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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Postcard Pimp


Ellen Meloy had a glorious childhood. She ran amuck golden foothills of the Sierras in California, where grandparents carved a living from a sprawling family homestead. Roots ran as deep as the snow on Mount Whitney. A great aunt of hers spent summer's working fire-watch in a remote, ridge-top tower during the war, withstanding loneliness and lightening strikes and boredom. Ellen had access to a family hunting cabin in the high-up forests above the ranch. She'd sprawl out under gargantuan ponderosas on soft beds of pine needles, centuries in the making, surrounded by pinecones the size of beavers. She remembers staring at lazy clouds through pine-bows, torqued by a Pacific breeze. It was hypnotizing, the faint mixed scent of ocean and pine imbedded aromatic memories that would never be forgotten.
But things change. Today the family homestead lies deep beneath one of a series of lakes, a wild and scenic river dammed to extinction in a misguided attempt to sate coastal California's growing thirst. She eyed the changes taking place, the congestion and sprawl of concrete jungles, megapolis's teeming with sparkling clean Beamers, Lexi, and Mercedes, all getting more attention and baths than a newborn baby. 

Exhaust and unbridled development finally forced Meloy to trade SoCal for southern Utah. Air pollution was horrific in the 60's and 70's, an eye-stinging permanent haze hung over L A like a dreary fog... trapped by a Pacific breeze against Coastal Range Mountains. Pollution grew, eventually breaching coastal mountains and flooding valleys to the base of the Sierras. Today, it spills into the Grand Canyon, where, on a bad day, you can hardly make out the bottom. 

The tipping point for Meloy was when she could no longer find the solitude of her childhood. Her most secret places had been found out by throngs of city-dwellers, hellbent to escape  pollution, crime, and stalled traffic. 

The old family cabin became a roadside venue, "where unemployed men drink beer until they pass out beneath the redbud trees." Native Americans and working neighbors were displaced by escalating costs of living... land-grabbing rich folk looking for a slice of Heaven above the insufferable valley heat and haze. As the century rolled over, Meloy could no longer compete with the 30 million people that lived within a days drive of Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite. It was "Utah or Bust."  


I was chewing on Meloy's dilemma while hiking Gray Copper Gulch, a misnomer if there ever was one because all I see up there is "Competition Orange," the color of my old '69 Camero. A cobalt blue sky complemented Red Mountain's "rust." Puffs of white clouds grew as the day wore on, adding interest and photo ops. 


Wonderlands get discovered. People go there. Things change. 

As long as there is a dollar to be made and people have "something" to run away from, the trend will continue... until every last wild place has been tamed by motor-heads and McDonalds. We are drawn to the "pretties" like mosquitoes to blood, and in time end up sucking the place dry of the very reasons we moved there. 

If totally honest, I'm part of the problem. It happened when I joined the Lovely Ouray fan club, and started blogging postcards and singing the praises of mountain living in a place that had yet to be destroyed by the masses. The BCB is not exactly the New York Times, but still, what if it contributes to the Californication of Colorado? What then? You wake up from a bed of roses one day, and suddenly find yourself pricked by the thorns of a moral dilemma.  

It's not so much a matter of "if" as a matter of "when." So the real question is, "how long?" How long till southwest Colorado is singled out on the sidebar of Walmart Rand McNallys and, like Moab, finds itself gridlocked by recreational and motor-head masses? I ask this full well suspecting the "Gold Rush" is already underway.


I'm not blind. I see the absence of parking that now stretches the entire length of Main Street and a block either side, the "nuts-to-butts" line of Jeeps and 4 X 4's that string through town, the chain-gangs of pedestrians... always stopping mid-street to point and snap photos while cars stack up, patiently waiting for heads to come out of asses. Trust me, in summertime a right and around the block is easier and quicker than turning left in Lovely Ouray.


Yes, "they" are coming. You can't stop desperate people with "disposable incomes."


As I write this, schools across America are one by one slipping back into session. The sigh of relief from townies is palpable. Even shop owners are ready for a break. Problem is, nowadays we must contend with the friggin' Baby Boomer "anomaly," War Baby retirees that wait for school to start, and swell lines out the door of Mouses' Chocolates, and anyplace else that sells ice cream. Mouth-drool, like a leaky faucet. Eyes glazed, like a Dunkin' Donut. Minds stalled to one synapse-per-minute, overwhelmed by 30 some-odd libidinous, slow suicide choices, laid out under glass defiled with spittle and fingerprints. 


