28 March 2007

Boot 'N Paddle - March 30, 2007

You didn’t wow your parents over break?
I did.
That’s because before I went home, I did some research on the internet, and I acquired some very interesting material that I was sure would knock my parent’s socks off.
Next time your parents ask you what you’ve been learning at St. Lawrence, rattle off some of these impressive animal facts.

Flying squirrels can’t actually fly!
Beavers have teeth so strong that they can eat through an entire tree!
A Cobra’s poison is so potent that it can kill a person!
Chameleons can change the color of their skin! Eww…
Dogs can hear sounds people can’t!
Caterpillars turn into butterflies!
Birds hate snow!
Dolphins can jump out of the water just like we can jump into the water!
Fish can actually breathe underwater!
A tortoise can, and has, lived longer than a human!
Of all animals, Musk Oxen are most prone to depression!
My cat, Mini, went to live in the humane society!
My parents told me she ran away!
In some countries, people eat frog legs!
Penguins are technically birds!
Baby birds eat their mother’s throw up!
Woodpeckers received their name because of the way they make holes in trees!
They taught a chimpanzee sign language!
Bears are invincible!
Worms are boys and girls…at the same time!
Squirrels spend the fall collecting enough food to last them all winter long!
I really don’t have lice!

Be careful, though. Don’t call up your parents or walk in your front door and start did-you-knowing them. It’s way cooler to wait until the topic comes up…

Mother: Oh, Gern (That’s you)! We saw the cutest thing yesterday! Dad left the car door open while he ran inside to grab his tennis shoes and when he got back, there was a baby squirrel perched on top of the steering wheel. It really looked like the little guy was trying to drive!
Gern: Yeah, that’s funny Mom, but did you know that flying squirrels can’t actually fly?

You nailed it!

Boot 'N Paddle - March 9, 2007

Being outside is great and all, but sometimes it is just way too cold out there. Like take this past week, it must have dropped below freezing two or three times! Cold!
So what happens to your day when that outdoor excursion you’ve been planning is called off on account of cold weather? You do something in the only place that’s not outdoors, indoors.
Once you’ve made the decision not to go outside, you first need to think of an excuse to tell your nosy friends, because frankly, “it’s too cold” sounds a little wimpy. This is pretty easy to do. Try out, “My car wouldn’t start,” or “My binding snapped because it was so cold,” or you can just say you don’t want to talk about it, that way your friend feels bad.
So the big thing is what to do inside. Try going for a car ride. The car is in a bit of gray area between out and in but I’d say it’s more in than out.
Check out some back roads. Find a sweet little spot to bring a special someone later in the spring. For you guys, girls love guys with knowledge of back roads. Trust me.
Being in the car will give you the illusion of being outside but will allow you to regulate the temperature. Sitting really close to any window and looking out of it is another way to trick your brain into thinking you’re outside.
If you don’t have a car and are tired of sitting in front of the window, try some of these activities…
Movies are great. Watch one. Also, a well-shot outdoor scene can really make you feel like you’re there too (hello Seven Years in Tibet!)
*Watching network television programming and the surfing the Internet are activities you want to avoid substituting for an outdoor experience. Some computer games are acceptable…like Kings Quest. (Right, Hub?)
Make a to-do list. I started making to-do lists and find myself to be much more productive. Add long-term goals as well as small tasks. Frequently crossing off items will really give you a feeling of accomplishment.
Games are fun. Try picking up Pog or Magic the Gathering––actually, wait, don’t do that.
Sleep feels good but is boring when you think about it.
Have a conversation. How cold it is outside is definitely a good conversation piece.
Combat the outdoors with simulation summer… swim in the pool, sit in the sauna. You might try pretending to buy flowers at the florist just to feel like you’re really in a summertime atmosphere. Be careful about the amount of time you spend doing this. Store employees generally get nervous when someone stands in the corner of their store with their eyes closed for extended periods of time. Buy a balloon or something to keep the florist from getting suspicious.
Try an indoor sport that feels like it’s outside. Spelunking in the basement…just don’t get too close to the hot water heater.
Set up a tent inside. This is quirky and fun.
Constant visitation to a tanning bed will make other people think you’re outside a lot. That’s almost as good as the real thing!

