Great ideas, no response, ugly results.
Usually, I get past the disappointment; the bruise heals, the insult fades.
Not this time
The plague is upon us, and this prompts me to remember an opportunity lost, to rub a bruise still tender decades after the injury.
This being The Year of Our Doom, one of my great ideas stands out, as does its rejection and the consequences.
It comes into focus as Covid-19 begins to blitz communities across the world. People who traveled to other states and countries to enjoy the journey of a lifetime, and those who took budget cruises to Acapulco and Hawaii, return home to Siberia With a View, many following a flight on a 737 packed with coughing, feverish passengers. At the same time, tourists and second home owners flock to our alpine playground during holiday breaks. They frolic in the snow, and disperse noxious droplets in shops and restaurants.
All of these goofs leave deposits, and the viral gifts bloom.
A number of people in my home town have now tested positive for the virus, and others have begun to panic with a peak death toll looming in May, many of these feebs retreating behind locked doors, some gasping and anticipating intubation.
I reflect on the situation, memories bubble up from the brain muck, and I say to the long-time residents of Siberia With a View:
“Regard your prophet as a Cassandra, and trouble surely follows. Why the fuck didn’t you listen to me?”
Had my neighbors taken action three decades ago when I sounded the alarm, a much smaller Siberia With a View would today be absent Covid-19, with little chance the fearsome pathogen could arrive.
We’d be the proverbial boy in the bubble: safe, smug, secure.
Thirty years ago, people laugh, fail to take me seriously when I outline my plan in my column in the newspaper, discuss my idea as I enjoy a post-work dram or three of Jameson’s at The Throwback, or summarize the strategy when I chat with fellow citizens after we meet on the sidewalk, or collide in front of the single carton of rotting blueberries on display at the crappy grocery store that serves us at the time.
They think my plan is entertaining, my caution amusing. They say things like: “Damn, Karl, that newest column of yours is a hoot. I read it last night, and you had me chucklin’ all the way through dinner. Damned near choked on my Swanson’s pot pie. You’re a real card.”
Well, dumbshit, if you’re not on a ventilator, are you chucklin’ now?
I’m not chucklin’. I could be, but I ate at country clubs when I was a kid. I have manners.
My blueprint for community security was serious business, but you dimwits didn’t fall in step.
As a result, consider your current state: alone and shivering in your battered singlewide, curled in the fetal position beneath thin blankets, heating pad on your bum hip, vape pen empty, wondering if you’ll ever again be able to purchase Fritos and bean dip; or terror-struck and trembling, barricaded in your mini-manse in the “exclusive” gated community, watching Fox News 18 hours a day, your spouse heavily sedated following the onset of major league jits, loaded AR-15 and Mossberg 590A1 propped next to the front door, the guest bedroom cluttered with boxes of ammo, rolls of toilet paper, bags of cat litter, cans of baked beans.
You assholes aren’t laughing now, are you?
When I write a column thirty or so years ago a pandemic is but one of many disasters I forecast — all linked, each preventable.
All upon us now, thanks to you.
Back then, I know what will happen, but you don’t pay heed. You short-sighted pinheads assume I’m kidding, you find my solution hilarious. You’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the numbing sameness of life here, blinded by the promise of prosperity once hordes of coin-lugging newcomers arrive, of fat times ahead that include a used RV and a French bulldog, an escape during the winter months to run a cash-only, IRS-free roadside rock polishing operation in Quartzite, Arizona.
It’s easy to understand, but it can’t be excused.
You are warned, you choose to laugh, and three decades down the line you’re fretting about a dry cough, you take your temperature on the hour. The damage is done. It didn’t have to happen.
What do I try to protect?
Not just your health, but a way of life, and an environment now long gone, never to return.
Think back. Remember what it was like here. I do.
Thirty years ago Siberia With a View is a sparsely populated, quiet village nestled in an economic dead zone just west of the Continental Divide. A major highway runs through the middle of the bleak downtown area, traveled by log trucks making their way to mills that will soon close when the timber industry, our only productive industry, is killed by the feds and their shrill, urban, owl-loving supporters, many of them college graduates.
If you are one of these owl lovers, have you ever watched an owl in action? Ever had one hang around in your yard?
Come to your senses! Owls aren’t cuddly cartoon characters that wear thick-lens eyeglasses and dispense maudlin platitudes. They’re vicious predators, wise only in that they know how to cruelly dispatch rodents and other birds (some of them predators themselves), as well as grandma’s beloved tabbies, Trixie and Mittens.
Dead owls? Good riddance.
If I’m going to champion a bird, it’ll be the flamingo. No one will call for an end to a vital industry in order to save this colorful, dull-witted creature. Flamingos, of course, can also be a problem: they shit monstrous loads on golf course greens and the lawns at exclusive hotels. But the Flamingos dispatched under cover of darkness are not enough in number to inflame animal lovers in LA, Austin, and The Hamptons. Peta is busy with bigger projects: there are hog farms to close, caribou to save, elephants to rescue!
Why the flamingo?
Ancient Roman gourmands praised flamingo as a banquet entrée, and Pliny the Elder gave a rave review to a flamingo tongue casserole. Could ancient Romans be wrong?
A recipe in the Apicius De Re Coquinaria recommends a multi-stage kitchen process with a dressed flamingo carcass first brined in a water-vinegar bath, then par boiled in a similar water-vinegar solution before it’s dried, its skin pricked, and it’s roasted in the company of leeks and various spices. The pricking of the skin is critically important, as it is with all water fowl, since the birds carry a thick layer of fat that must be provided with exits as it melts. Roman gourmands preferred their roasted flamingo served with a date-enriched sauce that included (what didn’t?) a stout measure of garum.
I’m game, flamingo-wise. I’ll get in touch with Roy and ask if he can help; he lives in Florida and can be a source for a bird or two once he’s no longer afraid to leave his house. I’ll avoid mentioning that the flamingo might be protected by federal and state laws; Roy is a sensitive humanist, and I don’t want to agitate him. If I secure a flamingo, I’ll roast it, with leeks, and invite a member of Peta to dinner.
Back to a plan ignored, an environment altered.
Siberia With a View is so distressed 35 years ago that the feds clamp down and sanction the town for a severe air pollution problem. Big government favors sanctions on those communities least able to resist.
Several conspiracy theory-addled Facebook friends assure me this is how functionaries of the Deep State get their kicks. This, and frequent visits to granny porn sites.
In return, I offer my paranoid digibuds a troubling idea: their media heroes — Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc. — are in fact Deep State operatives working to undermine Donald Trump’s voter base by feeding his supporters goofy ideas, the latest being that Real Americans should don Chinese-made American flag apparel, take to the streets unmasked, get close to each other in a crowd, then scream at liberals about oppressive shelter-in-place policies. In doing so they spread a deadly virus that depletes the number of people who can cast votes for freedom in the upcoming election. Think about it: if the Deep State is super-powerful, why would goofs like Limbaugh be allowed to stay on the air if they weren’t complicit? Huh?
Siberia With a View is an ideal target for the federal know-it-alls, the tattered hamlet plopped in a depression next to the San Juan River, a low spot where airborne gunk collects when an inversion settles over the area — a nearly daily occurrence during harsh winter months.
The atmosphere a thousand or so feet above the ground warms at sunrise and, for a time, expands and compresses the frigid air below it. As a result, people have inhaled shit here since the Ute and Dineh fought over the place centuries ago, probably since Ancestral Puebloans gnawed on each other when the crops failed.
Three decades ago, no one eats her relatives (so far as I know), but pipes freeze, cars refuse to start, pets end up dead and stiff beneath the front porch, the dirt in the air resembles a bug hatch.
The crud consists of teensy particles (PM-10) produced by wood and coal stoves fired by laid-off mill workers and unemployed shepherds as they struggle to stay warm, the cloud enhanced by loads of coal dust spread on the highway after each snow storm. Cars track mud to town on tires, the majority of roads in the county being graveled, at best. The mud dries and contributes to the atmospheric mix. Add to this the humidity and odor produced by what manic biz barkers tout as “The Deepest Hot Spring in the World,” and you have yourself a hell of a respiratory experience. The feds put the hammer down.
This is home. I remember it fondly.
There is one stoplight in the county, and it operates half the time. Five restaurants stay open as late as 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, (there were six, but one burned down); there are four decrepit motels in town (there were five, but one burned down); there are three gas station/convenience stores (there were four, but flames consumed one of them); there is what is left of a lumber yard (most of it destroyed as a result of a misguided fireworks display). We have a volunteer fire department, the members of which are great at holding bake sales and participating in the Fourth of July parade, but ranked below average when it comes to fighting fires.
There is a movie theater located in the center of the downtown “business district,” and half the seats have cushions. The hole in the screen at the theater is in the lower lefthand corner, so it seldom ruins the viewing experience.
The San Juan River courses through a low spot in the downtown area. It dries up in a drought, but when maximum runoff from snowpack in the high country coincides with several days of heavy rain, townsfolk put sand bags along the banks to protect the rickety frame homes next to the channel. Several of the old coots who occupy these structures say they remember the Great Flood of 1911, when a record torrent washed the town jail three miles down river, with Pete Krebs locked in his cell. Pete was found damp, but otherwise fine. He’s sleeping off a bender when the waters rise; he remembers nothing of his voyage.
The geothermal spring touted by would-be profiteers is a large hole filled with hot water and ringed by sticky mud, the hole located in a travertine field, the surrounding scant topsoil studded with low-slung cacti. A number of courageous residents follow the lead of indigenous folk who visited the spring a century before, digging channels to transport hot water to smaller holes where, with the channel closed, it cools enough to provide a relaxing soak.
Now and then, a body is found in the main spring, poached like the centerpiece in Poulet Nomade. The body might be there as a result of homicide, more likely due to a bad choice made while under the influence of one or more mind-altering substances.
If a high school sports team qualifies for a state championship game or tourney, the bus is escorted from town by a police car and a state patrol cruiser, their sirens blaring, lights blazing; the local ambulance (a station wagon with a small, blinking blue light on the roof); the town fire truck (if a volunteer crew responds); and a couple of tow trucks, horns honking and headlights flashing. Since the kids never win, they get the parade when they leave— our way of saying, “damned good try, you’ll look back on this fondly, let us know when you get back.”
Siberia With a View is a bedraggled, but beautiful place.
I want to preserve it.
I have a plan, conditions are ripe, success is possible.
The population in Siberia With a View 30 years ago grows slowly; the growth can be controlled. The community hosts dupes who buy into a timeshare program at a “resort” several miles distant from the center of the village, but these fools don’t roost long. Otherwise, we absorb a dribble of doddering retirees and second-home owners seeking a haven in one of the slipshod subdivisions scattered about the area.
The majority of folks in Siberia With a View have roots, with one or two generations of family here before them. They and their way of life are in jeopardy.
I let them know.
I predict the situation will give way soon, overwhelmed by an onslaught of real estate developers and bleating mooncalves wealthy enough to acquire properties in this part of Colorado — not rich enough to live in Aspen, Vail, or Telluride, but prosperous enough to regard themselves as exceptional and deserving of fawning attention. These self-consumed dunderheads will bring with them a bevy of loathsome practices, a penchant for conspicuous consumption, elitist cultural pretensions, Lexus and Mercedes SUVs. They will say things like “I live in paradise,” and call Siberia With a View “the most beautiful place in the world.” They claim that wherever they squat is the “most beautiful” place imaginable because, after all, they are there.
They must be kept at bay.
It is up to me.
Who better to do it? I know what happened in the past to other places in Colorado.
