Be here now
What it means to be a Durango local depends on who you ask

Be here now
Micah Susman - 03/03/2022

Before I moved here from The-State-That-Must-Not-Be-Named in 2018, I wanted to pull up to my new life in Durango driving a Subaru – both figuratively and literally. During my scouting summer visits, I would attempt to hang out with locals, mostly farmers and artists and such, who I met through my spouse at the time. I would do whatever they did with aplomb, as if I had been doing it for years.

I was not trying to be a poser; I was just trying to be a local (we all know defining local is a bit tedious, so I’ll avoid it here). Like my great-grandfather moving to New York City 132 years ago, I wanted to assimilate to my new life. I did it all terribly, but I now have a good perception of the local scene and culture. In addition to this preparation, I devoured The Durango Telegraph like I was studying for a sociology exam.

For the three years it took for me to actually move here after the decision was made (teacher, money), I read the Telegraph when I could. I would try and figure out WTF was going on with the “Ask Rachel” column, wonder the backstory behind each person who answered a “Word on the Street” question and watch with amazement as the dispensary ads popped up. Occasionally, I would read the hard news, too, but I really just wanted to see the available jobs, what was for sale and what was going on that week for fun.

Since I moved here, I have lived in the middle of town under the thumb of a difficult landlord and built a house on some land out of town. I have worked for two school districts and hustled a few side jobs. I just bought a drum set and already play for a band. I love to eat out and go out. Have I mentioned the guerilla kids’ birthday parties in local parks yet? I am ready to be a local, and I want to earn the title by engaging with Durango to make it a place we can all thrive in for years to come.

Durango is like the Buddha’s take on a river: always the same and forever changing. If we extend this metaphor to the Animas River, from trying to purify from the Gold King Mine spill to offering rides down its rapids, we will see how everything in this town is connected. I have studied our past as an educator and adventurer, but I refuse to simmer in it. I am interested in how the past connects to the present, but let’s be here now. Same same, but different.

There are numerous ways to acclimate yourself to town and, of course, it will depend on who you are and what you want out of life. But there are some things that you should know as a local, and I am going to tell you three of these today, just in case there is a future me reading this from somewhere else, trying to figure out how to move here (tip #1: be rich).

1.  Yield to pedestrians.  

2.  It’s Floreeeeda, not Florida.  

3.  That thing over there used to be something else.

With the abundance of activities to do in the area, it is no wonder many people who live here don’t really travel abroad much. They do amazing things like go down the Grand Canyon or travel to Moab, or really anything within a three- to four-hour drive. For a new local like me, this can be a bit overwhelming. How can I ever stay at home when I could be doing one of the endless Things to Do in the Southwest? I have a new type of guilt here that is not really FOMO, but more an existential deadlock: what is the best way to spend my day? Sometimes I choose nothing.

As I acclimate to La Plata County, I constantly take note of all the mountain bike trails, campgrounds, lakes, hikes, rides, climbs, floats, etc. Even though a part of me wants to, there is no way I can do it all. But I can go to all the breweries and figure out why no one makes a local pilsner. I can crash block parties with drum sets in the intersections. I can go to shows at the Indigo Room and run across the street to a friend’s house for drinks between sets. I can choose the right team for trivia. I can make a new friend at the grocery store. I can find the right guy for just about anything. The experiences are limitless, even when you just stick around.

There is no question of the natural beauty here. But have you wondered if Durango is a place a blind person would move to? What about our town outside of the visual splendor and physical phenomena? I came here once when I was 10 years old with my family, including my blind stepfather. I don’t remember his overall take on the town, but he sure did enjoy riding the train and eating a chicken fried steak at Old Tymer’s. With its ever-growing classic and modern culture, like the life cycle of our beloved and interconnected aspen trees, Durango has something for us all.

Micah Susman

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