Category Archives: Denver

Blue Wigs & Weasley Twins: Thoughts from the DCC

 

I spent Sunday at the Denver Comic Con (before my panel on writing stories with a message) and kept a notebook of thoughts throughout the day…

Initially:

I’m resisting my urge to hug everyone whose costume makes me break out in a big giddy grin.

So far I haven’t been impaled by a single wand, sword, horn, or light saber. Seems like an accomplishment.

12.5mg later:

Can I go home yet?

Why is my panel still so far away?

There’s a T Rex walking through the food court whose legs are too short to run.

A giant yellow exclamation point hovers over a girl’s head in the donut line.

A nerd couple starts making a board game at my lunch table. I get up and leave.

Sherlock Holmes asks to take a picture with me. I say, “Sure, Sherlock.” I’m not even dressed as a character, just all blue—hair, eyelashes, earrings, shirt, shoes—a depiction of my disposition.

My head feels about to explode from the pressure of this wig, which I redo in the ladies’ bathroom, no shame, I’m not the only one.

So many redheads in one place, and on a day when I don’t identify as a redhead. I am only playing an identity. This is a crowd I don’t stand out in, natural red or synthetic blue.

Who I think is the same girl for a while turns out is just a popular costume.

I ride the escalator in high heels; make eyes with the Queen of Hearts; do not slip and create a toppling human row of dominos.

God love these people who trek for miles in giant robot shoes.

There’s a kid actually dressed as a fidget spinner.

I pass Wesley the Dread Pirate Roberts in the crowd and I genuinely debate whether to follow him around (major Cary Elwes crush back in the day).

I still plan to find him.

Didn’t cross my mind that Harry Potter would be a part of the Con. I may not be into super heroes but I love me some Houses and Charms.

The line to see the Weasley twins stretches for blocks (if we were outdoors). Damn those identical redheads, I’d get in that line too if my panel weren’t in half an hour. That’s at least a thousand guaranteed people not coming to see me.

 


For All the Shitty Neighbors — Past or Present — You and I Have Ever Had

neigh

Guy from New York:

I could hear him through the thin walls of our Brittania Heights/Mint Urban apartment, hacking up what sounded like blood, or possibly a whole damn organ—the vilest mother fucker who’d ever graced the opposite side of my walls. He was always home and he was always awake. I heard his television, I heard his disrupted breathing, I heard his shouts and moans. This man was never quiet. In the mornings while I got ready for work, I heard him yelling in agony (and in the afternoons, and in evenings too), in what sounded like legitimate pain. My imagination ran amok wondering what the hell would cause this. Was he a junky shooting up? Was he chronically clumsy? Was he enraged by his sports team? Did he piss needles? (All thoughts I preferred not to have, but they became my daily regimen of curiosity.)

What the fuck was going on over there?

In the mornings, 5 AM, he’d wake me up blowing cigarette smoke through my bedroom window from where he stood, inches away on his balcony. He’d belch and fart, shirtless with his pregnant-man belly hanging over dirty shorts. He’d hold public phone conversations out there midday, his thick New York accent characterizing him even more as Obnoxious Neighbor Numero Uno.

Hearing him so clearly through the walls highlighted my privacy complex. I hate to be heard and seen when it’s not my choice. What could he hear from his end? Did he hear me cry? Did he hear my moans? Did he hear our fights or laughter? I’m sure he heard it all, and thus I could never look him in the eye when passing him in the hall (though the only times he left were for cigarettes; I never did see him carry any groceries).

I quit reading on my balcony because of him (except on the occasions I was emboldened by a glass of wine, but even then I couldn’t read for thinking of all the dialogue scenarios that might occur if he tried starting up a conversation. He never did, but I could still feel his eyes boring into me, further distracting me from my book).

Only a couple of weeks before we moved out, an eviction notice was tacked on his door for all to see (based off of what, I can only imagine), and part of me was disappointed that I wouldn’t be around to see him leave.

He might be gone, but he will never leave my memory.

