Down and Out in Denver

Down and Out

Posted in denver, gays by Blake on March 10, 2011

When Alastair and I started this blog a year and four months ago, it was because we disliked Denver and we wanted to have a forum to vent about it.  As you may recall, we did a lot of venting in the beginning: about outdoor sports, and gays, and gays’ clothing, and bars, and drivers, and the lack of a real downtown.  I could go on.  In the past year, however, we seem to have moved more into the realm of reporting on our adventures here in D-Town.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  I warn you right now, however; I’m about to take us right back to our origins.  The reason I’ve been so silent of late is because writing on this blog just serves to remind me that I do live in Denver, and that’s something I’ve been trying to forget. ‘Cause I really don’t like it here.  Lately I have not only been out, I have also been out of state.  I just checked: of the past 14 weekends (that is, the months of December, January, February and the beginning of March), I have spent a grand total of 4 of them here in Denver.  United and Frontier love me.  Where have I been?  Does it even matter?  So long as it hasn’t been the Centennial State, I almost haven’t cared.  I have decided that in order to get back to blogging, I must first get back to the reason that I blogged in the first place: my disdain for this state. So bear with me as I update you on my current malaise.

This blog was at least in part supposed to be Alastair’s and my attempt to make ourselves happier here.  We envisioned some sort of community forming around our mutual distaste for all things Mile High.  That is, admittedly, a ridiculous goal in some  ways, but we still thought we might make some new friends with whom to bitch about Denver.  While we have certainly made friends since November of 2009, we have officially met zero people directly through this blog. Alastair did meet Mondo Guerra (!!!), but not through the blog, and we’ve never actually gotten together with the ladies of the Denver Omelette (who have a new member!), despite many promises on both sides that we will.  Over the almost five years that I have lived here, I have done my utmost to like this state.  I joined a book club. I joined a gym.  I volunteered.  I went to museums and art galleries and parks.  I visited parts of the state that I’d never been to before.  As you know, Alastair and I have also drunk and dined at many a fine watering hole and restaurant (and restaurants remain the one thing about Colorado about which I will generally not complain).

But, dear reader, I still don’t like it here.  When asked what I think about Denver or the state more generally by people I meet in other places, I generally say: “It’s pretty and affordable, and it’s great if you like outdoor activities, though I don’t.”  That is about as much enthusiasm as I can muster. Because I then also say: “It’s Midwestern and provincial and conventional and it’s only pretty if you look at the mountains and it’s small and Denver is a city utterly without edge.” Let me be clear: as horrible as I am I do realize that Denver is great for some people.  I am just not among them.  I lived for ten years in a city whose population is double the size of the entire state of Colorado.  This was my own fault.  I should have approached my adult life by working my way up from small to mid-sized to truly metropolitan.  But I didn’t.  And it has ruined me for anything that does not feel distinctly urban.  And Denver just doesn’t cut it.  This “city” has no rail system that takes you anywhere but suburbs.  It is not very walkable.  It has little life not for tourists in its downtown. It is populated by people who seem fully satisfied by getting in their cars and driving to strip malls to do their shopping.  That is, when they’re not leaving the “city” to go skiing or snowboarding or hiking or rafting or some other snow-air-waterborne activity. And that, to this jaded coastal urbanite, is just not really a city.  If Chicago is forever relegated to “Second City” status, I don’t even want to venture a guess as to how far down that numerical ranking Denver might be.  And the thing is this: no amount of defending or “we have X number of parks or restaurants or buses” can possibly redeem it. Because desirable places don’t constantly have to defend themselves, precisely because everyone knows how wonderful they are.

All of this begs the obvious question: if you hate it here so much, why on earth don’t you leave?  Dear reader, I have tried. I work in a field that required far too much education and that is specialized enough that one cannot simply move to a new place and expect to find employment in that field.  So does Alastair.  That’s why we’re here and why we stay here.  I am surprised by how many people there are who work in these sorts of fields, and how different the fields are from one another.  Alastair and I do not, for instance, do anything similar in our work, but both of us in our own ways have found ourselves here and unable to leave if we want to continue to practice what we’re trained to do.  If we want, in essence, to continue to be ourselves.

