A year in the life of Brian and Snowflake passes. Brian, as Snowflake rightly predicted, triumphs in the FIC World Championship in Val di Fiemme. All noted media personalities throughout the world that cover the sport of Cross-Country Skiing all underestimate Brian. Certain expectations of age, nationality and, most importantly, sexual orientation are totally upset by the young American now called only 'The Razor'. The Razor either wins or comes in at the top three for every Olympic qualifying FIC event from Norway to Russia. Yet, all along the way, The Snowflake and The Razor, as the 'team supreme' is christened by the media, are dogged by controversy, by challenges, and by actual attempts at sabotage.
The Russian Olympic Committee's Ski Team, in particular, has been suspected but no investigations have been done nor are charges ever made against them. No one dares! The world political situation has deteriorated during the past year and the Russian Federation has funneled military assets into the Russian Republic of Karelia preparing for a possible push into Finnish and Estonian lands to 'reclaim' that part of Karelia left in both sovereignties after partition. It is an attempted repeat of the Crimean crisis from years before only this time it is a push against Western European members of NATO.
Despite these darkening clouds, The Snowflake and The Razor push on and make of themselves the most anticipated Winter Olympic contenders since Team USA Hockey took on the USSR in 1980.
This martini tastes so good after the long flight. Technically, the drink isn't on my menu, but after that flight, um, fuck technicalities. I don't race again for a couple of days anyway. Snowflake is next to me have his vodka 'martini' neat. That's basically a double-shot of Finlandia. I'm pretty surprised that they have that actually. I shouldn't be, I've noticed that these Beijing bars are better stocked than most of the high society bars in New York City.
Beijing in winter is . . . awesome! The city is huge! The multiple belt-ways and tall buildings for as far at the eye can see let you know that you are definitely in one of the world's major capitols if not its MAIN capitol. You could wade for a whole day through the horrifying electric car traffic just to get to the Forbidden City in the center of everything. Thankfully, Xian Yu Yan, our faithful friend and guide through this mad city, seems to know all the old Chinese secrets necessary to somehow warp time and space to get from one part of the city to another in under half an hour.
Xian is a pearl of Chinese male beauty. He rivals Snowflake in his own exotic immutable way. I swear his skin is the color of moonlight with just a touch of pink on his high cheekbones because of the cold.
"Ah, Beautiful Razor! Would you, perhaps, enjoy another martini? I am fond of the Golden Emperor. It is most unusual for it is made using a rare brown rice liquor with fermented ginger. Most agreeable before a Hunan style repast. This will be where I advise our next supper to be. The restaurant, loosely translated, is 'One Boy of Hunan Alone'. I am fascinated that we should share a meal at this place with a Texan. Hunan has often been described as the 'Texas' of the Far East. I would be most interested in your appraisal, Brian." Xian says in his beautifully Mandarin inflected perfect English.
"Do they grill a good steak or do a good pit BBQ?" I ask drolly not expecting a reasonable answer as most things American are beyond exotic to most of the Chinese I've met here in Beijing.
"Beef is a bit too dear for the modest budget of 'One Boy of Hunan Alone' but, a smoke duck velvet in crushed fresh chili would, perhaps, satisfy your taste for 'American Style Smoke Cook' as the Hunan like to call barbecue here. There is a reason Hunan is likened to Texas here in China. For hundreds of years the Hunan have been absolute MASTERS at 'Smoke Cook' or the smoking of meats for long periods of time. One could say they are our 'Barbecue Masters' here in China. Perhaps, if all things go well here in Beijing with our first Winter Olympiad, myself and a contingent of my fellows would be allowed a visit to Texas to compare and contrast?" Xian picks up his golden glittering glass of his favorite mysterious beverage and clinks a toast with my glass.
Over the glass his deep brown eyes scintillate with mystery and seduction. A mystery I've only had just the barest taste since meeting him. The things Xian can do with his body are just ridiculous.
It is at this point that Xian is taken rather abruptly by a snow white hand to his high cheek and his head is turned into the rosy kiss of 'Mr. Snowflake'. Xian melts and manages to put down his 'Golden Emperor' before he commits a 'sacrilege' against the drink by dropping it on the table and spilling it.
"We are most fortunate in having found you, Xian. Grindr is not always a bad thing now that I've found how it can be used this way!" Snowflake breathes with his own low irresistibly seductive tone. Xian's slanted eyes are wide and he pants with the blush in his pale cheeks becoming redder as Snowflake hypnotizes him with his silver nordic eyes. Not to be outdone I use my own tricks against the poor hapless 'China Boy'. It starts with my knee to his, then the press of my thigh, and then a strong arm around his delicate middle, and my other hand taking his other high cheek turning his exotically beautiful face to mine, then a free kiss deep and juicy that 'only an American' can do without shame.
Lights flash and murmurs are made as various approved 'Media Bodies' conduct their duty filming our 'amazing new ways' to the Chinese public. This is a new development in China. A general acceptance of homosexuality as a mode of reproductive control better than birth control and abortion. I don't particularly care for the Chinese Government's premise in its newfound 'acceptance' of homosexuality in China, but the results are . . . fun! Xian is all for it and our high profile interactions have made of Xian something of a Gay Superstar in all of Asia.
The fact that we (Snowflake and I) have this kind of influence in the world just because of skiing is kind of still MIND-BLOWING to my ass!
Speaking of ass, Xian is by no means a shy blushing lotus blossom. He is, as he likes to say, a 'Sex Tiger'. As soon as my kiss meets his, his hands are on my ass squeezing with all of their might! Things might need to become more private pretty soon, which won't be easy with the new Chinese Paparazzi in play. They are, pretty much, completely shameless.
China has taken gangbusters to International Celebrity. The fact that Snowflake and I have become 'International Celebrities' just makes me trip a bit. The past year has felt like one long acid trip from beginning to end.
Not a month after the qualifier at Truckee I was contacted by the USA Ski Team. They wanted to race me one more time in Salt Lake City so that's where we went. It was a place called Mountain Dell Ski Area. During the summer it doubles as a golf course. The Winter Olympic Cross-Country events were done at Mountain Dell and it was a pretty course, really. In winter you'd never even know you're skiing on a putting green.
The event was small and not nearly as well attended as the thing in Truckee. It was also all 'seriousness'. Lots of technical skier types and 'important' people were there to do some judging, I guess. Apparently, I'd made such a splash in Truckee that a number of these Ski Bosses needed to see it with their own eyes. So, after a week of warm ups, Snowflake and I came to their little pow-wow and I put the old 'razors' to good use and put on a good show. This time they made me do a hard one that I hadn't really done since being in Passo Lavazè. It was a biathlon. For me, it wasn't such a big deal. The skiing angle on it was new, but the rifle shootin' was . . . well . . . it pays good to be a Texan some days. Another deal my Pops left me before casting me out to the four winds was a general comfort around the handling and shooting of firearms. We'd go turkey hunting near Turkey Day every year and I learned to be a crack shot. I actually had more fun shooting things with my Pops than anything else we did together . . . even skiing. When I was young we bonded over hunting. Anymore, shooting becomes something of a catharsis. With each blast of my gun, I put another hole in the lie that my Pops ever gave one shit about me out there in those days.
Obviously, he didn't or we wouldn't be separated now.
Anyways, all that angsty horseshit helped me focus and make good target shots and quickly. The little popguns they give you for biathlon shootin', compared to the high-powered things I used to shoot, feel like I'm shooting squirt guns, to be honest. Its pretty easy to plug targets with them when you know your way around guns.
So, between my Snowflake-style skiing and my general hatefulness toward my father helping me to shoot straight, I managed to pull a time they'd never seen before in an American skier. I forget the number but it was top notch. (clicking tongue and polishing nails) I'm pretty fucking spectacular at this bullshit, ya know?
It was kind of cute the way they sprung the surprise that I'd 'joined the team' on me. Both Snowflake and I got very noncommittal answers from the officials. They didn't act impressed at all even though we both knew I'd done well out on the course. We thought maybe some other criteria was needed like maybe . . . money?
But, all ideas about graft aside, we went into the ski manager's office where we'd been summoned. No one was there but, laying on the easy chair next to the desk was a weatherproofed lycra ski suit with Team USA on it and the latest red white and blue design! It even had in red letters on the right sleeve the word 'Razor' emblazoned on the material! Hehehehe! I think they had made their decision quite a bit before then to have had that suit just ready and lying there for me like that.
"We were sure to get your size, Brian. Our new Skate Sprinter's gonna need a right fitted suit." The head of Team USA, Michael McKenzie, said. I turned and his handsome, weathered face was smiling. We embraced and I thanked him! I went to try it on and sure enough, it fit even better than my old black and blue one did. The predominant color on my new suit is dark blue with big stylized white stars and text in red outlined in gold. The lycra also has 'scaling' in spots, I guess to mimic eagle feathers or some shit. This is mostly on the shoulders. We kept this design for this Olympics except we have the Olympic rings in white on the belly after 'Team USA' on the chest.
What really surprised me was when I heard a throat clear behind me after admiring my new suit for the first time. I turned and my jaw must have dropped to the floor because Snowflake giggled that silly little giggle of his seeing my reaction.
It seemed that Snowflake got a new suit too! Not only had he gotten a new ski suit but he'd gotten a Team USA ski suit! That was pretty shocking. I didn't know that he'd signed on to the team, but, apparently, he had to so that he could still be my coach. But, on top of this, I found out that he was to be my relay partner! He'd be skiing for the United States this time and not Finland! This was an arrangement made at some pretty high levels since Finland and the US have gotten extra cozy lately since the Russian/Karelia crisis started.
In any case, Snowflake's suit was a nice mirror of mine which suited his style really well. His suit's predominant color is white with big stylized dark blue stars with the text in red and gold, etc. Snowplow still got to have his mostly all white suit, but with the exception of good ol' 'merican stars and stripes and stuff. He has embossed red stripes over his shoulder instead of 'eagle feathers'.
Whoever the designer was must have been gay too, coz they didn't touch the pelvic area with nothin'. It got to stay PURE white to show off all those fine-ass curves and bulges on my favorite sex dolly! Myrwyn is going to faint when she sees 'Snuffy' here in this suit! No one has seen it yet except me and the Ski Team.
"It would seem that we have all finished our cocktails. Would you care to progress toward dining, my friends?" Xian's mid-tone slightly nasal voice wakes me up from my remembering. In answer to Xian I look to the Great White Glutton too see what I'm expecting to see. He's all perked up at the suggestion of food. I swear Snowflake is part Alaskan Malemute. I can almost see his slightly pointy ears twitch at the mention of eating.
"Sure, sound great to me. How about you 'Snuffy'?" I tease my boy.
"Firstly, only Jimmy can call me by that ridiculous name. Secondly, on the subject of eating, as 'Bri Bri' would say, 'Fucking Eh!'" Snuffy points in the air emphatically. I shake my head. 'Fucking Eh'?
