Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Tomorrow, I am going back to my beloved Colorado, for the first time since we left 13 years ago.  We lived in Boulder, when we were first married, and then we moved back to Denver, when Brad finished graduate school.  The deal was that if he was going to make me leave Boulder, then we would move back there, if he did not have a job, out of graduate school.

This put me in the very precarious position of hoping that he did not obtain gainful employment, after working shit job after shit job, and eating frozen pizza four days a week, so that we could go back to Colorado.  Due to the wretched economy in the late nineties, and his ever popular "Sports Management" advanced degree, I got my wish.

We sold our car, and I got a job at a Arapahoe House, as a drug and alcohol case worker ( I know, right?),  so as to give us just the tiniest bit of stability, and we were OFF like a prom dress!  We lived in a  duplex, a few blocks from City Park. It was not a traditional duplex -it was  a house that was divided into two parts, and it was extremely quirky.   For instance, our only bathroom was on the second floor, so if you were watching t.v. in the family room downstairs, you had to trek up two flights of stairs, to go to the restroom.

When we were shopping for rentals, we had some friends who lived in Boulder, and worked in Denver, and the one piece of advice they gave us was, "Whatever you do, get as far off of Colfax Avenue, as you can.  It is famous for being the worst street in Denver."

Our duplex was two houses from Colfax.  It is not easy to find a place who will accept pets, and has a yard, with a budget of $500 a month, which needs to include utilities, in two days. This was to be our destiny, and we embraced it.

There were so many weird and hilarious times in that house, I don't know where to begin.  We were DIRT poor, and I mean, DIRT poor, as in some of my clients lived better than I did, but we didn't care, and we had a BALL, and we somehow got by.  I do not ever remember struggling to pay bills or anything, and we always had groceries and went out, but I do remember not going home to see family (unless they paid for it), or going to any weddings (Sorry, Cindy and George) or anything, because we could not afford to fly.

Oh, wait...I just had a recovered memory that we borrowed $500 from my parents once, maybe twice.  Put it on my tab, I guess, along with my college education and my wedding.

Okay, what I most remember, are our neighbors, because they were so random.  The neighborhood, and particularly our street, was very eclectic, in that it was renovated house, renovated house, crack house, renovated house, crack compound, renovated house, renovated house...City Park.  When we moved in our duplex, apparently someone had just moved into one of the newly renovated house near to us, at the same time.  Several neighbors came walking down the street, one with some sort of cake in her hands, as I walked toward them with my dog, Elaine.

They were all smiling and waving me down, and as we finally met halfway down the block, they descended on me like a pack of hungry wolves, as they congratulated me on choosing to live on their street, and effusively welcomed me to "the neighborhood".  One woman apologized for the random crack houses, which they were at that moment "petitioning the Board" about. I was blown away, to say the least.

I was balancing the sheet cake on one hand, as Elaine repeatedly jumped up and tried to knock it down so she could devour it, as they asked me intrusive question after question about myself, and then one of them goes,  "Soooo, are you all moved in?  I just LOVE the new porch on the front of your house. Who was your contractor, again?"

It became crystal clear in that moment, that she thought I was someone else, who lived somewhere else.  There was no new porch on the front of my house.  I did not have a contractor, I had a landlord.

"Ummmm, I just moved into the duplex near the end of the street," I said.

"I'm sorry.  WHERE exactly do you live?" the woman who was petting Elaine, stopped stroking her and wiped her hands on her shorts.

"I live right there," I said, pointing to our sad duplex, which had neither been painted, nor landscaped in thirty years. I suddenly had the realization that our house qualified for the "crack house" category of our street.

The woman who, two minutes ago, was thrusting a cake into my hands, was now taking it away.  "We thought you were the new neighbors who BOUGHT the house right there."  She then pointed to the adorable house across the street with a SOLD sign in front of it. "We were mistaken.  This cake is for THEM,"  she articulated. "Oh, well, welcome to the neighborhood!" she squealed in a high pitched voice as she backed away, along with the rest of the pack.  You'll LOVE the park!"  And they were gone, as quickly as they had come.  Hilarious.

I hear that THEY have eliminated all of the crack houses, and driven away all of the Ho's who used to begin their shift at 3pm, and end it, when I was driving to work.  They would walk in small groups down my street, to reach Colfax Avenue, as they teetered on four-inch-high, clear heels, which accented their undefined legs (unless they were a tranny, natch). Their legs were fully exposed in all types of weather, and ended at the beginning of their crotch, that was barely swathed in some neon or metallic fabric.

These "Ladies of the Evening", or in this case,  "Late Afternoon", would inevitably,  top off this ensemble, with a two sizes too small, tube top, that not only highlighted their back fat, but their budda bellies, as well.  I used to strain to hear them recount some story about a John, the night before, as they waved their brightly colored Lee Press-On nails in the air, to illustrate some point.

I looked forward to "The Ho Parade", each Saturday, as I sat on my pathetic little concrete, SIDE porch with the iron railing, and drank iced coffee, and pretended to paint or sand some estate sale find I had come across that morning.  (Brad put his graduate school education to good use, every Saturday at a golf shop, so I was always flying solo, as I indulged in my guilty pleasure of the week.) This all culminated into the day I witnessed one of my Ho's walking to "work" one Saturday afternoon with a drink in her hand, that (no lie) possessed a long straw and an umbrella, that stuck diagonally out of it.  You go gurl!  Get yourself in the mood, honey.

