Tag Archives: Colorado

For the Love of Denver: Microbreweries

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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.

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*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!”

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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

 

 


Stop Licking Your Cheese: An Ode to ECE

 

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Despite the dark nature of most of my fiction, my workdays are set in a bright, cheerful classroom where silliness, play, and education rule the atmosphere. When I graduated from college in 2009 with an English degree I had no clue what I intended to do, but through trial and error and good connections I ended up as a librarian, and then as an assistant teacher—each new school year revealing more about my personal development, as well as human nature in general.

The classroom is like a microcosm of society, where students are thrown together and forced to get along. These kids come from a variety of backgrounds and stages of development; some start out with unruly behaviors, some end the year that way, but there are none I wouldn’t step in front of a bus for. I love working with ECE (Early Childhood Education) because it’s the starting point where kids learn how to function as social emotional beings, to advocate for themselves and others, and to learn how to problem solve and work through issues with their peers (Or, as I’ll jokingly say, where we teach them to not be assholes). I take my work seriously, but as all teachers know, if you don’t stop and laugh at the absurdity of certain moments, you Will Go Insane.

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So this is my ode to a day in the life of a preschool classroom and the situations that make me laugh out loud and wonder at the beauty of childhood.

<Students will be represented by the first letter of their name>

Our day starts off with group yoga and breathing, and on every Friday we have a yoga dance party, when my co-teacher will play music, then pause and call out a yoga pose. So far this year my students’ favorite song is “Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae,” and yes, I know all the actions. I love starting my day this way, letting go of all cares, working up a good sweat, and learning new dance moves from some super-talented 4-year-olds, like B, who raps on the spot while hip hop dancing.

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We have snack time and lunch in the classroom, and what we call Choice Time. One of the most popular Choice Time centers is Dramatic Play, where we had a pizza parlor set up complete with Garlic Knot boxes, felt pizzas and toppings, old credit cards and a cash register. The kids acted out who bought, made, and sold the pizzas, how to order, and they even constructed a delivery car out of kid-sized chairs and couches and a pie tin as the steering wheel. They had so much fun with this that we took them to The Garlic Knot on an excursion where they got to make real pizzas and test the staff’s patience with unceasing questions.

Other Choice Time options include Play-Doh, Legos, light table with Magna-Tiles (look them up, they’re awesome!), blocks and ramps, art studio, and science. No matter the materials and no matter the center, kids will always pretend that what they’re playing with is food (and that all food is anthropomorphic) and they’ll expect you to “eat” it while they stare you down to see that their ice cream sundae or donut or smoothie is the best thing you’ve ever fucking tasted.

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One of my favorite times of day is when I read to the kids before naptime. This has led to making up our own “popcorn” stories (which are drastically lacking in plot), and to acting out a few of their favorite books. I love to see them play out the characters and exhibit their understanding of what they’ve internalized from the story. Two of this year’s favorites have been Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman, and Mortimer by Robert Munsch.

There are things I especially appreciate about the teacher I work with this year. At the beginning of each school year she models for the kids how to give “Check-Ins.” If a student is upset or hurt, Ms. Sydney validates their feelings and teaches them the power of their own voice by encouraging them to ask for a check-in. Whomever is asked for a check-in then asks in return, “How can I help you feel better?” The upset child might say they need a hug or a high-five or an apology or that a certain offense never be made against them again. Witnessing this between students never fails to awe and amaze me, and I sincerely hope that they carry this skill into adulthood. We should all, no matter our age, be able to address our hurts with those who hurt us and to offer help to those in need.
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Teaching is a job of equal parts joy and pain—pain of living day to day with these kids like a family only to say goodbye every June, often to never see them again. To every student I’ve ever had: I love you and am grateful for the impact you’ve had on my life.

IMG_0447 copy2 *A sketch of the student who stole a piece of my heart that I will never get back: Eccentric Madi with that instant light-up-your heart smile and crazy dinosaur hands and creeping feet, knees bent eyes wild, always building something new out of anything and telling stories about her pictures with horrified eyes, then off in her own world telling stories to herself full of life and expression; arms open elbows bent, “But, well, I…!” Always an excuse with wails and easy tears. God love that brilliant maniac child. If you ever come across this post someday, Moo Lou, know that I love you and will always be here for you.

 

FAVORITE STORIES AND QUESTIONS:

B: Ms. Amanda, did you know that your heart can turn into a person?

Me: How does it live?

B: If you cry tears. You know how it dies?

Me: How does it die?

B: If you don’t cry, it dies.

***

A: One time, a monster pooped me out. (This was followed by an elaborate story of what it’s like to be swallowed by a monster)

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A: …I was going so fast that I flew.

Me: How did you fly?

A: I have engines inside my body, that’s how I fly. I have to cut myself open and restart my engines.

Me: Doesn’t that hurt?

A: No, because I have a teddy bear, and my body’s made of metal, so it doesn’t hurt me. I have to drink gasoline, though.

Me: Isn’t that gross?

A: Not when you mix chocolate milk with it. (*Laughs)

***

Y looked up at me during lunch and asked, “Can you peel my grapes?” This same student would stick his foot out and point at his shoe, wordlessly demanding to have his shoe tied. We called him our Little Prince.

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J: When things are dead can you still play with them? I mean, can you pay for a dog to come back to life as a pig or another animal?

J: Owls heads can turn all the way around just like my Barbie dolls.

***

S in Play-Doh: I’m going to make some love.

Me: How do you do that?

S: With a hot mold cutter.

Me: Sounds about right.

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F in Legos: I don’t want to take my head off!

