Thursday, September 2, 2010


I am currently staying with my father in the little town of Parachute, Colorado. Parachute is about half an hour west of the two towns I grew up in, Silt and Rifle... And yes, those are the real names. This is the first time I’ve spent more than three days in Colorado since I moved to Seattle eight years ago. (I will be staying six weeks here.) It feels so strange. Part of me feels like I never left, yet part of me feels like I am in a foreign country. I guess it’s kind of like visiting a place I lived in during a previous life, simultaneously familiar and alien.

I thought I’d share some photos, starting with some from around my dad’s house.

Pa's boots:

A rocking chair he made:

Things on the front of his refrigerator:

Here are some close-ups of that last one (they’re kind of blurry, sorry...cell phone camera):

His peach tree (“bandaged” due to over-pruning) and all the peaches we picked:

His yard:

Pictures from around his neighborhood:

(Those are dirt-bike/ATV trails)

The local convenience store chain, nicknamed “Ejaculate and Evacuate” by local teens:

This is the restaurant my dad goes to for breakfast on most weekday mornings. It is owned by an ex Denver Broncos player. My dad says the brand marks on the wall are probably from local cattle ranches:

A few blocks from where my dad lives, there are several streets of abandoned trailer houses, as seen in these photos:

This is a result of the local natural-gas industry going through a decline. For a few years, the industry was booming, but it seems to be ending almost as quickly as it began. The boom first started a couple of years after I moved to Seattle, when Halliburton and other oil companies discovered all the natural gas. Our towns changed overnight. Ranchers whose families had lived here for decades were suddenly informed that they only owned the land rights to their property, not the mineral rights. The oil companies started coming onto the ranchers’ land to drill, making messes that rarely got cleaned up as promised. Hundreds of heavy trucks started tearing up the gravel roads outside of town. The sounds of drilling and pumps could be heard day and night, and the once dark nighttime hillsides were suddenly ablaze with glaring white lights. Hoards of single young men started moving into town to take advantage of the dangerous but high paying drill jobs. (My younger brother worked among them, getting at most four days off per month. Shifts were as long as sixteen hours. He still works for Halliburton, but now he’s a truck mechanic, so his job is at least less dangerous now.) A lot of young families moved in, too. When I was growing up, one high school served three towns, but because of the population increase, more schools had to be built. Towns that once had one or two motels each suddenly had between five and ten. Strip malls with the usual national corporate stores started popping up. Glenwood Springs got a Pier 1 Imports. Rifle got a Super Wal-Mart and a Starbucks.

Now that the industry has declined, people have started moving out of town. All those motels that were built in the middle of old cow pastures now stand mostly empty, looking cheaply rectangular and gaudy. When I look at those motels, they seem to me like a sixty-year-old man who went and took a shitload of Viagra, anticipating a hot date with a woman thirty years his junior. But all she did was make him buy her a bunch of drinks and filet mignon, and then she left without giving him so much as a goodnight kiss. And now he’s stuck with a painful erection he can’t get rid of.


  1. Your father seems to be such a sweet and loving man. I love the note he put on the refrigerator to himself on whether he spends more time complaining about other people or praying for them.

    Even if one isn't religious in any way, I think this can apply to all of us. The basic message is: Do I spend more time generating a negative attitude towards things that can't be changed or do I choose to focus my attention on positive activity?

    He really does appear to be a lovely man, with a heart of gold.

  2. I never knew it was so arid there, but the landscape looks really dramatic and beautiful.

  3. The area reminds me a lot of Palm Springs. There it's basically a retirement community built around an oasis in the desert, and as it expands the new construction stands out starkly against the arid wilderness. Your father's house reminds me of the kind of houses there. They are almost all neatly tended with perfect landscaping that somehow seems out of place, like a beach towel lying on a beach. The houses that are not being lived in or actively sold are immediately identifiable by how the desert has reclaimed their lawns.

    How are the ribs?

  4. I take umbrage at his refriger-flections.

  5. That's a great economic metaphor too, the old man and the young date.