February 2014

ski jump2Watching the Sochi Olympics brought back a rush of fond memories. Our family ventured to the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, B.C., for an unforgettable experience. My husband wanted to see ski jumping.  Living in Seattle, it was certainly convenient, and we figured we may never get another chance.

Arrangements were made, and we set out on our historic journey to the “Great White North”. As we approached Bellingham, Washington, my son asked, “Hey, isn’t this where baby Jesus was born, in the little town of Bellingham?” “Why yes son, it is”.

We made our way to Whistler and checked into our condo. The woman at the front desk advised we get up at 5 a.m. to make our 10 a.m. event. We laughed at the hilarity of such a suggestion. After all, the event was just up the street, and buses to the venue would be running like clockwork.

The next morning I awoke at 7 a.m., rolled over, and went back to sleep. When I finally dragged my bones out of bed, and the family was assembled, we were in a serious time crunch. But hey, no problem, just hop on the bus that runs right by our condo.

While waiting at the bus stop, several buses drove by, splattering us with dirty sludge. We began to panic.  We asked a few official looking Olympic volunteers why we weren’t getting picked up by the buses. The typical response, “They shipped me in from Manitoba, eh? I just work here, eh?”

Blood pressures rising, pulses quickening, we ascertain buses leave from Whistler Village, and head straight to the venues.  We flagged down a taxi and sped toward Whistler Village.

We were deposited at the Olympic Bus Depot.  As we found our seats, the bus driver climbed off, declaring his coffee break. Fifteen minutes later, fueled by tobacco and caffeine, the driver returned. We began the arduous journey, glancing compulsively at our watches.

camila olympicsSigh of relief as bus pulls into destination. Where is the ski jump competition? What? We have to hike up the mountain? No problem. It’s 10:15 a.m., but they can’t possibly start on time can they? It’s the first event of the Olympics, and no offense to our gentle Canadian brethren, but rumor has it, they’ve been a bit disorganized.  We start the long march up the hill; alternating between carrying, pushing, pulling, and rolling our children. Every muscle in our bodies aching, as we ascend. We are so close! But what’s this? A mass exodus heading straight down the mountain. “Hey guys, it’s great you’re all coming down the mountain, but can you please step aside? We have a ski jump competition to attend.” We are now going against a great current of refugees, waiving flags from a variety of Arctic Circle nations.

“Hmm, maybe it’s halftime? They have halftime in ski jumping, right?” That’s when the cheerleaders perform. We finally work up the courage to ask the pilgrims where they are going.

“It’s over.”

“No, we’re talking about the ski jump event.”

“Right, it’s over.”

Suspended disbelief; this can’t be happening.  I am sure these spectators are misguided and confused.  We keep hiking up the mountain. Ask a few more folks, just to confirm our idiocy. Is this some allegory or Aesop’s fable? My brain is scrambling to make sense of the grass hopper and the ant, or the early bird getting the worm. What are the true implications here? I suddenly see condemnation from teachers, family, my yoga instructor, the local butcher.You what? You missed the Olympics? How much did you spend on the tickets?

Apparently the ski jump event goes very fast. Fortunately a kid on our shameful return bus ride showed us his video of the event. It was just like being there. He got up at 5a.m. and made his way up the mountain, so as not to miss his once in a lifetime Olympic moment.

12th man By now the Super Bowl is old news, and most of us have moved on to the Olympics. It was great fun for a city that has long been deprived of sports victories, and the media’s attempt to characterize Seattle, to the point of psycho analyzing its entire population, was so amusing. I don’t recall such attempts to gain insight into the collective minds of Baltimore, New York, Green Bay, or other past championship cities. Perhaps the quirkiness of our citizens is just too tempting.

The New York Times¹ coverage of the victory parade as anthropological experiment was particularly insightful.  Apparently we are polite but cold, very geeky, and most of the adult population has an intravenous espresso drip implanted into a vein. Seattleites also have a “mile-wide streak of insecurity about (ourselves) and (our) place in the world.”

