Days 7-11: Boulder, Loveland, Fort Collins.
After my day recuperating in Fort Morgan, I headed toward Fort Collins but found that I would get there by mid-morning on a Sunday. So I detoured down to Boulder first, where I spent far too much time and money at the Pearl Street mall. It was a recapitulation of sorts: I went to exactly the same shops as when David and I were there, and I got a veggie panini at the same place we’d eaten. I was disappointed to see that the contortionist who folded himself into various containers, such as a little, clear plastic box, was no longer among the street performers. I wanted to donate to all of the performers, but my cash is dwindling alarmingly fast. I didn’t stay to watch the torch-juggler act, and I didn’t tip the guitarists or the accordion player, and I arrived too late to see a very popular act involving a performer balancing atop a tower of chairs, and I walked past an older gentleman in cowboy garb painted to look like a copper statue, and I skirted the guy in an African-type mask who was playing the bongo drums, and I felt terrible that I wasn’t leaving money for any of them, but there were just so many.
Eventually I sat down near one of the street performers to drink a lemonade and rest my aching feet. This particular guy—I believe it was a guy, though his act was mute—was impersonating a sort of ragdoll dog. His costume was made of tiers of short, pastel-colored pieces of fabric, so he could shake like a puli. He sat like a dog and looked hopefully at passersby. He’d try to attract children by getting up on all fours, or rolling on the ground. A couple of women with a little boy were taking pictures of him, but not leaving any money. That isn’t nice, I thought. I approached the performer and, looking over at the little boy, said, “I think this dog wants a belly rub, don’t you?” The “dog” promptly rolled onto his back. I reached down and rubbed his belly and he made some appreciative doggie-like grunts. “And maybe some scratching around this ear,” I said, still looking at the little group. I scratched one of his “ears” and he pumped one of his legs the way dogs often do when you’ve hit the right spot and they’re just loving it. “See?” I said. “I made him kick his leg.”
I dropped a couple of bucks into the performer’s bowl and then realized that a number of people had stopped to watch this joint act. In one last attempt to get this endearing performer some tips, I put out my hand, and said, “Shake?” He lifted an enormous foot so I could touch the bottom of it. It was more like a fist bump. Still no action from anyone in the crowd. It was a hot day and the street performer must have been terribly uncomfortable underneath his shaggy costume. I felt like whispering to him, “Well, I tried,” but I wasn’t sure if he could hear a whisper inside the doggie head he was wearing, so I just walked away. Ineffectual! Alas.
On the plus side, I was thrilled to see that the problems I’d had with the altitude in 2012 were gone. Three years ago, I’d walk a few feet, then have to rest. Walk a few more feet, then have to rest. Sit down repeatedly. Lean on David’s arm. This time around, I could walk without resting. The iron infusions clearly get credited for this improvement. I sat down only because my feet and legs began to ache almost unbearably. I haven’t built up my endurance very much yet, and they’re not used to this much walking. Added to that stress was driving much of the day without cruise control (I was on a variety of roads, from city streets to the interstate, and the traffic was very heavy everywhere).
In Fort Collins, I was forced to take yet another rest day on Monday. This time I didn’t even leave the motel. I am frightened of my debilitation and I am ashamed of being frightened. I know why I’m here and at the same time I feel I’ve lost sight of why I’m here. I’m reading a book where a man is being “reprocessed,” via amnesia-inducing injections, over and over; we don’t yet know why. Now he has been reprocessed to the point where he has no ambition or autonomy beyond his basic daily functioning, and he will be left to live the rest of his life in the “reprocessing village” (one of many) because he is considered cured. I.e., he no longer poses a threat. To what or whom, we don’t yet know. (To himself, it turns out; the book is called “A Cure for Suicide,” and the cure involves losing all the complexities and nuances and worries of life. I can divulge this because no one ever reads books that I recommend.)
Probably I should not be reading this book right now. It is beginning to affect me strongly. I think that I am like this man, not living a meaningful life. I worry that I’m breaking down, and that would constitute a great failure in my eyes. My sister suggested something I’d already thought of, that I could fly back home and that there are people who will drive your car back for you. But how do you know whom to trust? I would start driving back tonight; since I’ve slept all day I’m confident I could drive all night if it weren’t for the fact that my legs are swollen and hurt very much.
After this, I didn’t do any more writing during the trip, so I’ll sum things up briefly. On Tuesday I felt well enough to continue. I toured three independent-living facilities for my sister, two in Loveland and one in Fort Collins. Then, during a phone conversation with her that evening, I discovered that she didn’t want to live in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, she only wanted to live in Denver, and not in an independent-living facility. This would have been nice to know before I left Carbondale. I was completely open with her about my ideas and my agenda, so I was simultaneously vexed and confused. The trip now seems to have been misguided and misfocused. I considered heading to Denver for the next three days, then realized that Denver would involve a lot of upfront Internet research in order to focus a search. In addition, everyone I’ve talked to has told me that Denver is much more expensive than Fort Collins. Finally, I realized that my energy and navigational savvy simply didn’t extend to a big metro area like Denver on this particular road trip. So I decided to treat the rest of the journey as a vacation.