Another reason for my current bitterness — which I recently described to a friend as a “seething cauldron of resentment”; fun, huh? — is that I was recently a finalist for a job that I can only describe as The Job To End All Jobs (TJTEAJ, henceforth).  Not only was it a fantastic position, it was also in the Bay Area, where, you might recall, my Gentleman Friend resides.  At each step of the process of applying and interviewing for TJTEAJ I did not believe that I could possibly make it to the next round, so good was this job, and each time I did.  Until, dear reader, that final time.  I did not get the job.  And I am heartbroken.  (If there is anyone reading this right now who is thinking, let alone saying, to him or herself, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” I swear to you right now that I will track you down and throttle you with my bare hands.  By whom was it not meant to be?  Seriously?  Who figured out that I was not meant to get this job, aside from the people doing the hiring, who basically just preferred the qualifications of someone else?  ‘Cause if there was any sort of “meant to be justice” in this world, that job was clearly labeled “Blake.”)

All of the buildup to the possibility of TJTEAJ just meant that I spent an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about what my life would be like in San Francisco and how wonderful it would be.  You can imagine how Denver is now faring in comparison to all that kind of thought.  Not well.  I’m not at all sure that telling you all this has done anything to convince me that I’m going to be any happier here, but I will say that it’s allowed me to feel like I can return to contributing to our little blog, thus relieving Alastair of all the responsibility.  Besides, I’ve got a restaurant to review, and a PBS series that is my new best friend, and an HGTV program that delights me, and an installment of Blake’s Book Nook that’s been percolating for months now.  And how could I not share all of that with you, dear reader?


27 Responses

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  1. Tristram said, on March 10, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Wow, what a miserable poser cunt you are, dear writer.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 9:51 am

      Miserable indeed. But posing as what exactly?

      • squadratomagico said, on March 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

        I suspect Tristam was admiring your cunt-ness in the RuPaulian sense of “Courage, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent.”

  2. squadratomagico said, on March 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Oh, Blake, I’m so sorry. I know how disappointing it can be to envision oneself in a particular job and a particular location, and not have the opportunity come through. And as an big-urban, resolutely non-outdoorsy/sporty type, I also am so sympathetic to the causes of your discontent with Denver. I myself live in a conformist, mid-sized metropolis with lots of strip-mall shoppers, though it also has a small, but interesting, creative underground where I find a home. (Actually, you’ve been here, and reported that you were unimpressed, for very understandable reasons.)

    Not to be a pollyanna, but is there any chance the original candidate for TJTEAJ might not take it? Unlikely, I know, for the Bay area, but I’m just wonderin’. And, more generally, if you found yourself a finalist for a very competitive opportunity once, then chances are you will again. You may not end up in the Bay area with TJTEAJ, but if you’re competing on that level, you may still find a way out of Denver.

    And finally, just: hugs and sympathy.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 10:28 am

      Thanks very much, Squad! I think it is extremely unlikely that the other candidate will say no to TJTEAJ, but it did occur to me at least once (or 17 times). In the meantime, I’ve got friends here and the opportunity to leave regularly as well.

      I do hope that Tristram’s use of “cunt” is as you describe, but I think it unlikely. Denver has many loyalists and some of them don’t like to hear any naysaying at all (especially, gasp, from a non-Coloradan!). My point, however, is not that Denver is objectively bad for all people, it’s that it’s bad for ME for a number of pretty particular reasons.

  3. GayProf said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Still bucking to get the blogging award from the Colorado Department of Tourism I see.

    That sucks to have lost out on TJTEAJ. While being a [what Blake does] gives a lot in terms of job flexibility, the inability to choose where you want to live is a serious, serious downside. Sorry I can’t offer a more upbeat statement, but what would really help? There is always next year’s job market? Shudder.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Thanks, GayProf! Indeed, I am working to be Denver’s Cultural Ambassador….

