It’s Sunday morning here in Ketchum, the village at the base of the chairlifts at Sun Valley, Idaho. Arrived here late Thursday afternoon after seven hour drive from Big Sky. Friday, my knee was too sore and swollen to ski so I stayed put. That’s two days off. Yesterday, Saturday, I couldn’t stand it, sitting inside at one of the world’s great ski resorts. Went up at lunchtime and only lasted half an hour. The pain in my right knee was intense and I couldn’t put weight on it, when the broken leg was the downhill ski in the turn. I like to try and bend that downhill ski in the turn, less chance of it skidding away. Couldn’t do it and nearly fell a couple of times on a blue run. I couldn’t believe it.
What I saw of Sun Valley looked good, although they really need some snow. There are some big wide blacks, which were closed but I couldn’t ski them anyway so I didn’t feel too bad. Spent the afternoon dosed up on anti-inflammatories with a bag of snow around my swollen knee. The joys of rehab.
So today is my fourth day in a row not skiing. That’s a lot in a three week holiday, especially as I may not be able to go up again tomorrow.
So what do you do when you are stuck inside at a ski resort? Listen to the Electric Light Orchestra of course. In 1977 I had just arrived in London after a year spent travelling across Asia. It was the era of Grease, Saturday Night Fever and disco balls. I had gone right off music. The guys I was flatting with were all mad kiwi rugby palyers, except one, Martin who was a musician. One night after we came home from rugby practice and were having a late-night feed, Martin put a record on an old Gramophone and an amazing sound floated around the room. It boomed back and forth inside my head.
“Shit, Martin. What’s that?” I asked, of the piece of black vinyl going around on the turntable.
“It’s called Out of the Blue. Electric Light Orchestra. Just came out,” he replied.
Indeed it had. It was released virtually the day I arrived in London around November 1977, and it elevated ELO from relatively unknown, fringe musicians to one of the most enduring bands of all time. Some of those songs have stayed with me ever since, songs such as Telephone Line, Turn to Stone and the ultimate feel-good song, Mr Blue Sky. But if any song has resonated in the fog of my brain on this trip, it is the ballad, Wild West Hero. I don’t remember this song from London but it’s been going around and around in my head all through the skiing sessions I’ve had on this trip. The music comes with me when I leave the hotel room and it plays on an endless loop in my head. Maybe it’s because Montana and Idaho are quintessential Wild West locations.
What prompted this return to my past musical loves was a wander into a bookstore at LAX during the stopover between Sydney and Bozeman, Montana. I noticed a copy of a book, Jeff Lynne, The Electric Light Orchestra: Before and after. Jeff Lynne was one of the founding members of ELO and is considered its great, creative genius.
“That might be interesting,” I thought and bought it on a whim along with another couple of books. What transpired was a wicked collusion between the book and iTunes and someone with a lot of time on their hands. As each song was mentioned in the book, during the band’s development, I would race over and listen to it on iTunes. You can waste a lot of time doing this but it’s a great way of discovering songs that I hadn’t previously heard: Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, Diary of Horace Wimp and Do Ya jumped out at me and have been getting lottsa air time.
It’s a beautiful blue day outside. Wish I could go up on the mountain.
The other thing you can do when stuck inside at a ski resort is read. And I’ve done plenty of that. 13 Hours in Benghazi : the inside account of what really happened was another book I bought at LAX. I thought this would be interesting as I didn’t know much about it. The raids and deaths of American servicemen gained only scant mention in the Australian press. I knew it had been dogging Hillary Clinton’s election campaign during the Primaries. Terrific book. An unbiased account of two simultaneous raids on the US diplomatic and nearby CIA compounds in Benghazi, Libya. The author doesn’t try to sheet home blame,
any fair observer of the events in this book would be lead to the inescapable conclusion that if you leave school and can’t write your name and you get caught, aged sixteen, having sexual congress with a horse, while simultaneously managing to burn down your father’s barn, you have an excellent chance of ending up in the CIA. Enough said. An excellent addition to US military history about an incident that is going to blight Clinton’s campaign if, as looks likely, two days before Super Tuesday, that she will be the Democrat candidate for the 2016 Presidential election.
Staying only 100 metres from the main chairlift at Pennay’s at River Run. It’s owned by an Australian, Alan Pennay, who has lived here for 40 years. Have met him several times. Classic bloke. Almost as famous here as Ernest Hemingway. I wonder what it would be like to live in a small community like this for most of you life. Very secure in some ways and very limiting in others, I expect. He seems happy enough.
Strange Magic, by ELO playing on my travelling BOSE speaker. Beautiful song. Lovely, sunny day outside. Life is a magpie, some black some white. Could be worse, iTunes may never have been invented. Thank you Steve Jobs.