Goodbye Durango: Vacationland is great but it’s time to grow up and move on

by DGO Web Administrator

Last night, as the sun was setting behind Perins Peak and the clouds lit up with purple and pink and yellow and orange, I saw a couple, undoubtedly tourists, take a selfie in the middle of the crosswalk next to El Rancho Tavern. I yelled at them across the street, “When are you moving here?” It’s my favorite thing to ask tourists. The look in their eye, one of simultaneous excitement and regret, joy and sadness, is priceless. The look is almost as if a child at Disneyland is being asked by Mickey Mouse if they want to move in: there’s no possible way to live here, in paradise, but OMG, can you imagine?

I often feel like a cartoon character at work. There’s a tour of the brewery everyday at 4 p.m. and as the tour full of tourists winds its way through the brewery, they see me, cleaning tanks, harvesting yeast and scrubbing floors, and they ask me questions, take photos of me working, or ask to pose with this strange, bearded man in a worker’s costume that doesn’t exist in Texas or Indiana or Arizona. And I feel so much pride: I live here. I work here. People save and save so they can go on vacation in the place that I live and work.

I wonder sometimes: To these people, which character am I? Am I some form of Paul Bunyan, Gaston, John Smith, some ultra-manly testosterone-fueled adventurer? Or am I Goofy, someone schlepping through life, lucky and aloof. Or worse: Am I Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up? Of course, I feel like Peter Pan sometimes and Peter Pan syndrome is something I’ve adamantly denied contracting since I moved here. But, it’s hard to say I’m not when almost everyone my age is living with roommates (not going to lie, the lost boys in a tree house is an apt metaphor) and working multiple service jobs or freelancing along with their normal job. A lot of people I know are sacrificing a better career, a more comfortable living situation, or economic sustainability in order to live closer to mountains and rivers, so they can play anytime they want.

And that is one of the big reasons I’m leaving Durango, because it’s time to grow up and live a more sustainable life. Yes, that’s right. I’m leaving paradise, but it’s all in pursuit of my beer career. I’m going to be working at a brewery in the deep south, an area that needs and deserves good beer. And it’s in pursuit of a future that I promised myself, one where I can afford to live in a place on my own salary. One where I am given opportunities for growth professionally. One where I find happiness outside this safe, vanilla, little pleasure bubble we live in.

Even though I’m beyond excited, it breaks my heart thinking about all the things I’ll be leaving. I’ll miss the Diner, The Ranch, The Bean. Sunday morning banter sessions at Carver’s back bar. I’ll miss seeing someone I know every time I walk down the street. I’ll miss the sunsets behind Perins Peak. I’ll miss hearing the train whistle its way in and out of town. I’ll miss my brewing community and friends. I’ll miss having mountains in my backyard and rivers in my front. I’ll miss Purple Fuckers and Muff Divers, Modus Hoperandi, and Steam Engine Lager. I’ll miss all the late nights with good friends and strangers. And I’ll miss feeling like a resident of Disneyland, whether I’m Goofy or Gaston.

I’ll still be here though, writing about beer (till DGO finds a replacement). And I’ll be back in Durango frequently (I’ve already got my ticket to Ska’s Anniversary Party!). But I’ll be a tourist and I know everyone will be asking, “When are you moving back here?”

Robert Alan Wendeborn puts the bubbles in the beer at Ska Brewing Company. His first book of poetry, “The Blank Target,” was published in 2015 by The Lettered Streets Press and is available at Maria’s Bookshop. [email protected][Editor’s note: Think you can fill the massive shoes that Mr. Wendeborne has left in a locker here at DGO headquarters? Make sure to read a decent amount of his columns and then email [email protected] to make your case.]


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