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Colorado Springs Is The Pyongyang Of Colorado

nsequeira119

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I find Denver interesting because it serves as a kind of sociological microcosm for America as a whole. Every large-scale trend which sweeps through the country will have a smaller parallel here- cancel culture, anti-vax movements, crypto hype, and so forth. The difference being that everyone who participates in these trends in Denver generally lacks any real investment and nothing ever comes of it, and the groups and subcategories are much smaller- there might be, say, 10 cryptobros in the entire city. Perhaps the most interesting factor at play, though, is the dichotomy between Denver and Colorado Springs, which serve to represent two extremes of Coloradan politics- Coloradan Progressivism and Coloradan Conservatism, respectively.

The reason the Front Range Corridor has failed, repeatedly, to form any kind of megalopolis structure akin to the East or West Coasts is because we have a bitter, deeply ingrained adversarial relationship with our neighbors. This is nothing new- Colorado Springs and Denver have always engaged in a rivalry of sorts. What is now Old Colorado City was once the Coloradan capital, and ever since Denver became the capital, there has been an undercurrent of seething resentment in Colorado Springs- a reactionary inferiority complex. Denver, likewise, has always served as a bastion of innovation and civic strength. It's not like New York and Boston, where you can go from one to the other with little turbulence. CS and Denver are worlds apart ideologically.

While, to a Denverite, it can seem that Denver is by and large ignored by the rest of the country, for a CS resident, that goes double. Colorado Springs is a city on the edge, it hasn't lost its grit or its teeth, it is in many ways more Coloradan than Denver, and reminds me of how Denver was when I was younger. Denver has been diluted, eroded, and gentrified. I don't believe it will ever fully lose its identity- however, it does not maintain, respect, or appreciate its history to the extent that Colorado Springs does. Colorado Springs is a city stuck in the past which refuses to evolve, and that's ultimately its greatest weakness. While Denver, Boulder, and Pueblo form a rough progressive coalition, Fort Collins and Cheyenne moreso follow Colorado Springs' example. The differences between Denver and Colorado Springs are immediately apparent to a lifelong citizen of either.

Coloradan Conservatism is not, I believe, as severe as Conservatism in other regions. Colorado, being a newer state, does not have the centuries of oppression and barbarism which defined the early history of the New England Colonies or the Deep South. We have less to fall back on- less to define us, collectively, as a people. However, there are certainly aspects of Coloradan Conservatism which tie into Conservatism generally. There is a reason Colorado Springs is the city Trump chose to visit during his 2020 reelection campaign, and there's likewise a reason the Club Q shooting took place in Colorado Springs. While Denver's approach has been to form a culture in a vacuum of sorts, to serve as a great preplanned experiment of what an American city can strive to be, Colorado Springs forms a mythic past by which to guide itself. It upholds the outdated image of the pioneer- not as a colonizer, or a corrupt influence upon native soil, but as a stoic individualist in the face of natural chaos. The image of the pioneer has not evolved since the 1800s here, it remains stagnant and lifeless, free of conscience or self-reflection.

One immediately notices, walking around Downtown Colorado Springs, that the streets are littered with statues- statues of long-dead white business moguls, in clean cast iron, on pedestals, gazing down onto the populace. This isn't really as much of a thing in Denver. The only prominent statues which come to mind are "Bronco Buster" and "On The War Trail," in Civic Center Park. These are respectful depictions of a horse-riding cowboy and a native warrior. Not so in Downtown Colorado Springs. Every single corner has a gaudy statue on it, along with a corresponding plaque. To a Denverite like me, this is weird. Ideally, statues should be used only to commemorate the best of the best- to immortalize someone, to honor their memory for some great sacrifice. Statues should not be frivolous. This is one reason why the Confederate argument of the removal of statues "erasing history" angers me. Statues are not history. Statues are a hyperbolic, artistic recreation of historical figures. They are by default superlative. While I can't find any particular fault with the figures depicted in the Colorado Springs statues, their very presence speaks to a lack of authenticity. Cities with real history don't need massive statues everywhere. Denver has history bleeding from every sidewalk and brick. The abundance of statues speaks to a manufactured, sterilized history. The statues don't even look that old, and they're all built of the same exact material, giving them a plastic uniformity. It reminds me of Disneyland. There's a reason Disneyland has statues of Goofy and Donald Duck everywhere- it's to manufacture and force brand prominence. Colorado Springs does the same, but with its history rather than pop culture intellectual property.

Colorado Springs is looking for a brand overhaul, a kind of modernization attempt. It brands itself as "Olympic City USA" because some of the Olympic athletes train there, and tries to draw tourists in on that basis, even if the average person isn't all that interested in the training process of most Olympic athletes. Colorado Springs might actually be better off if it simply pointed out in its slogan that it was Colorado's capital for a short time- that is legitimately interesting- but it fails to do so because to mention the word "capital" would bring thoughts of Denver to mind, and people in Colorado Springs never mention Denver. We in Denver are guilty of this, too- we don't like to acknowledge that Colorado Springs exists, there's something embarrassing about it to us.

