The years treat towns and people much the same
The years have not treated Bob kindly. Thirty years ago we were good friends. Unfortunately, he’s aged so much in those three decades, that when we saw each other last week, he didn’t recognize me. Of course, I too had to look twice in order to put a name on his current face and figure, but in my own defense, Bob looks a lot different now. In 1974, Bob and I were in the right place at the right time. We both left the East Coast, and through much different circumstances, ended up in Breckenridge.The town where we settled had only one paved street. Many of the residents lived in cabins, horses occasionally could be seen tied in front of bars, and beer cost 25 cents. There were markets, not grocery store chains, diners instead of bistros, no pocket parks or big-box chain stores; yet somehow we managed to enjoy ourselves. Bob wasn’t the only old acquaintance I bumped into last week. There was a reunion of sorts.
About a hundred former and present residents who lived here in the early ’70s got together and tried to remember each others’ names.I was amazed that I was the only one who had not changed while most everyone else had become middle aged. A wonderful slide show was given which juxtaposed shots of the town, population and geography, then and now. As I sat in the dark and watched that slide show, tears ran down my cheeks. The town I loved then, and still do, had changed as much as Bob and me. What was once a wild, former mining hamlet, hoping to become a fledgling ski area, had evolved into a world-class destination resort. I’m sure many of those having returned to town after being gone for so long were disappointed at what we had become. I know in more than a few conversations I found myself waxing defensively about how growth is preordained and change is unavoidable.Most of those with whom I spoke seemed to understand. After leaving here, they had moved to places that have also changed over the years. Those of us who still call the town home shared stories of the battles we fought over growth, some won, and many lost. I think most of us are proud of the extent to which we were able to shape the evolution of a place we love.In all modesty, our town and our residents have aged reasonably well. That said, it is more challenging for a place to age gracefully than a person.
People age, slow down, become smarter and less raucous but often still keep that twinkle and energy of 30 years past.Towns, if left to their own devices, simply get more built up and crowded. But if those who love a place keep involved, a town, just like an old former hippie, can retain its sparkle and energy. I can understand some of my old friends’ shock and dismay over the changes in a place that had remained constant in their memories. Neither the town, nor any of us for that matter, look like we did during those days, when two dollars represented a substantial beer buzz. But to those who watched the changes, while fighting many of them, the end result is pleasing.Though that being the case, the slide show made me cry.I wondered, was I bawling for the changes in my mountain town? Was I lamenting the lost years and advent of the realities of time on my face and figure?It was after a slide flashed on the screen of a place and person who is forever gone that it struck me, I was weeping in gratitude.
I was grateful that I was there when the town and I were young, hopeful and resilient. I was grateful for the characters I met, even those I don’t remember. I was grateful that I was at the right place during the right time, and still am.It used to be that I would listen to complaints from my friends about what our borough has become; I don’t anymore. Rather I quote Leroy Eldridge Cleaver. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”We live in a town, country and world where it is still possible to effect change and direct the future – all it takes is involvement and energy. Seldom will be the case where your city, country, world or bathroom mirror will reflect the exact image that you would like it to. But just knowing that you had some input will make the results much easier to live with. I wish my community and I looked like we did in the days of 25-cent beers, but I’m happy enough with how we both turned out. I’m just glad I haven’t aged as much as Bob …Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSNtelevision, heard on KOA radio, and read in several mountain publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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