Daniel vs. the Slope, and Life

I was sitting at the airport in denial, hoping that airplanes can fly straight through blizzards.

They cannot. Our flight was canceled, and the next one was two days later, which would cut deeply into the trip. After several hours, those of us stuck at the airport miraculously caught flights leaving later that day. Some lucked out on standby, while me and another person were able to take the seats of people who canceled their trips. We were on our way to Denver.

My friend and I were twelve hours behind schedule and the last ones to arrive at the cabin in Breckenridge, but we made it. There was fresh snow covering everything, a rare sight for a Texan, but there was no time to play. Our cozy beds were calling. We needed our energy in the days to come.

Two days later, we’re taking lifts up the beautiful snow-covered mountain, snowboards strapped to our left feet. Countless YouTube videos had prepared me for this moment. People say that everybody falls when they get off the lift for the first time, but I would be different. I would float off that mobile bench and blissfully slide atop the fresh powder. The moment for me to jump off comes and… I actually don’t remember what happened, but for the sake of the story and probability, I’ll say that I fell.

Minor setback. I got up and strapped my other foot onto the board. I stood up the way that the YouTube videos showed me, and I was ready. I gazed upon the slope before me, ready to conquer this mountain that had been calling me for the past two days. I slowly made my descent.

The next several hours were series of hard falls, some done intentionally to prevent a collision with a tree or person. I sat in the snow, cursing and punching it for doing this to me. The YouTube video made it look so easy. I considered signing up for lessons, but my friend who is a seasoned snowboarder gave me some pointers. Once again I stood up, determined not to let this mountain defeat me.

By the end of that day, I could leaf down the slope heel side without falling. The next day I tested my ability on the steepest of green (easiest) slopes. I flew down that mountain, still only on my heel side, but I was feeling confident. My goal was to move up to the blue slopes the next day, but I still had to get my toe side down, which I decided I would practice for the remainder of the day.

For those who don’t know, when you are on your toe side, your back is facing the bottom of the slope, so you are basically going down the mountain backwards, meaning that if you fall, you flip over and land on your back. This happened to me many times. I had to take my helmet off a few times in order to clear the holes of the snow that was packed in them from having fallen on my back and hitting my head so many times. I fought off my frustration, knowing that I would get it down. Little did I know that my zeal would be my downfall.

Once again, I found myself getting off the lift at the top of the slope, this time with ease. I felt that my boots could be a little bit tighter, but I wanted to waste no time getting back on the slope. It would have taken a few seconds to turn the knobs on my boots that tightened the straps, but instead, I specifically remember thinking these words right before what would be my last slope of the trip:

“My boots are tight enough.”

I started down the slope with exceptional speed. I was going quite fast, which was starting to scare me, but I thought it was time to put my toe side brake to the test. I turn, but I am not slowing down enough. I leaned even harder into the mountain to the point where my face was only a few feet from the snow. I could feel the snow being violently scraped by my board, yet it seemed to do nothing to slow me down until my board finally caught some snow that it could not move. My board stopped in its tracks, but I kept going. I flipped all the way over and landed onto my back harder than I ever had before.

I laid there for a few seconds before sitting up. My left ankle hurt, but not enough for me to stop. I stood up, and then it hurt enough for me to stop. I decided that my snowboarding endeavors would have to continue the next day, so I started walking down the slope. With each step, the pain grew more severe. I probably walked about ten or twenty feet before I had to sit down. I knew it was bad, but it couldn’t have been that bad. Snowboarding boots are incredibly rigid. They prevent any movement of the ankle. It’s pretty much impossible to break your ankle while wearing them.

Unless the boots aren’t tight enough.

Somebody passing by saw me hopelessly sitting there and went to get help. People on the lifts above me started to shout at me and ask if everything was okay. It was not too long before a worker came on skis, pulling a medical sled behind her. I laid on the bed of the sled, and the worker wrapped me in a yellow tarp. My face was still exposed, so I could see the hundreds of people who stared at me as we passed. It probably looked like she was relocating a corpse.

I arrive at the medical center. I was too banged up for them to do anything, so they were sending me down to the clinic in town. I was given the option of either walking to the bus or getting put in a gurney in the back of a van. My denial and pride led me to choose the walk to the bus, which lasted me about two steps.

After the van ride down the mountain, I found myself lying on one of the many beds at the busy Breckenridge medical clinic, awaiting a doctor to show me the results of my x-ray. My ankle was broken. They didn’t have any cast boots in my size, so they had to make a splint that I would not be able to take off until I got back home. But before that could happen, they obviously had to remove the boot I was still wearing. They had to pull my broken, swollen foot out of the very narrow, stiff hole of the snowboard boot. The pain was so excruciating that I made them cut me out of my sock.

Needless to say, the rest of the trip was not that great. I appreciate my friends’ efforts to try to pump some life back into me, but being on crutches at 10,000 feet makes you too exhausted to enjoy much. We left after a few days, and the next few weeks were Vicodin.

That whole experience played into a lot of fears I still have. Snowboarding was something I really wanted to do. At first I was really bad at it, but I worked past that, which is something I seldom do during the initial difficulties of any new challenge. I guess I could say that that is a victory in itself, but once I found out I was more capable, I set a higher goal which I was determined to reach. I fought so hard for it, but in the end I failed. I did. I was defeated, and it hurt both emotionally and physically.

I’ve been asked if I regret going on that trip or it I’m scarred for life. The answer to both is no. Would I do it again if I knew the outcome would be the same? Definitely not. But I can never know that, and assuming that I’ll fail at everything is keeping me from doing anything. This trip was two years ago, and my ankle is fully healed. It’s actually my good ankle now, and I’d definitely be willing to test it out on the slopes once again. I’d be putting myself in danger of more falls and risking more broken bones, but that’s the truth with anything we want to do. I will not be so easily discouraged, and I believe it will be worth it. It took me too long to realize that. God, help me.

broken ankle


Forth, and fear no darkness.
Arise, arise, riders of Theoden!
Spears shall be shaken. Shields shall be splintered.
A sword day, a red day, ere there sun rises.

 

Sick In San Francisco

Vacations and I do not seem to get along very well. The first actual vacation I went on was in 6th grade. My family and I traveled took a two week long road trip from Houston to San Francisco. We stopped in Yosemite and saw sea lions. That’s about all I remember from that trip. That was the last vacation I went on until last year. January 2014, I went on a snowboarding trip in Breckenridge, CO. I broke my ankle a few days into the trip.

Right now, I am sitting in my bed in my hostel, barely strong enough to walk downstairs. Besides my cold/flu-like symptoms, I am suffering from an extreme case of FOMO (fear of missing out). I tried to tough it out, but the last of my strength was spent waiting in line for a Sushirrito. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. It was delicious. Afterwards, my friends went cycling across the golden gate bridge and ate at Chinatown. I sat in my room and caught up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty upset. I’m copying my friend’s video about her trip to Peru by making my own little travel documentary. The Golden Gate Bridge was going to be the money shot of San Fran. I wish I could just have a vacation without any ailment befalling me. Luckily, I had a very successful trip to Yosemite for three nights before coming to San Fran. That is most likely where I got sick because it was freezing, but it was well worth it for the view. More on that later. Right now, more bedrest, and hopefully I will be better by tomorrow when I leave for Vancouver. Something called Poutine is calling my name.

The Death of Chicken Moreno

The first pets that I ever had were hamsters. After pestering our parents enough, we went to the store and bought two furry little rodents and decided to name them Chip and Dale, based off the popular cartoon depicting the adventures of two crime-solving chipmunks, or rescue rangers, if you will. They lived around two years, the average lifespan of tiny rodents. I remember the exact moment when I was told of the first one’s death. My mom picked me and my next door neighbor, Josh, up from school. I was probably in first or second grade. I hopped in the passenger’s seat of our van (is that too young to sit up front?), and my mom immediately starts like this:

Mom: Chip died.

Me: *bursts into tears*

I remember that she didn’t look at me and immediately started driving after she broke the news. In retrospect, I don’t know why she didn’t wait until we got home to tell me or why she told me like that. Maybe she didn’t know how to approach the whole telling-your-kid-his-beloved-pet-just-died thing. After all, she never had to do it before. We had the funeral that day, but we made a couple mistakes. First, we didn’t put the hamster in a box. Second, we didn’t bury him deep enough. The following day we found the burial site dug up, and the corpse of Chip was nowhere to be found. Some cat or possum got an easy meal that night.

