Tag Archives: Denver

Cutie the Blind Horse

When I was thirteen I caught the horse bug for real.  I can’t remember how it started – I had always loved animals.  But I started riding horses (English, so I could jump) in Andover, Massachusetts, and my sister and Mom soon followed.

By the summer after my freshman year of high school, my Mom had found a very odd barn on the north side of town owned by “sisters” who seemed unlikely to be from New England.  Mom, who is on her third horse just since moving to Colorado in 1995, first attempted horse ownership with an unfortunate mare named “Call Me Cutie”.

I don’t think I had quite realized yet how my mother’s involvement in my hobby (and my first boyfriend) were affecting my interest in riding, but Cutie did not fit my ideal of who my horse would be.  Mom had explained that Cutie wasn’t very pretty, but she was very sweet, and Mom had ridden her and she was calm and a great first horse for us.

Cutie was anything but cute, the poor thing – the horse equivalent of being forced to buy all my clothes at our town’s Marshall’s.  I can best describe her now as some sort of dappled Roan.  But then, I rode her, as Mom urged her daughter with the great seat (that’s a riding term for sitting a horse nicely) on our new mare.  And someone started the tractor.  Cutie bolted across the arena, terrifying me and herself.  I really didn’t like her then.  She was homely and scary.  Cutie was a nervous wreck.

I don’t remember what happened next, but Cutie must have been returned to her previous owners, who discovered that she was blind. Cutie had never revealed this as she was ridden on the same familiar paths daily.  Only the new surroundings showed her less obvious flaw.

Our next horse, “Wayward Wendy” was a beautiful dapple gray with triple crown winner Seattle Slew in her blood.  Like most thoroughbreds, she was “off the track”, having committed a few slow races before being dressage and hunter jumper trained.  Wendy made un-asked for flying lead changes and would squirt at the boys when she was in heat, halting in front of them in the riding arena no matter who was waiting for her to move.


We moved barns when we had her, and she lived a couple miles from our house.  In one of the loneliest and most picturesque summers of my teen years, I would run from our house to the barn and ride Wendy bareback at dusk.  Wendy reared up and bronced when under the saddle, (yes, just like a bucking bronco), and I miraculously never fell off her until the day she spooked when I was walking her cool and my feet weren’t in the stirrups.  I almost broke my neck in an irrigation ditch and would never ride her again.  I’d still run to see her and sit in her stall, she’d kiss me as I’d trained her to, and I could cry with my head on her neck.  I loved Wendy, and I never stopped being her friend.

Wendy had back trouble (hence the broncing and rearing up) and was likely drugged when Mom met her and bought her.  I mostly relate to her type – striking, misunderstood, and passionately in love with a bad boy (the Palomino Billy – so much so that she rushed a gate and opened the skin on her chest on its corner to get to him).  But I’ve never felt more like poor Cutie than my first weeks in a new city, at thirty-eight, and not on vacation.

I love to travel, and normally, I love getting lost.  It’s the best way to find new places.  But, being someplace new when you have work to do is a whole different story.  I never moved someplace for a job before.  I always moved someplace to find a job – and finding a job is filled with all this desperate exploring and not having money and filling out applications and learning the landscape of a city… as you worry it’s going to spit you back out to its environs, dumb broke loser that you are.  I’ve done that one so many times, and mastered it a couple at least.  I fought for my place in those communities, and felt like an earned member.

My last city – I knew how dialed I had it.  Yes, it was blowing up and changing all around me, I couldn’t stand my new neighbors, but I had my super cheap place (and the broken garbage disposal that came with it) in a fantastic location a mile away from my primary place of work.  I knew where to go, where to park, bartenders and CEOs and artists and pools and back roads and dog sitters and free eyebrow tints and comedians and every brand of locally available kombucha and tequila.  I had pick up dry cleaning service for God’s sake.  And could barely date a guy who hadn’t slept with one of my friends.  But then again, access to verified reviews on the same.

My new city is a life I’ve never lived.  It’s very grown up, and that’s scary.  I feel I’m already destroying my brand new apartment for the simple fact I’ve never had such a nice place to live before; I don’t even know how to care for it.  Destroying it includes chipping a baseboard and scraping paint from the walls in separate mirror and poster hanging incidents.  I already spilled a Campari Soda on my brand new couch because I am a boisterous, unfiltered, and clumsy girl.  My daily disasters range making a wrong turn or exit at least once to forgetting my wallet and having to Venmo someone money for our meeting and my gas, to being on the wrong side of the fucking highway for the bank.  Everything is new and I have so much more to deal with other than just that new stuff.  Like my career.

I’ve been embarrassed by how flummoxed I am by the combination of Siri’s bad directions (Austin’s roads and highways are weird, they really are, and she just doesn’t get it) and the complexities of entering someone else’s apartment building garage.  I pride myself on my organization and efficiency.  I really do believe in minimalism.  I really never forget my license or lose things.  Except lately.

