Sousa: Crewing a race with cube | AspenTimes.com
Brian Sousa
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Sousa: Crewing a race with cube

Any day that begins with pulling on a purple vest and matching jacket is going to be a good day; I'm sure Ice Cube would back me up on that. I've worn purple uniforms before — growing up, my club soccer team sported a violet kit, complete with yellow socks — so I know it's a sublime look for a guy with red hair and freckles. Makes me look younger. Or like an out-of-work magician. Either way, I rolled to Day One of Highlands race crew in my drop-top, took a sip of the potion and hit the three-wheel motion, ready to do anything to keep my ski pass.

I hit the switches, waved to the attendant (Sup kid! We're both wearing purple, dig?) She promptly exploded from her booth as I ran the intersection: "You're going the wrong way!"

I considered telling her "today was like one of those fly dreams, didn't even see a berry flashing those high beams," but there just wasn't enough time. Shake 'em up, shake 'em: my nametag wasn't in the pile in the office. Did I even really work here? Whatever; I had a job to do, a race to crew, if you will.

"So, can I wear these snowboard boots?" I asked the crowd of strangers.

"I wouldn't!" a woman replied, surprised. "You need to ski!"

I quit skiing when I was 11, the day after I tried snowboarding. (Skating on snow? Instant addiction.) But I took a few laps the other week, and best believe I can rip it: '80s-style parallel turns, confusion regarding my poles, even more static climbing steps.

I sweated my way out to the car and spent 15 minutes forcing my feet into frozen ski boots. I actually had a pep talk with myself: "You can do this. Just push through the pain. These boots try to blast you, roll right past 'em."

The homies stood waiting for me as I tripped up the stairs.

"Ever judge a race before?" asked the crew leader.

I thought a second. "Sure! Once, my cousins were racing, out on the lawn at a barbecue. They asked me who won. But yo, I wasn't totally sure."

Many details spun my way about "faults" and "gates." For some reason, I needed to actually draw a miniature racecourse. What? My mom was an art teacher for 30 years, but my only success came when she "helped" me with my crappy dioramas because I was hopeless, frustrated and covered in glue and glitter.

"Dude — no need for poles," someone remarked.

"Totally," I said, and I poled my way to the lift. Of course I needed poles! How else was I going to pole-plant or pole-whack?

The crew gathered at Thunderbowl's summit. "Let's go!" someone shouted, and everyone disappeared. "Guys? What's the haps on the craps?" But I had to stay with my crew! I've never been so out-of-control — while sliding so slow. Halfway down, my pager was still blowing up, my poles trailed behind, and I prayed I wouldn't hit signs, netting or the patroller who tailed me "to make sure I got down."

The race popped off; I gripped my clipboard. I could barely follow the skiers, let alone paint a fingernail-sized portrait. How detailed should it be? Did I include my tiny skis, extraneous poles and purple vest in said illustration? Whoosh! There goes another one! Wait, he just smacked into the gate. With his helmet. He got jacked! Did that count?

I got the hang, and there was no flexing: bluebird sky over my shoulder, sun burning my face, music blasting. Someone even brought lunch — this never happened at Squaw Valley! We'd hide khakis and collared shirts under our lifty gear and pretend we worked at the resort nearby, stealing lunch and hot-tub soaks daily. This was different. This was — sophisticated. This was a can of Gatorade, a bag of Doritos, not to mention the Fatburger. This was — race crew!

I got my grub on but didn't pig out, and after the race, everyone told me to do "circuits." I didn't know what a circuit was, but I was going too slowly to catch anyone. Finally my true test arose: hefting a dope roll of B-Net. "Haven't you only skied for three days or something? Lift this." I wobbled my way down the hill.

Cube was right: I'd yelled domino, picked up the cash flow and killed the race crew. Today was a good day. Almost time to drive to the pad and hit the showers.

As a prize, I was asked to take out the trash. "Can you make it?" asked a crew member, pointing toward a Dumpster. "Or do you need help?"

"I'm on it," I said proudly. "Did you see me lift that freakin' B-Net?"

"No," he said hesitantly. "Do you really work here?"

Brian Sousa appears every other Sunday in The Aspen Times. Reach him at sousabr@ gmail.com.