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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352 comments
BJ Kamby Jorgensen
BJ Kamby Jorgensen

Thanks for posting this, Jayne Byl. It made me sentimental for the good ol' days \U0001f625

DarlingCR
DarlingCR

 Translation: I remember when we had an influx of poverty, drugs, and crime... and those big, magical waterpark/arcade/bowling complexes that somehow did not survive a recession... Back when I didn't understand how basic economics works. 


end translation. 

Mark J Pastika
Mark J Pastika

Sure Stevie ol' girl... I'll leave you to continue to partake in your homosexual fantasies with your father.... Carry on Stevie......

Kim Stark
Kim Stark

I live in rural america and hate the fact that people leave the cities for a slower pace, then try to citify small town usa. maybe we like the fact that it's a slower pace and we don't have a starbuck's, etc. yes, progress is inevitable, but some of us are happy the way we are.

Steven Dryver
Steven Dryver

Ur mom was better back in the day, but like her, the city inevitably changes. However, unlike her, it was for the better.

Steven Dryver
Steven Dryver

Idiot "natives" projecting their own handicaps

Steven Dryver
Steven Dryver

Niggaz from the dirty souf chew up and spit out bustas like AAAron who can't live by dey own rep. Fo sho!

Steven Dryver
Steven Dryver

Not interested in partaking in your sick, twisted fantasies, Pasty

Steven Dryver
Steven Dryver

"The people were a lot nicer to eachother in 1976....." No....they were not. Oh, and Randy, the invitation still stands. Please, just kill yourself.....piece of shit, piece of shit, you miserable piece of shit.

Kathy Lopez
Kathy Lopez

Both. Loved the old Elitches. Remember the gum tree?

Ray Barela
Ray Barela

? Yes and no? Old generation.. probably..New generation No not really..

Matt Smith
Matt Smith

Lived here sense 1976 , still love it

Donna Miller
Donna Miller

I remember the Old Elitch Gardens it's the only one i've been to never have been to the new one!!!

Wesley Reeves
Wesley Reeves

I don't care that I'm nearly 30: if Funtastic Nathan's, Big Fun, and Celebrity Sports Center were still open, I would be going there weekly. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, but we shouldn't see change as a terrible thing. Like the author said: it's inevitable. We should embrace change, but use our cherished memories as a thing to give meaning to our lives.

robotrock01
robotrock01

The Paper Tiger 'gentleman's club' that used to be behind the Breakfast King! No cover charge and the dancers had to use their own quarters to play their songs on the juke box. So long and thanks for the mammaries!


Dahlia Soria-Chavez
Dahlia Soria-Chavez

All I hear and see is GENTRIFICATION. Chicanos and blacks were a huge part of Denver that I see being ever more so hidden by the modern, upper middle class folk

Dan Bueno
Dan Bueno

The old Elitch Gardens good memories there

Dave Rains
Dave Rains

I remember going there with my Montoya cousins when we were kids. What a magic time that was!

Pam Thornton Adams
Pam Thornton Adams

I remember the Denver of 1959.... that's the one I wanted to live in !!!

Mary Maybee
Mary Maybee

Finally, an article in Westword that is positive! Great read! Yes, some of the times past were wonderful and should have stayed, but time marches on... Anyone remember, The Organ Grinder pizza place? My kids loved it!

Daniel Luna
Daniel Luna

I miss The Gardens.. I wish they would done a better job of preserving this spot.. It really was monumental and the drive to Denver's family fun.. but Denver is growing rapidly fast and I'm hopeful it stays clean.. I think Denver has always been in the forefront of expansion and it never stops to amaze me the additions to culture and diversity; but their always pros n cons to past and tense and all we can do is sit back and watch it beautify to one of the greatest city's in Colorado.

Jason Romo
Jason Romo

Yes, even 10 years ago it was better.

Randy Montano
Randy Montano

The transplants are crying trying to californiate the state, and why should i leave let the transplants that made it so i don't like it go back to the state they had already ruined

Sean Keefe
Sean Keefe

The past is the past but Denver was so much better back on the day.

Brian Clendenin
Brian Clendenin

I remember way back when the Westwood was good reading material....

Anthony Trujillo
Anthony Trujillo

Well if everyone reads correctly. It simply asks a simple question, Do you think it was better the way it was!!!! Geez

John P. Koury
John P. Koury

Ah, brilliant repartee, "Mo". Perfectly evocative of the very subject discussed. And congratulations on your spelling, which will no doubt get you a trophy for participating. But yell upstairs and have Mom help you with the punctuation.

Jose Campos
Jose Campos

I remember I worked there..lol..gotta day that I really had a good time being there...

Joe DeGarmo
Joe DeGarmo

My best friend was born in this city, but I was not. His father grew up on Detroit by Congress Park. Grandma still lives there to this day. The best thing my best friends dad ever told me was "I'll never understand the Colorado native thing. They all love to say they're natives, but who cares? You live in Denver and you love it. You chose to be there. It's your city." Being born someplace does not make you a special snowflake. So stop being so fucking whiney.

Leo Snoneofyobizness
Leo Snoneofyobizness

Yeah just like the westward used to be before it got bought out by a bunch of conservative Texans from Dallas... "flush"

Matt Frost
Matt Frost

How can u not miss the rumble of the stands in the old mile high?

Doug Rudnik
Doug Rudnik

What a useless question, Westward - of course there are things from the past that we enjoyed but are gone -duh. Life is about moving on, finding new ways to find joy. Denver is awesome! :)

Jeff Rossel
Jeff Rossel

I remember some drunk weirdo waving a bottle of whisky in one hand and revolver in the other at a friend and I cruising in old downtown Denver at night! We were in High school and never went back......

Odessa Folsom
Odessa Folsom

The transplants aren't the ones crying.. They love it

Odessa Folsom
Odessa Folsom

The people in Denver who are so upset can suck it.. This is America and we can move anywhere we want.. I'll be there with my truck load of texans next week..

Matthew Watson
Matthew Watson

certainly not the cowtown it used to be, some things I miss, others not so much, but I do love this state....Colorado; living, elevated!

Cindy Silva
Cindy Silva

It used to be great! Now there are just way too many people.

Doug Brown
Doug Brown

Miss the all night pool tables.......!

Andrea Bird
Andrea Bird

It will ALWAYS be Mile High stadium for us natives!

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