Monday, December 26, 2005

December 26, 2005 Snow and more snow

Consider This for December 26, 2005—Snow and More Snow

I can’t remember when we had so much snow this early.

I moved to the mountains in 1974 and I remember that the first few years were a bit dry. I remember living in Blue River and having my septic tank freeze because there wasn’t any snow cover.

In 1977 the snow pack was so low that I saw the old streets and foundations of the old town of Dickey at the Blue River inlet for the first time. I don’t remember the same amount of concern about water then. I guess there were a lot fewer people living in Denver.

I had a good friend who bought a brand-new truck and a brand-new snow plow anticipating heavy snow and lots of money coming in. The truck and the plow were repossessed and my friend moved to Florida. Not to push snow of course but to find something that was more financially reliable.

In 1980 Summit County was the fastest- growing county in the United States. We went from around 3000 year- round residents to 10,000 between 1970 and 1980.

The last long early snow that I remember was in December of 1983. I had to get my driveway plowed in Dillon Valley every day for a couple of weeks. The Sheriff then was Delbert Ewoldt and he had a John Deere tractor with a snow blower on it. Even with that it took a while to get all the snow out of the driveway.

During that snowfall the highway between Breckenridge and Frisco had so much snow piled on the side that one had a hard time seeing the mountains. We had friends staying with us from Omaha and I shuttled them back and forth from Dillon Valley to Breckenridge. It was amazing snow.

During the winter of 1979-‘80 I ran the concrete batch plant at L.G. Everist in Silverthorne. My job was to load and dispatch the mixer trucks with concrete to the various construction sites in the county. We used hot water to batch the concrete so it would not freeze. Concrete after it is mixed and poured will generate its own heat but it still needed to be covered or protected to keep it from freezing.

I remember that we had several drivers from California, Arizona and Texas that winter. They came to play softball in the summer and ski in the winter.

And to complain.

They complained every time it snowed. They complained every time it got cold.

I told them that there were places they could work doing the same thing but without the cold weather and the snow. I had a hard time listening to them talk about being out in the cold and snow pouring concrete while singing the praises of the great skiing the day before. They never found the connection.

Actually they were all great employees. They worked hard and played hard. Just the right kind of folks for Summit County.

Last week I shoveled my driveway by hand four times in two days. I sold my big snow blower at a garage sale during the drought thinking it would never snow a lot again. I was so very wrong. I get plow envy every time a neighbor drives by in a big pickup truck with a big snow plow on the front.

To add misery to heartache about the time I get the driveway shoveled out the county plow comes by and dumps a nice windrow of hard- pack back in the drive. They did it to me when I was a county commissioner too so I am not taking it as a political statement.

A lot of my family is here for the week and I am taking some time off before the session starts. I guess if it is going to snow, let it snow now.

Maybe if I buy a new snow blower it will quit snowing again. Maybe the ski areas will pay me to not buy one just to make sure it keeps snowing. Hmmmmm. Let me think about that one.

Monday, December 19, 2005

December 19, 2005 Democracy Works

Consider This for December 19, 2005-Democracy Works

The voters in the Town of Frisco declared their independence last Tuesday. You could almost hear the sound of the Home Depot proposal being dumped in Frisco Bay the same way the secretly- taxed British tea was dumped in Boston Harbor over two hundred years ago.

There was a total white- out blizzard Tuesday night. I was driving back from the monthly Democrat Central Committee in Leadville. When I reached the summit of Fremont Pass I turned on Krystal radio hoping for the election results. The intrepid Patrick Quinn was Johnny on the spot and within minutes I heard the proposal had been defeated.

It took me almost another two hours to make it to Breckenridge.

I took my mind off my fear of dying in the snowstorm by thinking about what happened with the election.

I did not take either side in the controversy. I had many friends who were in favor of the proposal and many who were opposed. I have always thought that town issues were for the people who live in the town.