I don’t remember too much about the death of the second hamster. Probably the same amount of tears, but I do remember that we made sure to dig deeper. However, it was disappointing that the two siblings wouldn’t be able to rest in peace together. They did get in a lot of fights in their old age, so maybe it was better that way. Despite the tears, I did learn a lot from the death of my two furry friends. I do think having animals with short lifespans at a young age is a good, healthy way to introduce the concept of death and loss to a child, but even this could not prepare me for what was to come.

Fast forward a year or two. We had attained two baby chickens from my older brother’s 6th grade science teacher, who had a box filled with chicks for some reason. He gave them to us to care for temporarily since my mom had raised many a chick when she was growing up. We did a good job until tragedy struck.

We had a neighbor named Michael who lived across the street. He was shorter and slower than Josh and I were. One day, all of us were playing with the chicks in our backyard. We were holding them and discovered that they would always run away immediately upon release. They were pretty fast, but not faster than the average elementary schooler. Being mean children, we bet Michael that he couldn’t catch one. He insisted that he could.

“Prove it.”

Oh, he proved it, all right. We released the chicks, and they took off as expected. Michael bolted after them, and then…

it was over.

The next thing that could be heard for miles was my wailing and screaming for my mom. She arrived, and I begged her to rush the chick to the vet. She told me that it was no use. Michael had accidentally stepped on the chick while he was in hot pursuit of it. Its neck had been broken. I remember looking at the chick during its last few moments on earth. I will never forget that feeling of hopelessness and dread as I saw its life slowly slip away. After a few long minutes, he had passed.

I was beside myself. The neighborhood kids gathered for the funeral. Had I owned any black clothes, I certainly would have worn them. We put the deceased in a box that we had adorned with pictures and notes. Michael wrote “sorry” on the cardboard coffin, but Josh and I knew that we were to blame. We shouldn’t have mocked Michael and used the poor poultry as bait. Later that day as I was processing the loss of the chick by looking pensively out my window, I saw a mocking bird and sparrow fighting in my backyard. To prevent more death, I ran toward them to break up the fight, but my shirt got caught on our patio chair, causing me to lose precious moments. I got there and scared off the mocking bird, but it was too late. The sparrow’s body was on the ground, lifeless. More tears. Too many bird deaths in one day. I buried this little guy in the same deep hole as our chicken. At least they would have the company that Chip and Dale didn’t.

Sometime during high school, I brought up the chicken incident with my mom. After the first chick died, we returned the second chick, so I asked what happened to him and the rest of them. It turns out that the teacher gave them to a farm, and a raccoon got in their crate and slaughtered all of them. Nature. She didn’t tell me way back then because she didn’t want to upset me more, but telling me actually made me feel better. Meeting the bottom of Michael’s foot may have been the best thing that could have happened to that chick. I think that I would prefer getting my neck broken to getting ripped apart by a pair of ravenous jaws, but that’s just me.

I Was A Crybaby

I’m not sure why, but I used to cry a lot as a kid. But crying as a kid is normal, right? Yes, but one might say, if he were a mean and hateful person, that I was a crybaby.

There were emotional reasons for starting the waterworks. The death of my hamsters and my pet chicken (that post to come later) definitely left my little, elementary school heart broken and the flood gates open. The majority of the time I cried, however, was from pain. Any shot, scrape, bruise, bump, you name it would set me off. Maybe it was because I had a naturally low pain tolerance. Maybe it was because I was coddled. Whatever the reason, I grew up thinking that I had to cry. Crying was just something that you did when you got hurt. There were several occasions in which I would get a scrape and carry on perfectly fine until I saw that I was injured and then start crying. Nobody taught me that it was possible to just not cry if you got hurt. It’s similar to how nobody teaches you that you can just watch each Lord of the Rings film separately. I used to think that you could only marathon them1.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I was 9 0r 10 that I realized I didn’t have to cry if I got hurt. The epiphany came through my best friend’s little brother. He was a scrappy one, indeed. This kid was six years younger than I was, and he seldom cried. They lived next door, so he would often come outside and play with us, the big kids. I specifically remember his arm getting run over by a wagon filled with kids. One time, he decided to stand underneath the basketball goal while we were shooting. Somebody made a basket (probably not me) and the ball went from the hoop right into his head, knocking him to the ground. Looking back, this actually would have made a good America’s Funniest Videos moment. I ran over to ask the little booger if he was okay and prepared to get him to stop crying, but he ignored me, got up, and kept trying to make a basket. This kid never seemed to cry2.

