On my last visit to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I noticed a small exhibit in the corner of the design wing: a pair of Head Standard skis circa 1953 displayed next to an inflatable chair and an Italian Plexiglas wine rack. Skis as art. Mmmm.
My mother would call them clutter. Thing is, I just can’t see sending a perfectly good pair of skis to the dump. So what if I haven’t used them in five years? I’d sooner throw out my Gabe Kaplan¿autographed collection of Welcome Back, Kotter videos. Trash my high school yearbook? Sure. But skis? Never.
Recycling’s not an option, either. I have no problem turning old ski poles into wind chimes or old ski boots into a Phantom Menace Halloween costume. But hacksaw those old pink and chartreuse Atomics for the back of an Adirondack chair? It’d be like sending my dog to the taxidermist.
However, I have seen the future, and it is not tidy. The basement of my father-in-law, Dick Waack, is home to a virtual timeline of American ski history. Some skis have long thongs; others sport Dovre bindings with safety straps. Collectively, they form a thicket as dense as the Amazon rainforest. Grab the wrong one in the wrong way and you could set off an avalanche that would bury you alive, your final moments like something you’d read about in the Weekly World News.
Still, each ski is redolent with history, a story waiting to be retold. Lay your hands on the stout hickory of those 220-cm Northlands, and they’ll tell you about the day my father-in-law rescued some numbskull with a broken femur from Tuckerman’s left gully with an improvised stretcher made of wooden skis and wool sweaters.
My collection is equally memory laden: I learned to tune on those neon Atomics. I also ironed chile con queso into the sintered base and dipped a Dorito into the hot wax one tequila-soaked night. And those Rossis I bought instead of 20 shares of Microsoft? That one powder morning at Sugarbush makes it a square deal as far as I’m concerned. Get rid of my Authier Zubiflexes? I’d rather use a Mickey Mantle rookie card as a beer coaster.
So I hold onto my old skis, leaving them perched precariously at the foot of my basement stairs. For they are not clutter, they are art. They are my time capsule, preserving every turn I’ve ever made. At least the good ones, anyway. On the other hand, I do not want to spend the rest of my life carrying a Pieps into my own basement. So before I buy again, I’m putting forth a modest proposal to the folks at MOMA. Here, then, is Plan A.
Dear Ms. Curator: During a recent visit to your esteemed institution, I viewed with great interest the pair of Head Standard skis on display. While no doubt a worthwhile addition to your collection, I’m certain that the small scope of the exhibit reflects the difficulty of obtaining museum-quality specimens of historically significant snow-sliding devices.
We may be able to assist in the expansion of your collection. On behalf of the Richard Waack Museum of Skiing, we are prepared to negotiate a purchase of some of the finest historical examples of skis in North America. Preserved fastidiously below ground level for as long as four decades, this collection features a depth and breadth rarely encountered in the genre. From Attenhoffer to Hexcel, from Dynamic to Pre, each ski is an irreplaceable artifact.
The centerpiece of the Waack Collection is the most impressive assortment of early ’70s vintage short skis in existence. Preliminary research suggests that one pair of Yamahas may have been worn by Wayne Wong as he did a double daffy to the strains of “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” (this has not been confirmed definitively). These skis¿displayed, perhaps, with an assortment of period roach clips¿could comprise a traveling exhibit entitled “Short Skis Suck: A Retrospective.”
In the interest of completeness, we are also prepared to facilitate the transfer of the St. John Collection, a smalleer but no less impressive assemblage, which emphasizes examples dating from the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s. As part of the agreement, we can assure you an ongoing supply of new works as individual models move from the working collection to the display collection.
As to the terms of acquisition, out of respect for capital liquidity concerns, we would consider noncash compensation. Cézanne’s “The Bather,” for example. (A 100-year-old painting of a guy in swim trunks is hardly modern, is it now?) If prior commitments prohibit this sort of exchange, we might consider an outright donation, in exchange, of course, for an appropriate tax deduction.
Thank you for your attention to my proposal, and I look forward to speaking with you soon to work out the details of the transfer.
Allen St. John
So far, I’ve gotten no response from the curator. If I don’t hear anything in a couple of weeks, I may have to resort to Plan B:
cute! housebroken! seeking loving home. great with kids. bindings included. best offer. call 984-555-6745.