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In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Friday, July 06, 2007

(what now, what now, wha-at now, what now)

Capping off Grizzly Bear's epic Yellow House album is the song "Colorado", which has the blogtitle (it's one word! get with the program!) there as its chorus. The entire time I was in Colorado, I kept hearing it in my head.
I loved the state. It has moments that rival the greatest aspects of both Oregon's and Montana's landscape, and there's so much more of it. As Bee rightly pointed out, you can feel that there isn't some guy's house right around the corner; you're in the middle of fucking nowhere, which is pretty much where I like to be.

It was hot, and the air was noticeably thinner. Cottonwood blew not-lazily but aggressively through the air. The town of Remote Mountain Village (as per Aunty Christ, and which is loomed over by a peak that is redundantly titled Mount Remote Mountain Village. Maddening.) is both a natural wonderland and a place where the children of the rich come to get their swerve on. And Texan Tourists? I only thought that I hated them worse than dental receptionists. Now I Know.
All the architecture is well-kept 1880's style: from my years as a ghost town-obsessed young boy, I remembered not only the names of many of these places, but pictures of them as well. Put shortly, none of them were bona fide ghost towns then, and haven't been for at least twenty years now.
Ouray springs to mind as an example. It felt like our hotel room was a set from 'Deadwood', but in a nice way. An overwhelming feeling of History, like I was walking in the footsteps of those same bastids who mined the living hell out of these beautiful mountains, searching for gold.
Their descendants now mine self-same mountains for molybdenum and copper, utterly fouling the water supply. One of the few things that would cause me not to retire to a place such as this (after making my fortune, you understand) would be that particular fact.

In fact, Colorado and places like it are environmental barometers. The snowpack melts ever-earlier, and is contaminated (it is said) by that giant toxic dust cloud from Asia.
But I still love the fact that it is both a place where I can see nothing at all in the way of a city, but has also learned that tourists are best lured by fantastic food.

Liked the lady's friends, too. Got to hold the one-month-old offspring of one of them. I always like to do that: take the kid off the hands of the already-going-a-little-nuts new mother, and see if I can lull it into sleep. I do okay.
"You like holding babies," said Bee, and she's right: I do. It's interesting too to note that some of the most evil looks you, as a man, will ever get off of a woman of Grandma-age is when you are a man holding a baby that is crying.
Fuck that. Babies cry. That is all, and I do better than many women I've known on the subject.
The friend? Glad to not have to hold the kid for a few, I figured.

From the mountains to the plains: in Gunnison (often noted as the coldest place in the Lower 48, right next to Meacham, Oregon and International Falls, Minnesota), we purchased Cowboy Hats. They keep, it turns out, the sun off your face.
Whenever I think of Colorado, I think of mountains. The license plates themselves give you this bias, as did "Mork and Mindy". But of course, most of it is anything but.
My last experience with the state was in 1985, and outside of Mesa Verde (which you all gotta go check), my impression was gleaned from Cortez, Colorado. A place in the desert that also happened to be a strip mall hellscape.
That was the summer when I was writing the unpublished (and underappreciated!) Stoic Observer's Guide to Travelling the West. Yeah, gonna have to dig that particular notebook out.
The point being, on one hand I view the state of Colorado as being a glen up in the mountains, where the hippies dance and make macrame. On the other, I view it as being as lovely as Nevada.

It's always a treat to read the local papers, too. The Denver Post being what passed for that sort of thing around there (actually, the two papers Bee used to work for were there, too, but they don't have the ever-important crossword puzzles).
Buncha assholes, these Den-verians. I read a wonderful letter from a man who found that whole Pride Festival thing he- for some reason- attended to be shocking and lewd. Man was just looking for fun at the Civic Center, you know? Take the kids! Hot dogs! Why'd he take them to the big Queer thing? I don't exactly know, but here was a Perfectly Heterosexual Gentleman who had his precious Sensiblities offended, and...
One might find the same screed in the Portland paper, though, and I think that I have. More interestingly/annoyingly though; you don't see as much unbridled enthusiasm for the concept of patriotism around here. This leads to earnest young chaps such as Christopher Rawlings not only writing op-eds, but getting them published in the Post:

"It's a good thing that America is still around."
(Oh good. I'm looking forward to you formulating some sort of argument to back up this thesis statement.)

That assertion could be a tough sell to many among the cultural elite of America and Europe, but it's something most of us accept without much reservation. Simply put, the world is a better place with America in a position of global power."
(Oh. Well, I suppose when you're done pointing fingers at the easy targets, you'll get back to defending your now somewhat expanded basic point.)

If nothing else, Independence Day is a celebration of what America stands for and the happy fact that we're still around, standing up for the things we famously stand for: America is still about freedom and opportunity, here and abroad; our free market enables economic success unparalleled in the world; and, despite the frantic efforts of the ACLU and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, we're still one nation under God. These are all noble ideals and the world is better to have an America that bothers defending them."
(I suppose it's best to continually underscore your happiness at the happy facts that we're all rightfully happy about -and again do some demonizing of some easy targets-but then ending on a somewhat indefinable note and then repeating yourself seems a bit...Soft headed.)