I would compare my life to this kid’s and think, “Why the heck isn’t he crying? I would have cried for sure.” Then it hit me: I could just try not crying. “Next time I get hurt, I will not cry. Next time.”

I was so proud of myself the first time I got a shot and didn’t cry. I started getting scrapes and cuts and learning that most things don’t hurt as bad as you think they do. My crying has leveled out since my childhood. The average man cries about 7 times every year. That seems about right, unless he watches Marley and Me. That will bump it up to 8 for sure, unless you’re a mean and hateful person.


1One of my good friends has never seen any of the Lord of the Rings films (I know, right?), so we had been trying to set a date to watch all of the extended editions. That’s 12 glorious hours of LotR. Eventually she asked if we could just watch one at a time. Up until that moment I hadn’t realized that that was a possibility.

2Okay, this actually isn’t completely true. I remember one time specifically when his family came over for dinner, and he was bouncing on my bed. In an attempt to get him to stop, I tackled him and accidentally hit his mouth with my hand, causing him to wail in pain. When his mom and my mom came up to see what the commotion was all about, I lied and said my brother did it since he has ADHD and thus didn’t know what was happening and was also still too young to get into any trouble. I confessed to my mom that night, but never to any of the other parties involved. Sorry, guys. That feels good to get off my chest after 12 years.

Do you remember when $8 was a lot of money?

My parents used to always buy canned soft drinks. I thought this was normal amongst all families until I made friends. They would come over and look into my fridge and see cokes, sprites, root beer and some diet drinks (gross and carcinogenic) that my dad liked. My best friend who lived next door would always tell me that the only time he had soft drinks was when he came over to my house.

My parents are big on recycling, so we would always crush our cans and throw them in a huge trash can that was lined with one of those giant, black trash bags. Every time we filled one of those up, we would set it aside. Once we had enough filled bags, we would throw them in our van and drive off to this aluminum recycling center in the ghetto.

At the ripe old age of 11, recycling used soda cans and mowing the lawn were my main sources of income. Looking back, I’m surprised that my parents paid me for mowing the lawn. If one day I am blessed enough to have kids and a lawn, they are definitely mowing that thing for free, but I digress. This aluminum recycling center would pay by the pound. On the good days, we could get up to 42 cents for every pound. I believe I usually got $8 out of the transaction, which, according to my calculations, was over 500 cans. The frequency of our visits to this place is probably too embarrassing to share, and I don’t remember.

I would walk out of that place feeling like a king! I was one step closer to buying that Playstation 2. Or that video game for the Playstation 2 that I had spent all my money on. Or that second controller for the 2-player video game that I had just bought for my Playstation 2. The possibilities were endless.

I am 22 years old, and I still think $8 is a lot of money.

High School Heartbreak

This is a true story. The events depicted in this blog post took place in Texas in 2007. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.


I remember looking at her eyes (not into) as we danced at my sophomore homecoming. She was taller than me by maybe an inch, but I didn’t mind. I was in like. But today was different. She wouldn’t look back at me.

“What’s wrong,” I asked.

“Nothing. Everything’s fine,” she insisted as we slowly danced to Keyisha Cole’s classic song Love.

Our parents picked each of us up and took us home after the dance. We didn’t get picked up together because I was somewhat of a secret to her parents, and she was super awkward. I immediately got on AIM upon arrival at my house (for the youths reading this, AIM was an instant messaging program we used to use) and asked her what was up. She told me she didn’t want to be with anybody at that time.

This news was a huge disappointment because that was the night I had planned to asked her out. It seemed like the perfect plan. We had liked each other for the better part of a week, it was a romantic dance, and we had held hands already.

“You’ll come around,” I remember typing (it was probably more like “ull come around,” which is much more profound).

“i dont think so,” she confidently messaged in response. She even threw in a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing, but she assured me that we could still be friends.

But what does she know? At the ripe old age of 15, I was much wiser than she. I understood women completely and knew she would eventually come back to me, so waiting for her was obviously the best option. But my wait was in vain.

Less than a week later, she started talking to one of my friends, Bryan. And talking. And talking. When Bryan and I were hanging out, she would call him just to talk or to ask him to get something for her. She would post away messages on AIM about him. She talked to him nonstop and passed notes to him but would never say a word to me. “We’re just friends,” she would assure me after I confronted her several times about her relationship with Bryan. I chose to believe her. She wouldn’t lie to me, right? After all, we’ve held hands before. That bond couldn’t be broken.

