Never too late

Way to Go, Bonk! Thank you, DB.

by Greg I. Hamilton on January 15, 2014

When I got snowed out of attending his memorial service, I imagine DB would have had a succinct assessment for me. Let’s imagine together what it might have been. For those who don’t know Warren Miller’s first hire Don Brolin, I’ll try to give a sense of the way he spoke. If, for instance, he had handed me a warm beer from his filing cabinet—as he so often did in our days at that office—and I had protested (which I never did), he would have said:

Warm beer is infinitely colder than no beer at all.

If my picks had somehow won the weekly football pool:

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

If assessing that shrill woman at the focus group:

She had a voice that could shatter a beer can.

If it was too dark to film:

It’s darker than the inside of a football.

If everything was too snowy for the camera to capture any contrast:

It’s like two white mice swimming in a bowl of milk.

If a film segment ran on too painfully long:

It’s like a big guy standing on your toe.

And, of course, there was DB’s usual homage to Warren’s film narration, say when a beginner skier has somehow escaped a fall only to be hit in the head by the chairlift. Because of the frequency of these sorts of shots and quips in each film, around the office this was a daily DB utterance applicable to any circumstance:

Way to go, Bonk!

DB’s witticisms could be full of real knowledge. For instance he taught me about the real meaning of my favorite pro football team’s colors. While wagering a side bet on that week’s matchup, he asked why an Oregon kid would root for Philadelphia. I said I’d chosen the Eagles very young, based on their team colors. For me, they resembled my home state’s pallet of green trees and perennially grey skies. DB told me this was interesting, since the team colors did indeed have significance. After I failed to guess, DB shared that Philly was the site of the country’s first mint, and thus the Eagles were painted in the colors of money: green for dollars, silver-grey for coins. Pony up, nature boy, he said, and put your money where your loyalty is. I lost the bet but gained a little piece of knowledge (likely apocryphal, which only adds to its value).

I had really wanted to get over the pass and the Continental Divide last Friday to be there with DB’s wife Colleen, my old coworkers, and all the people whose lives were touched by DB. It’s tempting to list excuses about blizzards and risking the lives of people I love to drive through the night on nasty roads, but I picture DB listening to such excuses patiently, nodding, then summing all his thoughts up in something that might well begin with:

Sure as there’s an ass in a cat …

So while I continue to find the right DBism for this occasion, allow me to share a memory that still shines as brightly as his eyes that day at Kurt and Ali’s house.

It had been several years since I’d seen DB and I admit I’d feared the worst after hearing rumor of some serious medical troubles a while back. Standing in the kitchen clutching a beer, I had turned in the crowd to face someone I didn’t immediately recognize. Fit and trim enough to belie 70-some years of life, with brighter eyes than I’d ever remembered, a transformed DB stood there before me. Only his wry smirk told me this was the longtime Warren Miller Films head of production, that droll buddy to staffers of all ages.

He took my hand with an unexpectedly firm grasp and his eyes and smile radiated an enthusiastic lust for life that took me entirely by surprise. I suspect I made some comment about his hands being without a beer and must have offered to fetch one. He stopped me and went on to share the last few years of his life in something other than the snarky DBisms I would have expected.

Doc had said stop drinking or you’re dead—or something to that effect. It turns out, he told me, that he’d been sucking down something like a case of beer a day. So on his doctor’s advice along with what must have been some clear protests from his body, mind, soul, and loved ones, he quit drinking. Since then, he told me with growing verve, he’d channeled those energies and calories into bicycling.

He’d lost massive amounts of weight, built up muscle and endurance, and given his internal organs a much-needed break. Now his greatest frustration was that—closing in on his 80th birthday if I recall correctly—he was frustrated that he couldn’t quite achieve the qualifying time trial to ride on Boulder’s new velodrome.

Roughly eight decades old and here was a man showing me that it’s never too late and you’re never too old to get healthy and make the most of life. I can get feisty when people say they’re too old or it’s too late or it’s too difficult to even try. That’s because, to me, DB will always stand as a shining example that:

  1. It’s never too late to make good choices.
  2. You’re never too old to change your ways for the better.
  3. Every day is a good time to appreciate the people we love and the life we have.

Perhaps you can help me find the right DBism for the occasion (and perhaps lots of wrong ones that make us chuckle) in the comments below. In the spirit of the idioms he so aptly borrowed and reapplied throughout his life, I’ll wrap up as DB did so many times at the conference table:

That concludes my prepared remarks.

Rest in Peace, DB. Way to go, Bonk.

Greg

Photo by Flowizm via Compfight cc

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenn Gebhard March 27, 2014 at 5:53 pm

thanks Greg
I worked for Don At WME back in the late 80s. I was an editor and
occasional writer/director. Like everyone who worked for Don, I
learned quite a lot from him: Everyone gets there own hotel room
on location, no wives or girlfriends on a shoot, etc. etc. Don was not
only a mentor, but really one of the funniest guys I ever met. I regret
not seeing him after WME moved to Bolder, but he’s certainly in my
mind, heart and memory. We miss you DB.
Hope you’re well Colleen. So sorry for your loss.

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Janet McDaniel February 24, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Greg – How beautifully written by the guy who sat with me on a living room floor in downtown Boulder and taught me how to write (in 1999)! What a tribute to DB. I still have pictures of you guys at his retirement party. Just saw your post today, I’m a bit behind.

Best to you and to your buddy DB, Greg!
Janet (Ayres)

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Sean Waterman January 15, 2014 at 11:11 pm

As DB would say “I’m down to seeds and stems” with not much to add to your thoughtful tribute, but I have to ask – was DB the inventor of the BBQ shot or just the Master?

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Greg I. Hamilton January 16, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Good question, Sean. I have it on good authority that he was both the inventor and master of the infamous barbecue shot: http://gihamilton.com/making-higher-ground/#bbq

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Pat Hamilton January 15, 2014 at 9:45 pm

It warms a mother’s heart that you had such a wonderful mentor, Greg!

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Greg I. Hamilton January 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm

🙂

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Colleen Brolin January 15, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Hello Greg, Thank you so much for writing the tribute to Don. He loved working with you. Don was a great admirer of your talents.
I miss him as I begin this year. He taught me so many things. I was lucky to be with him.

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Greg I. Hamilton January 15, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Thank you, Colleen. I’ve treasured my friendship with you both and will be sending you much positive energy all year.

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Rogue January 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

DB would have told you that if it is coming down like cat turds and hammer heads, you better stay inside and not drive. Nicely written Hammy. A fitting tribute to a man who influenced so many people. He will be missed but not forgotten.

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Greg I. Hamilton January 15, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Thanks, man. I agree: DB’s influence will be with me my whole life.

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Donna Buell January 15, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Nicely done Greg! A nice tribute to your friend!

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Greg I. Hamilton January 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Thanks Donna!

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