Fourteen Novembers at the Vail Daily. My, that went quick.
Seems only yesterday that I showed up the day before Election Day 1999, pulled a big green trash can into my new office, and went through everything the previous editor left behind, throwing away everything I wouldn’t look at again, which was, well, just about everything.
This is the 14th November since town of Vail Communications Chief Suzanne Silverthorn called to express disappointment with the lack of election campaign coverage in the paper that year. The staff had thought a booklet insert the previous week would take care of it, and so had nothing in the paper. Election? What election?
She hasn’t called since then — knock on wood — to offer that criticism.
So Election Day is my touchstone, a chance to take stock and to feel that emotion second in power only to love: gratitude. Seriously.
It just so happens that gratitude springs up in conversations with candidates and elected leaders — especially in Vail. Our love of place is strong, and it’s easy to see why.
But this also is not always an easy place to live. That devil’s mix of lower wages and higher costs of housing takes a toll, for starters. This is to say our love of the place can be sorely tested. I think those who figure it out for the long term tend to really love this place. Yes, more so than the ordinary places. Been there, done that.
So I learned that editor at the Vail Daily easily is the best job in journalism. And there’s no better place to be publisher, humbling as the role is. I’ve never been in a place so attentive to the daily paper. Even the visitors know it well and tell me about my baby on the chairlift, warts and all.
Fourteen. Next year I’ll be a kamaaina. In Hawaii, you earn your “local” status after 15 years. At some of my stops, you’ll never be a local unless you were born in the community and your grandfather went to kindergarten with your neighbor’s grandfathers and grandmothers. You’ll always be a tourist in a place that doesn’t get any.
During our last interview for the editor’s job, then-Publisher Bob Brown, mindful of a resume that had a long list of quick stops at papers across the country, asked me what made me think Vail would be any different.
Good question. From 1989 to 1999, I counted working at seven newspapers, moving from Quincy, Calif., to Holland, Mich., to St. Joseph, Mich., to Sterling, Ill., to Auburn, N.Y., to San Diego and finally Vail. I must have had a good answer. (And I’m grateful to the fates for that.)
I didn’t ski or snowboard. My wife barely had persuaded me to apply and then interview. I was convinced there was no way this was going to work out. I knew there was no way we could afford a place to rent, and to cap all that off, we had eight dogs. Yep, eight, all strays.
This was not to be, and yet it was.
The rental lined up perfectly, the community fit, the kids grew up in a fingersnap, the work has never boring.
And we live in a place I find hard to leave for any length of time. I think about where would I most like to be. Well, here. I’ve done the tropics, the beaches, other cool towns like Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Honolulu.
I’ve come to prefer snowboarding over surfing. Trail running over sailing. The brightest lights in their various fields come here; I don’t need to go to them.
I left town for about nine months in 2007-08 on a transfer to another paper in the company near Lake Tahoe. That was a great experience, if often uncomfortable in the early economic free fall, but it felt right in the gut when I got back to the Vail Daily.
The gut hasn’t changed since. The challenge and awesome opportunities to improve abound, so complacency can’t get a grip.
This work isn’t easy. Like yours, my piles grow piles and the pace can be daunting.
But you know, I’m grateful for that, too. And eager for the 14th ski season.