Frozen Dead Guy

“It’s so brown”

…says the lady in front of me at rental check out. She encourages me to leave Denver to go to some much more picturesque place (her intended destination of course) because it is more beautiful. Driving into the city I’m looking at mists rising over mountains. Purples, whites, blues and then the orange of sunset. Dead grass? Sure. It is March. But not muddy or barren (lady, you have obviously not driven in Florida).

Later, while walking through the “revitalized” downtown I’m struck by how empty it seems. That this is the truly ‘dead area,’ though still with rather pleasing peeks at peaks through the buildings. Maybe it is lingering cold. Maybe the last days of snow call weekenders out of the city, but I was surprised at how few people were out and about and using the pedestrian-friendly space. My big-city ears were twitchy at the quiet in such a seemingly urban environment. I thought a “city in transition” was an apt phrase to borrow… but I don’t know really to or from what, it was just my impression.

Long Live Sport

“If they mess up on that first crest, it is basically lost.”

We are up a winding mountain at the purpose of our travel. Two curmudgeonly guys lean on a fence discussing the casket race before them. Costumed runners carry a litter-styled casketed teammate over snow, racing to the cryogenic tent finish. The Dead Guy Games are in full swing.

There are repetitive PA announcement reminders of the event’s sponsors and that Colorado is a medical marijuana state. Revelers are happily plied with alcohol and often times in their very own world. Not completely ignored but not exactly included, I am nonetheless smiling and buoyant at just the general mood (or perhaps it is oxygen deprivation). Adults are doing very silly things. There is a competition in which all who care to play can participate. They are friendly and smile a lot. Parts of jokes and sarcastic comments rocket about during the morning parade of hearses and race teams, walking up about 4 blocks of the main street watched by a 3-to-5-deep crowd. And really how can you take yourself too seriously when you are Team Pink Socks, or dressed in red longjohns and naught else, on a 40 degree day watching first time polar bear club cubs take the plunge before you yourself compete in a casket race.

The future librarian recommends

Geektastic” purchased at Tattered Cover – highly recommend both (especially when avoiding classwork – sorrys to my small group). After a good wander, nothing to me is more comforting than laugh-out-loud funny stories (as long as you have a little nerd knowledge) read in a place with creaking wood floors, knowledgeable friendly staff, and shelf upon shelf of fine spines of both the new and used variety. Boasts a café with drinks and eats, well placed chairs and tables, as well as helpful recommendation cards tucked into the stacks. I also purchased a book-postcard that will be mailed to my niece.

A Word from our sponsors

We are enjoying the hospitality of Nederland, CO. About 45 minutes from Denver and 15 from Boulder, this little town is described as “quirky” by the urbanites, even outside of the festival. What also was amusing about the Denver reaction was that a lot of people had heard of the event, but most couldn’t really describe it. And if they tried, those descriptions didn’t match the reality. Overall I would say the event was fairly well run. Finding the eponymous “dead guy” and tour was a little bit of a challenge and I’m still not sure I understand who he is or how he is frozen but that certainly didn’t make any difference in my enjoyment (if I care to know I can certainly visit for more info and a blast from the internet past). Maybe I’ll research that afterwards. For now is the time for play… right after I warm up with some coffee. Oh, and please pick up your trash and watch those open-containers (we were reminded often).

The Nature of Forever

At the corner café walk up to-go window to get coffee I have to remind myself that I’m not in New York City and shouldn’t get touchy because the guy behind the window is taking forever (like 5 minutes) to come take my order, without making eye contact once. Smell of coffee from the café next door and the patio of the “medical dispensary” two doors down are not helping my jones. But then the people across the bar start up a conversation about my muff. No really I’m sporting my handwarming muff/purse – shout out to my friend Karey, good idea to add the gel-pack handwarmers to the inside as well. The reclusive barkeep begrudgingly enters the conversation and takes my order (albeit with a snide comment about how NYC is really only 2% of NY but people always assume the former if you just say the latter) and pours some fairly decent coffee. Oh, and it was helpful to hop on the WiFi at this point because…

No-Cell Destination

This is the first place I have traveled where AT&T bested my TMobile. Lots of overheard conversations (obviously out-of-towners like myself) about lack of cell. If you’re planning to Dead-Guy it, make sure you plan a meet up place and time with friends. The town is small enough to make you feel like you’ll find your way and buddies again but large enough (with events spread out enough) that you likely won’t.

Spice is Nice

Hidden crown jewel of the town, however, I discover later, is the Chai. At both the (quite good) Kathmandu Indian Buffet and the converted-traincar-coffee-olidtimey-candy-and-fresh-(out of stock)-doughnuts shop, the Chai was fantastic. I don’t think it was just the warmth on the cold day, this stuff had an extra spice kick that was very yummy. Someone is onto something there.

Back to the game

Skulking around the periphery of the crowd, cheering at times but mostly keeping my PA-trained eye on my cameraman should he need an assist, I was often struck at how seriously the silliness was taken. And not in a “stupid male on female boards check in C-league hockey” kind of way. But in a “how can we be better at this” way from competitors and a sort of knowing commentary by the fans. They wanted to know the nature of the sport so that they could play or cheer more effectively. Skill was discussed. Never you mind that you are talking about the skill of doing a Chinese fire drill with your casket. Besides the comments of the curmudgeons (who would have made great color announcers) I heard a number of conversations about how various costumes (and we are talking about everything from death-masks, to GaGa to Scooby-Do x2) helped or hurt the teams. The pros and cons of cleats were discussed, and how that might lose style points but gain valuable snow gripping potential.


What I think about now is that it was more about pride than anything else except for having fun. Which makes sense if you are in a festival celebrating a frozen dead guy, clad in a very obvious costume… the small amount of prize money (or “green” as it was referred to often) isn’t going to make you give that little extra, but pride certainly can. As one with a fairly healthy competitive sprit, this I understand. Sure, let’s be silly. But I’m not going to chicken out of diving into freezing water one I have said I will – Thing 1 and 2, the Good Reverend and the Chicken Guy certainly didn’t. And if I am going to don my team colors and strut onto the field of play, well then I will give it my all to get my casket over the finish first. All in good spirit but such is the spirit of good competition. And the basis for a pretty rad afternoon in the mountains.


  1. […] his life and artistic body of work all about weird sports (TM). The first time we met in the flesh we went to see coffin races in Colorado. No joke. And I somewhat credit this adventure and him to showing me the way of adventure/work/life […]

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