I yell “base” as I cross the state line back into Colorado from New Mexico. It feels as if I’m playing a game of tag with all the idiocy down south, and once I make it into the mountains, I’m safe. I’ve made it to my base.
I’m not sure how it is that two cities that are such polar opposites cropped up so geographically close to each other. It makes sense if we stick with the magnetic metaphor because polar opposites always attract, but it usually doesn’t work that way with cities. San Francisco is a lot like San Diego, New York is a lot like New Jersey. But Durango Colorado is a blue mountain town full of culture and education; thirty miles south across the state line, Farmington New Mexico is a red town full of strip malls and natural gas. Durango is verdant and crisp, Farmington is a brown desert. The former is populated by outdoorsy liberals with affable smiles, the latter is plagued with quasi cowboys who spout platitudes like “love it or leave it.” And for the record, I left it.
The family and I moved down here to the Four Corners from Alaska six years ago to escape the dark winters that aren’t advertised in the tourism commercials. Farmington looked good enough, so we bought a house. We settled in, and that “new car smell” that comes with a new home masked the bullshit that’d eventually spur me north. To be fair, Farmington has a few redeeming qualities. There’s an authentic Thai restaurant downtown. The parks are nice, and the parking is free. But maybe the parking is free because time spent in Farmington is something which has to be given away. And Farmington is close to plenty of cool places to be; you can get to Phoenix or Denver or Santa Fe in a few hours. I clung to those pros and lived in Farmington for six years, but the truth eventually bitch slapped me: if the best thing about a place is the fact that it’s close to someplace else, maybe one should just go to that “someplace else.”
I was dumbfounded the first time we drove north out of New Mexico. There’s a brief no-man’s-land in between the “you’re leaving New Mexico” and “welcome to Colorado” signs, and as soon as you make it through, the land changes. The air cools. Nature intensifies and you can tell that you’ve made it to greener pastures. It’s as if some natural boundary holds in all of Colorado’s awesomeness. It feels like you’re popping out of a bubble, or maybe driving into one.
Back home in Farmington, I was used to the antiquated architecture that comes from the quick and cheap expansion associated with natural gas booms. I was used to the desolate and decrepit parts of town that came from periods of economic collapse when the tycoons would take their money elsewhere. I was used to shittiness. Adversely, Durango is a vacation town. Durango is a college town. Durango is a town fueled by thought and art and play. It was a night and day difference, and I fell in love. My trips north became ever more frequent. And at times, as I walked amongst the streets, where one must pay handsomely for parking, I’d forget that I was homesick, because I felt at home. I fit in. Hell, I already looked like one of the locals (affectionately referred to as “Durangatang”).
Eventually, the trips north didn’t cut it. We’d come up for Easter Egg hunts and good sushi, but the hour drive each way was taxing. And inevitably, the locals would ask where we were from as we rubbed elbows. I’d say “Alaska” at about the same time my wife would say “Farmington.” She and I would laugh and explain the lapse, but it’d always be too late. As soon as the local heard that we lived in Farmington, they’d get this “aw, that’s too bad” look on their face and desperately look for something nice to say like “well… you have a Sam’s Club, so I guess that’s something.” Then they’d politely excuse themselves and leave us to our exclusion.
We had to move. So we did; we decided to live in a vacation town, which felt like an euphony. To live where one is supposed to vacation? It was genius. We rented out our home in Farmington and found a bucolic little paradise up here. I got a Colorado driver’s license as soon as I could so I could prove that I was a local, and I’ve never been happier. Seriously; I am in fact happier now than I have ever been. I used to wake up in the middle of the night back in Farmington with no clue where I was. I’d have to search the walls for familiarities or reach over for my wife just to anchor my thoughts in reality. Here, that hasn’t happened once. The air up here is a nepenthe for my thoughts, and I’m at peace. I’ve decided to go back to school and take this writing thing seriously, because if I could live here in Durango, while feeding my children by doing what I love, I’d finally have that consonance between profession and life that leads to true happiness.
But to be fair, Durango has its downfalls too. It gets a bit crowded at times, probably because everybody is a fan of awesomeness, and it’s a bit cooler (which is something I love, but my wife, not so much). There are a few asses on the streets with their jacked up brodozers (large trucks with smoke stacks meant to compensate for something else) but that’s alright, no place is perfect. In a yin-yang, there’s always that little dot of black in the white, representing that little bit of bad in the good. The free parking in Farmington is their little dot of white in the black. That little bit of good in the bad wasn’t good enough for us, so here we are, and here I write. I’m proud to be a Durangatang, and now when people ask where we’re from, we answer in unison: here.
I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI