Transplants, let me try to explain why it seems like the natives hate you.
I’ve read any number of comments in Westword talking about how “mean” and “unwelcoming” the natives are, and how we’re all just haters who need to get over ourselves. I’ve also written a fair amount about the gentrification problems in this city, and merely pointing them out has earned me the name “hater” from angry readers as well.
However, transplants: I get the sense that you think you are hated for your presence, and I don’t think that’s so — except, perhaps, in the case of a few of the crankiest natives. (To let you know how sacredly I understand the people of Colorado take that term: I do not call myself a native, despite being a fourth-generation Coloradan on my father’s side, because I was born in New Jersey and moved here when I was two. You transplants always like to say, “That makes you a native!”, but it does not, and I understand that, even by an accident of birth. Respect.) But Colorado has always been a friendly place, and Coloradans have always been welcoming…to a point.
When you are hated, it is for what you mean to the state, and what you bring.
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For example: trash on public lands. I was raised by my pseudo-mountain-man father to have a sacred respect for nature. Leave no trace. And everyone I know grew up the same way. Which is why it was a culture shock when I moved to Ohio for two years, and saw trash everywhere in natural spaces like the Hocking Hills. And even more shocked when I came back to my beloved Colorado, already exploding with new people, to find that trash had begun to become the norm here as well.
And our respect for nature should continue into the weather: Coloradans understand that a bad weather event in the wrong place, when you're unprepared, can mean death, and we also understand that the weather can turn on a dime. It’s never more apparent that you are a transplant to this place than when you're spotted speeding on black ice or headed into the mountains without proper tires. At Red Rocks last summer — in between Spoon’s set and the Decembrist’s — the announcer did an unprecedented thing: announced an impending severe weather event, and advised everyone to take cover. As shocking and strange as that was, imagine my surprise to see people pouring into the good seats heading AWAY from shelter in order to nab a better spot. I could almost guarantee anyone who did that was new here, just as I could predict that they would wind up drenched, hailed on, and possibly hit by lightning.
There’s also a propensity for those of you from the coasts to treat us like we’re yokels — and don’t think we forgot those years you called us “the hinterlands” or “the flyover states.” Anyone who has lived here for any length of time is aware of the sorts of things that get said, both out of ignorance and elitism, about anyplace that isn’t New York or L.A. So excuse us if we roll our eyes a little now that you suddenly think we’re cool. We know. We’ve always been cool.
But what we haven’t always been is proud displayers of the state flag, despite the fact that it is a really well-designed flag. I don’t recall ever seeing so many people proudly proclaiming their Coloradoness via the flag since…well, ever. That just wasn’t a thing here, until you all came…which gives the place the appearance of perpetual tourism. We’re glad you’re proud, we’re just a little overwhelmed by it.
As we are with this oft-repeated conversation, had ad infinitum with each new person we meet…
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“Man, I just moved here and I LOVE IT! It’s so AWESOME! It’s so BEAUTIFUL! I love it! Tell me where to get the best Mexican food/Weed/beer? Do you ski/hike/smoke?”
It’s not that we DON’T love it, or DON’T think it’s awesome or beautiful…of course we think those things. But it is less so than it used to be. And your gleeful, puppyish enthusiasm is hard to take as we’re watching our friends pack up trucks to leave town, priced out of their homes, and seeing the ranks of the homeless swell.
So please understand…it isn’t that we HATE you, but we remember what it was like before you were here, and we very much liked it like that. You like it as you’ve come into it, because you don’t know what it was…we are continually mourning losses of favorite places, and friends who’ve moved, and torn down landmarks. We remember being able to get anywhere in town in twenty minutes, and going to see bands play when you knew half the people in the room. We remember when your favorite bars first opened and what was there before, too, and still miss old lovable haunts in unrecognizable neighborhoods that no longer welcome us. We are often struggling to stay in this place we’ve called home — that we’ve helped build, that we’ve worked to make a better place, that we’ve loved in and grown up in and defended to people from the coasts every time we travelled.
So please allow us our growing pains. We know you’re excited about this place – how could you not be? That’s why we were here in the first place. But no one likes to see a place they’ve loved change, especially when the economic boom is only for some people. Tread lightly on our feelings: We don’t hate you, we just feel better when you’re not around. It isn’t personal.
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a 2005 Westword MasterMind winner, is blogging out her tiny house project, The Mayday Experiment, on Show and Tell. If you'd like to support her journey, you can pledge here or here. See more of her work at lynnxe.com.