At the "pass" I gaze at "Gray Copper's" blinding Red Mountain landscape, and wonder. Where could I possibly go from here? What place like this exists that has not yet been discovered? And, more importantly, as with Ellen Meloy, when will the "tipping point" come? As sure as the Pope is Catholic, and for as long as he continues to refuse capitulation on issues of birth control, the earth will continue to shrink under the weight of reproductive robots. 


Maybe I am part of the problem, just like those travel/RV bloggers who cheerlead a Life on the Road where every damn day is peachy keen and smells like roses. I'd like to believe that my humble postcard offerings go unnoticed in a blogosphere cluttered with everything from Porn to Politics, that the BCB doesn't significantly add to Lovely Ouray's demise and "pollution." If I ever do stop blogging—and hardly a week goes by where I don't think about hanging up the old "pen," for a myriad of reasons other than turning "Lovely Ouray" into "L A"—this will be the torpedo that sinks the BCB ship. After all, who wants to be known and remembered as a "Pimp."









In the meantime, have yourselves a good week. I'm off the the Ouray Hot Springs Pool to soak with Leon, who, after only 30 days, is back from Austin, Texas, because he couldn't take the heat. :)
mark


28 comments:

  1. I am sorry to have to tell you that my former place of joy, Rockport Texas, joined the list of former wonderful locations, like you have described, about three years ago. It is no longer a wonderful jewel for the saltwater fisherman, beachcomber and general easy going person. It is no longer on my recommended list. On the other hand maybe we should keep recommending those already ruined places and be quiet on the nice places if we find one.

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    1. Yeah... send them to South Padre Island during spring break :))
      mark

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  2. Finally catching up after two weeks of not reading blogs. Your photos are especially postcard perfect today. When you guys leave Ouray I hope you tell us where you'll be living ;-)
    Gayle

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    1. You will have to take an oath of secrecy :)
      mark

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  3. I think the next good place will be the mountains of central Greece. Farming is leaving and the wolves are returning. There are some obstacles to over come, such as finding groceries and health care, but other than that it's sounding good to me. Everything is just over run - everywhere. Entire towns in the Czech Republic have NO ONE living there because the tourists ran them out. They're all Tee shirt shops now. Same with much of bucolic rural France. I think it's a good time to be old. If you find a good place that's closer, let us know via email. Thanks.

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    1. Expatriate to a failing economy??? Sounds risky, but we'll go if you'll go :))
      mark

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  4. Can't debt I struggle with this one myself. And yes, your pics are postcard perfect.

    Nina

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  5. I moved to a small town in southern Oregon more than 20 years ago in search of a "better" way of life. It doesn't feel right to me to try to dissuade others from doing the same. No easy answers to this one, other than of course, to curb population growth. I've done my part. :-) However, I think the overpopulation issue goes way deeper than Catholic doctrine (and no, I'm not Catholic). As far as solutions? How about stringent environmental controls and not allowing land developers to do whatever the hell they want? There is a lot lovely little towns can do to maintain their integrity—if greed doesn't prove too alluring to the decision makers (and the current landowners).

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    1. Because it is the "land developers" and people with a vested interest in growth at any cost who get onto planning and zoning boards and other "key" decision making positions...
      My cynical two cents worth... mark

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  6. Well, I'm in little Helper, Utah, an old railroad town that I like to come visit every so often. Lots of old boarded-up buildings all up and down Main St., lots of unemployed. But...there's a movement afoot to renovate it and turn it into an art town, which is already starting to change everything. I won't say for better or for worse, as some of the change is cool, but I did hear a local complaining about it all, and one of the newcomers (from SLC, only 2 hours away) wants to make people start cutting down their weeds and getting rid of their junk. This newcomer has only been here 10 years and is a well-known artist. Other well-heeled art types from SLC are buying up the old buildings and turning them into studios and galleries. I've watched this go on for years all over Colorado and have a feeling these guys aren't planning on providing jobs for the unemployed coal miners living here. One of the artsy guys bought a lot with an old garage on it and renovated it so he'd have a place to park his Porsche. Kind of hard for the poor folks to not feel resentment. The Repub types say the poor are jealous of the wealth, but I have news for them, it's not jealousy, it's resentment of the conspicuousness of it and the fact that money can buy about anything, even your old hometown.

    As for Ouray, I remember it as it was back in the 60s and 70s and feel like it's been toast for a couple of decades, if not longer, so I wouldn't worry too much about your contribution, it's already been discovered.

