Vail Gives me Hives

The editor of your fine newspaper, Randy Essex, kindly offered to publish my column once a month. He suggested that in my first column I should introduce myself. So here goes.

Residents of Glenwood Springs will be pleased to know that I have a longtime connection to towns with a spring. I was born near Springfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Colorado Springs.

Residents of the latter often shorten their town name to “The Springs” as if the Glenwood one and the ‘field one don’t even exist. I never found a spring in The Springs, at least not one of the water kind. But I can understand the residents’ reluctance to use a more descriptive name for their town like “The Potholes.”

I went to college in another town with a topographical name, namely Boulder, where they took all the money I could earn at high-powered jobs like washing pots and pans in the dorm kitchen. In between washing pots and washing pans, I made a little mad money as a private tutor, a cabinetmaker, a roustabout in a Wyoming oil patch and an iceman. Yes, when I was young in the last century, the icemen still cometh and I came with them.

From Boulder, I went west. In a town named after an Indian chief, Seattle, I found semi-respectable work in an airplane factory where I learned to be terrified of airplanes after the alarming observation that my so-called skill as a 22-year-old engineer and an eighth of an inch of aluminum were all that separated passengers from certain death in low-pressure ice-cold air at 34,000 feet.

That line of work being too stressful and demanding, I became a lawyer. As a lawyer, I could dodge hard questions with clever responses like “objection.” If they kept asking the question even after I said “objection,” then I could say “already asked and answered.”

I learned a joke, too: A mathematician, an engineer and a lawyer were each asked, “What is two plus two?” The mathematician answered, “It’s four. It’s exactly four.” The engineer answered, “It’s about four, give or take, depending on the accuracy of your measurements.” The lawyer answered, “What do you want it to be?”

For three decades, I made a living at making two plus two be what my clients wanted it to be. Then I moved to a place called Aspen and started writing a newspaper column called “The Aspen Beat” because my last name is Beaton and it was an Aspen newspaper column and the topic on which newspaper reporters report is called their “beat.” (Get it?)

Most of my writing is about politics. I try to take politics every bit as seriously as the average American does.

Along the way, I walked a lot. When the way got steep, I climbed, and I wound up on top of some mountains I’d heard of. I joined Mountain Rescue where I would walk around the woods looking for people until they showed up at the trailhead and then we would all go to the local watering hole and send the bill to the sheriff.

People like to read about climbing, so I wrote about it. The Wall Street Journal published a piece I wrote on how to start climbing when you’re much too old. (Short answer: Hire a guide.)

Now that I’m middle-aged (um, assuming I live to be 118), I spend more time in the horizontal world than the vertical one. I’m on less-steep terrain these day, but it seems equally hard.

You might ask, why Aspen? Well, I went to Vail once. I actually exited I-70 and parked the car. I know it looks like a truck stop on steroids, but once you walk around it’s not half bad so long as you shout loud enough to be heard over the noise of the highway. (“Whajasay?” is a question in Vail, not the name of an Indian chief.)

But then the Vail bronzes assaulted me. You can’t turn around without bumping into a little bronze boy with a fishing pole or a little bronze girl with a butterfly net. The place isn’t just a steroidal truck stop; it’s steroidal kitsch. I swatted at the little bronze boys and girls and ran all the way back to my car, which I couldn’t find in the world’s biggest ski resort parking lot.

Before I reached the car (and I’m not making this up, as Dave Barry would say) I broke out in hives. They didn’t go away till I reached Glenwood Canyon.

That’s my introduction. They say you’ll find me here about once a month or until they find a better replacement. I’ll be the guy with a spring in my step.

(Published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on May 15, 2015 at http://www.postindependent.com/opinion/16309716-113/new-columnist-vail-gives-me-hives)

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