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Chase the Stick

I am suffering from a debilitating and incurable disease. It has complete power over me, and I am helpless in the face of it. But if there’s any consolation it’s that it strikes with warning and the effects are predictable.

The Latin name is brainfartium temporarium ski. In English, “skiing-induced temporary amnesia”.

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine addressed the symptoms and development of the disease: The first little tickles appear at the brain stem the night before a ski day. Forgetfulness is minor: You space brushing your teeth, or forget to tell you wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend that you love them. By morning, electrical charges are surging into the cerebral cortex, pushing out nearly all thoughts of responsibility. You forget that you forgot to brush your teeth, and you forget once again to brush. It strikes you as odd that people avoid you until after you’ve had breakfast and a cup of joe, but your mind is on skiing and the thought is left behind like a cigarette butt thrown from a speeding Cadillac on the plains of west Texas.

By the time you’re at the hill, changes have taken place at the subatomic level of your brain. The protons and ions that comprise the chemical components of your gray matter have fused, becoming what particle scientists call morons. Electrical activity is at an all-time high, but it’s completely disorganized, chaotic. Your CAT scan looks like a mosh pit. Mardi Gras and Times Square on New Year’s Eve, all packed into a space the size of a ski instructor’s locker.

It gets worse on the lift. The disease has such a tenacious grip that your IQ plummets to that of a typical in-bred golden retriever. You are capable of remembering your name and four or five basic commands, at most.

Chase the stick, chase the stick.

By the time you get off the lift, especially if it’s a powder day, you are beyond hope or help. You are a post-lobotomy Randall McMurphy, Karen Ann Quinlan, Dan Quayle. You are Butt-head, or a bowl of day-old oatmeal. You are a new-born infant, with no intellect and simple needs: a clean diaper, mother’s milk, a fresh line through powder bumps.

By now you may find yourself saying, but Steve, what can I, a skier with little or no medical training, do to help? Can I send money? Form a support group? Light votive candles?

None of the above my friends. I ask for only your understanding. Do you seriously think an in-bred golden retriever can remember to check its voicemail and return phone calls? To get its intro written on time? To send out letters of assignment and respond to story ideas? Of course not. A golden retriever can do little more than scratch at fleas and wag its tail.

Yes, all I ask of you is understanding, sympathy, and patience. Should you feel like condemning me, should you feel like casting me into the shoals of cold-heartedness, remember that you, too, will be going skiing soon, and you, too, are at risk of brainfartium temporarium ski. You, too, may find yourself with only one thought in your head.

Chase the stick, chase the stick.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 23.7, March 1995. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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