This blog will not always be overtly political.
The personal is political. I firmly believe that.
So, I’d just like to say, on a very deep, personal level, I am in love with this place. Seriously. Like my emotions about this place run deeper than my emotions for many of the people in my life. My commitment to this place is greater than my commitment to many of the people in my life.
Is that fucked-up?
I first came here when I was 20 years old, in 1992. I lived here for about four years, on and off. It was easier to do that back then. It still wasn’t “easy.” It was just “easier.” I worked two or three minimum wage jobs at a time, lived with multiple roommates, and struggled to save up enough money to make it through the off-season. But, it was worth it to me to wake up every morning, look out the window, and see this beautiful place that I was, and still am, in love with.
I am extremely privileged that I ever got to live here at all. I am extremely privileged that I get to go back and visit. And it’s pretty fucked-up that people less privileged than I don’t get to experience this.
But, what is also fucked-up is that people who are equally as privileged as I am can’t pull off living here anymore. Not really. It was hard enough to even come back for a visit, and I only live a three hour drive away. You cannot get a hotel room for under about $200/ night. Maybe $150, if you’re lucky. Camping was cheap, but pretty competitive. I guess going during the Xmas of the summer didn’t help. Town was busy as fuck.
That’s the thing, though. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the cliche goes.
It has always been difficult, at least for the past 30 years, for someone who works here – – cooking, cleaning condos, washing dishes, running ski lifts, tending bar – – to actually afford to live here. If you can do construction work or plumbing, it’s a little easier.
If you have a trust fund, then it’s definitely easier. This has always been true, and it just gets more true all the time. It’s hard to find a long-term rental, sure, but as long as you can afford the $2000 a month for it, you can snag one up eventually, if you’re on top of it. Maybe get a roommate or two, or Airbnb your spare bedroom. Get some part-time slacker job. Life’ll be one big party. Until your trust fund money starts to run out.
I’ve never had a trust fund, so I don’t really know.
This place has always been a magnet for rich, white Texans. And there has always been some local animosity around this. Because what do the rich, white Texans do? They buy up houses and condos for $500,000, $1,000,000, $2,000,000. And then they only use them for maybe two months out of the year, and the rest of the time the places sit empty, or get rented out on a short-term, “vacation rental” basis for $500 -$1,000 a night. Or, these days, they also get Airbnb’d. So, not only is a property sold for more than any local can afford to pay, but even the possibility of it being a long-term rental is removed entirely, and it’s only rented to other rich, white Texans who can afford to pay $500/ night for a vacation rental. And because there are fewer long-term rentals, the price of rent for the people who actually work here goes through the fucking roof.
But, without these rich, white Texans, this place would not have an economy at all. Or, so they tell us.
This whole vicious cycle is starting to backfire a little, though. While walking around downtown, I saw “Help Wanted” signs on no fewer than three different businesses. In the middle of July. The busiest part of the summer. This never would have been the case back in the day, so why is it now? Because workers can’t afford to live here. Duh.
This place has endured wave upon wave of human conquest, rich, white Texans only being the most recent. The Indigenous Ute were only here in the summer. Who would stay up here in the winter, given a choice? Crazy white people, that’s who. Coal and silver miners. They hung on up here through decade after decade of boom and bust. Even after the ski area opened and all those hippies showed up.
Most of the hippies were white, middle to upper-middle class, and college educated, of course.
The circumstance this place finds itself in today is kind of the inevitable culmination of the reign of the hippies, really. Because what’s the one thing that can be said for pretty much all old hippies? Eventually, they sell out, and they buy in.
But, there has also always been a local snobbery of sorts at work here. It’s the attitude of, “Well, now that I’m here, I don’t want anyone else moving here! They’ll just ruin the place!” It’s the attitude of just squeaking in and then wanting to lock the door behind you. This attitude shows up in a great many different circumstances, some of them transparently racist, or classist. But, what if the people who you think shouldn’t be here are the rich, white Texans? Then what?
Still, there are more and more people coming here all the time. Some of them want to live here, some of them just want to visit. But, it’s more and more and more people all the time. And facts are facts. The sheer number of people who come here are straining the infrastructure and putting added stress on the ecosystem. They shit all over the place. In places where they should not be shitting. They drive all over the place instead of using the really very easy and convenient public transportation system. They camp in places where they should not be camping. They leave their trash behind. They carve their initials into trees and rocks. They do stupid shit. They climb places they shouldn’t be climbing, or hike places they shouldn’t be hiking, and then Search & Rescue has to be sent out after their asses. This is a real problem. And if, whenever this very real issue is raised, you hear someone accuse the person bringing it up of being “privileged” and engaging in “gate-keeping,” just know that the person making this accusation is part of the problem.
Sure, come to the most beautiful place on earth! Come to the place I’m in love with! I’m not jealous or possessive. And, I don’t give a rat’s ass what color your skin is or what language you speak, just don’t do stupid shit and fuck the place up. This includes building new roads that cut through previously unfucked-with forests and then putting a big fucking fence around your 500,000 square foot home so no one can “trespass” on what is now “your” 50 acres. So, yes, this includes you, rich, white Texans! You fuck this place up worse than damn near anyone.
I’m not going to tell you where this place is, exactly. I’m sure you can figure it out, if you try. But it doesn’t really matter. Because every beautiful, quaint little resort town in the mountains of Colorado, or any other state, is going through the same thing. Maybe the rich, white people aren’t from Texas. Maybe they’re from California or New York. But, they do the same thing everywhere they go – – they make it too expensive for anyone else to live there – – they build huge “estate properties” way out in the woods and start gated communities on the sides of mountains. They proliferate some of the most environmentally irresponsible development there is. They drive up home prices and rental prices so the people who work there can’t live there. This is nothing new. And it sure ain’t getting any better.
So, what can be done, then? The rich, white Texans are here. They ain’t going anywhere.
All the rest of us can do is try to maintain a presence. A public, weird, maybe even obnoxious presence. That’s why I’m calling on all people of color, all English speakers of other languages; all artists, musicians, jugglers, hula-hoopers, circus freaks; all activists, environmental and otherwise; all labor organizers; all working-class schmoes; come up to the mountains! Come up to the expensive resort town! It won’t be easy, but you can do it! I mean, don’t be idiots. Don’t litter, or start forest fires. Follow the rules and learn how to shit in the woods properly. If you pack it in, pack it out. But, come on up! Make your presence known. Play your guitar out on the street, or in the park. Set up your easel and paint! Shit, paint a mural, if you want. Protest outside the real estate office that sells the million dollar homes way out in the woods! Go to city council meetings and speak up for affordable housing projects. Speak out against the latest estate property development. Speak out against Airbnb. Move here, if you can. Get a job as a plumber, electrician, or a dishwasher, even. Live out in the woods in a tent if you have to. You can legally camp on Forest Service land for 14 days in one spot. Tread lightly, though. Leave no trace. Clean up after yourself and don’t fuck the place up. But, goddamn! Something has got to be done to make these rich, white Texans feel less comfortable here.