A Vacation in Memory Lane

I began this past week with a visit to what I want Heaven to be like when that time comes … Monument Valley. It’s still as beautiful as I’ve always remembered it. The sense of peace I find there is amazing, but … and there is a “but” to this description. But, I was not prepared for the hundreds of tourists and I did not appreciate them one bit. They were interfering with my piece of heaven. It has been more than a dozen years since my last visit and that was at Easter … no tourists to speak of. So I resolved to return next time in the winter and take a room in the new “View” hotel, each room overlooking the most spectacular part of the valley. I did discover something that had never occurred to me during past visits there; even Heaven must have something constructive for me to do. So my new vision of heaven is a cabinet shop nestled among the monuments. That decision made, I departed for the second and most important portion of my vacation.

And now here I sit … mere yards away from where much of my young adulthood life was both spent and mis-spent. Durango, Colorado has changed. Some, the recent arrivals, would say for the best. Others, like me, would say for the worse. Soon after my arrival here in 1976, a young tradesman who was sent to accomplish some task related to making my new home livable, opined angrily that his home town was being ruined by newcomers, interlopers as it were. At the time I took offense to his opinion, which obviously was aimed directly at me. That was then; this is now. Now I understand.

July 4th 1976 a parking place along main wasn’t all that difficult to find. July 4th 2015 I had to park 14 blocks from where I wanted to be. There was no parade with floats, bands, cowboys and rodeo queens on horseback with rodeo clowns bringing up the rear with their scoop shovels, booms and buckets to clean up the inevitable road apple deposits of the horses. Now it’s just an endless parade of SUV’s, motor homes, camping trailers the size of the trailer house trailer we lived in on Meadow Ranch in 1966 and of course motorcycles the size of a ’50’s Volkswagen.

On my arrival here yesterday I began a systematic and chronologically inspired visitation of every home I had lived in during those 11 years. Only one of them was virtually unchanged. That was the home on the Pine River, south of Ignacio. Some homes like the trailer house north of Elmore’s store were gone entirely. The house on the river in town had been modified so as to make it nearly unrecognizable. One of them I couldn’t find at all.

The downtown area used to have a reasonable assortment of businesses, both practical homey types like hardware, barbershop,shoe stores etc. And nestled in among those were T-shirt shops, a few bars, some excellent restaurants and real estate offices. Now it’s a 15+ block long stretch of art galleries, “smoke” shops (that kind of smoke), hole-in-the-wall sandwich shops and bars. But, all this is to be expected I suppose, in this day of cyber communication.

A person can live in this beautiful scenery and tele-communicate with ease in order to make a very comfortable living, away from the mess that has become our metropolitan centers, something that wasn’t possible in 1976; well at least not without incurring an enormous phone bill. The internet has changed all that and with the change have come people from places like New York, Chicago, and California, who insist on bringing with them their liberal politics and notions that they know better than people who came before them, as well as what’s best for the town and environs. At least they appear to have some appreciation for the homes and neighborhoods that have been here for more than a century. Those along 3rd Avenue do appear to have been enhanced for the better.

I came here fully expecting to be disappointed and in the respects mentioned I have been. I came with the anticipation that I would be able to say, “Been there, done that” so I could put the idea of moving back here to rest at last. That was indeed my emotional bent in the beginning. However, my feelings are changing a bit and I think I know the reason.

I spent most of yesterday in my car without human contact; without getting involved. I spent most of yesterday criticizing what I saw as unhappy change to what I had loved without giving the people who have made it home now a chance. As I sit here writing in a bar with people visiting and laughing all around me I realize what a significant part of that past life “people” had been. Also, and this is the most important element, as I revisited all those places I wasn’t remembering joy or happy moments. I was reliving in detail all the mistakes I’d made, and disappointments which resulted from bad judgment, arrogance and substance abuse and none of the joys.

Everywhere I looked I heard Dennis the Menace saying, “Wish I was three again, knowing what I know now.” And as I review each of those bad behaviors, missteps and bad judgments I find an indescribable sense of gratitude for the woman who cared for me, guided me, forgave me so many times from a heart overflowing with love for a man who really didn’t deserve her.

I’m not three again or even four again; I’m 70. I may not be able to “…Go home again” but I can return as long as I look on it as moving on … again!” As my bride was fond of saying, “Oh well … NEXT!”

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