Tag Archives: detroit

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!

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Bakers Get All the Girls or “A Tale of Twentysomethings from Pre-Smartphone Detroit”

I read this NY Times article today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/fashion/before-the-web-hearts-grew-silent.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=modernlove

and was reminded about a post I’ve been wanting to write.  I think it’s obvious I enjoy nostalgia.  Sometimes when my own life is happening I can’t believe it, and those are the memories I retreat into years later when I want to retaste what it felt like for things to be really new.

In 2003, I was a new Detroiter.  A transplant from Los Angeles that really blew everyone’s mind.  For example: “you moved here from L.A.?”  Now they’re starting to understand after the storm of post-2008 Detroit media about how cool it actually is, ruin porn and all.  The film incentive took effect just as I moved away in 2008, and all my friends were seeing Ryan Gosling at karaoke.  SO unfair.

My dark years in Los Angeles had almost turned me into so many things I didn’t want to, or wasn’t ready to be.  First, the wife of a tough guy, and second, a woman who only had her career and whose biggest accomplishment was owning a Jag (for the record I’d never buy a Jag, but I’m speaking from observation).

I knew what I wanted to be.  Truly – I wanted to be a rock star.  But I’d take the next best thing: being friends with rock stars.  I wanted to party.  I wanted to pretend I was living in certain parts of “Please Kill Me”, specifically in 1975-1978 New York.  So, I did the obvious thing and moved to Detroit, where I could pretend, with much cheaper rent than where I was living in L.A., or where I’d come from in the modern era New York.

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If you read this book there’s a stronger than average chance we could be friends.

The epicenter of what I was looking for, at age twenty five, was at the Magic Stick.

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My roommate bartended there, which felt like a huge gift from the universe.  I got to go to many shows free… and I did, alone at first, while I tried to gather friends from my jobs and my solo excursions.  After the Electric Six show on New Year’s Eve, Jack White was holding hands with Marcie from the Von Bondies as the room emptied.  This was a huge deal in “Fell in Love with a Girl” legos video Detroit (for me).

I don’t remember exactly how I met the Modern Dancer, but I know it was in front of the Magic Stick.

I don’t remember if he took my number or gave me his, or exactly what our first date was.

I remember these things.

1) The Blackout of 2003.  My roommate and I were driving around the corner from our house, probably on our way to go someplace we could shower.  The Modern Dancer (“The MD” for short) drove by with a beautiful black woman in his car.  I was deflated.  I think at this point he just hadn’t called me or something, we hadn’t even had a date.  But I was 25, inexperienced, and obsessive.

2) One date, we sat in the backyard of the Old Miami, a notable Cass Corridor dive bar, with the MD’s friend.  The MD was discussing his DUI.  He was 26.  I can’t remember if this was the night that the friend hit on me or not.  But that happened too.  I was so confused by that.  ”I’m kind of seeing someone,” I said, hoping he’d figure out what I meant.  Later the whole scenario made more sense.

3) Vivid memories of this night… I’m hanging out with the Modern Dancer. I don’t remember what we did except for going to a party at the house across the street from me (the MD and I lived blocks from each other, where everyone lived, in Woodbridge).  I was wearing the navy blue mesh skirt to my Rocawear basketball cheerleader outfit (yes, you read that correctly), a white tank top, and Adidas Top Tens.

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I mostly listened to hip hop at this point in my existence.  I just got rid of those Adidas a few months ago (they always pinched my toes).  We got stoned, and the girl that lived at the house suddenly fainted.  All the stoners panicked.  The Modern Dancer said “I have some gauze at my house!”, jumped in his Escort wagon, and rushed the few blocks to his place.  Unsure of what to do in a houseful of strangers on their way to the emergency room, I walked across the street and back home.  Eventually, the MD showed up on my doorstep.  My neighbor, who had promised me a turkey burger hours before when it was close to dinner time, showed up after midnight on my porch where The Modern Dancer and I sat talking.  ”Oh my god, I cannot eat that right now, I am way too high” I said.  What I meant was “I already ate, it’s not dinner time, and I am about to get it on, pothead style, with this flexible guy on my porch.”  She seemed very offended.