Lately I’m the opposite of efficient because I literally never know where I am, have no idea how long it takes to get places, am always late, am always overheated (Texas), and forget to pay my bills (overhwhelmed).  Therefore, I feel like a child who was dropped in a grownup world, and just can’t take care of her shit.  Because I really did stretch my adolescence into my late 30s, I’m struck by how much fancy apartments and taxis weren’t a part of my old life, even in a rich white people town like Denver.

I had no idea how used to my old city streets I was – I was so anxious to get to a place full of people I hadn’t met yet.  And that part is nice, but I’m surprised how my self esteem plummets with the part where they don’t know me.  No matter how far away I get, I think I’ll always be that small town New England girl with the shitty outfits from Marshall’s.

Wayward Wendy was sold as a companion horse and got to live out the rest of her life on Cape Cod.  The day they picked her up and took her away, she whinnied loudly, desperately, as the trailer pulled out of the drive.  It was painful.  My Mom and I were crying.  Mom called the new owners and was told “she is such a nice horse”.  That was all she wanted to know.  I hope she lived a long and happy life near the ocean.

I am not quite ready to retire yet.  And also don’t want to be sent back home.

I still haven’t had the “big night” I associate with myself as I’ve always known me.  The first thing I’d do in a new city was to find the very hippest bar I could attend and stay at it as late as I could.  I haven’t had time for those kind of high jinks.   Though I do experience the world through my work and the friends I meet through it:  restaurants, venues, swimming pools, and the like, my favorite inroads to a new place are the grocery stores (where I’m wandering around looking for syrup) and the outdoor spaces, where it actually feels different than where I’ve come from.  Texas to me is swimming holes, butterflies, mesquite trees, these lizards I keep seeing, the surprisingly charming crickets of September, the country music on the radio,and oh, the six dollar negronis.

Yes, a fucking six dollar negroni and butterflies.  I may be blind, but my eyes are open.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Modern Residences for Sale: Denver Reinvented Itself and I Wasn’t Invited (Part II)

Part II

Backtracking a bit, when I planned my Denver move in 2008 I pictured myself in a cute duplex, the kind I remembered seeing in my past life here. I’d have my own washer and dryer, ample street parking, and a backyard. I was surprised and felt ripped off when I landed in a garden level apartment (we didn’t even have garden level in Detroit) for $675 a month in an awesome neighborhood. I was constantly defending that I didn’t live in a basement. “It’s garden level, like, true garden level. With windows as big as the ones upstairs.” I did have a dishwasher and free laundry across the hall from my front door, but I’d been living in a veritable palace in Detroit for $400 a month, (even though I did have to use the laundramat, something I swore I’d never do again). Everything was more expensive, and I was making less money. But, I had parks, and the Cherry Creek bike path, and the sun. It seemed like a reasonable trade off. I also didn’t have vagrant crackheads ringing my doorbell at 11am on Sunday asking for money for their AIDS medication.

I lived in that garden level apartment, with the exception of part of 2010, until 2013. When I moved, the rent was raised to $800. The apartment was less than 500 square feet, with a family of three above it. I was making a lot more money, had gotten an Ambien prescription due to my upstairs neighbors, and had ample spending cash I was willing to let go of to make the jump to a small two bedroom place on the fringe of Potter Highlands. A place I realize I am very, very lucky to still be paying the same rent on over two years later.

I’ve pretty much engineered a perfect Denver life for myself. I live 12 blocks from my office and 6 blocks from my boyfriend. I go home at lunch frequently to eat and let my dog out. I don’t ever have to leave my neighborhood if I don’t want to. And I often don’t want to these days.  Where could I go that I won’t feel constantly assaulted by too many people, noises, and events? It’s all creeping up 38th Avenue to me now.  I figure I’ve got a couple years before the nice amount of things to walk to in my area becomes too many things too close to my apartment, but I actually can’t leave my rental.  Where would I go without paying rent I find against my religion of being a sane person who doesn’t like to get ripped off?  I recognize myself being in the position of having a perfect Denver life that will fall apart the moment I move out of this apartment or neighborhood.

This trend towards Denver becoming an increasingly unaffordable city brings me to another topic – the city’s culture reflecting its economics.

For several years people have been trying to get me to go to the Denver Cruisers. I remember sitting outside at Root Down a few years ago with my sister (mother of three visiting from rural Wisconsin), and the Cruisers were going by with their costumes and noisemakers. My sister was like “what the hell is that?” Feeling disgruntled, I told her it was the epitome of this town… “It’s like, an adult playground. It’s where adults come to work to live and not the other way around.” At the time I felt like I would never fit in here, as passionate about my media career and intellectual as I am, though active, I’m not a mountain climber or mountain biker and I’m fine with skiing just a couple times a year.

And I have a major problem wearing a costume if it’s not Halloween.