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N: I listen to “I Believe I Can Fly” every day. It’s a sad song, it makes me cry!

***

A: My mom’s friend’s name is Easy.

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FAVORITE OVERHEARD CONVERSATIONS:

E: Do you know what ‘pass gas’ is?

M: Ew, I don’t wanna go out with anybody that farts.

***

E: …And then he will scratch your face if you celebrate Halloween. You have to go up, up, up into the sky for the Devil to scratch your face. My whole family says that. He will hide behind my back when I sleep and scare me. Don’t tell your parents about the trick-or-treat song from music class or the Devil will come and scare you!

***

A: If you lie to God you go to the Devil.

B: I’m scared of God because every day he puts us down to the Devil. I’m scared to have a baby—I’d cut my baby up!

***

F (crying): She won’t let me be a mermaid and that makes me sad!

***

M: Are you scared of Chuck E. Cheese?

L: When I was a baby I was scared of him, but not when I was a kid.

***

E: What if the trees walked on two legs?

***

A to M: Will you be my best friend? Because Batman is Spiderman’s best friend.

***

F: Ms. Sydney, can I get out of bridge pose? My hair is turning into a monster.

 

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THINGS MY CO-TEACHER AND I SAY:

“There’s no such thing as girl colors. Colors are for everybody.”

“Wait until you’re in the bathroom to pull down your pants.”

“Stop licking your cheese and eat it.”

“Do you need to poop? Go try sitting on the toilet for a little while.”

“Remember what we talked about, girls. Save your Pegasus play for outside.”

“Please don’t play with your muffin if you’re not going to eat it.”

 

NOT-SO-FAVORITE MOMENTS:

The time L threw up on her lunch tray my first week as an assistant teacher

The multiple times S wakes up wailing and frantically scratching after naptime

Shoe tying and retying, and retying again, and again and again…

Being coughed or sneezed on nearly everyday

The time T kicked and screamed and clung like a rabid monkey to the doorframe as I removed him from the classroom for hitting other kids

The time I cleaned up M’s poop all over the bathroom floor

The time I cleaned up J’s blood all over the bathroom sink and floor from a bloody nose that she wouldn’t stop picking at. I swear it looked like a crime scene.

The time A threw up on the Legos. My god, I was nauseous the rest of the morning.

 

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FAVORITE MOMENTS:

Asking kids their dreams

Cloud-watching on the playground

Kids telling stories about their art

Girls singing songs from Disney’s Frozen at the top of their lungs while coloring or playing outside

When JC picked up a dead bird in the grass

The strange beauty of naptime, soothing kids to sleep with backrubs and noticing that first steady breath or jerk into dreams, their eyes moving rapidly beneath their lids (except for the two students I have this year who sleep with their eyes open!)

Daily high-fives, hugs, and compliments

Daily wholehearted laughter

 

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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


First World Problem

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Last Wednesday, downtown, the Platte wasn’t the only river rushing through the city. What started as a lazy day in Denver became one of those unforgettable days to look back on and, only after the fact, laugh because it was so precisely unpleasant and out of the ordinary.

Walking 13th from Wax Trax, the sky dark as dusk, a drizzle soon turned into a torrential monster as soon as we reached our car. We pulled over on Race, hoping to wait out the storm before getting ice cream at Lik’s.

Blinding rain marred all visibility. Unceasing quarter-size hail trapped us in our car, inspiring a fear of feeble overhead branches—the impact of the hail so intense we put our hands to the roof to feel the battery of ice. Thunder, lighting, tornado sirens. Flash floods forming streams of water as high as car doors, waves creating backsplash against tires. There seemed to be no end in sight.

Wielding an umbrella, we forded parking lane rivers to find Lik’s closed due to storefront flooding. Back at the car: an engine that won’t turn over. Our feet soaked, our faces sunburnt from the humid heat of the day, sticky with dried sweat, rain clinging to clothes that cling to more sweat. And no way to get home to shower and dry off. The gas gauge raced, the dash flickered, and the starter might as well have belonged to Barbie’s Dream Car.

It started to pour again. Maybe the starter got wet; we just had to give it time to dry out. We were both hungry and in need of a bathroom. No public restrooms for blocks. Who did we know who might know about cars? Dads. We called our dads, we implored Google on our phones. Nothing concrete. Nothing hopeful.

It seemed there had to be a greater force, the hand of a sadistic author writing this shit up for us to feel so conspired against.

Just let it dry, won’t dry, walked to Gypsy House and ate over-priced hipster food. God it felt good just to wash my hands. At least the coffee was good. 8 PM still nothing. Do we walk to Colorado and find a bus? It kept erratically raining. We called six people until Mike came and picked us up. Damn our craving for ice cream, but thank God for friends. We abandoned the car and hoped that the engine gurgle meant it would start tomorrow. In an effort to find something positive, we could at least be thankful we got stuck on a street with limitless parking.

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Next day: no go. My poor car—do you just need to hear that you’re needed? In the shop for a week, and at first I think I’ll be fine at home. But my car is a sign of my independence and nothing walkable is where I want to go. I run through the list in my head: no Zine Fest, no camping out at Kaladi Brothers, and no desire to navigate public transit. My planned-out days lost to an expensive possession. How could I ever own a house, with its endless ungrateful neediness? It seems that once we own things we get overly attached.

This was a test of my need to control my time. Yes, I’m selfish. I’m an only child and I don’t have kids. I have no one to pull me out of myself and into undesirable directions. But I do need to learn to be okay with the unexpected change of plans. And sometimes that change of plans can make for an interesting story.

June 24th, 2015


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?