Bundle up more than you ever have before and go outside!

Boot 'N Paddle - March 2, 2007

As many of you know, last week was “Major Declaration Week.” You probably saw the banner hanging up in the student center, or received the many emails, or even heard your friends talking about it. A major declaration in many ways shapes the following years of one’s college career. It’s something every college student must do.

I do have one concern.
The banner in the student center seemed to stress “Major Declaration Week” as being something that comes once a year. The truth of the matter is you can make a major declaration anytime you want. And the beauty part is, anyone can! Sophomores are the target demographic but freshman can do it! Juniors can. And seniors can, too!
Check this out; I’ll make a major declaration right now.
I am the most able-bodied athlete on this campus.
This is a pretty weighty declaration, and it’s also only semi-true. Here’s a more common one:
I will never like mayo.
Notice there is no room for dissent or misinterpretation.
I will never like mayo. That’s that. Take it or leave.
There are certain words that work very well in major declarations, words that let the listener know you mean business (And if you’re making a major declaration, you mean business). Words like, Must, Is, Will, and Destroy. Of course taken out of context these words don’t carry a lot weight, but in context…
I must have it!
That sweater is incredible.
I will destroy you.
These are basic words that help structure a major declaration. However there are many other words that will really spice things up. Listen to Joseph Conrad. “Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love…blah blah…”
“Woe?” Whoa. The presence of that one three-letter word can add pizzazz to the most minor of declarations. (Avoid minor declarations. No one cares if you sometimes do the reading for class.)
Doctors are great at major declarations. When was the last time you heard a doctor say, “You kinda have Spastic Spinal Monoplegia Syndrome?” Or, “I’m pretty sure you need a laparoscopic cholecystectom.” A doctor tells you what you DO have and what you MUST do about it.
There’s a common misconception that a declaration’s place is in politics (thank you Declaration of Independence). That is not true! If you like something, declare it! If you feel something, declare it!
If you want something…declare it!

Boot 'N Paddle - February 23, 2007

“Paris is one of the most beautiful places in all the world. Unfortunately, I was so homesick I couldn't appreciate its beauty.” Tyra Banks said that.

I think tangled up and twisted around in that quote is something we can all learn from, something that is so obvious in the mind of a celebrity, but so difficult for people like you and me to decipher. I’m going to reiterate what I think Tyra was trying to say in a personal anecdote.

The other day, I was working in the library next to an outwardly disgruntled student. He was squirming around in his chair and seemed to be having a pretty tough time hitting the right keys on the keyboard. His situation climaxed with a loud, “UGHH!” Then he swung around in his chair and told me he “is so over this school.”
I was pretty uncomfortable because he was talking to me even though we didn’t know each other, so I just told him, “me too.” But then I started thinking about a story my Grandma used to tell me, a story that I realized would help my neighbor. I turned to him and asked if he wouldn’t mind listening to a story, which I think made him uncomfortable, but he agreed nonetheless.

(The is a rough translation of the story that I told him.)

Kip took another bite. “I’m sick of eating fish,” he said.
“Huh?” Jeremy was puzzled. Sick of fish? A bear had never said, or thought, that before.
“Especially trout.” Kip pushed the half-eaten fish corpse into the river.
“Shh…come on…you don’t mean that…Kip? Kip, you don’t mean that.” Jeremy knew all about his best friend’s…odd personality, but he didn’t want the other bears to hear what he was saying.
“No! I’m serious! I’m sick of it, Jeremy! I’m sick of eating fish, I’m sick of sleeping in damp, dark caves, and I’m so sick of walking around outside when it’s raining. Jeremy! I’m sick and tired of being a bear!”
“Kip! Quiet” Jeremy slipped on a rock and fell into the river. He poked his head out of the water. “Are you crazy, Kip!? You can’t say things like that!”
“Why not, Jeremy? Huh? Why not?”
“Because there are certain things bears––“
Kip turned his back to Jeremy and the river and sauntered off.
Later that day, Jeremy decided to stop by Kip’s cave to apologize for what happened during lunch. After all, he didn’t want a little dispute to affect their friendship.
But when he entered Kip’s cave, there was no sign of Kip! All that was left was a note pinned to the cave wall. The writing was washed out and runny because cave walls are naturally moist, but Jeremy did make out, “…needed some time… job application…try something new…”
And with that, Kip was gone.

