Compassion a precious commodity
Dear Durango,
Please take a moment to count your blessings.

We live well, in a place where our actions are largely defined by the pursuit of happiness instead of a daily struggle to survive. We work hard, but there are few among us who have acquired the comfort and abundance of “normal life” completely on our own. Most of us owe at least the foundations of our success to someone who once cared for us, even if only once. We are proud people and many of us feel entitled to full credit for our survival but realistically, who here has never stumbled, screwed up, fallen down or been knocked off only to land safely in the arms (or on the couch) of a friend?

Our social networks may have been commodified in order to sell advertisements and entertain our work days, but they are also a lifeline for those in need, and their absence can translate to a life-sentence of poverty.

Imagine an existence where even your most desperate “posts” were ignored and no one “liked” anything about you. With pages and pages of faces and friends at the touch of a button, I’m worried that many of us have forgotten what solitude is.

I was reminded two years ago after missing a flight home from Mexico City. I had spent my last 10 pesos on the metro to the airport, and when the airline attendant told me I was too late, I asked her what I should do. She informed me that I would have to buy another ticket and when I told her that I had no money, she gave me a great little piece of advice: “Get a job,” she said.

I laughed at first but my situation was not funny. Without any pesos, I couldn’t even make a phone call. I considered stealing a phone card, but the thought of jail in Mexico City sent a nasty chill down my spine.
Out of options but still too proud to beg, I removed a beautiful turquoise-inlaid necklace (a souvenir from my trip) and started trying to sell it right there in the airport.

No one was interested, and after two hours I was on the verge of tears. It was getting dark and I was facing a night alone on the streets of the largest city in the western hemisphere.
Just as I was about to give up and leave, (with absolutely no idea where to go) a tall, blonde-haired man in a denim jacket and matching blue jeans walked over and inquired about my situation. With great humility, I explained that I was a student, stranded and out of cash. I was surprised when he smiled at this and as he reached for his wallet, he simply said, “I’ve been there.”

The man told me to keep my necklace because it suited me and then gave me about 100 pesos; more than enough to call home. Later, a store clerk in the airport gift shop also gave me two phone cards for the price of one. (I was lucky enough to have someone to call.) I made it back to American soil by the grace of a stranger and the love of my family.

True solitude in the context of poverty means living completely alone, without the social networks needed to bounce back from catastrophe. It is an all-or-nothing game without second chances, and before we – as a community – draw lines between the “deserving” and “undeserving,” let us consider the grace bestowed on us individually whether we deserve it or not. There is power and dignity in friendship, and it comes only with the obligation to occasionally care about someone as if they were family (like my Mexico City hero in the Canadian tuxedo).

It doesn’t always require dollars or pesos, the currency of compassion is already in our hearts and hands. Are our comfort zones so precious to us that we cannot open the door to those left standing in the cold?

– John Michael Peck, via e-mail

Sure signs of spring in Durango
To the editor,
The harbinger of spring, men on bicycles wearing Spandex, is upon us.

Durango, yearn not for Snowdown. Embrace our next great costumed festival, spring time!

While the Diamond Lil cowboy look has proven to be a stable season choice on Main, the outlaw biker outfit is a popular seasonal choice. Don a bandana, stick a stogie in your pie hole, add some leather and presto! And to cheaply accessorize, just stand next to the row of parked Harleys on Main.

And what would spring time be without the assortment of outdoor action figures on Main Street?

River runners, rock climbers, mountain bikers … . Each of these ensembles always lends zeal to our downtown. And please note that even the original icons of identity, the Village People, were successful without ever having to build a house, go on the warpath or even make an arrest.

Spring time in Durango is not just only for grown-ups. Kids, grab your skateboards and your headphones, pluck some twigs from your dreads, and populate our park benches. And remember, there are still plenty of puppies to be had at the shelter.Cheers!

– Jack Benzilio, Durango

Tuft died avoiding another rider
To the Editor,
I have just read your commentary by Stacy Falk titled “A Fine Line.”  I noticed the names on the list at the top of the commentary, and one name stood out to me – Charles Tuft, 62, Vail.

Your commentary infers that these people on the list all met their fate by ducking ropes at ski areas for powder or some other adventure. Had you checked your sources and at least Googled Charley’s name, you would have found that he wasn’t cutting under a rope. As friends who were with him stated, Charley was on Get-A-Long Trail, which is a beginner run which is a road in fact and almost horizontal. Charley was avoiding a snowboarder who was cutting him off. To miss the snowboarder, he went under the rope on the side of the road, hit an exposed tree stump and died from internal injuries. He wasn’t ducking the rope for “freshies” as is usually the case when we all duck a rope. He was trying to avoid another rider.

That was the Charley Tuft I knew. Nobody loved the powder more than him. (Maybe me.) He and I had great powder days at Jackson Hole and Purgatory with the San Juan Snow Cats operation. He was a great guy and a good friend. I hope this letter clears up any inference that Charley was recklessly ducking the ropes on purpose. He respected the mountains and appreciated the joy they gave him.

– Jerry Weis, Durango

Road Trip

In the weedy, rodent-realm
of the side yard,
my cousins and I played for hours
in the old rusted ford.
That was Bridgeport at Grandpa’s,
in the summer of ’54,
when the farm could still meet the sea.
The smells of grease, rotted upholstery,
and sun- baked metal are enduring.
We spent those hours turning the tight curves,
oblivious to the distant calls for supper.
Pushing in buttons, flipping broken switches,
Gearing down, we drove through the towns
And villages of our imagination.
Peering through the shattered windshield,
we continued joyously onward,
bouncing on broken springs
toward an uncertain destination.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio



In this week's issue...

May 14, 2020
The great re-awakening

Shrouded in unknowns, the timeline for re-opening some businesses in Colorado came into clearer view Tuesday.

May 15, 2020
The best defense

Pandemics often bring pandemonium. It is easy to be fearful about coronavirus. But we already possess the greatest weapon on Earth against it: our amazing body and its powerful immune system.

May 7, 2020
Yes! The Farmers Market is opening

It may be hard to imagine, but while us humans are shuttered away in our houses, or hiding behind facemasks and Zoom meetings, the natural world is going on without us.