Sifting through the crowd, the reporter found people who believe this victory will “build our confidence” and the Ringhelp us find our place in the world.  Others expressed dismay over the 12th man as un-sportsmen–like. Even more priceless is the hope that it will shine a light on the Seattle Opera, particularly Wagner’s “Ring,” (Seattle’s operatic version of a stadium Dead show). Perhaps Richard Sherman should don a horned Viking helmet over his dreads and join the Ring Chorus.  That would spark some interest.

If only I had managed to drag my lazy self and kids downtown to the parade. I would have given the roving reporters exactly what they had come for, waxing philosophically a-la-Noam Chomsky, “Why am I cheering for my team? It’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — it’s training in irrational jingoism.” ²

I then would have mentioned how much this helped a city suffering from low self-esteem and self-loathing to start the long slow process of loving ourselves again, and how I hope it will bring more visitors to the Gum Wall in Pike Market, and Paul Allen’s true triumph, the Experience Music Project.  Not only can you see the world’s largest collection of broken guitar strings, but it also features a piece of lint from Kurt Cobain’s favorite fuzzy sweater.

In all sincerity, I think the psychology behind celebrating a Super Bowl victory is pretty straightforward. Doesn’t every city like to flex their muscles by winning a major sports championship every now and again, regardless of the purported character of a city?  Call it human nature. And this particular Super Bowl championship for Seattle was so sublime. The Seahawks captivated this city, even the most ambivalent among us. Our admiration extended way beyond their pure athleticism and win/loss record. It was the myriad of human qualities they unabashedly displayed – humility, bravado, grit, strength, fearlessness, egotism, insecurity, vulnerability.

We all know it’s been a tough row to hoe for Seattleites when it comes to professional sports.  Thirty-five years since the Sonics won the NBA championship, and they are now playing somewhere on the Great Plains.  The Mariners last playoff run was in 2001, and it has long been rumored that if the Mariners ever made it to the World Series, it’s what Revelations was referring to as the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

  1. “‘Chill’ Seattle Savors Its Super Bowl Moment in the Sun”, KIRK JOHNSON, FEB. 5, 2014, New York Times
  2. Excerpts from Manufacturing Consent ,  Noam Chomsky interview,  1992

st valentineIf you haven’t started making homemade Valentines yet, you are way behind the eight-ball.  If you start now, and pull a few all-nighters, you might have a shot at a subpar showing. The kids and I always start right after the new year. This year we are hand-painting grains of rice and building mosaics depicting the martyrdom of St. Valentine. It’s a little gruesome, but really gets back to the true meaning of St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II.  He was arrested for marrying Christian couples in the church, which was strictly verboten. Unwilling to renounce his faith, he was beaten with clubs, stoned, and to finish the job, beheaded.  His execution took place on February 14, around the year 270. Martyrdom is so romantic!

If you are squeamish, and recreating the gore of an execution on a commemorative mosaic is not your thing, don’t despair.  I have other laborious and impractical ideas for making unique Valentines, that will be cherished for years to come.

1) For the Sports Enthusiasts: Distribute wings, bows, and arrows to the children.  Nothing is cuter than a bunch of cherubic children shooting arrows at one another playing Cupid.

2) Valentines that Pop: Package Coca Cola and pop rocks in hand-painted swag bags. The stomach exploding is just a myth, right?

3) Personalized Sonnets: You and your children will have so much fun writing an “Ode to” each child in the classroom.You might need to brush up on iambic pentameter. If you need an additional challenge, I find calligraphy on parchment makes a beautiful statement. For an A+, I recommend burning the edges and decoupage-ing to make decorative wall hangings that will last forever.

4) Choco-Hype: I think it’s fun to make a seven-layer chocolate ganache cake for every child in the classroom.  Include handmade bibs with retro hearts and cupid motif. Embroidered bibs are charming, and so unexpected!  Hand them over to the kids at school without cutlery and let them have at it.

kitten in box kittens

5) Fluffy Kittens: I love distributing mewing kittens to all the children. This is a really low cost option. If you don’t bother with the vaccinated, de-wormed kittens, you can usually get them for free. Bonus points for kittens with heart-shaped markings.

 

 

 

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