Over the next few months Jeremy heard from Kip a couple of times. He was living in Boulder, working for the Department of Transportation programming traffic lights. He was dating a real estate agent named Meadow (which to their annoyance was always a big joke at parties), and just bought a new Pontiac Sunfire. Kip seemed genuinely happy.
One day, Jeremy walked down to the river, just like he always did, to eat some breakfast. But this particular day was special. He wasn’t alone.
“KIP! You’re back!” Jeremy ran down to the river and tackled his friend into the water. “What are you doing back? I thought you had everything you ever wanted in Boulder?”
The two bears stared at each other, both dripping cold, glacial water.
“Jeremy, I came back because, this is where I belong. Because I’m a bear and I love that.” Then Jeremy and Kip hugged in a way only bears can. “Plus Meadow broke up with me…Let’s eat!”

By the time I finished my story, the disheartened student had left, as had most of the other people in the room. But there was still one student left, sitting in the corner, pretending not to listen. But I could tell. I could tell I gave him what Tyra gave me, a lens to look through that allows me to truly appreciate where I am.

Boot 'N Paddle - February 16, 2007

I know that diaries are “private,” and that they should technically be privy to only the author, but the other day, I stumbled upon one that was just too good to resist publishing.

Last weekend I was walking home from an important meeting and noticed something dark on top of a snow bank. It was nighttime so I couldn’t really make out what it was until I got closer and realized it was a notebook. I flipped open the cover to the “In case of loss, please return to:” page, underneath which was written the name–– Wait a minute… oh my gosh! That is so insensitive of me… I can’t write her name! Heeelloo!! Alex, that would be so embarrassing for her! I’ll refer to the author as LD.
When I got back to my room I looked up LD in the directory, emailed her to let her know I had found her journal (or what I assumed to be her journal), and while I was waiting for a reply, just killing time, I began to flip through it. It was her journal.
A couple of entries in, I stopped and thought to myself, “Holy cow, people need to see this.” LD had without knowing it, or knowing that I had her diary, written my column. Here’s the first entry that got me:
“October 22, 2006 –– WE KISSED!!!!! Okay, whoa…I’ll calm down. Lucas and I kissed last night. I have so much work to do but I CAN’T DO IT because he’s all I can think about!
I’ll start at the beginning. Yesterday, a bunch of us all decided to go camping and Josh knew a really chill place that’s right on a river so we got our stuff together and left behind any school party potential. The campsite was AWESOME!!! It was like five minutes from the road so we didn’t have to walk far, there was a awesome fire pit, and oh yeah, Lucas was there.”
I learned a little bit about Lucas in earlier entries… He lives on the same floor as LD, she has had a thing for him since the beginning of the year and they would have hooked up once if it hadn’t been for LD’s “creepy” roommate.
“We started setting up our tents. Lucas didn’t bring a tent but instead planned to sleep in his truck. It’s so like Lucas.
So that night we were all sitting around the fire, and Lucas was practically only talking to me! Oh my god, I feel so lame and girly writing all of this… But anyway, the night went on and people started going off to their tents to go to sleep until it was only Lucas and me sitting by the fire.
He moved over to me and I totally knew what was coming. As we were talking our faces got closer and closer. And then, we kissed, the really good kind where you know you’re both so into it, and that there’s so much more to it than just kissing. Then he told me he’s been wanting do that ever since the night we watched Ghostbusters together.
Oh my god, I HAVE to start my work!”
Here’s another entry from later in the semester. At this point, LD and Lucas are going steady, but trying to work things out after a bit of a fight.
“December 10, 2006–– Things are so much better between me and Lucas now, but for a few hours I wasn’t sure whether or not we would make it. It was so awful.
A little while after he stormed out of my room he showed up to my door and asked me to go for a walk with him. We walked around campus as the sun went down and as snow began to fall. Talking with him, I started to think that maybe we were about to breakup, but then it happened. In the middle of my sentence, Lucas grabbed my shoulders, spun me around, and started kissing me like he did that first time by the fire. The snow fell heavily around us but inside Lucas’s embrace, I felt warm and safe.”

