The Wanderer

Denver, I am in you!

denver mountains

Denver and I have not always gotten along.

There’s always congestion in Denver. The congestion is from outdated roads and too many commuters.

There’s also always construction. The constant construction inevitably leads to dumb detours and even more traffic.

Let’s say I wanted to brave the traffic, congestion, and construction. Let’s say I made it into Denver without having driven into someone else stopped short on I-70 east or I-25. Let’s say I didn’t road rage my car into a construction cylinder or traffic divider. Say I didn’t do either, I still got the privilege of paying to park anywhere downtown.

Parking prices are ridiculous. On average I may spend twenty dollars for one day. I’m not going to do that.

parking lot

Let’s say I compromised and decided it’s worth it for a show, a game, or a date night as I have compromised in the past. Oftentimes I drove down a street in Denver in one direction and get turned around and be headed in the exact opposite direction.

I cannot explain how this happens. I look at a map of downtown and it appears to be a grid of diagonal streets. However when I am on the streets of downtown Denver they turn into something out of a fantasy story. I’ll be going east on Speer and then ‘boom’! I’ll be going west. Ask my wife. It doesn’t happen to her, but she will confirm it’s happened to me.

Needless to say, I only rarely venture into the strange city that is Denver.

I remember once, some years ago, I was way down south in the vicinity of Denver University. I don’t remember what I was doing down there, but when I made my stop I hopped out of my car and locked it.

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My eyes shut and rolled up into the top of my head as I realized what I had just done. I had left the car running. That meant the key was still in the ignition. I had locked the keys in the car. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, had to drive all the way down to save me before the city swallowed me whole.

There are many reasons I have found over the years to not have a great relationship with Denver. She was a lot like girls I used to chase in high school and college. She would act all cute and flirty at first. Then when I go out with her, she is a total flake.

Look at what it’s like to be a Nuggets or Rockies fan. You’re either in for a nap or some serious heartbreak.

I feel it has always been a chore getting to Denver. When I get there, nothing particularly special or world class seems to happen.

bored sitting

That was until this past August…

In August I lost my job. That’s a story for another day, but the loss of my contentment, sense of security, and steady stream of generous income had created a paradigm shift within my psyche.

After losing my job I immediately began my search for a new career. I updated my resume and began firing off applications as if from a semiautomatic gun.

A company reached out to me to schedule an interview within those first few days. I had minimal information on the company, but part of my new paradigm was to say ‘yes’ more often. Plus, I knew, you never regret what you do. You only regret what you don’t.

I selected an interview time without knowing where the company was located. It turns out the company’s office was on Blake Street right near Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies. Naturally I said to myself in as negative tone as I could muster, “I have to go to Denver.”

Quickly my old way of thinking was replaced by the positive new way of thinking I have attempted consistency with. I reminded myself that I haven’t been into downtown in quite some time. They even started running a train from Westminster’s Hooker Street Station that went right into downtown’s Union Station.

union station

My father worked for New Jersey Transit for most of my childhood. I have many found memories of taking the Northeast Corridor trains into Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden in New York City. I also would play hookie from high school and ride the same train in the other direction to Point Pleasant and its beach and boardwalk.

A train ride into Denver should be cool. It would be an added bonus to not have to drive in the traffic. I would also avoid paying the parking pirates or spending the gas money. The train should allow me to circumvent all the usual hassles associated with a trip into Denver.

Things were looking up for mine and Denver’s future together. My new outlook on life and the proximity of where I needed to be in relation to Union Station had me optimistic about reconnecting with the city. In my search for new adventures, I welcomed this opportunity to reacquaint myself with downtown.

I spoke with my wife, Kodid, about the opportunity. I talked her into accompanying me on the journey. Even though I would have to ditch her while I went in for the interview, Kodid is my bestie. She’s my accomplice. I was psyched to share the experience with her. Plus, she could save me from getting lost or getting into a fight with a bum or a transit cop.

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Kodid & I

The morning of the interview we dropped our daughter off at her school. We hustled down US 36 to Federal Boulevard because we needed to catch the 8:43am train from Hooker Street.

We searched for a spot on the street. I’m cheap and I did not want to pay to park in the garage for the day. Much to my chagrin, there was no street parking available near the station and we didn’t want to park in front of the nearby apartment complex. It did not have the appearance of somewhere anyone should leave their car unattended for the day.

I surrendered to parking in the garage. I did not want to miss the train and inevitably my interview. At least the car would be covered and cool from the shade upon our return. There was even a police officer patrolling the parking decks. He rolled past while we were unloading.

We proceeded down the stairs from the third level where we had abandoned the car for the day. Just outside the parking garage at the bottom of the stairs was the machine where we would pay for our parking. We had just a few minutes to spare. As prompted, I entered our license plate number into the keypad. I discovered that parking for a day here at the station was only two dollars. Score!

