Strip tease

He called it "uglification," and it would save our mountain town from ruin. The technique was simple let your paint peel, allow the yard to overgrow, trade in the SUV for a beater Ford and start growing out the hair, all of it. Town government and business would also do their parts windows would darken, potholes would widen, cracks would spread and blackouts would become the norm.

The end result would be "total ugliness," and according my friend (as he philosophized from that spinning bar stool), ugly would turn back the onslaught that arrived daily from both coasts. Why would they choose our real estate with the glamour and glitz of Aspen just a short mountain range away, he asked as he emptied another pint.

The idea had real merit at that time and that level of toxicity. The "Gingerbread Town" would take on an industrial flavor. Who needs false-fronted buildings, flower-pots and mountain town quaintness, we hollered. And we toasted the stroke of brilliance and its source, who, five beers, a shot and 75 minutes earlier, had clocked out from his job as that ski town's lead planner.

The next morning, a nagging headache was all that remained of the brilliance. No longer a distant vision, uglification was now a trick the mirror played. And I rapidly forgot that revolutionary scheme as the quaintness and flower-pots lulled me back toward happiness.

Rachael and I eventually decided to leave Gingerbread behind and made the move to Durango. Interestingly, that bar episode resurfaced not long after we settled a couple blocks off North Main Avenue. "You know, I kind of like Durango," my now sober planner friend said over the phone. "But that strip north of downtown is just so ugly."

At first, I celebrated a silent victory, slugging down a few pints in his honor. But after a few looks out from my home, I realized I lived only two blocks from "that strip" and started rethinking the stance. The celebration really ended when a different friend from Gingerbread came to visit a couple weeks later.

"OK, you're going to go past the Conoco and almost to the Total and hang a right," I directed him. "If you see an Arby's, a Wendy's or a Texaco, you've gone too far."

Just like several other country mouse buddies, this friend rolled up to the front door having navigated franchises, street lights and motor lodges and pronounced, "Man, Durango is huge!"

Minutes later the small-town jabs set it. "You know what they say about location," he said facetiously. "You're walking distance from Pizza Hut, Dominoes and Dairy Queen. Boy, you really scored."

Honoring this sentiment, Rachael and I eventually pulled up roots and moved just outside walking distance to the closest Dilly Bar. But we are still North Mainers, residing just beyond its northernmost tip. Having spent my entire Durango tenure near the strip, I'll be the first to admit that North Main is "Ugly" (note the capital U'). There is little to recommend the architecture of the old Lori's building, the deceased gas station across from DHS or any of their relations. A drive past the China Restaurant never really suggested hints of the mysterious Orient. And even the American Eagle that stares across at the Rec Center has lost its charm. In fact, a look down North Main makes me wonder if my old planner friend did a lengthy stint in Durango. Perhaps he worked overtime to uglify the strip with the hopes of retiring here in peace some day.

That said, North Main also appears to be waking up from the hangover. For me, the first glimmers showed when Guido's refurbished its outside and Norton built a structure that's actually easy on the eyes. A small step for signage was taken when the City went up against the Burger King and beat the fast food monarch. Next, the cinder block box that contained the Total cash register was leveled and replaced by a slightly more tasteful stucco box. Most recently, Arby's crumbled, and a sharp-looking, traditional neighborhood design is popping up where the Silver Spruce Motel once lived.

Meanwhile, the pill-box next to the Post Office has gone the way of the dodo. And just a few doors up the sidewalk at 35th and Main, one of the better commercial remodels in town was recently finished. There's no telling what may happen where the old Silver Spur (lodging cousin to the Spruce) once lived. But I'm guessing it'll be progress.

Then again, didn't the great John Wayne do a couple nights at the Spur during the height of the Cold War? I've even heard that "he liked it." Maybe, it's true what they say ugly is in the eye of the beholder.

Will Sands




News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index