The paternal side of my father’s family comes to Denver in the 1870s: Swedish teamsters, saddle makers, warehousemen, sturdy Swedish women, shield maidens able to make lefse with one hand, and crush the skull of anyone who threatens their brood with the other. These industrious, semi-literate Nords arrive before a small settlement becomes a town, then a city. Isbergs watch the shit hit the fan from the time the fan blades start to spin. As a child I listen as oldtimers gathered around the Sunday dinner table lament what happens to neighborhoods and seemingly secure communities when an invasion of monied dweebs takes place. It’s not pretty.
The maternal side of my mother’s family settles in the mining town of Central City in the 1880s — a place industry pimps deem “The Richest Square Mile on Earth.”
My great-grandfather, in legend an Etonian and boulevardier, arrives first and a year or so later sends for his bride, who leaves Cumbria and makes the voyage to the colonies alone.
These semi-Brits (“semi-Brits” because they are northerners with Welsh and Gaelic roots, never comfortable with full assimilation) are greeted by moderate devastation when they come to Central City, unimpressive considering their former home towns of Cleator Moor and Waft Brow are subject to frequent subsidence, the ground collapsing below streets and structures as the chases in abandoned mines give way.
They soon experience what takes place in the years following their arrival, and it is truly impressive. From their home on the “English side of the mountain” (the south-facing slope, with sunlight throughout the day) they observe the extreme effects of an invasion and the enterprises that accompany it: plant and animal life eradicated; streams polluted by mercury, acids, and arsenic; a moonscape created, dotted with tailings leaching toxins; once treed mountainsides stripped bare, slopes littered with headframes, shaft houses, and stamp mills, scarred by tram roads.
My semi-Brit ancestors and their daughter, my grandmother, know what “progress” entails, what happens when hordes arrive toting profit- and pleasure-driven notions. As icing on the cake, in 1918, the mob delivers the Spanish Flu.
During motor trips from Denver to the family homes in Central City, my grandmother reminds me and my brother that “no one but the Arapaho and the Ute hate us,” and that, once we are old enough to drive, we must run any car with out-of-state license plates off the road.
Born and raised in the Mile High City I, too, observe the pestilence prompted by a surge. The Denver in which I ascend to pseudo-adulthood transforms from a pleasant city of 250,000 to a stumbling ogre, most of the three-story brick buildings in the lower downtown (one of them my grandfather’s former warehouse) destroyed, replaced by parking lots filled with cars owned by the cubicle-confined dullards working in nearby, newly built high-rise office buildings. The few remaining structures wait for a new millennium when they’ll house microbreweries, coffee shops, bistros, dance clubs, spice stores, and similar establishments dedicated to the edification of tech sector drones and bearded and tattooed hipster twits.
I am well schooled when I arrive in Siberia With a View. I scan the situation, I spot problems looming on the horizon.
True: I am a hypocrite, since my plan involves ways to keep interlopers from transforming Siberia With a View — the place where I, an interloper, arrive and transform the place. So, whenever this fact is pointed out, I respond with a gassy counter: “I am a fourth-generation citizen of the entire state, my daughter fifth generation, my grandchildren the sixth.” It is a playground defense, but blustery enough to disarm the less intelligent of my critics — who are, in fact, the majority of my critics.
Back to my plan.
The plan is seeded at a meeting of the local Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
Bob, the Chamber manager, mistakes me for a constructive, somewhat rational person, noting “hell, you know how to write stuff good.” Absent viable options he asks me to fill a vacant seat on the board. The vacancy is created when Chuck, in his twentieth year as a director and twice recipient of the Chamber’s vaunted Citizen of the Year Award, suffers a fatal heart attack while cooking catfish for the Knights of Columbus Lenten Fish Fry. The tragedy is compounded when Chuck pitches forward, knocks over the fryer and sets the kitchen ablaze. It takes quite a while for the fire department to respond.
I’m thoroughly trashed on Tanqueray when Bob makes his request, and not prepared to recognize nonsense, so I agree.
