Hello from Denver. I’ve been out here for a week, for the first time in a dozen years, and… it’s weird. Weird doesn’t start to explain it.

So I lived in Denver from 2007-2008. Made a few work visits back in 08, and I think I came out maybe two more times for Rockies games. I haven’t been back since except for the occasionl layover in the airport. I had to take a week off, and wanted to get out somewhere to take some pictures and do nothing, and after the usual searches of prices versus temperature versus infection rate, I landed on taking the week in Colorado.

This whole trip has been a weird deja vu experience. I sat in the baggage area and had flashbacks of every time I ever flew home, going back to the first time I flew to the city in 2007. Got my suitcase, went outside and breathed the rarefied air and gazed out at the big sky and fluffy clouds that looked like they were floating ten feet above the ground, and I felt like I’d been gone for a week and was back. Something about the look of the place, the way the light comes through the sky, the way the air tastes, is totally unique in my head, always brings me back to that specific time of my life.

I got the rental car, headed out on the highway towards my hotel in the tech center and realized everything was different. They built a train to the airport. They built apartments everywhere. They built shopping centers everywhere. There are new giant towers of tech industry where there used to be empty fields. It’s like when I go back to Indiana and the bones are the same but everything has decayed, but the opposite. Some of the highways and such are in the same place, but everything else has grown.

* * *

One of the reasons I came out was to work on school stuff. So part of the stay has been hanging out in this residence hotel and banging out papers. I’ve written three, and barely started a fourth. Not into talking much about this yet, except to say I’m incredibly rusty and not in the zone yet. First, I haven’t written anything in six months, but I haven’t written sourced scholarly papers in… a while. 1993, maybe? So, it’s taking me about an hour a paragraph to knock out 16-page papers, which is not ideal. Didn’t I used to write thousand-page books?

The other reason was the photo thing. I got a new camera before I came out, a Canon EOS 5DS. It is a monster of a camera, weighing about double my old DSLR. Full-frame, 50 megapixel, weather-sealed, dual-card, and none of the nicey consumer features like a built-in flash or a selfie screen or a Wi-Fi adapter or anything. It’s a beast, and honestly, I’ve been fighting it the whole trip. I’m not used to any of the settings, and I’m constantly screwing up metering or getting depth of field wrong, because it responds completely differently than my old body. So I’ve shot a few thousand shots on this trip, but I’m not super happy with much.

* * *

I’ve been specifically avoiding various nostalgia points, because I don’t want to completely deep-six myself mentally. I did see my old apartment Sunday; I went on a long walk with a photographer friend, and went in loops around the ballpark area and the 16th Street mall for like eight miles. The more I walk around Denver, the more I see that either I didn’t get out much, or things have totally changed. And the areas where I did spend time are completely different. I used to work down in Meridian/Lone Tree, and all I used to do is drive to work, drive to Taco Bell, drive to Target, drive home. And that area was nothing but the Target, the Taco Bell and a few other fast food joints, and lots of barren land. I went down there, and it’s now a sea of condos, and a new train station and pedestrian bridges and lots of parks and sod and outdoor sculptures and the whole nine. So I lived here, but I didn’t live here.

Lots of other photo ops. I drove down to Garden of the Gods. Drove to the Air Force Academy. Hit air museums in Pueblo and at the old Lowry AFB. Went to Idaho Springs and walked around the old mining town a bit. Three or four malls were visited. Also met with a coworker (only the third time this has happened in a year) and did a big lap at Washington Park. Weather’s been decent, other than a freak hail storm when I was in Colorado City, so the walks and photos have been nice.

* * *

Had a really weird deja vu last night. I was walking around this area after dinner. This part of the DTC is all residence inns and empty condo buildings, with the occasional warehouse or factory, so it’s a great walk to take at dusk. Something about the weather, the heat, the air, the darkness, gave me this exact time travel portal, and I felt like it was a night in the summer of 1989, a late night after working at Wards all day, in the air conditioning from 10 to 9, then hitting the air that was a hundred all day and was then 80 after sunset. There was always such a strong feeling of… I don’t know, a mix of loneliness and possibility. Like I was the only person alive in the town, mixed with an uplifting feeling that something big was going to happen soon, and this was the temporary lull before it did. I don’t know how to explain it more than that, except I would get fleeting flashes of the same thing in the summer of 1992, the summer of Summer Rain, and that was one of the real motivating reasons to write that book.

And I’m thinking about that, too. And I should write more. But the sun is going down in about 20 minutes, so maybe I will go take another walk.

Flying out tomorrow, then it’s back to the grind. Stay tuned for more pics.


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.


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…


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.


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?”)


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.


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.


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 process, hopefully at a savings. I’m also moving 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.


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.


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.