  4. jeff said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I was directed to your blog by Darrin Alfred’s post on facebook.

    My story is somewhat different than most of my friends here. I was born and raised here. My family is here. And yet I share a lot of your annoyances.

    I lived in SF for 8 years. I’m a total foodie, an artist, a music junkie and I love the pedestrian life that comes with living in dense urban populations. Denver hardly caters to people with interests such as these.

    People here in general (aside from the great but small community of artists that I’m connected to) couldn’t care less about art or that I work my ass off as an artist. There are more chain restaurants than I care to count and we live in our cars. I bitch about this all the time.

    What keeps me here: I can travel as much as I want with all the money I save on rent. I can afford a large art studio. And this is the big one: Denver is open and accessible to change. It is extrememly maleable and while I still bitch all the time about what it lacks I try and focus on injecting what I want more of in this city.

    EXAMPLE: last summer my friend Charlie and I threw a party called Woodland Creature at gay dive bar called the Barker Lounge. It was great. Although a lot of gays didn’t know what to make of the freakshow event I felt a little better knowing that I’m at least contributing to making Denver a more interesting place to live. I’m not saying that this is what you need to do. My point is is that we all create our own happiness in our own ways. And me throwing this party is how I found a way to make Denver “work” for me.

    If I can’t be in the big city, I’m going to bring the big city myself to Denver.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Jeff, thanks for this. I think you’re absolutely right. And I will say that for three years, I tried my damndest (the book club, the volunteering, etc.) to make this the home I wanted it to be; I did not arrive saying that I was going to leave immediately. You’re also right that it’s affordable and I do use that money to travel elsewhere on the many flights that leave from our hub of an airport.

      I remember hearing about that event! I don’t remember why I didn’t go, but I regret it now…

      • jeff said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:32 am

        We are going to do another one this spring and in the summer- it was a huge success.

        I could write about this all day but I’ll just say a few more words here.

        I question myself all the time regarding WHY DO I LIVE HERE?! What I always come back to is how balanced my life is here. I have my family here, a great boyfriend, I’m more active, I actually hang out with my straight friends here (in SF I lived and worked in the Castro- it was great but not the best choice).

        I’ll stop now….thanks for letting me rant

      • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

        I hear you. And there were definitely moments where I had a little of that my first years here (sans the boyfriend, whom I did not find here in CO). But now my Gentleman Friend (who himself can’t really work here because of his job) lives in the Bay Area and has become his own reason to travel there.

        Come back and see us again. And let us know dates for your next party — we’ll publicize to our tiny readership!

  5. Big Tex said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

    “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”
    — John Milton

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

      I think that was supposed to be comforting? I’m not sure I’m with Milton on this one, but thanks for the words of encouragement, Big Tex!

      • Big Tex said, on March 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        not so much comforting as enlightening….

  6. ej said, on March 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I realize that this is in no way comforting to you right now, but I actually envy you for being a finalist for TJTEAJs, not so much for it location (though I realize that was ideal for you) but because you made it to the big leagues, albeit temporarily. And most importantly, it means that you are every bit as good as everyone on that team. You just don’t play the exact position they are looking for.

    I, however, have been stuck in the minor leagues for years, and I fear I will retire there. Not even a glimpse of what it might be like to tantalize me. Hence the envy.

    And I apologize for the sports metaphor, but it fit. And reminds me of another reason why Denver gets so irritating-all the band wagon sports fans! And I loves me some sports.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      thank you, ej! i can handle a sports metaphor now and again…

  7. Alastair said, on March 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Man, this shit is blowing up. Blake, I’m afraid you may have “incensed a legion of locals.” Just saying… Watch your back.

    While I may not feel nearly as strong as you about Denver, at this particular moment, I think the idea that if you only try hard enough, then you can like anywhere is a little far-fetched.