If I had five bucks for every request I’ve agreed to while trashed, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d be at my country estate in the south of France, gulping Vieux Telegraphe and nibbling gougeres.
I attend one board meeting.
Primo agenda item: purchase of colorful banners to be hung from brackets mounted on street light poles next to the main drag.
The board members (with one exception) are excited, in particular Shayleen, co-owner of the donut shop, life coach, part-time real estate agent, and head of a committee charged with creation of the banners.
Shayleen is amped up and, not being used to public speaking, barely able to catch her breath as she makes her presentation. She hauls out a hunk of foam-core board on which she’s mounted crude renderings of the banners — each banner bearing a highly stylized representation of one of the few things Shayleen and her batik-obsessed cohorts from the local arts council determine are emblematic of the “most beautiful place on earth:” a steaming hot spring, rapids in a river, trout, ungulates, a cowboy on horseback, an owl, the obligatory alpine vista — high-chroma colors aplenty, blinding splashes of cadmium yellow, abundant tints of alizarine crimson and dioxazine purple.
My fellow directors coo and applaud, visions of a vigorous downtown business district lighting their greed-fueled noggins.
Steve, the owner of a T-shirt shop is giddy, imagining sales going through the roof once he pilfers the designs and silkscreens them on factory-seconds from Taiwan.
Ted, a chiropractor, predicts a boost in sales of supplements and two-for-one adjustments, and anticipates a huge spike in revenues after he introduces a “scientific” foot bath that leeches cancer cells from the soles of the feet. Ted informs us that “patients can actually see the cancer cells leave the body and float in the water, actually, really,” adding that a study conducted in “Austria, Lichtenstein, or somewhere,” proves that immigrants and tourists are stricken with cancers twice as often as people who never travel farther than fifty miles from home. Ted figures the more travelers who arrive to admire the banners, and the more of them who decide to relocate, the more healing takes place in the office. He offers fellow board members a 10-percent discount once the device is delivered and installed, reminding us “Don’t forget to wash your feet before you leave home. And wear clean socks.”
I step from behind my gin and marijuana saturated curtain and ask,“Who the hell is going to see these banners except for log truck drivers, timeshare suckers, and locals making their way through the polluted downtown air to go to the grocery store and stare at the single carton of blueberries that arrived last week? That is, if the fucking grocery store hasn’t burned down.”
Bob awakens with a start. He speaks.
“Well, Karl, tourists will love the banners. They’re going to come here in super-big numbers once they see photos of the banners in the new brochures we’ll stuff in racks at Texas and Oklahoma rest stops, and they hear about the banners in the radio ads in Amarillo and Lubbock we’re co-sponsoring with the timeshare resort corporation. That is if the corporation doesn’t declare bankruptcy. Again. And then, a lot of the visitors will decide to move here. Think of that! New people. With money.”
Shayleen applauds wildly. I suspect she’s off her meds.
Steve nods confidently, Ted passes out glossy flyers announcing his cancer cure. Willie, the owner of High Country Firearms and Assessories (his spelling) farts, then smiles broadly, flashing the new dentures he purchased in Farmington, N.M.
“Surely, Bob, by the time anyone responds to the ad campaign and travels here, the banners will be so filthy they’ll look like medieval funeral shrouds. After all, that’s coal dust they’re spreading on the highway. Second, there’ll be only twelve banners, since that’s the number of streetlights we have in town, if the town crew replaces the one the Martinez kid knocked over when he stole that skidsteer and lost control trying to turn a corner. Third, what kind of idiot is going to pay attention to a 15-second radio ad in Lubbock and, if someone does, why do we want them here, admiring dirty banners? In fact, why do we want anyone else here? We need to figure a way to keep the hicks where they belong or before long, mark my words, people from places like California and Illinois will catch on— people with deep pockets and loathsome habits. They’ll use their money to take over. They’ll bring espresso machines, and they’ll spread all manner of foreign infections.”
An audible, collective gasp. Shayleen whimpers, and drops her pointer. Willie sneers, brilliantly.
I continue. “If we give a damn about this little place we call home, we should do the opposite of what you’re proposing. Forget the banners, the tourists, the pathetic retirees determined to remain viable, the tax protesters with twelve kids hoping to escape the reach of the Illuminati; reject the bozos with enough oil or commercial real estate money to lease a jet and buy a foreclosed ranch or two. And, for god’s sake, make it extra clear that baby boomers and the owners of off-road vehicles are unwelcome.
“We need to implement strategies to keep these people away. Believe me: if we do this now, a better albeit considerably less profitable future is ours. The upside: there won’t be many of us sharing what little comes available.”
“Sharing” fades quickly, “less profitable” is a deal-breaker.
A motion is made to remove me from my seat on the board.
I second the motion. My vote in the affirmative makes it unanimous.
The directors then agree to draft Fuzzy Wilkins, the owner of Fuzzy’s Taxidermy and Frozen Yogurt, to fill the vacancy. Fuzzy (legal name, Preston Wyatt Wilkins Jr.), is an extremely righteous and aggressively vocal Southern Baptist with a wife who smiles incessantly, ends every utterance with “praise the lord,” wears a broad-brim cowboy hat and gaudy boots, and attempts to play guitar during services at one of the too many churches in town.
Fuzzy is a perfect example of the kind of dolt I want to keep at arm’s length. Fuzzy’s dream is to develop a “commercial/residential zone that will define our future,” with at least five high-end condos built next to the river, each featuring a spacious conversation pit. Fuzzy was not a candidate for the slot I temporarily occupy, due to what Bob describes as “behavioral difficulties,” but with my departure, Fuzzy is all that’s left.
Fuzzy fits in.
I do not.
I leave the meeting inspired, and set to work fleshing out my plan. It takes me nearly an hour to write it out, finishing in time to fill my twenty column inches in the tabloid center section of the newspaper. I provide a recipe for carne adovada as a bonus. The adovada is a rip-off of the beauty my friend, Ronnie, cooks for our annual Hot Food and Plentiful Alcohol Super Bowl Extravaganza. I remind readers they cannot omit ground Espanola red from the recipe. Use the chile, or don’t cook the adovada.
I’m excited about the plan. This can work!
The time is right.
When my strategy is revealed in print, the full-time population of Siberia With a View and surrounding county is approximately 2,500 people. A manageable number.
I evaluate the carrying capacity of the land — most of it protected forest, teeming with wildlife such as deer, elk, and owls — and include the limited agricultural potential of the southern-most parts of the county. I determine the year-round population can survive on what nature makes available, with importation of a few staples.
You see the detailed plan coming, don’t you?
It’s as if you’re trapped in a rusted-out Chevelle that’s stalled on the tracks, frantically turning the key in the ignition as a train bears down at 50 mph.
That’s correct: the plan involves something with which we are now too familiar.
If people had listened and acted, instead of laughing, our situation in Siberia With a View would be much different today. To pursue the shoddy metaphor: no tracks, no train, no Chevelle.
Step One: Community meetings are held for those people who are second or third generation residents of the community, admitting immigrants who are at least third generation residents of the state. As far as I know, there are only six of us who qualify for the exemption.
Cadres are organized, variously colored armbands issued.
Step Two: Get rid of the excess bodies. It’s simple: anyone not meeting the residency standard noted in Step One is informed they are no longer welcome, and must vacate their property and flee within seven days.
A subtle threat must color the demand: I suggest circulating a poster that includes the vacation order (60-point Helvetica, Bold) and a photo of a burly, masked lout clad in camo and carrying an automatic weapon. A poster should be tacked to each of the twelve light poles in town (given the twelfth has been repaired). Shayleen should be put in charge of the poster cadre.
