Friday, February 19, 2010

Competing Against Seth

After ten years of reading all about the exhilarating life of this country woman from the western mountains of Maine, I’m sure you have realized that I am an enthusiastic sportswoman. Be it my championship thumb-twiddling skills, my accuracy in the skillet throwing arena, or even my brief foray into the world of downhill skiing (January 12, 1971), athleticism has been a huge part of my life and my persona.

Ahem. Yes.

As I was saying, I’m a very competitive person. And this past Monday night, I faced my ultimate challenge. I competed against our very own Seth Wescott, 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist!

I admit, at the start I was an unwitting participant in the game. I had been asked to come and speak at the beautiful and newly opened Carrabassett Valley Public Library, and to autograph copies of my novel Grumble Bluff afterwards.

Since it was school vacation week, Sugarloaf Mountain was guaranteed to be packed with families on skiing holidays, and a large crowd was anticipated. I packed up my boxes of books, donned a snazzy sweater and spit shined my combat boots, prepared to wow the crowd. After all, I’ve been talking non-stop since I was knee-high to a t-bar. Surely there was no one more suited to entertaining Loafers than this local girl!
One of my proudest accomplishments is that I’ve become very adept at shrugging off humiliation. I think my first experience with mortification was when a woman named Judy approached me in the crowded Kingfield Post Office one morning. A look of rapture on her face, she placed her hand on my tummy and said, ‘Oh, Karen! I didn’t know you were pregnant!’

Well, I wasn’t. But the ensuing silence certainly was! So much for the fallacy that a bit of belly bulge was a wondrous thing! Pfft! Yes, my education began at a young age, and I am now the most proficient shrugger-offer of embarrassing moments in two counties. And, as Martha Stewart would say, ‘It’s a good thing!’

At the appointed time, I spoke eloquently to my overflow crowd (of seven). Hehehe… oh, dear. And even those lovely hostesses and their children had to be anxious to get me the heck out of there. All they could talk about (in slightly hushed tones) was this little bit of business happening on the other side of the continent in British Columbia. You see, when we’d set the time and date for the program, not a single one of us was looking ahead to the future. Not one of us realized that my speaking engagement coincided with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. More specifically, I was slated to be the star at the precise time that the trial runs for the snowboarding competition were happening out west. And I was speaking immediately prior to the actual race in which local resident, night club owner and Gold Medalist Seth Wescott was competing! What’s a girl to do?

What I should have done–what I really wanted to do–was travel the few hundred feet around the corner to The Rack, where the real excitement was! I wanted to grab a beer, muscle my way through the crowd of Seth’s friends and fans, and watch the exciting competition with baited breath. I wanted to feel the thrill of real, world-class competition (albeit vicariously) and experience the tension of wondering whether or not Seth would triumph.

But I am a skilled and proud competitor, myself. If these ladies and their children were valiant enough to sit with rapt expressions while I expounded on such hair-raising topics as goat-herding, writing prompts, and the pros and cons of polyester pants (and sadly, I’m not kidding), then they were going to be treated to a first-class presentation. Oh, I was in grand form! I waved my hands expressively. I paced to and fro in front of them, pivoting perfectly on the balls of my feet. I even–get ready for this–showed them a smooth dance step my fourth grade teacher, Bertha Gilmore, had shown me in 1972!

The crowd (of seven) was wowed!

Sigh. I couldn’t keep it up. I had to let them go. There was, after all, an Olympic champion–our own hometown boy– defending our country’s honor and our Mountain’s reputation as an Olympic-class skiing and snowboarding resort. As captivated as I’d kept this multitude of (seven) fans, I knew what was most critical. Seth needed our support. It wasn’t his fault that I’d been scheduled to speak at the same time that his event was being televised worldwide. It wasn’t his fault that these (seven) fans of Grumble Bluff and yours truly were devoted to the awesome craft of writing superior prose. I didn’t have the right to keep these good folks from adding their support to that of our community, our state and our country. Seth Wescott, that amazing young athlete, needed them. And so, I wrapped it up with almost an hour to spare, and gave Seth the ultimate gift. My fans… a handicap (of seven).

You’re welcome, Seth. But next time… it’s you and me, buddy. Face to face, at the Loaf. Sure, you are the best, most awesome snowboarder on the planet. But can you, with a few well-written words, make a grown man cry?

I thought not!

Congratulations, Seth Wescott, 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist. We are all so very, very proud of you!

Photo of Grumble Bluff book signing taken by Dottie Carter. (It is at the New Portland Community Library, not the Carrabassett Valley Public Library... I forgot to take my camera...)


  1. I think I see another olympic sport being born you go get'em Karen!

  2. Hey, Wally! How the heck are you?

    Yeah... I definitely think the Olympics need a new sport to liven things up a bit! Which do you think I should petition for? Bonehead Moments? Or How to Wow a Crowd of Seven?

    Hehehe... oh, dear.

    Have a great weekend, sweetie, and btw... thanks for the email, too! Keep 'em coming! (And forgive me when I'm tardy in replying... I keep waiting for that extra hour to be added to the day.)