Biff America: Bog envy

I was told that, “my people” (I’m guessing he meant Irish) should go back to living in bogs. Now today that smacks of ethnic profiling, but this was over 30 years ago before profiling was discouraged.

Then or now, I can’t remember going to any dinner parties in the mountains when I did not bring a pair of slippers or Crocs to slip on after leaving boots at the door.

All that seems to go out the window when you hang at a lower altitude and a more up-scale crowd. Truth is I was not really invited to that fancy party; I was the plus-one of a guy I worked with for years down in Denver whose wife was out of town on business.

We pulled up to a buffed home in Cherry Hills that had actual valet parking; at the time my vehicle was a van with a toilet, so I was happy my buddy drove.

We walked in, and some guy in a bow tie asked to take our coats. Being used to attending parties in the mountains where the homes are often poorly-heated I asked, “Is it warm in there?” The guy thought I was kidding. I was about to bend down to remove my boots when I noticed that there were no other footwear lying nearby. That suggested one of two things: there was either also a shoe valet or I was not in the mountains any more.

I wore my nicest clothing; a button down shirt and a bolo tie. I would have worn a neck tie had I owned one and actually the bolo tie was borrowed as well. My buddy Robyn had recently returned from working in India and he brought back a hand woven bolo that was supposedly made by lepers at one of the few remaining quarantined colonies left in the world.     

After we had visited the open bar and enjoyed some appetizers that were being handed out by more people in bow ties, we made our way to the host. When I was introduced, I was welcomed warmly.

And then, as if sensing my wardrobe insecurity our host said, “Nice bolo.”

I answered, “Thank you. It was made by lepers.”

He responded, “I’m told they work cheap.”

He then suggested we look around the property before the sit-down dinner. He particularly mentioned the stables and the memorabilia room where he had a football signed by John Elway after he broke Tom Brady’s post-season winning streak in 1986.

He gave me a wink and said, “I noticed your Boston accent.”

I guess at fancy parties you don’t sit next to your date at dinner. My pal was seated next to the host’s wife,. and I sat next to some friendly old guy who had an abundance of ear hair. He too noticed my Boston accent and said he went to med school at Harvard and went on to head the cardiac unit at a Boston hospital. The old saw-bones and I got along well. I was regaling him with stories about life in Breckenridge, how much I loved it and how much I loved to ski. He seemed to smile at everything I said; it was only later when I noticed his hearing aid.

Then, out of nowhere he blurted out “Your people belong in bogs.”

Seeing the my expression over his non sequitur, he added, “I know that came out a little loud and pointed to his ear. What I mean is be it bog, beach or prairie, you should not live for decades at a high elevation without supplemental oxygen.”

When I asked him if he recommended bog living only to those like me with an Irish complexion, he answered, “Unless you are genetically predisposed, like a Sherpa, living at a high altitude for so long could have negative results on heart, lungs and brain.”

When I asked, “What else is there?”

He said, “Exactly!”

Now this was decades ago before there had been countless studies on the results of living where the air is thin. In a nut shell oxygen is good to have and living for decades with less of it can come back to haunt you. 

At the time, I thought he was nuts. Turns out he wasn’t. The old doc was a visionary.

Fast forward to 2023. I would say about half my friends, of my generation, now sleep with oxygen. Some friends have actually pressurized their bedrooms. Science and medicine have backed up that old Doc’s assertion. Living high for so long can be tough on your heart, brain and lungs. 

But I’m here to say, the beauty takes your breath away. I wonder what else could cause that?…

Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at