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 wasnt part of a lung Id 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 Monks. 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 Merlins, 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 cameras viewfinder, I heard the gravel-choked voice call out, "Yo Dude, Happy Cinco de Mayo."
"That would be next month, J.J. And its pronounced My Owe, not mayo like you put on sandwiches. Why dont 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.
"Whats with the camera?" I wasnt entirely sure I wanted to know but I was sure he was going to tell me anyway.
"Im makin movies, Dude. I think Ive finally found my calling," he said, finishing my beer.
"No more PI work?" I asked. "Whats Whistler going to do if its only private eye closes up shop? Its not like we dont already have a lot of talented filmmakers around here you know. But we only have one spook."
"Well, Ill do whatever comes along. A fellas gotta eat. I cant 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 Couldnt Even Imagine."
"Naw. Its harder than you might think to get chicks to peel for a camera. At least Ive found it hard. And no one wants to see another bullshit CIA conspiracy in Indochina flick. Besides, if I told what I know, Id have to kill myself," he laughed.
"What Im 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."
"Well, I got the idea from Ed Pitoniak. Its...."
"Wait a minute, J.J. You telling me Eds involved with this?" I said in obvious disbelief.
"No, Dude. I dont even know the guy. I just got the idea from him. Read it in the Wall Street Journal. Hes making this documentary about the trials and tribulations a family go through just to get themselves to a ski vacation. Its a consciousness raising thing for employees. You know, you work for them. Understand your guests, be creative, meet their needs, dont slot them into holes they dont fit into. Stuff like that."
"Yeah, I read about it too. So whats that got to do with your film?"
"Well, I dont 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."
"Well, I thought Id 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 winters a no show and he doesnt get much in the way of actual work until mid-December. By then, hes 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, lets not be too judgmental. Thats 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 arent all they were cracked up to be."
"J.J., its a seasonal business. Youre looking for bad guys where there arent any."
"Youre missin the point. Its not about good guys-bad guys. Its about understanding and consciousness raising. Its about Andreas friend Josh whos a twink. Young, level II instructor, pumped on the season that starts slow. He keeps coming into work but there isnt 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 cant even get days off. Then hes 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 its gone bad and theres 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 wont change things, itll just make it harder to get people to work here."
"You seriously think that story doesnt get told, Dude?"