4) Big, important point about The Modern Dancer.  He did not have a cell phone.  I had a cell phone with an 810 area code, as name checked by Marshall Mathers in “8 Mile”…

“and I can’t even say I’m from Motown, cause I’m back in the 810 now!”

The Modern Dancer did not have a long distance plan.  He could not economically call me.  Therefore, he would show up at my house on Tuesday nights.  It happened on Tuesday… frequently, once we slept together.  Though we only slept together a handful of times over the three months we dated.  I asked a friend what she thought of it.  ”You’re the Tuesday night girl!” was the resounding response.

5) Everyone I knew in Detroit – and these were all new friends, mostly my neighbors, but as I mentioned everyone was connected – would say, “Oh, you don’t want to date that guy!” when I mentioned the MD.  ”Why, why?” I’d ask desperately, but no one would give me a straight answer, until finally one of my neighbors said something like “I’ve heard he’s a player.”  I found this really difficult to believe with our sad record of having sex, even though another friend suggested the MD had had sex with someone else besides me in the same day, ruining him for me on several occasions.  This began my attempt to go out every night in an effort to catch him with another girl.  No luck.

6) The Modern Dancer worked at one of our neighborhood’s hot spots – an organic bakery in the Cass Corridor.  A friend of mine was dating a somewhat notable graffiti artist (who ended up in jail, causing her an extremely high phone bill and a lot of stress).  I told him about the MD on my townhouse duplex porch.  ”Oh, bakers get all the girls, he said.”

7) It finally came down to a night we were out and another girl showed up.   She was overly touchy with the MD, and I believe we were hanging out with her ex-boyfriend also.  I don’t remember if I specifically asked him about her, or about other girls, but I got it out of him that night.  I stood naked in my bedroom telling him “you knew I wasn’t that kind of girl!  I’m a one man woman!”  A few weeks before he’d asked me, “hey girl from around the way, how around-the-way are you?” and, thinking I understood this question as a listener of junior high era LL Cool J, I’d explained my stance.  When I asked him the same question, his response was something like “I’m not nearly as skeezy as I used to be”, which I took to mean we were exclusive.  So this relationship was pretty much my education on dating in your twenties, after the two serious relationships of late college and early graduation.

Even after we “broke up”, I had some interludes with the MD.  I’m not sure how we ended up being friends, but I went to the sauna with him on more than one occasion.  He’d show up… it was probably Tuesday, and I’d go get naked in a sauna with him.  ”I covered my nuts so you’re not uncomfortable” stands out in my mind.  My ’20s were so romantic!

We may have made out after one of these sauna occasions.  I know there were other sleepovers, though I don’t think we ever had sex again.  In fact, I strongly remember a sleepover when we definitey did NOT have sex.  Like REALLY didn’t have sex, if you know what I mean.  I was also dating a 22 year old white rapper at the time, so I was learning.  That seemed like a huge age difference then; I was turning 26.  I do remember, when I was dating the MD, that he gave me a ridiculously awesome massage and I fell asleep until the next afternoon.  So that was my fault that time.

Anyway, even after the “kind of” lying and the sleeping with other girls around sleeping with me, I still have fond feelings for the MD.  Romance with him had a delightful element of surprise.  I was trying to track him down.  I remember the humiliating moment when I realized his phone had caller ID (oh the times I’d called without leaving a message… in a row), but even in a small community, I had no way to interstalk him in 2003.  There was an article in the Metro Times about one of his performances.  That was the only way I could see a picture of him when I was thinking about him.  No yearbooks.  No Facebooks.  The MD rejected “Friendster”.

Eventually, I knew more people and got to the point of being embarrassed about this guy I’d been completely enamored with.  Apparently I had become really cool.  A few years later, I finally saw him dance.

Then I was really over it.

When I think back to my 25 year old self, I was so inept at everything other than chasing boys and social climbing that I don’t know how I managed to pay my rent or prevent from dying.  I love having money and loving myself, but I miss those times.  Especially land lines and the mystery of waiting for someone you knew was out there to show up.  God, it was miserable.  But so much more exciting than a text.

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Striking a pose in an empty dance club in 2003.

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