How great it is to be posting on this blog, writing with such a terrific caliber of other Twisted bloggers, as we have seen this first week. So, for my first posting on this first day of spring, I want to start off by mentioning a fellow I met on a computer convention trip in San Francisco back in the late 80s. He was one of those western-type, bigger-than-life icons, complete with two cigars sticking out of his jacket pocket that I kept hoping he wouldn’t light up.
Rupert Baker was his name and, despite the physical parallels and mannerisms to John Wayne, plus several extra pounds, he seemed rather embarrassed, by his first name. So, after a few minutes, he insisted I call him R.B. Well, I suppose everyone gets self-conscious about something.
Anyway, R.B. was from a small town in the Colorado Rockies, which is all he ever talked about. He was like a one-man public relations squad for the town, which surprisingly had little more than a thousand people. It didn’t matter what we discussed, because whatever it was, R.B. always found a way to slip in something about Snow City.
We talked a little while standing in the lobby about the view of the hills across the San Francisco Bay and the span of the Golden Gate as R.B. would compare them to the “towering mountains” around Snow City and the span of the “Milky Way across the sky of the Snow City nights.” It was as if he was trained to substitute every noun with “Snow City.” Yes, it got a bit tedious, but his stories, assuming half of them were even true, were stimulating. Sure, at first we began discussing computers, the topic of the convention, but the conversation, by his lead and like the salesman he was, quickly evolved into a discussion on real estate investing.
“One hot night during the ’75 summer, just after the war in Nam,” R.B. began, as we first sat down at a little food court just off the convention center lobby, “I met this woman at an empty restaurant property I own. My last tenant had gone bust at the end of that winter.
“Of course, it wasn’t his fault he went out of business,” R.B. explained with an all-knowing, authoritative tone. “It was a killer snowfall in the Rockies that winter in which no one went out to eat.”
It wasn’t obvious, but I remember R.B. seemed to smile a bit at that moment, as though it had been a turning point or at least a minor personal victory for him.
“This woman, named Annie,” he continued, “was taking some sort of long way home to New York from a nursing tour near Da Nang. In any case, when she couldn’t find a place to eat in Snow City, she offered to rent the property from me and didn’t want to wait until the morning to sign the contract.”
At that moment, he paused before adding, “I may have told her I had another buyer.”
“Did you?” I asked.
“Of course not,” he unabashedly confessed.”
I can still picture that moment as R.B. grinned. “I didn’t like her at first and could have easily over charged her,” he added “but I had to respect her service in Nam.”
I suppose I should not have been surprised how candid this big, overpowering fellow was, especially when he began to laugh and then told me that he “ended up charging a small premium anyway.”
“So how long did she and her business last,” I asked, keeping in mind that his story, even at the time, was more than 20 years old.
“So far, so good,” R.B. replied, as he then reached for one of the cigars.
Although he was not the mayor of Snow City, a possibility, of which, that had certainly crossed my mind, he did admit to being on the city council and had no trouble bragging how he owned half of the downtown district – about a dozen buildings, or so. Despite being mostly about business, R.B. did have terrific stories about the characters – sorry, I mean “the residents” – of the town.
Although it sounded like most of the people were low-key in this small, remote town, it seemed from his stories as though there were more than its fair share of strong-spirited individuals, let’s call them, including R.B. himself, of course, that had somehow been funneled into the valley around this place through some quirk of natural selection.
It’s funny how I’ve run into quite a few of these “motivated individuals,” during my travels. I was still in my 20s at the time when I met him, so R.B. was one of the first of these “individuals” I would run into. But, before long I realized I was starting to pick up stories, not just about folks like R.B., but about other people they knew, such as friends, foes and others whom they had known or done business with.
As I write each week, I’d like to get into some of those stories that I recall about people and places throughout the years, along the way and, yes, maybe even some more about Snow City, which I was fortunate enough to visit just a couple of years later.
In this fictional encounter, the author engages with a character from his upcoming tales about Snow City.