Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Looking through the LL Bean winter catalog this morning (I'm a big fan of LL Bean boots and moccasins, used to visit the old store in Freeport Maine every time I went camping up around there back in the 60s and early 70s) I came across a photo of a toboggan, of which there are none in Japan and that I had tried to describe to Echo at some point in the past (it's not easy to describe a toboggan to one of a tobogganless culture) so pointed this one out to her in detail.

This naturally segued into various tobogganing tales of my youth on the snowy hills of upper New York State, back when there was no tv and every decent slope for miles around was full of children in squealing bunches sliding down and climbing up, steaming hot in the freezing cold, and how what a big hit was a toboggan, a long toboggan, when ten kids could go down at once in a roiling scream of instant camaraderie that tumbled all together at the end, those vivid memories leading inevitably to the final derring-do toboggan ride of my brother and myself and our friends Marty and Mac during our college days when we went to New Hampshire for a long winter party weekend and at some point one evening decided to toboggan down the empty ski slope before the sun set.

We'd had a few beers and a lot of tobogganing experience under our belts, so we scrambled way up the empty icy slope, arranged ourselves on the toboggan and started off, very quickly reaching about 400 miles an hour – my memory recalls something about the sound barrier, but that may be spurious – at which speed we couldn't turn or stop as the big building at the bottom with all its concrete stanchions loomed closer and closer in the dimming light, so in desperation we leeaaannnneeeeeddddd as far as we could but despite all our expertise we hit one of those concrete stanchions in mental slow motion like live crash test dummies.

Actually, the back of my left thigh hit the stanchion, and my knee broke one of my brother's ribs; the other two guys went on tumbling for some time. My brother got taped up and I had to use a cane for weeks as I hobbled from class to class. We were young, we were insane, what can I say; that’s part of what college is for. But tobogganing remains golden in memory, since we survived. Even now, we survive. The toboggan, though, was not notably damaged. They made things to last, in those days.

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