A few months ago I wrote an e- mail to some friends about another issue. I did not write an article or go public with my feelings. Several of the people involved accused me of going public and writing an article about the e- mail. Never happened. That would be unprofessional. Just about as unprofessional as accusing me of writing something I never wrote.

During my death- defying ride I came to several conclusions.

I do not think the vote was a rejection of big box stores.

I do not think the vote was a rejection of the Frisco Town Council.

I do not think the vote was a rejection of the need for strong sales tax revenue for Frisco.

I do think the vote was an affirmation of the will of the people. The people view public lands as their own and not something that should be traded to the promissor of the highest sales taxes. The people believe that the greatest good for public land is for it to be used by the greatest number of people.

Everyone knows something will be built on that parcel. The voters just rejected the current plan.

This is not my idea but something I have heard several times in the past few months.

Maybe the town should consider a compromise. Surround the parcel with a public open space greenbelt. In the center of the parcel there could be a community center/performance center. Commercial retail space could be in the same area that could include art galleries, coffee shops, book stores and other low impact businesses.

I realize the potential sales tax revenues would not be there but this plan might sit better with the voters.

The Silverthorne Pavilion or the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center are two excellent examples of this. Public use combined with retail surrounded by the river and greenbelt.

The lesson here to all elected officials is if there is any major public objection, consider another plan. This is the third time in my memory in which a proposal in Frisco went to a vote and the town lost.

The other two were proposals to build a golf course on the peninsula.

One bad thing about getting old is that you remember the past. When the Homestake Exchange was completed the arrangement was for the County Commons parcel to have all the development and building structures. The parcel across the highway known as the Peninsula was not to have any construction. It was to remain pristine and open space in perpetuity.

It is like having money in your savings account. Eventually you want to spend it. A couple of times in the past the town supported building a golf course on that property. The voters turned it down both times.

I have never heard this from the elected officials in Frisco, but one of my pet peeves is elected officials announcing, after losing an election, that the voters are stupid and uninformed. They were elected by these same people. I guess they were stupid and uninformed when they elected them.

Democracy works. The power does remain with the people.

Monday, December 12, 2005

December 12, 2005 Went Missing

Consider This for December 12, 2005—Went Missing

In 1969 I was assigned to the Deputy Commissioner for Press Relations’ office in the New York City Police Department. This was after I had spent nearly four years writing and editing newspapers in New York and England for the Air Force. I also received a full journalism scholarship in college and wrote for the school paper and edited the yearbook.

After I came to Colorado I was the first Public Information Officer for the Lakewood Department of Public Safety and for the City of Lakewood. I say all of this to give some credibility to my complaint.

The language is changing, and I want to know who did it and why.

Went missing. Gone missing. Person of interest. Aren’t words fun?

I am always taken aback when I read a news story in which the author refers to a victim as a person who went missing. I always ask myself the question, “Where is the missing that they went to?”

Of course you can take this to the next level, stating that a person was gone missing on a particular date. Gone where?

Maybe this is a case of my getting too old. Maybe I have lived too long and can’t handle what is going on with the English language.

I lived in Georgia for a couple of years back in the 1960s when I was in the Air Force. Went missing is something I might have heard in the local bar or in a restaurant operated by a fourth-generation Georgian.

Perhaps there is nothing inherently wrong with using went missing or gone missing, but both terms are highly regional or colloquial. To use them in the Deep South is very appropriate, but not even there would they appear in a news story.

That is until now. I have not checked, but I am almost certain that I could find the terms in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

Maybe they became part of our language one night while I was sleeping.

Another new term that drives me nuts is law enforcement now calling a suspect in a crime a person of interest. What is going on with this?

Did the politically correct fairly descend from the clouds and all of a sudden declaim that a person is no longer a suspect?

Broderick Crawford is rolling in his grave. When he did the old Highway Patrol television series in the 1950s, he would have been laughed all the way back to Hollywood by any self-respecting cop.

Jack Webb would not know what to do. He would not be able to keep a straight face on Dragnet when he told his partner that the person in custody was a person of interest.

