Biff America: Aching and angles |

Biff America: Aching and angles

“You make me ache!”

So said my mate in her best Inspector Clouseau impersonation.

I’ve been making Ellie ache for decades now and it has been a running joke. I can’t remember the first event that caused her to issue that exclamation but I do know, that even in our younger years, the expression was facetious. She might yell it at me while I vacuumed, did the dishes or waxed her skis. She also will say it when she knows I’m posing or showing off.

The ski conditions on that day were far from perfect. The snow was thin and crusty, causing us to hug the north aspects to even have enough to slide on. But there was, for about a hundred yards, a small strip that was fairly decent — all things considered.

Of course, with all that is going on in the world today, snow conditions are First World concerns. It was enough that, on a beautiful day, during difficult times, we were doing something we enjoyed.

Ellie was waiting below and I knew she was watching. I made twice as many turns as I needed, and when I stopped in front of her, I put one hand on my hip, tilted my head sideways and gave her a “check me out” look.

I got the reaction I was hoping for when she yelled, “You make me ache!”

Sometimes recreation is less about the conditions and more about sharing the pleasures of being outside with your favorite person. Conditions be damned, we both knew that we were lucky to be living in this place in time, healthy and well in contrast to so many who are neither.

We stood quietly for several seconds when Ellie asked, “Who are you fighting with in your head?”

I guess that’s the pros/cons of a long relationship — often your mate knows what you are thinking. She was right; I was fighting with someone in my head. That particular day, my enemy was a person I hardly knew but only one who made (what I considered) an ill-informed and dangerous comment online. To be clear, the comment wasn’t about me but one which mocked something I felt strongly about with insulting words.

The odds of changing someone’s opinion during an in-person encounter are slim; to do the same thing online is next to impossible. Despite (or perhaps because of) that I had a feeling of impotent outrage. I found myself composing witty/nasty retorts in my head. Retorts that I’d never use, because what’s the point?

If 2020 were a duet, it would be Tiny Tim and Yoko Ono singing “Don’t worry, be happy.” For each of us the challenges have been varied and unique. Some have it much worse than others. When I say 2020 I am not just speaking of the pandemic. The angst and anger has been festering for over a decade; the nation is divided. Heck, even locally, the only thing everyone can agree on is to avoid our local post offices like a plague (pun intended).

For much of this I blame the internet, which provides neither attribution nor blame for posted hate. I also blame the outlets which offer a soap box to those saying stuff that is ugly, divisive and untrue.

Abe Lincoln, speaking in another time of turmoil, offered hope that Americans might be “touched … by the better angels of our nature.” We can only hope Honest Abe’s optimism was more spot-on than his choice of theaters.

We all know what is horrible about this virus — death, isolation, lingering symptoms, mental health issues. Along with all the physical symptoms are the social symptoms that have added anxiety and outspoken rage in some. But truth is that is just the vocal minority. I would like to think, for the lion share of Americans, this health challenge has spawned a sense of unified purpose of getting through this thing while awaiting the better angels in the rest of the nation.

Sometimes it takes a gentle reminder to move your attention from something you have no control over to the joy that is right in front of you. After Ellie called me on my internal battles, I was able to move past my internal feud and focus on the gift of the day. We had a couple more little pitches of fair to middling skiing to get back to the car.

On the way home I pulled into the liquor store and said, “I’m going to buy you some wine to celebrate this great day.” You can guess her response.

Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at

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