Photo feature: Lucky duck

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2008

In my last column I offered some advice to aspiring freelance writers that they should be cognizant of the fact that their monetary rewards will probably be so low that they will not qualify for any poverty level known to man. That brought a deluge of letters (two) giving me heat for wanting to keep a good thing for myself. They claimed that the life sounded exciting and that it must be terrific to be your own boss and tackle challenging assignments. Right, here's an example of life on the edge.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
A male northern shoveler feeds in open water on the Kenai River flats Thursday afternoon. Migrating waterfowl have made their arrival in the area.

Recently, one of my clients called and asked me to cover the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. As we were talking, I started scrambling around the cabin snarfing up my bunny boots, cardigans and anything else that might look like I was snow enabled.

I was so fired up that I decided that I'd even get a picture taken next to a pair of skis just for a photo lead-in. Anything more and I'd probably break a body part seriously needed to remain upright.

You don't have to know how to do something to write knowingly about it. Ask any journalist.

Anyway, my excitement was shattered when I inquired about flight arrangements and accommodations. There was a dead silence and then she asked if I had a TV and received the ESPN channel. I told her yes and she said, "There ya go." That was brutal but she mentioned a figure that would cover the cost of "action monitoring" snacks and the gas to go get them, so I called my buds and invited them over for surprise party.

Wild Willie and Turk showed up totally perplexed as to what I was up to but as long as it included free food and adult libations they were game.

"So, what's up Big Bro?" Turk rumbled as he ducked through the door.

"Yea. 'S'up Nicko? Where's the carbos-n-brew? That tank-with-hair dog of yours locked up?" yammered Willie as he followed the big guy inside.

"Welcome to the X Games, gentlemen," I answered. "As for my dog Howard, Willie, he caught your scent when you were two miles out and has retreated to the moldy end of the cellar where he considers it to be better for his health."

"What the hell are The X Games?" snorted Turk. "Something with lingerie uniforms held in the Playboy Mansion's back forty I hope."

"Nah," Willie snickered. "It's a bunch of rad skiers rippin' front side 1080s tricks off money jumps and snowboarders doin' sick big air kangaroo Japan grab flips while stoked on Red Bull and other power slam downs."

We just stared at the old boy until Turk snapped, "Since when did you learn to speak fluent mental defective, W?"

"Chill Turk," I cautioned. "Sometimes he's not the major tool he seems to be. Where did you pick up that vernacular Willie?"

"I ain't got no vernacular, dude. The clinic said the penicillin took care of that." Willie huffed. "Where I picked it up is none of your business."

"No, no. Where did you learn about the X Games?"

"Oh. I saw them on TV last year while a guest of the state. Remember? The judge gave me a timeout for a misunderstanding about the misplacement of my neighbor's snow tires?"

"Yeah, they were on your truck instead of his," grumped Turk.

The games turned out to be amazing. Snowmachine fiends doing back flips with 500-pound sleds. Snowboarders blasting out of the Super Pipe spinning into McTwists, Cripplers, Human Starbursts and Octo Grabs so gnarly that if they missed they ended up conducting exploratory colonoscopies on themselves. If that wasn't bad enough, skiers raced six abreast over jumps that caused enough chaos that contestants were exchanging body parts and dental work in midair.

The only drawbacks of the competitions were the announcers. One telecasterette asked a young woman who had just taken a face plant that left her talking out of her right nostril, "What do think went wrong on that run?"

The snowboarder looked at the questioner like she had the intellect of the fur headband she was wearing and retorted, "I fell." She actually said, "Iphlelthpthh" but it's hard to speak clearly through a nose hole.

The interviewer just shook her head knowingly then displayed a set of teeth you could display a drive-in movie on and whisked over to the next human wreck with his goggles implanted in a southern orifice after a biblical wipeout off a jump called The Beast.

And so it went. And so it goes.

Ah, the life of the freelancer.

Nick C. Varney can be reached at if he isn't on special assignment at a landfill doing an exposŽ on the interpersonal relations of rodents.

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