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Maxed out - special

Coming out of amnesia, again Regular Pique readers (if they’re both in town this week) may observe that this essay is not authored by the usual correspondent, and may even regret being deprived of the dollop of wisdom that can frequently, if not

Coming out of amnesia, again

Regular Pique readers (if they’re both in town this week) may observe that this essay is not authored by the usual correspondent, and may even regret being deprived of the dollop of wisdom that can frequently, if not weekly, be found in this space. The truth is that the normal source of filler for this space is being rested, in light and honour of his attainment of that dubious distinction of having reached the age of fifty years.

Additionally, whatever celebration such a feat may warrant will doubtless tax Max’s resources to the point of needing a week off from the exertion of having to fill this space, either with new material or, as sometimes happens, with a re-run. It amazes me how Max can brush up a several-year-old editorial to somehow bring it current enough to pass off again, but such are the obvious parallels between, say, Whistler Village politics or downhill skiing, on the one hand, and Native American hunting traditions or the plumbing techniques of the early Roman empire, on the other. A brain in which an extraordinary number of neurons have been allowed to connect (either through idle indulgence of fancy, or through a long term and intensive pharmaceutical program) can draw connections between enough external stimuli to make sense (in some fascinating ways) of the entire universe. But I digress. Back to Max and his fiftieth; I only hope that Dusty’s will not suffer another ten day suspension at the instigation of the RCMP as a result of any celebration that may occur.

The act of viewing, in retrospect, one’s earliest years is much like the experience of coming out of amnesia. One thinks back, tries to recollect, replays the movie of his or her life, and realizes that he actually knows not from whence he came, and that he must rely on the recollection of others that were there to observe. Can the recollections of others be relied on? Rhetorical questions – why ask them? Having read some of Max’s columns about events I was involved in, I’m not so sure about relying on the recollections of others, but that long term, intensive pharmaceutical program still seems to be producing some results, doesn’t it?

For various reasons, most apparently having to do with the fact that we live in a decimal based culture, milestones divisible by ten are given some greater import than others that have more substantive connection with our lives. Thus, women seem to agonize greatly over the artificial milestone of the thirtieth birthday, when it would seem more meaningful to mark, for example, the loss of virginity. Perhaps the latter milestone is not often achieved with the clarity of mind that the former is, given the liberal use of alcohol in achieving (or suffering) the latter. Of late, at least in my crowd, the milestone most commented about seems to be the fiftieth birthday.

I recently marked the "big 50" event myself. In various embarrassing ways, my attainment was celebrated by my friends, including a heartfelt (and slightly embarrassing) article in this space (see Pique volume 7.47, page 62) headed by a somewhat candid, if undignified, photograph of someone posing as myself. (It is remarkable what a clever mind can do with an old photograph and some computer software.)

The occasion caused me to try to recollect earlier milestones in my life; with the aid of various stimuli, I found the effort very much like coming out of amnesia, something that I seem to have been doing repeatedly over the course of my life, generally with the same results. One of the recurring characteristics of my repeated struggles to come out of amnesia is the appearance of Maxwell. As I review the memories I have associated with Max, I find the images still malleable, and that some function in my brain (probably having to do with self-defence) has been continually embellishing the images, either with brightly coloured (electric green and purple, for example) linear patterns apparently left over from the ’60s (magic carpet remnants?!), or with some fluffy stuff like what middle class American girls decorate their bathrooms with.

At the age of fifty one’s future begins to be more easily discernible than one’s past, especially if one’s past was spent like mine and Max’s. Aside from successfully clouding the past back when it was happening, we also probably shortened the future in various ways. In a few more years we will view our progress into our respective futures as going back into amnesia, and the halfway point between coming out of and going back into amnesia will likely be viewed (in retrospect) as meaningful. Hopefully, our fiftieth birthdays will approximate that half-way point, though this may be relying too heavily on modern medicine and the alleged beneficence of a supreme being.

Roughly halfway between my fiftieth birthday and Max’s, I visited him to be sure that he was headed in the same direction as I. I arrived for my second visit to Whistler an intermediate skier, capable of getting down most of the runs at, say Santa Fe, or some run-of-the-mill Colorado family ski resort. After several days of following Max around the slopes, (and hearing him remark, less convincingly each time, "Damn, I thought sure this trail was groomed") I found myself at the top of a series of three rounded steps locally called "Upper Dave Murray" or something equally descriptive, which Max suggested we cruise down.

I didn’t notice that Max held back as I started down, and I plunged ahead at what could (again in retrospect) be described as "breakneck" speed. The sudden effect of my arrival at the bottom of the first step was fortunately not "breakneck", but it did turn out to be the shortest span of time in my life during which I continuously believed I might die. A large percentage of the other times in my life that I thought I might die, I was wrong, but it always took longer to realize it. Also (but perhaps not coincidentally) a large percentage of the other times that I thought I might die, Max was with me.

This time, I didn’t even entirely lose consciousness (something I have often done in Max’s company), but I did assume that I had broken all my legs and arms. As I lay on the snow, head downhill, trying to figure out where my various limbs were located (start with a limb, find a wire, follow it back toward the brain, pull on it and see if anything happens, etc.) and trying to figure out how I could have crashed so hard without a snowboarder, I found myself coming out of amnesia, again. True to form, right in the middle of the process, (and amidst the little intangible things swarming before my eyes, about where an injured skier would expect to see a snowboarder) there appeared Max’s familiar face, with the same look of concern that I have come to love and dread over the past thirty years.

I’m probably being a little hard on snowboarders as a group; at Taos, here in New Mexico, the mountain is closed to snow boards, so the boarders have organized a boycott of the ski area. But I digress, again.

I’ve read the back of the Whistler lift ticket, and, being trained in the law, recognize a bullet-proof contract against liability. I’ve let Maxwell lead me down enough roads (figuratively and literally) and ski runs to know that I’ve no one but myself to sue. Besides, if I wanted to sue Max, I would apparently have to stand in a line longer than the morning gondola line, or worse, longer than the line for the men’s room at Dusty’s during a celebration.

My family won’t allow me to return to Whistler until my separated shoulder heals, so there’s really not much for me to do about it but whine. I often look back at the "good old days" of my youth as if I could clearly remember them. When I do, I remember Maxwell, and something inside of me begins to ache the way my shoulder does right now. If I’m not thinking clearly (I can only manage about six hours of clear thought a day anymore, and they hopefully occur between 9 and 5 on weekdays), I wistfully think of the halcyon days when Max was around all the time, ready to participate in whatever insane or inane endeavour either of us could think up. Back then male bonding was easy; now it takes roughly the same amount of time and planning as a sound program of dental hygiene or a protracted lawsuit. I can even lull myself into thinking that someday the court orders and warrants will dissolve, and Max will come back to the USA (that, or the US and Canada will negotiate an extradition treaty, and he will be brought back).

The day before the ski wreck I acquired from the Whistler Village pharmacist an analgesic formula that isn’t readily available in the USA. If only I had shown the same prescience with Yahoo or Microsoft stock. In any event, each evening as I administer a suitable dosage of the aforementioned analgesic, I think of myself slipping back into amnesia, again, and the one familiar thing about it is that Maxwell is somehow there.

I’ll see you at the next milestone, Dude.