 

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College Girls Upstairs:

I dubbed these ladies “Hashtag” and “Hangover” based off their main topics of conversation that they’d loudly have on their balcony every weekend all weekend long, ceaselessly comparing unrelated things (like…like…like…). I can only presume they fell asleep out there, because I would go to bed and wake up the next morning to the sound of their millennial-esque voices.

The following are snippets of their conversations I transcribed one night. It was either that or go absolutely mad.

*bottles clinking*

“Is that like, code for something? Are we too old to understand?”

“You called me one time and you were like, Order me a cab now! And I was like, I don’t know where you’re at, and you were like, Just order me a cab!”

“Remember when we hit on that cop?”

“Yeah, we also harassed the mailman, so…”

“And I was like, so are you like, related to the Kardashians?”

“Like, it might be like, everyone, I mean, like, who knows?”

“Like, the kind of place where someone’s pooped on the floor—it’s not a good place.”

“And I’m like, No, I don’t wanna know, please don’t tell me.”

“I thought I was gonna die!”

“Don’t even look at me.”

“Like I’m really hoping someone took my phone and took some pictures with it.”

“You know how you like walk into the rec room and every one like says hey? I went in there after I graduated and like no one even paid attention to me.”

 

One of the benefits of no longer having a balcony (though I miss it more than not) is to be able to misanthropically avoid such neighbors as these, though there will always be others. C’est la vie.


Hopelessly Devoted to You

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I first heard Beach House when I lived in a converted funeral home—in our bedroom where the recently deceased were once viewed and grieved—choosing a random band from Derek’s endless collection. My environment may’ve influenced my initial attraction, but their sound continues to haunt me, and so it felt a bit surreal to finally see my favorite band last Monday night at the Ogden.

Frontwoman Victoria Legrand stood hooded in a glittery green parka, silhouetted the entire first song, drawing attention solely to the sound—rarely lit, the four musicians black against the glowing and pulsing backgrounds. Legrand didn’t flaunt her body (like say, another of the powerful vocalists from my list, Sarah Barthel of Phantogram—who rocks it but it’s not what I identify with). Legrand got cheers just for exposing her hair, and she never went farther than that—though granted, it’s a magnificent trademark. She rarely spoke between songs, but when she did she encouraged kindness and convinced us we were beautiful.

Beach House’s sound is reminiscent of music from decades past. They’re complex but slow and intentional. They’re experimental, yet consistent. Most of all they are Victoria Legrand’s Voice. A voice husky, pure and powerful. A voice I’ve spent hours attempting to emulate.

I was around eight years old when I started dreaming of stardom. I loved big voices. Whitney. Mariah. Celine. LeAnn Rimes, Jewel, Christina Aguilera, Cleopatra, Jessica Simpson. My taste may’ve been questionable, but through these women I learned emotions I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. I imagined my life playing out like scenes from their albums, riding rollercoasters with my boyfriend and meeting eyes with Leonardo DiCaprio while he sketched me, not knowing he was about to die.

My adult relationship with music is hardly different, although I like to think my taste is at least more interesting. Some bands—but especially Beach House—have become muses for my writing. The opening to their song “Real Love” is my go-to for getting in the zone for my typically murky fiction (“I met you somewhere, in a hell beneath the stairs. There’s someone in that room, who frightens you when they go boom…”). I listened to their album Devotion so much while writing one story that I titled the story in homage to the album’s influence. (Other influential songs for my creative process: “Myth” and “Troublemaker.”)

Beach House also holds significance for providing the perfect words for emotions I haven’t always known how to address. It’s like reading Anaïs Nin and believing that she is me and I was her and therefore reincarnation must be real. The songs “Better Times” and “The Traveller” especially have had this effect. My identification with Beach House is so entwined with my internal life, that at their concert I felt I was in a room full of voyeurs. I couldn’t be me. I couldn’t transform into the version of me who shuts out the world and absorbs their music like a necessary nutrient. I wished I were alone with the band. Entirely surrounded by sound.

Apart from the voyeuristic crowd, I was disappointed that the band played only one of my dozen favorite songs. Maybe a few more favorites would’ve been all it took for me to cross over and get lost in the music.

