On buses and skis

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e've all heard airline staff entertain themselves -- and often their passengers -- with announcements reminding us, for example, not to stow the kids in overhead bins or to beware of the mystery meat being offered for dinner.

We are not as likely to find city bus drivers trying out comic routines on passengers, at least not in New York.

Nevertheless, I recently encountered a driver who offered up a one-liner every block.

I liked this quip best: "If we all work together, we can eradicate taxicabs in our lifetime. This is a public service announcement from your driver."

This next one was corny, but amusing on a very local level.

We were crossing Manhattan from east to west on 79th Street. As we left Fifth Avenue, heading toward the West Side, he said: "Central Park West is next. Have your passports ready."

The New Yorkers, a tough crowd, didn't smile. No wonder the comic routines are a rarity.

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Cross-country skiing is my wintertime passion, so it is the topic of at least one column per winter. I tried to skip this season, for a little variety, but can remain silent no longer.

That is because this season is so long.

At this writing, we are at the end of three weeks during which Vermont must have gotten five or more feet of new snow.

As a result, the first day of spring is past, and I continue to ski each weekend.

Spring skiing in the Northeast looks to be the best in many a year, whether downhill or cross-country.

Our preferred haunt is the Mountain Top Resort just outside Chittenden, Vt., where some of the 85k of trails wind their way through the Green Mountain National Forest.

We are skiing on the deepest white stuff we can remember. We knew today how deep when a moose and her young got to a favorite trail before we did. And when a moose family makes foot-deep tracks on a trail, it is theirs, believe me.

Also, the trees are covered with snow out to the thinnest twig and along the trunks, even though the trunks are vertical -- in most cases.

Some pine branches are so loaded they take on the look of great white brushes.

When the trees stand in clusters, flanking and overhanging parts of the trails, they are reminiscent of a cathedral.

Sometimes we purposely ski slowly, even downhill, in order to be tourists, taking in the scenes when we can. We frequently exclaim over how gorgeous everything is; we can't seem to think of an original way to describe beauty.

Ski days like this make me happy, and they make me a nicer person, not better, but nicer for a while.

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