The Insidious Rise of General Malaise

Welcome to our world.

I ran into Jan the other day, as I was coming out of and she was going into a store. Jan and I go back millenia, but we must rotate in different orbits, because our paths cross infrequently — months, sometimes years can go by before we run across one another.

So of course we started with the obligatory “haven’t seen you in forever” exchange, and immediately on the heels of this she said in a peevish tone, “The sun hasn’t shone all year.” To which I replied, with heartfelt gratitude, “I thought it was just me.”

We held this conversation under a very gray sky, with wind whipping around us, the tiniest of intermittent snowflakes flitting past — just like it’s been the entirety of 2023 (well, the wind is recent) — and agreed as Gunnison-grown products that this is Not Normal and no way for those of us raised on an abundance of sunshine to exist.

I actually already had an inkling that it wasn’t just me when the editor of the Crested Butte newspaper confessed to his blahs in his column a couple weeks ago, even though he’s on the end of the county that’s at least getting snow. Down here we’re just getting the heavy gray and mostly empty promises, although we did get a whole inch of the champagniest power you’re ever likely to see the other day.

People in Gunnison, especially lifers like Jan and me, look very drab in gray. It doesn’t become us, although this year we have become it.

Back in the Way Ol’ When, when Gunnison was a railstop and there were two streets competing for commercial predominance (Main Street, which won out, and Boulevard Street — a name that frankly makes no sense and gives visitors no end of pause, like the garage salers who once perplexedly stopped me because they were looking for a boulevard named North and really couldn’t grasp that “north” was the direction, “Boulevard” was the name and it’s a “street,” not a boulevard, even though the lanes are separated by a luxurious median filled with trees) there was a three-story hotel on South Boulevard called the La Veta. (Yes, that’s redundant, the la.)

Part of the La Veta’s fame in local lore was that it would offer free meals to all on the days the sun didn’t shine. I believe the most it ever paid out, here in the Land of Eternal Sun, was two days of meals in any year, and some years it didn’t have to serve them at all.

There are other parts to the La Veta’s lore, too, the most of intriguing of which I find to be the notion of a subterranean passage to Teachouts’ boarding house directly across the boulevard street. Rumor has it the boarding house may have been more of a bordello, a place the well-heeled customers of the swanky hotel might want to visit but not in the eternal light of day. Many people insist this is strictly just legend, but I knew someone older than me who insisted she had been in that tunnel in her youth.

You’d think it would be an easy mystery to put to rest, even though the sad remnant of the hotel was replaced awhile back by much more appealing duplexes. The boarding house, and the lunch counter in front of it, are still there, rescued by a local contractor probably just before complete collapse. Just the act of digging out the last bricks of the hotel to make way for the duplex foundations or tipping the lunch counter nearly on its end during restoration should have been enough to answer this, you’d think, but I still have that eyewitness report, no matter how faulty eyewitnesses often turn out to be.

If you want to see any of what’s left of the La Veta’s finery, you have to go to Community Bank, where the same man who went broke developing the neighborhood I now live in incorporated parts into the bank he built (before falling on hard times with land development).

Which brings us back to Riverwalk and how the sun no longer shines on any of us here. Or at the bank, or the old boarding house, or the semi-newish duplexes.

Now, I don’t think the La Veta would be out too many meals in 2023 because, as it was back in the 1890s, it would be safe from promise if the sun shone even a little on any given day. And that’s what it’s doing now. Take the last few days, for instance, which start out looking like the glorious bluebird mornings we are famous for. Within half an hour, however, that blue sky becomes completely obscured with the scudding gray clouds that offer nothing but dreariness. What’s interesting to me (maybe not as interesting as underground tunnels that probably didn’t exist but might have), is watching my mood, buoyed by that vast stretch of bright blue, plummet with every thickening of a cloud.

I did realize, back in February, before Jan provided me with impetus (it’s not just me!), that health has played a part in this. Nothing major, but my teeth ordeal set me back far more than I realized. They’re just teeth, right? But it turns out that two root canals, one filling and one crown spread out over five months and three municipalities — not to mention the endless antibiotics that are still wreaking small havoc on my digestive system (I didn’t believe the clindamycin package when it said it could cause issues for months afterward, but now I do) — wore me down more than I realized.

There’s the cost, which at four times the already-substantial sum I anticipated was a very hefty chunk of change. There was the trip to Montrose by myself when it was clear and dry here and in Montrose but not anywhere along the way, only later to find out that I was driving Lynn’s Jeep on such sketchy tires that the tire place, tasked with mending one slow leak, wouldn’t let her leave without a full set of new tires. (Not a smarmy sales pitch: Lynn reported her car instantly drove vastly better.)

Or the trip to Crested Butte, where my car for some reason ran down more miles than usual and I spent the entire one-hour appointment that lasted two and a half — hours or days, I lost track — trying to decide whether to charge at one of nearly 200 stations in CB or calculating if could get home or would I need to stop at the charger in Almont. I made it home with 18 miles to spare, so it was a lot of needless worrying on top of an unpleasant lifetime with my mouth wide open and mold material strewn everywhere. After all that, I didn’t even get the Baby Yoda I requested on my boring plain crown.

That’s how it feels much of 2023 has gone: a lot of probably needless worrying (but it might be needed, so then I worry) and boring white porcelain with no Baby Yodas. I can assure you, based on these teasing mornings of blue-sky hope, that once the sun returns to shining (we have to believe, right?), that I will go from feeling completely indifferent to feeling something. Maybe even like writing.

It turns out I stole this photo from my friends Mark and Kym, who posted it on their Write in the Thick blog. I’m pretty sure they stole it from some other place. Here’s the La Veta when it was something to see, long before my time.

2 thoughts on “The Insidious Rise of General Malaise

  1. Hi, there in Gunnison. I am from Gunison circa 1942 but currenty live in Boaz, AL. Ill bet you would NEVER like it here. But we rarely have snow , but about 28″ of rain Though this year we had a LONG dry spell, but thatnks to the Storms in CA and Texas we ave recenlty had 4″ in ONE DAY! That equals Plenty of snow. There were several Tornads in the State and in Tn. and WIND STEADY at 45-80 MPH!! Talk about Blow the man down. Wow.
    Hoe your days go better!!


  2. Tunnels… rumor has it that the tunnel in the basement of the Gunnison Arts Center connected to the La Vita hotel too. I think ‘bur’ should be ‘but’ in your exceptionally entertaining note. Scroll down to the enlarged word. Bob


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