It’s a breach of bathroom etiquette to piss right next to someone else. Everybody knows that. If someone’s using a urinal, you leave an empty one between you and him. If it’s impossible to do so, you still don’t piss right next to him—you use the stall. If all the stalls are full, and you’re forced to use a urinal right next to a stranger, you do so without saying a damn thing. You stare straight ahead at the wall with laser focus like a pissing robot and you do your business. That’s how bathrooms work; I didn’t write these laws, but I follow them. And really, if you think about it, bathroom etiquette is like a parable for the rest of life. It’s a cultural miniature for the rest of our social interaction: you give people their space through propriety and respect.
The Telegraph has been around forever. I’ve read their paper for a few years’ worth of Thursdays. Their articles are real and organic and homespun. That paper grows out of our streets like a poplar and they’re an authentic representation of Durango. They’ve published my work and mailed me checks with handwritten thankyous. Their format is perfect, and from a capitalist point of view, I guess that’s why it was stolen by the Ballantine Cartel. DGO has fancier blue boxes, lacquered and shining in the spring rain, but other than that, they’re an ersatz carbon-copy of the real deal. Seriously though, why would they do that? Why would they decide to copy The Telegraph so blatantly and then even choose the same day for their free publication run? Was it an overt attempt to snuff out local media? God damn it DGO, Thursday was The Telegraph’s urinal. You should choose another. And stop pandering so goddamn much. We get it. You like bicycles and pot and you’re one of us, earthy and artsy in your “Durango Rocks” T shirt, and we should trust you for your trendiness.
You know that guy who shows up to dinner parties with a bottle of wine just so he can spout off ad-nauseam about the tannins and whatnot? He annoys me. Don’t get me wrong, I love good wine and I love hearing about it from people like Allen over at Put a Cork in It, but every once in a while, I want to remind everyone that it’s just alcoholic grape juice. It’s no big deal. And pot is the same way. I don’t need to read weekly articles about obscure designer strains; that shit is just otiose nonsense because when you get right down to it, pot is just a weed that grows out of the ground. You light it on fire and breathe in the smoke and then smile about it. It’s no big deal. And it’s definitely not something big enough to build a publication upon. And let’s not forget that The Herald, Ballantine’s flagship, was vehemently opposed to legalized marijuana, but now that it’s legal, they’ve jumped on the pro-pot bandwagon as if we readers have no memory. So write about something else DGO (after you choose a different urinal).
This is where I switch it up and talk about my own hypocrisy. I thought DGO was an independent startup the first time I noticed one of their blue boxes. I sent them one of my articles because I love seeing these words of mine in black print on grey paper. I never received a response, and if I’m being honest, I’ve been nurturing a petulant resentment ever since. And now, since I’ve discovered that DGO is a subsidiary of an out-of-town interest, I have the moral luxury of saying that “I’m glad they didn’t publish my stuff,” but it’s a lie. Hell, if they ever offered me a writing job, I’d disavow this entire article like a repenting born-again zealot and sign up without my soul if necessary. That’s how desperate I am to be a professional writer. But as a reader? As a local who’s allergic to the counterfeit? Well in this role, I choose to read The Telegraph. I choose to watch their racks go empty day after day while stacks and stacks of dated DGOs end up in the magazine graveyard in front of the treadmills at the Rec Center. I choose to sit here on my manufactured moral high-ground and support the only true local paper, The Durango Telegraph.
But I’m a realist. I’m sure that the DGO team knew exactly what they were doing. I’m sure they knew that they were going against bathroom rules. In the real world, principal is pointless and money comes first. So DGO sauntered up right next to The Telegraph’s urinal and whipped it out and started pissing. They didn’t even look at the wall; they turned their head slowly and made uncomfortable eye contact. They looked down into The Telegraph’s urinal and cocked a derisive eyebrow—DGO’s money was bigger. It sucked. And why shouldn’t they? Their repetitive pot segments attract all sorts of advertising dollars from our one hundred and one local dispensaries, and there’s still something novel about legal pot. This is especially true for tourists. If they walk through our town and see one of those shiny blue boxes, they’re going to open it and smile when they see a free newspaper covered with green crosses and pot leaves. They’re going to read it, thinking that it’s part of us, and they’re going to validate a poser from out of town. It pisses me off.
Eventually, money wins. Always. When 92.9 The Point first came on the air, they promised us to be “no talk and all music” forever. It was beautiful but too good to be true. People are more receptive to oblique advertising that’s masked as a conversation, and the temptation was too great. The Point introduced a seemingly innocent morning show, “the breakfast club,” that’s chock full of not-so-subtle marijuana advertising and a shit-ton of talking. Son of a bitch. What did I expect? Did I think that The Point’s puppet master, American General Media, would be any more benevolent than the Ballentine Cartel? Did I really think that they’d just give me music and no talk just because they were nice people? Hell no. They did what they did to make as much money as possible, and eventually, they’ll grow up to be a normal radio station just like all of the other all-talk-no-music stations in this town. They’ve since changed their motto to “the most music in Durango,” but soon, I’m sure it’ll be “92.9 The Point. We’re just like everybody else.” Jesus, hasn’t anyone learned about the life and death of great media from MTV’s horrible demise? Hasn’t anyone figured out that honest originality and an adherence to principal can also be profitable in more ways than one? Knock it off. It’s been a couple decades, but I still want my MTV. Give me my music. Give me my independent newspaper that’s free on Thursday. Give me less greed and less imitation and give The Durango Telegraph space in the bathroom. Thanks.