Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Denver’ Category

One Too Many

In Arvada, Auntie Flat, Denver on May 17, 2017 at 1:13 pm

English has dozens of ways to say “drunk,” more than any other word, which tells you how important a concept it is. I’ve written before that when I moved to Highland neighborhood in 1978, the area didn’t have the most stellar reputation.

A good part of that came because of the number of bars we had. Rowdy, sleazy bars, for the most part.

The one that was catty corner from my apartment, Eddie’s Dog House Tavern, reliably spewed drunks into the street almost every morning at 2 a.m. to partake in the liquor enhanced pleasures of public urination, littering, noise, fights and who knows what else.

My landlord, who lived upstairs from me, routinely called police reporting guns whether he’d seen any or not.

Meanwhile, I would just roll over and go back to sleep. Sometimes being oblivious to other people can be a good thing.

When I joined the neighborhood association, our highest priority was to systematically shut down nuisance bars. We always had representatives appear at hearings for liquor license renewal to testify about police calls and problems for neighboring homes.

As bars disappeared and the neighborhood climbed into the upper echelons of desirability, I moved to another up-and-coming area, Olde Town Arvada. The rapid development here comes about because light rail is on the way, this year they tell us. They told us that last year, too. While apartment buildings spring up on every available plot, I’m also starting to see old houses torn down to make way for two- and three-story townhouses, just like in Highland.

In Olde Town proper, the most prominent development is the increasing number of – let’s call them drinking establishments. We have retained a few old taverns and added three breweries, a beer hall, and a bourbon lounge. Almost all of the restaurants serve alcohol, and the School House Kitchen and Libations features over 1,100 different whiskeys.

Whenever renovation begins on another empty storefront, we wonder what kind of bar or brewery it will be. We were pleasantly surprised when the old motorcycle shop was converted into a credit union, albeit with the puzzling name of On-Tap Credit Union. As far as I know, you cannot get a drink there. Refreshing.

It strikes me as ironic that the same type of businesses that brought down the reputation of one neighborhood signal new life in another. Maybe the difference is in the quality of the well-lubricated customers – inebriated or stinko.

I think instead of trying to revitalize the Ladies’ Temperance Society I’ll just call for moderation. One more bar in Olde Town would be one too many.

How the Light Gets In

In creativity, Denver, spirituality on May 9, 2017 at 8:21 am

 

A nasty hailstorm hit the Denver area yesterday afternoon, hurling golfball and baseball-sized ice bombs that dented cars, battered roofs, and wiped out gardens all over town. Some of the stained glass windows at my church took a beating.

Pastor Brad called in some help and cleaned up the glass shards and rainwater in the sanctuary, using press and seal plastic wrap for a temporary fix on the shattered panes. I’m a member of the Board of Trustees, a committee charged with caring for our building, so we will have to make some decisions about the repair soon.

That isn’t as easy a fix as it might seem. The stained glass windows were first installed around 90 years ago and fell into disrepair as church membership dropped and finances became precarious. We have rebounded over the past five years, and a successful capital campaign allowed us to begin planning for restoration and protection of our treasured windows. Just last week we submitted a grant proposal to help with this prohibitively expensive project.

That money won’t come through for months, but clearly we will need a more permanent solution than cling wrap before then. At any rate, we will repair the windows, and within the next year restore them so they’re ready to withstand another hundred years or so.

As I stood in the sanctuary and gazed at the late sunshine streaming through the broken panes, I thought of the late Leonard Cohen’s brilliant song, Anthem, that proclaims “there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

And I couldn’t help thinking about the cracked and broken United Methodist Church (see To Love Somebody) and hoping the universe is letting in some light.

A Real Small Town

In Auntie Flat, Denver, Home on May 4, 2017 at 10:08 am

So I moved to Olde Town Arvada. The word my friends and family most often use to describe my new home is “perfect,” and that annoys me. Perfect is boring.

True, my apartment is exactly what I wanted and much better than I had any hope of finding. And Olde Town is “authentic,” a real town, according to the Colorado Real Estate Journal. It’s something that can only happen over time, in this case over the span of 120 years. “No matter how hard new developments across the metro area may try, it’s impossible to design and build a place this authentic.”