I reached the final screen and it told me that I did not owe anything at all. Since I was a Jefferson County resident, the first day for each car would be free. Double score! Eat that, Denver parking pirates!

parking pirate
Parking Pirate

We briskly made our way to the train platform. Here another vending machine awaited. I purchased two all day passes for $5.20 each. Not only did it include our round trip fare, but the tickets RTD sold us would allows us as many rides as we wanted until 2am.

The day was definitely off to a great start and we hadn’t even left Westminster yet.

The train arrived a few minutes later. We boarded and selected rear facing seats. All the other passengers loaded and the doors shut. The train departed one minute early despite the reviews I had read the night before. The online trolls had claimed the train was always late.

One final young lady had ascended the stairs and reached the platform just as we were pulling out of the station. I felt empathy toward her, but I also was happy it was not me getting to the train as it left. She would have to wait another thirty minutes for the next train to arrive.

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Train at Westminster Station

I was truly enjoying the experience I was embarking on. Even though I had traveled to Denver many times before, this was an entirely new adventure.

We road the sixteen minutes to D-town. My wife enjoyed the unique perspective of the train’s windows. I mentally prepared for what would be my first job interview in about four years.

I wrapped up my notes just as we entered downtown. It felt like only moments later and we arrived at Union Station. We disembarked from the train with the crowd.

My wife and I grabbed iced coffees at Pigtrain Coffee Co just inside the station. Then we ordered bagels from Acme Delicatessen. Acme took a long time to make our bagels with cream cheese, so I went to the restroom for relief and to tuck in my dress shirt and tie my necktie. First I tied a half Windsor knot, but decided against it. I loosened my knot and retied a double Windsor.

The bathroom was considerably clean for a busy train station. It was much cleaner than any bathroom I remember at Penn Station.

I looked great. I was ready. I would make the hiring manager’s head explode with my debonair.

suited

I exited the rest room. I grabbed my coffee and bagel from my wife. We exited the train station through one of the restaurants.

Google Maps said it would be a fourteen minute walk from the station to the office on Blake Street. My phone said I had about ten minutes. No problem. I confirmed my wife’s plan and then kissed her goodbye. I took off at a brisk pace toward the ballpark and my destination just past it.

I scarfed my wheat bagel with veggie cream cheese as I walked. I was careful not to blast cream cheese all over myself. I used the bag to hold the bagel and wiped my mouth and my hands frequently, so as not to get any of the evidence of poor, rushed eating etiquette on my person.

I finished the bagel at the southeast corner of the ballpark and rounded the park to the east side. I picked up my pace. Just five minutes remained until my interview appointment time. I knew I had better hustle. One of my own personal managerial hiring philosophies was that if an interviewee was late I would not even consider hiring the candidate. I knew I needed to be consistent with my values and get to my interview on time.

coors field
Coors Field (courtesy of Denver.com)

My dress shoes weren’t the most comfortable, but I continued at a pace just short of a jog. If anyone saw me my gait may have conjured images of those silly-looking competitive walkers of the summer Olympics. Rockies signage was abound on the stadium as well as the street lamps around it. I passed the ballpark tour information window. Blake Street was just ahead.

I arrived at the double doors of my perspective employer and went in. It was one of those rental work spaces. A bunch of different companies had set up shop within the building. None of them owned the place. I’ll admit the place looked pretty sweet.

I walked up the stairs. The interior had an open layout. There were benches and cafe style tables. There were diner-style booths and tables. They had a couple long tables and some conventional office tables and chairs as well.

They had a Foosball table, but it had the look like it didn’t get played very often. Maybe it just didn’t get much play at 9:30 in the morning. It’s entirely possible they just use it to qualify knuckleheads like me. I may have used it if anyone was down for a game.

foosball

I checked in with the receptionists. One told me to have a seat and wait for my interviewer to come down. I picked a cushioned bench seat nearby. The table I spread out at was just next to a very busy lady at a laptop. The lady had the tone and air of someone important. Maybe some of her swagger would rub off onto me via osmosis.

I quickly filled out the intake form. Then I shot a few text messages to my business reference friends to inform them of my intent on name dropping them. Upon finishing that I pulled out my notebook and wrote a few pages of this story you’re reading. I wrote for about ten minutes.

A young professional voice said my name just beyond a column nearby. Due to my obstructed vision I could not see who the voice had come from, but from the conversation that I was hearing I gathered that this was to be a group interview.

I stood, made my way over, and introduced myself. After introductions the hiring manager led us to one of the classic office-style tables near the back of the large room. The two other interviewees and I were told to have a seat where we liked. My mind wanders, so like the Foosball, I imagined that this was another test.

