It would not surprise me one bit, as I sit here way off the cultural mainstream grid in southwest New Mexico, if most people under the age of, say, 40 (maybe 50) have no idea what a Rolodex even is anymore. In an age where digitized address books are located on electronic devices the size of credit cards, the notion of having a fairly large analog (to say the least) piece of hardware taking up space on one’s desk seems antiquated, inefficient and maybe even quaint.
It will also likely surprise no one to hear that I have, directly to the left of my desktop computer, yes, an old Rolodex that does not just serve the purpose of reminding me that, not long ago, the world was not completely digitalized. I actually still use the bugger, which I bought when we first re-birthed the Mountain Gazette in 2000. For many years now, I have thought about simply moving all that information onto my computer, which would clear up my desk, which, when I’m ass deep in the middle of a big project, never seems to have enough surface area. I have trouble talking myself into doing that because I would likely then feel compelled to toss the Rolodex into the trash, and, between the “A” and “Z” tabs lie not just the usual business and personal information necessary to maintain connections with people that transcend Facebook quips. You see, within the confines of my Rolodex lies information about a slew of people I could not utilize in the traditional sense even if I wanted to.
When I learned two weeks ago about the recent passing of long-time Mountain Gazette writer Cal Glover, I chalked up yet another deceased resident of the Fayhee Rolodex. Not to be morbid, but it’s getting to the point where the dead are outnumbering the living in my Rolodex. I now have 13 deceased people (and five deceased entities) listed in my Rolodex, and those listings amount to something of a Who’s Who? of mountain culture.
• Though he passed more than a decade before we re-birth the MG, the first casualty listed in my Rolodex is none other than Edward Abbey, though it’s his last wife, Clarke, whose contact information I have. Clarke was more than gracious when we put together “When in Doubt Go Higher: The Mountain Gazette Anthology.” She gave us permission to use, “Where’s Tonto?” the article that, shortly after it first saw print in the 1970s, became a little tome you might have heard of: “The Monkey Wrench Gang.”
• Karen Chamberlain was for the first five years of our resurrection MG’s poetry editor. She remains one of the most critically acclaimed poets in modern Colorado history. She was also the wife of Bob Chamberlain, the best black-and-white mountain photographer who has ever drawn breath and whose page, Bob Chamberlain’s Mountain Vision, appears in MG every month.
• Barry Corbet is the man Mike Moore actually hired to write the introductory essay for the very first issue of MG in Sept. 1972. Corbet spent much of his adult life in a wheelchair, the result of a freak helicopter-skiing accident. He is perhaps best remembered these days as having Corbet’s Couloir ski run at Jackson Hole named after him.
• Donna Dowling: The wife of Curtis Robinson, my partner in MG crime. Donna passed away only a couple years after we resurrected the MG. Among other professional feathers-in-her cap, Donna helped launch the Roaring Fork Sunday newspaper, which, until it was swallowed up by a corporate newspaper chain that eventually shut it down, served as one of the last true independent media voices in the Colorado High Country. Donna is also credited with helping Hunter S. Thompson come up with the idea of folding his voluminous stash of personal letters into book form.
• Joseph Mills Fayhee, my dad, passed away literally one month before our re-launch issue hit the streets. I attended his memorial service in Tucson with my Jeep loaded to the rafters with copies of MG #78, the cover of which featured, of all things, a mock grave. Though my dad and I barely knew each other, we were just getting to the point where bygones were starting to become bygones when he died.
• Cal Glover is the most-recent MG tribe member to pass away. The owner/operator of Callowishus Park Tours in Yellowstone, Cal was a mountain runner who is said to have logged 38,000 miles on foot. He also competed in several Pikes Peak Marathons.
• John Jerome’s legacy with MG goes back to its days as Skiers Gazette. Jerome was the author of many books, including “Truck,” which was excerpted in MG in the ’70s. He was also the anonymous author of MG’s old NED column.
• Kurt Logan was our Arkansas River Valley ad sales person for many years. An avid skier, mostly at Monarch, Kurt was the only real grown-up we had on our payroll back when I still owned the MG.
• Marlene Walker was my mother’s younger sister. Whenever I went to England to visit family, I stayed with Auntie Marlene, who was, true to my mom’s clan, one wild lady. I often communicate with her three kids, my cousins.
• Ellen Meloy, whose “Anthropology of Turquoise” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, just had her first piece published in MG when she passed away. We had reached an agreement wherein she was to provide us with two subsequent pieces. I once did a reading at Back of Beyond Bookstore in Moab. After the reading a bunch of us retired to the Poplar Place for libations. Ellen dropped by and said how sorry she was that she missed the reading, but something had come up. Still, she drove all the way up from her home in Bluff just to pay her respects.
• Dave Oskin was the owner of Big Earth Publishing in Boulder, which owns Johnson Books and Westcliffe Publishing. A few years ago, I signed a contract with Westcliffe to do a massive book project and it turned out, though no fault of Dave’s, to be the single worst experience I have ever had in my professional life. It got so bad, I finally pulled the project from Westcliffe. Many are the publishing company owners who would have made my life difficult at that point. Dave, though, was very understanding and what had been a suck episode at least ended amicably because of Dave’s great personality.
• It would probably be inaccurate to say that Galen Rowell’s career as a photographer and writer got started with MG in the ’70s, but it’s probably not too big a stretch to say just that. Much of Galen’s early work, where he was just getting his voice as a photojournalist/essaying, appeared in MG’s pages. Indeed, the first excerpts from his seminal book, “In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods,” were unveiled in our pages. When we resurrected, Galen was highly supportive and even let us use one of his photographs on the cover of “When in Doubt Go Higher.”
• Many MG fans rightfully look at Edward Abbey as the biggest voice that has ever graced our pages. It surprises people to learn that we actually had a closer connection in many ways to Hunter S. Thompson. George Stranahan, the heart and soul of MG since 1972, actually sold Hunter the land the became Dr. Gonzo’s infamous Owl Creek Farm. George and Hunter lived next door to each other for years. George also used to own the Woody Creek Tavern, where Hunter often imbibed. Because of the friendship between Curtis Robinson/Donna Dowling and Hunter, we were able to get our hands on three original Hunter stories. According to Curtis, Hunter had a poster of one of MG’s covers on his kitchen wall (sadly, I do not know which; though I met Hunter twice, I never visited his house, though I was once invited). He was also a subscriber.
My wife says it’s bad feng shui to keep death at close quarters. But I cannot make myself part with my Rolodex. The cards I have in my Rolodex serve as testaments, certainly, to my personal history, and certainly, to MG’s history. There are also a lot of connections to the literary history of the West.
It’s my guess that I’ll keep my Rolodex as it is, knowing full well that, at some point, the cards containing connections only to the hereafter will one day outnumber the cards of the living. Perhaps it’s a tad macabre, but I like occasionally thumbing through my Rolodex and remembering the notes I got from John Jerome and Galen Rowell congratulating me on the MG’s long-awaited resurrection, and the time Ellen Meloy drove to Moab to say howdy, and the time Dave Oskin sincerely wished me good luck after a two-year book project tanked.
Nothing wrong with that, methinks.