It’s also convenient. Within a couple of blocks of my condo are numerous restaurants, bars (including three breweries), retail shops, coffee shops, a bank, a candy store and ice cream shop, a town square with a popular splash pad, a yoga studio, a bakery, a mechanic, a post office, a park, a gallery, churches, and, most important for me, a library. For music, we have the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor and for fishing, Charlie’s Fly Box. To keep things from getting too precious, we have the Army and Navy Store. Now that I cannot walk as far as I used to, Olde Town offers convenient benches every 50 feet or so where I can sit and rest.

If I head the other way, we have big box stores, a hotel, and a multi-screen movie theater, currently undergoing remodeling and set to reopen in the fall.

Sometime this year (fingers crossed) we will finally have our commuter rail line open,which will give us direct access to Union Station and bring hundreds of new people here to enjoy the charms of a real small town. We are also slated to get local high-speed internet someday, so I can finally stop paying the hated Comcast every month.

The only thing we don’t have is a grocery store. And a deli. I’d really like a deli. See? It isn’t perfect.

On the other hand, it is precisely the best place for me now. It’s been fun watching the changes happening over the past five years, and it will be fun watching the continuing inevitable development.

Maybe my problem is that it is too near perfect, and I’m more comfortable swimming against the current. At any rate, there is no denying that my superpower is picking great neighborhoods.

Down Among Them

In Denver, Home on May 3, 2017 at 6:24 am

My block on Alcott Street

I went to brunch in my old neighborhood with a couple of friends, and it made me a little nostalgic.

When I moved to Highland neighborhood in 1978, a coworker who lived in North Denver advised me to stay north of 38th and west of Federal. Of course, I did neither of those things. I moved to the heart of the “bad” neighborhood. Friends didn’t feel safe visiting me. One who gave me a ride home one night said, looking around, “you really live down among them, don’t you?” A pretty racist thing for a smart, educated man to say, and I never looked at him the same after that.

About half of my neighbors were Chicano.

It had always been an immigrant neighborhood, just above the Platte River and downtown Denver, housing first Italians and then Irish before the Chicanos and Mexican immigrants moved in. Churches in the area reflected the residents’ ethnicity: Mount Carmel, Saint Patrick, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Houses dated from every decade since Denver was founded in 1858, and it was rare to see two houses in a row that looked alike. We had tiny Italian markets, some of Denver’s best restaurants, businesses, government offices, community gardens, galleries, a community center, and more than our fair share of bars and liquor stores. I delighted in walking all over because there was always something interesting to see. I loved it.

Then in 1995, two things happened that changed Highland forever. Denver Public Schools ended court-ordered busing and Coors Field opened an easy walk away across the 20th Street viaduct. Young white families started to move in, and seemingly overnight we became the “it” neighborhood.

New owners gutted little old houses, expanding and modernizing them to suit their suburban sensibilities. Then developers started to tear down houses and replace them with big boxy glass townhouses. Bars, liquor stores, even a gas station and a mortuary metamorphosed into chic restaurants.

Because I had always liked the mix of housing stock, I never lamented the addition of contemporary houses. “You mean you like them?” people would ask. While others seemed to think the neighborhood should be preserved as a kind of living Victorian museum, to me the new construction just increased the variety that I adored.

Those friends who were afraid to visit me in 1978 now said, “I wish I could afford a house in Highland.”

Did you expect this to happen?” one friend asked.

Yes, I did. I just didn’t expect it to become quite so high-end. I always loved Highland and never did understand why others looked down their noses at it. I love it still, but it is no longer my neighborhood. Its shabby quirkiness seeped into my soul decades ago, curled up and made a permanent nest there.

Although I’ll never again be a part of Highland, it will always be a part of me.

I’ll Take the Low Road

In creativity, Denver, Home on May 2, 2017 at 12:09 pm

I’ve lived in 21 places that I remember in my lifetime, maybe more, and every one of them was originally made as a residence. A couple were apartments carved out of a single-family house, and one truly weird one was made by fusing two studios into a single, dark one-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and remnants of a second kitchen. Anyway, this is significant only because my dream has always been to live in a space converted from another use—a former library or schoolhouse or church. I guess that goes on my list of things to do in my next lifetime along with my dream of building my own house.

When I sold my house in Highland neighborhood, I wanted an open loft space in an industrial building with no interior walls except around the bathroom. What I got instead was a typical newish condo that was called a loft but has walls in all the usual places albeit with a great layout and in a terrific location.

You can’t always get what you want, to quote the Rolling Stones.

