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In the land of McCulloch

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The entire development of Pueblo West branches off from McCulloch Blvd. Over one road and onto another the town expands into an abundance of mostly homes and small-businesses that sit upon land that was once nothing but a plain of dirt, desert critters and one man’s vision of the future.

It is virtually impossible to navigate through the community without travelling over McCulloch Blvd at least once. Everyday, the nearly 30,000 residents of the Pueblo suburb go about their business, moving back and forth over the often under-construction road, which is named after a local legend.

Anyone who grew up in or around Pueblo West has most likely been exposed to the tale of a man named McCulloch who founded the famously “Planned Community” and then left.

The seemingly obscure man does not have existing roots in Pueblo West. Robert Paxton McCulloch, the man responsible for Pueblo West, was born in Missouri to a wealthy family in 1911.

He attended college at Stanford University and went on to marry his high school sweetheart, Barbara Ann Briggs.

An aggressive entrepreneur, he founded McCulloch Engineering Company where his employees built car engines and superchargers. After selling the company, he founded another one, McCulloch Aviation, which later became known as McCulloch Motors Corporation.

In 1943, McCulloch founded a company bearing his name and led the chainsaw industry for several years with his invention of an innovative lightweight model. The first of its kind, operation of the 3-25 chainsaw only required one person. The company is still in existence today and has since expanded to tractor, brush cutter, hedge trimmer, and snow and leaf blower sales

When McCulloch seemed to grow out of evolving machinery he started growing towns.

He founded four different cities during the ‘60s and ‘70s– Pueblo West; Lake Havasu City, Arizona; Fountain Hills, Arizona; and Spring Creek, Nevada.

Each city, of course, has unique characteristics and a specific culture created by the people who have lived in them since McCulloch’s work, but there are several striking similarities in each. For example, the familiar idea of a “planned community” is a defining characteristic of Lake Havasu City and Spring Creek acts as a self-sufficient suburb of Elko, a larger Nevada city nearby.

Self-sufficient as they are, the cities are relatively small and were all at one point viewed as “lunchbox” or “bedroom” communities.

This essentially means that big industry is left to larger nearby cities while the planned communities were places for residences and recreation.

You pack your lunch in the city and take it home in your lunchbox. You work in the living room and go to the tucked-away bedroom to sleep.

When Pueblo West was founded in 1969, the modern city of Pueblo had already been officially and completely incorporated for 75 years and much of the town’s industry belonged to Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. People who moved to Pueblo West had to commute to their jobs in Pueblo, or at least get their lunch there.

Many of the first citizens of the town had children who attended school in adjacent counties or on the other side of Pueblo County. Since Pueblo West is considered to be part of Pueblo County, high school-aged students were officially designated to attend Pueblo County High School.

It wasn’t until 1974, when Pueblo West Elementary School was built, that its youngest students could attend school closer to home. Middle and high school students had to commute until 1984 and 1996 respectively when Pueblo West Middle School and Pueblo West High were established.

In its early days, Pueblo West was so desolate McCulloch had to build the Pueblo West Inn to temporarily house potential investors.

Self-sufficiency did not come without work, and new citizens had to commit to making McCulloch’s vision a reality.

All four cities have grown tremendously since McCulloch founded them, and many citizens are now able to work in their communities. Larger cities nearby generally have more industry but “lunchbox community” lunches can be packed a little lighter these days.

In addition to being self-sufficient without considerably large industry, the four towns are all home to bodies of water that, in a number of capacities, give citizens options for recreation.

Lake Havasu City’s recreation also focuses largely on its lake, which runs into the Colorado River.

“Lake Havasu City is a destination for boaters, water sport enthusiasts, hikers, nature lovers, car enthusiasts, military veterans and history buffs,” said Lake Havasu’s mayor, Mark S. Nexsen. It’s a description that could easily be used to describe Pueblo West, too.

In addition to Lake Havasu’s 52,000 citizens, the town brings in 775,000 visitors annually.

“It’s easily accessible by major highways and a short drive from Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas,” Nexsen said.

Fountain Hills has a lake at its center as well and, as its name suggests, a notably large fountain is surrounded by rolling hills. The fountain built by McCulloch’s corporation is so prominent it is considered one of the largest in the country.

Perhaps the most famous structure McCulloch is responsible for, though, is the London Bridge located in Lake Havasu City.

After acquiring the land that would eventually become Lake Havasu City from the U.S. government, he bought the bridge from London and had it moved to the city, brick by brick.