(Clap-Clap) "(In Mandarin: Bring around the Genesis. We will be departing for the restaurant. Tell Ming to take care to use Mao Wisdom Road and not the expressway.)" Xian sing-songs something I think must be about getting us a ride since that's what his pal Ming is good for it would seem.
Before long, we are consumed by the smokey mystery of Beijing's lesser known back side. Even in the more work-a-day parts of the capitol neon and LED displays are popular. Parts of Beijing make Las Vegas look sickly. You could easily read a book in any of the central squares dotting the huge city. Beijing seems to have multiple Time Squares not just one central one like New York.
Ming drives slow but I'm assured that he moves faster here on this surface street than on the expressway which will take you about an hour to go fifty feet. Beijing traffic makes LA traffic look like the Autobahn. Without a guide to get you through the various 'secret passages' in the city's traffic grid, you'd be a week getting ten miles, I swear!
Before long, just like I said before about Xian's 'magic traffic spell,' we arrive at a little nondescript restaurant about ten minutes from the bar we had been at a couple of miles away. How Xian found this place will have to be another ancient Chinese secret. The place doesn't even have a sign, just a little gold plate next to the door with Chinese characters embossed into it and a western ten digit number next to the characters. I really wish I'd had time to learn to read a bit of Chinese writing before scrambling to get over here. There aren't very many places that do 'bilingual' in Beijing, especially in places like the working class neighborhood we find ourselves.
Coming into the place, it's not quite what I was expecting. It didn't look in any way like your typical 'Peking Palace' place you might find back home. There are no gaudily ornate chandeliers with red tasteless, no red booths in a suspiciously dark room, and no golden buddhas waiting for money offerings.
No, actually this place is pretty plain vanilla. It's, basically, white table cloths with white dining chairs in a brightly lit room, although there are no windows in the place. The one strange feature about the restaurant, though, are the dining tables themselves. They are all round with large glass lazy-suzans on top of each table. Dining sets are long chopsticks propped up on porcelain holders sand pretty china plates of blue and white china. The napkins are folded on the plates in intricate fan designs. In actuality, the place reminds me of some of the nicer restaurants I'd been taken to in France or Italy over the past year, except for the lazy-susans and chopsticks. Thankfully, chopsticks aren't a problem for me and they don't seem to be for Snowflake either. We both do sushi together a lot for the high protein and low calories while we're both in 'fasting' mode.
A pretty lady in a simple white business suit seats us. White seems to be the color here. I'm glad Snowflake is wearing a dark suit because if he was wearing his usual white on white on white he'd probably disappear completely in this place.
"Nice place, Xian. Not what I was expecting, really." I mention as I reluctantly unfold the beautifully folded napkin. Strangely, the napkin is the only thing that has much color in the place setting other than the orchids in the center of the table. It's white with red dragon designs on it. Very pretty! It's a shame I'll have to smear food all over it.
"Ah, perhaps it is the first time you have dined elegantly in Beijing? I assure you that our dinner tonight will be quite unforgettable. I shall not say 'interesting' as that would lead one to the wrong assumptions. 'Interesting' often means 'adventurous' in China and adventures are oft fraught with unexpected unpleasantness as well as treasures. This shall not be 'adventurous'. This shall be 'heavenly treasures'!" Xian's smile and chuckle is contagious despite the fact that what he is saying was kind of . . . scary.
Xian then translates that in Mandarin to the young lady who smiles widely and bows in a gesture that I guess means 'right away, Sir'. Within minutes . . . a decorative plate is laid in front of Xian with what look like packages or money bags. I can see golden fried-ness in the 'wrapping paper' so at least I know that, whatever they are, they're fried. I like fried!
"As stated, Heavenly Treasures!" Xian grins, takes one using the serving chopsticks and then turns the lazy-suzan so that the steaming plate is in front of me. What an ingenious way of serving food! Why don't they ever do things like this for Texas Barbecue?
To be honest, I've never cared for Chinese food much. But that's probably because my point of reference has always been greasy places in malls. I never had a chance to go to Chinatown to eat while in San Francisco so I don't have any experience there. That said, these Heavenly Treasures smell . . . heavenly! I smell a mix of fried dough, licorice (which I suspect is anise), a smoked smell like barbecued pork ribs, and other things that I can't identify but are equally mouth watering. I take the package, which is crispy while not being overly fragile, and put on my plate. Though I want to dig in, I notice Xian is waiting for each of us to get our packages before starting so I wait too, though the smell is driving me bonkers!
The lazy-suzan turns and Snowflake delicately takes his package and puts it on his plate. Right after I notice the lazy-suzan turn again and I see that the pretty server is pouring tea into small handless cups. We each take the tea which smells unlike any tea I've ever drunk before! It is flowery, but not that jasmine stuff. It's all tea smell, but of a quality I have never had!
"This is a famous kind of tea from Hunan called Junshan Yinzhen. It is a 'yellow' tea. Very aromatic! Enjoy with the dumpling!" Xian says happily as he raises his cup and takes a careful sip. Snowflake and I follow suit and we look at each other with absolute shock!
Basically, the tea tastes like flowers smell. It is THAT good!
Seeing our expressions, Xian starts to laugh heartily. "You two should see yourselves! You are most adorable! If you are this amazed by the tea only, I cannot WAIT to see your reactions to the rest of the dinner!" Xian says with glee.
