Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
Aspen, CO, Colorado
The other night we were at a dinner party in Steamboat Springs with a bunch of my parents’ friends, an eccentric crew who are all well-traveled and rich with life experiences.
Our host, Fred, a tall man with watery blue eyes and pink cheeks, likes to orate at these gatherings as if he is running some sort of workshop or seminar. That involves everyone being quiet while he tells these long stories from his life and travels as he leans back in his chair, swirling the wine in his glass during painfully long pauses. And sometimes, it means he asks a question that everyone at the table has to answer.
Tonight it’s, “What’s the one thing in your life that scared you the most?”
Some answers are short, like Ryan’s.
“That would have to be jumping out of an airplane,” he said with a wink and a shrug.
Some are long, like Fred’s dissertation on living in a war zone while he was working for IBM in Vietnam in the ’70s. One woman had a story about standing in the middle of a dozen cobras in Marrakesh. Another told us about the time she witnessed a Mafia shooting in a restaurant in South Beach.
Even though I was hanging out with a bunch of retirees, their stories were pretty damned good. I anticipated my turn, thinking about what I might say, putting my various anecdotes in a mental queue. Should I tell the story about that time we were marooned on a mountain ridge in Alaska that got socked in because the helicopter couldn’t land to come and pick us up? How about the time I paddled out at a reef break in Fiji with a barreling wave when I could barely surf the ankle-biters back in San Diego?
I settled for the time I was on assignment in northern British Columbia on a heli trip with a photographer from Prince Rupert who chartered a tiny helicopter at the local airport with a pilot who had never taken anyone snowboarding before. He thought it was fine to just pop a window open to make room for the boards, even though it was zero degrees out, and hoped the tiny helicopter would be able to withstand the weight and the altitude, God willing.
Everyone listened politely, sort of nodding their heads, but I could plainly see that their reaction was limited at best.
“How about the time I went snow tubing at Buck Hill in Minneapolis!” I squealed,procuring my iPhone from out of my pocket and playing video of my screams and giggles.
Everybody loved that one.
Clearly, that was a pretty good crowd. It was a group of people in their golden years who can just sit back and tell us a thing or two about life.
Speaking of life, ever since we got back from Minnesota and concluded what was a very sedentary, indulgent holiday season, I have been on a lifestyle bender.
“You’re not going to go from being fit to obese in two weeks,” Ryan scolded when I was whining about how fat and out of shape I was. “It’s not like you’re going to need a wheelchair.”
So the first thing I did when we got home was hike Highland Bowl. I don’t know if it was the sheer joy of being up there in the thin air under a brilliant blue sky or if it was that I ran into like six people I knew along the way or that I actually got to take a run with my accountant Super Steve (who is as good a skier as he is an accountant) or that the Ski Patrol was in a chatty mood that day and made me feel like a member of the club. But I felt great. I don’t think I’ve ever felt better.
The next day we decided to go “explore our backyard,” as Ryan likes to say, which means we take a left at the bottom of the hill instead of a right and head up the Fryingpan. We loaded up the cross-country skis and decided we would go scout out some trails up the valley.
After driving for an hour, I murmured, “The Maroon Bells are closer,” but I didn’t want to kill Ryan’s buzz. Ryan just loves going up – the higher the better.
We turned onto Eagle-Thomasville Road and drove up that as far as we could, which was a lot farther than I would have preferred on account of the narrow, one-lane, snowpacked, not-sure-if-we-can-turn-around-here kind of road. We settled for a snowmobile trail and started skiing up.
It was totally worth it just watching Ryan navigate the long downhill on his old classic skis, arms and legs spread-eagle at speeds in great excess of anything he should be comfortable with. It was worth it for the burning quads and the wind in my face and the good-tired feeling that only comes after a hearty cardio workout.
We went skate-skiing last Sunday, which would have been fun if only I hadn’t had to stop every five minutes to prevent myself from having a heart attack, which would be pretty embarrassing at my age.
Of course there’s been lots of yoga, too, and I’ve started a 21-day cleanse, which means I have to eat like a rabbit and give up the Holy Trinity of Life, which is coffee, alcohol and Advil.
So, as I’m sitting here, crumpling up huge leaves of kale and stuffing them through my juicer with an organic carrot and trying to figure out a way to ingest my daily garlic clove without offending the dog, I’m finally realizing what I’m really afraid of.
There is actually something scary about loving your life this much, this underlying fear that something might happen and take it all away. But it is precisely that fragility that makes it all so sweet.
The Princess needs to lose 20 pounds. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Commentary: “My granddaughter Charli, dressed in an ankle-length sun dress, sporting a fresh manicure and wearing light lipstick (her mother helped reorganize that), quietly welcomed me to the affair, maintaining an air of sophistication that surprised. She knew it was a big deal.”