Okay, our "housemates," who occupied the other side of the house, were a whole other story.  She once asked me to have a yard sale with her when they were moving out, not long after we moved in.  I quickly discovered that she was not a ballet dancer, for on the morning of our sale, our front yard was littered with sequin bra tops and G-strings on one side and Tupperware, and fraternity and sorority party t-shirts and shorts on the other.  CLASSIC.

Once, when I was carrying laundry up the stairs, and stopped to rest at the landing that had a window over looking our yard, and the alley behind our house - only to spy a street person masturbating beside a dumpster.  I called the police to report it, and the officer on the line kept asking me all of these detailed questions, like "What shoe size do you think he wears?" and "Would you say he has highlights?  Are they natural, or chemical?" to describe him, so I had to keep looking, over and over again, while I tried to swallow the bile that was creeping up my throat.   Finally, the cops showed up about 15 minutes after the perp had finished and walked away, probably because they had better things to do in a big city, than bust some homeless man for "scratching an itch," so to speak.  I mean, it's not like he could go in his basement, or take a shower, right?

Anyway, I will forever have that memory burned in my brain, and when I called home to tell my Mother about it, all breathless and disgusted, and all she said was, "Don't you think his highlights had to be natural, I mean he is homeless, so he's probably outside a lot."  You see where I get it?

Anyway, right across Colfax was the best Thai food I have ever had, and next to that was an Italian restaurant with the best calzones in the World.  On the corner of our street was this little amphitheatre where Brad and I ended up almost every weekend.  They had all these great bands that played there and we used to get in half price or free, because we were neighbors, and frequent fliers.

I hear the neighborhood is all cleaned up and homogenized now.  No hookers or crack heads.  No needles or crack vials next to the benches I would run by with Elaine, in the mornings, at City Park.  I wonder if they have run off "Boo Radley", our nickname for our neighbor, across the street, who used to ask me for money, after he would help me carry some heavy mirror I found at an estate sale on Saturday mornings.

You could not drink a beer on your porch or have a cookout,  without him coming over uninvited and asking for a "cold one" or a piece of chicken.  We always said, "No," of course, or Boo Radley, would hijack your night, and bleed you dry.  We quickly learned to politely refuse him at the fence , listen to his random story he needed to tell about "beating someone up" or his having yet another altercation with the police, which was always worthy of one of Brad's COPS episodes.

"Hey, I noticed you guys were drinking beer!" he would yell as he was crossing the street.  "You got another one?"

"Well, we only have two more, and if we give YOU one, Boo, we will have to fight over the last one, and that's not cool, right?" I would say as I blocked him from entering our gate.

"Another time, Bro!" Brad would toast Boo Radley, with his bottle in the air.

"No prob."  Boo would respond, "Waaaiiiittttaminute, why do you guys always call me Boo?" he would say as he revealed a full set of rotten, crooked teeth."

"You just remind me of a character in one of my favorite novels."  I would explain, as I bit my lip, and blinked back tears, to keep from bursting out laughing.

"Oh, yea.  Great...Cool, Man." Boo's wheels were clearly turning now. He swiveled on his heels, and would begin making his way across the street, but then he would stop short, turn back around to us, and yell, "Hey, what's a novel?"

I wonder if the gay couple who taught me to restore furniture and make Squash Soup from scratch, still live there?  Larry, confided in me that they were not exclusive, as he showed me how not to go against the grain, when staining wood, but that his partner, Gary, was not aware of this arrangement.  LOVE IT.

There was the young man who lived next door, whom we gave a very derogatory nickname, as well. He had a gigantic scar that ran the entire length of his skull on one side.  We had him watch, Elaine, our dog, once when we went home to see our families, for a week, only to find that Elaine had defecated and urinated all over the house, and had maybe been fed twice.  That is what you get when you ask someone to care for your pet in your absence, that has brain damage.  He, also, was a close talker, like Boo, and liked to visit us, when we cooked out, while he recanted many of the same stories, over and over. 

I think that is why he was able to get a job as a concessions worker in the stands at Colorado Rockies games, because he just had to repeat the same line over and over, again.  "Popcorn!  Peanuts!"

My advice to you, today, is twofold.  One piece of guidance is obvious, and the other is more philosophical.  Okay, visit City Park in Denver if you ever go there.  It has this amazing view of the mountains in the back, and houses not only the Museum of Natural History, but the Arboretum, and the Denver Zoo, as well.  Brad and I and Elaine, our dog, spent a ton of time there.  They used to have concerts in the park, and it has this gigantic loop with a lake in the middle that is perfect for walking or riding your bike.

My second suggestion is to visit a place that you used to live, at some earlier period in your life, when your existence was totally different than it is now.  Break yourself off a big piece of nostalgia, and share it, or just savor it for yourself.

Brad and I are going back to Denver tomorrow night, and we intend to visit City Park and our old duplex.  I am giddy with excitement.  I'll report back to you, on who is still in residence, and who is not.  Boo Radley is the only person I fully expect to see, because in his words, he "would not take SHIT from anyone," and I cannot imagine anyone running him out of town, without his consent.  Unless, of course, someone finally gave him that beer.

I looked for HOURS today for pics of our time in Denver, while I was supposed to be packing.   I KNOW there is a picture of Boo Radley somewhere, but I could not locate it.  This is the best I could come up with...Brad, Elaine, and I at City Park.  Rockin' the block "O".

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