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A tale of two valleys

Tom Boyd

We are the great dividers.We love to split our world in two.We slip our minds into the center crease of the world so that we can call one side “left,” and another “right.”We call one side “evil” and one side “good.”One side “yin” and another “yang.”Or one side “conservative” and another side “liberal.”How easy it seems. And what a powerful tool it is to help us understand the world.We even apply it to our own valley: We call one side “upvalley” and another side “downvalley.”It’s simple and easy to understand. But like most concepts that come in black and white, it is an oversimplification.So I’m changing the paradigm.There is certainly a duality to this valley but it isn’t in the relative elevation of our different municipalities, nor is it a distillation of our population’s complex political beliefs.To me there are two worlds that exist between Dotsero and East Vail: There is I-70 and everything within 1,000 yards of I-70, and then there is everything else.Check this out and see if you know what I mean:I was standing in one of the long checkout lines at Wal-Mart, berating myself for being there in the first place. It didn’t help that Oprah Winfrey was staring at me with a gigantic, toothy smile. She was frozen in time, locked in some kind of yoga pose, looking out at the world with the kind of glassy-eyed optimism that only comes from a believer in Doctor Phil. Oprah puts herself on the cover of her own magazine month after month, year after year, I noticed, probably in some kind of effort to elevate her status as a cult figure. So I averted my eyes from her place on the magazine rack, fearing that if I looked too long she might hypnotize me, make me part of her cult.The rest of the magazine rack was no better. One tabloid declared that an alien imposter has replaced Roy, the magician who was attacked by his tiger. It seems that Roy was actually killed, and that the well-documented race of aliens from Alpha Centauri had captured his body and sent a replica to Vegas in an attempt to gain power there. Fitness Magazine declared that it had unlocked the inner minds of men (“Sex is like Pizza and other startling revelations”), and some other tabloid pictured Osama bin Laden surrounded by flames a photograph that came from one of their correspondents from Hell, it seems, since that’s where bin Laden had recently arrived.Beeping noises and a machine-generated voice offered background noise during my long wait in line. Florescent lights beamed harsh light down from the 40-foot ceiling. A group of Hispanic locals chattered away in Spanish ahead of me, happily arguing about the proper way to enter radishes into the robotic self-checkout scanner/computer/cash register. One of the little girls grabbed one of my items (a toothbrush) and tried to scan it, creating a rabble of confusion and a brief conversation en Espaol.”Esta bien,” I said. I have patience.Then they were finished, and I stepped in to endure the commands of the computerized self-checkout clerk myself. After that it was a quick march past the wafting, salt-saturated heat of McDonalds and through the sliding-glass doors to the vast parking lot, then into the car, then back onto I-70, the center artery of the long arm of Americana, which pumps the blood of the modern world to us and provides us with discount toothbrushes and clean, glossy copies of Oprah Magazine.Twenty minutes later I was on the trailhead, jogging over pine needles and listening to the chickadees settle into their evening routine (but I could still only hear them occasionally, in between blasting groans from semi-trucks on I-70.)Warm air radiated off the wide-leafed plants of the understory, which had collected heat and sun all day long and were beginning to release it. The air they produced was as fresh as can be, photosynthesis had only recently created the oxygen around me, and the essence of the plants still lingered in the taste of what I inhaled. Upward and onward, sweating a bit, I gained the extra sensitivity to air that lungs always get during a run which is why I could still taste a bit of carbon dioxide, delivered to me in a smoky cloud from I-70 far below.Eventually, and with great anticipation, I reached the switchback in the road, turned the corner, and faded into a pine grove along TV-tower road, as we always called it.Suddenly there was silence. Or comparative silence. The chickadees still went about their business, and a few magpies and robins argued over the right to roost in a certain blue spruce tree. My legs began to complain viciously from below, as usual, demanding a slower pace. Still out of shape, and not nearly ready for the Teva Games, I obliged. My breathing grew steadier as I walked, and the calm of evening began to settle in. The pine grove scrolled away behind me, opening into the relative lightness of aspen trees. The road ahead made a crooked, ruddy way through the canopy of spring-green aspens. It was a captured moment like good photographers catch with the lens, and most of us just catch with the eye’s lens the aspens waving over the road, puddles in the road, quietude and solitude in the spring, when the mountains come awake. And, of course, like he had been summoned, a buck deer nosed out of the trees, studied me out of one eye, then jogged away.And I went home refreshed, de-stressed, happy with my home and where I live. In the morning, as I must, I turned the ignition of the car and drove to the on-ramp. I hit the gas and accelerated to the speed of modern life 65 mph down the gray gut of the valley floor, off to work and the computer, the place where we do our time to pay our rent. Because that, I think, is the duality, the Janus of life here in this valley. And it doesn’t matter if it’s downvalley or upvalley, left or right, black or white, liberal or conservative the true opposing forces here are mountains and trees and chickadees, and they are pitted against highways and Americana and McDonald’s and parking fees, and all of us, it seems, are caught in the middle.Notes: Here’s another event that’s right up our alley: Verbatim Booksellers will be hosting Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich June 18. Gingrich will be speaking about his new book, “Grant Goes East,” a follow-up to his New York Times best-selling book “Gettysburg.” Gingrich will do a meet-and-greet at 4 p.m. at Donovan Pavilion, to be followed by a book signing and photo opportunities. Although I’d love to drill Newt on a few of his political beliefs, I’ll probably have to take it easy on him after all, he and I went to the same Southern University: Emory. For that I’ll have to forgive him. Rod Slifer arm injury update! We are unhappy to report that Mayor Rod didn’t go to Miami recently to help bid for the 2009 World Championships because his arm (which he broke during the Vail Town cleanup) has developed a bit of an infection. But he’s still up and about, getting to know the construction workers that are working on remodeling the Village. We hope you feel better soon, Rod and good luck from the staff at the Trail.Tom Boyd can be reached at tboyd@vailtrail.com


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