Whenever I hear "Boulder, Colorado," my ears perk up. It's my hometown, after all. I still have a good piece of my heart there, and not just because I spent my formative years traipsing about the tundra there. I have family there. When something happens there, good or bad, exciting or not so much, I wonder how it will affect them. Natural disasters like forest fires and floods are the most frightening alerts that come my way, but happily so far these reports have all proved to be more fret than actual fear. My family does a pretty good job of staying safe. While I watch news reports of smoke pouring over the front range of the Rocky Mountains, or tiny-minded college boys swimming in the rising waters, I wonder how things will be when I return home for a visit.
Will I see the scars on the land? Will the forests still be scorched? Will I recognize the place? This doesn't take into account the urban renewal that exists in all towns, but most profoundly for me in this college town at the foot of the Rockies. All that geography is still stored in the back of my mind, and sometimes when I am having trouble sleeping, I go for drives on the streets of my youth. I imagine what used to be and every so often what is, once I have seen it and made corrections to my internal map.
And then there was this two-night CBS show about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. In some horrible commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of this little girl's death, the Columbia Broadcasting System turned its inquiring eye toward that college town at the foot of the Rockies. Twenty years ago, a little girl was found dead in her family's home on the north edge of town. I know the neighborhood well. It was where my father had a paper route once upon a million years ago. It was just up the hill from the University from which I graduated. I know those tree-lined streets well, and even though I had already moved away when the story hit the tabloids, I can remember feeling a connection to the people who stayed. Murder of any sort is a pretty rare occurrence in Boulder, and anything this tawdry was certainly way out of character for where I grew up. There was months of speculation and cable news coverage of every detail and every lead that panned out to nothing. For years, rumors and theories swirled around, and each time some "fresh revelation" was made, cameras showed up and videotape rolled. I watched, not because I was invested in the case, but because I got to see pictures of where I used to live.
When the show aired last Sunday and Monday, I told myself that I didn't want to watch. I didn't believe that Scotland Yard and the FBI would combine to crack the case after decades of rumor and innuendo, but I could watch the city of my birth slide past in the background as they made their own conclusions about what really happened that night so very long ago. Not for very long, however. Dredging up tabloid awfulness in the name of justice made me glaze over at some point, and I fell asleep. And I dreamed of Boulder and its majestic Flatirons and glorious sunsets and all the places I knew and loved and the people I knew who still lived there and couldn't wait for this dark cloud to pass again. In my dreams, I was driving back home again. Without a cloud in the sky.