Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Denver’ Category

Name Game

In Arvada, Denver, neighborhood on May 7, 2018 at 2:32 pm

When lower downtown Denver became LoDo several decades ago, I was both baffled by the nickname and a little embarrassed. It seemed to me that Denver was trying too hard to seem hip, like SoHo in NYC where the fad of giving neighborhoods two-syllable name contractions started.
RiNo, a shortened version of River North, may have come next, and that didn’t bother me much. What was then a shabby, nondescript, artsy community seemed to perk up a little with the new name. Of course, eventually, it perked up too much and became just one more sea of luxury apartments, restaurants, and galleries, pricing out the artists that made it a desirable location.
LoHi, or lower Highland, came next and that was the one that really irritated me, probably because I lived in Highland neighborhood and resented having realtors and other carpetbaggers stage a wholesale takeover of part of my neighborhood. Since I lived west of Zuni, was I in HiHi? When does it end?
Apparently not soon because now the area around Sloan’s Lake is SloHi to the real estate industry. Shudder. Is that necessary?
Oddly, the areas outside of the northwest quadrant of the city don’t seem to have suffered from this name mania. Sure, Uptown is officially part of North Capitol Hill (NoCaHi anyone?), but at least Uptown is a real word. Why doesn’t Colfax have a WeCo and EaCo? Is Virginia Village ViVi? Or Hilltop HiTo?
I suppose the rebranding comes to areas that want to develop a new image to reflect the gentrification of previously depressed communities. Don’t get me started.
I routinely refer to my current neighborhood as Olde Town Arvada, its official name for the last twenty years or so, while my friend Jeanie, who grew up here in the 50s and 60s knows it as Uptown, not to be confused with the previously mentioned Uptown in Denver.
By the way, I hate that extra e on Olde. My friend Chris insists on pronouncing it Old-ey Town. Are we hip yet?

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No Country for Old Men (or Women)

In Denver, Walking on May 1, 2018 at 6:26 am

Inner city. I’ve heard that phrase a couple of times in the last few days and, as usual, the speaker used it as a euphemism for poor minorities or, as the dictionary says, “associated with social and economic problems.” As such, it’s always been offensive, a way to avoid saying what you really mean.
These days, at least in Denver and I suspect many other big cities, the term most associated with the inner city is gentrification. Here people who live in or near the core city tend to be white and well-off, if not wealthy. They have to be to afford the rent.
Two events happened in 1995 that led white people, who had fled to the suburbs for decades, to reconsider a life in town. Coors Field and its attendant bars and clubs opened, and that made lower downtown hip. And court-ordered mandatory busing ended.
Almost immediately I noticed a change in my inner city (speaking geographically) neighborhood. While before, the area had been about half Latino and half white, including many Italian old timers, now young white families were moving in. That influx only increased over the years and brought with it new businesses that didn’t sport signs offering to send money to Mexico. Things were changing rapidly.
As you know, I moved out of Denver almost seven years ago. There is a lot I like about Olde Town Arvada, and there is a lot I miss about the city. Lately, I started driving downtown once a week to walk along the Platte River and enjoy Commons, City of Cuernavaca, and Confluence Parks. Saturday was one of those days, and hordes of people walked their dogs, rode bicycles, and skateboarded. Dozens rested on benches or leaned against the bridge railing to watch kids and dogs playing in the river and a couple of guys fly fishing.
I was happy to see people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages enjoying the sunny spring weather. But wait a minute. I looked again and noticed people of all ages through about 35. Where were the old people? And more importantly, why weren’t they there?
I thought I left the world of age segregation when I left high school. Apparently, I was wrong.

