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The (inside) Whistler Story

By G.D.

By G.D. Maxwell

Sitting on the snow at the top of the gray zone on Blackcomb, wondering whether I should start jogging again or give up climbing the chimney, hoping that wasn’t part of a lung I’d just coughed up, everything the day had offered was spread before me like a banquet. Late afternoon sepia tone sun shone brightly on the Tantalus peaks, making them look like some beckoning Shangri La in the distance. Snow beat down 21 Mile Creek and spilled over the ridge into the watershed of 19 Mile. Holes of blue sky stitched a crazyquilt patchwork with angry clouds. "Another day in paradise," Seppo might have said.

Benevolently, when it came time for an après interlude, the clouds parted, the sun burned hot and an Aussie waiter named Mike – Maak – scared up a Whistler Black Tusk while I listened to Spanish being spoken loudly all around me on the patio of Monk’s. I was lost momentarily in the cultural soup, wishing the tired rock ’n’ roll might be replaced with Mariachi, when I started hallucinating.

I could have sworn someone swimming through the crowd in front of Merlin’s, coming toward me, was decked out in a ratty Man With No Name poncho, a gaudy, outsized red felt sombrero with gold trim, greasy dockers and tire-tread harachis. It was no hallucination. Even with a big Sony videocam hiding his face, the shuffle was painfully familiar. It was J.J. and he was heading straight for me.

Waiving while still looking through the camera’s viewfinder, I heard the gravel-choked voice call out, "Yo Dude, Happy Cinco de Mayo."

"That would be next month, J.J. And it’s pronounced My Owe, not mayo like you put on sandwiches. Why don’t you...." Never one to need an invitation, J.J. lowered the camera, hopped over the fence, sat down, and took a long draught of my beer.

"Goooooood," he mugged.

"What’s with the camera?" I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to know but I was sure he was going to tell me anyway.

"I’m makin’ movies, Dude. I think I’ve finally found my calling," he said, finishing my beer.

"No more PI work?" I asked. "What’s Whistler going to do if its only private eye closes up shop? It’s not like we don’t already have a lot of talented filmmakers around here you know. But we only have one spook."

"Well, I’ll do whatever comes along. A fella’s gotta eat. I can’t always rely on friends to buy me a beer, you know," he said, smiling.

I got the hint and ordered another couple of Black Tusks. "So whatcha filmin’? Porn or autobiography? Autobiography would be cool. Nam: The Conspiracy Oliver Stone Couldn’t Even Imagine."

"Naw. It’s harder than you might think to get chicks to peel for a camera. At least I’ve found it hard. And no one wants to see another bullshit CIA conspiracy in Indochina flick. Besides, if I told what I know, I’d have to kill myself," he laughed.

"What I’m into is documentary, Dude. Real life, real people, real drama."

"Not another Survivor. Puhleese, J.J."

"No way, man. I said real life, not some contrived, scripted crap for idiots."

"What then?"

"Well, I got the idea from Ed Pitoniak. It’s...."

"Wait a minute, J.J. You telling me Ed’s involved with this?" I said in obvious disbelief.

"No, Dude. I don’t even know the guy. I just got the idea from him. Read it in the Wall Street Journal. He’s making this documentary about the trials and tribulations a family go through just to get themselves to a ski vacation. It’s a consciousness raising thing for employees. You know, you work for them. Understand your guests, be creative, meet their needs, don’t slot them into holes they don’t fit into. Stuff like that."

"Yeah, I read about it too. So what’s that got to do with your film?"

"Well, I don’t know a lot of the people who come here, but I know a lot of the people that work here and I think it would be... enlightening, yeah, enlightening, if some of the people who ran this place had a better understanding of how those people live and the trials and tribulations they go through to be here and survive here."

"Like?"

"Well, I thought I’d follow someone like my buddy Andreas. Andreas was so keen to spend a winter out here. He sent his resumè in last August. Called ’em up in September. Took their advice and came out early in October for a person-to-person. He nabbed a job as a liftie, got staff housing and was totally stoked about the whole thing."

"Does it get better, J.J.?"

"No man, it gets worse. So Andreas has a job, has a room but nothing happens. He gets some training and gets paid for that, but winter’s a no show and he doesn’t get much in the way of actual work until mid-December. By then, he’s like a regular at the food bank because all the dough he came out here with from a summer job is gone. This is one expensive town."

"Especially if you spend all your food money in bars."

"Hey, let’s not be too judgmental. That’s part of the allure of this town. How life-smart were you when you were 20, Dude? So anyway, I follow the transition of Andreas from upbeat, excited guy to broke, pissed-off guy who needs to find another job because even when he starts to work, his shifts aren’t all they were cracked up to be."

"J.J., it’s a seasonal business. You’re looking for bad guys where there aren’t any."

"You’re missin’ the point. It’s not about good guys-bad guys. It’s about understanding and consciousness raising. It’s about Andreas’ friend Josh who’s a twink. Young, level II instructor, pumped on the season that starts slow. He keeps coming into work but there isn’t any work so he gets paid for two hours and gets sent home. Then he gets told not to even bother coming in. Then Christmas rolls around and he can’t even get days off. Then he’s told not to even bother coming in again after being sent home with two hours pay a couple of days. Then he gets so bummed living in a house with eight other guys, waking up to find out whoever came in drunk at 2 a.m. left the milk sittin’ on the counter, his milk, and it’s gone bad and there’s nothing to do but eat dry Corn Flakes for breakfast and go in and not get a class, that he finally gives up and goes back home."

"Oh J.J. Nobody wants to hear, let alone see, that story. You tell a story like that and it won’t change things, it’ll just make it harder to get people to work here."

"You seriously think that story doesn’t get told, Dude?"