Musings of Mad Max | SierraSun.com
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Musings of Mad Max

Ben Bellizzi
special to the action
photo by Ben BellizziIt's easy to fall in love with Tahoe.
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Love at first sight ” what a concept. Our highly evolved brains, mechanisms that are responsible for much of what we have been able to both create and destroy, surrender all authority to the eyes, which are easily deceived by street hustlers, two-bit magicians and alcohol.

Despite knowing better sometimes, we can’t help but follow our eyes towards whatever they find physically attractive, only to discover later that we’ve been had: Cute boys and girls over whom we create enormous crushes turn out to love us much less than they love themselves; oversized orders of cheeseburgers and fries look delicious, but soon leave us scampering frantically towards the nearest restroom; and of course, there’s Lake Tahoe…

The towering trees, the absurdly blue lake, the towering peeks ” eyes everywhere demand that this place be an object of desire. Many visitors have envisioned themselves as residents and a fortunate number of us have been able to make that possible.

Love at first sight, however, has a catch: It is based solely on first sight, and cannot account for what follows. Falling in love is easy, it’s staying in love that proves difficult. Like discovering that a new flame snaps at waiters or supports blood-for-oil military campaigns, some of the darker Lake Tahoe realities can taint the initial obsession that many feel on account of the region’s physical beauty.

There is the fickle weather that may produce rain for days instead of the fluffier, more desirable alternative. There are endless gondola rides with foghorns who will explicitly detail the previous night’s escapades in front of the smallest of children. There are late-night drivers for whom driving drunk is a game of cat and mouse rather than life and death.

Among with the ongoing animosity between locals and tourists, expert ski-bums and jeans-donning beginners, and any other opposing groups, this aesthetically ideal location can quickly lose its appeal. A pretty face without substance is simply a pretty face. The trees begin to lose their luster, the lake’s shimmer starts to fade, and the towering peeks seem to taunt and imprison instead of inspire. Depression can easily enter the scene, and what makes things worse is that if one cannot be happy in a place as amazing to look at as this, where can one be happy?

It is at this point when love at first sight begins to weaken that one must accept the challenge of the next step. If the affair is to progress, to become one of love more than simple infatuation, it is necessary to get to know Tahoe for its qualities that are not apparent to the weekend sightseer:

Programs such as the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School, where the impossible is scoffed at and people do not tolerate rain on their parades. Gatherings around films and slideshows that celebrate feats of bravery and perseverance and work to inspire in others the adventurous spirit that distinguishes the region. Simple acts of kindness in which strangers help strangers for no other reward than the feeling of having made someone smile. These are some of the things that make Tahoe not simply a pretty place, but a community that feels like home, a place where casual acquaintances feel like family, and where some of the hopes of betterment for a troubled world can be realized.

It is a telling time for new residents when they receive first-time visitors to the area. When entertaining guests, one should exhibit the greatest parts that Lake Tahoe has to offer ” both the postcard views and the often overlooked jewels ” and observe the expressions of amazement on the faces of people who might have assumed Tahoe to be all looks and no personality.

There is a sense of pride that comes with showing off something you have grown to love. And when a visiting friend asks incredulously, “you live here?” someone truly in love can only smile and reply, “yeah…this is home.”


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