Over the past few years, the invitations to things like a “color run” and kickball games with beer and costumes keep coming, and I keep declining. I felt like a buzz kill but maintained “not really my thing”. Friends who visited from Detroit marveled at the slackline at my office – “that’s illegal in Detroit” – and two of the “Carrots Five Ways” at The Populist being a gel and a foam. And these are people who travel internationally, go to different cities frequently, etc. In Detroit you just don’t get too fancy, it doesn’t make sense in that environment.  Or didn’t when I lived there.

On the most recent Kentucky Derby day, I walked my dog at night and felt the strength of just the last year’s change. The neighborhood was dotted with young men and women, teetering drunkenly in their finery, having discussions about who was holding the cocaine on porches while sharing a cig. Derby parties were another thing I’d never heard of until a few years ago. Why did I have such a problem with these things, I wondered? I like to have fun and I love parties; ask anyone! As a single person a few years ago, I bought tickets to events I thought I should attend to be the young urban professional on the town that I was, as well as to potentially meet men.   I often regretted wasting the sixty dollars on a ticket because, usually, I was bored, and I’d had to scrounge up something to wear to an event that ultimately felt like another work function.

A few days later I was jogging at Rocky Mountain Lake Park and passed one of Denver’s ubiquitous kickball games, complete with costumes, tube socks, and micro brews. It hit me: “this is just so WHITE.” People I mentioned this to were offended. Other white people like me had a problem with me using white to mean “privileged,” like, in the “white people problems” way. I mean, I’m obviously white and I’d be lying if I represented myself as anything but an upper middle class girl whose parents put me through college. I am lucky and feel grateful every day to not have student loans.

I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone here that Denver is mostly white people. Take this from someone who lived in a city that was 75% not white for many years – I can tell the difference (you can also look at median incomes from census data if you need any information about privilege as I’ve described it being white). The whole thing – the kickball/fun run/derby thing – just smacks of privilege. Buying a costume, not even for something you HAVE to go to, like a wedding or something, but just the act of buying special clothing for theme events and parties, or just to celebrate a horse you haven’t even met in person and are watching on TV. It’s just so fucking privileged.

When I ran in Detroit people would occasionally stop and ask me why I was running. I don’t think I’m equipped to even comment on why someone would think that (because I know I can’t begin to fathom how different it is to grow up in inner city Detroit than in Chelmsford, Mass., where I’m mostly from), but my perception is that when you have bigger things to think about than muscle tone like working more than one job or caring for your children you’re not sweating working out.  It doesn’t even occur to you.

I’m all for fun but it irks me in a “first world” way that people dress up to ride bikes or play kickball. Or that they willingly run in a 5K where people are going to throw paint on them. What the fuck.

It’s just not what I signed up for when I came back to Denver. I’ve experienced different flavors of American metropolises as an adult – New York, Los Angeles, Detroit. In the coastal cities, I always had this feeling like, “this is a place for rich kids”. Kids that could afford rent in those cities while making $275 a week – therefore they were able to take the plum jobs working for Brian Grazer or someone like that. Detroit was, of course, a very different experience, and a very inclusive one for me that I valued greatly. I came back to Denver thinking, the weather’s better, it’s not too much more expensive, and it’s still a city, but not so gritty. And, I won’t run into any of my ex boyfriends here! Denver had this sleepy quality and just enough things to do along with its old identity, the kind I associate with the vintage signage on Colfax, Lakeside Amusement Park, and “Gennaro’s” on South Broadway (a place that let me sit in the bar and drink cokes when I was nineteen… they had a Guns ‘n Roses pinball machine).

Now I’m not sure what the identity of Denver is – it’s just growing too fast to have one. I’m just one person, but I fear it’s more costume kickball than stock show. (I love the stock show and to me that’s classic Denver.)

I always wanted to live in a city. My adolescent fantasies were built on CBGBs photos from the seventies, and, later on, the type of urban bohemian living I imagined Sofia Coppola and Chloe Sevigny to maintain (I now know this was rich white kid stuff.). I thought it was about being immersed in the kind of culture you can only find in cities – not stuff that had to do with playground games and beer and “basic” stuff I was trying to escape when I left my hometown. Stuff that had to do not only with seeing great art and music but meeting people different from me.

I know it’s not just Denver – this is happening everywhere. It’s great for cities to be modern and it’s great that people are moving back into them, except when we’re shutting out the people who made them interesting to begin with. And, though I’m not a native (I have lived in Colorado for longer than any other place at this point in my life but I’m an admitted nomad), I still think I am one of those interesting people. Like, an around the way girl and a neighborhood girl. I never thought I’d feel shut out of Denver like I did in Los Angeles after a couple years. Like I always did in New York. But it’s happening – only here it’s not just about price – it’s about culture too.

Read Part I Here.

P.S. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @interstalking.  Thanks!

Tagged , , , , ,