Escaping the tourist trap

The message's title read, "Stay Away!"

And it made for some interesting timing. Going against all principles, I'd decided to not only pay a visit to my hometown of Telluride, but to do it during the Bluegrass Festival. Searching online for a spare ticket for a friend, I stumbled into the Planet Bluegrass chat room. Once there, I couldn't help but double-click on "Stay Away! posted by Super Hippy."

Super Hippy advised me, "Please stay away from Telluride during Bluegrass. The promoters from out of town have consistently oversold this event for the last decade. The event is now detrimental to the town's fragile environment and true locals don't appreciate your company THAT much."

The town of my youth had already started working its charms, and the festival was still two weeks away. Having spent my entire childhood in that fragile environment, I used to take these kinds of things personally. But then again, I'm no longer a "true local." That became abundantly clear last winter, when a cigarette smoking 22-year-old woman emerged from the Floradora. She took one look at us and slurred, "Let me guess. You all are tourists, right," and giggled her way back into the bar.

Yes, I'm now what a groovy marketing guru might call a "day tripper:" a common tourist in town to hear some music, spend some time in the beer tent and pour some of my hard-earned into the vibrant Telluride cash cow. To be honest, I'm okay with it. When I eventually did roll into the beer tent, those "day tripper" clothes fit nicely. The festival had not been oversold; I don't believe I damaged the fragile environment of town park; and I even ran into a handful of "true locals," people who have lived there since the mid-1970s, and they seemed to genuinely appreciate my company. As an added plus, I didn't run into Super Hippy, Floradora or any of their hundreds of cousins. Still, their message did stick with me.

After that weekend, I remembered all the years I'd spent in reveling Super Hippydom. As Telluride kids, we specialized in heckling tourists from the chairlift and providing faulty directions downtown. When Telluride Bluegrass rolled through town, we preyed on innocents, selling powdered lemonade disguised as fresh-squeezed by a couple sliced lemons. And any dust-covered car with Texas-plates always suffered greatly. Parked on the streets of Telluride for only a matter of minutes, cryptic writing would appear almost magically on the dusty surface: "Stay Away," "Go home," "Leave your daughters."

The Super Hippies of yesteryear, we were all a little insecure about our place in Telluride. We also felt like our little paradise had been invaded.

Last Monday and back in Durango, it was obvious that my little piece of paradise had been invaded. Leaving the office, I immediately descended into a sea of Bermuda shorts, cameras, lap dogs and cologne. That throng of tube socks and patriotic clothing barely crept up Main Avenue. With little time to spare, I started pinballing in and out of beer guts and baby strollers. The strategy worked for half a block, but then I came upon a family of six stopped dead in front of the window of a T-shirt shop. I cleared my throat in an effort to get their attention. They showed no signs of life and stared on slack jawed. A second attempt was also futile, and as the lap-dogs and strollers closed in, I briefly considered exploding in a Super Hippy Supernova.

Instead, I uttered a few polite pardons and they happily opened the way. You see, I also saw something other than loafers and Chihuahuas on Monday, something my friends Floradora, Super Hippy and my younger self never grasped (or never had to). Floating around on Main Avenue that day and the next were mortgage payments, college tuitions, car payments, food bills and more than enough cash to cover three days in the beer tent next year in Telluride.

-Will Sands




News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index