Reality Bites

In Auntie Flat, Denver, Home, neighborhood on April 16, 2018 at 7:38 am

Once upon a time, my architect brother was trying to figure out how to make my property in North Denver work for both him and his wife and me. The idea was for him to redesign my house for them and add a small 5-600 square foot unit for me. They wanted out of Westminster, and I could no longer handle the upkeep of the house and yard by myself. He asked me to find houses in the area that I really liked for him to use as a model. I picked this house.
Located at the corner of 38th and Newton, this house had the historic character we all preferred. The yard was all garden instead of lawn. When I went to Carl’s after church yesterday, that house was gone, with nothing left but a hole in the ground.
I suppose they’ll build a modern, boxy, duplex and sell each unit for a million dollars. The same fate faces the recently closed and sold Dairy Queen one block west. In case you hadn’t noticed, the face of North Denver has changed. A lot.
I always loved Highland neighborhood and didn’t understand why others couldn’t see its potential. I longed for a little gentrification—a few shops with things I wanted to buy and a bit more variety in our restaurants. Be careful what you wish for.
I lived in the Potter-Highlands National Historic District, so my old neighborhood has remained largely unchanged by the mad development surrounding it. Unlike most people, I actually like the new modern buildings going up; I just wish there weren’t so many of them. I wish they hadn’t displaced so many of my neighbors. I wish they hadn’t taken over the whole area and changed the character of my beloved North Denver. I wish it were really true that the more things change the more they remain the same.
The street view of Google maps has some catching up to do.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

In Denver on April 12, 2018 at 6:05 pm

The late, great Ursula K. LeGuin said, “A library is a focal point, a sacred place to a community; and its sacredness is its accessibility, its publicness. It’s everybody’s place.”
When I told someone that I live in Olde Town Arvada, she observed that Arvada is getting more homeless people and they gather around the library. Yes, they do. On nice days, they sit on the wall by the town square and move inside when the weather threatens. This is true at most libraries. They provide clean, safe places to escape the elements, restrooms, access to computers, and sometimes much much more.
You will find similar scenes at most urban libraries. The central Denver Public Library downtown chose to add social services to their offerings, specifically to serve this population. They hired two social workers and several peer navigators to help patrons find the services they need, including housing, substance-abuse treatment, and health care.
Thirty libraries across the countries now provide social services to patrons and consider it a natural extension of the libraries’ traditional role of connecting people to information. DPL is hiring two more social workers to work in the other 25 branches.
Many people still feel uncomfortable in the presence of homeless and mentally ill people in the library. They would do well to heed LeGuin’s words, “It’s everybody’s place.” Lucky for them, libraries, like the homeless, are everywhere.

Skating By

In Denver on April 10, 2018 at 10:30 am

As a kid, I loved nothing more than clamping on my roller skates and sailing down the sidewalk. Back and forth I would go for hours on end feeling fast and fierce. Part of why I loved skating so much was because my parents met at a roller rink. They could dance together on skates and skate backwards, a skill that I, sadly, never learned.
When I was in third grade, we moved to Adams County where our house had a basement that was only half finished. The other half provided a smooth concrete floor that was perfect for skating and a pole that I could twirl around. We also had a driveway that would catapult me down to the sidewalk faster and faster.
In junior high, my friends and I went to a local rink (Roller City North) on Friday evenings to skate for a couple of hours and then take off the skates for a sock hop. That ended when we entered high school. Skating was for kids although I don’t remember any other activities that provided so much fun.
I remembered those times yesterday as I walked home on the promenade outside my condo building. It’s officially a fire lane, maybe twenty feet wide. I passed several people on wheels, including a man with a walker, a girl on a skateboard, and a couple of people riding bikes, and it occurred to me that it would be a magnificent place to roller skate.
Alas, those days are behind me. The last time I went skating was with rented boot skates in Washington Park. I was about 30. My wheels slipped out from under me and I fell and broke my tailbone. Maybe you know how painful that can be. I suppose I shouldn’t have let that deter me. I should have gotten right back on those wheels and kept going.
It’s been years since I thought about skating. At 70, I’m not even close to considering trying it again. That would be foolish and probably dangerous. I’ll keep it as a memory and try to find that feeling of freedom in other, more age-appropriate ways. Maybe I’ll skate again in my dreams.

