Drinking the Kool-Aid
In my last “La Vida” I wrote about how I was going to start writing less about politics. Then I thought about it some more – I don’t want to write less about politics. I just want to write about things in a critical way, and not just appease one side or another. You know, I want to be a real human being and not a political pundit.
Two years ago, after we elected Trump, I found myself soul searching. I wanted to become more engaged in civics but where would I be the most useful?
I searched far and wide. I sat down with a senator, spoke on the phone with the directors of environmental organizations and sought out the most important people in the media that I know. I sat on the top of a mountain and meditated. I went to church and prayed. I sweated out my sins in a hot yoga class. I checked out books from the local Church of Scientology.
Still, I got no clear answers. Until, the day I met Colorado’s outgoing governor, John Hickenlooper. If you’ve been reading my columns, you know that I think Hickenlooper is a bit of a clown. I think this for two main reasons: first his drinking water from the Animas River after the 2015 Gold King Mine Spill; second his response after the 416 Fire last year, when our air quality was at a hazardous level he basically told the tourists to keep coming, disregard your health and go to Durango, no matter the cost! It seems like the guy is always downplaying serious events and bowing down to the almighty tourist dollar. And I get it – we need tourism, but is it really more important than the health of the people who live and visit here?
Most of all, though, I wanted to meet with “Hick” because I thought he might tell me who started the 416 Fire, since we don’t know. It’s one of the biggest mysteries, right up there with the aliens in Roswell and if Trump really did give Putin a hand job in that Russian hotel.
One of my favorite parts of being a writer is feeling special. Sometimes at events, I’ll get a media pass or score some free drinks. The best part is getting to interview famous people. I’ve gotten to speak with some of my favorite rappers, authors and notables in the outdoor industry.
So I definitely felt special when Hickenlooper’s team agreed that I could meet him. It wouldn’t be for a formal interview, more of a meet and greet over beers in the evening. Perfect, I thought. I like beer.
I caught him out of the corner of my eye right when I walked in. There he was, “Hick” – jean jacket and all. This guy is my parents’ age, and he looks pretty damned good, I thought to myself. Must be all that clean living and microbrews.
Luke, keep focused. You must ask him about the 416. Don’t back down. You’re a reporter dammit. The public deserves to know how that fire was started. If an individual had started that fire, you better believe that they’d be forced to pay for it for the rest of their lives. Get to the bottom of this.
So I sat down and started with some pleasantries. I had a couple Cheetos and an IPA. I told him I was a climber, and I’ve been in love with Colorado for 20 years. I expressed concerns about issues like Bears Ears National Mon- ument, and we even realized we had a couple mutual friends. Hick told me how we got busted growing pot in his closet in high school, and about his days in the oil and gas industry. It was going pretty well. I like Hick, I started to realize. Keep focused, the angel on my shoulder seemed to say.
“So, Hick, can I call you Hick?” I asked.
“Sure,” he responded.
“You know you have a history of downplaying environmental events in this area, and I’ve criticized that in my writing,” I explained, as he nodded his head. “What I’m the most curious about is the 416 incident. Did you really direct the Forest Service to not announce what started that fire?”
“Good question, Luke,” he looked serious.
Just then, out of nowhere, a joint floated across the room into Hick’s hands, and surprisingly he took a big hit. And, then he passed it to me. Now I had quit the day before, but what was I to do? The governor of Colorado was handing me a joint. I took a couple puffs and passed it to the left.
Suddenly I was high AF. I looked back at Hick and all of a sudden, the room started to spin. I couldn’t get my wits about me.
I felt that fine line between being high and panicking. Just act normal, ask Hick another question.
“Hick, I’m sorry, what were we talking about?” I asked.
“It’s OK Luke, we were talking about sports,” he said. “Yeah, the Broncos aren’t doing so well, are they?”
We talked about how Broncos until I started to get the spins. Hick whispered in my ear, “I had a good run, didn’t I?”
Luke Mehall is the publisher of The Climbing Zine and the author of five books, includ- ing The Desert, which is due out this spring.