Why the Highland Vs. Northside Debate Is All About Gentrification

Longo's Subway Tavern, a former northside staple.
Back in August, I wrote a love letter to Denver, the city I used to know. Though my intention was to remember the good things about my city that are gone now, it was also, perhaps, a thinly veiled criticism of the way progress is going in Denver. Recently, there was a "blog" (I say that in quotation marks because the person who runs the site identifies as a real-estate agent on Twitter) floating around Facebook about the debate over whether the north section of our city is called Highland or Northside. While this enraged me and many other natives for a lot of reasons, the biggest issue raised in the online conversation was this: The name game in Denver isn't about our written history. It's about gentrification.

See also: A Love Letter to Denver, the City I'm Getting to Know

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From Joan Rivers to Lauren Bacall, Feminists Aren't Always Labeled

Joan Rivers with Miss Piggy, another unofficial feminist.
Feminism, like most radical ideas, doesn't have to be labeled in order to be effective. In 2014, the debate over who is a feminist and if what they do is feminist in nature is the topic for discussion. Which pop stars consider themselves feminists and which ones run as fast as they can away from the term (Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus are in the the former category, while Katy Perry is in the latter) is the random red carpet query of the decade. Then there's Beyonce, light years ahead of any pop star to be considered her equal, and she still gets questioned over whether or not she should be standing in front of a one-hundred foot LED screen that reads "feminist." (The answer: Beyonce can actually do whatever in the hell she wants.)

No longer is feminism banished to its little corner for conversation and discussion; now, feminist voices are finding their way to the virtual pages, vying for readers alongside sports and political coverage. But before feminism was treated as the latest trend, there were trailblazers doing it justice, even if popular culture wasn't embracing the ideals. And alongside those big voices labeled "feminist," there were and always have been the other women -- the ones who don't come out and say "I'm a feminist," but rather just choose to live their lives that way.

See also: How not to talk to a woman at a music festival (or anywhere else)

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Retail and the Lost Art of Customer Service

Beware: beneath these clothing racks, a sales person is lurking.
This past weekend, I decided to take a trip back to my old stamping grounds, the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Working there off and on from 1996 to 2013, I spent a lot of time wandering the building's hallowed shopping-mall halls (when you work retail, you do a lot of on-the-clock ambling and hiding behind racks of clothes to avoid authority figures). After quitting my job at Shirt Folding Store, I had only been back to the mall a handful of times, but I recently fell into some money and needed to stock up on my freelance writer essentials of stretch pants, Uggs and a new laptop case.

Upon entering the first store of my mall return, I set off what would be the beginning of many retail greeting booby traps. If you've shopped in a big-box store or mall-only chain store in the last ten years, then you should be familiar with this phenomenon, too: Once you cross the threshold into a retail outlet, someone hidden deep on the sales floor shouts "HEY, GUYS!" at the top of his or her lungs. You try to spot the source of the scream, but are tricked by well-dressed mannequins and racks of shiny things. They scream again. "GUYS, be sure to check out our awesome T-shirt promo going on alllllll weekend!" This is the state of customer service in retail in 2014.

See also: Is that condescension in my voice, or am I just happy to see you?

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Ferguson, ISIS and the Ice Bucket Challenge: What Happens When We Choose Our News

Depending on how you curate your news, you may or may not have seen a version of this image hundreds of times.
The other day, while talking with a friend, I referenced how some media outlets had botched coverage of Ferguson, half expecting said friend to agree with me. Instead, he asked me what Ferguson was.

I'm used to this kind of interaction: most people I know don't spend all day on the Internet reading every newspaper and blog's version of the same story, whether it be about politics, sports, music, pop culture, activism or some combination there of. But to not be aware of one of the most important civil rights dramas to take place in the United States in the past couple of decades (and something that is being reported on daily, more than two weeks after Michael Brown was murdered,) seemed embarrassingly ignorant to me. How could you not know about the news in your own country affecting your own country?

Because we choose what we see. We curate our own newsfeed and control our own current events awareness, and it is to our detriment.

See also: On the Death of Robin Williams and Why Sadness and Depression Are Not the Same

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Law & Order & Jesus: A Perfectionist's Letter of Thanks to a Catholic Education

Categories: Breeality Bites

Hello, old friend.
I didn't grow up in a Catholic household -- my mother is not religious and my father denounced his own status as a Catholic before I was born. But I was baptized Catholic, then confirmed Catholic as a teenager and for nine years, I attended Catholic school. How this all came to be exactly, I'm not sure, other than the fact that my grandparents were extremely Catholic and that must have been how I ended up this way. This Catholicism has stayed with me through adulthood, though I no longer attend church and vehemently disagree with most of the church's stances on LGBTQIA people's general existence and how women should conduct their lives (and various other social issues, though Pope Francis has been making some notable strides).

But I do find myself enjoying moments of being part of "Catholics club," which consists of me and two other friends who sometimes find humor in things you only know about if you went to Catholic school. This past weekend, I attended a very casual alumni picnic at my alma mater, Christ the King. Setting foot on the campus for the first time in twenty years, I started to think a lot about how the first half of my education shaped the person I am today. The person who is a controlling, manic and unbridled perfectionist.

See also: Remembering All-V's All Variety and the Small-Town Feel of a Strip Mall in the Big City

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On the Death of Robin Williams and Why Sadness and Depression Are Not the Same

Categories: Breeality Bites

© 1990 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Robin Williams in Cadillac Man.
How can someone who lived to make us laugh kill themselves? In the less than 24 hours since we were told about the death of Robin Williams, conversation has swirled not just around his many, many contributions to the canon of popular culture, but also around this question. How could someone like him die this way? How could someone who made us so happy not want to be here anymore?

In casual conversation, depression seems inextricably linked to sadness, but these things are very different. Williams, a recovering addict who talked openly about his struggles, also talked about his depression. Ultimately, it was this big, dark and deeply misunderstood part of him that took his life. And although we, as watchers and fans, aren't part of his family, we are still left to feel heartbroken ourselves, grasping at anything to try to understand how this could have happened.

See also: Philip Seymour Hoffman, heroin and the secret club of addiction

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

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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How not to talk to a woman at a music festival (or anywhere else)

As I stood outside a show at last weekend's Underground Music Showcase, immersed in a nice conversation with my friend and former bandmate, we were the victims of a walk-by insult. But not the regular old street harassment kind of thing -- no this was hollering of a different kind.

You see, my friend and former bandmate is a man (emphasis here on him being a biological man and me being a biological woman). The perp was a (male) promoter we have had the unfortunate displeasure of working with in the past. Even though I have had to book shows and talk money with this gentleman, he still forgets my name, refers to me as someone's girlfriend or ignores me altogether in social settings. In this particular situation, he walked up to address, gave my friend a "What's up, dude!" greeting, looked at me and then looked back at my friend and said something along the lines of "Didn't mean to interrupt you talking to a pretty girl!"

Wow. Really?

See also:
On eight years of sobriety -- the wonderful and terrifying reality of an alcohol-free life

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On eight years of sobriety: the wonderful and terrifying reality of an alcohol-free life

Categories: Breeality Bites

On the left, big fat drunk me in 2006. On the right, sober me.
It feels weird to commemorate quitting something that almost killed you. But on July 22 every year since 2006, I say thank you and congratulations to myself for being alive and healthy. As a drunk, I was somehow spared multiple DUIs; I drove drunk -- blackout drunk, at that -- many times over the course of half a decade. I never managed to get caught or kill anyone. I don't know if that's called luck.

Driving is just one of the many things I now do sober that I used to do drunk. Living a life without alcohol is pretty great most of the time (especially when it comes to not harming yourself or others with your own bad choices). But sometimes, it sucks. That's how sobriety works: If it was a super-easy thing to navigate and overcome, no one would be an addict. But the truth is, addicts are addicts forever and always. Addiction is not curable -- which is why, eight years after I stopped drinking, I still think and dream about it.

See also: Philip Seymour Hoffman, heroin and the secret club of addiction

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Everything I need to know about being in a band I learned from nine-year-olds at Girls Rock

Categories: Breeality Bites

My lovely adult cohorts for the week of Girls Rock Camp.
For some of us, half the battle of being in a band is having the wherewithal to start one in the first place. Even if you're not a musician, you probably have at least one musician friend who has a ton of fancy gear in his or her basement but has never started a band -- let alone played a show. (Those folks are called the "never been gigged" set, as they're often people selling lots of good musical equipment on Craigslist that has never been used outside their home.)

My last band broke up about a year and a half ago, and I have been playing the sad-widow card ever since, laying all the blame for me not playing with a new band on the fact that I can't get over my old band being, well, long over. Every time I go to a show, I run into someone who excitedly asks, "Are you playing with a new band yet?" The answer, of course, is no (though I am lucky people even gave enough of a shit about my last band to inquire what I might be doing now).

But at last week's Girls Rock Camp, as I attempted to teach a group of nine- and ten-year-olds how to be in a band, I found myself wondering why I couldn't just take my own advice and be in a band.

See also: Our band (of Pickles) could be your life: A reflection on coaching Girls Rock camp

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