On Wednesday I met up with my friend David M., dedicated Marlovian and self-described “world’s oldest white rapper.” We stopped by Colorado State University’s trial gardens, where new varieties of garden flowers are being tested, on the way to the big Campbell’s soup can replica that CSU art students constructed to Andy Warhol’s specs and that he signed on a trip to Fort Collins. Dave kept mentioning some black-and-white photos in a gallery that he wanted me to see. Turns out that the gallery was the Center for Fine Art Photography, one of the very places I’d hoped to visit in Fort Collins. Although we arrived just at closing time, one of the curators kindly gave us a personal tour. Then it was on to an Italian restaurant and a quick drive west of the city and up a steep, winding ridge to Horsetooth Reservoir in an attempt to catch the sunset. We were a little late, but the view was beautiful nonetheless.
The arts scene seems to be thriving in Fort Collins and also in Loveland, just to the south. Public sculpture abounds in both cities. Both have taken to painting those big electrical boxes you see all over the place in fanciful, colorful designs, turning them from eyesores into attractions. Fort Collins also paints old pianos with whimsical scenes and leaves them in public places—even alleyways–for anyone to play. In one of the photos above, Dave is trying to talk me into playing the piano so he can get a video of it. So great is my performance anxiety that when I finally sat down, I began “House of the Rising Sun” in the wrong key and never did get straightened out. (Dave, I hope you’ve deleted that video.)
On Thursday I broke my new “vacation-only” rule in order to tour one more facility in Fort Collins, in the interest of doing a reasonably thorough job of what I’d come more than a thousand miles to do, and then toured an apartment complex just across the street. Afterwards, I headed for Estes Park, where I’ll pick this up in the next installment. The writing will get shorter from now on; I promise. We’re on the home stretch.
Readers of this blog may remember a post I made a few months ago called God in the checkout lane, in which I noted that God is working as a cashier at my local grocery store. I knew that because this man sounds more like God than Morgan Freeman does.
Tonight he was there again.
We said hello. I got up my courage and asked his name, and it’s George. I introduced myself.
I said, “You’re the man with the voice.” He answered, “And you’re the girl with the hair.”
That took me aback. So he was serious in our last encounter when he complimented my hair, which happened, as it so often does, to be dirty and disorderly. After I realized he wasn’t being snide, I’d thought perhaps he was just being charitable. After all, he’s a religious man; I remember he’d said that he sings in his church choir, ostensibly praising…well, God. (That seems appropriate. If the Bible is God’s Word for humankind, then any reasonable person must acknowledge that God thinks highly of himself.)
Anyway, I said, “Yeah, and it’s messed up again.” He said, “No, no, it looks good.”
Woo! God likes my hair. He approves of it. I have at least one redeeming quality.
We chatted some more as he scanned my items and my grocery bill grew to alarming heights. I told him I was hoping to start singing lessons again. He said, “You sing?” I said yes but that I wasn’t very good (you don’t lie to God, I figure). When he looked at the plastic sheaf of hydrangeas I’d placed on the checkout counter and said I had good taste, I didn’t know if he meant that in an aesthetic way or if it was a comment on the price. I quickly owned up that I buy flowers for myself, but that this bunch (seven bucks!) was a real splurge and that I usually go for the two-dollar carnations.
As I was loading the bags into my car, I realized there was something I wanted to know and I hadn’t asked.
Is God married?
If not, would God maybe want to get coffee sometime, or iced tea, or a beer, or whatever God drinks? Is that thought de facto blasphemous?
God is probably married. Or gay. Or too weary to get coffee with some crazy, dirty-haired white woman who, unbeknownst to him, writes about him and would perhaps like to be his friend. (I know God is supposed to be omniscient, but I don’t think he knows about this blog. Shhh!)
The very notion poses problems. For example, it would be helpful to know God’s last name. And can you just blurt out to God “Are you married?” And if I did, could I ever use his checkout lane again? If other people heard me, would God be embarrassed?
Does God have a last name?
I had to rewrite the ending of this post because I forgot, or perhaps repressed, the most critical thing. As I was wheeling my cart away from the checkout lane, God said, “Now you behave yourself.” And instead of saying “Yes sir,” I said, “You too.”
Imagine here a cartoon character clapping her hands over her mouth in horror. No one tells God to be good. No one in the Bible even suggests to God that he might be better, that a potential act is not worthy of his righteousness—except for Abraham, in one of the most remarkable passages in the Old Testament (Genesis 18:20-33).
When the next thunderstorm comes, I’m going to be especially wary of lightning strikes.