A Poor Man's Hunter
by Mitch Weber
Biff America: Steep, Deep
by Jeffery Bergeron, aka
Publisher: Backcountry Magazine/Height of
$16.95 US, $24.95 CAN, www.backcountrymagazine.com
January 11, 2006-- A poor man's Hunter Thompson... it's easy to think
of him in this way. After all, offbeat writer and columnist Biff
America's alter ego (or is it the other way around?) Jeffrey
Bergeron, was reportedly recently elected to the Breckenridge
City Council on a platform emphasizing homeland security and
advocating the legalization of medicinal marijuana.
America columns in Backcountry Magazine,
many others are from the Denver Post, the Summit Daily News and
the Vail Daily News. Still others are attributed to "various
Colorado papers." Having been written for a wide audience,
the short, two to three page stories cover a range of issues
and offer up Bergeron's unique take on many subjects. Indeed,
the book is divided up into eight parts under the headings, Recreation,
Family, People, Dead People, Politics, Connubial Bliss, God,
and lastly, Sex Love and Body Parts. That just about covers all
of life, doesn't it?
The book's back cover photo of the author
(right) only seems to offer up further evidence of Bergeron as
essentially our own sort of backcountry Gonzo scribe. And yet
in the forward by John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield
Wars, Bergeron's book and his writing is described thusly:
"Think of Lake Wobegon Days meets The Little World
of Don Camillio." There is no mention of Fear and
Loathing in Las Vegas.
Steep, Deep and Dyslexic is a nearly 200 page soft-bound compilation of
Bergeron's writings for a variety of publications. A lot of them
are from his Biff
Bergeron makes me laugh when he writes
in "People" about a conversation with an angelic looking
red-haired theology student in "Changing A Life on a Chairlift,"
She made two mistakes that day. First,
she was truthful to a stranger; then she asked my opinion.
It was one of those perfect ski days. Deep
snow, no crowds, clear skies. A day that served to reaffirm our
choices. I had spent the day powder skiing and eating chocolate-covered
espresso beans for energy. The beans dilate your pupils and leave
black specks on your teeth. I must have appeared to be a speed
freak badly in need of dental hygiene. So as the chair swung
in the wind, I waxed fanatically like a hyperactive, black-toothed
If she was looking to to find a voice of
reason in the hedonistic world of a resort community, she might
have looked to someone else. I'm a firm believer in tailoring
your career to suit your geographic desires....I suppose I might
have tempered my declarations as a concession to knowing little
about her, but I was buzzed.
And so I rambled: "Indiana is a trap.
Your parents, boyfriend, career are all pits filled with punji-sticks
of boredom. If you go back, you'll be regretting what you did
for the rest of your life. You'll grow old and die without ever
"You can start with a clean slate
here," I added, mentioning that often when living in a new
place there are no preconceived notions existing in regards to
who you are and what you're like.
That seemed to appeal to her. "I'm
tired of being a good girl," she said. "I want to get
a tattoo." I thought that was a great idea and suggested
she take up drinking as well. I know, I know... I have my biases.
In retrospect she caught me at a moment when my caffeine and
powder rush was peaking...
...If that red-headed girl from Muncie,
Indiana is reading this, I have one more thing to say: "Before
you move to the mountains or get that tattoo, you might consider
getting a second opinion. Just don't ask someone from the flatlands,
they might not understand..."
But then Bergeron makes me think, and he
moves me deeply when he writes just a few pages later in the
"Dead People" section about the loss of a friend to
an avalanche nearly 20 years earlier:
Tim looked peacefully asleep. But we knew
he was dead.
Only moments before, his closest friends
had dug his body out from nearly ten feet of snow....I still
remember the look on the faces of friends and family as we lifted
his body out of the pit. Mixed in with the near unbearable grief,
there was fear--the fear that our own futures were in peril if
someone so young, healthy and backcountry savvy could die such
a death.... he was just the first of three bodies we would find
that day. The other two belonged to Steve and his dog, Jackson.
...I visit the site where we found our
friends several time a year. I go there not so much as a pilgrimage,
but simply because it is a wonderful place to run, bike and ski.
Every time I'm there alone, I call out to my missing friends.
So far no one has answered. We often like to assume that the
spirit of those lost stays where they took their last breath.
But, in truth, this place is merely a grave. It's within the
essence of all who knew him them where their spirit and memory
No, Bergeron as Biff America is not just
a poor man's Thompson. His biting satire will make you laugh
much like Gonzo did, he will make you crack the occasional wry
smile, give the knowing nod, but well beyond that, Bergeron's
best stories often succeed (as Nichols writes in the forward)
in "breaking your heart and uplifting it at the same time,
even when they concern low-flow toilets or trying to buy porn
for a friend in prison." And there are many of these moments
in Steep, Deep and Dyslexic.
If you have enjoyed the Biff America columns
in Backcountry, you'll love this book. Or maybe you are more
like me, I'll confess that I was never a huge fan of the man's
writing in Backcountry... I guess his offbeat style and often
off-topic and/or serious subjects were just not what I was expecting
or really wanting to find in my ski porn, raving gear-slut magazine
readings. If that's the case, well, you might be surprised to
find yourself in love with this book. It's a terrific format
and a great way to enjoy Bergeron. Buy it, put it on your nightstand
and read a story every night until you are done... when you are
finished, you might just might end up doing as I did, immediately
starting over from the beginning just to enjoy Jeffrey Bergeron's
gifts and unique talents one more time.