Still Here

Lynn decided these birds were woodpeckers (there’s a second one a bit farther back in the leafless tree). Gunnison used to be sunny; now all we get are cloudy days with next to no rain to show for it.

I don’t know where to start. That’s a daily conundrum, you understand, one that I take more seriously some days than others. There just seems to be a general lack of wherewithal in my life these days. I keep peering around corners for any speck of good news, and most corners come up empty.

Almost every evening as I near home, I come around the last corner expecting to see Oz running up the driveway to meet my car and herd it into the garage. Many of you, out of kindness and a sincere desire to help, I understand that, have suggested getting another dog.

I can’t really see living my life without a dog, but at the moment I don’t want “a” dog; I want Oz, and that hardly seems fair to the new one. I have started going to a homebound friend’s for lunch on Tuesdays, and her granddaughter drops Bo the golden retriever off to spend the day, so I scratch Bo’s ears and toss her bits of sandwich, and that’s good enough. Until I come down the driveway without guidance each evening.

In the meantime, Lynn and I were hoping for a respite from the stream of never-ending checks written to veterinarian concerns, but that has not proved to be the case. Na Ki’o, with his host of health issues, took a bad turn this weekend and we’re now waiting to see if it’s something he can pull out of.

One of the things he came with was pancreatitis, and this condition has rarely been focused on by his vets, most of whom want to tell me how to better manage his diabetes (a different pancreatic disease) and ignore the “itis,” or inflammation portion of the equation. In fact, it took an online vet to even diagnose the problem. And when I took him earlier this year to his regular vet for a full check-up with a battery of blood tests, I never even got a report back about his elevated pancreas levels.

Fortunately, he also sees Dr. Portmann, who comes to him here at the house, and she was sent all the test results and told me about the high levels. She has been gratifyingly cognizant of this as a component of his health concerns. But that did not stop him from having a horrible weekend of vomit and diarrhea.

So far, he seems on the mend, but Dr. Portmann wanted to give it a week or so before making a determination as to whether this was a sometime flare, a chronic but manageable condition, or terminal.

Lynn and I have already told Dr. Portmann that third one isn’t an option, not just for us but for Marrakesh, who never really seemed to pay much attention to Oz but who has seemed just as bereft as all the rest of us, if not more so. He has taken to lying on one of Oz’s beds and up against the glass door as Oz used to, and he’s spending a lot more time in the company of Ki’o than he ever has. I’m afraid he’s going to be inconsolable if Ki’o doesn’t bounce back.

So there are those changes, but change feels like it’s everywhere these days. I was, one of those days I didn’t blog, going to tell you about Kellie, my dental hygienist.

Dentistry, of course, is what leads to my love of travel, since that’s the only reason I leave town, both to Crested Butte and Montrose, which once involved taking the long way home due to road construction and meant Lynn and I took a nine-hour journey for a five-minute visit with the oral surgeon.

Every six months I drive to Crested Butte to hang out for an hour or so with Kellie. It’s always hard to converse while her implements are in my mouth, but I always manage to ask a couple questions about her lifestyle. While I lived for many years on Irwin Street, Kellie is a resident of the mining town for which my street was named.

I don’t particularly have fond memories of the town of Irwin myself: it was one of the first “Tours of Gunnison County” undertaken by my family after we moved here in 1969. I was wearing a pearl-snap cowboy shirt, and even through that my shoulders blistered under the sun that used to shine brighter in Gunnison County than anywhere else on Earth.

But Kellie, her boyfriend and their dog live an off-the-grid existence in what I think is formally referred to these days as the “townsite” of Irwin and I am always interested — in a disinterested way, because I am not signing up for this lifestyle — in how it works, particularly her commute, since there is no road plowed to Irwin in the winter.

They snowmobile in, the dog riding in front of her boyfriend on his sled with his own set of goggles and ear protectors. One of their neighbors, a late-life single father of two boys, would put all three of his family on one snowmobile to get the kids to school. And then the man died in his sleep one night, and the two boys had to flounder through snow in the dark to get help from Kellie and her boyfriend. (They have been taken in by their gay half-brother, who lives in a gated community with a backyard swimming pool in Georgia after serving with distinction as an Army ranger. Maybe Kellie and I cover more in these visits than I thought.)

But all this time I assumed this was a lifestyle Kellie and her guy chose. It turns out, though, that this is the lifestyle they can afford in order to be in Crested Butte, which they love.

They got tired of being tossed out of rental after rental once the owners decided they could make more on as a vacation rental or by selling to those interested in plunking down over a million for a second/third/fourth estate. Irwin, with its lack of utilities and a winter road, was what they could afford. And probably these days folks like Kellie, who cleans my teeth and thus provides a valuable community service, can’t even afford that.

Now these displacements are starting to happen in Gunnison. Our chamber director got ousted from the condo she rented for over 10 years because the owners have decided to sell all of the units — and these aging apartments are being snapped up at $600,000 a pop, more than a chamber director can afford.

I have heard of at least three cases of people my age or older selling their own property out from under themselves. I assume they were all looking to downsize, and maybe cash in on a market where old condos go for $600K — but it turns out there’s nothing for them to downsize to.

One letter writer to the local paper, a long-ago local who left but couldn’t stay away, likened what he’s seeing around town to a gold rush. And I thought, yes, that’s exactly what this feels like. Everyone is piling on to snap up real estate at unreal prices, and it could end up pricing locals out way beyond places like Irwin. One of Kara’s neighbors just listed her property — an old house in Gunnison — for $1.35 million. Some day very soon here, we are all going to be land rich and cash poor.

I don’t know that I had much of a point here, but the window washers — one of whom, I realized belatedly, sneezed and sniffled his way through our house — are winding down, but their presence here gave me an extra hour in which to try to explain maybe a little why you aren’t hearing much from me.

I will try to do better, but you just never know.

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