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…


Million dollar ideas

So yes, I’m alive and in Denver. The trip was full of crackerjack goodness, and I often wondered if I would make it here alive with at least 50% of my crap, but here I am, in an apartment half-full of boxes, in a computer room so strewn with wires, it looks like I’m trying to recreate an early prototype of the ENIAC computer. But I’m here.

Highlights of the trip: a week ago Friday, the movers came and packed up everything. They used approximately 500,000 mile-long rolls of tape and enough shrink-wrapping to seal up the Empire State Building to the point where you could throw it in the Hudson river without anything inside getting wet. And when we got down to the bare walls and suitcases we were taking (plus an Aerobed, for our two days of sleeping in the empty place), we realized that the movers had packed a bunch of clothes I’d set aside for the week or so before the truck got to Colorado, and I had nothing but the clothes on my back and about a week of dirty laundry, plus maybe a week of clean clothes I left in our car, which was sitting at the airport in Colorado. A quick trip to K-Mart got me some socks and underwear and one t-shirt. And yes, the Astor Place K-Mart brings back many memories. The snack bar used to be my small oasis in the big city, and the only public restroom in all of lower Manhattan. They tore it out, and now it holds housewares or something.

Anyway, Saturday we had a cleaning crew to come over and scour the place top to bottom, before we flew out Sunday morning. While I was in the shower, Sarah turned on the self-clean mechanism on the oven, thinking that it would somehow clean the oven by itself, as the name would lead you to believe. Instead, this started a fire in the oven, billowing out smoke. When I got out of the shower, the top four feet or so of the apartment was filled with smoke, and Sarah was wondering aloud if we should call the fire department.

I have an unnatural paranoia of firemen. Being on the receiving end of a two-alarm fire before with an old car that exploded into flames, I somehow built up an unnatural phobia. And my worst fear was that these fuckers would charge into the apartment, break down the unlocked front door ($2,000), fill the stove with water ($4,000), smash out the surrounding cabinets ($10,000), flood the apartment and the two below with water ($200,000) and trigger off a series of lawsuits from the nosy neighbors in every direction because they somehow concluded that our tiny smoke fire caused them undue hardship and trauma and caused their kids to have asthma or food allergies in the future. ($6,000,000 x 8-12). So I said “DO NOT CALL 911!!!” but they showed up anyway, because people on the lower floors were complaining.

So here come a dozen guys in full-on fire suits, and by then, the stove had pretty much gone out. The maintenance guys were there bitching and moaning that our stove was defective and they needed to shut off our gas and power. These are the people, by the way, that told us we had to pay a $500 move-out deposit, even though our lease said our $500 move-in deposit carried over, and we never signed a single thing saying we had to pay the move-out deposit, and the stupid bitch at the co-op office said “well, you didn’t sign anything, but that’s our policy”, to which my reply was “well, nobody at the co-op signed anything, but I have a policy that when I move out of an apartment, the co-op board pays me $10,000 cash, and that’s as legally binding as your stupid bullshit policy.”

We finally got all of the assholes out of the apartment, but then realized that everything we owned was smoked like a cheap pack of 7-Eleven beef jerky. The first immediate thought was to go downstairs to the laundry room, but the movers packed the card-key you use on the machines, so no laundry. At that point I deduced that we needed to get the fuck out of there and go to a hotel, so we packed everything up and got in a car service and headed to LaGuardia and stopped at some business hotel (Raddison? I forget) that was like a block from the airport. This was partially because we had an early flight and it would solve any potential fuckups with getting to the airport, and partially so we would have a TV and a real bed for a night. They didn’t have any laundry, so I put on dirty clothes that were in a plastic bag, which were comparatively much cleaner than my smoky ones.

We got to the hotel with four bags each: two large suitcases, a large carry-on, and a small carry-on. Everything else in the apartment went to the garbage or we left for the cleaning ladies to steal. The hotel room was this ultra-micro thing, very nice, but you could lay in the bed and touch both walls with your hands. We ate at the tiny restaurant in the lobby, then went for a walk in the cold and drizzle to find a bodega and pick up a few bottles of water. The irony was not lost on me that my very last night in New York was spent in Queens, about three miles due east of my old hellhole digs.

