The Road Worrier: A Paean to Denver
by Greg Rawlings
2013 marks the Road Worrier’s 20th year back in Colorado. I first moved to Boulder as a newly married 21-year-old, seeking to leave behind the fetid hell of southeastern Ohio. Later, I escaped Boulder by the skin of my teeth and wound up in North Carolina, ostensibly to write and go to grad school. It was there that, having been accepted into a perfectly good doctoral program in American history, I made the second biggest mistake of my life: I decided to go to law school instead.
My long-suffering wife eventually agreed to tag along, as long as we moved back near her family, which meant, egad, moving back to Ohio. For three long, dreary, grey-skied, God-do-I-hate-law-school years, we lived in Columbus. When I told my friends there that I was moving back to Colorado as soon as I could get my name on a diploma, they seemed shocked. "You can’t ski Columbus," was my ready retort.
So back we came, to Denver this time because my wife had found a great job here. Soon after came the darling daughter. As for me, I haven’t regretted it at all. The wife may be gone, the kid almost grown up, my work may be a royal pain, but I’m still glad to be here. So here’s a brief ode to Denver, a paean to my adopted hometown.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic: our weather. Limitless blue skies — so clear some nights that you can make out the Milky Way. Waking up to a few inches of fluffy white powder and watching the local dogs run amok. And fall. Autumn here is a wondrous thing. Not just the aspens glimmering, or the cool nights; people here just seem happier in the fall. I credit this to the onset of football season. Go Broncos! Football season wakes Denver up after the long, languid days of summer.
Beyond the fine climate and the Broncos, another thing to love about this place is the food. To paraphrase Hemingway, a man can eat well in Denver. Women can too, I’m told. Denver has gone from being a gastronome’s nightmare to being, if not a foodie paradise, a great place to fill up the tank. From the ever-multiplying army of food trucks that cruise the streets (Quiero Arepas!), to the carts that now dot the 16th Street Mall (Filipino, anyone?), to the dramatic expansion of the fine dining scene (Fruition, Luca D’Italia, and Mizuna, to name a few), it’s a bonanza of righteous eats. Whenever friends show up from the coasts, they leave raving about the food.
Then, there is Denver’s insane bar scene. Happy hour is so named for a reason, and they get real happy here. I am a sucker for a good happy hour (I love happy hour as much as I detest brunch, that lame excuse for cooks to clean out what hasn’t sold during the week). Denver has a cornucopia of choices when it comes to the after-work libation. Longtime favorite McCormick’s has cheap food and the strong drinks. Linger has the exotic small bites and equally exotic liquids. Dazzle, Denver’s great jazz club, has the best happy hour bar food in town and some of the friendliest staff. Enjoy watching Brigdet shake a martini like no other server in town. Plus, I love to hear bands do sound check. It’s the kind of place where guitar master Bill Frisell may be nibbling on a snack before hitting the stage or Ravi Coltrane is regaling the locals before blowing their minds. You might think that you’re in San Fran or Manhattan, but you’re at 9th and Lincoln.
Last but not least: Denverites. For big city folks, they’re downright friendly. From the baristas at your preferred coffee house (mine being Pablo’s), to the crinkled ex-Deadhead oilman sitting next to you at Wild Bangkok, people here smile a lot and like it when you smile back. People here open doors for strangers. Neighbors are, well, neighborly. I think a good bit of this rises from Denver having such unique neighborhoods, each of which attracts it own distinct crowd. Think of the hipsters stumbling home from the Hi-Dive in Baker, the well-clad yuppies exchanging glances at each others’ BMWs in LoHi, or the ritzy crowd in Cherry Creek North — there is a neighborhood for any and all in Denver. Rich, poor, straight, gay ... welcome to Denver.
In my own particular ’hood, City Park West, if a squirrel gets in your attic, you head over to Isabel, the block fixer. If my back goes out, I ask my next door neighbor Neil, "heat or ice?" If, God forbid, I ever need a bankruptcy lawyer, that’s Steve, one house south — that is if he’s not off climbing a mountain somewhere. Coyotes wander through the streets, eagles zoom over City Park, and strangely huge raccoons peer over the back fence, only to be chased away by Midnight the Wonder Pug. It’s amazing and only two miles to downtown.
What a city. Denver, this one’s for you. D
Greg Rawlings is a criminal defense lawyer based in downtown Denver. He is a Leo and his favorite color is University of Kentucky blue. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.