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True living on the edge

Tony VagneurAspen, CO Colorado

Not that many years ago, sitting through a small dinner party, I rocked uncomfortably, cheek to cheek, listening while a rather inebriated hostess rattled on, in a sort of bragging way, about how her employer was (as she put it), “living on the edge.” He had a girlfriend in a big city, a television show somewhere out in the heartland, an intelligent wife at home in Aspen, and a business that, although appearing to be remuneratively rewarding, required repeated infusions of cash from somewhere (and someone) other than from the owner himself. Or so the story went.Wanting to mix it up a bit, I offered that I didn’t think such nonsense was living on the edge; it was more like walking out of the bathroom with a long trail of toilet paper hanging out of your pants – everyone but you knowing you’d screwed up. I’ve had more than one out-of-town business associate (married) excitedly take me into this or that Aspen bar, anxious to introduce me to his new girlfriend. I understand how that works, on both sides of the chromosome configuration, but can’t help but wonder if it’s not a bit like getting a shoe shine every time you pass through DIA. I suppose we all mix it up in our own predictable ways.In my opinion, if you want to consider yourself as living on the edge, you might head out into the backcountry with not much else than a knife and a good pair of shoes. Oh, you could have the clothes on your back and all that stuff, just leave the other crutches at home. No GPS or compass, for starters. No trail mix to tide you over until you find something to eat. No sleeping bag, no pot to cook with (or smoke), and leave the matches at home. That would be living on the edge, and to boot, might even be considered stupid, unless, of course, you’re one of a few that do such things on a survivable basis.If that’s sounds a little heavy, try something you think might be a little easier, like staying in a cabin in the woods for a week or so, without a stockpile of firewood to burn or water ready to use. Of course, in the interest of fairness, you could be granted one wool blanket and just enough drinking water to get you started. Do this in the dead of winter, keeping in mind there are only so many hours in the day to find and haul wood, split what you’ve found (do you have an ax?) and feed the fire; you’ll need time to chop ice and haul water or melt snow, depending how close the water supply is. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you fail in your responsibilities for very long, you’ll freeze to death, or at least need serious help getting home.You and I know skiers who like to slip off the permitted area from time to time and taste wild, untracked powder, and we do so with regularity and big smiles. The skull and crossbones, painted on the exit gate, gently reminds us that to breach the outlet is to suddenly expand our proximity with death and increase our responsibilities to ourselves and our companions.There are quiet and unassuming people among us who would like to live on the edge and do, occasionally. There was the lost, middle-aged lady, a stranger, who pulled into my driveway one evening and in a very soft-spoken foreign accent, inquired as to my name. Whereupon, I wondered if whether she might be looking for trouble. With a flash of her beautiful brown eyes, she uttered that given the situation, trouble might be pleasing for both of us. That’s living on the edge.Tony Vagneur sends his best to Erik Peltonen, skier extraordinaire, off the edge for a while with a bum leg. Tony writes here on Saturday’s and welcomes comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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