So where were we?
Something to do with bison and angels, I believe. A month on the road, another 4 in San Diego and then a week exploring national parks along the West Coast. That’s right.
It’s been a while since we’ve last spoke, so let’s just get right to it; why don’t we?
We awaken from our comfy, king-sized slumber, pack the car of the few things we brought inside the hotel and take our respective seats in the front of the car: Riley in the driver’s seat and I in the passenger’s. At the helm of the vehicle for the first time in a while; Riley is feeling reckless today and blazes along i15 at 6 mph above the speed limit. Too fast, says the police man in an undercover sleek, silver Dodge Charger. Riley receives her first ever speeding ticket.
We pull off at a nearby exit, and I return to my usual spot behind the wheel.
A few days prior I had received a LinkedIn message from a company based out of New York; looking to form a subsidiary in Miami Beach. They were looking for a hedge fund accountant, with my background and experience, and seemed ready to offer a hefty salary. While neither Riley nor I were ready to settle down into full time jobs; the proposal sounded interesting enough for me to hear out. The phone interview was scheduled for 3pm today.
3pm rolls around and I receive a call from one of the New York executives. A tad nervous and slightly more excited; I pick up the phone, ready to impress. Unfortunately, I never get the chance. One thing I forgot to consider, while scheduling this interview, is that I would be in the middle of nowhere at 3pm; and that my shoddy T-Mobile reception would be far from sufficient. I spend the next hour unsuccessfully redialing the man’s phone number. Around 4pm, I get ahold of him, but as expected he shows absolutely no interest in speaking with me. Looks like I won’t be working in Miami any time soon.
As we near Denver, excitement builds up inside of me. “I have a good feeling about Denver,” I tell my passenger.
“You do?” Riley asks, appearing surprised by my statement.
“Yeah, I think we’re going to like it a lot.”
We arrive at Riley’s cousin, Earl’s, graduate-student apartment building at 9pm. Earl is a wiry lad, a few years older than Riley and I, possessing eerily similar features as Riley’s dad. He is a man who doesn’t lack in intelligence nor wit. I’ve met Earl twice before: once when running a half marathon with Riley in Denver and again in South Carolina, at the Smith Christmas party, and have always enjoyed his company. We spend little time on greetings; as the 3 of us are starved. Korean BBQ is on the menu tonight; as we pull into a dimly lit plaza in Aurora, CO.
We spend the night on Earl’s blowup mattress and wake up to a rainy May morning. Earl has already departed for school and Riley and I soon leave as well. We drive west for about 20 minutes, watching dilapidating tire shops and dollar stores transform into trendy restaurants and upscale homes. We pull alongside a corner house in the heart of Washington Park, a middle-upperclass neighborhood in Denver. A college friend of Riley’s mom, Michelle, lives here. She’s kindly offered to accommodate us while we get acclimated to our new hometown. But first we need to take care of the rumbling in our bellies.
We walk down the pleasant street to a fine-smelling restaurant named, Homegrown Tap & Dough. A specialty pizza and a salad for $10? You got it. We feast and sip on Pelegrino while watching sports highlights on TV. We’ll be back here again, Riley and I decide.
Michelle, a tan woman with dark features, a friendly smile and an equally friendly southern drawl, welcomes us with open arms. And apparently we’re not the only ones benefitting from her hospitality. Another family of four (including 2 adorable baby twins) is staying here as well. Fortunately, with Michelle’s daughter being away at college, and her basement containing sufficient space, all guests have more than enough room to get comfortable.
Most of my May’s have been spent in Florida. A handful have been spent in Atlanta. Similarly, Riley has spent the majority of her May’s in the Southeast. So when the sun began to set on this May evening and the rain turned into snow, Riley and I were intrigued, to say the least. And when the light snow turned into a full blow snowstorm, will falling branches and knee high piles of powder on the ground, we were full-blown shocked. But that didn’t stop us from heading to dinner with one of Riley’s best friends from Atlanta, Candace. We chowed down on family-style Italian entrees, including garlic knots, vodka sauce pasta and chicken ptarmigan. Feeling like we ate a building, yet barely making a dent in our massive plates, we box the remaining goodies (good for another 4 meals, each), and head back to Michelle’s. By now the roads are barely drivable, with snow and ice covering the asphalt, and large portions of trees, whose branches could no longer hold the weight of the snow, blocking entire streets. Riley and Candace make the wise decision to not go out tonight.
We spend a week with Michelle, exploring Denver and ducking raindrops. The city is unlike any we have lived in and we are instantly drawn to everything it consists of. Despite rumors of desert-like dryness, the rain is ceaseless and the nature is green. The restaurants are hip and yummy; the breweries are plentiful and even yummier; and the people go out of their way to introduce themselves to us and answer any questions we may have. People don’t appear to be in a rush, contrary to what I’ve experienced in many other big cities. We notice an absurd amount of dogs; damn near everyone’s got at least one. And we soon come to realize that no one here is from Denver! The city, growing at an unsustainably rate of 10,000+ new inhabitants per month, is filled with everyone and anyone imaginable – Floridians, Georgians (the state), New Yorkers, Californians, Texasians (yes, I made this word up), and prior residents of nearly every U.S. state. In fact, for every 10 people we meet, 9 have lived in Denver for less than 5 years. The few that have lived here their entire lives are called, “Natives.” You can usually spot them driving a 2001 Subaru Forester hatchback, their back seat and trunk filled with flannels and hiking gear, a bike rack hanging from the back of their vehicle, an elderly dog sticking it’s head out the passenger seat window and a “Native” bumper sticker rocking the right side of the car bumper. These people are generally in even less a hurry than the rest of the laid-back Denverites and seem to be pretty content with life (except for one things which eats at them like nothing else – they cannot stand how quickly Denver is growing and how many people are moving here. Hell, can you blame them? They grew up in “America’s Best Kept Secret,” which is now transforming to America’s Dream Destination).
On May 16 Riley and I hug Michelle an Co. goodbye, and head to a small town, within Denver, dubbed Glendale. Glendale, historically not known for being the greatest of areas, has gone through a major renovation over the past decade or so (as have countless other parts of Denver), and is now a cool and [relatively] affordable place to live. We pull into Creekside Apartments, not so coincidentally located right across the street from Cherry Creek, itself. We seek out building 18, subtly positioned in the back of the complex. We make our way up one flight of stairs to apartment 18B. A pair of ornately positioned tennis shoes rest atop the Welcome mat and the fresh scent of marijuana dribbles through the sides of the door. I knock on the wooden door and a tall, lanky figure with blood shot eyes and a crooked smile peaks out. This is Kevin, a 30-year old teacher working at the local middle school. The school year just ended and he’s off to explore the Galapagos islands this summer break. In the meanwhile, Riley and I will be subleasing his vaulted-ceilinged, one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.