday hit.

Thursday, 7 inches of fresh snow, and we went to Copper Mountain. These guys had passes to Breck/Keystone/A.Basin, and we went to Copper, because I suggested it. That’s how accommodating they were. (they were able to trade in some passes and stuff, they didn’t just pay for the extra passes, but still). That day was the best skiing day I’ve ever had. First double black diamonds I’ve ever skied, best moguls I’ve ever skied, I was in top form. We stuck together all day, Pete, Brian (Pete’s brother), and I, skiing whatever we felt like. The back of the mountain was closed due to wind, so we skied the front. We pretty much rocked out really hard.

Someone once said something like this about skiing with your kid: as you age, you will get worse, and your kid will get better. One day, there will be a point where you will be exactly equal in skill- that day, you will ski together perfectly, you will travel the same slopes, matching turn for turn, enjoying skiing together better than you ever have before. After that, your skills will continue to decline, your child’s will increase, and it will never quite be the same again. So savor that one perfect day.

I think that day may have happened for Pete and me right then- with skiing and our friendship. Now, he can still outski me by far (the kid’s amazing), but he’s given it up, so eventually I’ll surpass him. But also, I don’t think things will ever be the same between Pete and me. He’s enjoying college tremendously in Dartmouth, as I am at CMU, and he’s almost entirely moved on to there. We were just hanging out tonight, for probably the last time in Cleveland until … when? at least a couple years from now. He’ll be at Dartmouth through Sophomore summer, he won’t be back here until Junior year at the earliest. We’ll try to visit, but who knows if that will turn out. He doesn’t seem to mind. As he shouldn’t; as always, we need to move forward with life.

I skimmed over the fact that he’s given up skiing. He says he has. Not because he doesn’t like it but because of the money. He says he doesn’t have money for it; he says he spends all his money playing Ultimate Frisbee, traveling to tournaments, etc. When he told me, he said it so matter-of-factly that I thought he was kidding. It’s his choice, of course, but that one hit me symbolically and realistically. Because I think back to skiing together for that week, watching someone as talented and practiced as him ski, trying to improve as I go, facing mountains and cold that present just enough danger to get the adrenaline rushing, … and he’s just quit!

And there you have it, kids, a premade metaphor. I didn’t even have to do anything.

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Sounds like quite the trip. I wouldn’t be too upset at Pete for going from skiing to ultimate frisbee. If it had to be any sport, at least it was ultimate.

With ultimate, you have to pay for travel, motel accommodations, tournament fees, etc. The costs add up. I would still be doing it if I didn’t have to give up my weekends and if Scotch-n-Soda didn’t exist.

Maybe you can carry on the torch of skiing, so to speak, for your friends.

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