To Bee or Not to Bee |

To Bee or Not to Bee

My old ski patrol chum Kern recently visited the valley for Granny’s 80th birthday party. In an e-mail he recapped his trip:

I don’t know if I told you. When I walked through the lounge/bar of the Hotel Jerome on a nostalgia tour with Mike and Sandy, there were beautiful young people present, wearing stylish, obviously expensive clothes ” clothes that actually called one’s attention without being gaudy or pretentious ” and as you know, I am not particularly aware of, nor interested in, matters of personal attire.

Anyway, I suddenly had another one of my once-every-twenty-years, semi-out-of-body experiences. All the people in the bar were transformed into animated plastic manikins, with perfect complexions, perfectly garbed, not a wrinkle, a blemish, or a hangnail in sight. They were making perfect gestures with their perfectly manicured plastic hands to accompany their perfectly trite conversation ” at least I assume it was trite, because I really couldn’t hear it. I readily admit that this was presumptive and judgmental of me but hell, I was in an altered state. This lasted only a moment, and then we were out of plastic land and into the reception area of the hotel, where my dog Zoom once made a pile under the beautiful chandelier.

Later, at the Red Onion, we watched the well-heeled dogs parade their owners up and down the pedestrian mall. I believe I remarked to Mike that the dogs were better dressed than we were, or ever had been.

Back in the day, Kern ski patrolled on 215 Dynastars. At night he frequented certain Aspen watering holes. He owned a Woody Creek trailer, a Nissan Patrol 4X4, and a German shepherd/St. Bernard dog. His girlfriend, “Hot Pants,” could hold up her end of any barroom conversation. Draughts cost 40 cents. Life was good.

In the Peace Corps Kern had learned to eat glass. The trick is to chew it up fine, so you can swallow it without tearing up your stomach. In Nigeria, Kern once ate a whole beer bottle. At the Onion, or the Pub, or the Jerome, he still occasionally took a bite out of his beer glass ” to liven up the conversation, or to impress chicks.

Gus and Gimpy also enjoyed the Aspen bar scene, along with a good scrap. You either hung out with those guys, or you stayed away. At least I did.

In a follow-up e-mail, Kern backed up 34 years:

The Jerome Bar is full of carousing neon-orange ski patrol sweaters celebrating the end-of-season. I step up to the bar to refill a pitcher. I bump into Gus. We exchange words. He invites me to step outside.

Suddenly, time slows down. The music stops. I feel like I’m in a Sergio Leone western. I look around. No orange sweaters, though I see Gimpy, smiling wolfishly, as if he were about to enjoy a fine wine, or a good cigar. I feel the horrible weight of impending doom. I can’t back down.

To buy time, I say to Gus, “This is what I’m going to do to you when we get outside.” I take a bite out of my beer glass, chew it up, and spit the pieces in his face. Gus looks back at me impassively. “When you’re finished eating, let’s go outside,” he says.

I don’t know what happened to defuse the situation, to keep me from getting my butt kicked. But suddenly, Gus has turned away, the moment is over, the music is playing, the bar is again full of cheerful, celebratory drunks. The only remnant of the moment is a minute shard of glass between my teeth, and my drenched armpits.

There’s a hand on my shoulder. Startled, I turn. It’s Kevin Cassidy. Behind him, Al Storey, and others. “Why didn’t you go outside?” Kevin asks. “We were right behind you.”

Kern Krapohl programs computers in Michigan. Kern’s e-mail:

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