John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

This image has been haunting me, asleep and awake.

It’s the image of Dave, the astronaut in Stanley Kubrick’s movie, “2001-A Space Odyssey,” as he sits in a shuttle pod floating above Jupiter, and a cascade of lights and patterns surges at him from a point out in space, reflecting on the glass face-plate of his space suit.

I am Dave. I’ve just killed off the sentient part of HAL, the supercomputer that runs my space ship and recently went nuts and murdered my co-pilot and the other astronauts in their sleep chambers. I’m still searching for the mysterious black obelisk that my Earth-bound bosses sent me to find and analyze, after its twin was discovered on the moon and sent a short, intensive blast of radio signals aimed at Jupiter.

As I sit in my pilot’s seat and waves of light blast past me in a blizzard of color and tension, I am unable to move or act ” all I can do is watch, keeping my eyes open to whatever happens next.

Yep, that’s me, all right.

You see, I’ve left The Aspen Times for another job 40 miles away, at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, as a consequence of the ongoing global recession and its effects on our local and regional economy.

The mid-sized corporation that owns both papers and a bunch of others in Colorado and other states, Swift Communications, has decreed that one way to meet the onslaught of declining ad revenues, balanced against the corporation’s debts, is to slash the payroll at its various newspapers. That means that many longtime friends and colleagues are sitting at home right now without work, while I am back working at the newspaper where I worked when I first came to Colorado in 1978.

This full-circle shuffling isn’t new to me. I’ve been bouncing around the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys throughout my time here, sometimes by choice and other times out of necessity. I’ve been moving from one newspaper to another, staying long enough to leave an imprint on things and clutter up a desk, before bouncing off in a different direction, and it’s worked out all right so far.

I feel an uncomfortable measure of guilt over the fact that I still have a job while so many friends do not, similar to how I imagine survivors of war feel over the fact that they are still alive when so many of their friends and fellow soldiers are dead.

I’m also vaguely pissed off at the corporation, which once prided itself, I’ve been told, on never taking on unsustainable levels of debt, but which recently, apparently, did exactly that.

Our corporate managers were acting, like so many others in this troubled economy, as though the boom would never end and the money would never cease to flow into their coffers. And now that the error of that kind of thinking is glaringly apparent, we all suffer the consequences.

But, hey, as Joseph P. Kennedy said so long ago, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and I’m doing my best to live up to the idea.

Then again, Hunter S. Thompson, paraphrasing old Joe, observed that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Somehow that seems to fit here, too.

So, for now, I’m gone, and the strange politics and lifestyles of Pitkin County will go on without me. I’ll have other fish to fry, and I need to focus on the fire in front of me, not the blaze I leave behind.

This column will continue, I’ve been told, and there’s a good chance I’ll bounce back again when it’s least expected, just because that’s the way things work around here.

So don’t look for me until you see me, but don’t be surprised when you do.