Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Colorado Ugly

Why are people in Colorado mean?
There are a number of reasons why colorado folks are less friendly than other Americans. First, I would like to describe the problem, and show that I am not the only one who believes this [from reddit.com]:

I'm trying to like Colorado but I don't. (self.Colorado)
submitted 1 year ago by the_iceman_shruggeth
I have been living in Colorado for about 8 or 9 months now, and as much as I love the sunshine, the mountains, the snowboarding, the hiking, etc., I am just miserable here. The people here are some of the rudest, if not the rudest, I've ever come across, and I don't understand it. I've tried so hard to make friends, but no one will even talk to me outside of being drunk at a bar. I went to a very strange, pretentious art school in Chicago, so I'm pretty used to pretentious douchebags, but here, it's above and beyond what I've experienced. Denver is literally the only place where I've walked up to people, introduced myself, and had them look me up and down, turn around, and ignore me. And this is at events, not at nightclubs or anything like that. I'm a fairly attractive lady who smiles a lot, so I don't understand what is wrong. Why is everyone so mean here? What should I do to make friends?(I am trying to get work elsewhere but my circumstances leave me stranded here. Most Coloradans respond with a "please move" (which is a fucked up thing to say) if you don't like the state, but I really can't.)
End of excerp.

    I will not list more, but there are a wealth of these kind of reactions to the state with the green licence plates. I lived in Telluride from 1978 - 1986, and returned for visits until about 1995.
    After i began to be mistreated by the newer residents, and stopped visiting, I wondered how the condition had come about. I researched the history of the state, and found that it had been settled by miners. The California gold rush had started first. In California, the gold could be found in elemental form in streams, and then traced upstream to a vein. It was typically mined out of hillsides with large hydrolic operations. Such operations were large, cooperative efforts, that resulted in the freeing of many slaves, and the forming of long lasting partnerships.
    So, finding the gold vein was of little use to the loan prospector with his mule. He could dig up or pan a little of it near the surface, but exploitation of a large vein was to be done by a community. The gold in Colorado was a different story. It was discovered after the California gold, and attracted miners that had failed in the earlier gold rush. Exploitation required hard rock mining, and sadly, the gold could not be freed from the resulting ore by means of a stream of water. It was frustrating for prospectors and miners alike, as they could dig the ore with explosives and machinery that was already available, but were unable to the free the gold from the ore for further shipment. it was not economic to ship the ore elsewhere for processing, and new, large scale technology was needed. It was really not profitable to find a great vein, unless you could protect your find, and sell it to someone from out of state who had the funding to bring in giant stamp mills to crush the rocks, and to devise new processes for freeing the elemental gold using very hazardous chemicals like arsenic. Thus, new words for invented for the sort of behaviors that worked for preserving 'your' find: backstabbing and dry gulching.
    The areas where miners could live in Colorado were drastically different from the rolling hills where the minerals were found in California. Large mountains cut with tight valleys necessitated awkward makeshift towns with all kinds of sanitary and land issues. The miners were not freeing elemental gold from the sides of gentle valleys to sell on their own. They were working for a wealthy company that was often based elsewhere, and were exploited and even beaten and killed by hired thugs when they tried to get better pay. The tight living conditions meant that the native American residents of the valleys needed to be forced out rather harshly. This can be seen as the start of the forceful real estate mentality.
    It is reasonable to assume that behavioral shaping that occurred over 100 years ago could still affect modern people? I believe that it is. People do not leave all at once, to be replaced with all new people that are friendly and unaffected. Residents who leave are replaced piecemeal, more like cells in the body. The except at the start of this article is from a new, hopeful person who is being retrained reluctantly. If she stays, she can grow a spiky exterior, or become a sort of amazing, anomalous Bodhisattva who can remain, unaffected among less evolved souls. I know some of these shining examples, and worship them myself!
    It is interesting that the mining magnates have, to some extent, just been replaced by a different kind of well moneyed exploiter. The land disputes have not ceased with increased population pressure. And, the type of people who dream of moving to Colorado are under the same kind of economic pressure to relocate. Starry-eyed new Coloradans are met in overcrowded valleys by less recent arrivals who are not so welcoming. The Colorado born often do not defend their real estate as violently as 'natives' that have arrived from 'Back East' within the last decade or 2. It might be similar to 'hazing' at a fraternity, where the students hazed last year are well motivated to haze new arrivals.
    There has got to be more to it! There must be a selection process, and it would likely work in 2 directions. In one direction, new arrivals feel comfortable there, and decide to stay if they are compatible with the Colorado mindset. It is obvious that the often smiling young lady would have bounced out of there quickly were she not trapped in some committing situation. She would leave too quickly to contribute her smiles and social skills to the community. A person who felt immediately at home in Colorado would be unlikely to change the community mindset. In the other direction, what will become of ms. smiles if she stays? Is it possible that she will overcompensate, like a recovering alcoholic behaves around alcohol?  That is what i would guess.
    In this case, we would have a self perpetuating cloud of meanness. I live on the edge of it, and it is blatantly obvious to us here. Don't get me wrong, this rant maniac of an author is about the meanest, nastiest curmudgeon of them all!
    PS... This post is not open to aggressive comments from young Colorado males. We are tired of your mean attempts to dominate the internet with foul language and threats. Should you write something that has content and and shows your even temper, it will remain here for years, and I will reply respectfully. Thank you for reading!


