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No Rules Above 10,000 Feet

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Whenever I travel to a new place, I try to imagine what it would be like to live there. This week, while giving a speech in Keystone, Colorado, I asked a local where I could go hiking. He suggested a trailhead off the road to a town called Montezuma. Sort of a hippie place, he said of Montezuma. It'd been too long since I've been to a sort-of hippie place. So after I did my hike, I drove another mile to the top of a mountain where the road turned to dirt and a wooden sign read "Montezuma. 1862. 10,400 feet." Patches of snow on the ground attested to the altitude of this former mining town.

A guy named Chris told me only 50 people lived there. Along with his girlfriend, Sadie, Chris owns the one commercial establishment in town. It's a coffee shop called Soulhouse in an all-wood home with a couple of well-used sofas and stucco walls of lime, purple, blue, and yellow. The menu offers hot and cold chai, fruit smoothies, homemade scones. On a CD, some jazz--Joshua Redman's album called Freedom In the Groove--played. A foot locker overflowing with clothes and books was marked "FREE BOX." A notice on the bulletin board offered a "Woman's Map and Compass Hut Trip Workshop." The town's slogan was on a bumper sticker: "There are no rules above 10,000 feet."

There are a lot of rules where I live. Lots of deadlines, lots of commitments. As I sprawled on a sofa drinking my smoothie, I wondered how different my life would be if I lived in Montezuma. My skiing would improve. And it sure was quiet there, in the shadow of snow-covered mountains peaks under the big, blue Colorado sky. Two days later, when my plane landed in New York and I stood in line for a taxi, I fantasized about increasing the population of Montezuma to 51.


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