A Weird State: Colorado

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Friday morning. About three weeks after moving to Colorado. I’d accumulated a bill and a pay stub and the other forms of identification I needed to get a Colorado driver’s license. So I woke up bright and early with the intent of getting to the DMV in Boulder the minute it opened at 7 a.m.

But alas, life happens. I got a little bit of a late start. I let the dogs hang out in the yard a little longer than I’d planned — I’m a sucker for what the dogs want. I didn’t get to the DMV until 7:30.

The DMV in Boulder is in some sort of not-quite-strip mall that’s definitely seen better days. A 24-Hour Fitness had taken over the anchor spot and accounted for what few cars were in the parking lot — not surprising since it was so early in the morning. Inside, the hallway leading to the DMV office looked like something out of a small tropical country’s airport, one under renovation, where half of the shops are closed and the remaining signs look like they were put together by someone just starting out at crafting. The DMV office was at the end of the hall and, instead of a big sign saying something official-sounding, there was simply one that read DRIVERS LICENSES. I don’t want to knock a government agency for using plain English, but it did contribute to the feeling that this was all an elaborate plot and I was going to be kidnapped for my kidneys. It didn’t help that the guy in the watch-repair shop hadn’t opened his blinds yet and was peeking out through them like a nosy neighbor.

So I walked into the DMV to find four smiling people behind the counter and not another single soul on my side of it.  I stopped in the doorway, suddenly unsure.

“Morning! How can we help you?” one woman shouted. Let’s call her Barb, because I’m almost 100% positive Barb is what her name tag said.

“Am I in the right place?” I asked. “I need a new license.”

“Sure is,” she said. “Step on up.”

And so I did. While Barb went through my paperwork, we got to talking. She found out I was from Louisiana and asked if I was an LSU fan. When I said yes, she said, “Oh, hellll no.” And we got to talking about football and life and moving around. When another guy brought in breakfast from McDonald’s for his coworkers, the young woman next to Barb pronounced it “cawfee.” Surprise, she was from Long Island. So we talked a bit about the Island and New York City.

Fifteen minutes later, I had a temporary license and the first driver’s license photo I’ve ever taken in which I don’t look like a terrorist.

***

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After that sort of experience, I had no choice but to rush to social media and brag about the experience, to throw some parting shots at New York, to imply that everything is better in Colorado. I’ve been doing a lot of that over the last three weeks. I think it’s partly human nature. When you’re faced with the delightful or weird, you want to share it with other people.

There are two types of social-media user. The kind who uses it to complain, fight with their spouses, and post inspirational quotes that are actually passive-aggressive digs at someone who’s wronged them. And the kind who likes to highlight how awesome their lives are. I tend to fall into the later camp.

After a major life decisions, like moving across the country, you’re going to accentuate the positive if only to reinforce in your mind that you made the right decision.

It’s also fun to crap all over New York. As someone on Facebook told me, because so much of the city is dysfunctional and because even mundane things become a challenge, it’s almost to easy.

The thing is I don’t regret moving to New York. I’ll always love the place. But it’s not exactly a place to live a smooth, comfortable, middle-class, adult existence.  It’s a place for the young, for the striving, for the eternally energetic, for people who don’t get exhausted by the idea that a trip to a grocery store three miles away will always be a four-hour ordeal. And you need to go to that one because the one closest to you has a horrible selection and prices its groceries like it thinks it’s Whole Foods. It’s a place where if you want space, you have to put up with insane commutes. If you want a sane commute, you have to live in a shoebox.

Or it’s a place for the extremely rich.

And maybe I’ve just got the small-town suburban experience in my blood. Yes, we’re super excited that we can walk to the end of the street and see this vast expanse of open space and mountains. But we’re also excited that practically on the other end of the same street is a Super Target. And a TJ Maxx. And a Pet Smart. And a Costco. And a Whole Foods. And a great barbecue place. Not even a three-minute drive away is a Lowe’s (and, of course, the legally-required Home Depot across the street from it), another grocery store, a handful of restaurants, and a marijuana dispensary.

Cara was out of town last weekend and do you know how I spent my Friday night of freedom? I went to the Walmart, which is 4.5 miles away using the scenic route. Do you know how long that 4.5 miles takes to cover? Nine minutes.

That’s the other thing. Where I once lost an hour each way to an extremely frustrating work commute, I now lose fifteen minutes, twenty tops. And I spend it alone in a car, listening to music and looking out at snow capped mountains, rather than crammed into the corner of a piss-smelling subway car listening to someone angrily rant and rave about the need for the rest of us to accept Jesus into our lives.

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Yes, that is a pile of human excrement and two dollar bills on the subway platform. Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, R train.

If you’re young and energetic and don’t mind roommates or scrambling, I’d still recommend moving to New York. There’s nothing like it. Especially if you’re single and have enough money to go out once a week. And if you’ve never been to New York, visit. It’s a great place to visit and a hell of a lot safer than most of the other cities you’ve visited in the states. My mom and her sisters grew up farming sweet-potatoes in Grand Prairie, Louisiana, and they LOVE visiting New York.

But living there? Unless I win a billion-dollar lottery, I’m too old for that shit. And if someone wants to say that we’ve gotten soft in our old age, I’m not going to deny it. But if hiking up a mountain in the morning and cooking steaks in the backyard in the afternoon is soft, I’ll take it.

I’ll miss New York, I’m sure. It just hasn’t happened yet. (And I’m not sure Cara ever will.)

***

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I’m also fully aware that at some point, Colorado is going to do something to hurt us. Maybe we’ll get snowed in for a week. Maybe when the weather turns cold, every field mouse within a hundred miles will invade the house. Maybe the radon-system isn’t working and radon is slowly killing us. Maybe this past summer’s hail storms will come back and destroy our cars.

We’re in the first giddy stages of the relationship. Everything is awesome. And after years and years of putting up with the logistical nightmares that New York throws out at you, in which struggle is normal, awesome is just weird.

That’s likely to stabilize at some point, and I’ll stop bragging about even the most mundane things on social media.

But until then, you should also know that I had to go down to the cable company on Friday to deal with an issue. Fifteen minutes later, the problem was resolved and I was on my way.

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