Pikes Peak Part II: The Bottom of the Top of the World

The base of Pikes Peak springs up from Manitou Springs, the Mecca of Colorado and well of CO spiritual life since time began. The first mile of this base is called The Incline, and I heard from several different sources that it’s the Stairmaster from Hell. Did I believe them? Nooo! and so a couple of weeks after coasting up the Peak in a motorcar, my Colorado Springs buddy Daniel showed me the local’s way up, The Incline

Of course I didn’t believe them. There was no way it could be as hard as they said. I told people I was going up The Incline for a week before I actually did it, and they were properly impressed. The guy at the gym told me the gruesome story of his divorce with his ex-wife, a tale beginning when she wimped out on a similar trail. Beverly Hills chick, pshaw.
You know what? It was every bit as hard as people said it was. I was prepared for ridiculously steep and tall steps made for people with 6’ legs, and I was even forewarned for the 68% grade. Did you know that the steepest road grade is 8%? Or 12%? Something like that. Just keep it in mind. The average Incline grade evens out at about 41%, and yes, really cracks down at 68%. But I hadn’t quite grasped exactly what a difference an extra 1,000 feet of altitude or so makes until The Incline made me feel it.

It’s hard enough to walk in straight line uninebriated on flat ground. Here, I was pretty much sauced on lack of oxygen, and I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. In fact, let’s be realistic. I was stumbling up like I’d started the day off with one too many and I nearly fell to my death from the edge of the trail and died a sad death of being trampled by the hordes of athletic old ladies and their athletic dogs. I felt ridiculous. It was ridiculous. I looked completely ridiculous. I had to stop every 15’ feet.

The Incline Club’s lack-of-oxygen tee and diagrams make me feel a little better.
As does the fact that the trail down is a cautious slope of switchbacks that covers 4 miles to The Incline’s 1 mile distance. But by the time we got to the switchbacks, I was so dizzy that I could barely walk on solid ground, and the wooden rails on the downward trail that usually seem to be crawling with germs and their offspring were a great idea.
Ah, The Incline, what a great, local, empowering thing-to-have-done. I’m even strongly considering getting the I’ve Done the Incline tee. I loved it: the top gives a panorama of the city that looks like a pen-and-ink from the 60’s.

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Pikes Peak Part I: The Top of the World

Addie and the kids and I drove up Pikes Peak a few weeks ago to see the natural wonders of the surrounding area and to sing Sharon, Lois and Bram on the way up. The natural wonders were very wonderful. The top was rather – excruciatingly – windy.
Lucille & Molly at the Peak
Jeromy spilled his hot chocolate on the lodge floor, two times. The clerk who had to clean it up was a total jerk before the spill, so he deserved to get the mop out twice. Teach him to know everything and to be too cocky to sell a coffee! Lulu and I almost fainted in the girls restroom when she needed a quick try because it was sauna-warm and mineral-smelling and the lights were the kind used to torture Communist POWs. No postcards. How cliché is Pikes Peak – no, really, I didn’t want to get out my license AGAIN for the mop-boy who would have totally made me do it, too.
So we finished our hot chocko in the car after some quick pix in the wind on the view points, and, while the kids basked in the warmth of the Lumina, I had a quick dash around the perimeter by myself. Wow. It really is breath-taking, strolling around the edge of mountain that is on top of America, on top of the curve of the earth. So what that you can see five states. This is the world. This mountain peaks the land, it’s an ultimatum of the good earth, rumbling together from hundreds of miles away into this graceful, aquiline crest of rock.

I lost a glove in the field of Mars rocks before the earth falls away and all of the dashing around looking for it made me really, really dizzy. Amazingly, I found it. Happy ending. We drove down through the Garden of the Gods – a really great group of rocks that looks like a collection of blood-orange baked Play-Dough statues, complete with kissing camels and all, and were back by 12.00 in the afternoon. We went to the top of the world and back by noon.