  1. Joel Jones placed on my facebook 'teaser':

    I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but it wouldn't let me... it was locked up. So... here you go. ...
    I’ve never been overly apprehensive over why folks from Colorado are so outlandishly disrespectful. They just are, and I will go out of my way to avoid them because they’re boisterous, belligerent, and egotistical vexations of the sprit… avoiding them comes easy for me.
    I’ve had the opportunity to meet, socialize, and at times compete against residents of Colorado in various sporting events over a number of decades (80’s, 90’s, 10’s)… Colorado’s unjustifiably arrogant populace is irrefutable, and unfailing.
    Just recently, my wife and I watched the documentary film about a group of friends hiking the world famous John Muir Trail… The Muir Project “Mile, Mile and a Half.” Anyway, about midway through the film, the primary group is joined (more like hijacked) by a husband and wife visiting from Colorado… if you’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting a Colorado resident on the trial (or elsewhere for that matter), you’ll recognize these two as the archetypal Coloradoan immediately. In fairness, both my wife and I agree that the husband was far more subdued (as the show progressed), but the wife, despite her efforts to fake her way around it, failed miserably at sequestering her Coloradoan taint, and was a major distraction to the overall spiritual intent of the film.
    Colorado… what ever, man (*slow clap). I’m just grateful that I live in the mighty Pacific Northwest and have plenty of epic wilds to satisfy my soulful needs. Colorado can keep their tourism brochures, and hide behind their bought and paid for reviews. The only time I’ll be visiting is when I’m passing through to get somewhere else.

    1. Joel, thank you very much for taking the time to type this. I would say that it is another to add to Iceman_Shruggeth's post that starts this discussion. I have many experiences as well, including the strange experience of having an older Boulder climbing couple drive a pick up into my very remote camp, pop the tailgate open, begin to blast music, and engage in screaming sex. every movement and sound was very apparent to me, and it seemed to be intended so. It was made more bizarre, because when i approached them, they looked like friendly college professors, and they had no problem when i mentioned that i could see them having sex, and hear their pillow talk over the loud music. In fact, they treated me like a creature that was beneath their notice, and went on with their nice date. I felt like a house cat watching his owner take a dump.

      needless to say, i spent several hours putting my solar panels and motorcycle back into my camper,and moving camp. They had effectively poached my campsite!

      I will stop after just this one strange example, as I believe that the most productive work that we can do is to figure out why this behavior occurs. Instead of planning how to avoid the state and it's residents, perhaps we can type some magical thing that will begin a cascade of change within this difficult community.

  2. I mean I want to advocate that we are certainly a product of our environment. We can make the same argument for say the system of ghettos and underdeveloped neighborhoods where crime is rampant. I'm sure at one point CO was fantastic to live in (and I'm very sure there are many good apples there perhaps even more in the towns farther from the city). If the environment was fueled by mineral acquisition and technology it would definitely leave a bad after-taste in the people. However I am not sure if we can entirely contribute this problem to this.

    Their attitude may very well stem from the personal ego the individual must have. Ive seen people who hike and climb and almost turn into that stereotypical "I'm having fun and you are not" types. With their ease of access to the trails and beautiful ranges they may just adopt that frame of mind which can come off as purely arrogant to most of us outsides hell even many of the outdoors folk! I have to drive hundreds of miles to reach the mountains but being humble is a very important thing.

    This is all coming from a fellow who wanted to move to CO. But alas we still need to find the answer to the reasons why CO is like this. And there are certainly many reasons!


    1. Zen, i am glad that you mentioned easy access to trails, because i have found that that is not the case in wonderful Co. Because the state is made of very high mountains with tight V shaped valleys, there is limited parking, and on weekends, way too many recreators per recreation opportunity. I believe that this may be what has allowed the backstabbing of the mining days to continue.

      The parties that one meets seem military, and often accompanied by dangerous pets. This very unfriendly exterior might work like the creosote bush, which poisons the ground for 30 feet around it so that no other plant will grow. the bush can then use all the rain and nutrients!

      Don't take my word for it, check. But, for mercy sake, do not commit yourself for a year there without checking! I do not wish to receive semi suicidal letters like the one that starts this post.

    2. Ahh that is news to me. I will def be wary because you are not the only person saying that this is a stereotype. Many people on reddit said the same. This doesn't mean you are correct but there is some evidence and hypotheses we're looking at that leans toward some validity of this.

