Notes: Things We Did in Denver

We were always meeting for brunch.  Before I moved, I thought of brunch as a “very New York thing,” but it was never a ritual in New York the way it was in Denver.  We ate at Lucile’s. Beignets were a must; there the Bloody Mary was stuffed with shrimp, okra, a celery stalk, and the glass was rimmed with Old Bay. We ate at Fleur Bistro, where the room was quiet, the drinks were bottomless, and the ceiling was beautiful.  We ate at DJ’s Berkeley Café, where the coffee was good and served in mismatched mugs (I always got the “MOM” one).  We ate at Snooze, Watercourse, Devil’s Food, Sam’s #3, Black Pearl, Wild Eggs, and once at Jelly.  Often we traded traditional brunch for dim sum.  Then we always went to Star Kitchen.  We ordered every variation of shrimp, but the shrimp and leek or shrimp and cilantro dumplings were our favorites.  We ordered pan-fried noodles with seafood, and Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce.  We never left without pineapple buns and the sesame ones that the cart ladies would cut in half with scissors.  We poured tea for each other.

We were always drinking good beer.  I enjoyed Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and their Old Chub Scotch Ale.  I liked Samurai Rice Ale from Great Divide.  I liked Left Hand Milk Stout and Good Juju, and all of their Porters.  I liked New Belgium Trippel.  I liked Easy Street Wheat from Odell.  We drank the Duchesse de Bourgogne, not from Denver.  A small shoot of happiness grows within me whenever I see one of these on the menu.

We drank Stranahan’s in winter and shots of Patron in summer.  We could never exhaust that gift pack Aunt Joanie gave me.   I could convince Ryan, who was easy to convince on the subject of Patron, and his assent in turn convinced me it was a good idea.

We were always driving into the Colorado outdoors.  We camped at Keystone, Halfmoon Creek, Cottonwood Lake, and somewhere around Crestone. It never took less than 3 hours to get anywhere. The distances were taxing.  We took Route 285 into the heart of the state.  That empty plateau west of the Front Range and east of the Sawatch Range was probably not beautiful by Colorado standards, but it plays heavily in my memory. (And who knew before living there that the Rockies could be subdivided into component ranges?)  At Buena Vista we turned north for fourteeners or south for the Great Sand Dunes.  Our phones lost service. We drank PBR and ate black bean and corn salad.  We toasted marshmallows.  Maryann taught us to hollow out an orange, pour in cake batter, and bake the cake in the coals of the camp fire.  The air got so cold it would wake me up.

Most often we skied and rode at Breckenridge. I liked Peak 7.  It was all Blues.  We took the T-Bar to the top of Peak 8 and cruised down that open space that they label as Pika and Ptarmigan on a map.  At Vail I liked China Bowl and Big Rock Park.

Most of the year we never needed to check the weather.  The sun shined, then there would be a violent thunderstorm, and then it would be sunny again.  Sometimes the air would smell like shit, and everyone would tell you that the wind was coming down from Greeley.

We were always watching TV.  The grad school kids would come over to watch different cable shows.  We would lounge at the pool, order Pat’s cheesesteaks or Thai Pot, and watch True Blood. Or Game of Thrones. Or Dexter (I would not watch that). Or cooking reality competitions.  When there was not a scheduled program, Eliot was in charge of the remote.  We would smoke and eat one thousand pizza rolls and judge anyone who questioned our brilliance.  Food was always present.   Ryan and Patty brought meats and fish to grill, Allison brought vegetables for us all to grow (named after divas or Cheers patrons), Eliot brought candy, Erica made soups and the to-die-for chocolate cake.  It sometimes felt like 7 or 8 people lived in that house.  Ailea, Zack, and Sophie always came over, too.  We baked brownies in the edge pan.  We played games.  Sophie would turn on the keyboard so that it played Rondo a la Turque, and would declare, “This is my song,” before launching into series of spins and jumps.  She told stories whose heroine was often named Ailea, and together we outsmarted sharks and monsters and vampires. It was my grandma’s house; it was Dani’s house; it was community living in Harnwell; it was the Pun Shop.  JP and I loved it.  It seems like an essential element. I worry about how to create a similar home in a cramped Manhattan apartment.

We were always singing.  We were always singing in churches.  The Denver Gay Men’s Chorus rehearsed at Christ Church United Methodist. We performed at Montview Presbyterian, St. Andrew United Methodist, and L2 Arts and Culture Center, a former Christian Scientist church. We performed at First Plymouth Congregational, Park Hill United Methodist, Lakewood United Methodist, First United Methodist Church Boulder, and Metropolitan Community Church of the Rockies.  I’ve never been in so many churches.  We were always wearing tuxedos. We were always purifying vowels.  We were always rehearsing getting on and off the stage.  We were always bitching about someone. We were always getting to know someone better.  We were always laughing at a long table at D.O.R.I.S. events (Dining Out Regularly Is Sublime).  I was always crying at concerts.  We were always carrying out the mission of the DGMC: building community through music.

We were always dancing.  We danced at Lip Gloss when Derek was around.  We danced at Charlie’s with Andy.  We danced at X Bar only sometimes, and we danced at Compound on my birthday.  We danced at Tracks with everyone we knew.  We need to learn where to dance in New York.

We were figuring out how to live together.  Although we knew each other at school and dated for over two years before I moved, we will no doubt one day say that we fell in love in Denver.  I would prod JP, “Tell me your hopes and dreams.” We both hated answering that question.  We were always discussing our wedding.  We made a list of Dogs We Can Agree On (Bernese Mountain Dog, Golden Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, Zelda). We disagreed over the bed situation in our dream house (he wanted separate ones, I said no.). We disagreed about the heating and lighting in our real house.  I pushed buttons like I always do.  I studied the events that provoked my jealousy.  We saw each other through terrible bouts of work.  We were always coming from opposite ends of the city to meet in the middle for dinner.  We had date nights and would watch Harry Potter and Twilight movies. We went to more weddings than the Holy Spirit. We talked about traveling, but we never took a vacation alone together.

We were always leaving.  I was in New York half of the time I lived in Denver.  I was at meetings in Alabama or Chicago or California.  The era always had an expiration date.   The winter before we left we held one never-ending discussion about where we wanted to go.  The summer when we left we were always returning.  We don’t love it here yet.  We don’t know what life is here yet.  We will soon see this new place as the opportunity that it is, but we aren’t ready yet.


Yvonne said...


Anonymous said...

Brian, your post brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful. You truly have a gift.

Allison said...

Amazing, sir. Denver was such a strange, exciting, romantic, beautiful, brunchy place. it's so weird to look back and realize that all (or at least most) of my favorite experiences in Denver involve people who aren't there any more. why didn't we know how hard it would be to leave?