"Green/Scene"- Gondola journalism, beer and loathing | TahoeDailyTribune.com

"Green/Scene"- Gondola journalism, beer and loathing

Michael S. Green, Tahoe Daily Tribune

This is how pathetic my life is: Riding the gondola with Howie Nave was the highlight of my weekend.

It happened during Heavenly’s annual media shmooze-fest, which this year actually featured snow. By all accounts that’s a good thing, though as a certified flat-lander I still have my doubts. My back still hurts from shoveling my driveway, and my friend’s driveway, and my friend’s neighbor’s driveway after that.

So the offer of two days of free skiing, as appealing as it was to my fellow pack journalists, didn’t do much for me. Sure, they had snowboards and skis and soft powder. They also had cute little stretchers-on-ice for idiots like me with poor motor skills. When they invent a sled with cable TV and roll bars, I promise I’ll hit the slopes.

Despite my snow phobia — snowbia? — when I wasn’t busy stuffing my face I toured the mountain as best I could on two cold feet. Heavenly’s gondola is quite handy for that, since it’s a mechanical marvel unfettered by gravity.

Wind is another matter, as my niece Amanda found out this summer. I had a free pair of gondola tickets and thoughtfully turned them into a cheap wedding present when she got hitched at Caesars.

But apparently high winds and gondolas don’t mix. This, I swear, is the actual text of Amanda’s thank-you note:

“Uncle Mike — Thank you so much for the gondola ride. It truly was scary as all hell, but after a beer at the top we both had fun.” Now there’s a ringing endorsement, eh?

Happily, I don’t have a fear of heights or anything close to a fear of beer. And despite my niece’s acrophobic experience, I had no hesitation hopping into a gondola car. I’m a firm believer in technology that allows me to sit down and do nothing for extended periods of time.

Only after the doors had closed did I realize I was trapped with two very strange men: Howie Nave, resident yukster at the Improv, and that week’s headliner, Rocky LaPort.

I have to say we hit it off splendidly, and not just because of my intense physical attraction to pudgy, sarcastic, middle-aged men. Turns out Nave is a jerk like me, so we tossed some lines back and forth while taking in the sights.

It also turns out that Nave and LaPort were scheduled to do a bit for the newshounds that night. I’m going to take credit, right here and now, for suggesting Howie use the phrase “media whores” in front of an audience of liquored-up journalists, their spouses and several small children.

Scattered laughter. A few raised eyebrows. (Thump, thump.) Is this thing on?

But seriously, folks, I had a good time and went back for a second helping of laughs later that night at the Improv. In his native element, Nave is even more foul-mouthed, crude and obnoxious — I like that in a person — and LaPort’s Bronx banter would be hilarious if he sat down and started reading the want ads.

“Physical therapist?” Rocky would say. “I’ve got an uncle who’s a physical therapist. The sign at his office says ‘Flex This.'”

Maybe it loses something in the translation but I think you get the point. Comics are funny, even at high altitude. I have a lot of respect for people who can stand up, much less do stand-up, in front of a live audience.

The folks at Heavenly put on a good show too. Kudos especially to Molly Cuffe and Kristen Aggers for all their hard work. I hope to spend a lot more time at Heavenly, as well as the other resorts in the area. Someday, I swear, I’ll learn to ski.

As for Howie, let’s just say he took me to heights the gondola couldn’t reach. I’m having his love child in August.

–Michael S. Green is managing editor of the Tribune. His column appears Fridays at 8 and 10 p.m.

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