Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Fourth of July Thoughts

Welcome to the Fourth of July week. Traditionally it is one of, if not the, busiest weeks of the year for our little tourist town. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Crusty locals and mountain manners:

For the most part, most of us living here like visitors. Visitors bring diversity, the chance to earn a year-round living, and a reminder why most of us choose to live in a small town instead of a crowded city. Like most people here, I really enjoy chatting with visitors. Most appreciate and respect this place and that’s what we all want. But understand that we can be overwhelmed by the numbers and get a little cranky sometimes, so bear with us.

We invited you all here but we do ask that you act like a polite houseguest. Many of us have had weird encounters with a small number of rude guests already. So really quickly, we ask that you slow down—literally and figuratively. The speed limit here, believe it or not, is 15 mph. Consider it charming and part of the adventure. I guarantee if you go 25 a crusty local will scream at you to slow down (I’ve done that already). And you are on vacation, so really take advantage of the place to slow your mind down. Take a walk in the woods, enjoy a cocktail as you wait for your table to have dinner. Understand the kitchen is moving as fast as it can but it might take a while to get your food.

As pretty as they are, please don’t pick the wildflowers since staying in their meadows is how they come back next year. Take a photo instead. Say hi to people on the trail. They’ll say hello back and while that might be weird in the city, it is common here. Don’t throw cigarette butts out your SUV window. A crusty local might just pick it up—and throw it back in your car and that wouldn’t be good for the leather. The water out of the tap here is safe and tastes good. Leave the bottled water on the shelf. Look both ways before crossing the street and say thanks once in a while.

Welcome to our house. Have a good time and we’ll all help you if you respect our home. Thanks.

Internet:

When the population numbers swell like they will this week, those living here know to expect the internet to sloooooow waaaaay dowwwwn. Too many people wanting to Yelp a restaurant, Google “Best Trail” or communicate with their kid who is sitting across the table at the Steep puts enormous pressure on the system. It will take a while to send a text or deliver that photo of the metal dragon at the entrance to town.

When our internet and cell phone service didn’t just slow down but stopped twice in this past week, it brought a combination of relief for some and panic for others. Some enjoyed the break from the electronic dependence on their phone. It was an unusual several hours. They saw the sky’s actual color instead of through an Instagram filter. But for the guy trying to trade his stocks out of the Brexit crash, the reaction might have been one of dread. And if you were supposed to meet your husband at a certain time but were running late, there was no way to let him know. It was very old school. Businesses had to deal with not having access to processing credit cards, so they either went old school or resorted to cash or check. One plane didn’t land at the local airport and was diverted to Montrose. The 911 call system was diverted as well and radios were used to supplement the connection.

The bottom line is that the two days of cut lines showed a heavy reliance on stuff we can’t see but all use—a lot. I’m sure there will be discussion on how to address the local redundancy issue (there’s only one internet line coming in and out of the valley) and if money can be found to address the problem before it becomes a really big and constant problem. Here’s an idea: The U.S. Congress can chop out one fighter jet from the defense budget and probably pay to fix all internet issues for all rural areas in the entire country.

Silly strike:

So about a month ago a viral discussion erupted on some local Facebook pages. As everyone who lives here understands, it is getting more and more difficult for those working here to find an affordable place to live at this end of the valley. That is a problem for a town that wants to stay a real community and not just be a façade that revolves around busy tourist times. Housing has been an issue for decades but the last few years have seemed especially difficult.

Anyway, a FB blowhard who apparently likes attention more than thoughtful debate and solutions called for a worker’s strike on the Fourth of July weekend, including a protest march through town on Friday, July 1. No one was quite sure what hurting local businesses would do to solve the problem but he persisted. Most thought the idea silly—sort of like caving into a hungry three-year-old throwing a public tantrum because he wants to play with daddy’s chainsaw. Okie dokie.

My favorite part of the online discussion was when a worker threatened to throw an egg at “strikers” who marched on Friday afternoon. Showing the valor and courage of those who protested in Selma or Tiananmen Square, the blowhard, who has no job to lose or business to get hurt from a “strike” in the valley—so no real skin in the game—scampered into the shadows and cancelled the march. Courageous conviction personified.

The truth is, helping locals of all economic stripes be able to live near their work and in their community is extremely important to this place. And local officials and citizens are actually working to address the problem. Action is underway and has been documented.

Now, unfortunately I won’t be surprised if this small group strikes and/or tries some disruptive tactics this weekend. They might instead consider an opportunity at free speech and hop in the parade. Instead of berating tourists or not tipping our friends and neighbors trying to pay the rent by actually working, they could perhaps share their message with 15,000 people. Not exactly a fun float but that’s fair free speech on the Fourth.

So understand that while we all care about the issue, most of us are trying to figure it out and do more than stir the poop. I sort of feel sorry for the blowhard since despite a month of bloviating, a magic wand hasn’t yet been found to magically cure the problem. But progress is being made. Affordable housing projects and lotteries are all coming on line this month alone. So a “strike” is stoopid. And people in this valley are smart. If more than five or 10 people “strike” this weekend, I’ll believe Donald Trump will be the next prime minister of England.

Weed:

Yes, marijuana is legal here. Yes, you can buy it to smoke or eat. But you can’t legally do that on the street, in the park or on federal land. So be aware. And don’t overindulge in the edibles. If you want to experiment with them, do so carefully.

The Glaze:

And finally, Crested Butte and the valley lost one of its longtime warriors this past week. Steve Glazer arrived here way back in the day and he passed over to the other side after a battle with cancer. Glaze loved this place and in an effort to protect it became an expert on water issues. There were times he could irritate people on all sides of an issue but the guy knew his stuff and his tenacity has helped keep the place special. I appreciate what he did for Crested Butte and if you like the town, the backcountry, the water, you appreciate him as well whether you knew him or not.

Have a great holiday week, everyone.

—Mark Reaman

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