Cart Wars

In Arvada, creativity, Denver on April 9, 2018 at 7:04 am

The Safeway at 26th and Federal is where I discovered small, two-tiered grocery carts. It was love at first sight. The top basket was the perfect size for the few items and small amounts that I buy, and the lower basket could hold heavier or bulkier items–two-liter bottles of Diet Coke, say, or a box of cat litter. Other people must have loved them, too, because they were usually all in use and I had to settle for the big, unwieldy old-fashioned carts with one funky wheel that might be perfectly fine for a family of four or so, but weren’t at all suitable for my one-person household. My puny supply of groceries – one chicken breast, some deli turkey, and piddling amounts of fruits and vegetables look downright lonely in the bottom of that big basket. Do they think I’ll buy more to fill it up?
The same thing happens at King Soopers, Sprouts, and Walmart. Most of the time they are out of the small carts and have rows and rows of the family sized ones. That tells me they need to get more of the small ones.
In 2016, 44% of all U.S. households, almost 36 million, were single-person households. We deserve more than ten small carts per store.
Maybe you saw the Nightline show several years ago where they asked IDEO, the product development company, to redesign a shopping cart. Some features of their finished product (swiveling wheels!) looked great, but they are still big and clunky—in fact, bigger and clunkier than the usual type. Phooey.
All I want is a cart that’s small, lightweight, clean, with four working wheels and available when I need it. Is that too much to ask? Based on experience, yes, it is.

Something Old Something New

In Denver, Learning on April 4, 2018 at 7:48 pm

I’m a creature of habit, and one of my habits is eating out several times a week. I tend to go to the same restaurants over and over and order the same thing every time I go. Sometimes, though, I like to try something new. Specifically, I wanted to try something in Lowry or Stapleton because I hadn’t been to either of those areas since their redevelopment. I asked a friend for a recommendation and we met at her favorite place in Stapleton.
I didn’t like it.
It made up for its small size by being LOUD. We had to shout at each other across the table. I know the hard-edged industrial look is fashionable, and I like the look, but good Lord, it’s annoying in a restaurant. It occurs to me that maybe people are so busy with their phones that they no longer talk to each other even when they’re at the same table, so restaurants don’t think it’s necessary to keep the noise level down. I actually texted to my friend a message I didn’t want to yell at her.
Then there was the food. I like a turkey sandwich and usually order that if it’s on the menu. Alas, it did not appear on this one. I’m supposed to avoid fried food and I’m pretty sure everything offered was fried. Everything. I decided to try the chicken and waffles. No, I’ve never had it before and I may have mentioned once or twice that I don’t get the appeal. I like waffles and I like chicken but I see no reason on earth to put them together. However, enough people have told me the combination is (and I quote) “awesome” that I took a chance with it. I didn’t like it. The chicken had too much breading and the waffles were, well, superfluous.
So, I won’t be going back there (sorry, Sheila).
When I told another friend that I hadn’t liked anything but the company, she said, “You should stick with the places you know you like and not try anything new again.” I think she was serious. For the record, I don’t think that going to one place I don’t like means I should never try anything new again.
I like my old standards and will continue to frequent them, but I’m also open to suggestions. Know where I can find a good turkey sandwich?

Leaving Colorado

In Arvada, Colorado, Denver on April 3, 2018 at 10:54 am

Destiny, a waitress at my favorite restaurant, was telling me about her housing woes. The wildly inflated real estate and housing prices dominate our conversation here in Denver and no one seems to know what to do about it. Destiny and her husband, who works in security downtown, live with their one-year-old in a one-bedroom apartment not far from me in Arvada, where they pay $675 a month. “The only reason it doesn’t cost more is because the owner doesn’t take care of the building,” she said.
They’d like a bigger place, but can’t find anything in their price range. A two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the metro area would cost them about twice what they pay now. A house is completely out of the question, now averaging more than $500,000.
We’ve watched the older, smaller houses, which once could have served as starter homes for young families, get torn down and replaced with monstrous and monstrously expensive townhouses all over town, and we ask one another, “Who can afford to buy them?” And yet, people do buy them as fast as they come on the market.
Local governments are racing to find fixes from requiring builders to include affordable units in new construction to allowing tiny houses and micro-apartments, but these efforts are minimal at best. More and more people are now talking about moving out of Colorado. Gulp.
I’m lucky. I managed to buy a house in what was then a ghetto thirty years ago, long before housing prices took off. Selling it six years ago allowed me to buy a nice one-bedroom condo for cash. It’s now worth more than double what I paid for it with property taxes continuing to rise.
Would I consider moving out of Colorado? My family moved here on my third birthday, and I always considered it to be my birthday present. I never seriously thought about moving out of state because I think it’s the perfect place to live. How could I leave the mountains or our almost perfect weather?
Unlike Destiny, I’m not being forced into that decision. Yet. I am, however, starting to think about it.
It makes me very sad.

