25 August 2023

Archival footage: Should I move to Flagstaff?

The following essay was originally posted to the Arizona forum at mtbr.com on 28 June 2023.

I've been "trapped" in this little mountain town since 1991 with no way out, but likewise also with little desire to leave (that's both a pro and a con, I suppose... I'll explain below). It's a good thing I like it here.

What's a pro to living in Flagstaff? That's easy: all the trails (more all the time thx to @rockman and his crew), lakes, ski runs within easy striking distance of town. For me these features are the reasons I find myself so content living here. Also, there's a couple grocery stores, a few places to eat pretty good food, and about 1000 bars. It might sound like I'm speaking hyperbolically, but I most definitely am not. Other pros? Hmmm... there's mostly decent people here. I've know a few assholes, and heard about several others (we're kinda a one-degree-of-separation sort of place). But most of the folks I know are pretty cool. I think it's because almost everyone is here on purpose, so you don't meet too many people who are "this place sucks" except high-school kids who don't know any better.

Cons? It's a bit expensive. My wife and I got lucky and got our toe-hold established in the 1990s when things were a little cheaper, if not perceivably so at the time, they certainly were looking back in comparison to today.

Bureaucratic things move slowly around here, be it the town council, or the local USFS agency, the school board, or the county government... it all just kinda churns around the same drain most of the time. Until disaster strikes... then everyone's pretty good at rallying together.

Turns out we've had some practice in this regard (the striking of disaster), which brings me to "the big con" which is: the simple truth that we're all just here bronc-riding a giant bomb-casing, hoping like hell it doesn't explode and kill us all... and by that, of course, I mean: THE THREAT OF WILDFIRE.

If you're really good at pretending... or super-good at putting all your hope/trust/assurance in any of a half-dozen or so public service agencies that you think might be able to try valiantly to save you and/or personal property, then how-doo! Welcome to Flagstaff, pardner!

If, on the other hand, the prospect of losing all you have (and possibly, let's be honest, everyone you love) to a massive out of control FIRESTORM (or the flooding thereafter) that will probably be started by some tweaker a-hole living in his van "down by the river" (note: we have no river) who believes his right to a high-summer campfire is enshrined in the Second Amendment, then maybe take a beat, think it thru... perhaps a townhouse in Anthem, within easy striking distance of Flag but well out of the burn-zone, is better suited to you.

'Cause here's the hard reality of life in Flagstaff: always knowing, in the back of your brain: it's all gonna burn. We don't like to talk about it. We like to pretend we can do something to mitigate the risk of it (thinning projects, controlled Rx fire, closure orders, let-burn lightning strikes, etc). But the bottom line is, these things don't really work, we're merely "tilting at windmills" trying to look like we know what we're doing, but basically we're just fukt.

Those of us whose roots are set too deep, who have been here so long, most of us can't do much to get out of the path of what's coming... And maybe we just don't want to. I gotta admit, there's the constant draw of all the sweet singletrack out your back door, just begging for a shred, which, I think, causes a lot of us to live rather cavalierly day-to-day perched on the razor's edge of disaster, like the good lord said, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." The riding and the skiing and the paddling really are that good most days. I think we're just kinda hoping it's not coming for us today... maybe even that "the big one" will wait 'til we're gone, aged out of the living process, ya know. But who the hell knows... Nobody does.

Except, truth is, we all know: it's coming, bummer of it is: we just don't know when.


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey