‘Free Box’ Is Just Another Term for ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ | Word on the Street
by Douglas McDaniel
May 10, 2007 | 268 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Just the other day I saw a load of folks hanging around the Free Box, including people in their trucks looking on, waiting for something to happen.

Word on the street is that it’s a hangout for ne’er do wells in need.

This observation was made after Mark Buchsieb, town councilmember, reportedly said last month it’s a “meeting place for drugs and a lot of crazy stuff.”

As I sat and watched the people watching the other people waiting for something illicit to happen, I thought, gee, if “drugs and a lot of crazy stuff” were the criteria, we might as well bulldoze the better part of Telluride and a lot of the Mountain Village.

You really know its spring, off-season, when the Free Box bird squawks. Spring is always when that 31-year-symbol of Telluride communal hope, the Free Box, is outright attacked by the hobgoblins of responsible anxiety.

Buchsieb seems to be a working-class guy, too, a friend of both man and dog, which makes the whole thing so amusing, because it cuts right into his constituency. He’s clearly the fearless iconoclast amongst us, and recently urged citizens to remain civil as the entire town went through the emotional strain of discussing the Valley Floor War with one another in broad daylight.

So on this occasion to declare, politely, that’s he’s politically incorrect, I’ll state, civilly, even if we are at war: Only from our cold dead hands should we have our right to nab something out of the Free Box on a nice spring day taken away!

Sure, he’s taken a very rational position for what some might see as an eyesore, but …

The Free Box is a necessary symbol, an economic benefit to those who need it, and to those who don’t an enjoyable, momentary pastime. Sure, it costs money to maintain. According to Town Manager Frank Bell it costs the town public works department $1,000 per week to haul stuff off three or four times a week to a very large dumpster, which also costs money to rent. The big stuff that doesn’t fit well in the back seat of the car, as well as whatever gets rejected from this little land of forgotten toys, is what’s getting hauled away at great expense.

But immediately after the annual squawk of the Free Box bird, amplified with a little help from the local press, I noticed a lot of ne’er do wells were holding their own, carting stuff away for free, too, including a town employee who pulled up his truck and did some shopping of his own. Unless he’s taking it handful by handful to the big trash bin … he’s a ne’er do well (but not doing well enough), too.

Yes, $50,000 sounds somewhat expensive. But do you think the Lincoln Memorial just sits there all stone-faced without some polishing and trash pickup every now and then?

Our Free Box draws tourists from throughout the Four Corners area, I suspect, and may be as regionally renowned as Four Corners itself. For those from Montrose, it’s reason for a Sunday drive. It’s the one place in Telluride (or three counties, for that matter) where every race, creed and nationality can eat from the same dishes and share the same clothes and sit on the same furniture with a sense of mutual identity.

At the Free Box we share our economic dilemmas of not exactly living in a very practical place, shopping-wise. And criminal activity? Have you seen the price of a stainless steel fork at the retail level around here? Now that’s criminal.

The social service it offers may be worth more than $50,000 to local residents who may, yes, need affordable housing but also a pretty damn nice, “new-looking” sweater, frying pan or set of shot glasses every now and then, too.

The Free Box is also a place to cleanse ourselves of our natural inclinations toward conspicuous consumption. Many a trophy mom will pop right on by there, pushing the tri-wheel strollers with baby loaded in front, to quench their need to shop (OK, OK consume) for, perhaps, an hour or even an entire day.

Well, at least, that’s the way it works for me.

Of the vision thing, the hippie vision of Telluride, a few more icons of those early funky years disappear with each slick, sanitizing wave of the monoculture.

This vision currently lives on like a ghost in perpetual video in the entry-way corridor at the Wilkinson Public Library. It plays around the clock, I suspect, even when the library is closed: Ah, just listen and look at the hairlines of all of those grand old counterculture cats who came up with everything good about this town in 1976, but now have just a little less to claim as their own as each year goes by.

Valley Floor preservation is their last great statement, perhaps. But that’s just holding back the end of the world. Good luck. The Free Box is actually one hippie dream that still has legs. It shouldn’t be moved. It should be extended to Lawson Hill and beyond, especially to where the locals and live and dwell. That might take some pressure off the main monumental Free Box, anyway.

And in exchange these ne’er do well part-time dwellers can take some responsibility and stop thinking, just before they skip town, that there might be somebody out there who can fix that dented-in Kenmore. And those computer monitors? Come on. You should be fined by the EPA for leaving those around without the connecting cords.

So take that broken TV to the dump where it belongs, please, because the mute button keeps sticking on the one I scored.

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