I'm heading to Steamboat Springs, CO this week to spend some quality time with my former roommates Mark and Thomas. Shannon gets a hearty WOOT for shouldering the full burden of parenthood and house-maintenance for a few days while I bond with me mates. The simple fact that she's given the trip her blessing is a testament to her big heart. Steamboat Springs is a ski town with an old western flair. I've never been before, but a little boy from there named Austin moved in next door to me in The Dalles, OR when I was in 2nd grade. Now that I'm older, I'm trying to figure out what horrible stroke of dementia possessed his family and caused them to move away from Steamboat (endowed with "old western" charm, home of an amazing, world-class ski resort, beautifully blanketed with soft white snow all winter long) to The Dalles (has "the" in its title). Not that The Dalles is a bad place. I grew up there. It was a blue collar town, bursting with small-town charm and dogs. It had a bustling downtown area, anchored by, um, the bank. We had a skating rink too. Every Thursday night we'd go skate in circles for a couple hours, which is probably where I solidified my tendency to go in circles in life. Nevertheless, Austin and his family left Steamboat for The Dalles, and now I feel like I'm completing the circle of life by vacationing in Steamboat Springs. Isn't it eerie? Austin leaves Steamboat Springs, moves in next to Joey in The Dalles, Joey leaves The Dalles, enjoys wild success as a paper boy and ice cream man, becomes an adult, and returns to Steamboat to pay homage to Austin and complete the circle, nearly 20 years after it began. It's like a really stupid plot for a cheaply-produced after-school special. Actually, chilling in Steamboat has little to do with Austin and a lot to do with skiing. Truth be told, I'm still a little sour with Austin because he got a Nintendo for Christmas in 1986 and I got a sled. I still remember his exact words when we met up that Christmas afternoon to compare our respective present hauls: "You may not believe this, but my mom got me a Nintendo (unnecessary dramatic pause) Entertainment (second unnecessary dramatic pause) System." He let the words hang in the chill December air for effect. I stared, jaw slack, drool leaking from the corner of my mouth. I didn't know quite how to respond to that mother-of-all-announcements. "I got a sled," I offered finally. He sneered. I spent a lot of time at Austin's house that winter, watching him play the Legend of Zelda, wishing it would snow so I could not let him use my sled.