Geiger's Culture Counter: So long and thanks for all the fish

There’s no easy way to say this and I don’t want to bury the lede. So. Deep breath. This is my final column at the Valley Courier.

Two years ago to the day I was given my first assignments at the paper. In the morning I was to go and photograph the grand opening of the new IHOP. That evening I covered a local vigil held in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The emotions at the pair of events were immensely different and I knew I’d cover a variety of topics, from kids winning scholarships to airports, to the burgeoning hemp industry. Since then I’ve taken over 9,000 photos and typed up 95.2 megabytes of documents.

A few days later I came up with a pun and premiered this column. Inspired by some of my favorite websites like io9, The A.V. Club and Vox, my aim was to write about popular culture for a general audience that doesn’t seek out the latest news from Comic-Con or keep up to date with memes. I took the opportunity to share my love of theater, my evolving tastes in music, my Hogwarts house and patronus and dozens of my favorite shows. Hopefully I didn’t bore you with my dissertations and you learned about new creations to check out and enjoy.

My tenure has been more about than my weekly column, however.

I was a watchdog that didn’t hide the fact the county risked grant money and they made ballot decisions regarding marijuana without an appointment from proponents. I also helped illustrate the district attorney’s lack of funding and Adams State University’s financial woes along with localizing national issues such as Donald Trump’s budget and the CHP+ program. While holding those in power accountable is an important aspect of journalism, I prefer composing features and profiles on individuals.

A unique part of working in the same town I went to high school meant I could tell the stories of my own former classmates like Sarah Sellman and Joshua Cody. The latter is staring in a TV movie about Santa’s college-aged daughter while the former showcased the San Luis Valley’s paranormal history at the Denver Film Festival and is working on a television pilot.

Living in the Valley also allowed for a national park to become part of my beat. Bill Sycalik stopped by the dunes while marathoning all 59 parks, Mikah Meyer is honoring his dad visiting every unit in the National Park Service and recently Lucas and Sara Villa-Kainec returned to Colorado as they make a similarly lengthy tour podcasting with park rangers. Other local intrepid adventures uprooted themselves, such as wedding photographer Jenna Lee and her stunning shots of a couple at Kilauea.

I shared the tale of traveling troubadours like John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Monte Vista’s Merna Lewis performing at the Grand Ole Opry. No matter the person’s story, I wanted to inform readers of the Valley Courier of what’s happening and why.

I also wrote about my own passions when covering my favorite food groups: sushi and beer. Can you believe that two fantastic, history-making breweries opened in Alamosa within a year of each other and one already won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival? Additionally, before the unfortunate closure of Rybax Kitchen, this landlocked Valley had three sushi-serving restaurants.

This industry can be mentally and physically taxing, but any day where I took a photo of a smiling kid playing at Cole Park, learning about farms at VEGI’s annual “Stone Soup” event or holding the hands of an Olympian made it worth it.

I’ve made many memories and friends here. Those won’t go away simply because I am. If you don’t count my time in college, eight of my 12 years residing in Colorado has been spent in Alamosa. Even that’s not entirely accurate since I always came back here in between semesters. I’ll only be a few hours away and my parents still live here so—if I’m craving green chile and the passes are clear—you can expect some visiting.

I’m a whole mess of emotions right now. Happy and sad. Excited and nervous. But mostly, I’m thankful. I’m thankful to Keith and Ruth for hiring me. I’m thankful I got to know you, dear readers, through the letters you mailed and when you chatted with me in the flesh as I wandered around with my camera, notebook and pen. I’m thankful for being a voice of the Valley.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you’ll continue to follow me as I start a new chapter next week as a copy editor at the Summit Daily News in Frisco. As always, you can reach me on social media at @geigerjd. 

Take care and remember that you are loved.