Nonskiers Anonymous

By Tim Sandlin // illustrations by birgitta sif

ROGER RAMSEY RECENTLY introduced me to a secret society that meets deep in the bowels of the Center for the Arts, so far underground even the folks who run the Center don’t know it exists.

“The Center doesn’t have a basement,” I said.

“That’s what the Nonprofit Tribe thinks,” Roger said.

He took me to an elevator and stuck a tiny key like my sister used to use to lock her diary in the slot for emergency opening of stuck doors. I’ve found people hate being trapped in elevators. It’s a pet peeve. Then Roger punched the #3 knob twice and the fan switch off/on. Instead of rising, we went down.

I said, “That’s not likely.”

Roger said, “You ain’t seen the interesting
part yet.”

The doors opened on a long hallway painted hospital bland that, far as I could surmise, ran under Cache Street. At the end we came to a green door with a key code box that played musical notes when you poked buttons. Roger punched in the opening to Also Sproch Zarathustra, quite loud.  Think 2001 loud.  

A slot opened.

Roger said, “Swordfish.”

The door opened. We were greeted by an elderly woman in an electric wheelchair, Coast Guard camouflage, and Nike Air Jordans. She said, “You’re late, Pilgrim.”

Roger said, “I got stuck at Pilates,” which I knew was a total lie. He’d been in Pearl Street Bagels all afternoon working Snapchat.

We crossed an empty way and went through another door—this one Coke-can red—into a room where twenty or so people sat on those cheap folding chairs you usually find in a church annex. Each chair had IDS in white lipstick on the back.

Roger got me a cup of rancid instant coffee. They had artificial creamer in what looked like a tennis ball tube. The flakes floated like dandruff on an oil slick. It tasted okay.

A man in a Century 21 gold blazer with a comb-over that could have bedded down a guinea pig stood at the podium. He gripped the podium with both hands.

“Hello, my name is Gordo Gallafalusia and,” he paused, “I am not a skier.”

A gasp flitted across the room, even though I discovered later that’s how all their talks began.

Gordo was so earnest it hurt my eyes to look
at him.

“I was born in Jackson Hole. All my life I have lived with the shame. I simply do not enjoy sliding down. I must have been born with this flaw.”

The audience nodded and a woman with a beehive under a bike helmet sang, “Amen.”

Gordo was on a roll. “He tried to hide it, but I saw the disappointment in my father’s eyes. I have lost countless summertime companions come the first snow. My wife left me for a halfpipe obsessive.”

The crowd sighed in support. The Amen lady would have married him on the spot.

He held his arms out like Jesus in a Nazarene painting. “Now, I have found this place and you sheltering, protective friends. I feel safe here, for the first time. I have worth. Dignity. I am proud to belong to IDS.”

As the crowd broke into cheers, I leaned toward Roger.

“What?”

He said, “I Don’t Ski.”

The next few speakers talked along the same lines. A woman drywall installer had to stop work and homeschool her kids because of the relentless bullying at school.

“You mama don’t do bumps. Nonnie nonnie poo poo.”

This brought back memories of my own daughter who came home in tears because she was the only child in first grade who hadn’t jumped off the top of the tram.

“I’m never going outside in winter again,” she sobbed into my shoulder.  “I’m joining the chess club.”

“Wow, it’s like discovering the extended family I never knew I’d lost,” I mumbled to Roger.

“I knew this would be your sanctuary.”

Then they had a seminar in Keeping Your Secret.

The leader gave a typical skier line and we had to come up with the response that wouldn’t cause ostracization. 

“Shred the gnar.”

“Send it!” we all shouted except for a front-row Rastafarian who yelled “Sick.”

“The Crags is death cookies and rot.”

“Mashed potatoes on the Headwall!”

“The bomber ripped down bulletproof where a gaper had pulled a yard sale.  The bomber caught an edge on a trust fund bunny and cartwheeled into eternity.”

The crowd was momentarily stumped. A famous poet
said, “Oh.”

An artist said, “Woke.”

This irritated the leader no end. “Wyoming has a law against anybody over fourteen saying, ‘Woke.’ You say ‘Woke’ at the office and your co-workers will kick you off the Secret Santa list for life.”

I knew the answer. I stood up and shouted, “Eat chowder, S.P.O.R.E!”

“That is correct,” Century 21 man said.  “You can never go wrong with ‘Eat chowder.’ ”

As the meeting broke up and we lined up at the buffet table to load our compostable paper plates with Teenie Weinies and Velveeta-filled celery sticks arranged around a gravy boat full of ranch dressing, Roger said, “How did you know about the ‘Eat chowder’?”

I poured myself an NPR giveaway mug of kombucha. “That’s what my wife says when I leave the toilet lid up at night.”

“Eat chowder, S.P.O.R.E?”

“I’m not sure what S.P.O.R.E means.  I’m afraid to ask.”

| Posted in JH Living
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