One second I was bored, thinking of going home, the next, I was captivated by one of the most ironic humans I've ever met.
Sunday started as a drag. I was working. Technically, it was supposed to be fun work, since I was being paid to snowboard at Beaver Creek, following a marketing research guy around. The problem was that there had been so much rigmarole to set everything up.
It took nearly a month of shuffling to finally get the interview. Every week, something fell through at the last minute. Even on the day it finally worked out, my subject called to cancel again. I ended up having to park in a different place and there was more scrambling to get the day arranged. After three weeks of that, it was more work than fun.
It didn't help that all the groomed runs were sheets of ice. The dull edges of my snowboard skated out at every turn. When the interview was over, I was bruised, ready to go home.
Might as well take one more run, I thought.
The sun was setting and the lifts were empty. I slid up to the middle of the loading zone and bent down to loosen a buckle. That's when another snowboarder slid up right behind me, so close I had to hop to the side to make room. Most people would have simply waited half a second for the next empty chair, but not Charlie.
"How about Amendment 64!" was the second sentence out of his mouth.
He was 26, from Chicago. He was on a trip with a friend who was 50 and too slow to keep up with him. The first vibe I got from Charlie was that he was a soulful type, making the one-with-nature type of comments. I can't recall exactly what he said because it didn't make any literal sense.
"You know what I mean?" he said.
I nodded, understanding the gist if not the syntax. He was probably stoned.
"Do you know what I mean?" he pushed.
"Yeah, sure, man, I get ya."
"So you're a writer, huh?" he said. "You have to be a narcissist to be a writer."
"Feel free to use me in a story," he continued. "I mean it. Quote me. I think I have some valuable perspectives."
"Who the heck are you?" I said flat out. "No one talks like that when they find out I write for newspapers. It's usually the other way around."
"Well, I was born in blah-blah, Illinois ..." he answered without skipping a beat.
At the top of the lift, he had me take pictures of him doing yoga poses with his snowboard.
"Let's bomb!" he said, strapping his board back on.
He shot down the blue groomer without turning. With my dull edges, I wasn't about to keep up and was surprised to find him waiting for me at the lift. I figured I'd take another run, just to hear what came out next.
Charlie said he made his money in stocks. He started espousing capitalist dogma and I had to remind myself he was the same person who talked about living a life that was unattached to material things.
"You are an ironic character," I told him. He just smiled. He spoke so frankly that I felt free to do the same.
We found a powder stash in some trees that was about three turns long.
"That was epic! Wasn't that totally epic?!" he hollered.
"That was fun, but it wasn't epic."
I was growing a tired of him assuming to know what was what about everything. He had been asking questions without pausing to hear my answers. I asked him about his friend, pointing out it was unusual to for a 26-year-old to take a trip with someone who was unrelated and twice his age.
"We're just friends," Charlie said. "I sold him some weed once. Part of the reason I had to get away from him is because he thinks he knows everything. I mean, he's smart - he went to Harvard - but ... And he's slow."
Since Charlie was so confident, I took him down a black diamond full of moguls and rocks. I had one of the best performances in years, a top-to-bottom run at full speed with no mistakes. I didn't care if anyone was watching or not - I felt the rhythm of things. I was simply in the moment; having fun.
I have to thank Charlie for that. He reminded me how fast a day can change when you're open to it.
- "Open Space" appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.