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Chai in Boulder

I acclimated myself to Boulder with a chalice of frothing chai at the Dunshanbe Tea House, a Tajikistan palace imported into an open park in downtown Boulder. Although Dunshanbe is a full restaurant, it is known far and wide as the best cup of chai, and nowhere in all the land is there to be found a tea with as much warmth or as nippy a snap. I sat at the mahogany bar with my chai; the silver-screen perfect waiters get five stars.
Dunshanbe is a marble courtyard, palmed and candled. In the center is the fountain of the Seven Beauties, seven princesses of a fairy tale inscribed in the scrolls of the poet Nezami Ganjavi in the 12th century. In the Nezami translation that I found, the hero is beset by a quest to find his love and hindered by tasks and a strong Victorian voice.

A hundred arms were weak on block to move
Of thousands, moulded by the hand of Love
Into fantastic shapes and forms of grace
Which crowd each nook of that fantastic place.

Love grants me powers that nature might deny;
And whatsoe’er my doom, the world shall tell,
The lover gave to immortality
Her name he loved – so fatally – so well!

This fountain is a replica of the seven princesses, and the seven princesses set the tone for Dunshanbe. Pourquoi – Dunshanbe, Tijakistan presented the city of Boulder, Colorado with a teahouse to cement the sister city ties in 1990. Let’s hope that Boulder did right by them and built them – I don’t know, a nice frat house?

Incidentally, Dunshanbe is “Monday” in Tajik because the capitol grew up around the Monday market place. Now you know. Go have some chai.

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Collide at the Fox Theater

Howie Day
The Fox Theatre is wooden and open, with levels and standing balconies, and a wooden bar in the back. It’s small and private and smack in downtown. I came in to it to Serena Ryder wailing like that train in the distance, a running smokestack haunting and lonely in the Canadian wilderness, sometimes harmonizing and sometimes screeching off the tracks. Her hair is chunky and untamed. All in all she’s independent and Wild Wild West chunk-streaked with French punk drama singing into the wind.
Serena hits some very well rounded notes, she tosses out some well-rounded lines. Her is heavily punctuated and makes “heh heh heh” precisely onomatopoeic as it nips obnoxiously after her Lucky Strike voice. It would do well in an SNL skit. Despite the laugh, the lights flash purple on her black spanks and her dress mushrooms, reflections of her visit to Paris. She sweeps you into the atmosphere of a New Age bookstore with heavy incense on a flame behind her that creates a mood for the tarot cards at her merch table. Serena is a magnificent choice of tourmate for Howie Day because her fatality and cynicism fits the many pockets of hurt singles that are waiting for him to tell them how it was. But this is all I can really say for Serena Ryder because, although she was happy to talk and I could have had my palm read in the meantime, I opted for Howie Day and left Serena’s time slot free for an infatuated groupie.
It’s not that I object to mainstream pop, it’s that mainstream pop crowd tends to draw a mainstream crowd, most of whom were drunk or at least buzzed by the time Howie Day stole the stage. It was a party of tipsy, nicotine-coated Michaels, Kellies, and Andies from The Office, with Ryan up at the front leading them on in a theme song – every person in that audience was five, ten, fifteen years older than me, and it seemed a given that either Collide or She Says had carried them through every deep water in their lives.
But of course he would be absolutely charming. Howie Day is the boy next door… the one that hooked up with Britney Spears while they were in in rehab. These days, he is taming the tiger and his new album, Sound the Alarm, is a collection of reflections pondering life’s pathways. Day says that represents “the end of one era and the start of another.” Despite the new leaves, he’s still the same sweet, sensitive artist that attracted Britney.
The boyish smile speaks camaraderie: the man is good with a crowd, and Day is a master at packaging mainstream sentiment honestly and humbly. I could practically float on the vibe he evoked in all of those pre-midlife crisis victims. “Everyone loves to love a lie.” The revelation? Popstars and celebs have feelings too, and Howie Day seems to have an aptitude for being the spokesman. It fits with the rebel persona. And in the crowd, listening to him, all I could think was that he is speaking for a lot, a lot of people who may not have particular depth, but who certainly have a lot of what they do have. The tipsy two-stepping women in their mid-40s that I skirted around seemed to agree.