So he does. Snowflake and I eat WAY more than we need. Dish after bizarrely wonderful dish comes out to us usually alternating 'hot' and then 'cool' per the Chinese Yin/Yang philosophy about food. My favorite is the Hunan pork clay pot. The pork meat just melts in my mouth in a sweet, savory, salty, spicy, fruity, flowery way. By the time we're done Snowflake and I are ready for a food coma. But Xian isn't done yet! He gets a bottle of clear liquid with Chinese characters all over the silver and gold label and begins pouring it into small shot glasses. He passes them to us by way of the lazy-suzan.
The drink is like clear fire! Holy fuck! I literally cough on it as I try to choke it down! It has a nice taste sort of like brandy, but . . . honestly, I think you can strip paint with the stuff. It must be 200 proof and a drink that could give White Lightning a run for its money. Snowflake and I are out for the count after that! There will be no clubbing tonight (not that I know if Beijing even has 'clubs' per-say). We are gently conveyed back to our suite at the Beijing Ritz/Carlton. In the morning we're to report to the Olympic Village ASAP. I don't know how soon ASAP is going to be for us, however. I have a feeling after that belt of 'happy juice' we're going to be in for a long morning tomorrow.
Probably due to the drinks and everything, Snowflake and I turned in early (10 PM) so we could be up by 6 AM this morning. I really will have to ask Xian what that drink was, because, despite the fact that one shot of it pretty much knocked both Snuffy and me on our asses last night, I feel no ill effects. We both are pretty perky this morning actually. I'm actually excited about today! This will be my first time seeing the inside of an Olympic Village! Even my rich dad never got access to anywhere like that. Snowplow insists it's 'nothing to get excited about'. But, I also know that he's Finnish and has a rep to maintain which basically means that for him 'nothing ever excites a Fin' or whatever (eye roll).
He's been getting more 'nationalistic' lately. I've heard more about Finnish history and culture in the last three weeks than I've ever heard or cared to hear before. I think it has something to do with that clutch of Russians we bumped into at dinner one night. I didn't understand half of what anyone was saying to one another, but, whatever it was, it managed to get Snuffy's dander up. He's been defensive about Finns ever since. I was almost afraid he'd abandon me and go running off to join up with the Finnish Team, but, no . . . rather the Finnish team found us and joined up on our stuff. Now that I've met more of them, I can see their similarities to Snowflake in disposition. They are now all lifelong friends, I think. It's sometimes hard to tell. I've got one hooked on Jameson whiskey now. I guess that's progress?
So, again thanks to Xian's magically delicious ability to get around and out of this incredibly complicated city, we find ourselves on one of the most advanced bullet trains I've ever seen! Inside is all light beige-gold with red trim and I see us file in with other members of Team America and other countries. We seem to be in the Cross-Country Skiing car. The Chinese even have THAT figured out and organized! To ask if I'm impressed is the same as asking does a longhorn take a shit on the range.
After Xian gets us to 'Winter Olympic Way-station 1' the System takes it from there. Xian is allowed with us as our approved 'escort'. Apparently, Xian's attachment to us is not all just love and admiration. He is our 'guide' duly deputized by the Chinese Government. I must say that the government here likes to take care of it's visitors in the most intimate of ways. Somehow, I don't think that his 'work' with us was all duty though. Xian seems to be really infatuated with the both of us. It's nice to know that he can mix business and pleasure so effectively. The Chinese are an incredibly complex people, really.
In less than 40 minutes we arrive at Zhangjiakou City, a 'suburb' of Beijing though a far flung one. The city itself is about the size of San Diego except with a LOT more people. However, I don't have much opportunity to sight see because we bypass Zhangjiakou as we are immediately loaded onto large double-decker electric busses that look like something out of Star Trek bound for the 'Competition Zone'.
The bus though: the top deck only has a plexiglass roof so it's totally open to the sky, though it can be 'shaded' with some kind of polarizing technology like those polarizing glasses you can get a Lenscrafters. The top deck is where we are situated. I guess they consider it the 'VIP' section. For Snuffy's sake Xian darkens about four of the canopy panels so that they are about sunglasses strength. Still, you can see out really beautifully.
I had my doubts about how Beijing could host both a Summer and a Winter Olympics, but upon seeing the snowfall around Zhangjiakou I can see how it could work out. In winter, the mountainous region around Beijing takes on a very 'alpine' feel. Zhangjiakou has a 'Norwegian' feeling which is perfect for Cross-Country and Nordic long jumps.
As we pull in to a circular driveway in front of an ultra-modern looking hotel-like building, Snowflake and I notice small groups of folks milling around chatting with each other and laughing. It's quite a happy gathering! Snowflake seems to smile on it all with a familiar satisfaction like it's something he's been missing. I felt the charge in the air; the excitement, and Snowflake turns to me and his slight smile broadens beautifully.
"I always like this part. Arrival is part of the Olympic experience that is something that can only be enjoyed by the participants. Media, usually, is not interested in everyone getting situated in the village. Perhaps this time may be different. It will be interesting to see what China is interested in showing." Snowflake muses.
The scene is, perhaps, the best view of the Olympic vision. Peoples representing every nation fraternizing in old and new friendships. True, many keep to their own countries or continents, but many more reach out to friends and colleagues they've competed and trained with despite the fact that their nationalities are so far removed from one another. I noticed that the tiny contingent of Brazilians (decked out in the green and blue globe motif from their flag) seems to be very gregarious. Between speaking Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish this small team of guys seems to chat everyone up. I think they are there more for the experience than to win anything. Honestly, how does anyone even train in Brazil for the Winter Olympics?
