By Mike (Roadie) Marino
Colorado has a schizophrenic schism that is more pronounced than the Continental Divide! This Rocky Mountain duality manifests itself in it’s approach to the arts, history and tourism. It is also this very same lets split-the-atom personality that has also been responsible for the Frankensteinian creation of a corral full of colorful Colorado characters whose mythic size and legend loom bigger than antlers on a bull elk in rut!
The true dichotomy of the state lies in fact with the existence of the Continental Divide. Water runs to the Atlantic on the east, and makes a beeline for the Pacific on the west, go west, young river. A paranormal convergence of the planets can’t be blamed, just plain old fashioned gravity. The same force that holds us terra firmly and keeps us grounded. A fact of nature, and a fact of life is all. The duality continues with the fact that yoga and vegetarianism stand shoulder to shoulder with pyramid power and the magic of crystals, yet carnivoria is celebrated and the state is damned proud that it was home to America’s Cannibal, Alferd Packard, a meat eater if ever one lived. Hell, the medical college even has a bronze bust of the eater of human happy meals in the university cafeteria!
If it’s a Mile High Art Attack your after, they have a high brow plethora of Picasso’s and museums of Monet’s. Yet, in the parks around Denver they have scads of sculptures and at the Swetsville Zoo north of the Mile High City, a field of dreams exists where everything from Jurassic giants and offbeat oddities abound made completely of auto, truck and tractor parts. It’s not highbrow to raise your eyebrows, but simply enough a lovable collection of pedestrian art and decadent heavy metal deco. Art, nonetheless, pedestrian, to be sure.
Fine wine, and delicious dine are hallmarks of life in the Rockies. French nouvelle, prepared by pampered chef’s send signals to the brain that pleasure awaits them with every plateful and every palateful of souffled and flambeaued passion, attractively adorned on the platter. Yet, in Severence, Colorado, you can wolf down an intimidating plateful of Rocky Mountain Oysters and wash it all down with an inexpensive beer or ale. No Bull!
Life is love and love is life in Colorado, yet there is a morbid, yet lighthearted fascination and celebration of death. Doc Holliday, for example, is buried somewhere in Glenwood Springs, no one is exactly sure where for certain, and no one is absolutetly certain where in fact he died. Sanitarium or Hotel Room. After the “troubles” in Tombstone and the sixgun cacophony of the Ok Corral, he ventured to the Springs for his health. Unfortunately the healing gasses were not compatible with his tuberculosis, and in time the fumes snuffed him out like a candle. Similar thing happend to Bela Lugosi. After years of heroin abuse, he quit jamming needles into his arm and died soon thereafter while filming an Ed Wood movie and in effect drove a virtual stake through his own heart. Doc Holliday now not only has a bar and grill named after him in Glenwood Springs, complete with two story neon sixshooter outside, but has death has become the stuff of legend and mystery, and certainly qualifies him as the Jimmy Hoffa of the old west. To borrow phrase from Doc, “Isn’t it funny”..
Buffalo Bill Cody, showman and frontiersman, is buried under concrete on top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado. Cody was a premier showman who brought the Wild West, complete with “plains savages”, warpaint and guns ablazin’ to the genteel cities of the east and the European world stages in the waning years of the West. When he died, he was buried six feet under good, firm Colorado soil. However, Nebraska decided to not let one of their sons rest in peace in a foriegn land. Once he was buried in the state, nefarious Nebraskans stole his body and re-buried him in the farm rich soils of the rectangle state. Corn mostly. Coloradan’s not wanting to be outdone by Cornhuskers, unearthed the Nebraska soils, carried Cody back to Colorado and today he rests in peace under concrete, safe from Nebraska shovels, dreaming of the Old West and Coor’s beer.
