Blinded by the suburban blight of our new valley
November 2, 2007
I feel like Heather O’Rourke, squatting in front of the TV set in that 1982 movie “Poltergeist,” announcing with a mixture of fear and excitement, “They’re heeeere!” Though her hands were on the screen in a pose suggesting an attempt to keep the invaders at bay, her tone seemed as inviting as it was horrified.But instead of ghosts and goblins of frightening proportions, what we here in the Roaring Fork Valley have is an invasion of crooks, creeps and ne’er-do-wells. Witness the recent series of burglaries, the drive-by shooting at a Basalt 7-Eleven, the gunning of a Glenwood Springs cop, and countless other examples as proof that the bad guys have gleefully moved in on our little Shangri-La in the mountains.And while we express horror and revulsion at the antics exhibited by these miscreants, just like little Heather, we seem unable to repress our mounting excitement at the arrival of hordes of newcomers that sweep the creeps along with them like scum washing in with a rising tide.Compare the growing suburbanization of the valley with, say, a certain part of Denver, the dark confines of East Colfax Avenue, where the scum mix with the suits in a never-ending parade of conflicting plots and motives, and you are swept toward the realization that Colfax Avenue has indeed been transplanted here.The indications are ubiquitous, from the growing phalanx of stoplights popping up at unlikely intersections, to the rapid buildup of tacky subdivisions up and down the ribbon of madness known as Highway 82. We even have a stab at true urban development in the construction site called Willits, where pricey lofts loom over sidewalk cafes populated by vomiting drunks and leering loungers, and an increasingly dense warren of buildings boasts of growing commerce and foreign culture.Long gone are the days when the valley was a 40-mile bucolic stretch of ranches and pastures, with the towns of Aspen and Glenwood Springs standing like bookends and a scattering of hamlets strung like minor gemstones in between.These days, the hum of speeding tires mixes with the roar of commuter angst inside the heads of drivers determined to outdo their fellow motorists in a mad Grande Prix zooming from stoplight to stoplight.As the number of cows in the pastures has dwindled, the agricultural depopulation has been matched perversely by spreading volcanoes of residential upheaval in every nook and cranny.Of course, we are not unusual in having to deal with the darker side of all this growth. Wherever humanity begins to crowd together, there comes a point when things turn ugly. Like rats in a box, at some point the crush becomes painful, and some of the rats decide the best move would be to bite the rat next to them. And once the mayhem begins, its main defining expression is one of increased frenzy and destruction.And so it goes here.Naturally, the denizens of true urban America would surely giggle and point at my words as proof that I’m locked in some kind of hallucinogenic time warp and probably should be locked up for my own good and the good of those around me.But that’s only because they’re so used to a heightened level of interpersonal madness and aggression that they have no memory of it ever being any different.But those of us who came to paradise a little earlier, and can still recall the mellow splendor of those times gone by, can only grimace at such sentiments as evidence of a preternatural apathy and depression. And we await our own conversion to a similarly sad mental state with a sense of impending doom.So, as I wait in darkness for the arrival of my departure from a happy state of bliss, I am reminded of the words of Walt Kelly’s noted sage, the cartoon possum Pogo, which I paraphrase as a warning and an acknowledgment of the fate we are approaching:Suburban blight, we have seen you, and you are us.