Sunday, December 28, 2008

just up the [pikes peak]?

I'm currently reporting from the Starbucks at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe in Downtown Denver, Colorado. I don't know where Pikes Peak is in relation to where I am, or what it is, really, but I figured it would be an appropriate pun for where I'll be for the next week. I'm representing the University of Maryland at FORUM, a yearly convention held by AIAS, the association of architecture students - and when I'm not attending seminars and super-cool activities, I'll be exploring the Denver area with nothing more than a bus pass and a camera and, hopefully, shoes.

My plans to post for this week have been thrown off by my hotel's lack of Internet access, hence my location here in the Starbucks. It's located on the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long corridor in Denver's downtown dedicated solely to pedestrians and transit vehicles. Think Ellsworth Drive, but much, much longer, and lined with what seems like every kind of store you can imagine (the majority of which, unfortunately, appear to be chains.) It does, though, remind me a lot of Ellsworth Drive, especially when it comes to the diversity. I've seen a slew of street performers, homeless people, families with little children, and a healthy number of what I refer to as "the emo kids," skinny jeans and all.

I don't know when I'll be posting again, but hopefully it'll be soon. I'm here by myself, so I could use the company.


Thomas Hardman said...

Oh boy.

All I can tell you is stay out of Aurora, and be careful anywhere near the Zoo. I do, however, strongly urge a cruise down the entire length of E 14th out to I-225 and then come back in on E 13th. Just every now and then, pop on out to East Colfax to compare how nice the "suburbia" is compared to the arterial. BTW E. Colfax is the Denver synonym for "hell done froze over and it ain't pretty". For the pretty parts, take your life in your hands and visit Cheesman Park. Just stay out of Montebello if the moon is full. ;)

I spent the best part of a year in Denver. Get used to the locals marking you off as a tourist and responding with a really deprecatory "oh really" when you try to strike up a conversation that isn't utterly trivial.

And if you notice any weirdness, I assure you with all solemnity, "must be the altitude", it plays tricks on the mind. ;)

WashingtonGardener said...

What is wrong with Aurora? I have friends from DC who moved there and visited them a few years back - seems no diff then say Laurel or Gaithersburg.
The 16th street mall is nice - if UMD foots the bill, have a nice meal at Wolfgang Pucks.
If you can get out of town at all, try for Boulder. A nice college town with lots of cool stores and coffee spots to hang in. What College Park could be, if it was not hemmed in by crime zones. See if you can spot the "Mork & Mindy" house ;-)

Thomas Hardman said...

Aurora might have changed since I was there, and it was in fact nice in parts. However, I could not afford the nice parts, and could barely afford the really sketchy parts. I was there in 1994, more or less.

It is also home to, well, you know how the Lord Almighty periodically sends tornados to trailer parks to clean out the sinful and the wicked? Aurora, right off of East Colfax, is where those tornados set those trailers -- and their occupants -- down to earth again.

My general experience of Denver, and of Aurora in particular, was not too different from that seen in the movie "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead".

I got the impression that there were probably a lot of pretty fun/cool things there that didn't involve skiing or hiking, but I never found most of them. At the time, Denver was having its first real experiences with the gangster/criminal migration out of California, with a schoolteacher signing on for a new job in town and making it from her old home exactly to the parking lot of her newly-leased-by-phone apartment complex where she was gunned down and had her car full of her life's possessions carjacked. A few weeks later some guy got shot up at the Capital Hill King Soopers grocery store for laughing at some fool "sagging". Along the length of East Colfax from Capital Hill to Colorado Boulevard was a prostitute about every 30 feet or so and some of them seemed to get fairly outraged by the fact that I lived only a few blocks away and bought groceries and beer from the stores outside of which they plied their trades, but never patronized them. Rather, I spent my disposable income -- not much -- at a very cool used book store somewhere down around E Colfax and Fillmore Street, which quite conveniently had a booze store right next to it. Staying in at night was a good idea, because the alleys of Denver are notorious for what is in them, which is to say everything but law. Also, at the time, the murder rate was escalating off of the charts, with shootings between gangsters, drug-dealers, and their customers topping the lists. And in Aurora, not far from everything else, was a curious little hotel/rooming-house that lured its prey with weekly ads for "lowest price furnished apartments in town", and which I took to calling "Hotel d'Enfer" and about which I one day expected to write a novel that would outsell anything ever written by Stephen King, in about the same market.

Don't get me wrong... that was a long time ago and doubtless things have changed.

Though the more some things change, the more they stay the same...