If your looking to be dazed and bedazzled, then Nederland, Colorado outdoes them all, and their celebration of the dead would rival the most robust of New Orleans funerals as they roll out a dead Norweigian for the annual Dead Guy Days every year. Bredo Morstoel was born in Norway in 1901, died in Norway in 1989, cryo-ed in LA and somehow ended up in a frozen bombproof bunker in Colorado. In Spring, Nederlands only “dead” resident alien Grandpa, as Bredo is lovingly referred to, is rolled out of his bombshelter for a whopping hoot of a festival, complete with food vendors, music, races and souvenirs. If the same festival were held in Chicago, Grandpa Bredo would probably be given a voting ballot. Vote early, Vote often. Now, that is a Rocky Mountain Cryofest that pushes the envelope.
No amount of prozac or other prescribed meds will ever cure Colorado of it’s peculiar schizoid personality. On the one hand, logical, self sufficient beings go about their daily lives, much as they do in Indiana or anywhere else as bland as mashed potato’s, but then you have one gent near Colorado City who has been building a rock castle complete with metal dragons heads in the mountains since 1969.
Not only will you get to enjoy the mortar maze of the mountains at Bishop Castle, but will also, if he’s in the mood, the owner will regale you, with the evils of the World Bank and life under the communist dictatorship of FDR. Strangely enough, or maybe not, the castle is being built on a grassy knoll!
John Denver sang the virtues of America’s spinal column for years, before his wings gave out, and he is not the only celebrity to race to the Rockie’s to get high. Gonzo-god and journalist, Hunter S. Thompson maintains a compound sanctuary just outside of Aspen, and the rags make way for the riches every year during winter, as the Celebrity Nation descends to the area to ascend the ski slopes and enjoy the powder.
As the Zeusians enjoy the mountains with mountains of money, the Plebians can enjoy Colorado’s natural bounty as well, for free, or at least on the cheap. Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs are a couple of environmentally correct choices and the outdoor activity can’t be beat. The Arkansas River turns white water into gold with activities ranging from rafting and kayaking and the Royal Gorge of Canon City, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison run deep with tranquil beauty.
Mountain bikes share the road with the prodigy of Henry Ford. Cheap beer can be found in the center of Colorado’s wine country, yes, there actually is such a place, and while the general population is as normal as mom and apple pie, across the valley, it’s not unusual to have a lost soul, fed up with local government, take a bulldozer and mow down city hall, and then relocate to Idaho! So don’t be surprised some day to wander into a restuarant in downtown Denver and see a Cannibal and a vegetarian from Vincennes enjoying a glass of chablis together. The Colorado Schizophrenia is what gives the region is color and it’s character, and as long as it keeps taking it’s meds, you shouldn’t have to bring along a straight jacket on your next vacation.
This Dharmabum Roadhead writer’s work has been described as DELIGHTFULLY WIERD and WICKEDLY WONDERFUL!! Mike (Roadie) Marino is a publisher of an on line magazine called ROAD TRIPPIN’ USA. It’s an asphalt kickin’ journey of Roadside Nostalgia and American Pop/Car Culture for the Chrome-Magnon in all of us. The style is lock n load and deals with the realm of where Pop Culture and Chrome meet Asphalt and Art!!
Mike also writes a monthly feature column under the banner THE ROADHEAD for the award winning Offbeat Travel zine. His column deals with bizzare ashpalt and roadside oddities and locales from mechanical museums to Cadillac Ranch. Mike is also a freelance writer of travel and history pieces that have been published in magazines and ezines in the US and Europe.
Most current project includes toiling endlessly on his first book about Pop and Car Culture in America of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Although born in the rustbelt of industrial Detroit, he’s also been the definitive son-of-a-beach and has lived in a treehouse in Honolulu, the tie dyed spare change neighborhood of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, as well as the North Beach district..where the Beat Goes On!!
Today Mike (Roadie) Marino lives in Missouri near the banks of the Missouri River with his word processor. In addition, to writing and backpacking, Mike has a penchant for Hawaiian shirts, Jimmy Buffett albums and Corona Beer. If you would like to use any of Mike’s articles some of which are included here, contact him at the email address below or at firstname.lastname@example.org He also accepts contract work and what the hell, a good agent wouldn’t hurt either. So contact him for rates and information. Now…Have Fun Reading…Grab A Cold Corona..And Kick Asphalt!!!