Monday, January 12, 2015

Rocky Mountain High

I have to admit I have been missing Colorado tremendously lately.

After I graduated from college, I moved back to Florida. I wasn't quite sure what to do next. So, I moved back in with my parents until I could figure it out. I waited tables and also tried a turn as a youth counselor, seeing if I wanted to pursue a career making use of my higher education studies in psychology.

I quickly decided that pasth wasn't for me. What I wanted to be most in life was a writer, but my grandmother challenged me early on, asking, "What are you going to write about? You haven't done anything?"

She was right. I hadn't done anything. At least, nothing worth writing about, so I resolved to do something worth writing about.

I decided to move west.

I don't know if I did anything worth writing about, but I am glad I went, nonetheless.

Not unlike one of my inspirations at the time, Jack Kerouac, I packed up the back of my Jeep Cherokee with whatever it could hold and started driving. I had a college buddy living in Colorado, so I went there and moved into the basement of the house he was renting, sleeping on a folded up sleeping bag on the floor. I went through a couple of different restaurant jobs, until I found one of the best bosses I would ever work for in one of the best restaurants in any corner of the country.

I had been to Colorado before. My dad took us skiing a couple of times to Copper Mountain; I was drawn to the place. I wanted to go back to the mountains, the snow and the evergreens.

I lived in Colorado for four years. I still don't know why I left, but I am glad I did, because if I didn't I never would have met Elise.

Shortly after Elise and I got married, we decided our fates lied west of the Rockies. I took two trips back to Denver to find a job and move the budding family west. The only job I was offered was one working with the Forest Service in Portland, Oregon. I had interviewed for the job by phone, sitting in my hotel room in Denver surrounded by the rotting remains of a late-night Chiptole burrito wrapped and empty bottles of Fat Tire. The salary--though good--wasn't quite enough to make the move. I was flying on fumes by then, burning through my savings quickly as the commercial real estate market in Florida was detirorating quickly. I was trying to catch a falling knife.

A few months later, I would be offered my current job, shortly after our second son, my guiding light, the beacon of hope that pulled me from the doldrums I was experiencing then, was born.

And then, Sitti, yes, I would have adventures worth writing about. I am sad you did not get to hear of them or meet your granddaughter-in-law and our children. You would have loved her.

I do not think about Colorado frequently.

I am currently reading a book my mom gave me for Christmas. The Dog Stars written by Peter Heller, best known as a contributor for Outside magazine, one of my favs. It is a post-apocalyptic yarn. Upon discovering this when I first picked up the book, I almost didn't start it; I felt like the last thing I wanted to read about write now was zombies wandering the ashen plain in search of human meat for food, but I am glad I did.

So far--apart from isolated violence--the book as been replete with beautiful descriptions of the plains just east of the Colorado Foothills that I made my home for a short while.

I don't understand why all post-apocalyptic tales involve society unravelling and the survivors devolving into cannibalistic violence. Wouldn't some vestiges of morale muscle memory from modern civilization also survive? Perhaps not. Perhaps this is too idealistic...and it wouldn't make a very good story if they did.

But the book has made me miss Colorado all the same. I hope to take Elise there someday. We have been skiing, but I have yet to take her to see my Boulder and I would love to take the kids hiking there, too. I want to take Elise to Zolo for margs and guac...the best on the planet.

When I went back in 2007 and 2008, Boulder was already much changed from when I left in 2000. It was becoming more like Aspen and less like the bohemian town I remembered. Zero lot-line McMansions were popping up in town. Restaurants seemed a little more pretentious. But there, still was the crips clear mountain air, the brewpubs, the hiking trails and climbing walls. Maybe I didn't have to go back to Boulder. I have started trying to think of where the next Boulder will be and going there. Maybe it is Fort Collins. Maybe it isn't--ironically enough--in Colorado at all. Maybe it could be Bellingham.

I love living in India, but there are no wide open spaces. No microbrewed IPA or breakfast burritos dripping with spicy salsa and ranchero sauce. Few trails to run on or walls to climb. We are far from snow and crisp mountain air. Though it is a long time off, I am already looking forward to the bittersweet end to our time in India. I know it will be hard to say goodbye to our weekend ritual of going to Sangeetha for dosas and filter koppi or our regular date night to some of the best restaurants Elise and I have ever been to. But the kids need to put a good trail under their tiny feet, walking sticks in hand. Maybe feel some snow on their cheeks and foreheads, then relax in front of a mug of hot chocolate by a crackling fire.

Hannas have thin Brazilian-Indian-Floridian blood, but need the cold and mountains to truly feel alive. 

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