A Love Letter to Denver, the City I Used to Know

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I was born in Denver in 1980. These days, I wear my Colorado nativeness like some entitled badge of honor -- and I've noticed others do, too. I was at a public gathering last week and when a native took the mic to speak, they made sure to mention that they were from here and where they went to high school, as if to send a signal to the rest of us in this not-so-secret club.

Maybe we have always been proud of our roots; maybe everyone who is from somewhere is proud of their roots, too. But lately, as we watch our Queen City of the Plains explode with new people, new businesses and a new cultural identity we aren't familiar with, I feel a shared level of discomfort at the way our visual history is being erased.

In response, I've decided to write a letter to the city I love and the place she used to be. I know that growth and change are inevitable, but sometimes it is also okay to acknowledge that it is happening and to talk about how it feels. This is not a "top ten ways you know you're a Denver native" list; it is just a letter to say thank you and I miss you to the uncool cowtown we used to be.

See also: FashioNation Leaves 13th Avenue After 27 Years But Will Live on at a New Denver Location

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Courtesy of Buckfifty.org.
Dear Denver,

I remember you. I remember when I could rent a really nice two-bedroom apartment in Cap Hill for $700, because it wasn't the most desirable spot in town. That apartment would come with a parking spot (sometimes there was a guy rolled up in a carpet sleeping in said parking spot, so I always made sure to check before I pulled in) and the landlord was a real person I might see at the Queen Soopers. (You never rented from Triton Properties or any other company -- the best Cap Hill landlords were and still are leather daddies and cool, weird old ladies.)

That apartment would be just down the street from Gabor's, the first place I drank in public, legally and regularly. A gin and tonic would do; it's what my first boyfriend drank, so I drank it, too (and didn't really know what grown-ups were supposed to drink, anyway). No more buying Sun Peak Peach Boone's Farm from Paul's Liquors with a fake ID. No, at Gabor's it was all class -- stiff drinks, cheap pool, sticky red booths, cheese sticks from a Golden Age of Hollywood-themed menu and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream in full on the jukebox.

And speaking of Queen Soopers, how lucky we are that you are still here after all of these years? Whole Foods may have infiltrated and Trader Joe's is well on its way to creating a fancy traffic clusterfuck in the Governor's Park area, but you have stood strong. If you grew up here, you know where Queen Soopers is and respect that it is called Queen Soopers and know why it is called Queen Soopers -- because you could (and probably still can) shop alongside neighborhood royalty. Like all eventually "desirable" neighborhoods, Cap Hill and Cheesman Park were where the gays moved in first because they know what's up. Anyone living all high and bougie in these parts now, thank the gays. They made it comfortable for you.

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cinematreasures.org
Denver, I miss your strip of Colfax. I know, it's still there. But Smiley's Laundomat isn't. What good is doing your laundry in public if you can't do it while watching a most-likely illegal transaction go down in broad daylight in front of Smiley's soaring, dirty windows while getting hit on by a guy with Kentucky Gentleman breath?

I wish I could still sit in the hard wooden booths at Goodfriends and get a big salad and a cup of coffee from an extra-sassy waiter. I wish I could go to Mammoth Gardens for a show, when that concert hall was still shady and a little bit gross on the inside. But I should be thankful that Colfax hasn't been totally swallowed up and spit out as a one-named bar with 400 craft beers on tap; it means Colfax still has a chance at staying true to its sketchy heart.

I often dream of being able to go back in time to visit the places on Colfax I never knew -- stop by Sid King's Crazy Horse Bar for a Shirley Temple or see the Aladdin Theatre before it became a Walgreens.


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208 comments
Jonah Menzies
Jonah Menzies

^^^Indeed, you haven't, because I'm not native-born, either.

droxann
droxann

Fifteenth St. Tavern shows. Blast O Mat. Old Curtis St. JR's Beer Bust. Bus transfers going in any direction.

Joan Poston
Joan Poston

I like Karls- glad that it is still down the street from the old Elitch's - pizza is still good and the dessert cinnamon flat pizza is great.

Aine Creedon
Aine Creedon

You ever think people from the east coast want to move here because they actually agree with you about the shitty vibe there? And are here to celebrate the Colorado way of life? Glad I haven't met any native idiots like Jonah since I got here...

Jess Quintana
Jess Quintana

Basin's Up, Guada-la-Harry's, Yum Yum Tree, Maxwell's, Celebrity Sports Center, Organ Grinder, Soundtrack, No frills grill, Turn of the Century, Poly Esther's, Laserium, and The Freddie Henchi Band!

Josh Makelky
Josh Makelky

I miss those old industrial viaducts that used to lead into downtown. Don't get me wrong, the new freeways, buildings and so on are great. But there was something about those old iron bridges.

Greg Rice
Greg Rice

Llived there from 1991 to 2010 (planning to move back). I miss Garbo's on 9th and Lincoln and The Grand. They seemed to stop before I left so I will add the Burrito ladies outside of the bars at closing.

Patty Davis
Patty Davis

The drive in on Colfax, The flea market, cruise in thru the downtown park in the. VW bug.. such fun!! 1982 blizzard and had never seen snow. Scared

Chris Heller
Chris Heller

1980? That means the writer can't remember anything before about 1984. Any transplant that's been in Denver since at least the 70s would have more meaningful things to say. For instance the Christmas blizzard of 1982, the writer was a damn 2 year old. Did she totter to the window and go goo goo ga ga at the flakes of snow? Ridiculous.

finger4moon
finger4moon

Double Play Records on East Colfax, so bit chin',  massive fireworks show and all day party on the 4th at Del Mar Park, "The V" in Aurora to drop into on your BMX (might still be there), Sunshine Records on East Colfax, drinking Beam at Confluence Park when it was still Forney Transportation Museum and nobody was down there, etc.

Ticky Dunn
Ticky Dunn

Don't know where to start. Soooo much change!

snagpark89
snagpark89

I grew up in Vail in the '80's. The town I knew no longer exists. We frequented the front range, but sorry I remember both Celebrity Sports Center and Cinderella City as being cheesy dumps, IMO. I would rather have back the open space that has been eaten up by mcmansions and condos. Also a time when traffic on I-70 consisted mostly of annoying semi trucks. There was never bumper to bumper traffic unless they closed the tunnel.

Debi Weeks
Debi Weeks

Elitch Gardens..my first roller coaster ride on the big wooden one:)....the boardwalk!

Joel Bader
Joel Bader

As one who visited the Denver area over 40 years ago--I recall when there was open country between Denver and Fort Collins. Or between Denver and Colorado Springs. Is there still open country along those parts of the Interstate-25 corridor--or have they become overdeveloped (as per what I've seen in the National Geographic magazine)? Otherwise, I miss Stapleton airport--but from what I know about air safety, air traffic operations, noise concerns, environmental concerns, room for expansion and everything else, I realize that airport had to be replaced.

Leah Peruch
Leah Peruch

Does anyone remember Zenobia's? Friday nights alternative music, Saturday nights belly dancing, samba ca and old, bald, cigar smoking men in corner booths

todd.grove
todd.grove

The Grove and the Metro (David's)

Amanda Gray
Amanda Gray

Wow. This sent me chills it was so on point. Except Nathan's. Because he molested little children thus no more.

Chris Schultz
Chris Schultz

I miss: the '80s Capitol Hill and all the !Punk Rock! kids all over Colfax (dressed in black, tall spiked and colored hair, chains and safety pins), the homeless pushing their bed up Ogden where Independent now resides, watching from the window as people went from Children's hospital to the 7-11 to sell their prescriptions, my parents making sure the car/building doors were locked cause it was a lil sketchy, seriously being frightened to drive through 5 Points at night cause you would get shot up or jumped, and never even thinking about going to that park near the zoo/museum. The '90's and the ol' dirty town, the gangs walking through my Capitol Hill 'hood just off 17th and Washington, my Jeep getting broken into, other friends cars getting broken into, getting jumped/beat up on 14th and 16th street in the Mall area, the drug dealers/gangs standing in front of the houses in Cap Hill area, the stench, run down neighborhoods, dirty whores just a block away from the Capitol bldg and still had homeless scattered everywhere. Now, it just moved a bit north. Ya, the raves were fun, skating where you wanted (although it was a tad scary skating to the grocery store off 20th or 22nd when you were being scoped out cause you were the only whitey around) and being able to grab a single grit from the bodega on Colfax and Pearl was cool. Had some good nights, that turned into long days...gentrification kinda sux! So does growing old.

Dustin Bova
Dustin Bova

Only thing we can hope for is, the cost of living will drive all the transplants out and keep more from moving in ;-)

Jessica Newell
Jessica Newell

Less traffic and less people on the hiking trails!!!

Simon Vigoletti
Simon Vigoletti

Yeah, it's just different strokes. I have a lot of love for Philly, but I had a great time in Denver too.

Kyle Gorman
Kyle Gorman

Simon, I will say my experiences in Denver have far outweighed those in Philly. I could never live there after living here.

Roberto Carlos Roena
Roberto Carlos Roena

List people the old elitch Gardens people were friendlier back then a better government-backed then mayors and governors who would keep their promises and not lie to you

Simon Vigoletti
Simon Vigoletti

And Jonah Menzies, shows what you know about the east. Don't worry, a lot of people can't hang.

Simon Vigoletti
Simon Vigoletti

Woah Kyle, Philly is dope! Besides, the hipsters look the same in both cities.

Kendrick Robertson
Kendrick Robertson

Definitely cruising Colfax, and Thirstys teen night, good times brother!

Tim Lindquist
Tim Lindquist

Just wait. Twenty more years will pass before you know it

John Parks
John Parks

Celebrity Fun Center...skee ball and the slot cars. Elitch Gardens. Racing at Lakeside. Cruising Colfax and Colorado Mining Company for a good steak.

Jimmy Hersh
Jimmy Hersh

Just go home little Stevie... Take your bong and go home!

breecdavies
breecdavies

I have shirt that says "I survived the blizzard of '82" and I was talking at two years old, so no goo-goo ga-ga. Sorry (not sorry) if my age makes my feelings and thoughts on the only city I've called home irrelevant to you, Chris Heller. Also, being a zillion years old doesn't make your opinion more valid. It just makes you old.

firesoforion
firesoforion

I so miss the old Elich's.  I still remember riding around on (that ski lift like ride) and looking down at all the flowers.  Incredible.  

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