Calling all Theater companies and performers!

Open Call to Theater companies, performers, researchers:
I would like to hear other voices besides my own on this blog. If you'd like to write about your TLP experiences here, e-mail them to me and I'll put them up.
Topics can include dramaturgy to staging to personal responses to the play. Anything goes!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back to Laramie

[This is the first of several posts about my recent visit to Laramie, Wyoming to visit my brother and do a little informal research.  I hope you enjoy it!]

How to See Prairie BeautyAs I write this post, it is the beginning of July and I am sitting in the self-proclaimed "Home of Edgy Coffee" just a couple blocks off of campus, drinking an iced coffee with a wedge of lime in it.  Some crooner from the fifties drifts out a lazy melody over the radio.  In fact, this new branch of Coal Creek Coffee Company is about as "edgy" as a paperclip on a quarterly report, but, hey-- I guess they can call themselves whatever they want.  At least it's not Starbuck's.

How does it feel to be back in Laramie after at least six years?  Pretty darn good.  I started out for Albany County from my in-laws' house on the first and took a leisurely drive through the Shirley Basin in the early evening and crossed into the prairie just ahead of a huge set of thunderclouds brewing on the horizon.  It's as green as far as the eye can see right now, just starting to get its earliest tinges of gold as the heads on the grasses ripen and dry.  In a few weeks, if it doesn't rain much, those oceans of rippling green will turn into a golden, waving sea. 

My brother Coyote walked me around the downtown my first night here to introduce me to the new Laramie.  He's in school here now, sort of, trying to walk that delicate, fine balance between school and starvation.  Right now he's out of a job, but he's also out of school, so he can eat.  He looks more gangly than starved-- a little like Shaggy off of Scooby-Doo, with his wavy red hair he never cuts until he donates it to Locks of Love and a chin patch that should be on a saxophone player.  On the way he introduces me to a good portion of Laramie's fringe culture: a bouncer called "the hippie" and several real hippies, one of whom got in trouble with the city for living in a wigwam by the river.  As we walk he chats about his friends, most of whom don't fit in to the mainstream in one way or the other: punkers, rebels, gays and lesbians, bluegrass guitarists, hippies, artists, philosophers, troublemakers.  Coyote knows all these people because he's one of them, and their company suits him well. 
Fox Laramie
Has Laramie changed much since I lived there?  Yes and no.  Most of the downtown looks virtually identical to my high school days except that the names of the stores have changed.  The restaurant where my sister Sparrowhawk worked when I was in high school is now an Italian restaurant, and the downtown now houses two yoga centers, an honest-to-goodness sushi joint, and an oxygen bar.  (An oxygen bar?  Really?  That's just over the top.)  The major change is that the old Fox theater, which had stood as an abandoned piece of Laramie Americana for generations, was finally so dangerous that they were forced to tear it down.  Now an empty lot stands next to the Cowboy bar, its glaring, yellow sign no longer oxidizing in the Laramie heat.  Farewell, ye vintage pigeon haven.

The major changes are all east of town.  The little strip mall I'm sitting in behind War Memorial Stadium is entirely new, as are the big hotels clustered around it.  It used to house a couple of old rain barrels in an empty field.   In fact, there's a set of "Cowboy Condos" going in right next door, too-- as housing for Wyoming football fans, I suppose, which will overlook the pitiful cinder-block married housing for college students that should have been torn down when I was in college.   Out towards Cheyenne around Sherman Hills there are hundreds of gleaming, new houses all stamped out with a Technicolor cookie press.   Coyote tells me this is all just a few years old.   Little Laramie is growing up pretty fast, it seems, though I wonder from the numbers of houses whether or not the population has grown to match. 
Laramie at Dusk
And yet, for all this growth it doesn't really seem to be that much bigger-- nor does it seem to have a different character.  I almost had to smile when I pulled my car over a few miles north of town and a black cloud of mosquitoes made the windows go black.  Some things never change, it seems.  It's been one of the wettest summers on record, and the mosquitoes are getting so big and so nasty that I'm waiting for them to run for political office.  The Public Health office is handing out cans of Off to help the poorer residents deal with the bugs.  Laramie has never had much of a mosquito abatement program, and it looks like that hasn't changed at all.  Scratching the bites on my ankles with my pen as I type is a good reminder of the not-so-good side to the town.  

As we wandered around town last night towards the railyard, I looked up at a deep blue sky edged with purple and sighed.  "I would really love to come back here," I said.  Coyote gave me a fuzzy look.

"Seriously?"  He asked.  "To be honest, I'd give anything to get out."


2) The old Fox theater in Laramie, from awkwardindeed's Flickr photostream. available through a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

No comments:

Post a Comment