The table had two chairs on two sides and one on either end. The other applicants choose the two side chairs closest to us. The interviewer selected one across from them facing the large room. I took a moment to decide which chair I should select and what it would mean about me in terms of the psychology of a job interview. I pushed that thought out of my mind and chose the closest lone chair at the end of the table.

office

I pulled out my notebook to take notes during the interview. It’s one of my power moves. Often it sets me apart from other candidates and I feel it almost levels the playing field between myself and the hiring manager. When I take notes I can ask questions and let my prospective boss know that I am interviewing them and the company as much as they are interviewing me.

The group interview proceeded for about twenty five minutes. I felt I did well, but I had learned that this vague company who posted a vague job description was just selling us on a job selling service contracts for a company I wouldn’t support at a bulk goods store that I would not shop at. I realized this was not the position or company for me.

I appreciated the opportunity. I needed the practice interview after letting my skills lie dormant for so long. It was good to make sure the pipes still worked.

I left the rental office building and I was full of wonderment. I wondered what eventual job opportunity would be right for me. What type of company would it be with? What industry would I find myself in?

I assessed the city-scape unfolded in front of me from the outside of the building. I opted for more adventure in the guise of searching for future jobs and companies to reach out to, so I walked a block east before turning south back toward the towering skyscrapers of downtown. On the next block I was greeted by some graffiti on a garage door across the street. The street was quiet, so I crossed for a closer look.

The graffiti image contained a soccer player. It was most likely some international superstar, but I’m not certain due to my not following sports. The player’s leg was cocked back ready to kick, but he wasn’t about to kick a ball. The ball was replaced by Donald Trump’s head. I had to snap a photo with my phone.

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I continued down to the end of the block and stopped at the corner. I put down my bag and water and proceeded to change out of my monkey suit. I removed the button down shirt and tie and replaced it with a lighter white v-neck t-shirt.

It was much hotter now at about 10:30. I looked up at the awesome view of the skyscrapers catty-corner from where I stood. I crossed the street again for a closer look and to shoot some more photos of the tall buildings.

As I turned to face the gym across the street on the corner I was treated to a long mural of UFOs. Sick! I took more photos. I discovered a quote hidden on the front of the steps leading up to the gym. It said, “Get Fit or Die Trying.” It resonated with me. Plus it was cool, so I snapped another pic.

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Just as I was wrapping up taking in this awesome corner, my wife called to ask where I was. I exaggerated slightly and told her I was on my way back to the train station. I was, but I was venturing toward her on quite a convoluted path. I headed west from that interesting corner in the general direction of Union Station where my wife awaited. She was obviously getting bored.

As I approached the next block my attention was drawn to a GoPed scooter. It was parked by a pay parking lot. I thought to myself, ‘if it starts, I am going to ride it.’ I checked it out and discovered it was a scooter rental service. The business was similar to B-cycle with their rental bikes found on the streets of Boulder and Denver. It was certainly a cool idea. I would have to explore it more later.

Further down the street I saw a group of four adults coalescing with a camera man. The building they were standing in front of was some sort of dairy foundation. I assumed they were shooting a promo or some sort of advertisement. I usually relish the opportunity for a good photo bomb, but I had already blew my goof off time allotment.

Just past the congregation I spyed a multi-colored painted mailbox. It looked like a robot. I decided I was going to take a picture of that too. As I approached the colored boxes an alley unfolded to my left. At the entry of the alley was the image of milk being poured from a carton. The mural was about twenty feet high.

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The alley contained some businesses and more wall art. I walked twenty five feet or so further down the street to check out the colorful boxes and discovered they were three newspaper vending machines. They were a much cooler sight from further away, but I snapped a photo anyway.

I turned back and slipped down the hip, artistic alley. To my left was some more wall art. There was some amazing, cartoonish, poppy imagery. I waited for a mom with a stroller to disperse and took a few more pictures. Then I walked to the end of the alley and saw a business I had been curious about on my last excursion to the city, the Milk Market. I had to go in and see what it was all about.

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I went in and saw a new-school hipster collection of bars, food vendors, bakers, and a coffee shop. I had a caffeine addiction to feed, so I ordered a nitro cold brew from the baristas. They offered me some home made pastries that sure looked delicious, but I politely declined.

As it turned out I had wandered within a block of Union Station. I reunited with my wife and recounted what I had seen on my walk back. We checked the train schedule and determined which train we needed to catch to make it back to our daughter’s school by the end of her day. We had about two hours of adventure remaining.

We proceeded out the opposite side of the station and spotted the cool bridge by the Davita buildings we had discovered on another visit to Denver. The bridge was to our left, but we had already seen it. To our right was another bridge going over the train tracks. I suggested we cross the bridge we hadn’t seen yet. We walked over to it and climbed the stairs to the top.

Kodid and I talked. I told her how much I was appreciating all the time we had been spending together. She let me know it was our anniversary.

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At the other end of the bridge a guy was power washing the ground. My wife, a much better photographer than me, waited for the man to step out of the frame and took some pictures of the bridge.