Any individual tabbed for deportation can submit a request for a “Green Card,” claiming they provide a necessary service. Two doctors, one dentist, bar and liquor store owners, a barbecue master, a well-established weed dealer or three, and a couple of restaurant cooks stand to be granted cards. It’s best that I manage the card program. Who better?
Step Three: A local family long known for shady doings (petty theft, disorderly conduct, accidents involving dynamite and missing appendages, third-degree assault, poaching, etc.) is awarded a contract to deal with vacated residences. Once the structures are emptied of usable goods and those goods delivered to the Methodist Thrift Store, log homes are torn down, logs split as firewood, the local thugs/contractors allowed to sell cords of the wood at an agreed-upon fair price. Any stick-built structures are burned in place, (there is no chance the fire department can respond in time to save them), the reward being the dopamine rush experienced by pyromaniacal members of the clan. There’s plenty of them.
Step Four: A wall is built on the county border then patrolled by guards ordered to damage anyone foolish enough to attempt to cross without permission. Key points on the few roadways that access the county are equipped with gates and adjacent guard towers, the towers manned by heavily armed brutes. There are quite a few brutes available given the quality of local public education and the existence of a notorious development near town that is absent any amenities (e.g. roads, water and sewer systems, dwellings with windows), but rife with cousin-to-cousin couplings.
Trucks transporting necessary goods are allowed past the barriers. After the trucks are emptied, they are sent on their way. Drivers who cooperate are given a bottle of Gatorade when they depart.
Step Five: An exchange station is established at the gate blocking the entry point at the Continental Divide east of town. At that checkpoint deer and elk meat, and the occasional owl, is exchanged for potatoes grown in the San Luis Valley. A similar station is located on the highway at the west side of the county, where flesh is traded for legumes grown near the Utah border.
Step Six: Secure a stable economy. We do this by commandeering the timeshare operation when the corporate owner declares bankruptcy. Again.
We erect tall fences around the timeshare “regimes,” the fences topped with razor wire.
We utilize the Chamber of Commerce racks at rest stops in Oklahoma and Texas to lure monied rubes by trumpeting a “perfect mountain vacation adventure,” with brochures crammed with photos of the interiors of luxurious Manhattan dwellings and snapshots of the Alps. We air 15-second radio ads in Lubbock and Amarillo to boost the promotion. We do not mention banners.We chum in bodies that temporarily occupy space, and we eject the visitors once we’ve obtained their funds.
When the excited vacationers arrive at the border, an exorbitant fee for their “perfect mountain adventure” is collected by the guards (see brutes, above) and the luckless dinks are herded on to buses that feature state-of-the-art speaker systems and high-volume bluegrass music, to be transported to the timeshare dwellings. Once there, they are directed to the moldy dumps in which they’ll be confined, and the gates are locked behind them. Deer meat is thrown over the top of the fence three times each day, the vacationers allowed to fight for portions. We call this “one of many delightful recreational opportunities you’ll enjoy during your ideal Colorado experience.”
Vacationers/sources of funds spend their time tussling with one another, staring through the fence at the peaks on the Divide, suffering from Giardiasis and shitting in buckets, and watching owls kill the geese that waddle around the regime’s perimeter. Those who pay for the “Executive Package” are provided with a small television set of Korean manufacture, an old video cassette player, and several exercise and soft core porn tapes for their viewing pleasure.
When their weeklong stay is complete, back on the bus the visitors go, the keys to their vehicles and their empty wallets returned by guards (see brutes, above) at the border. The deflated nincompoops are sent home, banjo music ringing in their ears. The money taken in, minus expenses to meet overhead, is divided evenly among the certified citizens of Siberia With a View — perhaps to be saved and used to fund vacations in Lubbock or Amarillo.
The plan is simple. It’s our salvation.
A productive response from my fellow residents?
Just cheap pot pies and chuckles.
