THE VIEW AT 8,574 FEET

Carolyn had snowshoeing on her bucket list. While both the drought and spring reduced opportunities, some snow remained around Kirkwood Ski Resort 45 minutes from South Lake Tahoe. We found it last weekend at the sno park (that’s how it’s spelled) at Carson Pass, elevation 8,574 feet. The altitude spurred several thoughts.

We’re old but not that old. We seemed at least a generation older—more like two—than everyone we encountered. At 70, I can’t escape being an elder. Fortunately, I keep running into people 10 and 20 years older. On Wednesday we saw “Let There Be Love” at ACT (the American Conservatory Theater). Carolyn and I might have been the youngest in a nearly full house. And yes, it was a matinee.

“Know thyself” pays off. The guy who rented us our snowshoes at South Lake was a 50-something from England. He’d been an engineer for a dozen years before realizing he didn’t care for what he was doing. Having skied on the Continent, he went to New Zealand. Then he discovered that Tahoe was affordable. He could work and still ski 70–90 days a year. He might have stayed in England and built an estimable career. Instead, he followed his dream and never looked back.

The human condition is fragile. Some weeks ago, Carolyn and I witnessed a young man (30) deliberately break a plate-glass window on Clement Street. I helped the storeowner chase him down and keep him in place until the arrival of the police—very professional and restrained. It seemed evident that the young man had emotional problems. He also had an outstanding warrant. You expect this in the big city. But last Sunday at Kirkwood, skiers and snowboarders had their own taste while enjoying the final day of the season on a sunny Sierra morning. Steps from the only lift open, a man of indeterminate age and scruffy appearance held both middle fingers aloft while yelling, “Fuck Kirkwood and fuck you!”

Our water sources are fragile, too. On Saturday afternoon, another Kirkwood guest, staring at the mountain in front of him, said, “It all went so fast.” I responded, “We didn’t have much in the first place.” The drought left the Sierra snow pack way low. That means little run-off to provide needed water. Conservation is all the rage now and rightly so. A big question remains: How quickly will California agriculture adopt better conservation methods? Wells are drying up. Traditional irrigation uses—and wastes—far too much water. Moreover, while wealthy homeowners with big lawns—and golf courses—account for only a fraction of California’s water usage, they have to play their part. Some years ago, we replaced our small backyard lawn with a new patio area and a smaller patch of artificial turf. We went to drought-resistant plants, as well. Our water usage—and bills—plummeted.

As to our reason for going to the mountains, we walked into the park on a sometimes icy trail then encountered enough long patches of snow to tromp through the woods on snowshoes. But that was then and this is now. On Thursday, I went to the Giants-Dodgers game. The Giants won. Life can be good.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—$20 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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