“I’ve been heartsick for the last two days,” Rob Wasserman said when I talked to him about it. Wasserman claims he taught Mas how to cook.
“When Mas first came to Telluride, he only knew how to snowboard, he couldn’t ski,” Wasserman said. “Me and Crawford [Parr, Honga’s old chef who is now a bush pilot in Alaska] used to ride him all the time because he didn’t know how to ski. But he kept telling us how much fun it was to snowboard. So finally Mas told me, ‘If you teach me how to cook, I’ll teach you how to snowboard.’
“So that year a bunch of us went in on a snowboard together at the ski swap, and I went out with Mas one day so he could teach me how,” Wasserman said. “I couldn’t believe how close your ass is connected to the backside of your skull!” he laughed.
Wasserman almost gave up after the first day, but Mas convinced him to keep trying, promising Wasserman he’d get it on the second day.
The next day it was snowing, and Mas dragged Wasserman up Lift 9. The first run, Wasserman was soaking wet, his goggles were fogged, and he could barely get down Lookout. At the bottom of the chair, Mas convinced him to take one more run.
“On my second run, I got it,” Wasserman said. “The rest of the day was powder super glide.”
Wasserman kept his promise and taught Mas how to cook. “I was the first person that he ever worked for in a kitchen,” Wasserman said. “We taught him how to cook, and he went on to be a local chef.”
At the time, Wasserman was kitchen manager and chef at the Athenian Senate, a fabulous Greek restaurant that, culturally, was a throwback to the days of whorehouses, shootouts, and liquor-running, gun-slinging rabble-rousers. Or so it seemed to me when I showed up, fresh off the Vermont Rainbow Gathering, barely 21, not a pair of closed-toed kitchen-legal shoes to my name.
By the time I got there, Mas had taken over as the head chef at the Senate, and he seemed a bit out of place among the other hippies and Deadheads, ski bums, drug runners, those who were already wanted for felonies, and those who eventually would be.
Mas seemed a bit more innocent and, perhaps, trustworthy with that impish grin, tie-dye, and slight limp of his. He was roommates with my friends Billy Nershi and Jennifer Zoerner, which made him OK in my book. He had a dog named Dollar. He was a good guy to work for and fun to work with. We jammed out to the Grateful Dead show on New Year’s – that was back when Jerry was alive, the Dead still played, and the New Year’s show was broadcast over the radio for everyone to hear. It was the fourth show in a row at the Oakland Coliseum and they opened with – appropriately enough for our setting – “Hell in a Bucket.” Angel danced on the bar, and Mas and Dave Borza played hacky-sack with the falafel balls before throwing them in the fryer. (Don’t tell anyone I said that. I only saw them do it once!)
That was a pretty crazy time for all of us in Telluride. A bunch of people died that winter, too. Two snowplow drivers got buried in an avalanche on Red Mountain Pass, and one lived to tell about it. Borza, commuting from Ouray, gave us the daily update. Another guy named Brian walked off onto the snowy mesa one night and never came back.
It was kind of a weird introduction to winter in Telluride. But I could always count on Mas for a little kindness and a good shift-meal. It was always a bit of a relief to have him around. Almost 17 years later, when I saw him for the last time two weeks before he died, it wasn’t any different. Big smile, big hug, tie-dye and ski boots.
Mas went on to work at nearly every kitchen in town, from the Cosmopolitan to the Chop House, to his most recent job at High Camp. He kept skiing. He danced in the front row when Shakedown Street and Dark Star Orchestra came to town. He spent as much time with his daughter as he could. He never quit wearing tie-dyed T-shirts with dancing bears on them.
“He lived his life the way he wanted,” said longtime friend Rebecca White.
White has been helping Mas’s mother coordinate a memorial service.
“I’ve gotten so many phone calls,” White said. “Everyone I’ve talked to has been devastated. So many people loved him dearly.”
A memorial service for Mas will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Elks’ Club from 1-5 p.m. The Turkey Creek Ramblers have asked to play, and White has been busy scanning Mas’s old ski passes into the computer for a slideshow. She asked that everyone mail or email pictures of Mas to Megan Hess at Sunset Mesa Funeral Home in Montrose (email@example.com). The funeral home will prepare a slideshow for the memorial service.
After the memorial service, a torchlight parade will wind its way down the ski area on the Mountain Village side at 6 p.m. Ski-school instructors are invited to volunteer for the parade.
In lieu of flowers, Mas’s mother, Barbara McVey, asks that people send donations to the funeral home to be used for a memorial bench in Telluride. Donations can be sent to Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, 155 Merchant Drive, Montrose, CO 81401.
Mas leaves behind a daughter, Amy Dawn Peabody; his mother and stepfather, Barbara and Marc McVey; a half-brother, Marshall; and a half-sister, Lydia. He also leaves behind something like 1,172 friends and ski buddies who are going to miss him.
If you have any questions, call Rebecca White at 728-8338.