The trip out was pretty flawless. We upgraded to first class with some miles, so the people didn’t give a shit that all of our luggage was over 50 pounds each. (In coach, that would have been like $320 of fees, I think.) Getting everything to the parking shuttle was a bitch, but a few hours, we were in our car, filled to the brim with luggage (it also had stuff we left behind in it). We got to the apartment, signed a million papers and wrote a big check, and had they keys to our brand new loft apartment.

I should mention that the whole loft apartment thing is a somewhat bullshit term. Back in the old days, in France or New York or San Francisco, a loft was a huge, unheatable, unlivable space that was rented or sold at rock-bottom prices to starving artists needing a lot of room. At some point, probably in the 80s, some enterprising individuals realized you could make a lot of money chopping these up and refurbing them into apartments with high ceilings. Now, pretty much everywhere that didn’t have lofts in the first place either restructuring existing industrial buildings or building from scratch, and incorporating the “loft look”. This place was a giant tire factory at some point, but only the shell still exists, and that was pressure-washed and sandblasted so it looks like it was built from raw brick and mortar in 2004. As for the interiors, there are 9.5′ concrete ceilings, exposed ductwork, but otherwise the place resembles a new hotel more than an ancient apartment building. And I’m 100% fine with that – I would rather have six power outlets per room and windows that actually close and insulate during the winter than “old construction charm”, whatever the fuck that means. BTW in my neighborhood, they are building loft apartments pretty much everywhere you look. I’m just hoping this influx of people and money will also mean a boom of cool businesses and restaurants to go with it.

Anyway, in our first week (last week), we had no furniture. We went on some mega Target runs, but I didn’t have anything to sit on except the Aerobed (which doesn’t work well), or the toilet. Sarah had to go to work a week early because of a big project that was on fire, and I got to spend two days sitting around (correction: laying or standing around) because Qwest hooked up our phone to the wrong apartment. I also had no internet, I didn’t have my main computer, no phone, and I had three books with me, and managed to finish the third one by about 10 AM on Monday. The rest of the week was a lot of appointments and errands. I also managed to go to the gym three times last week, which is more than I’ve gone in the last ten years. I learned three things: my cardio is completely shot, even moreso with the altitude; my knee and ankle joints are in bad shape, and I’m not sure if more walking or weights will make that better or worse; and I did a lot better lifting weights than I possibly imagined. I think I can lift as much now as when I was lifting weights every day back in Seattle. I expected those numbers to be about 50%, max.

Our moving truck showed up at 9 AM Sunday, and they shoehorned box after box into the apartment. This place is technically a bit bigger than the old place, but the closets and storage space aren’t as well set up. And when everything’s in boxes, it takes up four times as much room, so we had crap everywhere. I worked twelve hours straight on Sunday unpacking, slept 11 hours, and woke up feeling like I slept three. I also worked all day yesterday, and we’re maybe 5/8ths done. I have my computer, my stereo, and I hooked up the PS3 to make sure it worked. There are maybe a dozen boxes in the offices, and everything’s entirely inefficiently set up. The living room and dining room are still pretty filled up; the bedroom’s not bad, and the bathrooms are okay, but the kitchen is totaled. It will take a few days to dig out of here.

The reality of not working yet has not hit me, because the days have been filled with too many things to do. When I get to the point where I can start a routine of going to the gym, doing some writing, reading a bit, doing the errands, etc, maybe I will think about it more. But now, I’m mostly thinking “where the hell is that Ethernet cable?” or whatever.

And I feel the same way about Denver. I haven’t seen a whole lot of the city except for the parking lot across the street from my office. I have wandered around a bit, and I do like the city a lot. I think it offers the same general vibe as Seattle, which I like. It has its own identity though, and that’s good. I find myself sometimes in a store or driving and I think for a split-second that I’m in Redmond or something, and that’s really weird, but also sort of reassuring in a way.

Anyway, I hope to keep more writing coming, now that I have my computer back. I have a lot of other changes in general I want to make to, too. But first, I need to open some boxes, and see what’s inside.