Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Ghosts of Denver

I’m in Denver. It is colder than fuck. Yes, anything below 65 is now colder than fuck for me, but it’s about 30 degrees colder than that, which is absolutely unbearable. And today I was in a meeting, and I looked out the window, and it was pure white from there to the horizon, blowing snow in a full white-out. Luckily, none of it stuck, but I had visions of burning my rental car to stay alive, and making an extra layer of improvised winter gear out of the floor mats, which I think is a chapter in the Air Force pilot survival manual, right after the one that teaches you what snakes you can eat.

So yeah, Denver. I am here for the week for work, and I am now a consultant-type for my last job. My plane touched down at DEN at about midnight (extra hour of time shift) and then I had to dick around with luggage and Hertz and drive about 45 minutes, then check in, then blah blah and pretty soon it was about 2:30 and I had a 9:00 meeting. So I was asleep all day, my stomach in knots from heavy doses of caffeine, answering the “so how do you like California / I hear it’s overrun with Marxists, perverts, and those who have not heard the word of our savior jesus christ” question a few dozen times. It wasn’t that bad, but when I am running on even one minute of sleep under eight hours, even “where can we put your free money” is an annoying question to me.

So, here’s the weirdness. I was just here, and I got to do all of my “leaving forever” prep several times, and then had to come back for our furniture, so being here is more like getting back to town after a long vacation. It’s not like I’m pulling into Bloomington and seeing that all of my old favorite hangouts have been bulldozed and turned into Eddie Bauer stores. It’s all still here. What’s weird is that I am “living” at a Hilton that is just down the road (and I mean literally ON the same road) as the office. So “work” is now “work” and “home” to me. It means I don’t have to drive 45 minutes to and from downtown each day, but in some ways, that drive was therapeutic, and it was nice to have two different corners that did not mingle with each other. So that’s weird.

Being back at work isn’t that weird, because my whole department moved floors after I left, and I’m in a completely different area, in a sterile and different cube. The guy I sat next to got fired, and now the people on either side of me are new hires. And all of that doesn’t matter, because I’m in meetings and meeting rooms all week. It is odd to be back in the building, though. And almost nobody knew I’d be in this week; a lot of people not in my group didn’t even know I was still working for the company. So I got a lot of double-takes today.

I sat around after work dicking around with a Subversion problem and half-watching the Yankees-Jesus Rays game on cable, when I got fed up and left to go find a restaurant and get fed up. And then, I suddenly realized, “shit, I can listen to the game on the radio!” I clicked over to 850 KOA and got the last inning. The Rockies lost their last five games, and I’ve been less and less enthused about catching those games I already shelled out cash for. But thanks to a Matt Holliday 2-run homer, a 1-2-3 8th, and a double play and quick out in the 9th, the tides turned, and the streak was ended.

For whatever reason, I got on I-25 and started driving north into Denver as the game wrapped up. I can’t even begin to explain how happy it made me to listen to Jeff Kingery and Jack Corrigan call the end of the game, after spending 2007 tuned in for the games. I even listened to most of the games I attended last year, thanks to my little AM/FM radio and headphones. To hear all the little nuances of their commentary, all of the bumper tracks and station IDs and ads, it brought out the spirit of the game as much as shitty ballpark hot dogs and plastic chairs that are two inches too small for your butt. I even listened to all of the ads (“If you’re going to buy a diamond, think Trice”; the Colorado beef association ads they play between every damn inning) and it made me think of every game I heard while I was home on the computer working, or driving to an appointment in the afternoon, or waiting for Sarah to get home from work during a 6:05 that was an hour early so they could beam it back east.

By the time I got to Coors Field, the crowd was dissipated (or maybe they were in hypothermia) and I parked on the street right by our old apartment. I don’t know why, but I had to look at the old place. I know I just finished moving us out about ten minutes ago, but I get overly nostalgic about this shit. I also wanted to see if the lights were on and a bunch of NCAA Final Four bullshit was hanging out the windows. (This is frat party central.) Nobody was moved in, although the bedroom window was open a crack. That doesn’t matter, except it added this one tiny human component. Did I open the window? And it was the window right by the cat beds; every morning, once I was ambulatory, I’d open that windowshade so they would have their wash of sunlight for their morning naps. It’s strange how such a little thing could make me think of so much.

Sarah called me around then, and I did a quick lap around the block, looking at the sports bars where we used to eat (but not on game nights), and the huge condo that’s going up on the other corner of 22nd and Market, and finally, the ballpark. The cops were pulling down the barricades on Blake Street, and only a few stragglers were there, so there wasn’t much residue from the night’s victory. But everything was still lit up, the signs and park lights and all of the new 2007 NL Champion flair they’ve added to streetlights and signposts. It had me excited about coming back tomorrow for the second game of the series. (What doesn’t have me excited is the fact that I will be wearing eight layers of clothes and will still need to have toes amputated by the time the evening is up.)

So overall, a weird time at a mile up. It’s reminded me that I like 75 degrees every day; I like humidity (I am drinking gallons of water per second); and in the year I lived here, I developed no strong ties to any people, places, or activities, other than a certain National League West expansion franchise. When I pulled into town, other than the game and my work obligations, I could not think of a single person I needed to call, place I needed to see, or restaurant where I needed to eat. That makes me think we made the right choice.

I need to sleep. I need to work four more days. Then I need to fly home, dump my entire suitcase into the washing machine, and repack it so I can turn around and go to Milwaukee. And I’m guessing it won’t be 75 and sunny there, but they do have cheese.