"It always amuses me. The peoples from countries of eternal summer, like these Brazilians, always enter even though they have virtually no chance at the gold. They simply want to represent with pride their people and country. They are inspiring. Nearly as inspiring as the Jamaican Bobsledding team — though, still even to this day, they are a force to be reckoned with in that sport!" Per usual, Snowflake and I are on the same wavelength.
"That is a very intriguing view, Mr. Snowflake. I share my fellow Chinese in their attitude that it seems like a waste of time and money to compete in a field of events that one has no chance of medaling in at all." Xian observes dryly.
"I don't think that is the point, Xian. They come because they want to be represented and recognized in the world. For them, the opening ceremonies are enough for them. They are counted as a part of the Olympics and as members of world athletics. The medals are gravy. The meat is the knowledge that they have been given the chance to be counted." I say, not really thinking too much about the shit that just came out of my mouth.
Snowflake turns and looks at me in astonishment. Xian looks at me with confusion.
"Heavens! That was the most beautiful statement I have ever heard about the Olympics! I am so very . . . proud that you are here, Brian!" Snowflake takes and embraces me tightly almost to the point of pinching off my air.
"I have much to learn about Western thought, it would seem. Perhaps I will have the chance at attaining this wisdom while keeping company with you, Mighty Razor!" Then it's Xian's turn to hug me, though much more delicately.
"Oh please! ’Mighty Razor!' I feel like I'm in some kind of bad Bruce Lee remake!" I grouse.
"Hehehehe! Perhaps you are!" Xian winks at me. I don't even want to know what that means.
Soon we all enter the ultra-modern building. Xian assures me that the building was built using the most balanced feng shui principles. Apparently, it is the greatest example of feng shui for athletes in the world. Immediately, I understand part of what this means: No straight lines through doorways. Each doorway forces you to make an immediate right to enter any new room. Usually there is a Chinese symbol that is translated below telling a person which section of the place they are in on this partition blocking immediate access.
Inside, the lobby area is open and filled with round organic shapes. Plants like ferns and things decorate various strategic places in the lobby. All rest areas in the lobby are in the center of the room surrounding a fire ring. Many areas seem to have these inexplicable partitions sectioning off areas at seeming random. Each partition, though, is carved beautifully with maze like keys. The check-in counter is at the back of the lobby behind a row of these partitions. A moon gate passes us through the forest of partitions to the counter so that we can check-in.
Xian introduces us in Mandarin and pulls out a badge from his 'murse' that seems to get the concierge's rapt attention. Before seconds pass we're all checked in and given key codes that we can enter with our mobile phones. The mobile phone thing here is really interesting. We've seen Xian pay for virtually everything with his phone! No one carries cards or cash anywhere! Those that do are immediately labeled 'Westerners'! Wow, us 'Westerners' have some catching up to do!
A CUTE little bellhop appears and guides us up the stairs. Interestingly, no elevators that we can see. This must be one of those 'Olympic' challenge things. Everyone has to climb if they want to go up. It's no problem for us, but I wonder if it would be for family members that might want to visit? What does someone do if they get injured and can't climb the stairs? Is there a hidden elevator somewhere?
"Well done! It is good to make us climb to where we need to go. It keeps everyone remembering to stay fit." Snowflake praises the 'accommodation'.
"Yes, that was factored into the build of this place. There are, however, escalators that can be used in another area. The upstairs tiers are islanded into open circles that 'float' over the tiers below them and under the ones above. At any given time one can see up the column of the building and see all the levels of this place. The stairs and the escalators wind their way through the 'trunk' of this tree-like build. This shape facilitates the Feng Shui as it allows Chi to flow freely between the levels.” Xian explains.
"In-fucking-credible!" I blurt as I look up to see each level like layers in some kind of cake.
"We will be at the very top level." Xian says to our horror!
"You're kidding right? I have a race to run. I can't be blowing all my energy on just climbing stairs forever!" I feel I need to point these particulars out since no one fucking asked ME if I wanted to be WAAAY up on the very top floor after flights and flights of stairs!
"It is all for the best. The Chi flows up and focuses at the top. You won't even feel tired! I promise!" Xian says this ridiculousness with a wide and expectant smile.
"Whatever, Dude. Let's just get up there." I glare at Snowflake who just stares back stupidly and shrugs. Big help he is! Soooo . . . after ten flights of stairs we arrive at our room. It was worth the climb! It's basically one giant window in a round stateroom. A red Chinese woven carpet is on the floor in front of a fireplace that is just off center near the wall but not in it! Walking around it you can see that the brazier is open all around allowing the heat to spill out into the room on all sides. The hearth is made of green stone and the chimney just rises up into the roof like a giant top hat! The room, being an oval in an egg shape, has the fireplace at the narrow end. The door opens in at an angle which I find, again, very weird.
The bed is opposite the fireplace in the wide end of the egg. There is no window behind the bed because such a thing would be pointless. The bed is basically a . . . confection! It sits on a low platform on four stout legs and is covered with the carved wood 'cage' with rounded openings on three sides. Each round opening has gauzy drapes that can be closed to seal us off from the outside world. The bed looks big enough to be a track field! It's neatly covered with what look like simple red silk sheets and gold satin blankets embossed with dragons and phoenixes. It's the most luxurious bed I've ever seen! Basically my eyes pop out of my head staring at the thing.
"H-how am I supposed to sleep in that? I'd be afraid I'd damage something expensive!" I moan. Despite all the 'Chi' I was looking forward to a nap after getting up here. I don't feel energized up here at all after the long trip. I'm one fagged out faggot.