“The London Bridge took three years to dismantle, transport, and reconstruct block by block. The London Bridge, which crosses a 930 foot long man-made canal on the Colorado River, was opened in October of 1971 with elaborate fanfare: fireworks, a parade, entertainment, celebrities, and dignitaries such as the Lord Mayor of London,” Nexsen said.

It still stands, and is a major tourist attraction in the city, which was McCulloch’s goal all along.

The Pueblo West Inn, today known as the Sunhaven Apartments, has a piece of the bridge sitting on the property in the form of a bench.

The presence of the bench is little known in Pueblo West, except for longtime residents. It was previously located in the structure’s only breezeway, with a sign marking its presence. Today it sits outside unmarked, in front of the very same breezeway.

McCulloch could not have planned for the slew of pop culture references surrounding the bridge, most remarkably a 1985 horror film starring David Hasselhoff.  The plot of Bridge Across Time includes the spirit of Jack the Ripper stowed in a London Bridge brick releasing its murderous tendencies on the citizens of Lake Havasu City.

The smallest of the four cities McCulloch founded, Spring Creek considers itself an association rather than an official town. It consists of three housing divisions, which combined hold 5,420 privately owned lots. As consistent with McCulloch’s theme of development, the community is gathered near a lake that serves as a main source of recreation for locals.

Today, Pueblo West is a thriving community with more than enough room to grow. During the 2010 census, it had almost half of the 60,000 of citizens McCulloch originally planned for at 29,843.

In a 1975 interview with United Press International, McCulloch projected that the U.S. population would increase dramatically by the year 2000. His solution for an eventual housing problem caused by the boom was to create new communities, and that he did.

“Today’s lifestyle calls for balanced environments where people can live near their work and leisure activities,” he said.

McCulloch died two years after the interview in Los Angeles, but his communities continue to thrive as places of water recreation, pieces of the London Bridge and packed lunches.

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Arts & Culture

Art is Hard with Pueblo illustrator Riki Takaoka

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Takoka, Riki (web)

“I’ve almost quit doing art so many times.”

I’m at a coffee place downtown talking shop with Pueblo artist and illustrator Riki Takaoka. With works currently on display at the Q Pop gallery in Los Angeles, and a recent addition for possible contribution to nationally syndicated contemporary arts magazine Hi-Fructose, (not to mention freelance nominations from Paramount Animation Studios), I figured he and I were in for a quick convo about brushes or pen techniques. I wasn’t expecting that one of the quickest and most accurate caricature artists I’ve ever seen in my life would say he is quitting something he’s clearly great at.

But I was shocked to hear that come from his lips.

Shocked, but sadly not at all surprised. Talk to almost anyone in the so-called creative class, and they’ll tell you a similarly dismal story that usually goes as such;

1) Find something creative you love to do.

2) Take years and years honing and perfecting your craft.

3) Get good enough to be recognized for your art.

4) Ask for compensation for your art.

5) Get chided for daring to ask for said compensation.

image by Riki Takaoka

 

The worst part about hearing that from him is that the illustration work of Takaoka is flat out phenomenal. Blending playfully bold caricatures with a jagged surrealistic quality, Takaoka has developed a signature style and skill set that stands on its own. A style that he points out he has been brewing since childhood.

“When i was a kid, I would draw and redraw the same cover of PSM (PlayStation Magazine) over and over. I was just obsessed with it. I’ve stayed in my room for days sometimes, just trying to push myselfto do better,” Takaoka said.

But all the talent and hard work in the word can’t guarantee financial success in the art world.

When the topic shifts to art as a means of income comes up, Takaoka offers, “Art is hard. Not hard for me to make. It’s easy to make and I love it. Just hard for me to deal with. Or, I guess live off. Deal with trying to live off it. And it’s frustrating to spend hours making a commission piece for someone and then have to beg them to pay for it.”

Unfair doesn’t seem to do it justice. In no other profession other than the creative field will you hear of such a thing. I’ve never once heard of my food service friends offered to be paid by a future profit share, or my wife the hairdresser and stylist proposed exposure for their work as an alternative to actual money. But every day in creative lines of work, artists are at odds with clientele who want assets for nothing or damn near.

“I get that almost every time, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. I’ve lived in Hawaii, in Texas, here in Colorado.” he said. “Unless you’re a well known artist, people constantly try to get out of paying you for your work.”

“There’s been times where I haven’t drawn for three months straight,” he added, sounding a bit dejected. “Because sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it. But it’s one of the only things I know how to do well.”

I asked him about his experience living and working out of Pueblo.

“It’s a nice place to live. It’s affordable. I can walk around and not feel stressed out about having to have two jobs to survive,” Takaoka said. “But the problem is no one wants to work with each other. Not everybody, but too many.”

