Durango is without a doubt one of the friendliest towns in the United States, but like all good things in life, it takes a test of will to get there. The roads from Silverton to Durango are lined with cliffs, but not guard rails. Driving on that road is a sweaty palmed business, with an epic backdrop to distract even the most dedicaed drivers. Throw a bunch of massive trucks on the roadway, and you get the road from Silverton to Durango.
Safely in the town, Eric and I were finishing our delicious enchiladas at the, “Zia Taqueria” restaurant, wondering what to do next. Isabel wouldn’t get back from New Mexico where she was working for a little while, so we had some time to kill in this strange new town. We went to Main Street, the center of the area, and probably the best place to get a drink.
The area was decked out in traditional western architecture. The town has been around since the 1800’s, with placards on the wall, and even a seize and desist sign for one of the bars during prohibition. With all of these gritty reminders of the dangerous western past, I found something I had never seen, nor was ever expecting.
On the corner of main street, outside of the Coldstone ice cream shop there was a group of middle school aged kids wearing matching outfits, singing and dancing in a Glee Club/ Broadway style. It was like a flash mob, but a crowd was seated before these kids, and they had a tip jar which was almost full.
Then we got a call from Isabel, “Hey where are you guys?”
“You’ll never guess whats going on in front of your cold stone. A group of middle school kids have taken one of the corners, and are now doing broadway style singing and dancing.”
“Oh its those kids again. They are there all the time.” I was astonished.
At no place where I’m from in New York could parents get far enough away from the public not to have their kids ridiculed at least a little bit. In Durango, there was a large crowd not only of parents, but a bunch of random people from the town. The talent was questionable, but the support for these kids trying to live out a dream was outstanding. I was amazed, intrigued, and needed to see more.
Colorado people are optimists. Their positivity overrides any cynical feelings, or sometimes even realistic ones. The characteristics I have slowly grown to enjoy the most, though it can sometimes annoy a dying cynic like myself. My first reaction to this even was to kick the kids off the street, but as I sat there longer, I realized this was a truly wonderful thing. At no other place I can think of would this continue in such a positive way, which makes Durango Colorado one of the most characteristic towns in the U.S.
Isabel found us before we could see her. She is a beautiful woman, with an excellent body, brown hair, and a contagious smile. We nearly failed physics lab together, blowing fuses left and right, stealing calculations and doing anything that would keep us from actually having to focus on the physics lab at hand. I hadn’t seen her in three years, and she greeted me with one of those contagious smiles.
“Lets go get a drink.” She said to us, and Eric and I followed her to the Lady Falconburgh’s bar on the main strip of Durango. We had come on their happy hour day, with a dollar off drinks. We ordered a round, and as one would expect from college kids getting to re-know one another, soon got into party talk.
Durango is a quiet town every night of the year except for on Halloween, when they do an event called the, “Zombie Walk”. The entire main street shuts down, and the festival is held in a largely peaceful way. They even put mattresses out in front of the different stores, so people who enjoy themselves a little too much to drive home have a place to sleep on the street. This was another thing that could only happen in Durango, as my town of Boulder will do pretty much anything to keep their kids from partying in any street. Murk and I had a different story to tell.
Eric had been attacked the night before we left on our trip, and accidentally knocked a guy out without punching him. Sounds unbelievable, but this is his story:
“So I’m walking down the street with these ladies right. George you knew them, they were with us at the beer gardens. Anyway, there were two of them, and then me and this other guy there that one of them had just picked up at the bar. He was whatever, but I was mainly talking to the brunette girl, you know the smoking hot one.”
“Yeah she was pretty good looking.”
“Anyway, I’m talking with her, and this random guy comes up to me and starts grabbing my shirt. I’m like, ‘dude let go of me right now.’ But he doesn’t, and hes just talking a bunch of shit. His friends are standing right behind him like, ‘you better not fight this guy, he’ll probably win.’ In the meantime the girls have kept walking. They don’t want any part of this, and my night is already kind of ruined, not that anything was probably going to happen. I don’t want any trouble, so I tell the guy one last time to let go of me, and he grabs me again. Then I tell his friends to get him off of me, and they just stand there.
So I grab him by his shirt, I have to reach up a little because he’s a pretty big guy, do the classic wrestling move of throwing one leg behind him, and I take him down to the pavement. On the way he hits the back of his head on the pavement, and gets knocked out cold.
Then I look at his friends and say, ‘Look what you made me do.’
They are all silent. Then I walk away down the street, and I hear one of them say, ‘Well I guess he had it coming.’”
It’s a great story, not because I’m violent (I’ve never been in an actual fight) but because Eric isn’t violent either, and got really lucky. This is one of the reasons why they will never put mattresses in the streets of Boulder. With this story in mind, we went to Diorios, the most friendly pizza shop in Colorado.
I don’t say this lightly either, because I have been to many a friendly pizza shop. The guy was about to close, but made a fresh pizza for us when we walked in. He let us know he was doing it special for us, and I could tell he was being genuine. He even went so far as to apologize to us for smoking outside after he made our pizza. It was almost a little too much.
Though their roads may not have guard rails, and they may not think this is a pressing issue, the people of southern Colorado are amongst the most hospitable and friendly I have ever met. Sometimes it can be unreasonable, and a little annoying, such as not understanding the importance of guard rails, but it is who they are, and it makes the area unique and very enjoyable.
Back at the bar, Isabel’s friend had arrived from work. She started talking with Eric while I caught up with Isabel. We are the only people to come from our hometown in Albany New York, to anywhere in Colorado (if anybody from Albany living in Colorado is reading this, please give me a shout).
It was frustrating at first to live here, because there are a lot of ridiculous people around with nobody seeming to mind. I told her about the happiest guy in the world, who literally runs down the path in the sunlight, stroking the air and dancing in circles, while laughing quietly to himself. He definitely drank too much of the punch at one of Ken Keseys Acid Experiments, but I would say he came out on top. I don’t know how he functions in society, but a part of me thinks we should all envy him.
We all eventually went back to her friends house, where she had two large couches for Eric and I to camp out on, because Isabel was slowly moving out of her apartment for a year in Chicago.
Despite not knowing us at all, her friend was completely fine with the two of us on her couches. She had a few roommates who were sleeping, so we kept our voices down until it was time for Isabel to leave. We exchanged a long hug, and then she walked out the door. I frequently wonder if I will ever see her again, but I know that I will always think of her whenever I find myself in Durango.