In my 20s, I hung out in the sexy parts of Colorado fairly often. I would say that Aspen is the sexiest of the sexy. I had a good friend who’s parents owned a condo at the bottom of Little Nell (a ski lift). These excursions were usually in the summer when, back in the 70s, the population was less glamorous than during ski season. It was nothing for us to drive up there from Denver for the weekend. I spent a lot of time with them. The sexiest parts were getting dolled up (“Take off your glasses Martha!” “But Bess, if I do that I can’t see!” “You don’t have to see. You have to be SEEN!!!”) to dance and drink at the Red Onion.
People don’t think of it this way, but Aspen is surrounded by legit Colorado and on those summer nights, if I took I took my Jack Daniels outside the Red Onion for a little fresh air and break from the noise and sat down at one of the tables set up on the sidewalk, I was likely to share the space with a cowboy and his beer.
I spent some winter times there, too, skiing at Snowmass with my boyfriend’s parents and watching women in restaurants drop their fur jackets on the floor beside their chairs. There were also lines of cocaine (it was the 70s, and I was young) that left me wondering if I’d ever sleep again and why anyone found that fun at all (I didn’t). In the swirling 70s mystique cocaine in Aspen was part of the sexiness. I even happened to be at my friend’s apartment when a scary ragabash showed up with a bag of uncut coke. My friend — a young, talented Aspen architect — bought it, we snorted some. I was “up” for three miserable nights and days, hating every minute of it, and that was the end of that social experiment, for me, anyway. My friend died a few years later at 35. Nothing sexy about that, nothing sexy about a wasted life.
I spent time — and skied some hills — in less sexy parts of Colorado, too. My favorite not-all-that-sexy ski mountain was Arapahoe Basin. Still, it was sexy in its way, too, sexy in the “I’m the highest ski mountain anywhere” kind of sexy. It was sexy in the “Only extremely cool real Coloradans who are able to drive over Loveland Pass come here.” I was there every weekend one winter. I do not know if there is a pass anywhere that my VW Bug wasn’t ready to take on.
So here is am in South Central Colorado in a flat, mysterious, ancient valley ringed by mountains, a hard-working valley where potatoes are cultivated and giant trucks carry them off to points north, south, east and west. The other night, a visiting friend and I drove across Heaven’s fields — potatoes, alfalfa, hops, barley — and she said, “This is the Colorado people don’t know. It’s not the sexy part.”
I said, “Yeah, but you know, last time I drove out of this valley to go to Colorado Springs all I could think was ‘every other place is bullshit’.” My friend agreed. She lives in proximity to a somewhat sexy part of the state (Durango and Telluride) but her town might be smaller than mine.
I pointed to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, about to be hit with late afternoon light and I said, “See those? Those are MY mountains. And these fields here? They’re mine. And that immense changing sky? That’s mine, too. There’s a river over there. It’s one of the perqs of living here. It’s my river.” I said “my” but in fact, I belong to them, heart and soul.
She’s the friend who acted as my real estate agent when I wanted to move here. She said, “I was so worried when you said you wanted to live here. I couldn’t imagine you not hating it.”
“I knew I wouldn’t hate it.” My heart filled as it often does here in Heaven. “It’s the best thing I ever did, move here. But no, it’s not sexy. It’s legit.”
Today I went to visit the dogs and take a drive through the legit part of Colorado where I live, past the neat, rich Amish farms, the small herds of sheep, the cattle on the distant fields, the two beautiful mules near the kennel. Summer birds swooped and hunted and sun behind the San Juans made them silhouettes. Fields that had been irrigated were filled with wild iris.
Not in the least sexy.