Going to Church

In Church, Denver, Learning, music, spirituality on March 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm

“Sometimes,” she said, “you just want to sleep in on Sunday and not go to church.” In the sixteen-plus years I’ve been going to church, that has never happened to me. Okay, I’ll admit that sleeping in is a foreign concept. My circadian rhythms wake me reliably at 5 a.m. (6 during daylight savings time), every day, and should that ever fail, I have a cat as a backup system.
During these years, I have missed very few Sundays, usually only if I’m sick or we have a bad storm or my car dies.
I like going to church and look forward to it every week. It’s the highlight of my week.
It isn’t because I’m devout.
Part of what draws me in is the social aspect. I like to see my friends. Church is also where I connect with younger people including children. We have a great crop of about 50 little kids, two to three dozen of whom attend each Sunday.
With no kids or grandkids of my own, I have precious few opportunities to meet and make friends with young people.
I like singing although apparently not enough to join the choir.
I have always prayed privately, and I’ve learned that there is something powerful and humbling about praying in a group.
I like the sermons, which always push me to be a better person, even when I don’t agree with them.
The best part, though, is knowing that I’m part of a source of good in our little corner of the world.
From our preschool to adult study groups; celebrating Pride Month as a liturgical season to gleaning unwanted fruit and vegetables from neighborhood gardens to feed the homeless; providing shelter while a family secures permanent housing to making sack lunches for the homeless in Civic Center Park, we’re a very active church.
I came to church to develop the shriveling spiritual part of myself and learned, much to my surprise, that it isn’t all about me.

Coming Attractions

In Denver on March 5, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Light, shadow and sound, that’s what movies are made of. Thousands of frames pass by so quickly that they trick the eye into seeing movement. At least that used to be true. Is it different in the digital age?
I’m thinking of movies back in the 1950s when my parents and maybe yours, too, used the local movie house as cheap Saturday babysitting. In North Denver, that was the Federal Theater, still there, although it has undergone many conversions since the movies stopped sometime in the 60s.
My dad would give my brother and me a dollar, which paid for our tickets and also some popcorn at the Saturday matinee. Other kids our age packed the place. I can’t imagine what a headache that must have been for the people who worked there and had to keep our shenanigans in check. Lord, what a job!
It was always a double feature, mostly westerns, “B” movies. The show also included previews of coming attractions (although only about two, not the dozen or so they show now), a cartoon, and sometimes a black and white newsreel. We paid no attention to the time the movie started. We just joined the movie “in progress.” When the next showing got to that time, we’d turn to each other and say, “This is where we came in” and leave.
When first-run movies came to town, they showed at the bigger, fancier theaters downtown, The Center, The Denver, The Paramount, and others. My friends and I would put on dresses and maybe gloves and ride the #5 Argo bus to Sixteenth Street.
We might be able to stop at Baur’s for ice cream afterward.
Out in the suburbs, we enjoyed the pleasures and the truly terrible sound of the local drive-in theater.
All that is gone now. We have multiplexes all over, and a dollar wouldn’t even buy a down payment on a tub of popcorn.
Parents still use movies for cheap babysitting, though, now streaming on a tiny iPad screen. Light, shadow, and sound still make movie magic that mesmerizes kids.