I stepped outside my hotel room in the slightly careworn city of Leadville, Colorado, past the sign hanging at the front desk that says “this is a no smoking establishment, and THAT INCLUDES WEED”, and out into the parking lot, which was empty except for my car, a couple of rusty trucks and a last generation Mustang with Texas plates.
Three women, all in their forties and fifties, all of them in Walmart’s best, one of them the night clerk who was being every bit as obedient to the sign as I was, were leaning against the sprayed concrete pillar of the motel’s portico puffing up a storm.
“Janice broke another window,” the night clerk said. “Day after she moved into that place, you know, the apartment above the Chinese restaurant.”
“Anybody call the cops?” another woman asked.
“Not this time, and that’s good. Because her parole says she was supposed to be out of here on April 1, and she’s still here.”
“Somebody’s always calling the cops on her. And then the cops call her ex-husband. He don’t even answer the phone any more, just lets it ring, ’cause the way he sees it, she ain’t his problem anymore,” the second woman huffed.
“I don’t blame him. She’s fifty something years old, she’s responsible for herself. All those times, nobody’s every declared that she wasn’t competent,” said the third woman, who knows Janice better the rest, and still bears the mark on the side of her neck where Janice once attacked her with a rolling pin.”
You can only stretch a cigarette out for so long, and so I stubbed mine out, and went back inside as the women continued swapping stories about the legendary Janice. As a stranger here, it’s a relief to know that underneath all that fresh, glistening Vail and Aspen powder, there’s still a good solid base of old Colorado out there.