I did however enjoy seeing Legrand feel the music in similar ways as me when I’m alone with her voice at home, half-bent, hands on head, hair swaying. Mellow, mellow. My scene is a scene of comfort, a place where no one cares or judges, and somewhere along the line I’ve started to feel like I’m getting too old for concerts (which feels like a betrayal to my younger, concert-obsessed self). I get more excited now simply knowing a band I love is coming to my town and I have the option to see them. After four years in Denver, this still feels like a luxury.

Beach House put on a memorable and atmospheric show, and I’m glad I went, but in the future I’ll be content experiencing their music in my car and through my headphones, belting their lyrics while clutching at my chest in resonate emotion that I’m sure to find solace in for many years to come.


Socorro’s Doomsday Prophet

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The only other person in Socorro’s than the occupied proprietor was a woman who looked like she’d be comfortable on a skateboard. Her hair was long, black. Falling down the front of her forest green tank top. She wore rose-tinted glasses and a hat with large owl eyes that eyed me like a messenger. Who…Are…You? Like the Cheshire Cat, choosing to be mostly invisible. I got the sense that this woman sought the greater thrills and ambiguities of life. Someone who didn’t accept simple answers.

She started talking to us before we realized it was us she was addressing.

“Strange times these days in Denver,” she said. “Unpredictable weather.”

You nodded and I gave her a smile, making small talk, but it wasn’t just small talk she was after.

Behind her, through the windows, I watched the sky darken, dimming the effect of her rosy eyes. Wind whipped through the sidewalk trees, altering the hot summer day. Did this woman sense oncoming disaster like an old injury anticipating rain? She claimed to be a native, but she gave the impression of just passing through. I clung to her transient aura. I like knowing people who know things I don’t.

“It’s like doomsday is lurking,” she laughed. “Repent of your sins or face eternal damnation!”

You gave me a look that said you were ready to leave. Our food should’ve been done by now.

The woman asked if we were astronomers who might be able to enlighten her about the cosmos. “I hope to meet stargazers wherever I go,” she said. “Someone to explain what’s going on.”

“Sorry,” you said, “but I hope you find one someday.”

She gave us a genuine smile, wished us well and left.

We got our food and outside I looked for the woman along the street, but she’d vanished. Was it possible she’d already made it to the corner? An air of mystery floated amidst the strengthening wind.

Cold, hard raindrops fell intermittently, like a warning to take cover. I opened our umbrella for the walk to our car.

“That was weird,” you said about the woman.

You’ve never quite trusted people who don’t have both feet rooted in reality, whereas I, for most of my life, have idolized them. I was raised with a reverence for the unknown—speculation a common pastime in my quiet house; me, an only child.

“I thought she was awesome,” I said.

A gust of wind caught hold of our umbrella, warping the spindly metal frame. I shoved it, useless, into a sidewalk trashcan, relieved to be rid of our lightning rod. The sky lit up like residual fireworks and thunder shook the ground, setting off a nearby car alarm. This was no regular afternoon storm.

“Run,” you yelled, and we made it to shelter as the floods came down, baptizing our car.

The disappearance of the rosy-eyed owl woman, followed by the flash flood, gave me goose bumps and I wondered out loud if she’d been some sort of prophet.

Your eyes said, Coincidence, but you humored my interpretation.

For the next half hour the city was transformed, slowing traffic to a blind crawl and prompting many drivers to pull over. I’ve driven in blizzards that were easier to navigate, and though we made it safely home, I started to wonder if this was indeed the start of the apocalypse.

But then again, humans have been looking for the end since as early as the beginning. But this time—this time might be it.


For the Love of Denver: Microbreweries

Denver mural

Breweries keep popping up in Denver—land of the microbrews—like perennials in springtime, so much so that it’s become an established part of the city’s culture. The brews might be unique and varied (with no mainstream beers sold on site), but there seems to be a ubiquitous, overarching vibe wending through each garage door-fronted pub that looks a little something like this:

Walk up to the entrance and you’ll likely see a food truck parked out front. Denver breweries are all about the beer and very few offer a food menu outside of local beef jerky or trail mixes hanging behind the bar. This is a win-win for patrons and food truck owners alike as the cuisine alternates depending on the day of the week, offering options from street tacos to sushi to banh mi to suit your tastes. (Warning: if the Burger Chief food truck is your only available option, Go Hungry, unless you’ve been hankering for a touch of food poisoning.)

Don’t worry about trying to show up between 3-6, because prices are the same all day long. Instead, to cut costs, try a flight sampler or a half-glass if available.

As you make your way through the slew of dogs and kids bustling about at knee-level, feel free to pat their heads and tell them they’re being good boys and girls. Owners/parents are used to this and will ignore you like a drunk Uncle on Easter.

Inside, you might do a double take to make sure you’re in the correct pre-agreed upon place, because even if you’re in a new brewery, you’ll experience a flash of deja vu when you peruse the industrial-style design with repurposed wood and metal tables, the bare light bulbs and exposed pipes, and the visible barrels behind the glass wall where all the magic happens.

On the walls you’ll notice a theme amongst breweries—that all permanent art looks like it was commissioned by the same artist, an artist in love with the locale and the landscape who paints abstract and geometric mountains and plenty of Colorado flags in blue, yellow, and red.

The menu boards are colorful and hand-written, and possibly displayed on skateboards. For those of you who don’t imbibe, check the board for a kombucha brew, which is steadily becoming more common, then grab your trivia card to test your pop culture and historical knowledge, or sit down with your crew at a community table for a round of Apples to Apples or Uno. Before you leave, fill up a growler of your favorite brew to take home and maybe buy a T-shirt or sticker to show off your local pub love.

If you have trouble deciding which brewery to check out first, don’t fret. For the most part, it comes down to the neighborhood you’re in, the friends you meet there, and that little special something that stands out, like the repurposed airplane wing bar top and movie projections at Former Future, or the giant encased gears at Declaration. Whether you’re a native or just in town for the weekend, if you want a taste of a classic Denver experience, the microbreweries are where it’s at.

former future

*This post is based off of Comrade Brewing, Declaration Brewing Co, Denver Beer Co, Fermaentra, Former Future Brewing Co, LowDown Brewery, and Platt Park Brewing Co.

Have a favorite not on the list? Feel free to comment with a recommendation.


For the Love of Denver: DINK!

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There’s a quirky juxtaposition between the elegant, intricate Sherman Street Event Center and the brilliant and shocking display of colors inside, like a candy store set in a forgotten cathedral. Colors shouting for attention—the underground sweat, tears, blood of exhibitors bleeding forth the passions that inspire them. These non-monetarily driven creators, creating for the love of creation, love of destruction of preconceived constructs of What Is Art. Queer, trans, nonbinary, nerdy, geeky, deranged—everyone is free to be who they otherwise stifle for interviews, meetings, parents, or school. Here, where appearance isn’t judged but enjoyed for its anti-conformity. Where it’s welcomed, reveled in, celebrated and embraced. This is the Denver underground comic, art, and zine scene—the beautiful and the disillusioned by what we’ve been told our entire lives is the proper way to cultivate proper interests. Denver is getting weirder—a host to those who’ve been looking to find their place, exclaiming, “Join us, you are home!”

birdy

I volunteered at the inaugural DINK Expo to learn about starting a zine, and over the course of the weekend I experienced much more than I’d anticipated. Everywhere I looked were wild and discordant textures supporting, fortifying each other like the collection of exhibitors, volunteers, and staff. Everyone open to sharing stories and encouraging fellow artists to Never Give Up On Your Dreams. I exchanged cards with other writers and zinesters. I met bearded Princess Leia and Fake Stan Lee fresh off the CannaBus Tour while perusing the main show floor. I sat in on a panel with the creators of Birdy Magazine, who published one of my stories in last summer’s Issue 20 (Thanks, Birdy!). At the event’s culmination, I strolled the red “carpet” into the basement bar for the DINKy award show where Drunk Vanna White caressed every on-stage guest. This was a happy place, laden with cheerful camaraderie and facilitating the start of something that will hopefully continue for years to come.

 

Thank you to everyone who supported the event, and to those bold enough to share their dripping open wounds of hard work and dedication. See you again next year!

