The ants, I vividly still remember the ants. My buddies had taken their shirts off thinking that would improve the chances of me going into shock. 11:00 at night and the four of them were propping me up on an ant-filled grassy knoll in Salzburg Austria. We had just left the Augustinerbrau, local monastery turned bier garden and were looking for the quickest way back to our hostel. In typical 22 year-old-travelling-through-Europe-after-college-graduation fashion I had run up the side of the knoll, atop which there were two sets of train tracks.

I turned toward my friend Ken and was about to throw Malcolm, our trusty Wham-O 165 gram companion, when blam-I’m flying through the air 15 feet to where Ken is, hit by a speeding locomotive. Yes, you read that right; this is not a fiction story. I was hit by a train while playing Frisbee in Austria.

I remember the orderly wheeling me around some hospital that reminded me of the many churches we had visited, “Scheisse Americana.” He kept saying over and over. I remember blood soaking through my white cotton hospital gown and stealing three extras after two nights in the hospital because we were going to the Festival of San Fermin and white is traditionally what one wears when one is running with the bulls.

I remember the doctor coming in the next day, putting his hand under my back and lifting me as I screamed from the action.

“You got hit by train, you should be dead.” He explained.

I remember peeing in the bidet at the hospital and looking at myself in the mirror, black and blue from the base of my neck to the heel of my left leg.

I talked to many important looking people who apparently thought I was seeking some sort of lawsuit. I remember feeling guilty about the boys having a terrible couple of days at the hostel while I was living large in the hospital (thanks socialized medicine). I remember throwing out my pair of shredded and bloody khaki shorts in the train station in Salzburg before boarding a gruesome over packed train to Spain.

I’ve thought about those shorts often, what a great souvenir they would have made, a reminder for my wall of how fragile life can be and how stupid I can be. Much better than the tattoo I designed of a train running the length of the scar on my left butt cheek with me and a little Frisbee flying ass over teakettle from the impact.

Never got the tat (not really a tattoo guy), but now here I am 30 years later heading back to the scene of the crime. And not just for nostalgia’s sake, travelling halfway around the world to revisit my gnarliest memory is not the real reason for this trip.

Frank is the reason for this trip. He being my longtime friend and ski partner who five years ago said at our boys ski weekend, “Ve really should go ski in Austria one of these years Valter.” It was one of those comments that get a little less crazy every time you say it out loud. Until this year when Frank and Jack committed by deciding on the dates, booking the flight and getting the rest of the posse on board. Everybody needs that friend in their lives who turns the theoretical into reality.

Which is really kind of a big thing. If you know me or you read any of these blogs, you know I’m cheap as hell and not only cheap as hell but frugal as hell. It’s an unfortunate combination based on a career choice which is not the most lucrative and the reality of affording the good life in Sonoma. I’m not whining here (OK maybe a little bit), it’s just economic reality.

Is this the common denominator why we currently have no head of the Boys and Girls Club, Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Schools, Community Center or Visitors Bureau? Have we become too expensive to attract quality leadership? Should we care? Another blog, another time.

So, I did the classic, can’t afford it, kid in college, I work too hard yada yada yada until Kate decided to give me the plane ride for Christmas and I saved the rest through golfing and hanging out with strangers in wineries.

And one thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to blow out the pipes every so often. Without fly fishing and ski trips and a little bit of me time, my homeostasis suffers. I get resentful, I’m not happy, things begin to suck and soon I’m spiraling down the rabbit hole into darkness. And oh yes, I can go dark (the dark blog is coming soon).

So I committed as did three others plus Frank and Jack making a total of 6 of us. A week at the Hotel Flexen in Austria which looks like the set of a 007 movie. Breakfast and dinner included (heavy on the fois gras and fondue), the ski area is like 10 connected Squaw Valleys and most importantly, there is a massive amount of snow this year.

See, that’s another thing that gets me spiraling, no snow ski seasons of which this one has been the worst. The terrain at Squaw is about half open (all the intermediate and beginner runs) and I have logged a grand total of zero ski days this season. Only skiers understand this, when the first snow happens before Thanksgiving it means only good things for the season then after a year like last, you think the massive dump is the new normal. Unfortunately, it has snowed very little since then and a year like this one slaps you in the face reminding you that Ullar is really in charge, that nature always wins, and you can’t control your mother. Sorry Donald but it’s true.

And since I booked my flight after the others, I have an extra three days before I fly out of Munich, thus the reunion with the scene of the train. I will find the grassy knoll, I will stand atop it and take a selfie, I will remember the ants and I will feel as alive as I ever have. Who knows, I might even find a place to get the tattoo.

Life is an adventure. Live accordingly.

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