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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Fort Collins — Being There

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My mother’s “stair step” machine. Her better “stair steps” machine, perhaps.

My former events planner and friend Lauren was looking for new rental spaces in New York City. I mentioned that an old friend and sometime colleague of mine, Samantha Hartley, was working with me on the Memorial to the Arts Museum at the University of Denver, and offered to see if I could recommend places for her to look.

“You need a new memory-saver,” said Lauren, who lives in Chelsea.

“Memory snatchers,” I said.

“Memory snatchers,” said Lauren.

When I entered the room, I saw the galley and the pole. There was the old and the new. The old memory machine, a pre-apocalyptic relic, with its wood frame that resembled a car seat, its red and green and blue faceplate and its beige and orange and mustard and silver nameplate. The new memory machine, the contraption that is modern, that made a thousand with its moveable parts to mine for memories.

You have to stretch the distance to walk onto the old machine, so nobody will know they’re in a museum.

This picture came to mind recently as I visited Fort Collins. My friend Laurie has an apartment in Denver, but decided to move to Fort Collins when she heard that I was coming to teach a two-week Creative Writing Institute.

I invited my friends for a watch party, but they chose a movie instead. I then wondered what people, given the same three options as I was — Fort Collins, Colorado or your imagination — would do with three options: Fort Collins, Colorado or your imagination.

Who, after all, would want to visit Fort Collins? The Center for the Arts made me wonder. What fun would it be to be on the short list of names for dances and theater in the state of Colorado?

Having watched “Heathers,” I doubt that my friends would want to frequent the Center for the Arts at all.

But there, at the end of the hall where a sign reads: “More than a museum,” I stood with my elbows on the coffee table. At about the same time, a mountain lion wandered into the lobby and did not leave. It was just a few years ago that news of the mountain lion made headlines, and to me, it was like a hangover. When the mountain lion wandered in, it seemed the old-fashioned way — you leaned forward and were outraged by it. You tried to think about poetry and music and how they had been decorated for the center. If not the record of any of the places in Colorado, you thought about the mountain lion. How it often found itself at the end of the hall and within inches of the few people who got to see it.

And now — what if there are more mountain lions than there used to be? Not many time. There are fewer and fewer of them. What if there are more and more of them?

Finally, for my friends, I decided they should go see an act. I invited them to head over to the Bluebird Theater. It was opening night, but I was already at the door.

But if you want to have a watch party in a museum, if you want to go to a place like Fort Collins where nobody knows they’re in a museum, you go to the Bluebird Theater. It was the first stop on my journey through the center of Colorado.

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