 

http://dinkdenver.com

https://www.facebook.com/denverdink/

http://www.westword.com/arts/dinks-charlie-la-greca-on-underground-comics-cannabis-and-green-cons-7731510

http://photos.denverpost.com/2016/03/26/denver-independent-comic-and-art-expo-photos/#1

 

 


Subspecies: Sports Fan

17 Nov 2013: The Thunderstorm Skydiving Team approaches the field from the air before kickoff as the Dever Broncos face the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field in Denver, CO.

Oh, football. As many of you know (or could likely infer), I am one of the athletic indifferent. But when you live in a city with seven professional sports teams, you learn to accept sports as part of the culture while still maintaining a healthy distance. Unless of course family is in town.

Family has a way of getting you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. For instance, attending a Broncos preseason game. Granted, I fully recognize this as a privilege, but as the game itself didn’t hold my attention, I spent the hours observing my more immediate surroundings.

My first impression: Are we at the airport? Why does everyone just accept this invasive level of security?

There were wands, metal detectors, bag checks and locker assignments for those first-timers (or rebels) who like me had no idea you couldn’t so much as leaf through a program unless your possessions were clearly visible through transparent plastic.

Inside, I had an altered perspective of my beloved city. Looking up at the naked blue sky, I felt a distinct sensation that I’d fallen to the bottom of a giant well, or possibly a soup pot simmering on a stove while its inhabitants sat patiently in their designated seats unknowingly waiting to be boiled alive.

This undercurrent of nameless tension made for great people-watching—an activity so engrossing it occupied me all four quarters. I watched as my fellow humans morphed into a subspecies known as Sports Fan who stomped, wooted, and seat-danced to the arena music (which somehow included Rage Against the Machine; I won’t even get started on the ironies there).

Variations of Sports Fan include: the high fiver, the costume wearer, the body painted, the screamer, the slobbering drunk, the group of slobbering drunks, the good natured josher, and the other team’s fan who can take it as well as dish it just for the love of the debate. And often, many of these types overlap. Look out.

All around me ads flashed on Jumbotrons like a futuristic scene from literary dystopia, keeping the pleasure center engaged because without that, I presumed, under-stimulated fans might opt to finally punch out the Bronco mascot dancing amidst the cheerleaders who acted like it was the funniest shit they’d ever seen. (Place this same scenario in a bar. How would the outcome be different?)

Impression #5, or whatever: Also like air travel, sporting events are ridden with antsy ADHD folks who excuse themselves as they kick over your draught beer and smash the paper boats at your feet for the tenth time in under thirty minutes until you finally can’t take it anymore and become one of them, following the trail of discarded peanut shells to join the ranks for booze, food, and bathrooms.

The food: traditional American concession goodness or a conspiracy against the arteries? I’ll let you decide.

Final Impression: As night rose over the stadium, it created an odd contrast with the pixelated band of light below the skyline. I felt as though transposed to an open-air spaceship floating in the orbit of American consumerism entertainment—through the never ending swirl of one sporting season to the next—encapsulated for countless light years in football fandom psychosis.

Such an experience is great the first time, but after that there’s not much new to add to the story.

 


How Do You Take Your Coffee Shop?

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I get my coffee and settle in at one of the four coveted individual tables at Kaladi Brothers Coffee. Some days I wait for up to an hour to score one of these seats, eyeing their habitants and practicing telepathy: You have a class to get to, better leave now; Your dog is hungry and needs a walk. Sometimes the regulars share their space, but today I’ve lucked out. I slide onto the bench and empty my writing bag onto the table. It’s time for some serious work.

The din at Kaladi’s is a perfect blend of jazz music, grinder whirring, espresso pulling, and the dissonance of multi-tonal conversations. I look around while thinking through story details. I spell out words in my mind with the magnet letters stuck on the copper counter face. I critique this month’s art exhibit and implore the collection of religious figurines above the drip coffee for ideas.

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There’s an element of grunge to the shop that’s particularly inviting—the exposed pipes and vents, the gold-painted ceiling, the well-worn wood floors, and the stuffed Pee-wee’s Playhouse and ALF characters perched atop the menu board. It’s homey, spacious, and uncontrived.

