THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THERE CLOSETS

I have trouble throwing things away, especially anything in print—newspapers, magazines, books, letters, printed copies of emails. When I had an office at CBS, a wall cabinet was so overstuffed with audition cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes, newspapers, coffee mugs (empty), and who knows what else that it fell off the wall one day.

Not a big deal since no one was hurt, though it happened a few minutes before a vice president of CBS News was going to bring a visitor of some stature to meet me. The vice president and the visitor showed up while I stood among the debris on the floor. They did not stay long. Wimps.

A few days ago Irene was going through what can only be described as a mess in one of our closets and found a copy of an email from a good friend. It was from August of 1998, written by Rollie Eggleston, an Australian editor-reporter I was privileged to meet at Radio Free Europe in Munich. Rollie and I did a lot of skiing together in addition to a lot of fooling around. During one night of drinking, we left an establishment with a boss and his wife, shoved the wife into a car and told her husband where we were going. He showed up at the new location, not all that happy. I’d like to think we bought him a drink before he left with his wife.

Rollie had a stroke more than two years ago. After much therapy and work along with the untiring dedication of his lady companion, he is improving but his emails have stopped. I miss them, especially for his humor. We returned to the States in 1980, but Rollie and I were in touch every year about the chances I could make it to Austria during ski season. If he called me at CBS News, he would identify himself as “Larry’s ski instructor.”

In the email from August of ’98, fun in the snow was on his mind:

“Hi, there.

“Suppose you realise it is only 12 weeks until the first snow falls. In about 15 (weeks) it should be firm enough for a few practice falls. I’ve been keeping my bad right ankle in shape by taking up golf. The right foot is the one on which you turn for those spectacular Arnold Palmer swings…Apparently there is a fine arthritic crack across my ankle, and I figure if I keep swinging … my foot should be just right for skiing.”

He then writes of being in Italy in a very hot Florence:

“There is a patch of green near the railway station where you can sit shoulder-to-shoulder with a few million other panting citizens and try to have a picnic. Things get so close together that sometimes you find yourself eating the sandwich that the guy next door is holding because you think it is your own hand holding it.”

Rollie believed there was no secret in how to become a good skier. “It’s all in the boots,” he liked to say. He sort of proved his theory once. We were about to get on a lift in St. Anton, Austria, when he discovered that the skis he had taken from our inn looked a lot like his but weren’t. I suggested we drive back to get the right skis. Rollie shook his head and said, “Oh, what the hell. Let’s give these a try.” His boots fit perfectly into someone else’s skis and off we went for another good day in the Alps.

His email from August of ’98 closes with greetings to my son Jack and asks:

“Is his ski toe also itching? (It’s all in the toes, you know.”)

I miss skiing with the man and probably miss his emails even more. Maybe I should help Irene clean out all our closets and see what other gems we find that bring back good memories.

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