In a Tiny Little Mountain Town

When I was 12 years old, for some reason I remember the statewide vote held to allow small-stakes gambling in the three historic mining towns of Central City, Blackhawk and Cripple Creek, CO.  I don’t recall the size of the victory, but having approved the state Lotto a few years earlier, Coloradoans seemed to want to travel to the hills to try their luck at penny slots and $5 blackjack hands.

This was all under the virtuous guise of helping to save the towns’ economies and restore the historic mining buildings.  As a third grader, everyone in the Jefferson County school district took a field trip to Central City to tour an old gold mine and explore the historic district of a town that almost became our state capitol.  Central City was one of three finalists along with Golden and Denver and lost in a squeaker to the “Queen City of the Plains”.

            I have some personal family connection with Central City.  My great-grandfather was the first person in the county with a pilot’s license and was the first to offer flying lessons.  My grandmother was elected Gilpin County Clerk and was forced to resign under suspicion of embezzling.  It seems the Wild West mining mentality of those towns never dies.

             It was under the auspices of the old mining days that we explored the town as 9 year-olds and from what I can remember it was a bunch of run-down, old buildings with mom and pop shops.

            Fast-forward 17 years later.  I hadn’t stepped foot in Central City or Blackhawk since my field trip as a child.  I was there to celebrate my mother’s 50th birthday.  As I drove up the new highway and entered Central City, I was pleasantly surprised to see the massive historical restoration of the town.  All of the buildings are in pristine condition and it isn’t hard to imagine that with the exception of the automobile, this was pretty much what the city looked like back in the 1860’s gold rush era.

            Blackhawk was a different matter.  Their town fathers have really seized on the gambling revenues and, while they have restored their historic district as well, they have encouraged new and very modern casino growth on the outskirts to the South of the town.  As I pulled into our nice new casino for the weekend, I was shocked to see the elevator cores of a new 33-story Ameristar Casino being built across the street.  While that may seem unremarkable to some consider that the LDS Church office building in Salt Lake City has 28 stories and that the population of Blackhawk is 118 people.

            In my estimation the civic leaders of both Central City and Cripple Creek have kept to the spirit of what small-stakes gambling brought to their communities by not letting it completely destroy the history and overall aesthetics of their towns.  Blackhawk has sold it’s soul to the developers with the argument that there is not a “historic preservation zone” within their city set up by their planners and that they have every right encourage as much growth and tax revenue as possible.

            This past November, Coloradoans went back to the polls and approved a constitutional amendment, bank-rolled by the casino industry, to raise the legal betting limits from $5 to $100, stay open 24-hours a day, and introduce the games of roulette and craps.  This will only embolden the bigger names in the casino industry to enter the market and develop further tracts of land in these tiny mountain towns.  Worse yet, is the thought that Central City and Cripple Creek will be forced to acquiesce to the loss of gambling revenue from Blackhawk and open their towns to the utter destruction of their historic characters and souls.

            I’m ashamed to admit, but I will probably head up the hill next time I’m in town and try my hand at the new gambling limits.  Logic tells me that with the larger limits I should be able to win back my previous losses 20x faster this time around.  



This is the first in a series that hopefully will last all semester.  I'm taking an urban planning ethics class and we are required to write two journal entries per week on ethics.  Sometimes it will deal with urban planning and sometimes it wont.  Here is my first entry:

I’m not exactly sure what the ethics around gay marriage are.  All I know is that I’m caught smack dab in the middle of it.  Before the whole gay marriage debate started raging here in the States, my ex and I flew up to Toronto in May of 2004 and were married.  The catchword there is ex.  We were together for just over four years and, like many relationships, it just stopped working.  Our split was an amicable one.  We had to deal with all of the regular issues of a divorce.  Who got the house, the dog, the dishes, etc.?  The problem is, we’re technically still married.

Canadian law allows for foreigners to be married after being in their country for 48 hours.  To get a divorce however, at least one of you has to reside in Canada for 12 consecutive months.  In their rush to pass equal rights legislation they apparently didn’t think that any of the gay marriages would fail.

We’ve been apart now for three years and while this issue doesn’t keep me up at night, it is certainly in the back of my mind.  My friends and family tell me not to worry about it since it’s not recognized in the U.S. and certainly not in Utah, but I don’t think it’s that easy.  We as a GLBT community have been galvanized more and more into activism for marriage or civil union rights.  I support this movement wholeheartedly.  But what does this mean for me then?

Should I just turn a blind eye to the marriage certificate I have tucked away in my desk?  Should I make the effort to move to Canada after graduation and accept my penance? (Actually, Canada would be a great place to work and live I think)  What happens if, we as a society reach the tipping point and some form of gay marriage is legalized?  All of a sudden I’m legally married here.  I actually still consider myself legally married regardless.

Does that mean that when I go on a date I’m cheating?  If I were to get married to woman here or to a man in the future does that mean I’m a bigamist?

These are all very new questions that I am still sorting out within my own personal ethics and society is grappling with as a whole.

For now though, I’m just keeping my head down while I finish school and I’m quietly learning the Canadian national anthem.


a new decade

"Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey."

I’ve got about 12 hours left of my third decade on this earth.  It’s odd to be able to count off my life in decades (I don’t think most people do), but it’s kind of cool at the same time.


Like I said I’ve still got a little bit of time left so it’s tough to get nostalgic or reflective yet.  I mean, a lot could happen between now and 9:12 tomorrow morning (mostly sleeping I hope).


Still, the twenties for me were pretty much constantly in motion.  I really don’t have the knack for staying put for too long.  I think that’s slowly changing.  This past year of totally rearranging my life was much harder than I expected.  I’m not as nimble as I was at 21.


Ironically I find myself at the end of this decade pretty much where I started.  Single, in school, working at a restaurant, really involved with church and really excited about the future.


Hard to believe it took ten years and a paradigm shift to be back on track.


Not that I have too many regrets about my twenties, because I don’t.  I’ve learned a lot (mostly the hard way).


The one underlying theme that I see in these last ten years is this:  I am blessed.


I have an amazing family that loves me very much and I love them.  Friends that have lasted and others that I have crossed paths with and journeyed for a time with at what seemed like just the right moment in my life.  For all of them, I am grateful and I know that I am blessed.


Mostly, I look back and see my path with God.  While I have not always understood the whys and the hows of my relationship with Him (sometimes purposefully ignoring it), I have always known that I when I wanted to, I could feel His love.  For that, I am certainly blessed.


So here’s to my twenties and everyone in them! And here’s to kicking off my fourth decade, with hope and excitement for the adventures to come!  Slainte!