Posts Tagged ‘Denver’

Unlikely Yoda

September 7th, 2010 No comments

Yesterday I drank beer with homeless people.

It’s not what I intended to do when I stepped out into the neighborhood streets that temperate and sunny Labor Day afternoon.  I was headed to the capital square for some peaceful people watching to enjoy the lazy day, so my detour wasn’t a total misfit.

How I happened to while away 2 hours on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was one of those precious offshoots of my tendency to engage anyone in conversation when given the opening.  Two older fellows were settled about the sidewalk when I strolled by with my characteristic goofy grin (which a walk in warm weather often causes), and one of them was interested enough to ask me how it was going.  I answered in earnest, returned the question in kind, and before long I said “Well heck, you guys mind if I just take a seat and hang with you a while?”

And that’s how I met Bruce, a self-described “slightly-used-up hippie”, and Gary, a fellow in a wheelchair who had less to say than Bruce.  For my choice to accept the graciously offered 24-ounce can of Natural Ice from the brown paper bag (still kinda cold!), I was rewarded with a slice of life far removed from my ordinary and a dose of new perspective.

I think enough Natty Ice on a sidewalk will make a philosopher out of anyone, and sure enough rich conversation ensued.  Depending on your state of mind and willingness/ability to assign useful meaning, the platitudes spoken forth by my new, slightly-used-up hippie friend were either pointless drivel or priceless nuggets of wisdom.  I took to panning for gold while he spoke of the freedom of sleeping by the river while not owing or being owed anything to or by anyone, never believing people in this world who will try to tell you that some things are less important than others, and the marvel and celebration of how I’m willing to get up everyday and do things that no one else is willing to do (I’m still not sure whether or not those statements were referring to any activity in particular).

Whatever was said, I took to listening constantly for the gold coming from one who had lived a life very different from my own, because why not?  I figured worst case I’d shrug it off after enjoying a beer and company on a nice afternoon.  So we waxed philosophical and I did my best to grasp the words of my sometimes seemingly contradictory host.  Along the way there was even a jam session, featuring a fellow named Luis Small who stopped by with a steel drum, Bruce rockin’ the harmonica, and generous offers of a swig of brandy and a hit off a spliff.

This was way more fun than I was gonna have at the capital square, even if I did pass on the brandy and spliff.

It was my bladder that eventually had me be on my way.  “Hey Bruce, I totally gotta pee.   Thanks for the beer, do you mind walking with me to the liquor store on Colfax so that I may return the favor?”  After assuring him I knew I didn’t owe him anything (he wanted me to be super clear about that), it was my pleasure to take a 2 block stroll, wander in, and wonder out with a replacement king can Natural Ice plus 2 more.  I like to think of it as repaying my karmic beer debt, with interest.  With a hearty handshake and a hug I was off.

So Bruce was my Yoda for a day: the mere act of trying to figure out what he was saying gave me useful perspective on my life.  This morning during abs in the 6:30 Yoga Sculpt class I envisioned him in the cliched, starry background in the corner of my mind’s eye, telling me in prophetic tones how I get up in the morning and do things that know one else is willing to do.

It made me push just a little bit harder.

Reflections on Visiting My Old Town

June 18th, 2010 No comments

St. LouisLast week Tracy and I spent a week visiting St. Louis, her to shoot a whopping 7 portrait sessions from among the adoring hoard of clients she left behind, and I to visit and catch up with as many fantastic people as I could pack in.

I was struck by how much I love St. Louis.

To wit, merely walking Melbrook lane (a stretch of road connecting the Wash U campus with the vibrant street known affectionately to locals as the Delmar Loop) evoked all kinds of grad school-era memories, which lumped together as on big ball of bittersweet, fond reminiscence.  The smell of the old neighborhood trees and other nature in the heat of St. Louis summer took me back to everything from feeling high and proud walking home after giving my first summer school lecture on programming, to hopeless romantic melancholy of pining over whichever girl I was smitten with at the time (I was so cute back then, my strategy for dating and relationships would’ve been just precious if it hadn’t been so completely ineffective!).   The years of memories unlocked by sights and smells endeared my old stomping grounds to me in the most delightful way.

Add in connections to friends and communities (I was fondly greeted with surprise as though back from the dead by at least a dozen people when out swing dancing), reference for favorite places (here’s looking at you, MoBot) and my body’s strange preference for the 100% humidity and high heat (it’s like a sauna, and the atmosphere is so delightfully full of oxygen!) and there’s little doubt that I’ll hold the ‘Lou as a sacred and special place for a long time.

Now then, this all might be a problem given my current state as a Denver resident and settling in as such via matrimonial ties: there’s probably no better way to discount the merits of where you are by clinging tightly to the merits of where you were.  But rather it has me inspired: if I was able to fall so deeply in love with one town out of living there for 8 years, how quickly can I fall in love with another?

And so I have a quest: to swiftly collect memories, experiences and favorites among the new people, places and events that are here in Denver.  I figure two new disciplines are in order to speed this process along: the first is to be a “yes” to any and all opportunities to be social/get out/experience life, and the second to forgo more often the sweet, sweet comfort zone of hanging out with my kick-butt fiancee in favor of other people.  (The latter is the tougher, but I celebrate that as a healthy sign of our sustained fondness for one another.)  This quest is along lines similar to the Gems of Denver (which is coming along nicely by the by: few clear winners but many worthy candidates), but more profound, I think.  This is more about building meaningful friendships with people, which I suspect will do much more to give a happy anchoring to this town than a really kick-ass restaurant.

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