3/13: How Did They Get That Way?
Durango's homeless population has soared in recent years. By many estimates, this little mountain haven of 17,000 has over 1,000 homeless. They are hard to miss, especially downtown on Historic Main Avenue, you know, the road Butch Cassidy used to hang out on. (Don't tell me you have never heard of BC).
I had a lunch meeting yesterday with a dear friend, Paul Dutcher. As I was parallel parking on Main, I was greeted by three homeless people. Two men and a woman. The woman had scratches on her face, a black eye and a look of lostness in her eyes. The men wore scruffy, graying beards with many years of neglect written all over their faces.
They immediately approached me and asked what kind of car I had just parked. I knew they were trying to work the conversation into asking for money. So, I preempted their strategy by telling the woman that I had a gift for her. Her eyes lit up. "What do you have?" she said.
I opened the trunk and grabbed a Becky Baker Foundation brochure as well as a few pink pens. As I handed her the items, I told her about Becky and how she would still be here today had she gone for her checkup. I asked the homeless lady when the last time was she had been checked, and offered her a free mammogram. She began to cry.
She told me that her mom had passed from breast cancer years ago and that she was not there to say goodbye. Unknowingly, by just handing her a brochure, I had reopened a flood of memories that gushed out in the form of tears.
At this point, the two men standing on either side of her didn't know what to do. I could tell they were very uncomfortable with their friend's tears and were trying to re-strategize asking me for money.
So, I preempted them again. I handed them each an equal amount of cash and asked them if they would watch over the car while I was at lunch. You know, keep the finger prints from lookers off.
"For this money, we will stay here and watch your car all day!" they said. I know, what else do they have to do, right?
Everyone has a story. They now know Becky's Story, but they have one too. How did they get that way? What happened in their past to make this their present? What is their future?
When I returned from lunch, the three were sitting right where I had left them and they assured me the car was "untouched." They stood up and we all hugged. Must have been a sight to see the four of us in a long embrace on Main. The lady promised she would get her mammogram, as if to honor her mother. The men thanked me again for the money. We all got what we wanted. A true Win-Win.
We must never forget how blessed we all are. If you want to start to complain about something in your life today, remember these three. It could always be worse.
3/12: To Each Their Own
I used to love Durango. Becky loved Durango. She used to shop here often, when Pagosa Springs was all mom and pop shops. Back in the day, before Walmart and the other evil corporations took over, the town was famous for being a favorite hangout for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Today, all the mom and pops are gone, replaced by $$$$$ restaurants and art galleries and I fear that most of the people here can't tell you who Butch and Sundance were. (and no, they are not a film festival)
Durango will always hold a very special place in my heart mainly because two of my kids are here along with a very special person. But, I just don't like what it has become and I know that Becky would not.
With the corporate takeover of this small Southwestern Colorado town, has come and unintended consequence: Rudeness. I have walked Main St. many times in the past 3 days. When I pass someone and smile (remember that is my resolution) trying to get them to smile back, most of the time they won't even make eye contact. If I force the issue, I am often looked at as someone who is invading their privacy. On the drive out west from NC, I listened to the book "Undead Ultra," by Camille Picott. Using my Audible iPhone app, the narration (by Gwendolyn Druyor) took 11 and 53 minutes. It was a good book, and I swear that some, no many, of the "Undead" zombies in the book have relocated to Durango.
But, there is more than just the cold corporate nature that lives here now. There is a whole new generation of young people who don't know how to work, don't want to work, and expect so much to just be given to them. While any political policy that is extreme, left or right, is dangerous, the left's control here has forever damaged this once-great small town, just as an extreme right policy would have.
Now filled with massive numbers of homeless, and quite a few panhandlers, Durango is, well, no longer "Durango."
I don't know, maybe it's just me? Maybe I am the one out-of-touch. It is not my job to get anyone to smile. I should just leave well enough alone and mind my own business. Maybe this is just the way it is here now. Guess I have been spoiled by the wonderful and happy people who live in NC. Just saying...
3/11: Hurting People
Left Winston-Salem, NC on Tuesday, drove to Scottsdale, AZ. Now in Durango, CO, then up to Fort Collins, CO, on to Santa Rosa, CA, then to Pebble Beach, CA.
One truth I have painfully realized in just this short time on the road for the #Race4Prevention Tour is: So many people are hurting.
It seems that I cannot talk to anyone anymore who is not affected by cancer. This morning, a young couple stopped at the red Datsun while I was there. I gave them a Becky Baker Foundation brochure, and some pens. When we began to talk, I learned that the young man's father has stage IV cancer and is now in hospice. Brings back sad memories for me as well.
No one ever comes back from cancer. They may believe they are now "cancer free," but will spend every waking morning wondering if that is the day the cancer returns. They will fight it the rest of their lives.
The only way to beat cancer is to not get cancer.
Please do everything in your power to protect and take care of your body. It is the only one you get, and if it gets sick, all bets are off.
Our Interstates are a mess. No, let me rephrase: They suck. I have driven close to 3,000 miles in the past 6 days, and rarely have the highways been drivable. Interstate 40 is the worst, with I17 in AZ a close second. These roads are disintegrating at a rapid pace. Chunks of concrete on major city bridges, pot holes the size of small Volkswagens along the pavement. Is a nightmare that won't be fixed any time soon. Can no longer just drive on autopilot, less the little red Datsun gets swallowed up.