Chapter 1 – Marshmallow Hands and The Palms of Pain

FasterSkierMay 31, 2004

Usually around this time of the year, when I start rollerskiing again, I think back upon one of the lines from that most intensely masculine of all man-movies, “Fight Club.” In said movie, a line is narrated thusly (or as close an approximation to this as I can remember). “When a guy first shows up to Fight Club he’s a wad of cookie dough, but after a few weeks he’s cut out of wood.” That’s my goal, my aspiration, my dream, my one true wish during rollerski season. No, not to look like Brad Pitt (its much too late for that). Nor for my entire body to be cut out of wood (the only times I wish for that are during my daily, post-shower “flex-downs” in the bathroom mirror). No, I just want that movie line to apply to my hands.

You see, it happens this way every year. All winter long, skiing in nice warm gloves, my hands are protected from the elements. My hands are covered and cushioned and saved, from external exposure by insulation, and from friction by the soft powder underneath my pole baskets. During this time, my palms go into hibernation. After seven months of skiing, my hands are newborn and beautiful. They’re soft and smooth. They are so blemish free and immaculate, sometimes I think I could definitely be a “hand” model for Rolex watches, or maybe for those big, gold class rings you see. My hands are incredibly perfect, unbelievably sublime, and absolutely, totally, and utterly worthless for rollerskiing.

Somehow, through the course of the winter, they’ve become big, wimpy, useless paws. It would be one thing if they were massive, tough, rugged bear paws, but, no, they more closely resemble those of a cute, cuddly kitten. I approach the first rollerski of the year not with great joy, nor great happiness, nor great anticipation. I approach it with the firm knowledge that, above all, my hands are going to be absolutely shredded by the end. Heading out onto that first rollerski though, somehow I always convince myself that this year it will be different, that my hands have retained some of their bulletproof power from the previous fall, that somehow my hands are gonna be okay. I’m always wrong.

By this point in my rollerskiing career, I’m pretty sure I’ve tried it all…gloves, no-gloves, special rollerski gloves, cycling gloves, mountain biking gloves, Vaseline, no Vaseline, Vaseline inside the gloves, cork grips, synthetic grips, new straps, old straps, one strap, two strap, red strap, blue strap…and none of it seems to make a world of difference. The blisters are still going to come. The blisters always come.

Slowly but surely, first one little one, then a slightly bigger one, and before you know it, I swear there are four or five blisters on each hand, each bigger than the next (or at least that’s how they always appear in their full, throbbing glory) until I reach the end of my rollerski (with one or all of them having either popped, or bled, or both) and take off my poles, curling my fingers and hands upward into the “Ohmygod what have I just done?!?!” position of pain. However, it is only then that the real “fun” starts.

It is now time for The Shower (or, “The Post-Rollerski Shower of Doom!!”, as I like to call it). So, I step into the shower. Now, when the water first hits the open blisters on the hands, yeah, it’s pretty bad, but that’s not where my real problem lies. No, my real problem lies with the nefarious marketing people at Herbal Essences Shampoo. Every time I watch an Herbal Essences commercial I’m bombarded with the impression (the beautiful models certainly help), and lead to believe that, I’m going to have a rich, glorious, “organic” experience with their shampoo. However, to my constant dissapointment, after every rollerski, as soon as the shampoo hits my hands, rather than words like “organic” finding their way into my brain, I instead find words like “cataclysmic”, or “horrific”, or “epic burning pain.” This experience invariably makes me wonder whether my shampoo is not so much made from “organics” as “incredibly caustic searing chemicals.” I somehow don’t think Clairol is going to hire me as a spokesman.


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