DISPATCHES
Of Silver Linings and Opportunities
by Rob Schultheis
Oct 09, 2010 | 788 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This last summer, on July 5, Mountainfilm held a fund-raising evening

at the Sheridan Opera House. The program consisted of both films and

guest speakers,  and subjects ranged from outer limits California rock climbing to medical aid in Africa to  volunteers who are using the natural beauty of the American West and the mellow rhythms of fly fishing to help heal veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who are suffering from physical and psychological wounds.

One of the most affecting parts of the whole evening came when Christian Ellis, a Marine sergeant with severe PTSD, stood up in front of the crowded Opera House and told of how his wartime experiences had turned him into someone he barely recognized, volatile, violent, as unpredictable as decomposing TNT, and how he has hurt those closest to him, wrecked

friendships, and smashed his own life into smithereens. The way he spoke, without an ounce of self-pity and with tremendous dignity, won the

hearts of everyone who heard him. Chris told me later how much Telluride’s warmth and understanding had meant to him; in fact, he was amazed at how a small community like ours could open its arms and hearts to a complete stranger, especially one with such a hard, sad tale to tell.

Unfortunately, something went very wrong before Chris departed from Telluride; he misplaced his laptop computer, and when he went to look for it, it was gone.

To be blunt, someone stole it. If Mountainfilm had raised a hue and cry right then, on KOTO and through posters plastered everywhere in town, perhaps  the guilty party would have returned it, for the generous reward Mountainfilm eventually offered; or the audience members who had attended the Sheridan program would have quickly rallied, passed the proverbial hat, and gathered enough money to buy Chris a replacement.  But there was a delay in getting the word out, and when Mountainfilm ran an advertisement in the paper with the reward information many locals never saw it. Then Chris mentioned something in an e-mail about the possibility that a veterans’ group would get him a new computer, something many here immediately assumed was a sure thing, and that Chris’s problems had been solved, and the whole story faded away.

About that time, I began to get a bad feeling about the whole thing; the last

I heard, someone at Mountainfilm was pretty certain that Chris had a replacement laptop courtesy of the vets’ group, and that all was well; if not, Chris surely would have informed them. But I recalled Chris’s reticence in bringing up the computer’s loss in the first place, and I also thought of the men and women of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, who I spent eight months with in Baghdad in 2004. Like so many in our military today, they tended to be proud, old-fashioned, ultra-independent, close-mouthed about their own problems but eager to jump in and help with the problems of others.

Would they have complained if the attempts to help them had fallen through, as in Chris’s case? I wouldn’t have bet on it. Sure enough, when Mountainfilm and I checked, it turned out that the veterans’ group’s contribution didn’t approach what a new laptop would cost, and Chris ended up having to spend what they did give him to pay bills, leaving him still computer-less: a disaster, because, as Chris explained, he virtually bases his life around his computer, for everything from his travels lecturing on PTSD to keeping up with his veterans’ benefits to communicating with his many friends across the country, like a household, a neighborhood and a career rolled into one.

To make a long story short, Peter Kenworthy at Mountainfilm and I approached the top brass at Hewlett-Packard, manufacturer of Chris’s original laptop, telling them what had happened and asking if they could at least get him a new one at cost, which we would pay for.  

Have you ever had someone shout “Get the **** out of here” and slam a door in your face? That was more or less the reaction of the patriotic millionaire executives at H-P.    

So Peter and I set out to make things right ourselves. Mountainfilm is kicking in $250, and more if necessary; I got a $400 advance from The Watch for my next two months’ worth of weekly columns, and Seth and Marta contributed another $100. In the meantime, Chris got an offer of a new job, one requiring a personal computer.

So he took a deep breath and went ahead and borrowed the money for a new laptop:  $1,900, more or less. I don’t know how much we’ve raised so far. I sent Chris two money orders, one for $400 and the other for $100, just to reassure him that our offers of help were not just hot air.  His e-mail replies basically boil down to, “Man, you guys in Telluride are great; I’d forgotten people like you really exist.”   

You can’t beat that. 

If you want to help, call Peter K. at 728-4123 ext. 10 for information, or just drop checks off at the Mountainfilm offices; you can either make checks

out to Chris Ellis or to Mountainfilm, marked "for Chris’s computer." If you make them out to the latter, you can write off your contribution on your taxes. We’re sending the money on to Chris c/o his parents in Peoria, Ariz., as per his instructions, as it comes in. 