The wait grew much harder over time as she and Bryan appeared to grow more intimate. One day in world history class, I ranted to my good friend Shaji about my worries, and he confirmed them. She and Bryan were together. I was heartbroken. My thoughts lingered on what went wrong. “What if I had done this? What if I hadn’t done that? What if I were taller than her?”

I knew I would never be the same. Months passed, and this girl who told me that she didn’t want to be with anybody was still with Bryan. I couldn’t speak to either of them. To comfort me, Shaji would say, “Who cares? Just live your life!” And I did the best I could.

The following semester, I was playing tennis with Shaji. Bryan comes. I had come to accept what happened by that time. I wouldn’t say I was over it, but Bryan and I could more or less be around each other. His passenger side opened and a girl came out, but it wasn’t her. It was somebody else! It was finally over.

Slowly my bitterness faded, and my relationship with Bryan healed. Our friendship even surpassed what it had been before the incident, yet we never brought it up throughout the rest of high school or college.

7 YEARS LATER

I went back home this past weekend to visit my parents. It brought back memories of my adolescence. The emotional scars that once burdened me have not hurt for a long time. Those wounds have only shaped me. I’m a man now.

I called up Bryan to come play tennis. Every time we play, we talk about old times, but in the seven years since the drama, the events that occurred back in 2007 had still never been discussed. I assumed it was just something we both buried for good.

We were rallying and reminiscing about our memories on the tennis team. Suddenly, Bryan started laughing. He finally says it.

“Hey, I know we’ve never talked about this, like never, but…”

Somehow I already knew that he was going to bring it up. We had a good laugh about it. He asked if I could forgive him, but it was too late.

I had forgiven them a long time ago.

Dear Neighbors

I recently hand wrote a letter to the neighbors living below us and taped it to their door. It went something like this:

Dear Neighbors,

I am writing you to apologize for last night. I know that we got too loud for the second week in a row, and a football game is no excuse, especially if you have young children. Please forgive us. I do not want there to be any animosity between us, especially when we live in such close proximity. We will do everything in our power to keep it from happening again, so your family can have a peaceful home. If there is anything we can do for you, please call or text me at 713-xxx-xxxx. You can also email me at danielxxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com.

God bless,

Daniel Moreno, apartment xxxx

The night before, the weather was really nice, so we opened our balcony door instead of using the AC. I sat in the open doorway while I watched the UT-UCLA football game. I had been drinking, and in my excitement for that first touchdown we made, I leapt into the air. I knew immediately this was a mistake. After I reached the peak of my jump, time went in slow motion. I had to somehow figure out how to hit the ground without making a loud noise. I extended my feet to try to cushion the fall. Nope. My heels struck the floor and made a loud thud.

This is such an issue because a couple of weeks earlier during the first UT game of the season, many people came over to my apartment to watch us beat UNT. Still being used to our single story apartment in west campus, we did jump for joy during that game. During the end of that game, a guy from downstairs and politely told us to shut up because he has two kids. He said it sounded like we were playing drums and that is was “just UNT.” He dropped the f-bomb a few times but did not raise his voice. He also talked longer than necessary to get us to be quiet (a simple “keep it down” would have sufficed, but my friend described it as a douchey “soliloquy”). Either way, we knew we were in the wrong, apologized, and moved on.

Now back to the UCLA game. There was silence after my feet landed. I was hoping that the noise maybe wasn’t that loud or that they would forgive one thud. They did not. This time, a woman walked outside beneath our balcony and yelled up at us. It went exactly like this:

Hey you assholes, when you jump, shit falls off my walls.

I immediately yelled back, apologizing. I think I said, “you’re right ma’am. Sorry, ma’am.” She had a right to be mad, and we were quiet from then on.

So then I wrote the letter. I wanted them to know that we were sorry and indeed not assholes. I hoped to receive some sort of text or call so I could actually talk to them. Instead, I got an email from the apartment complex about “an increase in community noise complaints.”

Oh well. I tried.


All right. I know that it’s entirely possible that they complained before I posted the letter on their door. Maybe they have made peace and did not tell us. Or maybe they hate us despite my attempt to make peace and are plotting for our destruction. Either way, we’ll keep it down. I don’t want a whole Neighbors thing to go down.