So, here we are 30 years down the road and, with no obstacles, disaster manifests in many forms: an imported, deadly wet market virus (probably spread via use of poorly sanitized espresso machines); seven stoplights; gated communities; jets at the airport; obnoxious flatlanders destroying the most beautiful place on the planet; ten-acre “ranches” where livestock consists of diseased prairie dogs and ancient horses ready for the glue factory; yahoos trashing the backcountry with grotesque four-wheel buggies; the World’s Deepest Hot Spring enclosed by concrete and fancy rock work on the terrace of a “luxury” hotel; a hot spring resort featuring fancy pools next to the river; nail salons; chest-thumping fascists carrying weapons in public, barking about revolution if government asks them to stay home and miss the weekly meeting of a local militia dedicated to preserving select amendments to the Constitution; an excess of brutes and cousins; urbanites searching for a rural safety net;VRBOs destroying neighborhoods; fear-stricken twerps wearing surgical masks as they take the Lexus out for a spin or the twin golden retrievers for a walk; privileged simps complaining that their favorite over-priced restaurant offers take-out-only and, after all, who wants to eat food that arrives in a Styrofoam container.
There’s no toilet paper for sale in the stores.
Payment has come due.
Why didn’t you listen?
We’re stuck social distancing in a Siberia With a View that bears little resemblance to its former, better self — a place stacked with virus-bearing chowderheads who have no business being in what was once our lazy little town.
I contemplate my/our failure as I self-isolate — in my case, pretty much my style of life, plague or no plague. I wear the same underwear for a week or more, and rarely change out of my pajamas. I binge-watch Netflix series, ingest stunning amounts of my friend Joe’s elixir and drink cocktails earlier in the day than is advisable. I take an online Esperanto class, but after two years, I’m still on Lesson 1. I overhear phone conversations in which my wife inquires about rental of a backhoe, and requests instructions on how it can be used to dig a deep hole in the back yard.
I regularly black out during episodes of Live PD, so I contact my personal physician, Wanda, and ask if an hour-long loss of consciousness can be considered a refreshing nap. Her response is peppered with obscenities, but she doesn’t include the word “no.” I take it the answer is “yes.”
I recommend frequent naps.
I miss chatting with my friends who work at the grocery store: Daniel and Seamus in the produce department; Doug at the Murray’s Cheese counter; Sue in the bakery; Fawn and Peg in the dairy section and working the aisles; Rusty, the manager; Eric, the assistant manager; and Renee and Tammy, my longtime buddies who supervise the U-Scan lanes. I miss Anna and Dar at the liquor store.
When a minion does my shopping for me, they’re unable to obtain ingredients for my kitchen favorites, since the Lexus crowd and gun-toting microcephalics have exhausted supplies. I hear some of the Lexus owners not only wear homemade, ineffective face masks as they raid the market and deplete the inventory, but they carry 6-foot-long prods to guarantee sneezing teens and careless by-the-issue libertarians maintain the prescribed distance.
The lockdown will end soon. Corporate criminals used their stimulus bailouts to buy back stock and are anxious to resume siphoning wealth from the rabble, so they’re putting increasing pressure on their puppets in the government to end restrictions. Despite what halfwit MAGA-hat protestors claim, the government needs plebes back on the job as soon as possible, churning out taxable income, because who else can the government squeeze in order to obtain the money needed to continue being the government?
People will buy new cars and mattresses, and restore America to full economic health. With no interest for 12 months.
Unfortunately for us longtime residents of Siberia With a View, the community that reopens will not be what it could have been had people listened and acted thirty years ago.
When the quarantine ends, I’ll make trips to the stores now and then. When the plague peters out, I’ll invite some friends over for a meal. There are bottles of Sang Des Cailloux and Domaine Tempier Bandol that must be opened. Perhaps a ’94 Pahlmeyer, depending on the quality of the friends. I won’t pour Pahlmeyer for a beer drinker.
What to prepare and serve?
Gougeres, for sure.
I’ll whip up a batch of owl adovada.
I’ve got the Espanola chile.
I need a bird or two.
This requires a plan.