The last time I eagerly waited in line for something, it was a Dave Matthews concert. Yes, I know that's gay. But there was a time when the Dave Matthews Band severely rocked my world. Severely. That time was 1997. And while the rest of my high school firmly embraced the words of Tupac, my friends Darren and Monty and I rocked the DMB with a fervor that today can only be described as appalling. We bought the CDs the day they came out, ordered pay-per-view concerts and watched them in our basements, even traded bootleg tapes with other losers around the country. Tapes, not CDs. Tapes! And when the band came to play Red Rocks, you'd better believe we waited in some lines.
We'd head up to Morrison early on the day of the show, park the car in the already-filling lot, then move on to that enormous south ramp, where we'd camp out on the stairs and patiently wait for our Dave. Marijuana helped. When the gates finally opened, we'd sprint with the other diehards to get the best seats, bivouac in the third or fourth row and chat eagerly with everyone around us. Marijuana helped. And when the show finally started, we'd be right up in the front, singing along to every song, and when Dave Matthews snapped three guitar strings but still kept playing, we felt that all of our time in line was justified.
In retrospect, it's pretty easy to see why I didn't get any ass in high school.
Nowadays, I can't imagine anything that would inspire such devotion in me. But the people outside the Sports Castle this past week certainly can. It's the upcoming ski season. And it's Sniagrab.
Locals know well the lure of this annual event. But for those recent Colorado transplants -- aka "assholes" -- allow me to explain. "Sniagrab" is an ancient Arapaho term that translates loosely to "white men who stole our beloved mountains now belittle us further by frivolously gliding down them on planks wearing atrocious, brightly colored outfits that accentuate their fat asses, and this is the annual festival in which they hawk the wares on the cheap."
I first noticed the commotion outside the Westword office last Tuesday. People were milling about with crazy, determined looks in their eyes. I figured the anti-abortion protesters must be planning something big for the Planned Parenthood offices down the block, so I sat back in my chair, eagerly anticipating one hell of a show. But rather than entertain me with bat-shit, right-wing lunacy, these people walked past Planned Parenthood and pitched their tents outside what I will always consider the Gart Sports Castle. I paid them no mind. Ski bums, I figured. But Sniagrab didn't open to the public until Saturday, and as I came to the office day after day and saw the same lunatics camped out on the sidewalk the whole time, I became interested. Finally I broke down and talked to them. Which is how I met Joe the Crazy Scottish Ski Bum.
Joe was the nutty-looking bloke with long, bright-red hair, seated on a couch right outside the entrance, smoking Marlboros and playing chess with a board full of Simpsons characters. As the red "2" scrawled on his hand could attest, he was the second person in line. I met Joe while interviewing the first guy in line, a self-described "poor college student" from Colorado Christian University named David who'd lugged a couch all the way from Lakewood. David was telling me about his fondness for snowboarding when Joe the Crazy Scottish Ski Bum called out to me that he should be interviewed. Why? Because of the pennies.
"I'm going to collect a million pennies," he said, pointing to a basket at his feet. "My first year at Sniagrab, I got 3,000 pennies. Last year I got 4,000. This year I'm already above 5,000 pennies."
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And what does Joe intend to do with these pennies?
"I'm going to open up a Scottish pub," he told me, a wild look in his eye. "With food and drinks and everything! You always see Irish pubs, but you never see a Scottish pub."
I don't know what it was -- maybe the accent, maybe the flowing red hair -- but I believed in Joe the Crazy Scottish Ski Bum. I believed in every word he said. He had a look of fierce determination on his face that I will never forget, and it sounded like he did have a pretty good plan, what with food and drinks. I wanted to paint my face blue, don a kilt, grab some crude weaponry and head for the hills of Scotland, to defend her by bludgeoning some Brit intruder into a mushy pulp. And I'll bet you if I had brought that notion up with Joe, he would have been down. But alas, that was another time. And Mel Gibson is a Jew-hater.
I reached into my pocket to see if I could donate a few pennies to Joe's cause, but I had none. So I wished him a good ski season, wished everyone in line a good ski season, and made my way into the store for bargains. It was VIP day at the store, and members of the press always get to skip the line.