Vintage: Colorado

This was originally posted on June 29, 2007.
I’ve always thought that location is very important. If I don’t like where I live and how it affects every day, I will be miserable. Way back when I started blogging (I wrote stupid, boring entries) I was festering in the misery of no longer being happy with where I was and what my life looked like. I spent a year or so, I think, contemplating, studying maps, learning about cities, trying to figure out where to go next. Normally, I don’t spend so much time thinking and planning, but saying “fuck it all” and moving was a big deal and I had a condo to sell and I guess I realized how absolutely important this was.

beach + mountainWhile Ben and I were deciding where to go, I didn’t know who I would become after I got there, but I did know that where I went would significantly affect who I would become. I mean, I was ready to give up my career and the only state I’d ever really known. I don’t like the fact that the way I’m saying this makes me seem like tofu, something that is bland and takes on the flavor of whatever’s around it. I don’t think it’s quite like that, but maybe it is. Imagine if we moved to Vermont. Maybe I’d spend the winters wrapped in chunky knitted scarves and browsing in bookstores. If we moved to a small town along the Oregon coast, maybe I would’ve become kind of beachy, although we’d only last there a year before moving to Portland. If we moved to Bellingham, Washington, we’d grow herbs in our little kitchen where I’d bake pies, but I’m sure we would’ve ended up in Seattle.

I suppose it’s all kind of random and I don’t really know how or why we ended up in Nederland, Colorado. It all kind of makes sense the way it happened, but to this day when I tell people about how we moved from Chicago to Nederland, the universal reaction is WTF. The first time we ever went to Nederland, we got good coffee at a little coffee shop set up in a train car and sat outside under the sun and watched people in the kind of pants you’d wear to go hiking if you know what you’re doing wander around with their large, friendly dogs. Nederland was a perfect little cocoon for a year, but of course we ended up in the city.

The other day I got out my copy of On the Road so I could read the parts about Denver. I think location is important, so when I read the book, I don’t care so much about Dean or Chad King or Carlo Marx or Sal. The only character that matters is Denver itself. Denver is something you think about while you’re speeding across Nebraska or sleeping on the grass in Longmont. It’s hot and there are mountains nearby and there’s a buzz of excitement that starts at Colfax and radiates through the whole city.

Maybe we know more about ourselves than we realize. Did you know, four years ago, that I would be in love with beer and spending as much free time as possible at live sporting events? Did you know that Ben and I would have a house near downtown, a vegetable garden, and a dog, and that I’d have a job I really like and my shit pretty much together? Could you imagine me being anything other than this?

The thing is, if we’d moved anywhere else in the world, I don’t know if any of these things would’ve happened. If we lived in Vermont, I guess I’d get to watch the Frost Heaves play hoops, but I wouldn’t know about Jose Mesa and I wouldn’t be well-versed in the fine art of heckling at baseball games. And you know what else? Maybe even our weaknesses are good things. If I weren’t afraid of flying, we might not have ended up here — I remember looking at maps and thinking about how much it would suck to drive from Washington state to Illinois to visit family, ever, but driving from Colorado would be manageable. Maybe I don’t need to hate the fact that I have issues. My issues are the things that keep me grounded, and without them I’d just be out there doing totally crazy shit.

It’s hot here, and there’s no water, but even better, there are mountains that let you get out of the hot, stifling air. On Sunday, we went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was so hot even in the mountains it was 87 degrees when we left the car at the trailhead. We picked out a trail that led to a lake and went up 2,000 feet and 4.5 miles one way even though we didn’t have enough water. The lake at the end of the trail was, and I’m not kidding, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, clean water surrounded by a beach surrounded by a pine forest surrounded by mountains, like somebody took all the best parts of nature and put them right there in one place. I took off my shoes and walked barefoot on the sand and in the water and right then, even though I was thirsty and even though my legs were tired and even though I knew we had another two-hour hike to get back down the mountain, everything was absolutely perfect.

I don’t know that other people think about place the same way I do. Some of the most intimate relationships I have are those with the places where I live, and maybe that’s why I love it here so much. Denver isn’t showy and doesn’t say much, but every day it presents me with the small things you put together to make happiness. I really love it here, and could you imagine if I didn’t know about Jose Mesa?