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Mere unpredictable change

July 15, 2013

On our way back from walking the hound and looking at vultures roosting near St. Joseph’s Church, we passed yet another group of happy people drifting away from downtown.

Of course! The beer fest was over. I feel a certain fondness for these couple of hours every year, when portions of reality alter: The festers don’t quite fit. They tend to be softer, slower, smiling more, and cutting a wider swath than non-beer-festers. It almost seems the better way.

My tenderness is not shared by L, who reminded me of the inevitable. The inebriation doesn’t end there; not everyone stops. Indeed, it was 2:00 a.m. before sleep was possible.

We’d spent the previous night near the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness; however, it was not as different as you might imagine. The same issues: people, dogs, vehicles, alcohol.

Of course, we had friends, dogs, a truck camper, and gin and tonics—but it’s always other people who cause problems, no?

I have this ever-growing compassion for the police. As charged as their work is, call after call, there must be an aspect of tedium, too. They can probably predict what every night will be like.

We predicted flowers for the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, but not this surprise: Mid-morning, as we exclaimed about this flower or that, suddenly, there was a tall, lean, handsome young man standing beside the path in sandals and holding a blue flower.

He seemed unaffected by his large pack that included a snowboard and boots, and was already on his way back from Ice Mountain, having hoped to find enough snow for a run. But no. Snowpack is down, even as wildflowers are up.

We were pleased to come upon a fit young person who wasn’t staring at a screen in the palm of his hand. But in all fairness, that image, while ubiquitous, is hardly confined to young people.

Also, we are treated to glimpses of youthful non-screen activity regularly. Last week, early one morning, there were gazelle-like boys and girls running around town. An hour later, they were still at it. I took it to be runners playing some form of tag—it was beautiful.

Young people walk “tight rope” in the park on slack lines stretched between trees. There’s an avid fencing group, too, and the fencers dare not glance at text messages while engaged.

The Alpine Park basketball court stays busy, but there are always phones at hand. Twice I’ve found smartphones, and even car keys, left at the court with no one in sight. They get left at the library, too. At once, we are a vitally connected and yet disposable culture.

Things change; change again. It’s continuous, although we don’t quite perceive it. Then you notice.

Consider the Publishers Weekly bestsellers for 2013. Atop the print list and the Kindle ebook list is Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” But the rest of each list is profoundly different. Only four titles overlap.

The Kindle list is all genre fiction and big-name authors. The print list is a mixture of high- and low-brow—various fiction, non-fiction, young adult, and children’s titles. Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci, and E.L. James (Fifty Shades) have books on both lists—but not the same books.

James Patterson does not appear on the print list, but F. Scott Fitzgerald does (nothing like a movie to spur book sales, even 73 years after your death) as are two Dr. Seuss titles and two books related to the “Duck Dynasty,” a popular TV program. Cross media fermentation abounds.

The prediction of the “death” of books, print, and reading, which makes a nice headline, has lost to a more cogent prediction: mere unpredictable change.

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