From behind the counter a barista calls out, “Iced Kaladi! Decaf Dante!” Their specialty drinks are top notch, but it’s their coffee that draws the most attention. They source Fair trade beans, air-roast them locally, and it’s likely that co-owner Mark Overly has visited the coffee’s country of origin. These guys know their shit, including the baristas, and are happy to talk shop with anyone who inquires. Just don’t ask what’s in the Venetian Crème (Always iced, Always non-dairy, Always a secret recipe).

Kaladi Brothers is in the heart of DU, but the regulars range from students to writers, artists, tutors, mentors, rabbis, engineers, and retirees studying Arabic or wearing kilts. Many of us know each other by name, giving the shop a home-away-from-home atmosphere and making it an ideal place to spend an afternoon.

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There are games and crayons for kids and a display of drawings dedicated to the shop. There are local doughnuts and pastries, a skateboard painted with an interpretation of St. Drogo—the patron saint of coffee houses and ugly people (go figure)—and the ever-mysterious trap door leading down to basement storage (I want to go to there).

This is the place where I write most of my blog posts and short stories, and if I ever make it big, Kaladi’s will get much of my credit.

Everyone needs a place to belong, a community of likeminded individuals and those from whom we can learn. Kaladi is a place where you can join in on conversations about philosophy, spirituality, Game of Thrones, art, music, fashion, or the many opportunities that Denver has to offer. It’s a collective of natives and transplants open to learning and willing to share, and there’s an overarching understanding that we all have something we can teach somebody else.

And for these reasons (as well as the TWO bathrooms), Kaladi Brothers will be my regular coffee shop for years and years to come.

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https://www.kaladicoffee.com/about-our-coffee/

https://www.facebook.com/kaladicoffee?fref=ts

http://kaladicoffee.blogspot.com


Outlet

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The Cherry Creek Mall was teeming with teens whose haircuts cost more than my utility bill; and every third person, it seemed, was gesturing with the aid of a Starbucks cup. I went to the mall with some birthday money on a whim to find one thing I’d been looking for. Instead I found moms pushing strollers and wearing designer heels with matching leather belts. Matching stroller fabric lining. I found bite-size chocolates equaling the price of a gallon of gas and a play area swarming with kids too short for the rides at Elitch’s. I don’t normally do this—go shopping. I avoid most conventions, as far as female stereotypes go, and my aversion to shopping is one of them. I’d rather go hiking, or disc golfing, or nothing. But I was in the mood and took the scene in stride, while taking as many Teavana samples as I could get away with. One of the most overheard phrases of the day was, “I think I’m gonna go ahead and get this.” Followed by: “Okay, I’ll wait here.” The waiters were mostly men. Shopping malls are one of those things that are ubiquitous worldwide. You can be in a foreign country, clinging to fellow English-speakers like yoga pants to cellulite, but enter a shopping mall and there’s a familiar comfort that settles over you. The food court might have a sushi bar instead of a Sbarro, but you can count on it being representative of the local food culture. And the people…what better place than a mall to take in the social mores of a nation? Wealthy, broke, elderly or infant, the diversity is beautiful and compelling. Even if you’ve been underground for years, count on the mall to let you know what season it is. Bathing suits and barely-there tops hung in every Cherry Creek storefront and I saw more breasts than not popping out of their owner’s tops. It must’ve been this that inspired the influx of father/son duos out for consumer-driven strolls in their Sunday best. Photoshopped images advertising the everywoman’s dreams—as if we’re the same, think the same—flirted with me for all of thirty minutes until I left, empty-handed, weaving through the multi-level parking garage, half-believing there was no exit. I’ve never liked being told what to do, or what I should want, especially not by corporations. I prefer the intentional search, to discover for myself what I like best. But the mall will more than likely draw me back, if only to satiate the desire to be surrounded by strangers, all sharing the same afternoon activity in common. Because I think what we’re all looking for, amidst the flashy ads and consumer goods, is a connection to something bigger—something greater than us. And apart from religion, what is larger than the influence of capitalism?