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    1. Ahhh, you've taken me off the "hook." :))
      mark

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  7. I have been dreaming of moving back to Portland TX where I lived for 12 years until I was summoned to come to the Okla. Panhandle to care for the folks. And now I hear the area is having a boom in industries moving in. So maybe Colorado around Buena Vista, but I hear they are booming with West Coasters changing everything. And I can't stay here in my old home town because I don't speak Spanish or 31 other languages. So I am in a major quandary.

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    1. Buena Vista is too close to the Denver Megalopolis... some 4 million motor heads competing for raft space on the Arkansas River, 14'er summits in the Collegiate Range, trails, narrow highways, lakes... etc, etc.. On the bright side, of course, 4 million people is better than 30 million. :((
      I feel your pain,
      mark

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  8. We just returned from a two week visit to Colorado taking in a concert at Red Rocks, hike to Green Mountain Falls, camping in San Juan National Forest and beautiful drive to Silverton. It was salve to our broken hearts having buried our four day old twin grandson, Owen, this winter. You would not suspect our grief as we looked like typical tourists. It was your inviting postcards that called us...come rest and heal. Thank you.

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    1. There is no sorrow so deep that nature can't sooth...
      So sorry for the loss of little Owen.
      mark

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  9. It does not have the beautiful mountains you photo and blog about, nor is it an artsy town but here in 'the tropics' of southern Indiana where I blog about my hounds, we don't have the issues that you speak of. In fact our town population is decreasing each year and we can now claim the highest unemployment in any county in Indiana, as of last night's news. I did witness the population movement you speak of while living on the beach in SoCal in the 80's and then on Whidbey Island in the San Juan islands in the 90's. I read about it taking place from your blog and Chinle's. I find it sad, somewhat depressing ... I agree with Allison, above commenter ... it's a good time to be old. Thanks for the photos of your blog, it expands our minds here in 'the tropics' with humidity off the charts and mosquitoes in force that need their own air traffic controllers. I understand your pain though.

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    1. Thanks, Steve... You can't fight growth in purdy places, and we are running out of new ones.
      mark

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  10. Neither you nor I will live to see it but I think eugenic policy in the US of A will augment abortion policy and the population will decline as it has in other places around the world. Even without such policy the population annual growth rate in the US of A has declined from 1.7% in 1961 to 0.8% in 2015. You and I could see that annual growth rate become negative as it has in Japan.

    Or, maybe we will be part of the Mass Die Off!

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  11. Eventually, the earth will hit the "Reset" button. If I knew where to find it I'd push it now!

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  12. I am guilty of the desire to relocate to a smaller, nature-focused area myself...along with millions of other baby boomers. It's a natural evolution when one is city born and bred with a lust for the outdoors. I don't know what the answer is, because this is America after all, and we have freedom of choice. Perhaps diligent enforcement of environmental laws and restriction of growth...

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    1. Yeah, like the cute little hamlet of Rockville, between Virgin and Springdale, Utah.... they put a moratorium on water taps, and no commercial zoning :))
      mark

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  13. We are all part of the overcrowding problem. Like you, I'm hesitant to share exact locations and instead encourage folks to find their own beauty. Now southern Utah is overrun as well. Is there a place to run to?

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    1. I think southwest Utah is, but south-central and southeast are still in the "slow lane." Don't know if I could take the heat in summer tho :(
      mark

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    2. Utah has their own method to discourage relocation and it's called 3.2 beer.

      Jim

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  14. I find some irony here. In about 1890 there were more than twice the number of residents in Ouray as today. I'm sure the impact on the landscape, habitat and solitude was devastating from the point of view of the indigenous few that lived or visited the Ouray area prior. The postcards still show roads, mine tailings, bits of forest than may never recover to pre-mining era status, tainted creeks. However, most of the people did leave with the end of the first mining era allowing the solitude aspect and some of the habitat to re-establish its previous splendor. Can we at least be hopeful that this next wave of occupation/visitation will be conducted with a lighter footprint? Maybe not.

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    1. You make a good point(s). When I came back out west in '76, Ouray rolled the sidewalks up at3 in the afternoon during winter. The only place open at night was a tavern. Had to go to Montrose to find work.
      mark

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    2. I know... All those years, all those brewpub craft beers, and I couldn't get a buzz. It's their big secret and we should "out" them. :)
      mark

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