My wife and I appear to have survived our semiannual trip to Denver for a visit with our son. Since we’re still picking up physiological and psychological pieces, I can’t guarantee that Humpty Dumpty will be back together again by the end of the week. In fairness, I cannot lay this trauma at D-Town’s mountainous doorstep. A fifteen-hour drive would be a tall order for two sexagenarians even with the Pearly Gates as its destination. Neither of us has flown in years—the slaughterhouse chuting and prodding and penning up that goes with air travel these days makes my libertarian blood boil. Yet car trips of long duration in any direction tend to give me horrible migraines. The Extremely Low Frequency Waves transmitted constantly by the vehicle’s motion do something really painful to my nervous system. This time I kept a bag of quartz crystals behind my neck to draw off some of the energy, and that worked pretty well (quartz is an All Star conductor of electricity); but I’d still rather be on foot in strange places, as I was when I walked two different 600-mile tours of the British Isles in my twenties.
About now, you’re thinking, “Gee, this guy sounds like he should fit right into Denver culture.” I know, I know: it has been my lot as a true conservative throughout my life to puzzle people on both sides of the aisle. Faux-cons can’t understand why I don’t warble excitedly about the benefits of technological progress for the free market and individual economic opportunity. (But wouldn’t such excitement indicate… oh, I don’t know—maybe progressivism?) Meanwhile, what has very carelessly come to be called the “liberal” manifests a concern for preserving life’s natural rhythms… up to a point. The trouble with “liberals” (and I wish that faux-conservative propaganda would allow me to call them “progressives” without ambiguity) is that they know little about nature and nothing about life. They play at knowing and loving both; and in their childish fantasy, they usually end up destroying one without soaking up any wisdom from the other.
Which brings me back to why I just can’t stand Denver (or, for that matter, contemporary Austin, where I passed the happiest years of my childhood): The place is a Disneyworld sitting on the crater of a supervolcano. This is quite literally true, inasmuch as the next eruption of the subterranean dynamo upon which sits Yellowstone Park will most certainly prove a Hiroshima event to Colorado. Yet what I have in mind is more figurative. Denver society is a stew of fantasists. Like Austin, it has a substantial hippie-refugee population; and the abuse of the word “refugee” reminds me that both cities are also “sanctuaries” for adventurous migrants in search of tax-free cash and tax-funded freebies. The old hippies, to the extent that they recognize the eventual collapse of the commonwealth in open-border politics, cheer the ruin of the capitalist system. The younger ones…
I know you don’t call them “hippies” now, and I haven’t heard “space cadet” used for years. I have no single word for them. They wear rings in any or all portions of their face, sport tattoos in places that clothing used to cover, design their hair with hedge-clippers before dying it with whatever’s among the kindergarten art supplies, select mates for a week or a month without any apparent attention to gender, devote most of their loving attention to small screens in their palms, and will probably bequeath whatever wealth they may amass in life to their dog. Dogs… wow! Mates come and go, children are a rare sight unless trailing after a Third World migrant in staircase order—but the shaggy canine is lover, child, and very best friend. (I think the Denver word for that is “bae”, a term to which I was first exposed through a Littleton billboard that showed a white chick and a black chick in lip-smacking embrace). If a dog’s legs could only pump pedals, you’d see human-canine pairs, both helmeted, on their Schwinns all around the town.
So what’s my big problem—I who drive balancing a bag of quartz behind my neck—with thinking outside the box? My problem is that I don’t perceive the thinking: I see only children dressing in outlandish combinations of clothes while Mom and Dad are away and the babysitter is taking a nap. Question: if you have to overhaul city streets expensively amid great swirls of dust and pitch in order to create biking lanes, how is bike-riding a boon to the economy or the environment? Or if you drive up into the Rockies three times a week with your bike strapped to your 35-mpg buggy, aren’t you nevertheless contributing to tremendous traffic congestion while also overrunning the wide-open spaces along with other cycle-meditators of your faith?
And as for religious faith… why are Denver churches never Baptist or Methodist or Episcopal? Why are they the Gopher Gulch House of Love or the Cowboy Christ Worship Family? Just because you can’t abide subordinating your thoughts and inklings to any established designation doesn’t mean you’re a free thinker or a true believer. It may mean you’re a mush-head who has no notion of how to think or feel about anything profoundly.
And speaking of marijuana… one really devastating, perhaps fatal, unforeseen consequence of legalizing weed may well prove to be the legislative magnet thereby created for unproductive social leaches. As a quasi-libertarian myself, I understand the appeal of the general argument; but the practical effects of making “artificial paradise” readily available include drawing in people dedicated to fleeing reality.
I’ll bet native Denverites are every bit as dismayed at what has happened to their homeland as my grandfather was by what happened to Austin. I feel for them. Their dream—yesterday’s reality, now a fantasy as remote as any socialist utopia—is irreparably shattered.
I’ll close this ramble with one more example of reality slamming into Playtime at Daycare. I’ve always dreaded Denver weather. The bottomless violet dawns are invariably traitors: by mid-afternoon you may be running for your life from a hail storm. During this trip, however, I began to notice how many contrails immediately start collecting across the sky as the sun strokes the mountain peaks. There are two commercial airports and one military strip in the Denver area. It’s unimaginable to me that the dizzying accumulation of cirrus streaks from all the jet activity plays no role in the region’s schizophrenic weather. While all the conscientious young liberals are denouncing us as planet-murderers for not outlawing industry and legally requiring of everyone the purchase of a 35-mpg Virtue Buggy, a much more credible and observable engine of weather change (who knows what long-term climatic effects it may have?) is air traffic. What would the “wee brainy things” (as a Scots woman aptly termed them during one of my European tours) do without their jets? How would they get to the next climate conference? How would they get home for Thanksgiving, or how would they get to Seattle to rekindle an old flame for a weekend? With 87,000 flights per day in U.S. (out of 100,000 worldwide—and those figures are likely just commercial jetliners), we are directly and immediately seeding the upper atmosphere with heat disruptive of natural pattern. Yet we’re supposed to be worrying about SUV’s?
What a place. It has its charms, as do all amusement parks; but as a viable major metropolis whose influence increasingly dominates the Midwest, Denver is a nightmare-in-becoming to this tree-hugging conservative.