Telluride always comes through in the end; it's always been true, and let’s keep the tradition alive.This last summer, on July 5, Mountainfilm held a fund-raising evening

at the Sheridan Opera House. The program consisted of both films and

guest speakers,  and subjects ranged from outer limits California rock climbing to medical aid in Africa to  volunteers who are using the natural beauty of the American West and the mellow rhythms of fly fishing to help heal veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who are suffering from physical and psychological wounds.

One of the most affecting parts of the whole evening came when Christian Ellis, a Marine sergeant with severe PTSD, stood up in front of the crowded Opera House and told of how his wartime experiences had turned him into someone he barely recognized, volatile, violent, as unpredictable as decomposing TNT, and how he has hurt those closest to him, wrecked

friendships, and smashed his own life into smithereens. The way he spoke, without an ounce of self-pity and with tremendous dignity, won the

hearts of everyone who heard him. Chris told me later how much Telluride’s warmth and understanding had meant to him; in fact, he was amazed at how a small community like ours could open its arms and hearts to a complete stranger, especially one with such a hard, sad tale to tell.

Unfortunately, something went very wrong before Chris departed from Telluride; he misplaced his laptop computer, and when he went to look for it, it was gone.

To be blunt, someone stole it. If Mountainfilm had raised a hue and cry right then, on KOTO and through posters plastered everywhere in town, perhaps  the guilty party would have returned it, for the generous reward Mountainfilm eventually offered; or the audience members who had attended the Sheridan program would have quickly rallied, passed the proverbial hat, and gathered enough money to buy Chris a replacement.  But there was a delay in getting the word out, and when Mountainfilm ran an advertisement in the paper with the reward information many locals never saw it. Then Chris mentioned something in an e-mail about the possibility that a veterans’ group would get him a new computer, something many here immediately assumed was a sure thing, and that Chris’s problems had been solved, and the whole story faded away.

About that time, I began to get a bad feeling about the whole thing; the last

I heard, someone at Mountainfilm was pretty certain that Chris had a replacement laptop courtesy of the vets’ group, and that all was well; if not, Chris surely would have informed them. But I recalled Chris’s reticence in bringing up the computer’s loss in the first place, and I also thought of the men and women of the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, who I spent eight months with in Baghdad in 2004. Like so many in our military today, they tended to be proud, old-fashioned, ultra-independent, close-mouthed about their own problems but eager to jump in and help with the problems of others.

Would they have complained if the attempts to help them had fallen through, as in Chris’s case? I wouldn’t have bet on it. Sure enough, when Mountainfilm and I checked, it turned out that the veterans’ group’s contribution didn’t approach what a new laptop would cost, and Chris ended up having to spend what they did give him to pay bills, leaving him still computer-less: a disaster, because, as Chris explained, he virtually bases his life around his computer, for everything from his travels lecturing on PTSD to keeping up with his veterans’ benefits to communicating with his many friends across the country, like a household, a neighborhood and a career rolled into one.

To make a long story short, Peter Kenworthy at Mountainfilm and I approached the top brass at Hewlett-Packard, manufacturer of Chris’s original laptop, telling them what had happened and asking if they could at least get him a new one at cost, which we would pay for.  

Have you ever had someone shout “Get the **** out of here” and slam a door in your face? That was more or less the reaction of the patriotic millionaire executives at H-P.    

So Peter and I set out to make things right ourselves. Mountainfilm is kicking in $250, and more if necessary; I got a $400 advance from The Watch for my next two months’ worth of weekly columns, and Seth and Marta contributed another $100. In the meantime, Chris got an offer of a new job, one requiring a personal computer.

So he took a deep breath and went ahead and borrowed the money for a new laptop:  $1,900, more or less. I don’t know how much we’ve raised so far. I sent Chris two money orders, one for $400 and the other for $100, just to reassure him that our offers of help were not just hot air.  His e-mail replies basically boil down to, “Man, you guys in Telluride are great; I’d forgotten people like you really exist.”   

You can’t beat that. 

If you want to help, call Peter K. at 728-4123 ext. 10 for information, or just drop checks off at the Mountainfilm offices; you can either make checks

out to Chris Ellis or to Mountainfilm, marked "for Chris’s computer." If you make them out to the latter, you can write off your contribution on your taxes. We’re sending the money on to Chris c/o his parents in Peoria, Ariz., as per his instructions, as it comes in. 

Telluride always comes through in the end; it's always been true, and let’s keep the tradition alive.
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