      Lack of perfect access to trails angers many! The gung ho attitude mixed with bumper to bumper parking etc can light the metaphorical fuse in anyone be it out of state or the COer.

      I post some excerpts of people who lived in CO and had this to say:
      (Also provided links for your own reading)

      The few towns in Colorado that still have strong senses of community and have fewer of the self-centered people you describe tend to be the more non-tourist-oriented, agricutural communities. I've lived in a couple of them and there is a palpable difference in the attitude of people.

      Read more: http://www.city-data.com/forum/denver/76608-co-full-self-centered-jerks-like.html#ixzz3SGw8Ue6k


  3. I was born and raised in an agricultural community in Western Colorado, and recently moved to Boulder for college. The change in the people here compared to my hometown is obvious; everyone seems to be competing with one another to fit in, and honest friends that are true to themselves are hard to come by.

    I've thought about why this mindset is present throughout the more populated area of the state for awhile now, and am very glad I stumbled upon your article. It makes a lot of sense! People are very much products of their environments, and the perpetuation of the stress, ego, and lack of true contentedness from the mining days, now translated to other areas, definitely could be part of the problem. I think many other factors are at work, but this is the overall mindset I see. It is most definitely present in Boulder, although not as much in the smaller communities on the Western Slope, of course leaving out resort towns like Telluride that you mentioned. Nobody here partakes in outdoor activities for themselves! Rather, they market their activities and attempt to constantly validate what they've done, and it really bums me out.

    I thought I just didn't fit in, as it seems like everyone worships CO on their knees, so it is very refreshing to read about this underlying tension that no one lets themselves acknowledge. Thanks for posting this article!

    With all respect, Ari.

    1. Ari, it is good to hear from a native born and rural Coloradan. Your case is, of course, the saddest of all. I am guessing that you grew up with genuine and somewhat magical outdoor experiences. Some of my fondest memories are of a good friend who would wake me on bright full moon nights, with a tiny spring wagon pulled by 2 silly ponies. We would bounce around together, chatting or just gaping with wide eyed wonder. As far as I know, this is the first time that the rides have been revealed, so we must have done them for the experience, and not to create an envy generating facebook post.

      I wonder if you would describe how you handled Boulder. What did you do for fun? could you find good friends? Were you able to keep a helpful and open attitude despite the difficulties?

    2. Hey Alf, thanks for the reply. I'm currently in Boulder for my third year of college, and these questions you ask are very interesting to think about.

      Besides the overall majority, I have found some very good people here. I spend most of my time with a solid friend group that partake in the same activities I enjoy. Still, these people are hard to come by, and a lot of the time I feel like personal interest still takes priority in many of the people I spend my time with. Like I said before, people are products of their environment.

      As far as personal integrity, I feel like it's very hard to not succumb to this judgmental and defensive attitude when constantly surrounded by it.

      I would like to think I've maintained an open and more honest attitude than many of my peers here in Boulder. I do see myself having a pretentious attitude at times, although I try to catch myself when I do, and reflect on what I need to change. I guess realization of this is the first step, and critically looking at, and attempting to change one's own attitude is the next. Self integrity is crucial for well being, and I feel like that's part of the problem here. Since everyone is constantly trying to impress other people, they have forgotten what makes themselves truly happy, and we end up with this attitude of superficiality. The onslaught of social media and self image seems to be playing a big part in this, but that's a whole different conversation..

      I wholeheartedly agree with you in that some of my best memories came out of being in the moment, never being concerned with what others would think, never seeking documentation or validation of the experience. Now, especially here, it's hard to partake in any activity without it being documented on a smart phone and immediately updated into someone's digital life. Another point along these lines is that it's increasingly difficult for those attempting to be artists in the realms of photography and video in such a time, as validation becomes more about numbers than true recognition.

      All points aside, Boulder is definitely the epitome of this attitude people have observed in Colorado, and I'm hoping to leave once I graduate, possibly finding somewhere more true to itself.


    3. i hope that you can hold out for another year with your true self intact. For me, the saddest part has been Meeting wide eyed and hopeful easterners that are moving to Boulder.

      I know that there is a good chance that they will soon be lonely and a little suicidal, or on their way to becoming as mean as hell. In this respect, It is a giant machine for processing and sorting people.

      The ones that love money and notoriety over here; The ones that value quality of life and genuine friendship over there.... Those in the middle seem to get forced in one direction or the other.

      I live near Moab, which is the Boulder of Utah. I measure the attitude to be 1/16 as extreme as the REAL Boulder. Like you, I have found some really genuine folks to hang out with. we inspire one another in art, and have some fun in the desert


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About Me

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I am a fine art photographer and filmmaker. Lately, I have been doing panoramic images of the Canyonlands area, and printing them using archival materials. These large images are placed in work cubicles and homes, and can sometimes briefly transport the viewer to a contemplative location.