Even though the art scene here is by no means perfect, he was quick to add, “but it is getting better I guess. And bigger. People doing more. Taking chances.”

In any other line of work, the odds of failure facing people would break most people. But not Riki.  At the end of our conversation, I asked if he considered quitting forever, which got a sly grin. “I can’t quit, I guess. Maybe I’ll just stop for a while. But not completely. At this point it’s like handwriting to me. Period. It’s almost subconscious. It’s the way I see the world. And deal with it.”

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Arts & Culture

Land Lines : PULP Artist of the Month

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Denver’s Land Lines occupy a truly unique headspace upon listening, which can only be described as “Fresh off the boat from Chilligan’s Island”. The Mile High trio, comprised of Martina Grbac (cello/vocals), Ross Harada (drums) and James Han (electric piano/organ), seamlessly meld vintage-modern baroque music with pop shimmer and gloss, like having a dance party at the symphony. Musically, Land Lines is at times is sparse and introspective, with clever and brooding lyricism, only to then turn that right on its’ ear as with bursts and blooms of  thundering pop force, (which contains equally clever and brooding lyricism). On their newest album “Natural World”, dark and moody synthesizer tones playfully buzz and pulsate to and fro over drums that are the audio equivalent of a saunter and sashay. But the lively pluck and eerie hum of the cello (compliments of Martina Grbac) is what sets this band apart from the pack, providing an melodic orchestral punch that cuts through the dense sonic layers like a Hattori Hanzo sword.

 

for fans of /// Portishead • Lady Lamb the Beekeeper • Beach Fossils

hellolandlines.bandcamp.com

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Music

The Local : BRIDGES

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BRIDGES may easily (and quite erroneously) get lumped in with every other current metal/hardcore band playing out today, but this does them no justice. Shifting between the audible snarl and massive attack of hardcore and metal to delicate and downright pretty alternative minded exalt on a dime, BRIDGES, in a very big sense, play simply heavy music. Not heavy in the classic metal distorted-and-detuned-riffs kind of way, but heavy in perhaps an emotive sense. There are elements of hardcore and modern metal, yes, but the real strength behind this band is that their music largely defies any easy categorization, instead using the 60+ years of combined innovation to bring about one of the most well versed and original bands currently in Colorado.   

On a whim, I asked them to quickly list the bands that they had played in or currently part of. They easily listed over a dozen, with some being short tenures in young acts fresh out of high school with others spanning for multiple years, tours, and record label heat.

But what really amazes me about BRIDGES is their reverence for each other. In all my time spent hanging out with bands (both my own and other), I have never encountered a band which seems to enjoy the presence of each other more. They bring the act of playing music back to a core that often falls by the wayside; Simply enjoying it.

I spoke with BRIDGES on a dimly lit porch, beers flowing, on a windy night Tuesday, November 10th 2015.

PULP/ Your previous bands all kind of sound like a lineage tree of Pueblo metal and hardcore. After hearing all that, how does it feel?

 

Matt (Herrera/guitar) / I think it’s really cool. I’ve always been fortunate that with all of the bands I’ve been in were with friends. Just playing together, getting along outside of music. And now, we’ve all been in other bands when we were younger. I met Joe and Adam when they were both probably like 14 o4 15, and now I’m playing in a band with them? I never would of thought.

 

Tyler (Boyce/Vocals) / But I can say that out of all the bands I’ve been in, this has been the most fun to be a part of. On a writing level and on a friendship level. It’s just always good.

 

In some of your previous bands, there was some label heat and contracts and business stuff. Are you dealing with any of that stuff now?

 

Tyler/ It’s definitely a lot easier with BRIDGES. With my old band, some of the guys got so sucked into wanting to “make it” that we were writing too fast and putting out stuff that wasn’t ready, and wasn’t as good as it should have been.

 

Matt /  Well with (previous band) Son of Man, it ended the way it did because by the end of it, it wasn’t any fun. It was all business. I want to try and take a more organic approach with this band. I want to still be busy, but not push anything that isn’t ready or right. Instead of worrying about obligations and the business of it, I want to focus on writing the best music we possibly can. Everything is so saturated right now in our genre. I don’t know exactly what our genre is, but it’s hard to stick out. I’d like to push our own thing, and not falling into a mold. My favorite bands have always been ones that are heavy, bot not in the usual way, you know?

 

How do you feel like BRIDGES differentiates from other acts out now?

 

Matt/ Well. Bands have started to, and I even hate saying this, but using dance moves and choreography.  It’s so stupid.

 

What does that mean? Like dancing with guitars?