The strangest aspect of Colorado Springs is its main business strip. I was stuck in Colorado Springs last night- the final bus arrives at 7 P.M. and I was there for a concert which started at 7 P.M., meaning I had to wait the entire night until 5 A.M. the next morning. This wasn't much of a problem for me, I'm good at staying awake- the problem was killing time. I first decided to walk about 2 miles to an IHOP south of Downtown, located in a strip mall, because it was the only restaurant near me which was open 24 hours. After about an hour there, I walked back north towards Downtown, which I assumed would surely be more active at this time of night- it was only about 2 A.M. by this point. However, there was nobody.

This was the most empty city I've ever seen, ridiculously empty. Every single storefront was shuttered, there were no bars or cabarets open, just the silent statues leering down from above, and the stoplights switching on and off. No people in the streets, either. There were signs on every pole which read: "Security Cameras In Use". This was so weird to a Denverite like myself, where there are no statues or constant surveillance cameras watching your every move. I imagined the paranoid mindset Colorado Springs people would have to be to install so many security cameras everywhere- fear of crime, fear of minority groups, fear of the poor. Irrational terror of people with no actual power. I walked under a vacant railroad trestle- the last place you'd expect to have a security camera, some ramshackle nothing road- and there was a huge voice booming: "Your every move is being watched". It was positively surreal.

Many of the businesses adjacent to the main strip had a lot of character- you could tell they dated back to the 80s or 90s and hadn't been demolished as is so often the case with historic restaurants in Denver- but the strip itself was comprised of extremely new looking, Disneyland type exteriors, with bright colors and designs. This was strange to me because Denver streets are never so carefully engineered- even if a new restaurant takes the place of an old one, the look of a street will always be very diverse and unpredictable, a random hodgepodge of eras and time periods. Every single restaurant on the main street looked as if it was less than 10 years old, like they had been built virtually overnight. This, I imagine, is the major draw- the place tourists are meant to spend their money, to give Colorado Springs a squeaky clean, pleasant façade.

Again, however- they were all closed. I sometimes complain about how pitiful Denver's nightlife is, how it's hard to stay occupied during the wee hours, because only a few restaurants are on, and a city can't function without a 24/7 economy- but holy shit, Colorado Springs just dies after 10 P.M. Even in Denver, if you're Downtown, there are people around, and some buildings open, and lots of bars to get wasted in. In Colorado Springs, there's nothing. Just that one IHOP, and that's way past Downtown. I don't think it's possible that every single business owner actually wants to close their business at 10 P.M. or wherever. I think there's probably some weird municipal code enacted by Colorado Springs which states that they're not legally permitted to if their business is Downtown. This gives the city the illusion of a bustling metropolis by day, and the reality of a fear-stricken surveillance state by night.

I will say this about Colorado Springs businesses- they do have more diversity in what they sell. In Denver, every fifth business is a dispensary. In Colorado Springs, I saw only maybe 3 dispensaries out of 100. And that's not to say I don't like weed, but we're oversaturated with the stuff. Colorado Springs has a candy store, a decent bookstore, a nice-looking incense store, etc. However, a diverse economy means basically nothing if it doesn't last past 10 P.M. The city misses out on 12 hours of potential revenue, it shoots itself in the foot. And I also noticed, while being privy to this weird nighttime side of Colorado Springs that basically nobody ever gets to see, that there are so many banks and churches. Like, an obscene amount. Everyone just prays and counts their money here, instead of getting high.

I was scared at first that there was some kind of curfew in place I wasn't aware of, that the police might pull up and apprehend me for looking suspicious- after all, I did have to walk up and down the main street multiple times to waste 4 hours until my bus arrived- but there weren't any cops to be seen. The only other living person I saw, the entire night, was a deranged bum screaming nonsense at the top of his lungs across the street, and as far as I could tell, nobody bothered to intervene. I can't begin to fathom how sad it must be, as a homeless person in this backwater Potemkin Village with its manufactured consent, walking past every silent false front. For fuck's sake- even Boulder, which is considerably smaller, has something going on at night.

The architecture in Downtown Colorado Springs is all very brutalist, with lots of rectangular administrative buildings which look as if they've been there since the 70s, surrounded by vast public squares with monuments in the center. Ironically, in its attempt to embrace some imagined Conservative past, Colorado Springs has actually transformed into the closest thing Colorado has to Pyongyang. I don't think there's much of a difference between walking in these cold, empty monuments which are supposed to be theoretically impressive, the metallic eyes of the long-dead oil barons pressing against your skull, and staring up at the two Kims at the Mansu Hill Grand Monument. Much like North Korea, Colorado Springs attempts to market itself to the outside world with a fun, modern exterior while maintaining a needlessly hostile and xenophobic approach which turns everyone away, continuously ruining its own potential. It's kind of amazing, if you think about it.

