In my youth, I travelled quite a bit. I grew up in rural Virginia, and then joined the Army. Uncle Sam gave me the opportunity to visit South Korea, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Germany and at least half a dozen states. I settled in Colorado Springs and put down roots. I’ve been here since 2005, and I have lived here longer than I have anywhere else. It is, definitively, home.
Last week I spent three days in Boston for the Association of Alternative Newspapers with a handful of other Indy folks. The last time I was there, briefly, was probably 2004, when I visited a high school friend who lived there during leave from Iraq. It was wonderful to be back on the East Coast, the see the Atlantic Ocean and eat fresh seafood — oh my God, the seafood! — but I was strangely homesick the whole time.
When I taught high school English I would tell my students that the setting of a story is more than just a place, great authors use it as a kind of silent character. Charles Dickens’ London, William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles — they all imbue the writing with a certain je ne sais quoi, a vibe that comes across almost subliminally to the reader. After nearly two decades at the foot of America’s Mountain, my vibe is no longer an East Coast vibe.
I’m not really sure it ever was though. The East Coast is a weird place. It is old, at least by the standards of European colonization. It’s full of history — Plymouth Rock, Daughters of the American Revolution, famous battlefields and historic markers, Sons of the Confederacy and the horrific history of America’s plantation economy. The East Coast is a place with a lot of historical baggage. It was, for much of America’s history, the seat of power for the country, the home of the American aristocracy and the landed gentry.
Colorado certainly has its own historical baggage, and not to glorify settler colonialism and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, but the American West was were the riff-raff went to try to make their fortune. Winfield Scott Stratton, the carpenter turned gold tycoon, spent 17 years digging around in the Rocky Mountains before he struck it rich. Colorado Springs is one of those places where people end up. The transient nature of its human population balanced by the stolid, constant presence of Pikes Peak. Trying to navigate an urban center without mountains was quite disorienting, let me tell you.
When I came here in 2005 I had no idea that Colorado Springs would be the city for me. No one tells you that the putting-down-roots process goes both ways. For all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, it is my city, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the lobster in Boston.
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