 

Matt /  Yeah, like head banging and spins and stuff. It used to be, when a band was getting into the music, it was just something that happened naturally. In Son of Man, really we were all just trying to keep up with (SOM bandmate) Mo. But I get it, when I was younger and in a band, we did tons of stupid shit. I mean, it was the late 90’s. We all loved Korn and Limp Bizkit, so use your imagination. (laughs) But it totally sucks when people and bands are more worried about a dance move or a look than what they are writing.

 

Josh (Ewing/bass) / Every time we jam, it’s all organic. (laughs) When you start choreographing it, it seems fake and more like going through the motions than having fun.

 

BRIDGES has always been a more sonically adventurous band to me. You’re heavy, but it’s more in layers rather than in riffs. Is that something you try to do on purpose?

 

Matt/ We’ve always made it a point to not write the same way twice.We all love different things; Clean parts, and having melodies and parts that go places, rather than just the same riff over and over. There’s no point in having two guitar players who are playing the exact same thing. We even talked about writing a pretty and clean (guitar tone) song at some point. It’s always better to try and work toward something new. It’s exciting.

 

Tyler/  And that’s one of the thing that initially interested me about trying out for the band. Like you said, there are layers to it. And it’s very intricate. You can dissect it, and you can find so many different types of music in it.

 

Joe (Johnson/Guitar)/ It’s just nice to have the people to do it. We’re all open minded.

 

Do you think Pueblo is hurting for an all ages place to play?

 

Matt/ Oh, totally. I think it has taken Phil’s (Radiator) being gone, and kind of ripped out without a choice, for people to realize that it is hurting. Sure, they’ve re-opened now, but they’re not all ages. It feels like there’s this big gap, but it’s slowly being filled back up. We played a show at the Daily Grind a while back, and we got to play for a bunch of kids who wouldn’t have otherwise got to see us. There’s an untapped youth market here in town, but there’s nowhere for them to go see bands play.

 

Tyler/ Another thing, is there are now finally young bands still in high school that are starting to pop up. But this scene isn’t what it used to be. Everyone we know now is older, and no one really kept going. Where are these new bands supposed to go?

 

Matt/ It’s a bummer because I’ve never even heard of these guys, and there’s nowhere to check them out. We’ve only played Pueblo twice in the last year.

 

Any reason for that?

 

Tyler/ It’s hard to find places where you can play. It’s hard when no one wants to invest in Pueblo. Everyone thinks that Pueblo is this s— hole, and it is a small town, but I love it here. I’ve seen and met a lot of cool people, and there’s a lot of cool things happening here. But nobody chooses to get up off the couch to see them. and yet everyone complains that there’s nothing to do. That’s the saddest part.

 

Josh/ There’s a lot of great stuff here that fails due to lack of support.

 

Matt/ There’s so much negative stuff being said and reported about our city, it’s just nice when people can get out there to other places and show them that we’re not all gang bangers and drug addicts. I mean, we all make jokes sometimes, but I want to share that there are good people and good things going on here. When bands come down here to play, they all say it’s great, you know?

 

With the band all coming from such different musical styles, is writing the way you do more difficult?

 

Tyler/  When we write stuff, we all kind of write with it too. Someone has an idea, and we all try to make it fit with how we see it, and still make it into something we’re all looking for. We all compensate for each others’ styles in that way. It’s a team effort.

 

Josh/ I think it helps that we all try to have an open mindset with writing. No one ever comes in and says “I have an idea and it has to go exactly like this.”

 

Do you feel like it makes it more unique that way?

 

Matt/ It makes it more real, and definitely gives it a more unique identity. It’s great. It makes it so that we can’t make anything cookie cutter. It’s good to be able to do that. More rewarding that way.

 

Tyler/ I also think it’s maybe why we all get along so well too. There’s never anyone jumping down someone’s throat about not playing something the “right” way. We just want to make something that we like a lot and can be proud to show people. We put a lot of time into it, and when we get any kind of good feedback about it, to say that it gave them some sort of feeling or emotion, that’s the coolest thing about making music. And makes us happy.

 

Josh/ And it’s totally applicable to anyone doing any kind of art. If you’re doing it the way you want, not under anyone else’s guidelines, and attain results that they’re proud of, especially if it’s someone telling you they love it, definitely makes it way more rewarding.

 

Is that part of the reason you guys play music to begin with? For that feeling?

 

Josh/ Oh, definitely. The core factor of it comes down to I love to do it for myself. I love playing music and playing it with my best friends.

 

Tyler/ Exactly. The best part, is you get to show up, hang out with your best friends, and make music that hopefully you can all enjoy and get behind. If not, why are you doing it?

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