Shelton:Perusing the Book of Life | View to the West
by Peter Shelton
Jul 02, 2007 | 287 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Out of the blue the other day, I got an email from David Moe.  I haven’t seen or communicated with David Moe for probably 20 years.

He was one of the founding fathers of Powder Magazine, which put out its first issue in 1972. He developed an alter ego, Captain Powder, loosely based on the white-suited skiing soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division. Then he took it further and painted his face white, the rims of his dark glasses, and not just the tops of his skis but the bindings, too.

More than an editor or a writer, Moe was a chameleon, a loose cannon, a comic ambassador for the magazine and the sport. You never knew what David would do or who he would be. I have a photo of him on a multi-day high tour we did together. It was bitter cold. He had been trailing the group, and when he skinned up to us something was different. It took a minute to realize that he was wearing a baby-doll mask and a Superman watch cap.

I jotted Moe’s new phone number in back of the M’s in my address book and then began idly scanning the entries, front-to-back, oldest-to-newest. Monarch Ski Area. Mountainfilm. Metric Motors in Grand Junction

Who or what else might pop out of these pages?  Some entries, like the one for Monarch, induced a string of memories. The name under the phone number read Darren Rogers (this must have been in the early ‘80s), and I remembered him as the young, thickset, athletic president of the company who toured me around the hill on telemark gear wearing a Santa suit. It must have been near Christmas. 

He had ambitious plans for the ski mountain and for the eponymous lodge down in Garfield. I think I remember that Darren Rogers didn’t last long there, that there was some kind of financial scandal and he ended up in South America on the lam, or working a gold mining scheme, or something.  I don’t remember exactly.

I do remember he was a friend, though no relation, of Craig Rogers, a friend of mine in Telluride. Craig came to the mountains young, a California roofer, skier, and volleyball player (best hands in town for many years), with white blond hair down to his shoulders. 

We played volleyball together in the late ‘70s on a team (sponsored by Rice Lumber) that traveled the state to USVBA tournaments. One of our teammates back then was a guy named Jeff Hope, who, along with his wife, Robin, came last weekend to the wedding party in Ouray thrown by Jerry Roberts and Lisa Issenberg. I remembered jumping out and pushing Jeff’s VW bus up Crow Hill on a snowy night on our way to a tournament in Boulder. Then, swept along the memory train, I was cat-skiing in the continental-divide wind with Jeff and Craig at Monarch, something we did a couple of times when that business was new and the prices still reasonable.

If the word “Monarch” led to a full memory circle, there were other entries that stopped me short as if by a wall. The William Morris Agency, for example, Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY. The William Morris Agency that is the biggest talent and literary agency in the world? The one that represented Marilyn Monroe and Elvis? Sidney Sheldon, Will Rogers, and the Rolling Stones? Why would I have their number?  No recollection.

Some of these go back a ways. There was the name of a photographer with an address in Paris: Jiro Mochizuki. Had we met on Le Raid Blanc, a mountaineering stage race I’d done in the late ‘80s? I had no clue. 

And what about Peter and Rita Marthaler in Bern, Switzerland, with the funny Euro number: three digits, then two, then two, then two more? Yes, I have been to Bern, but I have no idea who these people are. 

One name I hadn’t seen in a long time conjured both good and grim images. Beth Moxley was a nurse, or some kind of healer, from Montrose. We met on a San Juan River trip when our girls were still quite young. The night before we put in, the girls got eaten alive by mosquitoes. Their faces swelled up like balloons. We thought we’d have to back out of the float altogether, but Beth reassured us and gently applied “magic water” from her kit to Cloe and Cecily’s skin. “Just a titch,” she said, and the phrase became part of our family lexicon. By Mexican Hat the swelling was down, and we spent a blissful week together.

Years later Beth Moxley was murdered outside Montrose. The details are not clear in my mind, but I think the trailer she was in was torched in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

Turning the pages: Andy Mill. Native Aspenite, U.S. Team downhiller in the ‘80s.  Friendly guy and a great skier, but always crashing. Purposely froze his foot before an Olympic downhill after spraining the ankle the day before. Married to tennis great Chris Everett. 

Main Street Photography. Where I used to get my black-and-white film processed.

David Moffat. Who helped me rid our cabin of mouse-infested, possibly hanta-infected fiberglass insulation. Provided the gas masks, the haz-mat suits, the whole bit.

That was just two summers ago, a relatively recent entry. And that brought me to David Moe again. I believe the last time I saw Moe was at a Powder contributors party in southern California. We were at a nice restaurant, waiters hovering. Without warning Moe pulled a surgical glove over his head so that it covered his nose and ears but not his mouth. Slowly, calmly, he inhaled through his mouth and exhaled through his nose until the fingers of the glove stood up like a cockscomb.

Pressing the edges tight to his skin, he kept blowing, methodically, maniacally. Now the glove was nearly transparent and three times as big as Moe’s head. Nearby diners stared in disbelief; the waiters looked stricken, frozen in place. Finally, someone called the manager, but it was too late. The building anxiety and the surgical rubber popped together in an explosion that was just as big somehow as the anticipation.

It wasn’t clear why Moe wrote to me recently. Something about needing to reclaim the Captain Powder mojo, to find something that had gone missing over time. 

I wrote back, thanked him for the memories and wished him well on his way through the book of life.

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