North Denver from the eyes of a recent transplant – by Wendy Golden (July 2020)
It’s been almost three months since I moved to Denver from California. I now seem to be able to breathe okay and drinks don’t get me drunk immediately anymore, but I’m still just getting used to living here.
Now, I know it’s really the elevation that takes some getting used to but “must be the altitude” is an old joke between myself and my Denver friend, Jessie. As a Californian, I could claim a lack of knowledge about all things Colorado. On past visits I always blamed anything out of the ordinary on the altitude for fun and it just stuck. Also, having flown the Cali-coop I figured altitude seemed fitting to describe my current state of acclimation.
It was and wasn’t a difficult decision to move out of California and slide East a few states away from the ocean. I was leaving behind some beautiful weather, the beach, and a well-paying job. But I was also leaving behind congested roadways, long commutes, and inflated prices. My gut told me it was time to go…even though it was in the middle of the unexpected pandemic. At least I had a friend’s house in the Regis/Berkeley area where I could land for the time being.
Shortly before leaving I heard a quote by Confucius, “You have two lives. The second one begins when you realize you only have one.” So I took advantage of an open window allowing residential moves and high tailed it to Denver to start my second life.
I’m really enjoying this North Denver urban/suburban artist vibe with all of the graffiti and galleries to explore. As an artist it’s wonderful to bump into other like minded people who appreciate the arts. I feel welcomed and inspired.
Within a couple weeks of being here, we had a First Friday “art in the yard” show. My friend and housemate host, Jessie introduced me to lots of neighbors, some of them artists themselves. I also met many passerby’s and noticed right away how friendly people are here. I found there were lots of kindred art spirits, some who do art and some that just love it. And according to many, it looks like I need to get to painting those aspens, and mountains, and incredible sunsets. Hopefully, you’ll see my art at a nearby gallery soon. In the meantime, you can take a look here: www.wendygoldenart.com.
I also brought with me a new found love for the Kindness Rocks Project (www.thekindnessrocksproject.com). A rock painting movement started by Megan Murphy to spread and share kindness and connection across the world. Having created a kindness rock garden back in California, we rapidly began to expand it here by painting a sign and rocks to share at the art in the yard at 4021 W. 50th Avenue in Berkeley. It’s still there and you may see it if you walk by. Feel free to take a rock that “speaks” to you or share one with a friend. Better yet paint one and drop it off for someone else. You may even begin to see them around town…little messages of kindness left for a lucky someone who happens to see it.
One day I was walking down Tennyson on my usual morning, pandemic stroll when I happened to pass two gardeners working away on a beautiful yard across from the golf course. They waved to me a hello and then an unexpected question. “Where’s your dog?” I was like, “Huh?” Again, this time from the other one, “Where’s your dog?” a twinkle in his eye. “Everyone’s got a dog.” My fumbling quick reply, “Um, not yet.” And then I realized, I’d been Denver dog shamed!
I have a cat named Skittles. Did I rescue the cat? Yes…Not good enough. Note to self, must rescue a dog to be a Denverite. Does it count if my housemate has two rescued fluffy loves? I put it on my mental list of things to do to fit in. 1. Walking sandals 2. New tattoo 3. Rescue a dog. 4. Climb 14ers. 5. Buy a bike (one done) but I had a ways to go before I could consider myself a mile-higher.
Gardens are a big thing here and many are really well done. I see people out there rolling up their sleeves and really getting into the weeding and rearranging of various aspects. Some are very artistic. Rocks definitely play a central role. There are rocks of every size, from little bitty ones to boulders (no pun intended). There’s art glass, metal sculptures, gnomes, painted logs, a plethora of wild flowers (wait I can’t see the house) that attract the largest Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies I’ve ever seen with a proboscis the size of the straws from Tenn Street Coffee and Books. And there are trees with ginormous leaves and long hanging pods. What the heck comes out of those pods? Pathways, pergolas, and fake rock streams, lovely seating areas, windmills, fairies and frogs (one house over in LoHi is covered in every type of frog imaginable!), fountains, and so many potted plants. And of course there we go….pot…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed a dispensary thinking it was a regular clinic but I’ll get used to that…ah but I digress…oh yes, gardens…then there’s the vegetable gardens covered in every wire contraption imaginable to save them from the…rabbits? squirrels? fox? bears? wolves? Geez, I don’t know. The giant butterflies maybe? Murder hornets?
And everything grows so rapidly neighbors share amongst themselves before it all goes to seed. People actually grow crops on the parking strip and put up signs saying “free zucchini” or whatever. Such great neighbors! And I can’t forget the unnaturally humongous 12 foot high sunflowers growing in our own yard. Not sure what is happening there but there will be no way to get the seeds without an electric scissor lift. Can anyone point me in the direction of a cheap rental?
A Night Out or Two
In California we call Friday “California Saturday” because most people “work from home” that day and start the weekend early. But here in Denver they seem to have improved even on that. Seems like Wednesday night is the night to go out around here. The outdoor tables are all full that evening. Hump day, Drink day?…I like the idea of a 3 day work week, maybe I’ll stay.
There are no shortages of beer gardens to wander into. I’ve never in my life seen so many except possibly in Amsterdam and I mean, come on, of course. But there’s every kind of home brew here and all are welcome. I did my research and as of 2020 there are 148 in the Denver Area and 92 in the city of Denver alone! In one year, you could go to a different place every 2.466 days! What? That’s nuts? No it’s not, that’s amazing and definitely a benefit of the altitude! I love sitting on the top deck at Joyride Brewery overlooking Sloan Lake on a warm evening. Nothing better than sipping a cool brew and watching the sunset.
And then there’s the huge cocktails one can find in various restaurants. A a mango margarita the size of my head was delivered to me at Tacos Jalisco. It was marvelous and oh, the food was great too! Is this just a pandemic serving or the usual size? Yum!
I’ve only just begun to sample the flavors of Denver but having been in quarantine for 2 months with the rest of the world, one of the first things I wanted was heart-stopping comfort food that I didn’t have to cook for myself. I didn’t have to look very far. I ended up at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar and found exactly what I wanted.
Out of Work and Working on a Dream
Finally, I’ve been looking for work and not finding anything. I think it’s because I don’t really want to find just anything. While I may need to find a job to get me through, I’d like to find a way to wrap all the great stuff up about being human and living in Denver (like being creative and kind, and saying hello to everyone) and create a new way to support myself and do some good in the world…My dream – a kindness art center. Where we could all be creative together. I’m hoping with a little luck, kindness and just the right bit of altitude, I’ll obtain lift off. In the meantime, I gotta go grab a hot cup of java. Hmmm, where to go this time? I’ve got dreams to dream and artwork to do!