On the Big Island of Hawaii there is an observatory at 14,000 feet above sea level. For a short time during the winter there is a good-sized snowfield and considerable lack of oxygen to climb back to the top of that snowfield after you ski down it. Years ago I was invited to show my ski film in Honolulu and was sponsored by a local ski shop. Why anyone would own and operate a ski shop in downtown Honolulu is unclear. It makes as much sense as opening a surf shop in Butte, Montana. But I digress.
The showing of the film was not one of my better evenings since it was put on in a geometry classroom at the local high school. Early the next morning most of us got on the all-inclusive ski Hawaii tour, flew to the Big Island and drove from sea level to that 14,000-foot altitude of Mona Kea. I don’t remember how many times I climbed that snowfield but in the two days I skied there I got more than enough footage for a sequence that I used to call, “Why do people do this nutso stuff?”
At the end of the second day, we bounced around on the dirt road back down to almost sea level, where I cleaned my camera gear, took a nap and wondered why I was doing what I was doing.
I did return one more time to the volcano to produce a film about a new design for a pair of skis that only sold about 30 pair because they look so weird and didn’t work at all.
I have no idea what happened to the ski shop owner in Honolulu, but I never did do a second performance at the local high school geometry class.
However, I do remember showing in a geometry class somewhere else. It happened in Boise, Idaho. The sponsor of the movie owned a small ranch. We had dinner at his house before going to the show and he had to give some pills to a heifer. I had no idea how one fed pills to a heifer so I ended up with heifer gunk all over my tweed suit and red polka dot necktie and had to try to clean up in the school’s bathroom.
I think there were approximately 25 people watching the film at a dollar each. After the show I bedded down in my bright red panel truck one more time before driving off to the next venue.
My show sizes varied hugely and I never really knew what to expect until I made it to the theater. Once, 13 people had shown up in a 350-seat auditorium and after the show the projectionist told me to remember two things: entertain the people who show up and feel sorry for the ones who didn’t make it; and you are going to work all your life to be a success overnight.
I narrated live for every show for the first 14 years I was in business. One of the main reasons I did that was I had no idea how to put my voice onto the film.
I never had a bad day in all those years showing my ski films. I had a few bad days traveling from one town to the next, speeding, getting lost and almost every problem that can be connected to an automobile I had borrowed or rented in those years. But the showing each night was always new and exciting.
Riding down from that snowfield on the Big Island of Hawaii after a day of making turns and seeing the Pacific stretched out below me, I had no idea I would later spend 12 years living on Maui and windsurfing all summer and living in Vail, Colorado to ski all winter.
As we bounced down the dirt road finally reaching an altitude where I could once again breathe freely and since this was an all-inclusive Hawaiian island ski tour, it included a luau in the suburbs of Hilo. The luau was held at the Kon Tiki bar and bowling alley and the less said about the party the better.
The next day I flew to Honolulu and then on to Los Angeles to quickly get seated at the editing bench for yet another sequence for the next year’s film.
For more of Warren’s wanderings go to www.warrenmiller.net or visit him on his Facebook page at facebook.com/warrenmiller.