But that's the point: The ideals are only noble so long as they're worthy of being defended. It's great that you believe in freedom of the market and freedom of religion and speech. But it takes more than a cutesy bumper-sticker to protect those freedoms. As it turns out, arms aren't just for hugging."
(Yeah! Yeaaah! Right on!-er, What? Okay; ideals that you're willing to kill for are the only worthy ones, I believe you're saying. How...odd. Then-somewhat ridiculing Constitutional rights because there's some of us who know The Truth, and Should Speak, and then there's Others who...Well, You Know [rolls eyes]...Then the author ridicules a bumper sticker that he takes issue with.)

Serious countries don't subsist for long on sweet-sounding slogans. It takes a fighting spirit and a willingness to defend a nation in existential crisis."
(Man, I'd forgotten how to be a serious country! Especially one overtaken by Fear and Trembling/The Sickness Unto Death. I didn't realize you right wing pigeons read so much Kierkegaard! After this, the author tells a pointless story about Washington at Valley Forge, for some reason leading to...)

Republicanism was derided by the fancy- pants leaders in Europe as myopic, the war seemed too difficult and too costly, and many initial war supporters backed out as political pressure mounted for a "peaceful conclusion" (read: surrender). Thinking about that puts me in a time warp. Add the Air Force, the Internet, and a baseball team in Denver and it begins to sound a lot like America today and the ongoing war on terror. (OK, maybe scratch the baseball-team part.)"
(One of the most damning things one may call another in this, the country that is terrified of the idea that someone, somewhere just might think they're Better Than You is 'fancy pants'. The fact that this usage was deemed acceptable by some editor is simply charming. And hey: know what we have in Colorado? The Internet! )

Maybe American ideals just aren't seen as being at risk. The usual argument in favor of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq goes something like this: Just as the war won't help us, quitting won't hurt us. But there is something narrow and naïve about that assumption. A loss to al-Qaeda in Iraq is a loss to al-Qaeda everywhere. Our credibility and future lie in balance - and the truth is that we cannot succeed in Afghanistan or Iran or anywhere else if we can't succeed in Iraq. Iraq is the proverbial canary in the coal mine."
(Well yes, that's what they say, anyway. I keep forgetting that our 'credibility' is somehow involved with our success in Iraq, and that as we all know, this base of our 'success' is still somehow a flashpoint for this international terrorist organization that may or may not exist. Comfortably omitted here is the idea that perhaps we are making allies of sects in Islam that have actively loathed each other for centuries.)

"But what we don't see is the realignment of power in the region that hinges a lot less on whether you are Sunni or Shiite, Arab or Persian, Iraqi or Pakistani than whether or not you're Muslim - or, more accurately, a Muslim who has pledged his life in fighting the Great Satan. The Jihadist ideology has grown to encompass unlikely allies, and it is this ideology and the proponents thereof that we are up against in Iraq."
(Whoops. Nope. There is the omitted point, although now being used to justify further incursions into sovereign lands elsewhere who will also, no doubt, welcome us as liberators.)

Your neighbor may be perfectly content in seeing this one through with a witty bumper sticker on his Saab. But for America and its national ethos - formed in 1776 to remain the global standard - it will take a whole lot more than stickers."
(Ha. 'Saab'. Funny car name. But really: sloganeering is foolish, unless practiced by some bright bulb with no idea what he is talking about; in which case it is that good, wholesome horse sense. In Your Heart, You Know He's Right. It Just Makes Good Sense.)

Pardon that. Regardless of where you are, the Fourth of July is an endless reminder that to be American is to be complicated, when not merely being vindictive and childish. The local radio station in Remote Mountain Village spent much of the day playing the music of true rebellion: Sixties shit.
I love them for it: they played "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", by that greatest of all American bands (though all but one of them was from Canada): The Band. A reminder, again: nothing but conflict, and things to talk about. There are people who view The Brother's War (my favorite name for it yet: 'Deadwood' again) as a personal matter to this day.
That evening, as we sat by the riverside in an enormous valley, in between giant mountains streaked with iron-y reds and copper-y greens, they played what pretty much seemed like the entire 'Woodstock' soundtrack. It just seemed right. To rebel against the endless non-questioning and again-automatic vindictiveness that characterizes our nation is the true revolution, if I may get all teary-eyed from all the soap in this box.

They ended off with Dylan's "Song To Woody", which summed it up nicely: for all the time we spend loving the hell out of the men who rip off the tops of mountains to find the pretty rocks underneath, leaving the rest of us undrinkable water for starters, every now and again someone with a folksy smile and a clear voice wanders down the road, singing songs for the rest of us, and reminding us that the real duty we have is not to the Nice Men who own the mines, but the resta these dumb bastards down here in the valley.

Shit. Way off track there. Colorado. Really loved it. Hope to take This One Here back there one day, after we make Our Fortunes, and live there as Decent Old People who Just Fucking Know Better Than You, now go get me a goddamn drink.



Blogger stevo said...

I read your analysis of Christopher Rawlings' op-ed piece, and laughed and laughed. I love small town papers.

The one I worked for was stuck in a time-warp. The columns of bored nosy neighbors about who visited who were enough to make you consider moving, or having a vasectomy.

1:55 PM  

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