Ex-urbanite returns to Big City, discovers she’s lost her edge
A visit to Denver last weekend was somewhat like Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. I fell down a rabbit hole on the east side of Vail Pass and landed up in, well, Denver.
First off, I hadn’t been in the Big City for anything except to go to the airport for some time. I always look forward to a visit to the metro area with a combination of fear and loathing.
My first clue to what lay ahead was coming out of Georgetown and running into a knot of almost stopped traffic, early skiers returning home. I did just about run into the car in front of me.
I admit my eyes were not on the road.
Whenever I go through Georgetown I scan the mountainsides for bighorn sheep who live there. Sometimes I’m rewarded by a glimpse of them; I usually only have a fleeting sight because I’m speeding by and can’t take the time to stop.
I’d just passed Georgetown Lake with no bighorns in sight and returned my eyes to the road when I had to slam on my brakes to avoid rear-ending the car in front of me.
This continued for some miles. We would speed up, then up ahead cars and trucks would pile up and everyone would slam on their brakes. I must have lost the habit of urban driving because I just couldn’t seem to get in sync with the other traffic but kept having to stand on my brakes every five minutes.
Swell, I thought, welcome to Denver.
Even though I think of myself as something of an aggressive driver at home I was driving like a weenie by the time I turned off I-70 on to I-25 for downtown, so intimidated was I.
Once checked into my hotel and with my car safely parked in the hotel’s expensive lot, I felt a bit saner. The rest of the two-day junket went well, with a group of us from the paper receiving Colorado Press Association awards, with banqueting and conferring and sitting through seat-numbing workshops in overheated rooms.
It’s always fun to see what other people wear to these gatherings, which are traditionally held in the lush surroundings of the Brown Palace Hotel. The annual press convention draws folks from all over the state, from tiny rural weeklies to the big Denver dailies. There were the usual suits, on men and women, but surprisingly most were pretty casual.
Dinner Saturday night was at the Wynkoop Brewery, one of the first of its kind in Denver and still very popular. In another lapse of urban survival skills, I’d forgotten how a cavernous building can amplify the voices of hundreds of revelers. When I walked into the place all I could hear was a sound like the deafening whine of jet engines.
I’d also forgotten how shamelessly people, men and women both, size you up when you walk through a trendy downtown restaurant. Did I have “Going to the Restroom” written on a sign on my back, or better still, “I’m a hayseed from the West Slope?”
What’s sad about this is I used to live in Denver. I considered myself an urbanite, with the edgy humor, the blase attitude, the knowledge of the latest watering holes that had the best happy hours serving free hot hors d’oeuvres and cheap drinks.
But I learned to my chagrin that I’d forgotten all the important information I ever knew about the city since I moved away. At about 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning I found myself staring at the dark, shuttered facades of the stores in the Cherry Creek shopping center, having just realized that they did not open until noon, which was too late for me to wait since snow was threatening and I wanted to get on the road back home.
I was able to console myself with a brief visit to the Tattered Cover, my favorite bookstore.
But there too I was up against the city thing. There were so many books, shelf after shelf, floor after floor, I didn’t know where to begin.
It was, as always, good to get home, to leave the noise and the stuff behind.
Donna Daniels is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column runs on Mondays.
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