One of the most wondrous or terrible, guilt-inducing things about living in Colorado is the National Park Service. Roosevelt, the purple mountains majesty, the sunshine, the rippling mountain streams, the canyons, the spacious skies, the skiing/hiking/rafting/biking… all of it. Just beautiful. And if you’re not out there making the most of it, enjoying the privilege of your surroundings, where you live, you might just be an ass. If you are not running around out there like a lunatic, soaking it all in, well… you might be a Midwestern English Major and really enjoy your couch-potatoing, which, believe me I’m 100 percent on your side, but still…–I’m just saying, that might make you an ass. Go get on a damn horse.
That’s what most people here–along with thousands of tourists– do every weekend. And, that is why if you’re a rookie, or my family, you’ll find yourself with every living body up in Estes Park on a Sunday afternoon in July. Double points scored if you very-well know the Colorado monsoon season’s regular afternoon shower schedule, which the mountains are punctilious about, but forget and are too disorganized to get your butt up there before noon. You’ll wind your way, single file, respecting the laws of pedestrian rush-hour traffic, around the most beautiful mountain lake you’ve ever seen, stopping every so many feet to wait your turn to step forward and take in the vista. And you know what? No, it’s not ideal, but occasionally, it’s worth it. You’ll just close your eyes and block out the chatting voices and feel the soft misty air on your face, smell the pine. You can focus-in with tunnel vision on that one formation jutting out of the mountainscape, or the giant, moss covered, monk-like rock meditating out in the middle of the lake in the rain, in the middle of the chaos. And then you’ll vow to come back on a Tuesday, very early in the morning.
We did that. The poor planning and arriving on a Sunday afternoon thing. But first, we stopped for lunch at the Stanley Hotel, where parts of the movie The Shining were filmed 30 years ago, including the scary hedge maze scene. Because, nobody ever does that who visits here, and by nobody I mean, everybody. Nonetheless, we were hungry. So we paid the $10 to park (WTF?), inquired within, found that of course we had to wait for a table, and put our name on the list. My family ran off to look at the movie posters and photographs about the making of the Shining in the little museum-type display setup downstairs. I volunteered to wait for the table knowing that would allow me to stare at my cell phone for whole minutes at a time, all alone in peace. Instead, I found myself staring at my phone for whole minutes in bemusement. When I’d given the hostess my name, she’d written it down wrong: Colleen, which is not even close. Not at all.
Oh, I said, Sorry no, it’s… but she defensively covered her clipboard with her hands and cut me off.
No it’s Ok! she rushed. It’s Ok, because I know. I wrote it and I’ll know who you are. And by the slightly manic tone of her voice and the way she maintained eye-contact an extra beat, I knew not to push her on the matter. “Do not test me lady,” she seemed to say, empowered behind her hostess stand podium. “We both know that simply apologizing or saying, “Oh!” like a normal person, crossing out Colleen and writing in your actual name, even asking for the correct spelling, would have taken less time than this whole, weird exchange and left us both feeling much less awkward and haunted… but we’re leaving it this way. OKAY? From here, forward; You Are COLLEEN.”
Okeydoke. You’re definitely underpaid and the tourists-who-lunch crowd is annoying. I’ll be Colleen; you can work in this bustling ghost movie hotel and name us all whatever you wish. Maybe that’s one of the very few perks of the job. I actually have no problem with that.
(Or maybe the ghost of Colleen is standing right behind me giving the hostess the evil eye for letting me cut in front of her in line! It’s a busy afterlife crowd here too.)
Here are several terrifying photos I captured of our day at The Shining hotel, plus some other ones that shall remain nameless.