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We go to the Central City Opera almost every summer. My mother pays for it, which is nice, This year we saw "The Ballad of Baby Doe," and it was a very good production. The restoration of the opera house is holding up well. The seating is too crowded, as usual, but on the whole we were very glad we went.
My mother was at the reopening of Central City in 1932, when she saw Lillian Gish in "Camille." The first play I saw there was "Mrs. McThing," a very undistinguished play with Helen Hayes, in 1952. In 1962 I took my bride to see "The Girl of the Golden West," with the original David Belasco staging. It was too long, and the horses fell off the treadmills and destroyed some of the scenery. It had three intermissions and we spent them in the Teller House Bar. By the end we didn't much care what happened to the hero¬ine.
There are several family traditions connected to this annual trip. Perhaps the best one is that we pack a picnic lunch, with fried chicken and whiskey sours, find an abandoned mine, eat lunch and throw our chicken bones down the mine shaft.
My father used to spend quite a bit of time and energy on the whisky sours. These days I just use a mix. After the first one, no one seems to notice the difference.
But it's become more and more difficult to find a suitable mine. For years we went to a beauti¬ful place just beyond the Glory Hole. When the children were fed, they wandered over and stared at that huge hole in the ground. But one year we found our way barred, as the Glory Hole re¬opened, and we had to look elsewhere. We found a less interesting place about a mile away, and for several years our biodegradables found a resting place at the bottom of that shaft. We took everything else home with us, but we liked the long wait as the bones went down the shaft to plunk in the water at the bottom.
This year we returned to find the shaft filled with the detritus of civilization: rusted space heaters, mattresses, seats out of trucks, wall¬board and plastic. At the lip of the shaft was a litter of bright green plastic shards that will be there long after we and all our chicken bones are dust.
We have looked for other sites for our annual picnic, but it's always the same story; someone has been there before us with piles of more of less permanent garbage.
We would like to think our children and their children will continue to enjoy their trips to Central City with this fine, old tradition, but it looks as though it won't be long before we'll be forced to have our picnic in the parking lot simply because it's a cleaner place than the surrounding countryside. In some ways, it seems to me, it's a worse problem than the national debt, which can be wiped out without a trace. This is a mess (and it's not restricted to Cen¬tral City, by any means) our grandchildren will surely have to face, and I wonder what they'll say about us.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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