Ed used to say that I was his first.
And he wasn’t kidding.
After Ed and Martha founded Colorado Central Magazine in 1994, the first contributor’s check that Ed cut went to me. He presented that check at the magazine’s launch party in the packed back room of the former First Street Café. And in classic Ed fashion, he did it during an arm-waving, anecdote-filled speech punctuated by drags on a hand-rolled cigarette.
Fifteen years later, when Ed and Martha transferred their publication into the capable hands of current owner and editor-in-chief Mike Rosso, Ed called to expound on the symmetry of having just written his final contributor’s check – also to me.
In the years between Ed, Martha, my husband Steve Voynick, and I engaged in a series of boisterous conversations at local restaurants, in their back yard, and around our dinner table on topics ranging from “sacred-place theory” and the human penchant for labeling, categorizing, and compartmentalizing each other to the most efficient method of capturing feral cats for veterinary transport and the unfathomable relationship between Ed and our since-departed dog Twink. No matter how often she saw him, Twink’s routine never varied: She’d spend hours alternately cozying up to Ed or lying on his feet and growling whenever he moved.
In 1995, Ed recommended me for a small part in the Colorado History Group’s retrial of Alferd Packer, Colorado’s only convicted cannibal. I’d never been onstage in my life before—anywhere, ever—but Ed thought that playing the role of the German-born widow of a Packer entrée might help me begin to overcome my terror of public speaking. He neglected to mention that this entire production was going to be ad-libbed – and that the rest of the cast was composed of illustrious Coloradans and public-speaking pros like historians Tom Noel and Patricia Nelson Limerick.
When Ed sauntered onstage as Saguache County sheriff Amos Wall, his cocky, confident, John Wayne-like portrayal of the lawman who supposedly allowed Packer to escape from jail in 1874 drew lots of laughs from the 800-member audience that had crowded into Leadville’s Tabor Opera House for the retrial.
I, meanwhile, was passing the time until my entrance by depleting the ladies’ room supply of paper towels, which I used to mop up sweat dripping from my hands and down my forearms.
Jettisoning the entire speech I’d spent weeks writing and memorizing, I somehow managed to ad-lib my part and avoid puking or passing out in front of the audience.
When I staggered offstage after the final curtain call, Ed said, “I didn’t know you could do a German accent. Wanna get a drink?”
Damn right I did.
And I wish I could have another with you now.
Challenge ’em and make ’em laugh on the other side, my friend. Just like you did here.
Lynda La Rocca is a regular contributor to Colorado Central Magazine who always looked forward to reading Ed Quillen’s contributions.