Santa Rosa, California, United States
August 31, 2016



Three things happened in 1956 which may explain why I find myself frantically packing for Paris, now, sixty years later.

First, CBS aired a program called The Ford Star Jubilee. Now, you won’t remember The Ford Star Jubilee, but the producers were the first to get the bright idea, “hey, why don’t we show a movie on TV?”

I know what you’re thinking.

Duhhhh! Ya think?

Seems obvious in this age of Netflix, HBO, and Showtime . Right? But back in 1956 that was thinking “outside the box” . . . I mean . . . literally outside the box. So the Jubilee geniuses……..geni? ……..aired for the first time, in what was to become an annual event, “The Wizard of Oz.”

On TV, No less

Each year my brother, sister and I would sit down with a bowl of popcorn in front of the ol’ black and white RCA. Each year, a man would introduce the movie explaining that “no adjustment of our set was necessary” when, 10 minutes into the movie, about the time Dorothy arrived in Munchkinland, our picture would turn from black and white to color.

It will?

Hell, my folks didn’t get color until I was off to college.

Speaking of color. The second thing that happened in 1956 was Paramount Pictures decided to release a movie to showcase its new “Vistavision” film system. Technicolor was all the rage and the studio needed a dramatic setting to show its stuff. So they produced a movie called “The Mountain” in which Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner, two French brothers , one evil, one virtuous, climb Mont Blanc in search of plane that crashed into the mountain.


The Mountain

Wagner, a young punk with no mountaineering skills, wants to loot the dead in the plane. Tracy, the old mountaineering legend, is reluctantly enlisted. To their surprise they discover a young woman still alive in the wreckage and Tracy must use all of his moral courage to overcome his morally challenged little brother and all of his mountaineering skills to get the woman down off the mountain.


Spencer Tracy

She survives. The creepy brother? Uhhh, not so much. He falls into a crevasse.

A crevasse. As a boy, just the sound of the word gave me chills

I remember watching the movie, thinking how cool to be a mountain climber, and wondering, “Uhhhh, what’s a crevasse.” Quick Rob! To the World Book Enclyclopedia. The white 1961 Deluxe Edition.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

The third thing that happened that year . . . well actually in 1955,. . . hmmmm . . . how best to put this . . .  respectfully. . . my folks did . . . what all parents do . . . who hadn’t planned a third child.

And, so I arrived.

In 1956.

In Denver actually.

In the mountains.

So, you ask, just how does that explain why I find myself packing forParis?


You see if, in 1956, the Ford Star Jubilee folks hadn’t thought to show A Wizard of Oz on TV, and if, in 1956, the folks at Paramount hadn’t thought to showcase Vistavision in movies, and if, in 1956–okay maybe the fall of 1955–my folks hadn’t done the nasty somewhere in the mountains above Denver, then I never would have been born, the folks at CBS would never have thought to use movies to fill time slots on TV, I never would have grown up watching movies on TV, never would have seen Robert Wagner fall into a crevasse. never would have grown up fascinated by mountain climbers (but afraid of flying monkeys) and I never would have hatched this plan to first go here by plane


then go here by train


Lake Annecy

then go here by bike



then go here by gondola


and hopefully find myself here still upright


Vallee Blanche
That’s the plan this year.

What the future holds, I can only guess. But here, now, sixty years old, writing this silly blog when I should be packing, bound for a mountain I’ve never seen and have only imagined, I can’t help but think how life, this wacky string of random misfires, propels us by events we little note, and passions we seldom understand,  gives us the courage to overcome  flying monkeys and the curiosity to explore crevasses and, maybe, just maybe, if we play our cosmic cards right, graces us with a clear day and a fine view.

I love the mountains.

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