Opinion | Biff America: Good choices, bad feet
Jim Bronson straddled his Harley. At the stop light next to him sat a businessman in a station wagon. When the guy asks Bronson where he was headed, Bronson replies, “Wherever I end up, I guess.” The commuter looks envious and tired when he says, “I wish I were you.” To which Bronson answers, “Oh really? Well hang in there.”
So began the TV show “Then came Bronson.” The show featured a guy who traveled the country on his motorcycle having adventures and being wicked cool. It aired for only a couple of years in the ’70s, and I never missed an episode.
Many of us living in the mountains have heard that “I wish I were you” refrain. I’ve heard it from the likes of CEOs, tradesmen and small city businessmen and women. Many folks who visit here wish they lived here.
Like a lot of us who arrived in the mountains as a young person, my early years of resort living were hand to mouth.
It was October in the late ’70s. I had just arrived back in Colorado from my summer gig in Southern California. As often was the case in those salad days, I would bicycle between the two destinations, shipping what I could not carry. I pedaled into town in a snowstorm, and my winter clothing had yet to arrive. With about $1,000 of summer savings, I hoped to secure a place to live with enough cash left over to last until my winter jobs began.
I had been promised jobs as a part-time DJ and full-time bartender, but neither was set to begin for a few weeks.
While couch surfing and wearing borrowed winter clothing, I was lucky enough to pick up a one-night gig working a catered party hosted by the crew of a movie recently filmed in Colorado.
The party was held at a rented trophy home with the neighboring house also secured as an overflow option for the crew to spend the night.
After my duties of serving food and drinks ended, I was treated as a guest.
The stars of the film weren’t there, but there were some bit players, crew and Hollywood types. All were friendly, generous and seemed affluent — at least compared to me.
I was completely enamored with them. But for the entire night, from both cast and crew, I kept hearing how lucky I was to have the life I had. No one said, “I wish I were you,” but I did get the feeling that many of them did. Here I was, with about $500 bucks left to last me a month, wearing a loaner jacket, and they were envious of me — a ski bum.
Ski bum is an inaccurate term. I’ve known countless ski bums, and all of them worked. I’ve known dishwashers who lived in the backs of their trucks and Wall Street expatriates who retired early and moved to the mountains to recreate and volunteer for nonprofits. Both extremes have little in common other than the willingness to make life adjustments to live in a place where it can snow in July and the lines to buy groceries can be as long those waiting to see the Pope.
I would also say the term ski bum is too narrow as there are also bike bums, culture bums, fishing bums and an assortment of folks who make the sacrifice to live up high for various reasons.
Even now, ensconced in middle age, my mate, Ellie, and I could be called ski/bike/hike bums. We ski tour from October to July, neither of us has ever had a real job, and after decades of 100-plus days a year in plastic ski boots, our feet look like they’ve been soaked in nuclear waste.
Mountain life is not suited for everyone, and that’s a good thing. We need people in the real world to be productive, create jobs, cure diseases and hopefully find a remedy for wrinkles. But I hasten to add it is never too late to make that choice. There are ski bums in my town who retired from the real world and some who never entered it.
After a few decades of living in the land of the chosen frozen, I still hear the lament, “I wish I were you.” Of course, they say that never having seen my feet.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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