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Manitou Springs

CoSprings is great, but just right around the corner is even better. Manitou Springs is a mountain hippie community, a former commune that’s now a yuppie hang-out. I’m at the Matte Factor, the commune capitol. A mountainous hippie cult, which I’ve been told is some sort of separatist Christian sect, started this wee hideaway and peopled it with spiritual baristas and a spiritual beverage to make the new Eden. An entire coffee shop devoted to yerba matte: what heaven is this!
I’d love to know more about the commune, so maybe that story will come later.
This is a golden afternoon. In the square outside is a circle of djembists and musicians playing soundtrack music. A friendly native offered to show me the town and so I got to see a bit of the park and the old-timey arcade gallery with gorgeously tacky pinball machines and squealing town kids – I could almost hear Musee Mecanique in the background. You should ref to the article below to the full story according to ME, as transcribed after a heart-rending midnight interview.
Back in the Matte Factor, the yerba sanctuary, I’m sitting again at my little wooden table by the window over the stone bridge, where I settled after I had hidden in a booth and been seated with Amanda, a girl who was zenning out while knitting at a table by the door. There is a very helpful doorman who just moved here too, from Mountain Home, Ark, – the same little scrabbleville near Springfield, Missouri that is the home of Motorbikes, right? He actually arranged my things and plugged in the laptop so that people wouldn’t trip on the cord to make up for the resettling.
Barista one was great, but Barista II wins hands-down for friendliness and interesting conversation topics. This is an ideal place for catching good tidbits – not only is it a tiny shop, but there are actually interesting conversations going on everywhere about things that you’d actually want to hear about – UFO, nutritional horrors, conspiracy theories. I could write a novel here. I should write a novel here! Barista II has very blonde hair that frisks up around his ears in that full-of-fun fly-away natural look that kills on Ashley Green, aka vampire Alice Cullen, as you can see, but it’s loaded down with Brill cream like a civil war general’s. Actually, I think he might be Custer’s incarnation sipping yerba matte.
“Look at that llama!” says the intellect behind me. I look out the window at the stone bridge and see a man leading a very large snowy white llama across the bridge. The llama is plodding, and a very large, white llama-like terrier trots after it. Manatou Springs is now my favorite place ever. The houses are climbing the hill and hippie chic shops are lining the street colorfully; it looks like Wallace, Idaho, will when it’s discovered. Hey, maybe I should be the one to develop it and cash in! This place is great.

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Musee Mecanique

Oh the joys of the age of modernity that was. Sean Ogilvie and Micah Rabwin of Musee Mecanique are touring with Laura Gibson, and I talked to them after their Friday night performance. It was about 1 a.m. in the morning, we were all slightly sleepy, I was slightly hypnotized, and their music still has me entranced. This is what you play to make a rabid cobra nuzzle your hand like a kitty. Look out for my article/iview on Stereopathic

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Jubilee

The watery blue indie jazz of Jubilee began in Seattle with Steve Harden’s love for drums and wee-hour talks about life-stuff. “One of our conclusions was that, regardless of what art is, [the artist] gains a voice,” Harden told me, “that’s part and parcel to the whole thing.” Jubilee was started with the self-conscious purpose of sayin’ somethin’ good and fighting slavery.
Steve elaborated that “slavery exists in a lot of different forms whether its people forced to work in a brick factory or a chocolate cocoa farms or a rice mill, whatever, you find it all over the place. You find it in the United States – there’s over 150,000 slaves in the United States. These are people who are told that if you don’t work for us, we will kill you or we will beat you, or we will hurt your families.” Jubilee, officially registered as a 501 ©(3) non-profit organization, gives 50% of all proceedings to helping these victims, and their Myspace

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