"Oh please, Brian! You do us honor by sleeping here and enjoying one of the reasons why China has always been famous for it's luxury, particularly with textiles." Xian gestures gracefully at the accommodations.
"This is quite extravagant for a room. We will not be spending much time in here between events and warm ups. I have never made use of a room like this at any of the other Olympics I've attended. They have always been very simple things. I fear this will just be a waste on us." Snowflake appraises the place with cold detachment, his natural Finnish frugalness showing through.
"This, my dear friends, shall not be like any of the other Olympics that you have ever attended or seen, for that matter. This will be the greatest Winter Olympiad ever held! China will not allow for anything less. Nowhere else in the world can a nation host both a Summer AND a Winter Olympics in the same city!" Xian practically sparkles with pride and he holds a pose that would have made P.T. Barnum proud.
"Ok!" Snowflake agrees with jarring finality and then makes it official by flopping down with all his weight on the very, very, very expensive bed. I gasp in shock! I don't think they'll let us out of this country without paying for any damages done to things like this!
"Honestly, Brian, you are welcome to join your lover in bed too, if you wish. You may even 'Christen' it, as I think the saying goes. Hehehehe!" Xian's giggle is goofy as hell and twice as gay. I swear he laughs like a geisha girl.
Seeing my hesitation, Xian gently comes to my side and guides me by my arm to the bed and sits me down on it. That's when Snowflake, who has already in his socks and on the bed, grabs me and pulls me down with him hard onto the mattress with him. I hear the springs or whatever squeak in complaint!
Wiggling to get free to no avail as Snowflake attacks my neck with his mouth and nose, I can't help but yelp and giggle as he tickles me behind the ear.
"Goddammit, Snowplow! We're gonna fuck up these sheets and THEN they'll make us pay for them! Oh! Hehehehe-he! STOP!" I try but now Snowflake is tickling me on my sides.
"Fuck the sheets if you like. They can take it. We make things to last (for ourselves) here in China. Even if you were to wad these up and cast them into the fire they would be replaced at no charge to you. You are more important to us than sheets. You two are the stars of this show. You should see the millions being made on t-shirts and posters of you alone! I do not think you realise how famous you two have become in China! We have protected you from most of it so as not to overwhelm you. It is easy to do for you have not seen fans until you have seen Chinese fans! They truly ARE fanatics with their enthusiasms." Xian says as he proceeds to take my boots off while Snowflake takes my coat and shirt off. Before long I am totally nude being being sucked and licked off to dreamland. I wonder if this is what it was like for the Emperor of China when it was time for him to go to bed?
I think I kinda like China!
Well, that was fucking amazing!
The Olympic Parade of Nations was kind of mind boggling! I always enjoyed watching it and cheering on the USA when it was their time but . . . to actually be a part of it is another thing entirely. To be there and to feel all that energy and general worldwide goodwill lavished on each nation participating was electrifying! I never thought it would be like that! Now I know why so many of the athletes come in with this look of bewilderment and then huge smiles!
Naturally, the audience being primarily Chinese, the HUGE China contingent got the loudest roar, but I was really . . . like really surprised at the warm and near deafening roar the American contingent got, especially when we came in with the Finnish contingent right there in our group with me and Snowflake in their midst. For the first time, two nations were co-competing. Finnish Gold would be also American Gold and American Gold, Finnish! It was an act of political solidarity never before tried in the Olympics! A show of support and mutual cooperation that reached even into the competition of the Olympics! It was really a joyful thing to have Snowflake’s countrymen and my countrymen shoulder to shoulder sharing something bigger than just our two nations! The flag bearers walked side by side with the red white and blue right next to the blue and white!
This was cultural alliance! A cultural alliance that was also a military alliance and it was an alliance the Russians particularly hated.
The feeling was mutual as the Russian contingent actually got a few boos from not only the Finns and the Americans, but from the Chinese too! They got polite applause from everyone else. The icy chill that fell over the stadium when they walked in was not just caused by a cold winter wind. I imagine the Great Dictator was watching this and already planning revenge. The world had become a much more dangerous place when he stopped being President of Russia and started being the General Secretary the NUSSR (New Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) again. The Media refers to them as ‘Newzzer’ or ‘Newsser’ for whatever reason.
But, despite this little bit of intrigue and uncertainty, the World showed up for the Winter Olympics in great form! Perhaps the good will shared by all the other countries of the world might tell Russia a thing or two and they’ll back off from their aggressive shit!
After the Parade of Nations we settled in to watch the ‘Artistic Presentation’. Just like they did for the Summer Olympics way back in 2008, they did a spectacular spectacle! They used a huge misting system to create, basically, a fog in the middle of Ice Arena, their name for the beautiful glass and polymer venue they created for the Winter Olympics. In that fog they used new holographic projectors to create a fully three-dimensional presentation covering Chinese culture and beauty for the past thousand years! It was something I’d never seen before! It was truly . . . mind-boggling! The climactic ending of the presentation summed itself up into a beautiful fiery phoenix and a sparkling icy dragon forming a yin yang symbol that is the branding for this year’s Winter Olympics. Fire and Ice!
For some reason . . . it made Snowflake and I look at each other with tears in our eyes. It was meaningful to us . . . on so many levels.
Now I’m ready. Now I can do this.
Now . . . I can go win Olympic Gold for us both and then go home!
It’s unique in all Olympic contests because it couples two seemingly completely different skill-sets: Cross-Country Skiing and Target Shooting. Besides wrestling, track and field casting, and bow shooting; it’s one of the last of the ‘utilitarian’ sports contests in the Olympics: A sport born from necessity.