    I love that Denver has so many things to offer that distinctly larger cities cannot provide. Now, they just may not be the same things you, I, or any number of other Denverites may be looking for or prioritize in our lives at this particular moment in time. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    I think about my friends, here and elsewhere, that are establishing a name for themselves in the culinary, design, and artistic communities. Denver provides opportunities for these people to strike out on their own in ways that a New York or San Francisco just doesn’t allow… unless of course you’re independently wealthy. I find that exciting! And, like Jeff said, the city is extremely maleable.

    First and foremost, no matter where one’s opinion lies, I truly appreciate the dialogue and the expression of numerous points of view that this post has generated. Conversation moves us forward, not name calling. Are we still in high school? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Clearly I’m in a negative place right now (hence the digression about the lost job), but it really seems to me that what I was saying was that I don’t much like it here and I happen to be stuck here. That doesn’t mean everyone else has to not like it here. That would be absurd. I was just whining. When people get that offended (to the point of name-calling) it seems to be more about their own issues…

  8. Gareth said, on March 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Once upon a time (and not that long ago) I felt very similar sentiments about life here at 5280 feet. “What the hell am I doing suck out in the provinces?” was a question I often asked myself. Constantly comparing life here to my former ones on the coasts (both east and left) generally led to depression and often despair. And then… I got over it. Being miserable is neither fun nor healthy. At the end of the day I chose to come here for a reason and as much as I miss certain things (ok, a lot of things) there’s a distinct charm to Colorado. Accept it for what it is and what it offers, which is a lot.

    There are a whole lot of people out there trying to make Colorado a better place — you should join us.

    • Blake said, on March 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      Oddly enough part of my job is precisely about making Colorado a better place. As was the volunteer work that I did. Neither of these things seems to have made me like the state any better.

      Here’s what I think: for varied reasons we all are made happy by different places. This one is not for me. And I did spend a number of years trying.

    • Justine said, on March 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      Seriously. And quit being such a cunt.

  9. GayProf said, on March 11, 2011 at 10:11 am

    It’s interesting that people imagine that one can will oneself to happiness in a place that doesn’t meet your needs. Maybe if you starting doing drugs….

  10. earl said, on March 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I moved from small super hip college town to larger but much less hip college and meatpacking town without a job (followed partner). Was depressed for a good year. I was also active in the community working to connect but it took this anthropologist about 3 years to realize that the town of 100,000 was really a town of 10,000 good old boys and gals where nothing ever changes.

    Luckily i found a job in a nearby college town that was way more hip (it’s all relative) and a fun extra professional gig in the big city 50 minutes away.

    I do think you have to make your life the best you can especially when your in that certain profession. It doesn’t make it feel better but as another poster mentioned you can play in the big leagues.

    • Blake said, on March 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Hey Earl,

      thanks for the encouraging story. I do think there’s much to be said for making the best of an otherwise not-so-ideal situation. And we do try here at DOD…

  11. Mama Monroe said, on March 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Sorry we haven’t gotten together Blake — this has been a tumultuous year for the omelette as you know. Between your crazy travel life and trying to coordinate with 3 busy women it has been nearly impossible. But– I’m willing to pick a date RIGHT NOW if you are too. And I swear that NOTHING will stand in the way of DO/DOD date night. I can’t promise our hang will make you feel any different about Denver (even though we all do love this little cow town) but we’ll at least do our best to put a smile on your face for an hour or two…

    One more thought – have you considered getting active on twitter? May sound trite but it has enriched my life immensly. Truly! I’ve met friends, joined communities and become part of rad groups of people that I would’ve missed out on otherwise… not to mention it has brought tons of readers to the omelette.

    If you feel like it – join up and find us on the twittersphere. Of course, I’m @mamamonroe…

    • Mama Monroe said, on March 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      *immensely** ugh… typos

    • Blake said, on March 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      Hey Mama!

      How about next Thursday, a week from today? Maybe a glass of vino at Caveau or somewhere like that?

      Twitter: I will give it some thought. I’m not sure I’m willing to do all the work right now… Or really that I have enough interesting things to say quite so regularly.

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