(Seals and Crofts, eat your 70s pop-duo-harmony hearts out.)
Calm. This morning, the quakies aren't quaking, the cottonwoods, quiet. No debris flies across the land, and the house is not threatening to twist off its foundation, spin upward and over the mountains, toward Kansas. Actually, I'd have more likely landed in Crested Butte than Topeka, or maybe Missoula. There's no doubt from which direction the wind has come lately. Ehem... New Mexico? Please keep your blasted wind to yourself, thank-you-very-much! And no, it's not because Colorado sucks. The Memorial Day flag that hangs over the highway had been layed out flat and stiff, completely horizontal as it points me northward from town to home.
One day last week, my co-workers and I were enjoying an especially fine morning. The sun shone, brilliant and warm. The holiday weekend was approaching, and in anticipation of the official kickoff to summer, a positive vibe prevailed. Folks were especially pleasant, issuing forth the most sincere, "You have a great day," sentiments you can imagine. Then the wind picked up, and the transformation was palpable.
A woman comes in to access her safety deposit box. We pull it out together, and I move to escort her to the room, a small, private enclave with a desk, a chair and a door that closes.
"I'll just be a minute," she says. "I can do what I need to right here." She stands firm, there in the vault.
"I'm sorry, but we're not allowed to let anyone open a box in here," I say, in my best, most encouraging, ultra-friendly way. We lowly tellers are not supposed to see what people have in their boxes, and that's hard to accomplish within the tight confines of the vault. There's also no place to put the box, unwieldy and heavy even when it's empty, and it would be easy to drop something while holding it with one hand, opening it with the other, and having no extra hands to retrieve or add stuff. It's a long standing rule, in place for years, decades, maybe even centuries, one which most people appreciate, and to my knowledge is applied at every bank.
"Well, that's NEW," she says, with an undisguised, over-the-top sigh of pissiness. "You people." She jerks the box in close to her, for lack of anything else to jerk, and fairly stomps through the vault door toward the room. "You wouldn't believe what I've been through today already. Those people at the post office. And now I'm running late and still have to drive all the way across town." The door to the tiny room closes behind her.
I glance at my co-worker, who has undoubtedly heard this, since her work station is right there.
"Ooh, all the way across town," I wink and whisper. The woman remains in the room for about a minute, then bursts out.
"Well, that was fast," I say.
"I told you it would just be a minute."
We return her box to its slot, lock it in and leave the vault, and as she marches across the lobby toward the exit I say, "You have a great day."
The rest of the afternoon was no better. The wind makes people cranky, anxious, irritable, impatient. The blowing has been relentless, for days, and to make matters worse, the Saturday morning sky had turned smog brown, like mid-summer over Los Angeles, the West Elks standing in for The San Gabriels, an unmistakable scent in the air. "It begins," I thought. Fire.
I understand why the suicide rate was so high among early homesteaders on the Great Plains. Tiny sod farmhouses, specks on the vast, treeless prairie, the wind's howl tormenting, ever pushing them to the brink of insanity. Of course, we have mountains here, and trees, and know the wind will, eventually, let up. In fact, it has, and this Sunday morning couldn't be prettier if it were Miss America in the Rose Parade.
I left town for a few hours yesterday, to take care of some newly-discovered, unresolved banking for my dad. It seems he had a checking account that was still active, four years after his passing, with just enough money in it to pay the senior citizen rate ($5) for an empty safe deposit box into perpetuity. Or at least for a couple more years. His bank has a branch in Montrose, so I secured all the proper official documentation I needed to close it out.
Heading out of Gunnison, our little town was teaming with cyclists, here for The Growler, a bike race. Cyclists are the best tourists. As a rule, they're well behaved, pleasant and happy, and they seemed that way yesterday too, despite the wind and smoky air. Cyclists were everywhere, in every direction, fit and looking fast in their bright, snug jerseys and lycra shorts, leaning against cars, chatting as they screwed on their shoes, lifting bikes from racks, torquing this spot or that on their iron horses with alan wrenches, stretching, hydrating, stuffing energy bars into their mouths, clipping on helmets, cruising the streets in small packs toward the main gathering spot and starting line at IOOF Park. A dozen iron horses of a different sort, a breed known as Harley Davidson, were hitched in a shiny row along the curb at Ol' Miner Steakhouse, where the bikers know they served a pretty tasty, hearty breakfast. Campers, trailers, cars and pickups topped with bikes and kayaks, fishing poles in gun racks-- the hive is alive. You can hear it abuzzin'.
Montrose was busy too, with local traffic and passers through. It's a city now, sprawled too far, too fast, but with a pittance of small-town charm that clings tenaciously by it's fraying fingernails, mostly for the efforts and attitudes of long-timers, who don't seem so keen on the rapid pace of development in their community. Growth has slowed in recent years due to what Gary, the Big O Tire shuttle driver called, "The downturn." What a friendly fellow. "Oh I suppose it'll pick back up again," he said, with more than a hint of lament in his voice. I feel a little bad about buying my tires there. I'm a big proponent of buying local, even if the price is a little higher, but the difference this time was enough to justify the drive. I also had a coupon, and they're open on Saturdays, and I had to go to Montrose anyway, so there you go. "Service," says Gary. "Our customers take care of us, so we take care of them." Simple.
Sprawling cities do have their amenities, however. A Chinese food restaurant that once stood on Main Street is now an Indian-Himalayan joint with a lunch buffet. Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer? I'm there! They had my favorite Indian desserts, too-- brown rice balls floating in a honey sauce (don't know what those things are called, but they're yummy) and rice pudding. More raisins, please. The Guru is a cultural detour in a sea of meat and spuds. In Hilo Town, Hawaii, you can't throw a lava rock without hitting a Thai restaurant. (In Gunnison, that same adage applies to Mexican restaurants.) Here, passing a large, exotic building on Townsend (the main, north/south drag through Montrose), it caught my eye like a house ablaze. I could almost smell the Panang. But they were closed for lunch, and I was headed home. So growth isn't all bad. With it comes diversity. I'll have to try the Thai place next time I'm in town.
The fire causing all that smoke yesterday seems to have died. But there are still others burning, and the with great likelihood of more to come through the summer, all over the southwest. So let's be careful out there, folks. Smokey's watching....
Oh, and, you have a great day!
A hui hou. Aloha.