It almost sounds like a skit on Saturday Night Live. One character could talk about how someone went missing or was gone missing but that the person walking around with the bloody knife over the body was only a person of interest.

I would think so.

I am sure the person of interest thing came from some lawsuit filed in some case in which someone alleged that he had suffered serious emotional harm from being called a suspect instead of a person of interest. It was probably part of a major court settlement requiring all police from that moment forward to say it instead of suspect.

The went missing and gone missing thing must have come out of a disappearance in Florida or Alabama. The flacks in New York and Los Angeles picked it up and have used it ever since.

I do not want to make fun of any group or occupation, but enough is enough. Imagine the poor immigrant to the United States who is trying to learn English. Every day someone is making up new words and new phrases. Most of us native speakers of English can’t keep up, so how can we expect nonspeakers of the English language to know what we are writing or saying?

Or maybe I am just getting old and the language is going faster than I am.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Decmber 5, 2005 Hunter Thompson

Consider This for December 5, 2005—Hunter Thompson

Hunter Thompson and I never formally met.

He worked at the Village Voice in New York City about the same time I was in the New York City Police Department. The Village Voice was one of many alternative newspapers in New York at the time.

Another one was Al Goldstein’s magazine, Screw. I think Screw got more attention than the Voice.

I watched a documentary on public television a few weeks ago about Bob Dylan and his early days in Greenwich Village. He came there from Hibbing, Minnesota, and I came there from Rockwell City, Iowa, a few miles south of Hibbing. It must have been some sort of cosmic epicenter for people from the Midwest. And for Hunter Thompson.

I moved to Colorado in 1970 and moved to the mountains in 1974. I remember starting to hear about Thompson around the same time.

I knew the sheriff in Pitkin County, and he and I would have lunch and talk. His stories were probably second- or thirdhand from his friends and his deputies. They were still interesting.

Hunter lived in Woody Creek, which is not really a part of Aspen.

I remember Woody Creek in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s as a place where they raced stock cars and sports cars on weekends. I also remember it was a collection of old shacks and a place known for a very strong liberal bent. Someplace where a lot of hippies lived.... It might have been a function of the cost of living in Aspen at the time and the relative low cost to live in Woody Creek.

The first stories I heard about Hunter portrayed him as a wild man. That he drank a lot. Smoked a lot. Carried guns and liked to explode things in the middle of the night. He loved women and liked to party, according to his neighbors and the Sheriff’s Office.

I had the impression Woody Creek got too big for its britches at some point and was discovered by people with money. I have a good friend who lived there for many years until it got too expensive and he had to move to Basalt.

My more interesting brush with Hunter Thompson was one morning at the recreation center in Breckenridge. I was on the treadmill watching C-SPAN Journal. The commentator said that there was a call from Woody Creek, Colorado, and then asked the caller to ask his question. It was clearly Hunter Thompson asking something about national policy. He finished his question, and the moderator thanked him and went on to the next caller.

I was blown away. Here is this person who could not get a job in network TV blowing off an icon like Hunter. I wanted to get on the phone to let the moderator know what he had done, and I hope someone else let him know later in the day.

When Hunter blew his brains out at the kitchen table in his house in Woody Creek recently, I immediately thought of Ernest Hemingway putting a shotgun to his head at age 60. I also thought of Richard Brautigan killing himself at age 50. Hunter was older than both of them, but I wonder if they all thought their lives were over because of their age.

A couple of years ago there was an interesting news story about Michael Jackson being spotted in the Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs wearing a ski mask. Apparently he was stopped by the police later and checked out. He allegedly said he wore it because he did not want to be recognized. That is the same reason armed robbers wear masks.

In that very same Wal-Mart in Glenwood Springs I met Hunter Thompson. We were both standing in the hardware section. I looked at him and recognized him immediately. He looked up and I said “hey.” He looked me straight in the eye and said “hey” back.

He and I both turned and walked away into the rest of our lives.