Leaving the South Side

We heard the front gate slam and looked out to see an unfamiliar, stout man walking up the front walk.

“Who’s that?” I asked the spousal unit, thinking perhaps he had neglected to inform me of an early morning guest.

But he was as baffled as I was. “I have no idea,” he said, as we watched with mild curiosity as the stranger purposefully strode ever closer to the house. However, the visitor’s determination soon hedged, as a wave of realization seemed to wash over him. He stopped short, sheepishly looked around, and then beat a swift retreat. We watched as he returned to the other side of our fence and eventually found what it was he was looking for.

Seems the poor, lost soul was on an early morning bargain-hunting mission. However, his route-finding skills were a little off the mark. In his quest for treasure, he obviously spied the plethora of bikes, barbecues, toys, sporting equipment and miscellanea in our yard and made the hasty decision that he had stumbled upon yard sale Nirvana. Only problem was, the real sale was in the yard next door.

And thus went the first painful step in one of the harshest realizations a homeowner must face. Like the fat guy after an all-you-can-eat buffet who can’t get that top button fastened, no matter how hard he sucks it in, it was obvious: we needed bigger digs.

Perhaps our appetite for stuff was a little insatiable, and maybe a little gear diet was in order. But as I surveyed the belongings: four boats, five bikes (in addition to the four already in the house), two baby strollers, a wheelbarrow and a sandbox, I found it hard to reconcile parting with any of them. OK, so maybe nine bikes seems a little excessive by mainstream American standards. But for Durangoans, who change bikes more often than their undergarments, nine bikes between two people is actually quite normal, maybe even modest. As for the quiver of boats, well, you never know when that Grand Canyon permit will suddenly come up, calling for the bomb-proof river runner, or when the Smithsonian will call, offering big bucks for that 11-foot relic the size of the Death Star.

Unfortunately, the inside of the house told a similar tale. In fact, two entire rooms and a cellar had been sacrificed for the sake of housing inanimate objects, from K.C. & the Sunshine Band on vinyl to great grandma’s china set. And to think, there was a time in my life when I could fit all my worldly possessions in the back of a pickup.

So I did what any conscientious, overly consumptive American would do. I sold my soul for a new house with a garage and a basement.

But before you go pointing the fickled finger of gluttony in my direction, I will say in my defense that the new place (which actually isn’t new at all) is about half the size of the old one. However, the move is not completely remorse-free. See, after years of South Side pride, I am hopping that four-lane thoroughfare that demarcates north from south and moving to “NoCo” as we call it down in “SoCo.”

Although my former neighbors probably did a little jig at the news that they no longer would have to look at my plastic kiddie pools and hockey goal, the whole moving event has been bittersweet for me. Yes, I look forward to a lawn that I can actually see and a porch I don’t have to share with bicycle pumps and weed whackers. However there is a part of me that will miss the free-wheeling, anything goes vibe of my former hood.

OK, so from time to time I’ve griped a little about train smoke and plantnappers. Or the fact that I once had to step over a semi-conscious man (his eyes were still open) to get into my yard at 11 in the morning. Or that there was a serious physical altercation in the alley behind my house over a pair of Blueblockers. And maybe I awoke one Sunday morning to find a total stranger passed out on my couch, and frequently some idiot played chicken with every garbage can on the block. And when we first moved into the house, it took several months to convince armed sheriff’s deputies that a certain individual no longer resided there.

Suffice to say life on the South Side isn’t always pretty, but then again, it’s seldom boring. Every yard has at least two barking dogs and you never know what will turn up in the alley, particularly around fall clean up. The air is routinely filled with the low rumble of skateboards cruising the Third Street hill, live mariachi bands practicing in the church hall and the buzz of power tools as old gives way to new. Yards are decorated with everything from old appliances to plastic flowers, mannequins, year round Nativity sets and yes, even Elvis. It’s a place where fences are low and houses tight, and you know your neighbor’s business whether you want to or not. But, by the same token, it’s also a place where octogenarian Mary Rodriguez comes to her gate to chat when she sees you coming and the woman on the corner with the town’s most prolific garden shares seeds from the cosmos that were planted by her mother 40 years ago. It’s a place where time is gauged by the whistle of the train and the dropping of the sun behind Smelter Mountain.

Alas, as I leave the South Side, taking all my stuff along, regrettably, it is these memories I will leave behind.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows