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Targeted Nostalgia

Two unrelated things that aren’t have thrown me into a fit of nostalgia today: baseball and Target.

It was the last game of the season today, and despite the fact that the Rockies had a catastrophic time this year, I forced myself to listen, to take the pain and punishment of hearing them fail miserably. They won, despite having a skeleton crew of almost all third-string players and late-season replacements against a World Series-defending team. It got rough for an inning, and I thought it would all fall apart, but they pulled it out, and ended a dismal 2011, well below the .500 mark.

I listened to almost no games this year, because after about May, things imploded like an old Vegas casino making way for a new chrome-and-glass monstrosity. And this is the first year I didn’t see any Rockies games in person. In fact, I only went to one game all year, mostly because I can’t stand watching the Giants about as much as I can’t stand going to games at Oakland Coliseum. So there was a certain nostalgia to firing up the game audio today, the same way I feel after it’s been a long winter and I tune into that first game, hear the familiar announcers, get all of the standard commercials and station identification bumpers and little audio touchstones that bring me back to the summer I lived in Denver, pulling in the 850 KOA signal on my AM radio.

My year in Denver had two distinct eras, the first being the summer of 2007, when I worked from home for Frankov’s startup, and went to every day game I could afford at the one-block-away Coors Field. But then, almost exactly four years ago to the day, I got a job as a tech writer for this internet security firm. I didn’t know anybody in Denver, and suddenly found myself driving an hour a day to this high-tech campus, or as high-tech as the area had, at least. I was the second tech writer, and the first was totally consumed with his work, so we almost never talked. And because of the strange reporting structure, my own introverted mannerisms, and this mild disconnect between me and the work culture of the tech industry, I didn’t hang out with many people at work.

What do I mean by the work culture? I guess every place I lived had its own style or flavor of the tech industry. Seattle in the mid-90s was very Microsoft-driven; MSFT was practically printing their own money, and every company was either trying to keep up with them compensation-wise, was somehow dependent on them for their livelihoods, or was trying hard to be the exact opposite of them. New York was very Wall Street, except for that minor blip of “silicon alley” doofusism that vanished when the NASDAQ did. Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley, the gold standard of tech company behavior, no explanation needed.

But Denver had its own odd little identity. There were pockets of high tech, but it was held back by this attitude by some who thought it was still the wild damn west out there. Denver 2007 was just barely Seattle 1997 to me, and socially, it felt like one in maybe five people belonged to some outback conservative christian church with kids in a lockdown academy and a barefoot wife at home. This was the land of Promise Keepers, Ted Haggard, megachurches. I’d seen worse — I spent a dozen or so years in Indiana where the ratio was more like 5 out of 6.  But it wasn’t just the politics or religion; it was a combination of that, of age, of technical background, that made me feel like an outsider there.

The job didn’t have a cafeteria, and we sat four people to a mega-cube with low walls, so the idea of brown-bagging didn’t appeal to me. Instead, I’d get in my brand new little car, and drive around the neighborhood until I landed at a fast food joint. The office sat on the edge of nowhere, a half hour south of Denver, an area with a few golf courses, an executive airport, and a whole lot of high mesa desert occasionally punctuated with strips of prefab big-box culture dropped on straight roads spaced apart at a mile per. Twenty years before, it was probably all barren cattle-grazing land, when an invisible SimCity player in the sky clicked and dropped all the big names down: Safeway, Chipotle, Chili’s, and Target, with a peppering of Subways and cell phone stores. From horizon to horizon, you’d see the orange-brown Colorado high plains, littered with the same exact stores I’d seen in every other place I’d lived or visited.

I’d always end up at the same two or three places, mostly Taco Bell or McDonald’s. I’d always bring a book, sit in my car, eat the same thing every day and read. The Yaris still had the new car smell and the novelty of car ownership I’d missed during my time in New York. I think I told Sarah one time about how I preferred to eat alone like this every day, and it depressed her, but I liked it. After almost a decade of being surrounded with ten thousand people in the same city block as me, it felt so nice to be absolutely alone.

It would take me five minutes to drive to Taco Bell, and ten to eat my Mexican pizza and nachos. That meant I’d had another 40 minutes to kill, until I’d need to tech write my way through the back half of the day. I’d inevitably end up at the big Super Target on Lincoln, this massive version of the familiar red department store, a two-story version with a double-decker parking lot and a grocery store welded to the side. I’d sit on the top deck of that garage, and you could see this great expanse of nothingness to the south, rolling hills and scrub brush and mountains in the distance, the ribbon of I-25 stretching from Lone Tree and vanishing on the horizon of Castle Rock. I’d go to Target for everything and nothing, to look at the twenty-dollar polo shirts and the seventeen different kinds of car air freshener, and end up with a case of Coke and some new cat toy we didn’t need.

But I mostly went to watch, to see who ends up at a Target in the middle of the day. And the answer, at this Target, was apparently nobody, because I’d only see a small trickle of stay-at-home moms, all younger than me with a gaggle of kids in tow. This wasn’t like the LA I’d know a year later, where in the middle of the day, you’d see all kinds of people and wonder who in the hell actually worked in a town like that. This reminded me of the solitude of working a day shift at the mall back in Indiana, where you’d only run into geriatrics and pediatrics. It had this certain feel to it, a feeling that I shouldn’t be there, the same feeling I had when I skipped a day of high school and saw a world I didn’t belong in.

And the visits to Target tied into that first era. Sarah worked a lot at her job, working nights, weekends, long days. And we didn’t have cable, didn’t watch TV, didn’t do much of anything outside of work except try to regroup to get ready for more work. And it seems like we spent an inordinate amount of time at the Stapleton Target, undergoing consumer therapy by experiencing the big box lanes of SKUs in a store that we didn’t get to experience in Manhattan. We’d end up with hundreds of dollars of damage in those white and red bullseyed bags, Method, Archer, Market Pantry. I’d have the next PlayStation game that would consume my off-hours in my little office, and whatever little cellophane-wrapped junk food I’d consume at my desk while listening to those games and not writing my next book. But those trips to the world outside the womb of my home office were strikingly themed by the uniformity of the Target experience. And when the first era quickly ended and the second era made me miss it, those trips to another branch of the same outlet let me briefly revisit my lost summer.

Now, four years, later, twelve hundred miles away, and 5280 feet lower, everything is different, except a daytime run to Target. They just built a new one, about a mile from my house. Now that I work from home, I’ll end up there after lunch, to pick up a case of (now diet) Coke or a box of Claritin. And it’s a different shape, a different layout, but the same experience, the same types of daytime shoppers, the same red-shirted staff and aisles of things I don’t need but will probably buy.

This nostalgia is a painful and potent drug for me, something it’s very easy for me to get lost in.  I can waste far too much time exploring the connections and bridges of a present day to the past, grasping at these raw feelings I try to replay as a time machine to a distant era or pleasant memory.  I stumble across these things, like the smell of a faded air freshener or an old receipt to a lunch from 2002 stuffed in the back of a book, and it can trigger this rush of thoughts back to that time.  And I spent 1999 wishing it was 1992, and 2008 wishing it was 1989, and now bits of 2011 wishing I could open a window to 2007 and take a quick look again.  I wonder if I’m the only person who does this, if I’ve accidentally segmented my life into these predefined periods by moving and changing jobs, or if it would be the same if I still lived on the same street in the same town where I grew up.  It’s hard to be present in now, except that I know at some point in the future, I’ll be looking back and remembering 2011 again.  And maybe the bridge will be a consumer store, or maybe it will be a kind of food or a song or the sound of an appliance or the smell and feel of an autumn breeze at the tail-end of a long summer.   But I know that it’ll happen, at some point.

And now, I’ve gotta stop doing this, and go immerse myself in the now of trying to write my next damn book.  Stay tuned.

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Back at sea level

(Actually I think my elevation is something like 13 feet, but I don’t really know how to check.)

I made it back from my short trip to Denver yesterday afternoon.  We had a great time with no major hassles, other than Denver’s horribly mismanaged airport security line, and a couple of pouty four-pawed felines who get upset when we leave them with a petsitter.  The only real issue is the trip seemed way short, and we barely saw any of the city, aside from Coors Field.

My perception of Denver is weird, because when I lived there, I thought it was a pretty small place.  But when I think about all of the places we didn’t see at all during this trip, I realize it’s pretty damn huge.  And I also realize now that in my year there, I barely scratched the surface; there are so many things I never did there, I could probably line up a years’ worth of weekend voyages and daytrips and visits and expeditions.  And part of that is that during my year there, we spent almost every weekend going to the movie theater at Stapleton, and then going to the Target there.  There’s a lot of good food in town, but I ended up at Bar Louie’s or Breckenridge Brewery eating nachos and wings and trying to watch a game on mute.  I feel like if I had the time, I would be able to do a lot more there.

Example: we went to the Denver Art Museum.  Never went when I lived there, and I was slightly reluctant only because the King Tut thing is there now, which means there’s this mad rush of confusion with the herds heading in to see the mummies. But for ten bucks, we spent a couple of hours looking through the exhibits, and even the outside of the buildings is pretty awesome looking.  I mean, I am always conflicted about fine art, because there are pieces I really like, and not just photorealistic painting, but modern art that elicits some kind of response from me.  But there are other things that don’t, maybe because I’m an idiot or never studied art, or don’t see how a fire hydrant painted blue is supposed to signify the coming of a second ice age due to botched foreign policy.  But the DAM had some interesting stuff, and it’s just another example of something I completely missed while I lived there.

Anyway, I’m slowly getting the pictures on flickr, and I’ll write up the baseball games eventually…

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Hello from 5280 feet

Hello from Denver, my former home and now a great vacation spot for me to get my baseball fix once a year.  We got into town Thursday night, saw the Rockies beat the Brewers last night, and will go tonight and sit right behind home plate for game two of the series.  We also took the stadium tour and I got some great pictures from the field.  We will be flying back tomorrow, which thankfully means we get to miss the last game.  Sunday is “faith day”, sponsored by the jesus freaks at Chick-Fil-A.  “Faith day” is code for conservative christian day, when all of the lovely folks from Colorado Springs take a break from their megachurch and come up to see a baseball game with the heathens and sinners. I’m very tempted to go rent a press-on-beard and turban and see if “faith day” really means all faiths.  I’m sure nobody would get the joke.

There are a lot of things I love and miss about Denver, but that’s sure not one of them.  Like yesterday, I was sitting down in the club level to eat my pizza, and overheard some windbags losing their shit about the TERROR MOSQUE, repeating ad nauseam whatever Fox and Friends told them to believe about the mosque going in “at” ground zero in New York.  I honestly don’t give a shit either way, and I really don’t like to burn cycles on politics, but as a person who was in lower Manhattan in the fall nine years ago, I really don’t like it when tea party types circle-jerk in the name of all things 9/11.

Anyway, Denver is weird in that way.  I mean, it can be a very left-leaning place – there are a lot of hipster types with way too many tattoos that smoke way too much pot and spend a lot of time eating lean and mountain biking and a bunch of other stuff that’s pretty much incompatible with the belief system proclaimed by all of the christian conservative types that stomp around here.  It’s weird that a city with as many damn pot dispensaries can also have so many megachurches.  (In our old neighborhood – LoDo – pretty much every former Pilates or Yoga studio in the area has converted into a legal pot store, with a cheeky name like “Rocky Mountain High”.  I think some law must have changed right after we left, or people just wised up that selling medical weed is way more profitable than running a doggie day care.)

It’s weird to be back in general.  It’s not as oddly nostalgic as it was the last few times I returned, but it is still weird to vacation in a place I used to live.  I mean, we parked last night in the lot that I used to look at all day when I was in my office writing.  And it looks like that apartment’s vacant, so if I really wanted to come back in exactly the same fashion, there you go.  But it’s funny – we were talking the other day about “wasn’t that apartment really great”?  And then we started thinking – “yeah, but when the sun rose in the morning, the bedroom turned into a sauna”, and “there were no screens on the windows, and these giant Jurassic Park bugs would fly in”, and “every time the garage door opened, two floors below, you heard this ‘beep beep beep’ sound”.  I still did like the layout of the place though.  One of our main criteria when we shopped for our new place was “some place like Denver, but to own instead of rent”.  And the neighborhood is hurting, tenant-wise.  It looks like the place is only at a third occupancy, and they’ve built several super-huge modern apartment buildings, which all sit vacant.

Not much else.  My nephew turns 13 today, which is weird.  I vividly remember my 13th, if only because my parents were getting divorced then.  I can’t even imagine my parents married now, so it’s weird to think of their split.  I just remember being overly concerned about getting a home computer, because I spent my hours writing BASIC code on sheets of paper, trying to invent a new Zork-type game to streamline my D&D playing experience.  So you know where my priorities were those days.

Okay, I should get off of this shared computer in the business center and go find a quiet place to write on my netbook for a bit before we start the day.  Full report when I get back to sea level and have my real mac and the ability to upload a few thousand photos.

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Weekend with Bernie (the Brewer)

Last night I booked the big annual pilgrimage to Denver to catch some Rockies baseball at Coors Field.  We’ll be going August 12-15th, to catch two of the games in the series against the Brewers, which should be awesome.  We’re staying at the Warwick again, which was a pretty decent place, although it’s a little weird staying in an area right by our old default grocery store, our old default Chinese restaurant, our old default Mexican restaurant, and so on.  I mean, it’s weird in general to be staying in a city where I used to live, and I always get weird, conflicted thoughts when I’m in Denver.  It’s usually stuff along the lines of “it would have been really great to stay here, IF…”, with the if part having to do with easy-to-attain stuff (if I found a better job, if Sarah found a better job, if we bought a cool house, if we scheduled more vacations to beat the worst of the weather and to break up the various ruts), and the impossible stuff (if there was an ocean nearby, if I wasn’t floored by allergies, if all of the rednecks packed up and moved to Wyoming and left behind all of the cool people.)

It will be cool to go back, though.  And the baseball part of it – the Rockies are doing well right now.  And I bought the most incredible tickets.  On Friday night, we’re up in club level (239, I think).  But on Saturday night, I bought Coors Clubhouse seats on StubHub.  These are the seats immediately behind home plate, five rows back.  That’s the little “special” section ahead of the field-level general seating, next to the tunnel entrance to the clubhouse areas.  It’s the seats you see when you watch the game on TV, and you’re closer to home plate than the pitcher is.  Also, you go back that little tunnel and there is a private restaurant with a buffet set up, and the whole thing is included in the ticket price.  And the club is air-conditioned.  And the seats are nicer.  And I paid an insane price for these seats, so much that I can’t actually admit how much they cost, except that I think my World Series tickets were cheaper.  (And if you really need to know, I think I have a picture of my WS tickets on my flickr page.)

I am also very excited to bring the new camera rig with me on this trip.  I plan on taking two and a half million pictures while I’m there.  I think I need to plan some other non-Coors side trip while I’m in town to get out and get some good snaps.

I think we’re talking about also booking a long weekend in September or October to go to Vancouver.  Sarah went there for work recently and only got like ten seconds to see the city, but she really liked it.  I drove up there in maybe 1995, but actually didn’t even get out of the car.  Back then, I had a serious On the Road obsession, and spent many late nights with my Rand McNally atlas planning some giant voyage from Seattle to Alaska, trying to calculate how long I’d have to drive nonstop in my Ford Escort to get to the 49th state.  You think Alaska’s like right next to Washington, like you just take a little jog through Canada and you’re there.  But it’s seriously like a 2300 mile drive just to get to Anchorage, which is like two days of constant driving on tiny, shitty, unmaintained two-lane roads.  I also spent almost every weekend thinking about pointing the car north and going to Vancouver.  And several times, I got on I-5, loaded up some tunes in the tape player, and headed north, only to get bored of the whole thing and turn around in like Everett or Mountlake Terrace or Northgate Mall or an exit north of my house.

But one time, I actually did get up there.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch, and drove straight up on a beautiful sunny Sunday and crossed the border and ended up in Hollywood North.  And I circled around, and listened to some local radio station, and thought it would be awesome if I found some X-Files film shoot or ran into Gillian Anderson at some cafe.  And I was starving and wanted to stop to eat.  And I had to pee.  And I couldn’t figure out what neighborhood was what and where to park, so I just said fuck it and turned around and drove back home.

And here’s the funny part.  I get to customs, and of course they are huge pricks.  I mean, here’s a guy in a new car, nobody with him, been in the country for an hour, and no reason to be there.  Here is the conversation with the customs dude:

Him: “So what are you doing in Canada?”

Me: “Not much.  Just driving around.”

Him: “Just driving around?”

Me: “Yeah, beautiful day, sunny out, nice Sunday drive, you know?”

Him: “Where were you born?”

Me: “Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota”

Him: “You took a Sunday drive from North Dakota to Vancouver?”  (Note: I’ve handed him a Washington license with a Seattle address on it, and my car is plated and registered in Washington.)

Me: “No, I live in Seattle.”

Him: “Where do you work?”

Me: “Spry.  A division of Compuserve.”

(brief pause, look of stupidity.)

Me: “It’s an internet company.”

Him: “Wait are you one of those guys that posts instructions on how to make bombs on the internet?”

Me: “umm….  no?”

Him: “Pull over to bay 1, we need to search your car.”

(Spend the next 20 minutes as four guys dismantle my hatchback trunk, look under my car with mirrors on sticks, pop the hood, and have two dogs sniff every inch of my car.)

Other good news on the Rockies front: Sarah’s group at work got the box at AT&T Park again at the end of August, and it happens to be during the Rockies series there, so I will get to see them again in San Francisco, this time from a suite.  There are only two issues: it’s a Tuesday night game, so I’ll need to hustle to get from Palo Alto after work.  The other problem is what to wear – I probably can’t show up in the suite wearing head-to-toe Colorado gear.  (Didn’t they do a Seinfeld about that?  Also, do you remember a time in our cultural history when almost any event was coupled with the rhetorical question “didn’t they do a Seinfeld about that?”)

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The Internal Locus

I’ve spent all morning picking away at some automatic writing that has to do with 2008, which is always weird.  I mean, it’s weird to write nostalgic writing about a period that’s two years ago, and it’s more weird to talk about it here, when you can just click on a link about three inches below this and simply read what I actually wrote in 2008.  But I have the advantage of distance in that my 2008 was about 350 miles south of here, and the general feeling of LA is markedly different than that of San Francisco.

Here’s the thing: I have been listening to the BT album This Binary Universe. In many ways, this is an absolutely perfect album; it’s very technical, a total departure from BT’s typical techno roots, and extremely, extremely expressive.  It’s so heavily textured, with so much going on in each track, that it’s entirely enjoyable for me to listen to.  And it’s the perfect balance between music I can completely background and think about something else and something I can dive right into and just be consumed by the thoughts that come from the music.

But the big reason I like the album so much is that it’s a total time machine for me.  I got this album in 2007, the summer of 2007, when I worked from home in Denver, and spent most of my free time either hobbling to various foot doctors to find out what the hell was wrong with my ankle, and going to every Rockies game I could afford, since they were about a hundred feet from my front door.  And a lot went on that summer emotionally – the big break from New York, I was going to get married, I was trying to define myself – was I a writer?  A programmer?  Could I find another tech writing job?  I was very lost, and lost in a new city, but so excited by this huge turn in my life, this new place, the ability to get in a car and drive to random new locations like mountains and barrios and abandoned air force bases and giant book stores.

And there’s a weird ripple effect, because in 2008, that album was such a time machine back to 2007, I would listen to it when I was struggling in LA and wanted nothing but to be back to that same place in Denver.  And it always hurt me so much, caused so much strange emotional pain, but it would consume me so much I had to do it and had to feel all of it and go through the entire album from start to finish and just absorb that 74:19 of extreme emotion and go on with my new life in LA.

I remember the end of LA, one of my trips up to SF, either for a job interview or apartment hunting or to drop off a Yaris full of stuff, and I got on the I-5 to head north through the giant desolation of our state’s food basket or whatever the hell they call that no-man’s-land through the central state that’s nothing but farms.  I tried to find something to listen to, and decided that I would go through the entire album, listen to it from start to finish as I was stuck in the cabin of the tiny car, driving north through nowhere and nothingness.  I would absorb the entire performance and transform myself, like a shaman going into a sweat lodge to absorb a lifetime of memories and problems and touchpoints in one concentrated, hallucinogenic dose.  And I did, and it absolutely etched another destination for this time machine device.

Anyway, I chipped away this morning at more writing, stuff that probably will never see the light of day, but I gave the entire album a listen again, and the thing still floors me.  I can’t say much more than that, but just that this album is one of my absolute favorites.  I sometimes wish I had the space and place to just listen to it every day, and pour out the writing that came from it, until I had a book’s worth of words captured.  Maybe I will.

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One mile high

Hello from Denver. It’s a cool 66 degrees at a one-mile altitude, but it’s expected to jump to 90 by lunch. But right now, I’m at the pool on the roof of the Warwick hotel, looking out at the skyscrapers of downtown, and suffering from a very severe case of Deja Vu, and a minor case of altitude reacclimation.

Our trip went fine, with the only minor hitches being that Sarah’s ATM card got locked yet again by an overzealous Bank of America anti-fraud robot, and a 45-minute delay in the air due to some stupendous thunderstorms around Denver. The weather cleared by the time we touched down, and my suitcase was already on the conveyor by the time we took the little train to the baggage area. We also got stuck with a little Kia with power nothing, but it also has XM radio, which is a new itch that’s developing in the consumer area of my brain. (There is an endless array of metal programming, and maybe that would be a good way to eat up my two hours a day in the car.)

It is weird to be here. WEIRD. We went to the Rocky Mountain Diner last night for dinner, and it felt exactly like it was the summer of 2007 again. The place hadn’t changed at all, aside from the fact that our favorite waiter (the guy that looks like a young Ed Harris) was not there. We drove around last night, looking at our old neighborhood and our favorite haunts, and everything was the same. The two big changes we noticed: one, our old Safeway (The “unsafeway” on Clarkson) got completely facelifted, and looks like every modern Safeway now, not the early 90s ghetto look it once had. And the vacant lot caddycorner to our old place on 22nd and Market is now a super-huge townhome/loft place, much like the place we lived in. It’s freaky to see that vacant lot transformed into a giant community.

Probably the biggest weird thing is that after we finished our dinner, we had tons of time to do anything, and we realized that in our year here, we went to a lot of baseball games and movies, and ate a lot of food, and that’s it. We don’t really have any friends here that we wanted to visit, and we had no real hangouts, aside from the Target store at the Stepleton mall. We have an afternoon to kill today, and don’t know exactly what we want to do. I feel sad about this, but it also makes me realize that when we get back home, I need to get off my ass and make sure we don’t do the same thing in Oakland. I don’t know what we need to do, but we need to explore more.

It is nice to be here, though. I think we need to take more of these mini-vacations. And I am really looking forward to tonight’s game. Wearing my Brad Hawpe t-shirt today, and one person already came up and asked if I was going to the game tonight. I am hoping to hook up with a couple of people from high school that will be at the game too, and I plan to do some serious damage at the clubhouse store.

It’s getting hot here, and I didn’t fly out here to sit on the computer, so I better get to it.

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Denver car time machine

I’ve been meaning to update for a while, but everything other than my stuff has taken over lately. Hopefully, I will just work on my book and catch up today. I also get to drive to Torrance today, which sounds like a pain in the ass, and I guess it is, but I very rarely drive my car these days. Most days, I either eat lunch and dinner from the fridge, or walk, mostly to Subway, but there’s another sandwich shop (Hogan’s Heroes), that I hit when I can’t do the Jared thing anymore. (Oddly enough, my favorite sub is now the Veggie Max. I still love the BMT, but my old holdout, a 6-inch BMT with cheese, bacon, and mayo, is about a weeks’ worth of fat.) Anyway, I don’t drive my car that much, and I do love driving my car, so it’s always good to take a run down PCH, even at $4.45 a gallon.

My car still reminds me a lot of Denver, and I have enough distance from Denver that I have odd nostalgia about it. I guess this came up, because last night I was listening to BT’s This Binary Universe, which is a very ethereal and emotional album, and deeply reminds me of the end of summer/start of fall last year. It’s the kind of album that will always remind me of that point in my life, of that year, and for whatever reason, when it came up in shuffle last night, it deeply hit me. I don’t want to live in Denver, and I don’t want to be in last year anymore, and I realize it’s stupid to look back and say “hey, remember 12 months ago?” but maybe not being there makes it more nostalgic to think of there again, if that makes any sense. And in a strange irony, I have to go to Denver next week. But I won’t be in our apartment, and I won’t have the Yaris there, and Sarah won’t be there, and I will spend all of my time in a hotel down in Lone Tree, except for one brief outing to go see the Rockies lose to the Dodgers.

The gas book – it goes. It’s 150 pages, but I have a lot of holes to fill. I’m starting to worry about all of the post-writing things, like the fact that I don’t have a cover, and don’t know how I will sell it. I also need a web site, and a way to convince people that I’m somehow an authority on this stuff.

I am doing a lot with Paragraph Line Books, too. I’m in the process of getting set up to print books directly with Ingram, and bypass the lulu.com process, hopefully at a savings. I’m also moving paragraphline.com to dreamhost, and that will let me add some new features. I’m also supposedly working on #13 of the zine, and I’m supposed to be writing my story for it, but I haven’t had time to even look at it. Maybe later today.

As of Sunday, I have lost 28.6 pounds in 12 weeks. That puts me at 186.2. Using a BMI calculator (which may or may not be bullshit), 185 and above is overweight, starting at 184 is the normal range. WW says my ideal range is 147-177. I think getting to 175 would be reasonable, and 170 would be work, but I have no idea how I could maintain below 170, let along 147.

Okay, work.

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2200 Market postscript

This is all very weird. I’m sitting in a hotel room about a mile west of our apartment in Denver, after a long day of, well, weirdness. I left LAX with a temp of 75 out, flew over the ocean and saw my apartment before we did the big arc to the east and headed into the mountains. We landed two hours later, I got a Chevy HHR, basically a ripoff of the PT Cruiser but shittier. Then the long drive to I-70 and into town and back to the place at 2200 Market.

I can’t emphasize enough how strange it was to pull into our building and go up to our place on the third floor. In some sense, it was like being dead, gone for a week and suddenly being back to normal. Or maybe like all of LA was a detailed dream, and then I woke up and there was Denver again. And the feeling of opening the apartment and being there myself, everything shut down, everything silent – it felt like opening up an Egyptian tomb and looking at all of the gold and food they buried with the king’s corpse. I ate some Taco Bell and watched part of a DVD, but most of my night was spent throwing things out, hauling junk to the trash room, and wondering why the fuck it was so quiet. (Answer: I’m already used to the distant plane sounds from LAX.)

I thought this all was a freak occurrence, but it happened once before. In spring of 1993, the second year of my two years at the Mitchell House in Bloomington, I went back home for the summer. This involved taking a station wagon full of stuff up north in May, and leaving everything else behind until later in the summer. I returned over the 4th of July holiday to trash or haul back the remainder, and staying in the room was also a bizarre headtrip. I didn’t have half my stuff – like I slept on a mattress with an open sleeping bag and no sheets because all the bedding was gone. But it was also that return to a tiny space full of so many memories that screwed with my head. And now, I’ve only been in Denver a year, and my capacity for generating highly nostalgic memories is probably much more limited. But the whole thing did fuck with me.

I woke up early today, and the packing crew showed up at 8:00 and started wrapping, boxing, and tagging. I did up two suitcases that will go back with me on the plane, and got a lot more garbage out of the place. When that got old, I got a few hours of work done on some contract tech writing I needed to finish. By 3:00, they finished up, and I had the place to myself, aside from the strange ghosts in the air.

I checked in to the hotel, but it got bored fast – lots of Brett Favre retirement crap on ESPN, not much happening online. So I got some dinner and headed back to the house to finish up a few more things. It’s still dead quiet, and filled with boxes from wall to wall. Still, lots of memories, looking out at the parking lot across the street that I watched every day as I worked on the computer. I kept thinking how I’d watch the crowd that shuffled in on game days last summer, trying to measure how good or bad the game would be based on the traffic (and the price they charged for parking.) Maybe working from home fucked with my head, like maybe I have twice as many hours in the apartment, so twice as much nostalgia. Who knows.

I thought about taking a drive to see what I would see. But here’s the thing: there’s not as much in the way of cool hangouts or neato routes I would take that deserved one last visit. I remember the night before I left Bloomington, I put on the walkman and took this insanely long walk around campus. Every little bit I passed, I would think “here’s where I met so-and-so” or “here’s where me and so-and-so bought sandwiches from Dagwoods and ate on the lawn” or “here’s where this-and-that car died” or whatever. But in Denver, there’s a McDonald’s, a Walgreens, a Target, and Coors Field. It’s not to say I won’t miss Denver, and it’s not to say that Denver’s a shithole town that should be avoided at all costs. It is what it is.

Now I’m in this shithole La Quinta, right by a railroad switching yard, with the typical snuff film decor. Our bed and all of the bedding are packed up, and so are the bath towels. So, I bunk here, drive back tomorrow (all of like a mile), then watch the next crew fill up a truck with our junk. I hopefully then get the fuck out of there by 3:00 and dump this garbage rental car and get on a plane to LA with two suitcases full of kitchen gadgets and washrags and whatever other odd crap we forgot to pack in the first two carloads.

And remember how I said it was 75 back in LA when I left? Current temp here: 30. Overnight low: 15. With windchill: -4938.

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general

The Sopranos were not the dream of an autistic kid in a coma

The ocean isn’t two miles away, as I previously thought. I went for a walk yesterday, heading west, and up this huge hill. At the top of it were all strangely shaped houses of the sort you’d only see on a shoreline, with impossibly-sized windows and turrets and none of the right angles you find on a straight-up ranch house in the suburbs. And just past that, the ocean. And it’s the full-on ocean, not a canal connected to a sound connected to an inlet that eventually dumps into a sea. I walked around a bit, trudged through the sand, watched the sailboats in the distance and the huge planes jetting off from LAX to all points west (i.e. Asia) It’s not a bad walk at all, although the hill part really taxes out my fucked up knee, but maybe doing it more will help.

In a couple of hours, I get into one of those big tin cans at LAX and head east, back to Denver, to rescue the furniture. This will be a weird trip – in today, back Wednesday night. The weird stuff has to do with driving a rental car into the space where I’d normally park a car; having to stay in a hotel for a night because all of my stuff will be boxed or shrinkwrapped; said hotel is less than a mile from my old place, and I used to pass it every day on my way to work. Basically all of the tourist in my own town stuff will be in effect. Not to mention that I will have but a few hours to somehow condense down my Denver experience and eat my last three or four meals at places I will probably never see again. (And in reality, all of those will probably end up at McDonald’s.)

I think the one thing that I will truly, truly miss is Coors Field and the Rockies. I was thinking about this last night, about how I am not one who has ever had some great belonging, especially one full of rituals. Some people have religion, and I tried that and it didn’t work out. But the closest I came to religion was getting to Coors Field an hour and a half before a game, watching the opposing team take batting practice, getting a hot dog, looking out at the field in front of me and the mountains in the distance, hearing the same soundtrack of crappy music they play before every game, hearing Reed Saunders read off the same safety information and where you can buy food and all of that other crap the PA announcers read before the game. I guess having Coors Field right next door was like having a major league ball park in my family room, where I could go down there any time I wanted and catch a game. So I’ll miss that, a lot. I can get stuck in traffic for two hours and go to a Dodgers game, but it won’t be the same. No matter how much you hate some place, there’s always one thing you miss. Seattle: mountains. New York: best subways ever. Elkhart: you always have a new car stereo, because yours gets stolen every month.

I went to a movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood on Saturday. We went out with four of Sarah’s old friends, and it’s really damn nice to finally have friends to go out with. (And one was a baseball guy who said we have to go to a game in Anaheim, so there you go.) We saw Jumper, which was forgettable, but it was hilarious to be down in Hollywood on a Saturday night. There was some kind of cheerleading contest that night, so there were all of these 14-year-old girls in cheerleader costumes running around, which was a pedo’s wet dream. There was also a very large hoochie mama contingent bussed in from Orange County or something, and all of the clubber types going to clubs in that area. And Grauman’s is completely over the top, with all of the handprints in concrete out front, and all of the hollywood stars in the sidewalk, and the people dressed up as various famous iconic stars. The vibe of the place was very Times Square, which means don’t act like a fucking tourist, but it was pretty overwhelming.

I finished the last episode of The Sopranos, and that has to be the stupidest ending ever for a TV series, aside from making the whole thing a dream of an autistic kid in a coma or whatever the hell. Bleh.

Gotta shower, eat lunch, pack, get to the airport. This will be a fun one.

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general

The end of Denver

Well, the Denver gig is up. We are moving again, by the end of this month, to the original Plan A city, which is Los Angeles. And I’m reluctant to talk about it at all, since the stock reaction of most people is similar to that if I told them I was building a machine in my back yard that would turn silly putty into platinum bars. But yeah, we are moving.

Sarah’s job has been less than stellar, working ten hours a day, seven days a week, and dealing with a lot of general lunacy. Then the firm lost their biggest client and laid off half the company. And those of you dot-com survivors can affirm that when half of your company gets laid off, it doesn’t mean your workplace will be just dandy from now on. It’s a lot more like being the band on the deck of the Titanic, except they didn’t have to deal with endless conference calls. Anyway, she talked to her old boss, who immediately found her a gig at their Los Angeles office. She had no real complaints about her old job, just that we were both sick of New York. And working for the biggest ad agency in the company means they don’t start selling off their office furniture when they lose an account.

As for me, I was done with work as of the 31st, last Thursday. I actually will be staying on as a part-time contractor, working remotely, but I won’t be going to meetings, dealing with politics, or driving an hour each way a day. My plan is to cut over to contracting part-time, and working as a developer. Since before christmas, I’ve done nothing but read Ruby on Rails books and work on a few simple projects that I hope to flesh out. I’ve been memorizing Ruby books, reading the Knuth books, reading the Gang of Four, and trying to learn every shortcut and trick tip in Eclipse.

But first, I have a huge marathon ahead of me. Three weeks from today, we turn in our keys and leave this apartment forever. And when you look at the place now, it’s pretty much in the 100% functional state. Sarah’s in Vegas for her family reunion this weekend, and I have been shredding papers like I worked for the Stasi in 1989. But no matter how many hours I put in, the place looks about the same. We do have the whole rockstar relocation setup, even more than last time, so the little elves will show up in our last week with their packing tape and semi trailer and haul everything west. But we still have to find a place. A week from today, I drive my car to LA solo, with the back and trunk filled with a redundant supply of clothes and toiletries and whatnot. Sarah flies there on that Friday, and we have a weekend to seal the deal on an apartment, then fly home. We then have to drive out in the Subaru, with two cats in tow (which will be an awesome time for all) and then reverse the procedure on the other end. Between now and then, I have an endless stream of appointments and errands: service cars, go to doctors, fill prescriptions, cancel things, sign up for things, and continue the onslaught of throwing out, giving away, and shredding up.

So, Denver. It has been an interesting year, and there are some things I will miss. I always like when I’m driving and I see the snow-capped mountains on the horizon. I will really miss baseball here, last summer at Coors Field and the incredible run to October the Rockies had. I will also miss walking a block to the park to see a game. I really do like sitting here in my office, looking out at the open area of LoDo, working on the computer and enjoying this apartment. This is one of the nicest apartments I’ve lived in, and everything actually works, which is new to me. Having grocery stores bigger than jesus and Super Ultra Giant Fucking Monster Target has been nice. And hey, best emergency room ever.

Denver has its issues that make it a “probably not forever” place. I didn’t have any altitude problems, but the dry air is a killer. I get so dehydrated, I wake up two or three times a night to get a drink, even if I take enough ambien to kill a horse. Allergies are worse, and most of the lifers here look like they were rode hard and put away wet. The botox people are taking a beating out here, because I see more than a fair share of ladies that resemble the crypt keeper. Yeah, they climb mountains and ski and all of that shit, but come on people, four words: SPF-50.

I always envisioned Denver as some kind of hip, high-tech mountain metropolis, and I guess it tries. There are some nice looking buildings and they try to be urban to an extent. But a lot of people think Colorado is the wild west. And when people think that in Elkhart, it’s idiotic, but here, you could drive into the mountains and shoot a bear with a .50 caliber sniper rifle. So there’s lots of camo, lots of country music, lots of fans of Larry the Cable Guy, and lots of people with pickup trucks that could fit my car and a cord of firewood in the bed.

So it’s really George Bush country up here. And while I don’t really give a shit about politics (especially with the group of geniuses jockeying for the big job later this year), it sets the mentality of the place. Just down the road in Colorado Springs, you’ll find Focus on the Family; down there and in the suburbs out here, you’ll see mega churches that are bigger than casinos in Vegas. The Promisekeepers also hail from Denver. There are lots of jesus fishes on cars, and you can ignore it all to an extent (which you can’t in Elkhart), but it’s like eating in a restaurant where something’s burning on the grill in back: it’s not your food, but it still bugs you.

I think the biggest case in point is the gay situation. I have friends who are gay, Sarah has friends who are gay, and we’re both used to being in New York, where a person being gay is about as unusual as a person wearing a jacket in October. So sometimes if I’m talking to someone, something might come up in conversation where I know someone who did this or went there or owned that, and when I start to talk about it, I find myself pronouning things, which is really bullshit. But if I told a person that I had thanksgiving dinner with two guys who happened to be life partners, I might get dragged off to a reeducation camp. On the other hand, in LA, if I told someone a friend was gay, they’d probably just say, “well, does he know anyone who can read my script.”

Everyone thinks that LA is the great devil, especially people in the Midwest, especially people with the “fuck that, New York is the greatest place ever” headtrip. But I like it. There’s always been some allure to California to me, something that always made me happy or make me think I was in some huge, mythical thing. I can’t say I’ve always dreamed and hoped of living there, but more than once in the last fifteen years, I’ve interviewed for jobs there and had my fingers crossed. Like I said, LA was our first choice last year, before the Denver thing came up. It will be nice to have the ocean, and water. We are aiming for West Hollywood, which isn’t on the water, but it’s close. (And no, West Hollywood is not the one with the hookers and smack dealers, that’s East Hollywood.) There are other niceties, like multiple airports that aren’t a million miles out of town (DEN), we get to see movies before anyone else (except maybe NYC), ethnic food other than just Mexican, and while there are always jesus people everywhere, they’re pretty drowned out by the people who really don’t give a shit.

We already have a network of people out there, too. Sarah lived there for almost a decade, and still has a lot of friends, both personal and in the biz (and both) and I have a couple of old pals out that way, too. Some of our NYC friends who would never visit Denver are in LA all the time, so we get to see those people too. We both have met absolutely nobody here, mostly because the only thing to do on a Saturday night in Denver is go to the mall and watch a movie, or maybe shop at Wal-Mart.

Bad stuff? It costs more, although compared to New York, it’s maybe a bit cheaper. You need a car; we have two. Traffic, but my I-25 drive for the last six months has not been a breeze, either. I don’t know what to do about baseball. Am I still a Rockies fan? I would love to go to all of their games at Dodger Stadium, but I’m afraid if I wear a Rockies shirt, I will be stabbed by a Mexican gang member. The Angels are there, but AL baseball sucks. Who knows, I thought the Rockies were a losing prospect when we moved here, and look what happened. Maybe when we move, the Dodgers will make it to the series. (And then maybe I can get Scott Boras to arrange a deal where I move to some other city with a shit team and get them to the series.)

So that’s my story. I’ll post more when I know it. And hopefully this cessation of salaried work will help me post more. I looked at my paper journal last night, and realized I hadn’t updated it since the day I started this job. Anyway, time to shred…