We had just wrapped up a campaign stop in Quigley Hall where, after another meeting or two of the trustees of Western Colorado University, the smart money says there won’t be anything at all going on. I was ebullient, unfamiliar terrain for me, sort of basking in the afterglow of what I had taken to be ecstatic reception of my talk, which had been, if not entirely rousing, basically close enough. My subject, “Western: University or Vo-Tech,” seemed pertinent and the crowd, all two or three music students, smiled, nodded and whistled tunefully at each of my targeted points.
Upon hearing my answer to questions from the group like “how can the college...”— “University; I interrupted— “university really expect that, by cutting music, English, history, who knows what else, they will bring in, what? Half-a-million dollars, maybe more than that? I mean, did I read that right?”I paused, thumb and index finger to chin, eyes to the ceiling, sweat on forehead.
“Hmmm. Let’s see. Think of it like this: If Mario’s wanted to attract more customers, it could quit selling pizzas.”"You mean;’ began a student who had paused on her way out the door, suitcases in both hands, “reducing all these majors down to minors, cutting the number of classes, even getting rid of a half of a teacher — and I don’t even want to know how they intend to do that — the trustees expect to gain population?”
“Well...” I began, only to have this world’s only honest campaign manager, Deb Callihan, lean in, take out my earplugs (had some righteous “Roll Over Beethoven” cranking), and whisper, “Give ‘em the bit about property!’ Ah, Deb, I thought, a capital idea, and said, “Imagine that Re/Max wanted to make more money. How would Re/ Max go about it? Quit selling real estate.” The student, who, like the other students in the group, had her bags all packed, shook her head, muttered an oath—no, not the “Pledge of Allegiance”—and just hauled off and left.
Before the door of the remodeled Quigley — beautiful, really, just perfect in every expensive way — had time to close behind her, another hand went up, all five fingers pointing skyward, and a young man in a Mountaineer hoodie said, “What’s the deal with all these fancy new buildings if the school is so hard-up?”
“Well, uh...” I turned first this way, then that, looking for Deb to lean in and whisper, but, no, there she was way off down the hall, helping Martha Violett push the Steinway out the double doors and into the back of Al Caniff’s pickup truck.
“The campus is awesome;’ the hoodie boy said. “Bright, spanking new facilities, landscaping they’d die for at Dos Rios? Shoot; he added, opening his arms wide, looking up, “more grass than a head shop, but they’re killing off programs, this one and that, thinking maybe, ‘hey, if all the millions on capital improvements won’t work, let’s just close up shop altogether and sit back while busloads of new students show up?”’
“Sounds like a plan,” another student said, and the rest of the small but rowdy crowd began chanting: “Sounds like a plan. Sounds like a plan...” Well, you get the drift. And speaking of “drift; they all drifted off, leaving me alone in the concert hall, remembering a day way back when Harvey Harriman stood with his hand on Martha’s piano and sang “Old Man River” to a packed house. Packed? Oh, yes, packed, but that was way, way back.
Later, finishing off a large order of fries, washing them down with a Big Gulp, Deb and I sat in the campaign’s classic Econoline van, parked across Highway 50 at Jorgensen Park
“Westmmmble dimbsele...” I said, before Deb interrupted: “Don’t talk with your mouth full. You make too much sense.”
I swallowed with a gulp of Big Gulp.
“University or Vo-Tech?” I said.
“Hard to tell from here, isn’t it?”
“Can’t see it from here, really, that big black thing blocking it there in front.”
“Supposed to save it,” Deb said. “Bring in all those engineers Boulder doesn’t want.”
“Oh7 I said. “That’s not Tesla’s new headquarters, not Elon Musk?”
“Remember the wide open field of grass, running up to the college, so great, wasn’t it? Such a wonderful view, coming into town!’
“Quit it, Deb;’ I said. “This here’s what you call your progress.”