A sport born from war!
So, here I am, a boy who’s never fought in a war once, thank God, but who wears a rifle like a warrior. A warrior like Snowflake’s Papa was. A Ski Warrior from the Lapland who fought the enemy from skis using sharpshooting accuracy. Interestingly, I’m well suited for this particular sport even more so than I am for any of the other modes of nordic ski competition. Snowflake found this out when he tried me out for biathlon way back in Passo Lavazè. Between my Dad’s love of skiing and his love for shooting he seemed to have passed those two loves to me. Maybe that’s why I have come to like this part of cross-country best of all. Maybe it’s the closest thing to love I’ll ever share with my father.
I’m handed my light small-calibre target shooting rifle. I seriously doubt this weapon could do any real damage to anything except a paper target. It feels like a glorified bebe gun, but I know it’s basically the same .22 straight-quick action rifle I’ve been using all along. The Olympic one has some ‘prettifications’ like a brass colored barrel and painted wooden stock with ergonomic recoil. I had trouble with these guns while training in the past year. I kept trying not to brace myself too much because it would throw off my aim. I was used to Remington bolt action hunting rifles with a lot of recoil. These biathlon guns have virtually no recoil. Makes for quick target shooting and, so far, I’ve been told I’m the ‘fastest gun in the West’. Snowflake has a perverted joke in regards to that, of course.
While getting in line to go to the starting gate I see Snowflake appear. The others seem to part for him like he is some kind of highly honored dignitary. They almost bow to him! He glad hands a few who excitedly reach to shake his hand and give him congratulatory pats. Most of the skiers do this, but not all.
A tall guy in Russian colors 'accidentally' trips Snowflake who recovers with his usual grace. The Italian behind the Russian begins to berate him, but is quickly silenced with an icy stare. Turning back to Snowflake the creep says in Russian-twisted English: "Moy zinseerist oppolojiz, Mr. Halla. We muzt oall be werry carefall where we ztep, da?" It was asked with a sneer. I almost had a mind to train my bebe gun on him and pop one in his fucking knee. But . . . that would be unsportsmanlike I guess.
Snowflake just turns away ignoring the Russky completely. He only has eyes for me and the momentary unpleasantness is quickly outshone by Snowflake's glittering, knee weakening smile! He doesn't need a pop gun to make me weak in the knees, just that gorgeous smile of his! It's his true superpower.
“My hero!” he says while looking my up and down appreciatively and then helping me on with my gun strap on my back.
“What’s up with that Russky dude, back there?” I have to ask.
“He is of no consequence. It would be well if he did that again. I could then have him disqualified from the race for unsportsmanlike behaviour and then . . . one less competitor for you!” I think Snowflake read my mind about being 'unsportsmanlike'. He then grins and gently takes me by the back of the head and pulls me in for a warm, loving kiss.
I don’t know where I am for a moment as my mind goes totally blank! I hope no one can see things happening through my tights!
A few wolf whistles and applause bring me back to the moment. My fellow racers look on, for the most part, with smiles and slight blushes. Most are Europeans, so a display of Gay love like this is just ‘cute’ to them as opposed to being horrifying.
Interestingly it is only two faces that look distressed or, at least, disapproving. My fellow American racing today who looks totally shocked that we should do such a thing in front of other men. The other, of course, is Mr. Macho Russia, who tries to suppress a shiver as he looks away from us in disgust. Fuck him very hard. What a complete asshole!
At the starting 'gate' I am #20. 'Launching' in the individual 20K biathlon is done one at a time as placement isn't that important. Your time is what is important. You may not arrive at the finish line first, but, depending on how fast you complete your circuit, how quickly you take down your targets, IF you take down all your targets, and after calculating any penalties, your time is computed and the person who has the best time wins. It really is, sort of, a race against yourself. You have to beat your best time and the time of everyone else in the competition. Snowflake clued me into this as I was having a hard time figuring out how to put my mind in the right place about the biathlon. It finally clicked and I've been doing well in these competitions ever since.
The starting ‘gate’ is just two little motorized electric winches with a line in front that lowers after three beeps. It’s not nearly as fun as the firing of the gun to start a race, but I guess, it’s cheaper and more ‘civilized’.
The announcer announces me and I’m warmed by a lot of applause and the rattling of the cowbells they use to encourage us as we race. Funny, I get as much if not more encouragement from the Nordic fans as I do from the American ones. The Finns are particularly loud and crazy! They must have had a bottle or two of vodka already and it’s only 1 PM!
As three beeps sound, the line comes down at the first, I push off at the second, and clear the gate by the third. At least I don't make any penalties there. The track is well groomed. Perhaps the best snow track I've yet skied. The Chinese Olympic Cross-Country coordinators seem to know what they're doing. The track looks like white velvet and skies like smooth glass! I'll have to watch it. This nice track can lead me into trouble by letting me get complacent. They might just rough up a bit of the track as a challenge later on! I set my mind to pretend that I'm skiing a wild track out off the grid around the Lake Tahoe basin. I keep my mind sharp for pretend roots or rocks that might trip me up. The act of the imagining is enough to focus myself. It's a mental trick I picked up while doing my internship in neurology. I go through a brain scan in my head and imagine what a tumor or blood vessel infarction might look like while examining a patient. That way if I see something it will be what I expect to see as opposed to it being a complete surprise. I'll have a contingency already in mind if I find a problem.
It's the same with skiing. I imagine problems before they happen so that if they do then I'll have a 'contingency,' which usually means swerving, jumping, or just plain stopping and walking around the obstacle.
I catch up with the group and I zoom around the first bend which wiggles through a forested area that's secluded from the onlookers lining the track and cowbelling. I ignore them for the most part because they are a distraction and I need to keep my focus so that I can keep pacing and building speed. My eyes through my blue eye-shields only focus forward and on the path ahead. I ignore the other skiers as I pass them. They are only another distraction and what they are doing has nothing to do with what I'm doing. It's to bad I can't pay them any mind because some of them have delicious asses and thighs! Finger lickin' good!
Eventually, I'll find my way to the shooting range and I'll be able to pop off the targets in short order. My game isn't with the shooting. The shooting is easy for me. It's keeping a strong pace to make time on the skies. The trouble with the biathlon is that it breaks the momentum when I'm sprinting. That's the tricky part of the particular event, especially with the individual course. You have to rebuild your momentum after completing your target shooting. It's a transition from dead still to all out speed and the winners are those that can make that transition fast and machinelike. That's why my trick is to shoot and hit quick and then be off. The prone shooting is hardest in that I have to deal with my skies, lay on my tummy, and then quickly blast the fuck out of the targets, get up and get MOVING!
I arrive at the shooting area ahead of my target time which is beautiful! I just may pull this one off! But, I can't get cocky. I have to maintain my focus to shoot and then to get going again. I stop, mechanically deploy my rifle from my back, and recline with my skies straddled which is always awkward, but also part of a strategy. In order to cut in and get myself up quick I always cut my skies into the snow behind me a bit and push back to make a little 'door stop' so that I can stand up and push off faster. That's a Snowflake trick, but I see many other experienced biathletes do this too.
Taking aim with my mama's gift to me, my 'hunter's eyes', I pick out the black dots of the targets in their row in front of me. I make note of the breeze, but there isn't much wind today so I can dial in rather straight to aim. I don't have to compensate for wind resistance today. It's actually gorgeous out here today and if I wasn't so preoccupied with winning a gold medal for Snowflake I'd even be able to take notice of the sapphire sky and the bright sun on the sparkling snow. The light helps me to zero in on my targets and then I shoot.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. All five down no sweat. This garners a lot of shouts, applause, and cowbelling from the crowd. I find the words 'Ride Em Cow Bowie' coming from the broken English set rather amusing and I spare a wave to them. They are all Swedish girls, all of them blonde, and all of them gorgeous with the brightest smiles and they are all blowin' kisses and waving in my direction. Wow, if only I had a bi-bone in my body, but, alas . . . my body's bone just don't bone up that way.
Unfortunately, the lovely Swedes are matched by the less than lovely group of Russian assholes who shout at me viciously in their weird backwards sounding language. I can only imagine what they are calling me. It'll all be things I've heard before a million billion times so I don't sweat it.
I do sweat, however, the snowball that comes whizzing past my right ear. I spare a look back to see security tackling the idiots and cuffing them with cuffing bands. Apparently, you aren't supposed to throw things at the racers. That's comforting to know that Chinese Security won't be putting up with the same BS that went on at Sochi.
Soon, though, I've left them behind and I'm now in a corridor of trees with cliff-like banks where spectators are not allowed for safety reasons. It's an unusual part of the course. A secluded area I've never seen before. The path narrows and it creates a choke point if a lot of skiers are going in all at the same time. I suppose, that's the challenge. It's a very 'Chinese' idea. You have to coordinate and cooperate with your competition to keep a fair playing field. If anyone get's tripped up or falls over then the whole group of skiers might collapse into a broken heap! I'm fortunate, though, that there doesn't seem to be anyone near me. I must be ahead of everyone or well in between. For some reason, the aloneness and the relative quiet of this stretch of the course unnerves me.
I hear a buzz above me and spare a glance up to see two drones following my progress. I'm not actually alone at all. I have a few million people watching me. That should comfort me, but it doesn't. I still have a weird feeling I can't quite explain.
I push on faster, allowing myself the luxury of a full sprint so that I can get out of here. I wanted to pace myself through this part of the course so that I could have energy for later in the next revolution. But, the touch of adrenaline and the strange feeling of being 'watched' forces me out of this plan.
It is then I'm startled by a familiar crack sound. I hear something shattering above me! I look up and barely miss being brained by the bits and pieces of one of the drones! The plastic and metal plop into the snow behind me in a loose heap. Something must have malfunctioned. Maybe the battery exploded or . . .
Another crack sounds. It's louder and closer than the first one. I realize now that the sound didn't come from the drone overhead. It came from the tree line above me on the top of the bank above the track! I hear something go 'poof' in the snow behind my feet! I recognize the sound now! Oh my God! It's the sound of one of the targeting rifles for the shooting range! Someone is shooting at me? I realize this just as I hear the crack again.
Simultaneously with the report of the crack, I find myself suddenly loose balance and fall face first into the snow. I try to get up but my body doesn't respond! It's gone numb and it's shaking! What's wrong with me?
I feel a burning in my thigh and look down to see blood issuing out of a hole in it! The white snow all around is splattered with bright red!
Then the throbbing pain sets in. My thigh muscles spasm and I feel the sharp ache of the wound finally. I also feel cold. So very cold! I come to realize what's happened. Before the light ahead of me swirls away into darkness one thought penetrates all else:
I've been shot!
My poor, beloved Snowflake! He will be so disappointed that I . . . couldn't . . . finish . . . the . . . race.