Ryan James Leclerc
Posted December 5th, 2010
I was driving home after work through the Bolton flats corridor recently on a golden, sun-soaked late fall evening, flipping through the radio stations, trying to find a decent song to unwind to after a day that had wound me up. At 5:15 in central Vermont, finding a listenable tune isn’t always easy, and this particular evening was no exception. After scanning through the frequencies for a few minutes, dodging car commercials and mindless DJ babble, I settled on a classic rock station that had just started a commercial-free block of golden, guitar-soaked classic rock.
American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came on. Even though I’ve heard that song so many times I can sing it backwards in French while standing on my head, and I don’t even speak French, it was better than Free Bird. I turned up the volume and set the cruise control. With that familiar opening riff blasting through my factory speakers, I settled into the drive home and got ready to sing along. Halfway through the song, during Mike Campbell’s guitar solo, I was feeling better, and when looking around, I noticed that the trees, which a week earlier were still brightly colored, had all turned to goldenrod, burnt orange, and rust. The lush green summer coat was a faint memory; it was the final stand of this year’s leaves, before fading into a flat, dull hue, while clinging desperately to their branches before detaching and falling to the ground. Winter was about to move in.
Before I knew it, I was on my way back to work the next morning, drinking coffee and listening to VPR. During the Writer’s Almanac, I looked around and noticed a totally different scene in the valley from the prior evening. The sky was gray, the fog was low, and it was raining. The temperature was hovering in the mid-thirties. A storm had settled in overnight, and according to the Eye on the Sky weather report, snow had fallen in the higher elevations. Although I couldn’t see through the thick valley fog, the rust colored treetops were now covered with a white frosting.
Snow in the mountains means that without a doubt, some folks made their first turns of the season. I wasn’t one of them, but I was sure that a few of my favorite fellow coworkers were. As it turns out, I was right. Bart, Phlip, Land Beaver, and Trimtram all made it out for early morning “dawn patrol.” When I got to work, they were all exuberant when relaying the story. Sure it was raining at the bottom, but it was sick! Sure only the top of the mountain had snow, but it was sick! Sure there was only a feeble layer of wet slop covering loose rocks, fallen rust-colored leaves, and dirt, but it was sick! That is the kind of unbridled enthusiasm ski shops need. I’m glad we have someone to perpetuate it.
There was a time, not too long ago it seems, when I would have been up there with them. I would have waxed my rock skis the night before. I would have set my alarm clock for 4 a.m. I would have immediately jumped out of bed when it went off. But these days, alas, it is a different story. I may set my alarm with every intention of getting out of bed at four in the morning, but as soon as it goes off, I immediately kill it and go right back to sleep. It’s a shame, I know.
So what happened to my unbridled enthusiasm? When did I lose my desire to get up at four in the morning, trek out in the rain, hike a mountain only to ski the top half, then hike to the bottom and go to work? I wish I knew. Concerning getting up at four in the morning, here is how a typical conversation with Bart goes:
Bart: “It’s supposed to snow tonight. If there’s enough, we’re meeting at Mad River at 5 a.m. Wanna come?”
Me: “Yeah, maybe. How much is enough?”
Bart: “An inch or two. You know, enough to slide on. But they’re saying it may snow up to five inches! Sick!”
Me: “5 a.m. you say? Sounds great! There is a 100-percent chance I’ll be there. But there’s only a 50-percent chance of that, so if it’s 5:01 a.m. and I haven’t showed up, don’t wait for me.”
My unbridled lack of enthusiasm might have something to do with that Tom Petty song. Back when I had a lot more enthusiasm, if any classic rock song came on the radio, I immediately turned it off. This was back in the nineties and 2K, when I was listening to modern music and couldn’t bear to listen to any dinosaur rock. Nowadays however, I’m not only listening to classic rock again, I’m turning it up. And I’m listening to the Writer’s Almanac on VPR and turning that up too, although not because I enjoy Garrison Kealor’s voice at a loud volume, but because my hearing is starting to go. Yes, I’m getting older, that is a fact, but I also may finally be growing up. I’ve been fighting maturity since 1973 and have been winning, but now perhaps, I’m losing. But I’m not ready to throw my hands up just yet, so the next time my alarm goes off at four in the morning, I’m getting up. It’ll be sick!
Ryan James Leclerc has worked in retail longer than you. Although he has recently made the move from the sales floor to the office of Onion River Sports, he likes to reminisce about the good old days using the present tense narrative. He lives in Burlington with his lovely wife Mckalyn. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.