(Pictures of my trip are included below. You can hear the podcast with Mr. Wall here: http://www.coastalnoise.com/podcast.html)
Upon landing I promptly retrieved my bags and awaited my Colorado connect, Hoard. He arrived like clockwork and after a brief introduction, we made our way west to the highlands. My first true day in Denver, I was treated to the spectical that is Red Rocks. Like many of the finer details of Colorado, especially its nature aspects, it is very difficult to describe just how impressive Red Rocks is. From the top of the highest seats, the city of Denver stands majestically in the background, the town of Morrison just off to the right, a cozy town tucked into the mountains which is granted the privilege of baring witness to the grand image of Red Rocks on a continuous basis. Bleachers descend toward the stage and exercise enthusiasts run the lengths of each row, which I'm told equates to two miles.
I am granted to a real treat as a trio of tourists take to the stage to test the legendary acoustics that the venue is noted for with a run of the, "Star Spangled Banner". Everyone present watches, some with hands on their hearts, as the group reaches their conclusion. Over the notes of the the three singers, you can feel the stillness in the air, along with the strange external silence that is present just beyond the song itself. The rock formations on each side carry the music clearly up to where I stand.
The crowd erupts with applause and the ameuter performers drop their serious demeanor for comical bows of gratitude. Below I see the museum where lists of past performing artists adorn the wall. Phish, The Grateful Dead, The Eagles, The Beatles, Hendrix, Blues Traveler, Ben Harper, Jack White, The Allmen Brothers, and the list stretches on. Group viewings of old films are posted with Donnie Darko, Pulp Fiction, Woodstock, Office Space, Anchorman, The Big Lebowski...A series of titles, one after another, that would all be good fun to view in such a place.
I listen briefly as Willie Nelson proclaims his love for the venue in a short video, then browse a wall full of memorabilia of past shows. A signed Tool with King Krimson poster catches my attention. Leaving Red Rocks, I see their are several trails that branch off that runners take to as they begin their morning exercise under the clear blue skys accompanied by a mild chill made bearable by the warm, beaming sun.
Before seeing the main street of Denver, my friend shows me to a Jazz bar where live music is being performed for lunch. Over the course of my meal, a rotating cast of musicians come and go from the stage: Two piano players, a guitarist, a drummer, a stand up bassist, a xylophonist, and several singers. Overall, it makes for a great introduction to the heart of city life.
Next comes the downtown region of Denver, 16th Street. A quick walk through shows a rich diversity of restaurants, clothing stores, coffee houses, bars, shopping malls, and, of course, dispensaries. By the end of my trip, I will have visited the downtown area twice and neither times does the foot traffic feel to congested or hectic. People stroll about casually, reflecting a calm and relaxed vibe I come to associate with Colorado more and more. Much like in Boulder, many people walk about with their canine companions. Free buses go up and down 16th Street shuttling people where ever they wish to go on the strip.
One of the city's biggest parks near Capital Hill comes next. I'm told many first time residence move to this area, mostly young adults. The park is large indeed and I see a gaggle of geese take to a near by open space to graze. Runners with dogs make their way along the length of the sidewalks next to the lake and even though the skyscrapers of the city are so close, it is oddly quiet as I stand behind the park museum that doubles as an Imax, where elementary school students are leaving from a field trip. I have many moments like this during my stay, in which I wonder how such a busy city can sound so subdued.
Before the evening sets in over the park, I discover that there is an isolation tank center not far from where I'm staying called, A New Spirit. I stop in to see if they can fit me in for a float. They are booked, a fact that actually makes me happy as it shows the tanks are getting good use. The lady behind the counter tells me you almost always have to reserve a tank a week in advance to be able to float. Having just had a discussion about isolation tanks in the last podcast with Levi Wall, I was very eager to check out their set up. After seeing both tank rooms I tell them I may return before I leave Denver.
Over the course of the next couple days, I call every morning to find any previously available slots taken. Though I would have loved to have floated for an hour, I was still glade to see the popularity of the tanks growing.
Later that night, I'm sitting at Hop and Pies, where I'm told the thin pizza crust is made with a secret recipe that makes it melt in your mouth. I test the claim with a mozzarella cheese pizza with sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, and whole roasted garlic cloves.
It's a knock-out.
I end up eating an extra slice or two because they do, in fact, seem to melt away with ease. Before leaving, I have also gotten the chance to sample a beer of my choice. Colorado, being a state of numerous breweries, offers a wide variety of beverages year round. I taste the "Grasshoppa", a local gluten free, cider beer that had a texture and taste more in common with a champagne than a beer. I good drink.
The next day I hike up a trail in Jefferson County, about a half hour drive from Denver. Later on, I walked through the old mining town of Idaho Springs which lays snuggly between two mountains, one which has a small waterfall. The town is only a single mile in length and has a population of 2,000 people, most of whom live up in the mountains.
Dinner that night was in one of Idaho Springs popular downtown hangouts where one could grab a bite and play a game of pinball on over a dozen of the restaurants operating machines. I met a couple who had lived in the town for a time and had just bought a cabin up in the mountains. We talked through dinner and then parted ways just before a pinball tournament was scheduled to start. Before leaving, I recommended to my two new acquaintances that they consider looking into the Gulf Coast area for a warm winter home, for they were seeking such a place as they were both nearing retirement.
