Thomas: Goodbye … hello
It was something I think I said at least once even before I walked into the Vail Daily newsroom April 29, maybe even years ago: “I think I’ve spent more time in this building than anybody else who’s never worked here.”
The theme of time has emerged over the three months since I unexpectedly moved back to Vail. Somebody would mention a movie or music or some other cultural touchstone, and I’d remember the Cascade Club theater or the CD store in Avon or, often, the old Vail Trail office above the framing shop, where I still habitually turn off Highway 6. It’s about 500 yards from where I’m sitting. There’s an old saying: Timing is …
The maelstrom of the shorthanded Vail Daily copy desk spit me out for a respite just in time for me to realize: August 1999 was when I stuffed everything I owned into my new, old Nissan Pathfinder, strapped my fake Persian rug to the rack and bailed on Vail, bound for California.
Well … barely: South Lake Tahoe, just across the state line from Stateline, Nevada. From the Trail to the Tahoe Tribune, the first of my many jobs with Swift Communications, the company that owns the Vail Daily, along with all the papers around Tahoe. It was some guys from the competition — Don Cameron, Sam Flickinger and Chris Freud, who now sits 20 feet away from me — who were instrumental in getting me the gig.
At the Trail and the Trib, I was a sportswriter, but I immediately found a friend in Tim Parsons, the night news editor. That first stint lasted only about nine months, but I returned a decade later to work for Tim on the Lake Tahoe Action, the attached arts and entertainment magazine.
We made our job titles “Action figure” and won piles of California and Nevada press awards before I got laid off on April Fools’ Day 2009. That was about three weeks after my buddy got killed in Aspen and I blew up my car trying to get to his memorial. One of my favorite old jokes: “What do you get when you play a country song backwards? You get your job back, you get your truck back, you get your wife back … “
Tim taught me a lot about writing. I think one of his things was the “envelope:” When you start a piece with a phrase or idea and then sneak your way back to it at the end. I couldn’t find any references to it online, but I think I remember a letter to the editor sandwiching “ICE CREAM!” around the meat of the totally unrelated content.
Avon (where Arn Menconi was my property manager, but we didn’t become friends until later) to West Vail to Eagle-Vail (which had the hyphen back then) to Tahoe back to Breck to Vermont to Glenwood Springs to Aspen, where the new sports editor, Nate Peterson, preceded me by a couple weeks. It seemed like a good idea at the Times. My managing editor knows me mostly as a page-pusher, not a writer. I never really knew Nate as a manager, but I know he can write. I’m trying to convince him to do a weekly column on his commute.
For me it was Aspen back to Tahoe back to Aspen back to Tahoe back to Aspen to Russia, Shenandoah National Park in my native Virginia, Aspen a couple more times and Denver. And then Nate got his wish — well, more like his third choice — and, to my surprise, I’m back in Vail, where my Colorado adventures started in 1997.
Sometime, probably when I’m racking my brain (as Tim’s voice admonishes me, “Avoid cliches like the plague!”) to come up with a column, I’ll just list all the people I’ve known who’ve passed through this valley, this paper or both. There are a lot.
Turns out that “envelope” thing Tim told me about is an actual literary device: They call it “framing.”
The reasons I left my sportswriting gig in Vail were my Scumriver employee housing unit was turning into a nightmare, and the Vail Trail, which I wanted off before it failed, abandoned the framing shop for cheaper digs in Eagle. The commute in my gas-guzzling Pathfinder was suddenly 25 miles longer. The Trail would eventually fail, then get bought by Swift, and then ultimately get shuttered, but there are still old red Vail Trail boxes outside, and Freud saved me a beanie. I think Mark Bricklin is the only one who has been at the same place at the same time as me.
My gig isn’t really writing, but after three months on the copy desk, Nate agreed to give me a weekly column. When I drew up my proposal, I promised that I wouldn’t write too much about sports, arts, entertainment, culture, history, religion, politics, news, journalism or writing. Now that I think about it, that covers pretty much …
Dan Thomas is the copy desk chief at the Vail Daily, a former sportswriter for the Vail Trail and a master’s degree candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Denver. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.