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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

So, here we are in the land of fruits, nuts and more Toyota Prius sedans than you could shake a stick at.

We’re in California, in case you didn’t catch the reference, doing a whirlwind tour of blood relations on the coast and in the mountains.

There are an awful lot of Prius cars on the roads, so we feel right at home in ours. Our Prius, that is, in case I’m not being clear, which should be understandable given that I’m attempting to operate at a far lower altitude than I’m used to and my brain feels a little sluggish.

Or perhaps it’s not the altitude. It could be the half-bottle of wine I consumed last night, sipping away with my brother-in-law in a small town near Yosemite National Park while our abstemious spousal units watched in a slack-jawed combination of awe and mild amusement.

Or similar quantities of wine or Scotch whisky (on different nights, I assure you) I’d consumed earlier in the week on the coast with another brother in law.

This seems to have devolved into a drinking binge, but that’s not the case. It’s all strictly celebratory. I am NOT an alcoholic, although some of my best friends are and I respect them utterly.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah, there are a lot of Prius cars on the roads here, which I presume has contributed to a reduction in the smog content of the air in Los Angeles. I noticed that as we drove along the 210 highway on our way to Santa Barbara. The lack of smog, that is. In case I’m not being clear. Which the air was. Clear, that is.

Out in Wisconsin, where my rapscallion brother and sister live, they refer to our Prius with some disdain.

“Oh, it’s just so precious,” my sister declaimed one day. “It doesn’t even put out smog. It puts out smug.”

Hence, the clearer air. In Madison as well as Glendale, Calif., a suburb of L.A. which at one time was the smoggiest place on Earth, if memory serves.

I went there once at the age of 13 with the family of a friend, and after a week had passed I couldn’t draw a deep breath without pain. We went to Disneyland one day and I was miserable the entire time, unable to breathe and wondering if I was dying of some exotic malady.

I didn’t, of course, and by the time we I got on the train all alone to head back to the Midwest (another adventure, for another time) I was breathing normally again. Which made me wonder about the general well-being of all those Glendale people whose lungs also had adapted to that high level of smog.

But, hey, I was 13, and that wonderment lasted about as long as it took the train to leave the station.

Thereafter, my attention was drawn to other things, such as the fact that there were at least two families on the train with cute daughters who liked to sit in the dark in the observation car at night and giggle (as I said, another adventure, for another time).

Anyway, here we are in California, which, like Colorado, was settled by Hispanics long before white folk came along, as evidenced by all the Spanish-type names attached to just about everything.

Of course, there still are a lot of people here of Hispanic derivation, in all walks of life. From a car driving through farm country, for instance, many of them can be seen working in the fields, doing jobs that presumably most white folk wouldn’t stoop to. Literally.

While we drive along, I begin to wonder why so many white folk in so many places where Hispanics were there first (not to mention Native Americans, but that’s another story) are so livid about Hispanics who try to retain some part of the culture they left behind when they came to the United States.

I don’t know about you but almost every time I belly up to my neighborhood bar, I end up being harangued by somebody who’s pissed off that the most commonly spoken language in the aisles of our local supermarket seems to be Spanish.

“Why don’t they learn English?” is the angry question.

To which my responding question is, “Why didn’t your ancestors learn Spanish when they came here and stole the land from those who were already here? Or if they did, why didn’t they pass it on to you? Then maybe you wouldn’t be asking me these dumb questions!”

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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