Money alone sets all the world in motion. Publilius Syrus, 100 B.C.
Buy local. I gave the concept lip service for years, but I bought many of my wares from strangers based in Bentonville, Ark., where 87 percent of the inhabitants have third nipples and live with ill-tempered, one-armed monkeys.
Hey, it could be true ... I don't know. I've never been to Bentonville, and you probably haven't, either.
That Wal-Mart was getting my money never really gave me pause until the first week of October 2005, when I was in New Orleans surveying my post-Katrina damage. A wooden sign had blown into my yard from a small pharmacy a block away, so I walked over to return it to the proprietor, whom I'd never previously bothered to meet.
There he stood in the wreckage of his business, with ransacked pill bottles strewn from wall to wall and shattered glass underfoot. He looked as if he might shatter, too. I returned his sign and bought some two-liter bottles of Pepsi that we dug out of the rubble together. I hate Pepsi, but looters had stolen all of the Coke products, and I really wanted to give him my business.
This really stuck with me: My money matters, and I want it to support the things that matter to me. The quality of life in my own community is high on the list of things that matter to me, and here in Colorado, that quality of life is at an all-time high.
Here, it's easy to buy local, especially if you consider anywhere in Colorado "local." I could just prattle on about waking up, having a coffee at High Rise Coffee Roasters (2421 W. Cucharras St.) or a Laughing Lab Ale from Bristol Brewery (1647 S. Tejon St.), depending on the day then slipping into a pair of cutting-edge, heavy-duty Chaco sandals (from Paonia), grabbing my Osprey pack (Cortez), and heading off on my Yeti bike (Golden) to Mountain Mama (1625 W. Uintah St.) for elk burgers to go with purple fingerling potatoes and Anasazi beans.
But I won't. I can't afford a Yeti bike, and, besides, the words "Fat Tire Ale" (Fort Collins) embody my sentiments so much more succinctly.
Hell, the blueberry-crunch bagels at My Daughter's Deli (2514 W. Colorado Ave.) are enough to keep me from ever leaving this state. Sure, Panera has suspiciously consistent bagel bliss in 1,000-plus locations in 38 states, but what they don't have is Sharon.
Sharon asks about my dog and wonders where I've been. She'll put the money I give her back into the neighborhood where we both live. Panera could give a damn about my stinking mutt, and they'll spend my money on the East Coast. Thank you. Come again.
"That's the only vote that really gets counted: where you spend your money," says Adam Leech, owner of The Leechpit music and vintage clothing store (708 N. Weber St.). "[With local businesses] you're going to get a higher level of service and more specialized knowledge. If I give bad music recommendations, I lose customers, so I'm not going to just push crap on people."
Then there's the whole manufacturer-to-customer chain.
"If I sell a kid a used shirt," Leech continues, "he doesn't have to go to the mall and buy a brand-new one that was sewn in a foreign country, probably by someone who wasn't fairly paid."
Shorter distances between production and retail points don't just reduce environmental impact; they exponentially increase the freshness of perishable products. I caught up with Cheryl Spencer, owner of the local Lettuce Patch Gardens, at the Rocky Mountain Natural Store (1502 W. Colorado Ave.). There was a case of her stunning Paris Market Mix for sale when we started talking. By the time we finished, it was gone, and I was ass-out for dinner.
"The immediate thing people notice is the quality," says Spencer. "Typically, I pick it that day and bring it, so you can't get much fresher than that unless you grow it yourself. When you think about it, it sounds absurd. We're going through all these lengths to bring stuff here from a thousand miles away, when there's a lot of stuff that can be grown here."
It shouldn't be long before more fabulous goods being grown here once again wind up in the area's half-dozen open-air markets.
The most exciting thing growing in Colorado today isn't the produce, though. It's the sheer selection of local products. From vodka and ice cream to elk jerky and custom-made motorcycles, someone close by has exactly what you need.
So before you go giving your money away to Arkansan monkey-lovers with multiple nipples, invest in your neighbors. Then everybody profits. And don't you worry those nice folks in Bentonville will be just fine.