Sometimes I think we (meaning Durangatangs) are living in some disconnected slice of heaven: a place that is so beautiful, so serene, that we forget that its only a town in a big ugly country with some big ugly problems.
For someone who has lived in some pretty ugly places (Costa Mesa & Hollywood, CA, Wynnedotte, OK, Bennington, VT), I can say Durango really is special, and we are damn lucky to be here. When the clutch goes out of my car in morning rush hour, or LB comes home from daycare with little toothmarks on her arms, or the dog tears his ACL and we can’t afford surgery, its hard not to let some of that stress go just by looking up at Sharkstooth or Hog’s Back, or walking through McElmo Canyon.
When I had a bad day in my hole-in-the-wall apartment in Hollywood, I looked outside and could see graffiti and crack-whores. When I was feeling ugly and fat, I had celebrity billboards staring back at me. Mountains never make you feel fat.
To be surrounded by constant natural beauty, lots of sunshine and fresh air, it really is no surprise why so many Southern Californians, Urban & Rural Texans, Seattlites, East Coasters, Midwesterners (well pretty much everyone who visits) are trickling into Durango more and more every year.
I have lived here for 13 years, which is not exactly a local (to the people who have been here for generations) but more people I meet, I find that I am no longer the one who has lived here the shortest time. Being part of a traveling family of vagabonds, I was always the kid who never knew my address on the first day of school, or my phone number, and got respective hell for it. But I think I’ve paid my dues to a certain extent, pumped money into the Durango service industry since I was 15, and I finally feel like a local. It’s home to me.
After high school, as we watched people leave Durango for college, military, conservation corps, and general travel and job opportunities, the running joke was “Oh, they’ll be back. Everyone comes back.” Durango is kind of like crack in itself. People are addicted to it. They HAVE to have it. That’s why so many people have $6 million 2nd homes and only spend 3 months out of the year there. THEY NEED those 3 months or else they go into Durango Withdrawl. Whatever.
Recently, I rode shotgun with my sister to Bellingham, WA for her ferry ride to Alaska. We stopped at my cousin’s apartment in what they call the “Vail Valley.” She works at the Marriot at Vail in Food Service, and lives in a 3 bedroom “Condo” with 2 other guys. What she pays for rent is NOT even funny (and I thought it was bad here), but the most disturbing thing about where she lives is that I could see a glimpse of Durango’s future:
It’s true we don’t live right off the interstate the way they do, but with Telluride so close, and the celebrity run-off we acquire from them, I think in the next few decades, Durango is going to be one of “The places to be” in the country.
It’s sad cause I love my town. And I don’t feel completely validated in loving it cause I wasn’t born here. And the hatred I feel towards developers, rich 2nd and 3rd home buyers, private-jet flying Texas Ski-Bunnies, is slightly hypocritical, isn’t it? I mean, I was a transplant too, at one point. There is only so much natural beauty to go around, and who deserves to appreciate that? I’m afraid one day it will be a privilege for only those who can afford it.
After driving over 800 miles to Washington, I told my sister, “I don’t that I saw any place as incredible as the drive from Durango to Vail.”
My sister is a geology student, and her definition of “incredible” is based mostly on how rocks are formed. My opinion I know is biased.
She simply replied “Yeah, Colorado is a pretty special place.”