Vail Daily column: Public relations
Ryan Summerlin May 23, 2014
A good public relations firm should be able to get your picture and an interview about you on the front page of your local newspaper. However, the chances are that the day after publication that picture and article will be at the bottom of the parakeet’s cage.
After writing my weekly column about my life “lurching from one near disaster to the next” during the past 25 years, I know that a lot of my writing goes in the trash after the birdcage is cleaned. However, 25 years of 52 columns a year is a lot of words. Twenty-five years times 52 columns at about 750-1000 words a column is over a million words.
A lot of people I have written about are long gone now, old age, accidents, or have left to live elsewhere, and my address book scratchings have long ago run out of room around their names for updated info.
In my spare time for the past four-plus years, I have been writing my autobiography and my memoirs, which has become more of a narrative of the good, the bad and the reality of my life spent meandering over the globe on the sides of hills, mostly covered with snow.
As I get all these up and downs into order neatly typed up by my wife, Laurie, it sounds as though I am bragging too much or sounds as if I’m saying “poor me.” I try to do neither, but much of it is as it was.
Once In A Lifetime
Some of my experiences have been once in a lifetime happenings. As a matter of fact, they were: For instance, at age 20 when I was sunk in a typhoon near the end of World War II and flying off the Tasman Glacier with the four of us, our pilot, our ski and camera equipment, all in the three-place helicopter, were life-changing experiences.
However, every experience a person has between getting out of bed and climbing back into it at night is a life-changing experience, at the time.
Amazingly, your local newspaper pays me to devote the time to dredge up stuff from my memory bank and share it with you. I don’t know whether you are reading this column in Truckee, California, or Kalispell, Montana, or somewhere in between, but you will be a different person tonight than you were in the morning, just from your experiences of that day.
Remembering when skis were 7 feet, 6 inches long and boots came all the way up to you anklebone, it took a lot more coordination and skill to make those skis turns than it does today. There are very few recreational sports where equipment has made such a dramatic difference as it has going down a ski hill on a pair of skis, perhaps with the exception of riding a surfboard. Snowboarding was invented so very much later that they could take advantage of the amazing technology used in making skis so we don’t really see the cumulative changes.
In 1946, when having been mustered out of the Navy, one of the first things I did was build a then-“state of the art” surfboard. I made it out of laminated redwood and it was 11 feet long, 24 inches wide and 4 inches thick and weighed nearly a hundred pounds. Bob Simmons would start experimenting with foam and fiberglass and different shaping until today some of the hot surfers are riding 8-pound, 6-foot-long surfboards with as many as four fins for stability and doing things on waves we never even dreamed of. Last year in Portugal, a surfer was filmed riding the first 100-foot wave, or so I was told.
Extreme athletics goes along with high-tech equipment. When the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland, an almost 10,000-foot vertical cliff of granite, was first climbed, it took over two weeks to ascend. A few years ago, someone climbed it alone with an ice ax and crampons in one hour and 42 minutes! Those early climbers could tell amazing, harrowing stories or their life-changing experiences.
I try to employ my own trick in writing about my experiences: To arrange the words in such an order that it is as though the reader is having a film, video or an audio recount so that it is received as if in real time.
At 89, these weekly efforts writing my column are very positive exercises in stimulating my brain to dredge up a lot of trivia …maybe only interesting to me, but hopefully there are others who will be entertained by me enough to read the column before it lands in the bottom of the birdcage! And for those of you out there who are older like me, I highly recommend you take time to record your remembrances not only for your family, but who knows, there may be a historical society or museum somewhere that would not only find your life interesting, but some nugget of wisdom or facts would be just the link to solve a mystery.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto WarrenMiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to www.warrenmiller.org.