Lum: 2,169 pages of columns on the wall

Su Lum

My calculator, along with the pliers, has run off to see the queen, so the following math will just be estimates.

I started writing this column in May 1989 (possibly November), which is roughly 1,446 columns or 2,169 single-spaced pages over the course of 27 or 28 years — please don’t ask me to look it up; there’s no heat in the oxygen room where they are buried.

What I was going for in the title was, “If one of those columns happened to fall, 2,168 pages of columns on the wall,” referring to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” a tedious school trip song best forgotten. Forget I said it.

We had just started the Aspen Times Daily and I’d get after our editor, Dave Price, to write about this or that, and he’d tell me I needed to write a column and I liked the idea of writing a column every now and then but not to commit to every week — that was too big. And every week for 27 or 28 years — har.

My first column was “Let them eat mink.” The premise was that it would be OK for people to wear furs if they first consumed the animals involved. I didn’t really agree with the equity of that but then again I was pretty sure none of our visitors would be keen on eating mink and foxes.

One thing led to another and by the third column I was out of ideas and past deadline with a lot to learn and feeling quite over my head. My day job was ad manager of the two papers and now this on top of it.

In a gradual transition, I came to love writing the column. I thought of it as a love letter to Aspen, where I could write anything I wanted to. I could write about politics or my dachshund puppies, of being introduced to the internet by Nick DeWolf, who built me a computer out of spare parts, and one where I debated whether I was turning 57 or 58 and was pleased and surprised that it was 57 and I’d gained a year.

I had been writing the column for a decade when I came down with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, spending 36 days at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction and getting out by the skin of my teeth on oxygen 24/7 for the rest of my life. I was 62 and have been living on borrowed time ever since. My visiting nurse folder said “62 WF.”

There were other milestones: My little brother died, my mother died, my older sister died. I was an orphan, and my granddaughter Riley would be the last of that line unless she and her wife and a donor get cracking.

Time flies by, I zipped from 52 to 80 in a blink, wondering where those intervening years went, getting increasingly feeble along with the readers who remained, having less and less to say because my adventures were further and further in between. Maybe we could increase the size of the type of the column to, say, 16 point?

That way I wouldn’t have to write as much about nothing and readers would be able to read the larger words. Sounds like a win-win for everybody.

Su Lum is a longtime local whose ears and eyes are in a contest for last place. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


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