We discussed our entrepreneurial business plans as well as our priorities. We crossed the bridge to the other side and climbed down the stairs. There were nice apartment buildings with businesses on the the ground floor up the next block. At the end was a large park.

At the edge of the park a bunch of construction workers sat. They were decompressing from their morning’s work and enjoying their lunches. We entered Commons Park.

My wife decided the river at the end other side of the park was the Platte. We walked along the path westward towards Invesco Field and the Pepsi Center. We saw a strange structure and walked around it.

My wife snapped a few photos of me and then we climbed the stairs on the far end of the structure. Then we walked through it. Kodid stopped to take more photos. I took a few of her while she was shooting. It’s one of my favorite things to shoot. I plan to one day start an Instagram account of only pictures of her taking pictures.

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We walked another block or two along the edge of the park and decided to renter the city. From here the view of the Broncos’ stadium was crisp. It was just in the near distance.

The neighborhood we crossed into was quiet, as are most of the downtown blocks. The architecture was smooth and new. There was lots of beautiful geometry. I snapped a shot of an empty street. We went down to the bridge between the Davita buildings and walked up to the fountains just in front of the bridge.

The day was beautiful. The sun was bright, but it wasn’t too hot. I felt a sense that I was in charge of my destiny. The energy of the city lent to my emotional and spiritual energy.

We climbed the stairs to the uniquely designed bridge. Nestled between the two large buildings, the cables above made the bridge look like something between a suspension bridge and a sailboat. The reflections up along the glass windows of the buildings caught my eye. With the sun just above, my photographer wife mentioned that the picture I was about to take would not come out. She said the sun and its brightness would be in the image. I snapped the shot anyway.

We climbed down the stairs on the other side and continued on. We walked past the Museum of Contemporary Art and observed a tall spinning sculpture of a pierced bleeding heart.

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I saw the Tattered Cover Book Store just as I received a call from my brother in New Jersey. I connected with him while Kodid entered the book store. I walked and talked to the end of the block and saw another unique mural as I was wrapping up the conversation.

I doubled back and entered Denver’s famed bookstore. I walked through, not really looking at the stacks. I was more just taking in the old independent vibe of the shop, patrons, and employees. I quickly found my wife and updated her on the conversation with my brother.

We left the store and walked up to the corner where the cool mural was and proceeded north. We went another block before heading down to the station.

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Upon arriving we reentered the station and we had just enough time to take in the old, yet elegant, yet hipster vibe of the interior. This morning we had to rush though and could not absorb the scene.

I snapped a few more pics. They had shuffleboard tables, but the there were no pucks to be found. I tried to open a vintage chest on one of the tables. No luck; it was sealed shut. We sat on one of the leather couches and my wife decided to check out two of the boutiques. She had been on a quest to replace her dilapidated wallet for some time now.

I posted a graffiti shot on Instagram and then reflected on the day. I also reflected on how I felt about Denver after that day. I decided I liked the city much more. I had judged it off my prior visits and she had changed my mind.

My wife came back empty-handed and sat with me for a few more minutes before we meandered to track eight where our train awaited. I snap a few last shots of the tracks and the train before we boarded. We selected our seats and the ride back was just as swift and smooth as the ride in the morning.

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The train ride back

We arrived at Westminster Station and took a few minutes to appreciate its architecture and design. We made our way up to the third level of the parking garage and retrieved our car.

Since the trip I have thought quite a bit about the day, our trip, the adventure, and Denver on the whole. I liked the city a lot. I had misjudged it on traffic, expensive parking, and shitty sports teams. It is easy to forget the fun experiences I’ve had when I had been focusing on the negative.

Previously in Denver, I’ve enjoyed live entertainment. I have had good experiences at the zoo and the aquarium, despite my feelings about those types of businesses and the institutions they represent. Recently I attended a wedding at Washington Park and a reception at its Boat House. So far I’ve participated in two Parade of Lights. I’ll be in my third at the end of this month. They were all great experiences. I’ve been lucky to have them.

denver from wash park
View of Denver. Washington Park Boathouse in foreground.

I decided I would be willing to take the train down more often. I may even decide to work in the city. I sure enjoy that beautiful skyline. I left feeling like I wanted to recreate the adventure again soon. I even almost accepted the second interview for the job I wouldn’t have taken just to have the excuse to return.

I’m sorry I judged Denver so harshly based on the few negative experiences I had in th past. That’s on me and my need to grow as a person. I look forward to seeing Denver again real soon.

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Written by John Andreula


If you enjoyed this article please check out my other creative works:
jandreula.wordpress.com (more fun stuff like this)
MovingOnUpwards.com (personal improvement & development)
facebook.com/JohnAndreulaJr
@MovingOnUpwards (on Instagram)
@MovingOnUpwards (on Twitter)

 

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