Andrew Lostetter of Marquee Grill on Snowboarding, Trees and Recovering
In "Dancing in the Light" off the Rolling Stone's re-release of Exile on Main Street, Keith Richards' guitar has a pronounced Southern drawl and Mick Jagger sounds like he was born in East Texas while he complains of a "sinking feeling"...
"You really hit the big time, I really took a dive? I'm running in the rain, you're dancing in the light? I'm waiting for the train, that never will arrive..."
Andrew Lostetter was listening to this song when he was gliding down the Cashier run in Breckenridge, Colorado, this past winter. The night before, the skies opened up and dumped fresh powder on the mountain, creating ideal conditions for snowboarding. Cashier run down Peak 9 is described as "ballroom skiing at its best."
Pine trees line the wide path that's busy with skiers banking left and right down the mountain. Occasionally two runs intersect and a gaggle of trees stand in the middle of these paths. These trees should be avoided.
Lostetter is originally from East Texas, but for the past 15 years has been a bartender in Dallas; first at Fireside Pies, then Neighborhood Services Tavern. He's now the bar manager at Marquee Grill.
He's the youngest of 12 children in a Brady Bunch-like mix; some his, some hers and a few together. His Gypsy soul has always summoned him to travel and seek adventure. He has backpacked around the world, and when he's able to get time off, snowboarding is atop his list.
A little technical note on snowboarding: To prevent oneself from rolling down the side of a mountain while attached to a board, balance is maintained, at times, by having your backside toward the bottom of the mountain. This can be either a hazard or advantage when it comes to trees.
"I was where two paths cross and a guy just kind of tapped me on the side," Lostetter said. "He didn't hit me that hard, and I wasn't going super fast. I actually was moving to avoid a tree, but after I got bumped, I hit it square with my back."
At some point Jagger and Richards was shut off. Maybe just after Jagger told Lostetter:
"My whole world is crashing, I took a violent thrashing, Something to throw the trash, I'm in the garbage dump."
Lostetter was propelled a full five feet up the mountain in a giant bounce off the unflinching pine. He laid face down and didn't move.
"More than anything, I just sort of freaked out," Lostetter said. "I thought I'd just paralyzed myself. I started moving my fingers and toes, and everything was moving, so I just stayed still. I didn't move."
The "gentleman," as Lostetter describes him, who hit him circled back immediately to help. From his accent, Lostetter thinks he was either from Australia or New Zealand; thousands of miles traveled for one ill-timed tap.
"He wasn't a bad person, just a good guy that had an accident that day," Lostetter said.
Another person on Cashier run, just a few minutes behind Lostetter, was an emergency room nurse from Florida. He stopped and stayed with Lostetter until the ski patrol arrived, mostly offering reassurance through a series of basic checks.
The next week was a series of operations and layers of pain for Lostetter.
"Once I was taken down the mountain, it did take me a few days to realize how bad I had hurt myself," Lostetter recalls. "That first week was a blur. What I mainly remember was being in constant pain. It seemed like a nonstop carousel of tests and surgeries. Every time I woke up I had a new piece of metal in my body."
Lostetter's pelvis was broken in four places, which required pins, screws and an external fixator to hold it in place. He had two rods inserted for his L1 and L2 vertebrae. Fractures to the T5 and T9 vertebrae required a stiff brace for three months.
Patched and pinned back together again, Lostetter was recovering in the intensive care unit when his sister Elizabeth Neill arrived to help him. When he opened his eyes, his older sister was painting his toenails green for Saint Patrick's Day, which was just a few days away.
"I was trying to take advantage of him while I could," said Neill giggling, "because I knew he wasn't going to fight me. I'm number 11 and he's number 12, so he's the only one younger than me."
Good lesson learned: You're still a little brother, even in the ICU. Neill also bought him some clothes to wear while recovering at the hospital. One was an Underdog shirt that said, "Call the Vet, These Puppies are Sick" and another read "I'm Too Sexy For This Shirt."
He laughs when recalling how ridiculous he looked trying to learn to walk again, in the worse pain he's ever experienced, with a T-shirt of a super-hero dog posing with its muscles flexed.
Neill and another sister, Melody McGann, helped bring him home, which involved a precarious American Airlines flight just two weeks after the accident. Then, the long and slow process of recovery awaited Lostetter. When asked what it's all taught him, he thinks for a minute before answering, "Well, I've learned to have patience with the healing process, and to avoid trees."
The medication disguised the pain, but Lostetter yearned for clarity, "I've always been a big reader, and so I thought I'd just sit around and read this whole time, but for the first few months I was on so much pain medication, I couldn't really focus."
Eventually he tapered off the heavy meds and needed to get back to work. Both his therapist and doctor said it would help his overall recovery.
"At first it literally almost killed me," Lostetter said, "but now I can work most of a shift. It still hurts, but it's manageable. Other guys that work with me have helped me a lot and when needed, they help me get out of there early."
Lostetter is now getting back in the swing of things. Recently he competed in a Grey Goose vodka punch competition, which he won. The prize is a trip for two to a cocktail convention in Miami, Florida, just a few weeks after his final surgery to remove the rods in his back. But if all goes well, he should be able to make it, even if he has to hobble a little.
I asked him if those cocktail conventions were just a drunken fest or if there was any actual learning. "It's a little of both," he replied. "You learn because you see what other people are doing in the industry. And sometimes you see things that spark some creativity. Is it a party, too? Yes, because we're drinking the whole time.
"Last week we [local bartenders] did an event and it was on a huge boat out on Lake Lewisville. Then afterward, they put us on these buses to drive us home, which was actually smart. The bus was like a dance party. The lights were off, there wasn't a person sitting down. They had gangster rap playing. At one point we looked over at the other bus driving next to us and everyone was in their seats on their phones [laughing]. Once we parked, it took us over five minutes to realize that we were at our destination."
At the end of "Dancing in the Light," Jagger gets downright belligerent and in a messy tirade slurs, "What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?"
"Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Dancing in the light."
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