Partying with a purpose
September 28, 2007
The sun makes a quick start, rising over a mountain slumbering beneath a quilt of yellow and orange forest, spreading warmth across the kitchen table to the backs of your hands, now matching the comfort of your palms wrapped around a cup of coffee that smells so nice that you hate to drink it, yet can’t resist. You compromise by sipping at the slower pace necessary to achieve the malleable alertness required on a Saturday morning when it’s only you and the dog on watch for the paperboy’s left-handed lob onto the driveway.
The news in the paper is mostly good ” no new cheaters exposed in the sports pages, the weather might be fair through Monday, and editorialists are prolific that agree with you.
As much as you will never admit it aloud, there is certain sadness in a beautiful fall morning such as this. Things could not be better. Try as you might to convince yourself otherwise, you know it perfectly well. You’re halfway through a Native American summer and you see the calendar for the month as half Xed off. Knowing that we all should heed the great wisdom of living each day as if it was our last, you can’t muster the enthusiasm that it must take to use up whatever is left in the tank on that final day when you’ll know for sure that you could have gotten a lot better mileage by slowing down a little. You should be celebrating every second of a day like this, but rather than fully embracing what is given, you look askew at winter bearing down from the distance. Its promise is great, but you are overly comfortable with what you know for certain ” green grass and later sunsets. So, melancholy and caffeine take turns kicking in their unique ways and work to bring back a sad remembrance of the season.
A friend of mine died after a short bout with cancer two years ago. My brother and I visited him at the hospital when he was nearly gone. He was barely conscious and spoke in whispers that we mostly couldn’t hear. I would like to tell you that visiting a friend on the brink of embarking to a better place is a beautiful experience, but it isn’t. It’s painful and makes a man look for a thousand excuses to leave when he is in a hospital room overly bright with flowers and all the natural light that curtains choked back into the corners are coaxed to admit passage, and a million more not to come back again. But, I knew from the damp eyes and the ever so slight pressure I felt when I held his thin hand that I had done the right thing. It’s a rare opportunity for one grown man to tell another, unrelated, that he loves him without feeling too awkward. Maybe we wait until the end because, if there is any embarrassment, it will go to the grave. We are proud to the end.
In the couple of times we visited our friend, we greeted few others there by his bedside. A week later, though, there were hundreds of us gathered down by the river on another stunning day to pay our respects. I wanted to say, “Where the hell were you last week when this outpouring might have done you some good?” Of course, I didn’t. I’ve attended too many funerals where folks could have asked the same of me, and I’m sure that at my own memorial a good number of attendees will ask, “Where the hell was he when …?”
Back on this currently fine autumn morn, my friend Bob Sloezen has cancer. People that know him call him Slow Man. He might spell it differently than I do, but since the nickname doesn’t appear in any public records, I don’t think he can make a valid argument that my spelling of it is any less correct than his.
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Anyway, I met Slow Man in 1990, and he led me to the top of Denali. That was back when it was the highest mountain in North America, not the sport utility vehicle with the highest towing capacity in its class. You get to know a guy pretty well living in a tent together for a month without showering. I could tell you lots of stories about him and by him, but all you really need to know is that he is a pretty normal guy with an abnormally mellow outlook that has run into one of the forms “bad luck” takes and that will be just down the road waiting for each of us after it changes again.
There is a benefit for him on Friday, Oct. 5, at Bumps at the base of Buttermilk hill. It’s called Bob Aid, a name which makes me wonder whether the organizers’ thinking veered off towards Band-Aids and the general human condition, as mine oftentimes does. It begins at 5 p.m., with promises of great local bands playing good music, a multicourse dinner, silent auction and two free drinks apiece. The cost of a donation is $35 for adults and free for kids younger than 12. The radically skeptical are assured that Bob has medical insurance, but the cost of the monthly premiums have left him a little short of the out-of-pocket maximum his doctors, with the blessing of the insurance industry, expect him to come up with to cure a disease he didn’t order. It is rumored that Bob is fiscally conservative.
Of course, the one thing everyone wants to know when there is a benefit like this is how bad “it” really is. Sadly, it’s as bad as it can get. In fact, it’s as bad for him as it is for all the rest of us. He’s dying! We’re dying! The only thing left to wonder about is the order in which we will go. I, for one, gave up long ago guessing at that sequence, for all the right reasons, too.
I have heard that parties were first thrown by ancient fermentation experts as a way to help suffering people, which they astutely observed included nearly everyone they knew. Since that time, humans have come up with all kinds of variations on the theme, but the purpose remains the same ” to help us feel better. Bob Aid will be no different in its aim. This is a beautiful time. Be happy in it at the cost of letting what happens tomorrow happen without any worry. Next Friday evening, let’s party like there is no tomorrow. You’ll see. It’ll help … all of us.
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