Getting the urge for a late night snack once back in Northwest Denver, I made a brief walk to the local grocery store, Sprouts. Stores like this are abundant around Denver, since its citizens regularly demonstrate against chains like Wal-mart, demanding the franchise stay a certain distance from the center of the city. A quick bit of research seems to confirm this, and Google maps show any Wal-mart stores more towards the outskirts of the city. I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me McDonalds gets similar treatment in these parts.
At Sprouts, I browse the selection of food and notice a great deal of in house made products and organic options. The day before I had two slices of the stores home made bread and proclaimed it the greatest bread I've ever eaten from a store. With a whole store of delicious food before me, I decide on a bundle of organic kale...of course. After I prepare my greens (which also turn out to be fantastic) I watch, Lincoln, on the television as I get ready for bed. After it ends, I'm still somewhat awake and decide to watch whatever show is on the previous channel, which happens to be South Park. Since I'm in the state where the show takes place and I haven't seen an episode in years, I let it play. Kenny battles the forces of Hell with God's golden PSP, which he designed to find Heaven's new version of Keanu Reeves.
After seeing Daniel Day Louis age 20 years in the course of two and a half hours, I was in serious need of a good laugh. The funniest part of Lincoln was finding out Tommy Lee Jones is sleeping with his maid. He really is a Man In Black! Boom!
The following day, I become acquainted with a new group. Through a family friend, I meet Allie who has been living in Denver for several years and has roots in Atlanta as well as Ocean Springs, my hometown's neighbor. She tells me she met Two Chainz, the rapper, last night while out on the town. She has the picture to prove it. It's an impressive introduction and I wonder if she casually meets other celebrities on other nights of the week. With one of her friends, we make our way to Rootdown, which is serving brunch.
The food and atmosphere at Rootdown is exceptional. At our table we have a fried egg sandwich, steak and eggs, home style potato fries, fruit and my own plate of almond flour buttermilk pancakes with pear sauce and maple syrup. The rest of the day is spent hanging with more friends who live around Sloan Lake. As it starts to rain, we make ourselves comfortable indoors watching the Bronco's game, playing Mrs. Pac Man, card games, Apples to Apples, and Killas and Villagas. I will have to write an instruction guide to this last one as it is a great psychological, mystery game to play with friends and family.
We have to tare ourselves away from the festivities as it gets late into the night. In a previous round of Apples to Apples, I put down a Big Mac card. Now, everyone wants to grab a late night snack at McDonalds, which debunks my previous theory about its receptivity in the city and also greatly opposes my previous late night snack of steamed kale the day before.
My new friends laugh at me when I order oatmeal, but I laugh back when they discover their French fries are cold and I'm the only one with warm food. The window workers also get a good laugh as they read the sticky strips of paper we have had stuck to our foreheads for the last several hours. On them, is what can only be described as, ridiculous shit.
The night concludes as we part ways and the next morning brings better weather. I take a stroll through the neighborhood to find somewhere to eat breakfast. Not finding much of a selection, I settle on the Family Dollar, of all places, where I stock up on trail mix, sunflower seeds, an assortment of dried fruit, and instant noodles. My flight doesn't leave till seven at night, which gives me a few roaming hours in the city's downtown. By mid-afternoon I head to the RTD station to make sure rush hour traffic doesn't prevent me from making my flight on time.
On the bus, I meet a guy who says he has lived in Colorado for 10 years, but now resides in Idaho. When I ask him why he would ever leave such a place for Idaho, he tells me he moved at the suggestion made by his meditation teacher, who he has been practicing with for several years. I can tell he probably thinks that I think he is strange for saying such a thing, but I tell him I have seen several Buddhist meditation centers around Denver these past couple days and admire the city's diversity of spiritual practice.
I hoped this might put him at ease, and sure enough we had an enlightening conversation for the remainder of the ride to the airport. He even extended an invitation to me to his groups yearly winter retreat which lasts a month long in a city just east of Pueblo in the southern region of Colorado. I thank him even though I know I cannot make such an event. My travels are concluded for the time being, although the idea of a month long retreat is an interesting one.
At the airport I wish the fellow traveler a safe return and make my way through the terminal routine. The TSA lines are short today. I sit by my gate, 3 hours early, and listen to podcasts and finish my book, "Never Cry Wolf". When I get home, I will pick up the first book of the "Salt" series by, Maurice Gee. The flight is delayed another hour and a half. I tell myself it's better late than never and think back on the airport story from my last article.
Yes, definitely better late than never.
On the plane, I begin writing about my journey while its still fresh in my mind, but don't finish it for another two days when I am at home and spending time with my baby niece, who has learned a new phrase while I was away. I am told, just the other morning, she walked up to my brother-in-law and said, "change my butt".
Yes, everyday she becomes more and more sophisticated and it is a joy to bare witness to. I have certainty missed her in my time away. She, along with the rest of my family, make up a big reason why even the most beautiful places like Colorado, will never have it all. I will be thinking long and hard about my future return to the west, and in what regards my next trip will be for. What ever the reason my be, I look forward to seeing the Rockies again very soon.
Until next time, Colorado.