Stewart Brand points out that these converted structures allow for unusual flexibility and attract the most creative people. In his book and YouTube series, How Buildings Learn: What happens after they’re built, he describes the commercial use of what he calls Low Road buildings—low rent, low visibility, no style, high turnover abandoned buildings in iffy parts of town. Shabby, spacious, and frequently meant to be temporary, they survive by offering endlessly adaptable spaces to artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors and states that “most of the world’s work is done in Low Road buildings.”

Urban design icon (and one of my personal heroes) Jane Jacobs agrees that vibrant and viable neighborhoods need old buildings because “new ideas must come from old buildings.” (The Death and Life of Great American Cities).

Of course, Silicon Valley grew from businesses hatched in someone’s garage. Brand also discusses creative uses of self-storage units. “In these spaces you find the damnedest things—a boxer working out, quiet adultery, an old gent in a huge chair enjoying a cigar away from his wife, an entire British barn in pieces, a hydroponic garden, stolen goods, a motorcycle repair shop, an artist’s studio, someone shaping surfboards, lots of very ordinary storage, and, about once a month somewhere in America, a dead body.”

The news in Denver recently featured the story of a veteran who was living (illegally) in a 70 square foot storage unit because even though he was working he couldn’t afford the soaring rent in Denver. That may constitute creative use of an alternative space and marginally better than sleeping on the streets, but the only positive part of the story is that he has since found real housing.

Sometimes you get what you need.

Feats of Architecture

In creativity, Denver on May 1, 2017 at 12:26 pm

This past weekend was Doors Open Denver, an annual two-day event sponsored by the Denver Architectural Foundation when the public gets to tour some of the city’s unique spaces, including high-profile, historic, and/or “artistic feats of architecture and design.” I couldn’t make up that last phrase if my life depended on it. Still, each year I look forward to choosing which of the 60 or so featured buildings I want to visit.

Usually, it’s a residence. Two years in a row, I went to Dana Crawford’s sprawling home in the Flour Mill Lofts, a project she developed in a former (you guessed it) flour mill that had stood broken and abandoned by the Platte River for as long as I can remember. She had the biggest bathtub I’ve ever seen and a huge wall of books across from a wall of windows facing both the city and the mountains. I suffered a severe case of loft envy.

Last year, I checked out the Turntable Studios, a former high rise Holiday Inn next to Mile High Stadium converted to micro apartments. In Denver’s obscene real estate market, $1200 a month will get you a pie-shaped wedge of about 310 square feet.

In some ways those choices represent the sublime and the ridiculous of Denver’s housing market. What they have in common is that both are located in buildings originally designed and constructed for other purposes. And that’s why I liked them.

This year, I toured The Temple, a former Jewish Temple built in 1882 in the inner city Curtis Park neighborhood. Reconfigured into a “contemporary artist haven” that provides affordable studio space to 23 artists while preserving an historic structure that had fallen into disrepair.

This is the kind of creative reuse of space that sparks my interest and what all my choices for this event have in common. What will I discover on next year’s list?

Take a Deep Breath

In Denver on April 20, 2017 at 7:20 am

I feel very proud that Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana although I no longer enjoy its pleasures myself. Yes, there was a time I enjoyed it very much –too much if I were telling the absolute truth.

I was 24, divorced, and wanted desperately to stop projecting the image of a shy, conventional young woman. I had tried alcohol and never could develop a taste for it, and everyone I knew was smoking pot. It was the seventies. I decided to give that a try.

Having never smoked cigarettes, I had to practice before I could inhale. I may be the only person around who believed Bill Clinton when he said he didn’t inhale. My friend G tutored me in how to hold the smoke in without coughing my lungs out. After a few tries, I took right to it.

My friends and I would sit around smoking and fantasize about how, when we got old, smoking pot (we never called it weed) would help us survive the tedium of a nursing home.

Today the state’s first drive-thru marijuana store opens in Parachute. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana; eight states plus Washington DC have legal recreational marijuana for adults. In Colorado we have more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonald’s locations combined.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency that studies drugs from the perspective of abuse and addiction says, “There are no reports of teens or adults fatally overdosing (dying) on marijuana alone.” Even better, researchers are starting to find ways it can really help some people, including those with severe seizures, glaucoma, or PTSD.

In my forties, I came to the realization that I no longer wanted to feel high, and since then I haven’t once been tempted to roll a joint, a skill I never did perfect. Of course, if I ever face that nursing home, I reserve the right to change my mind. That’s legal, too.