Sitting there waiting to hear back from LD, I pretty much read all of her diary. I wanted to show you these two entries because they were the most romantic and passionate of them all. I asked myself, “What is it that makes these encounters so stirring?” I thought about it. Then it hit me. Like a good kiss in the rain, or a groping session underneath the stars, these situations were heightened by the element of the outdoors.
So for all of you lovebirds that didn’t fill your quota on Wednesday, head outside, because it is outdoors where indifference becomes passion, distaste becomes desire, and aversion becomes lust.

* On a separate note, would Libby Dunhill please stop by the lost & found desk in the student center.

Boot 'N Paddle - February 9, 2007

Sick of your friends? Me too.
Justin got back with a new haircut that looks absolutely ridiculous, Stacy put the photo of you with Adam on facebook after you told her like five times not to, and Mel won't talk to Morgan anymore so English literature is totally awkward now.
These are fictitious characters that I invented in order to get my point across that sometimes, when it comes to your own self-fulfillment, other human beings simply cannot be held responsible.
I came to this conclusion a year ago after a group of my "friends" and I drove to Vermont for a weekend at the Catamount Spa. Ben wouldn't stop blackberrying his girlfriend (even though mobile-phones are strictly against Catamount Spa policy), Kelly wouldn't stop quoting "Lazy Sunday," and on saturday morning we had to leave an entire day early because Lars developed mild conjunctivitis. Weekend wasted. This is yet another scenario that I created in order to support my point.
If you can't count on friends, what can you count on? Shopping? No, stores close sometimes. What about computers? Computers are fun but can be confusing and demanding. And sudoku is borderline not cool anymore. A realm you may want to explore is one most people have been avoiding for the past couple of weeks, the outdoors. I find myself outside on a day to day basis, sometimes several times a day. But simply being outside doesn't cut it. No, no, it's great to be outside, but try going outdoors, if you know what I mean. No? Do something outside other than calculating the best way to escape the cold and your ex-girlfriend.
It's winter right now, typically a snowy season, and cold, but this isn't an obstacle. Put on the warmest clothing you have (cozy can be substituted for "warm" to give the experience a real winter-wonderland quality, or save cozy for when you get back inside. It's your choice.). Wool is an excellent decision if you don't mind being encrusted with snow after a matter of minutes. Once you're bundled up, walk outside. You may see your breath but don't worry, that's normal. Next it's time to make the change from outside to outdoors. Walk forward like you normally would, but instead of turning at the impending snowbank, keep going. Walk, jump, run, over, on, or through it. Then just see what happens. If you stay in the same place, you're most likely going to get cold, so keep moving! If your not alone, you can play snow tag. Shuffle your feet around to make a complex path system and then play tag restricted to only the path. Snow tag is one of many wintertime recreational activities. Burying people in the snow, a classic. British Bulldog. Clear a small circle and while on your knees, wrestle your oppenent until one is forced out of the circle. Fight the urge to take this game too seriously.
For the aforementioned games you need little besides a couple articles of warm clothing and a playful spirit. While simply romping about a field of snow is one of the most delightful winter pastimes, something must be said about those activities that do require equipment. Try going for a moonlit cross-country ski down the row of elms. Snowshoe nine holes on the golf course. Go skiing. Go snowboarding. Pay attention to your email. While the internet itself is not considered a outdoor activity, it does give you access to OP and OC trip announcements. Don't worry about not having the equipment, the outdoor program has plenty just for you.
So next time you're sitting around listening to Casey talk about the new episode of "Lost," think about the possibilities that await you outside your door. Remember, snowshoeing doesn't make out with your ex-girlfriend. Hiking doesn't start going out with your ex-girlfriend even though you said it wouldn't be cool. Ice climbing doesn't tell all of your other friends the thing I told Amie–– I mean your ex-girlfriend in secrecy. Most importantly, remember that even though Stacy, Lars, and Casey can get a bit tiresome, they are the components that will make a good day out in the snow great.