Colorado Tried to Kill Me


A few years ago, Mr. T and friends rented a car and drove from the west coast to Chicago. Road trips are supposed to be fun, so they took a high mountain road through Colorado as part of this male-driven adventure. All seemed to go swimmingly until heavy snow was thrown into the mix. Too soon Mr. T and friends were in trouble. The vision of Gandalf and the Fellowship on that mountain when the snow crashed down around them always come to mind when I think about this story. Anyway, just like The Fellowship, my dear hobbit, Mr. T insisted that the high mountain road hated them because it tried to kill them by first sending a careening vehicle in their path and then flipping their car. Mr. T swears it is Colorado that tried to kill him and, being a devoted fan of Colorado, I insisted he was bonkers.

But… I may have been too dismissive. (to which Mr. T would say “I think I had that one.”)

My drive home from work is spectacular compared to my commute back in Chicago, one that topped out at 1.5hr to go 8 miles. As one might expect from a mouthy Irish-Italian-Czech bird, the litany of profanity I’d spew at neighboring cars would make Pazuzu from The Exorcist blush. Before you start, I know, I know. I should “use my patience.” But virtue means jack-squat when find yourself sitting still through four stoplights because of city gridlock. Try it sometime.

My commute nowadays is 20 miles, takes 25 minutes, and is flanked by 14,000ft snow-capped peaks. Sometimes fairies riding unicorns deposit cupcakes on my passenger seat just because they can. In the evenings, I drive toward the mountains when the sun begins its descent, silhouetting the massive bluish shapes with orange and gold hues. My heart flutters as I devour that fairy-made cupcake and watch Mother Nature put on her best show. Meditative, right? Everyone should have such a lovely time while traveling to and from work.

As part of the creative process, I listen to my iPod with my book’s playlist pumping through the speakers. I’m a captive audience. Since I can’t write, I think about writing. Driving is the perfect time to brainstorm book ideas. Now, most of my book’s inspiration comes from movie the District 9 soundtrack or Mastodon’s album Crack the Skye. This musical combination is neither relaxing nor meditative. But the playlist gets the job done.

Somehow, someway, on this most recent commute, something odd popped up on the book playlist. The heavy metal ruckus from Divinations faded into a drone. A far-off, sleepy voice filled the car. At first I was pleasantly surprised. “This must be the part in the book when Ollie is looking contemplatively at the mountains,” I said to the fairies and unicorns as my eyes grew heavy and body eased into a blob of contentment. Then… well… I remembered that I never wrote that part when I started to veer off of the road.

Lisa Gerard’s ELEGY is NOT the type of music I want to hear as I face a mountain sunset, warm in my car, lava-buns at full heat, tired from a long day, and barreling down the highway at 75mph with bald tires and unwarranted fearlessness. Of course, this scene would have been wonderful if I had been sitting cross-legged in front of a fire with a pillow under my butt. But if you are anything like me, meditation is a futile battle to stay awake. When people ask me if I’d ever join them for a meditation retreat with monks and Buddha and fasting, that means to me “let’s go group-nap for three days.” SIGN ME UP! (side note: in music school, I took Alexander Technique on Monday afternoons @ 4pm. This was my favorite class because I got college credit for laying on the floor with a stack of books under my head while I napped for an hour.)

Listening to Gerard’s pensive “oohing” and “aahing” is just swell during my meditation, but not while driving home from work. The thing was, I didn’t turn the damn song off or switch it back to Mastodon. The Jezebel had me in her clutches. I was transfixed as I faced imminent death. Turning her off was sacrilegious, like slapping my Spirit Guide across the face. Yet there I was, eyes barely open, fighting a fight against Lisa Gerard and the hypnotic, mystical sunset. I almost think Colorado planned this, saying “you didn’t like that Chicago commute… well, I am gonna make you love this commute UNTIL YOU DIE!”

Moral of this story: do not listen to the music you meditate to in your car. Ultimately the greater forces will conspire against you.