P.S. Is this going to damage my church lady persona?

Colorado Firsts

In Denver, Lent - Season of Change on April 4, 2017 at 9:59 am

Lent – Season of Change, Day 30

I picked up the annual Westword Best of Denver edition, something I used to do religiously, but which lately has been hit-or-miss.

The first article featured Colorado Classics – 100 Things Every Newcomer Needs to Know About the Mile-High City. I’ve been here since 1951, but there are still a few things on the list that I didn’t know.

Here are Ten Colorado Firsts

Colorado was the first state to give women the vote.

Colorado was the first state to legalize abortion.

Colorado was the first state to issue a same-sex marriage license.

Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Colorado was the first (and so far the only) state to reject the Olympics.

Metro Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District provides unprecedented support for the arts.

Metro Denver ranks highest in the country for people who pursue artistic activities.

Denver is the smallest city in the country with the big four professional sports teams.

Denver owns its own ski area, Winter Park.

Anyone can perform a marriage ceremony in Colorado.

Okay, they aren’t all exactly firsts, and four of them are exclusive to Denver, but almost all of them are something to be proud of.

Why I Haven’t Made an Offer

In Auntie Flat, Denver, Home, Learning on May 18, 2011 at 10:15 am

I mentioned in the last post that I may have found my new place. Here’s the rest of the story. It’s complicated. First, I need to sell my house before I can buy a new one. The idea is to use the proceeds from my house to pay cash for the new one. My plan is to pare down my expenses so, if I need to retire (not a part of my plan, but it could happen), I’ll be able to live comfortably with much reduced means. You never know.

So, okay, I need to sell my house, and before I do that, I need to do some serious decluttering. I’m working on that and shooting for the end of the month to put it on the market. Meanwhile, I’m taking a load of excess stuff to charity about once a week, giving the shredder a workout, and recycling stacks of paperwork.

To further complicate matters, when I told my neighbors I planned to move, they were interested in buying my house. They would use it as a rental until Scott’s mom retires here from West Virginia. Also, they’d like to add office and studio space for themselves above the garage.

We talked at length one afternoon, and my brother explained my house’s structural problems, which didn’t seem to phase them. Anyway, it would be great if this all works out, but there is one teeny, tiny problem. Before they could buy my house, they would have to sell their current rental. Luckily, both their rental and my house are in one of the most popular neighborhoods in Denver. In fact, I’ve already heard from four potential buyers for my house and, as I mentioned, it’s not on the market yet. It’s shaping up to be an interesting summer.

I May Have Found My New Place

In Auntie Flat, creativity, Denver, Home, small houses on May 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

It isn’t exactly what I envisioned. First, it’s outside Denver, close (but not walking distance) to the shops, restaurants and library in Olde Town Arvada. Originally a two-bedroom condo, a wall was removed to open the second bedroom to the living room. This suits me fine. I don’t have or want to have guests stay over. Just the thought of being around someone else 24/7 gives me the willies.
I work at home, so I need a bigger living room to accommodate my studio. My work is so integrated into my life that I don’t like having it segregated into a separate room. This room has a cathedral ceiling and two skylights, which makes it the perfect space to spend my time.
The kitchen is small and open to the common room (my term for the combined living room/studio). The bedroom has both a walk-in closet and a linen closet. It’s been 25 years since I had a walk-in closet and I’ve never had a linen closet, but both were on my “want list.” The bathroom has a large oval tub, perfect for a bath lover like me, and a closet laundry.
There is also an enclosed porch with more storage. At 728 square feet, it’s bigger than I thought I wanted, but will still require me to get rid of a ton or so of excess STUFF. I’m working on it.
There’s no garage, but plenty of parking and pretty, well-maintained grounds, next to three tiny lakes and a little park.
The main drawback is that the current owner is a smoker and the place reeks of smoke. I grew up in a house with two parents who smoked, and I keep wondering if our house smelled like that. Ick.
If I buy this condo, I’ll rip out the carpet, install hardwood floors, and paint, which will go a long way toward getting rid of the odor.
And no, I haven’t made an offer yet (it’s complicated—I’ll explain in my next post), so I may lose it. I’m philosophical about that. If I lose it, I’ll find a better one. Meanwhile, I’m having fun making lists of everything I’d like to do to the place and rearranging furniture on paper.