"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

30 December 2009

Morocco, Colorado

In the kingdoms of Islam, Morocco was sometimes called the Land Furthest West, part of the Maghreb. A frontier on the edge of that world. I sometimes think of my Kashmir as Morocco; the last municipality heading west, into the American Maghreb, before the Roof of the World, where the continent splits in half, and the rivers flip a coin by force of gravity to decide whether to flow east or west.

To start at the beginning would entail going back to the big bang, or perhaps when the world itself was a sphere of molten rock, spinning into the space-bound island we all know and love now. Millions of years later, it was part of a vast sea, then, millions of years after that, it was the sight of a great glacier, which eventually became a lake, before finally wearing through the living rock to carve out the rest of this little Sahel, the narrow rift-like valley, which spans between two sets of tunnels. This is a pocket of nowhere. You jump off the end of the world to get here.

Here, there be dragons…and ghosts and yetis and tommy-knockers and demons and changelings and all other manner of fantastic…

Like almost anywhere else within these mountains, the township is tiered and terraced. The major sections are known as Creek-side and Hillside, perhaps a whole lot of my side! your side! were one so inclined, although, it seems, we really don’t bother with such pettiness. There’s another section, the Heights, on the other side of the over-and-under-pass, over by the train station and the section mountain that’s home to the necropolis.

Once, this place was one of the greater mining camps. That was so long ago now, it is all but legend, and the bones of old mines pepper the mountainsides like the ruins of a fallen civilization. Nowadays, there are those who would call this place a living ghost town. There are those of us who call it home.

Here, ninety-one hundred eighteen feet above the surface of the worlds’ oceans, along one of the major east-west routes through the Rocky Mountains, we’re the furthest township west, and the highest up. West up, bitches! is a toast that’s sometimes echoed at the local cantina on those kind of nights. There’s but one paved road, and that leads to the trail head for two fourteeners, ancient buildings, and no standing law enforcement. It’s the closest one can get to being isolated and left alone and still be within the borders of a settlement.

It’s funky little place. Different and perhaps a little difficult. The air is thin. Winters are long, dark, and can be more than a little cold. The summers are short. Sometimes, painfully so.

Still, for those of us that call this place home, it’s a paradise. There is nowhere else in world I have felt I belong like I do here. For that reason, this place, which, in some way that only makes sense to me, is a sort of Morocco that I call my Kashmir.

29 December 2009


It was years ago, when we were all sitting in that half-lit backroom, listening to Led Zeppelin. Some were getting stoned. Some were getting drunk. Some just smoked cigarettes and watched, only interjecting small bits of language to keep the conversations going. We were all between about fifteen and seventeen. Children. Wide-eyed whelps just starting to taste the outside world, beyond the reach of our parents, sitting in a half-lit backroom that smelled of Asian spices, incense, and opium. Once upon a time, it was one of my favorite places in the world.

We listened to Led Zeppelin and talked. Some would sing, or try to. A couple made out in a dark corner, eventually scuttling off somewhere to copulate. My friend from China said something snarky to them in one of seventeen languages he knew fluently about fucking in the backroom of family's restaurant without having the courtesy to ask first. The fucking indian told him not be so high strung. I was listening to the southern spring rain tap rhythmically against the windows as one my favorite Led Zeppelin songs came on.

"We're on the road to Kashmir!" One of our lot proclaimed. He was quite the hop-head, quite stoned at the time, and Led Zeppelin was more of a theology then a band to him. Their songs was where he found his omens and cosmic truths.

"This should be good," the fucking indian said to me with a wink and a bit of chuckle, before focusing on the hop-head in question. "Okay, Cap'in Toke, why don't you tell us about being on the road to Kashmir."

And he indulged us. In his cosmology, Kashmir was not so much geography as a state of mind. He believed it was one's place in the world. Home. He also believed that Kashmir was different for everyone. At between fifteen and seventeen, wide-eyed whelps just starting to taste the outside world, beyond the reach of our parents, we were just starting on that road. None of us had found Kashmir yet, but we'd know it once we got there.

Somehow, this made perfect sense. Even to those of us who were not drunk or stoned. So many years and lifetimes later, I can still see the logic in it.

A couple of years later, the very last time I visited that small southern town with fuck all to do, my friend from China and sat at the table in his family's restaurant where the fucking indian had carved "reserved" with my butterfly knife. I had since moved a mile high and was merely back for a few days. Everything I hated about the south had returned in clear resolve, and seeing my friends I had down there had not helped.

"I don't belong here," I said.

"You might not belong anywhere," he said to me. "But you haven't found Kashmir yet."

I think of Kashmir at odd times. Most notably when one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs comes on, but that's because of the shared name. When I was seventeen years old, and preparing to move away from the Confederacy, I thought Kashmir was that stretch of geography where I was born; a place of mountains and plains and mesas and deserts, which was called the Spanish word for colorful . I have since discovered that whilst, on a larger scale, this spot of geography, which uses the Spanish word for colorful , might be Kashmir, my Kashmir is nestled within the mountains, in the shadows of great peaks, but ten miles from the Roof of the World. Here, within a pocket of nowhere, I have found peace. I have found home.