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Denver: First Impressions 31 May 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Uncategorized.
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I’ve been living out of a suite in the Warwick Hotel for the past few days. It was an unintentional thing–friends in town on their way to Seattle, a one-night stay that grew into several, and a balcony view of the Central Presbyterian Church. We’re still here now, listening to the street noises six stories below. So this is what it’s like to live in the city?

Denver’s the only major metropolitan center in 500 miles–the distance between here and Salt Lake City–so it collects and concentrates all the city types in that enormous catchment area. A huge percentage can’t call Colorado their state of birth. By contrast, you can hit every major east coast city from Boston to DC in and still keep the trip under the 500-mile mark–not bad if you enjoy car trips to visit friends and family, but quite the opposite when you start looking to leave civilization behind for a few days. The Poconos and the Shenandoahs don’t count.

So anyway, Denver lies at the base of the Rockies, this bastion of culture against the country music and bible talk radio of the surrounding plains and cowboy hills. And against Colorado Springs, too, I hear. Lots of military men and mega churches down there and little in the way of liberality. That dichotomy, however, has lent the state its libertarian leanings: hard on government, soft on drugs, and conflicted about the environment. Whether the influx of transplants will rebalance these politics or push them further, I’m not sure, but for the time being the red/blue sparring will continue to make this state a stop on every presidential hopeful’s tour.

You can bet Denver proper will remain blue as a bunting until the end of time, though. It’s that concentration thing again. No adjacent state offers a thriving, diverse city of its size, so despite a population just a fraction of Chicago’s or New York’s, Denver manages to support all the urban crowds you’d expect: hipsters, punks, professionals, those groups of weird, baggy-jean wearing 17 year-olds. Our hotel backs up to the gay district, it seems. I imagine these folks have left Wyoming and Utah and Oklahoma for the promise of urban life surrounded by those who remind them of themselves. Strange that that observation should follow the last post’s concerns about diversity of thought, but there it is. Denver’s the big city in these parts, but the the variety of lifestyles and backgrounds concentrated in its urban core make it feel larger than even that.

Of course, Colorado’s capital still lacks the diversity of its seaboard peers–if New York and Philly will allow the comparison–and to mention cosmopolitan with respect to Denver’s demographics is to misunderstand the meaning of the word. Without looking at the census data, you’d never know that Hispanics comprise nearly a third of the population given the sea of white folks who crowd the streets. No, this is not a place to hear a new foreign tongue on every street corner.

Even my grocery store in Summit County with its complement West African immigrants seemed more exotic. How they all arrived there, I’m not sure, but my hazy memories of sophomore year Human Geography return to “chain migration.” You can look it up, because I don’t plan to.

At any rate, Denver offers many, though not all, of the qualities and opportunities I’d been seeking: an outdoorsy lifestyle, a vital downtown and a smart, growing population. Most of the women I’ve seen in the park have been attractive, too. This helps.

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1. Mom - 31 May 2010

It sounds like Denver is good.

Good luck tomorrow.


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