Keeping the holidays at home

I had never visited Lands End, journeyed to or spent much time hanging out with those guys Harry and David. In fact, I could proudly proclaim that my relationship with mail order was limited to regular passes through the exotic climes of the Patagonia catalog and occasional stopovers in the forbidden front half of the Victoria's Secret glossy. But I never dialed those numbers while fingering my credit card. Call me crazy, but I preferred seeing what I wanted to purchase and doing business with people face to face.

Then one day a few years ago, I became infatuated with the sloping top tube of a vintage Schwinn cruiser. I started hunting all over La Plata County for a single-speed klunker I could call my own. Visits to local bike shops came up empty, and a trip to Mr. Smiley's bicycle museum was to no avail. Eventually, in a fit of desperation, I took some advice and logged onto Ebay, "America's Online Marketplace." After only a few clicks, I had committed to purchasing a black beauty with slick racing stripes and white-wall tires. The long search was over. I'd found my Schwinn, successfully negotiating a deal with

Throughout the experience, my wife, conscience and frequent protector, Rachael, expressed serious reservations. She was especially concerned when I told her that the next step in the transaction was to write "hotshoe" a check and mail it to his address in Burbank, Calif. He would receive the check, box up the Schwinn, and I would pedal into the sunset. Despite all warnings, the check dropped in the mail, and two weeks and a couple of dozen "I told-you-so's" later, I was still hoofing it to work. Eventually, I decided to drop my pal in Burbank a line. Rather than receiving a reassuring note telling me in relaxing words that the bike would arrive any day, "hotshoe" got a little hot on me. He firmly informed that he was an A-rated Ebay seller, shipped dozens of bikes a week and that if I couldn't handle the rigors of trading on Ebay, he'd happily return my check.

"Everything looks great," I lied to Rachael. "The Schwinn should be here any day."

Luckily, "hotshoe" came through, and the marriage survives to this day. A week later, a giant box showed up. Unfortunately, I spent another few days walking to work as I puzzled nearly a hundred pieces together.

As an unexpected spin-off of the transaction, my computer started suffering from an epic infection of e-mails telling me "She'll love the new you" and asking me to help a Nigerian prince secretly stash his fortune into my bank account. Thoughts of "hotshoe" partying on my hard-earned dollars in downtown Burbank didn't help the situation.

Years later, I'm still getting offers for generic Viagra and cut-rate airfares, but I haven't been back to Ebay, seen the insides of or ordered Harry and David's "Tower of Treats."

Ironically, that Black Schwinn has also been on mothballs in my garage for years. Not long after that cardboard box arrived, Rachael and I moved a few miles out of town and the single-speed became obsolete. Every morning, I pedal past it on a cruiser with seven gears that I bought from a local bike shop. And as the holiday season approaches, I'm going to keep pedaling past the Schwinn, and taking my pocketbook to downtown Durango.

It's been a little disconcerting passing empty storefronts lately and knowing that people like my friend in Burbank are prospering. I've always known that my dollar has power and that I can easily go online, send it into the land of mail order or give it to the community of Farmington. I can make my order in a couple of clicks or with a quick phone call and rest easy knowing that it will be here in time for Christmas. Hey, I might even save a couple bucks. But as a business owner, I also know that money is lost to Durango forever, and I'm tired of seeing "going out of business sales" in the heart of downtown.

It's easy for me to forget about "hotshoe" forever and keep my money in Durango. Every dollar that goes into a locally owned downtown business cycles around the community. It helps pay a neighbor's wage; does a little to keep favorite restaurants in business and works to ensure that the business community continues to offer locals something other than T-shirts and trinkets. Even business-owner profits are likely to leak back into the system. This time of year, a dollar bill can do everyone a little good as it works its way around Durango. Chances are, that dollar will eventually wind up back where it started.

- Will Sands




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