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Lamp Fool

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I've gone up and down I-25 a few times but never took in the differences between the two cities. But in retrospect, I can see it. One thing I did notice is how Colorado Springs's houses and other buildings are so far apart and the roads are so wide, which I think adds to the Pyongyang feel. Combined with the squat buildings it gives the impression the whole place is hugging the ground, as if it would otherwise be knocked over by a prairie windstorm
 

№56

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Colorado Springs is a potemkin village because you wandered around in the middle of the night and everything was closed? What else were you expecting from a city of 500,000 people? I live in a city that's easily four times as big, and even here most public businesses close around 10 PM. People need to sleep.
 
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Walk in the Rain

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Colorado Springs is a potemkin village because you wandered around in the middle of the night and everything was closed? What else were you expecting from a city of 500,000 people? I live in a city that's easily four times as big, and even here most public businesses close around 10 PM. People need to sleep.
He's right. I've being to Colorado Springs many times and all that's ever open is the local quarry. Furthermore, there's barely any pedestrians at all, only traffic. Being there in American Truck simulator.
 
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nsequeira119

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He's right. I've being to Colorado Springs many times and all that's ever open is the local quarry. Furthermore, there's barely any pedestrians at all, only traffic. Being there in American Truck simulator.
Yeh, walking around Downtown Colorado Springs at night, you do feel like you're witnessing something you're not supposed to. Downtown is, like, half parking garages. I don't know why it needs so many parking garages, surely there aren't enough cars to justify all those empty levels. I think they sort of look impressive and tall to someone who's not paying attention.

Maybe that's why I feel very little emotional response when I look at a photo of so-called "liminal spaces" or The Backrooms- because I live in an area that's economically depleted and businesses turn into empty husks all the time here, so I've been desensitized to it. To me, an empty gas station or the like is a very normal, common phenomenon, whereas to someone from New York or Los Angeles, who's surrounded by people and activity all the time, it feels weird to be next to a vacant office building. In this video here, I found an old Hobby Lobby that basically became The Backrooms:



But like I said, even then, Colorado Springs has it especially rough when it comes to attracting new businesses or interest, and that really shows in how empty it gets. Boulder, for comparison, only has a little over 100,000 people- and you can usually find something going on at 2 A.M. It's not necessarily a result of the population, or size, it's a result of the attitude of a given area. To be taken seriously, a city should have a thriving nightlife.
 
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Walk in the Rain

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Yeh, walking around Downtown Colorado Springs at night, you do feel like you're witnessing something you're not supposed to. Downtown is, like, half parking garages. I don't know why it needs so many parking garages, surely there aren't enough cars to justify all those empty levels. I think they sort of look impressive and tall to someone who's not paying attention.

Maybe that's why I feel very little emotional response when I look at a photo of so-called "liminal spaces" or The Backrooms- because I live in an area that's economically depleted and businesses turn into empty husks all the time here, so I've been desensitized to it. To me, an empty gas station or the like is a very normal, common phenomenon, whereas to someone from New York or Los Angeles, who's surrounded by people and activity all the time, it feels weird to be next to a vacant office building. In this video here, I found an old Hobby Lobby that basically became The Backrooms:



But like I said, even then, Colorado Springs has it especially rough when it comes to attracting new businesses or interest, and that really shows in how empty it gets. Boulder, for comparison, only has a little over 100,000 people- and you can usually find something going on at 2 A.M. It's not necessarily a result of the population, or size, it's a result of the attitude of a given area. To be taken seriously, a city should have a thriving nightlife.


(actually never being there. Only in American Truck Sim lmao)
 
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I was reflecting more on this thread - the craziest thing is, I can't even say this is really unique to the city you're mentioning. Cities are hollowing out, as life moves more online, less centered around physical space. This isn't just a trend of the internet mind you - what real estate circles call 'donut development', where the downtown core hollows as exurbs start filling-in - this was set in motion when America started sloughing off industry half a lifetime ago. Office landowners are in slow-motion collapse right now. The whole idea of the 'third place' has been written about to death as of late, but worth mentioning. I think it's a weathervane for where things are pointing now. People are more and more isolated, the social contract is getting thinner, division is getting deeper. Is it any wonder that cities themselves are starting to fade away, everyone retreating to their little personal bubbles? I don't think Colorado Springs is the exception here - I think outside of really big &/or university-centric cities, a downtown that looks like Pyongyang after sunset is the norm.

Edit: Not directly related, but I feel like this piece communicates my thoughts on this topic better than I can. I don't think this is an isolated thing. This to me, feels like the trend of everything over the last ten years: https://www.palladiummag.com/2022/06/13/stanfords-war-on-social-life/
 
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