Tag Archives: Denver

TEDxMileHigh: Point of Departure

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It’s a mid-summer weekend in sunny Colorado and thousands of people are standing in line, actually various lines that snake all around the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in downtown Denver. They are all waiting to get into the theater to hear a series of talks. These talks will cover a wide variety of subjects. One will be about a big idea, something that may change the world in the coming years. Another may be a personal narrative, and another may even be a musical or poetic performance. The only thing these talks have in common is the main draw. The main reason anyone chose to spend a Friday evening and Saturday afternoon in the middle of the summer inside a building as opposed to in the mountains where most Coloradans chose to spend their summer weekends, the association with a brand known as TED.

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Most people have some form of exposure to TED talks, even if they did not purposely seek them out. TED talks are shown at all sorts of conferences and workshops, are shared with friends and colleagues regularly, and are commonly found in web searches. This was the first time I chose to attend a TED event, but I have watched quite a few TED talks in my life. When you are really ill, watching TED talks on YouTube can be the most productive thing to do with your time.

What I notice most about TED talks, both at this conference and online, is the fact that I never get bored during them, despite the fact that I find it quite easy to get bored and antsy during presentations, especially of the standard power point variety. It is quite clear that the people who organize TED events (and TEDx events, which means they are independently organized) follow a formula that takes into account how the human mind works and responds to information as presented. Talks are generally 15-20 minutes, consistent with most scientific understanding of the human attention span. Short videos are presented between talks of wildly differing topics to ease the transition from one topic to another.

Speakers undergo a rigorous three-month long process of preparation to ensure all TED talks meet their standards. As a result, speakers always seem to emphasize the right words, stay poised, and avoiding using filler words. Auditions for speakers for this conference took place in February, and auditions for their next conference, in November, take place at the end of July!

When I think of the brand TED, the first thing I think of is people who think like me. By this, I do not mean people who have the same opinions on certain specific issues or policies. It is more of a general sense of what “TED people” are like. If there is one thing that binds all the people who speak at and participate in this brand known as TED, it is the desire to think beyond the day-to-day routine, the next task or the next purchase. People come here because they want to be inspired. They imagine possibilities beyond what is seen directly in front of them day-to-day. They want to engage their intellectual curiosity. They believe their life will be changed, or even that the world will be changed, by something they hear about and talk about here.

The conference provided a few other perks as well…

Each ticket, regardless of whether it was General Admission, VIP, or All Access, provided a free lunch, to be redeemed at one of many food trucks located in sculpture park behind the Denver Performing Arts Center (which houses the Ellie Caulkins Opera House). There were vendors for many other other organizations too, including ones that focus on environmental activism, sell new flavors of tea, or focus on career development. At the end of the conference, I even got a free pair of eclipse glasses, which I intend to use to view next month’s total solar eclipse.

 

After 22 speakers spread over three sessions, meeting countless interesting people, and a really awesome after-party (there was an after party both nights, but I only attended the Saturday night one due to poor meal planning on my part), I felt something absolutely crazy. I came out of this conference with more energy than when I had arrived. I wasn’t expecting this, as most conferences leave me drained. This one covers even more intellectually and emotionally draining topics than most.

The success of the TED brand seems to run contrary to every piece of business advice I have ever received. I am always told to have a specific product in mind, a narrower purpose, and a specific target audience, like all those blogs that focus on one activity.

Yet, this idea seemed to start with a broader purpose; to inspire and change the world. Then, they thought about humanity and found the most effective way in which to present the information. If TEDxMileHigh Point of Departure taught me anything (other than specifics like how fast a supersonic jet can go) it is to stop worrying about how others achieved, or what status anyone has. It is all about having something to offer that people see as worth-wile, and bringing it to them effectively, regardless of titles or perceived status.

The Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market

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What does it mean to have a “healthy community”?  I am encouraged to see more and more people actively consider their life choices, their environment, associations and just put more thought in general to how they spend their time, energy, and money.  This feels like a dramatic shift from, say, ten years ago.  However, embedded in some of the most high profile public improvement related pursuits in the modern era is an unfortunate residual strand of laziness.  After all, we do want something for nothing.

This often manifests itself in buzz phrases that people use to not-so subtly indicate some form of association with a popular present-day initiative.  Perhaps the one that bugs me the most is the term “sustainability”.  In many of its common present-day uses, the definition of this term “sustainability” has been narrowed to only mean sustainability in the environmental sense, short-changing the term of its full definition, and shortchanging discussions of “sustainability” of their full impact.

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Whenever I ride a bicycle to a Farmer’s Market, I feel as if I suddenly become the personification of the term “healthy community”.  It’s the standard image, embedded in every montage that any health or parks department has put together to promote some kind of health/ community initiative in the past six years.  People riding their bikes to buy pesticide-free produce and meat products from local farmers and ranchers.

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And there are a few booths that sell those products, including one with that cow diagram that just always confuses me.  Why are there like 50 types of beef?.  However, most of the booths at this Farmer’s Market are not vendors selling food.  In fact, I saw a somewhat random assortment of products that made me curious as to how one goes about determining what is appropriate for a Farmer’s Market.

And, as is the case with any other Farmer’s Market I have been to, there were plenty of booths where one can get food that is, well, not healthy.

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In Wisconsin, any Farmer’s Market I would attend would have a good number of booths selling cheese curds.  If the country ever breaks up into its 50 states, and Wisconsin becomes its own country, it would probably stock pile cheese as a strategic reserve, much the same way Canada stock piles maple syrup.

I would say a majority of the food vendors at this Farmer’s Market offer food that is not typically considered healthy; including many different varieties of baked goods, food trucks, and a bunch of stands that sell items like tamales and burritos.

Interestingly, several booths at this Farmer’s Market are operated by Local civic organizations advising residents on how to effectively garden and compost.  This gives this Farmer’s Market somewhat of a unique touch, that contributes to the health and sustainability of the community in a different way.

But, the same way being a successful person is about more than simply becoming “goal oriented”, eating well is about more than just buying things that are “organic”, and having a productive work team is about more than just “synergy”, having a healthy community is not just about initiatives like this.  There are a lot of other factors, culturally, near and far, that make this place what it is.

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Regardless of what we are trying to achieve, it takes time, effort and active participation.  We all want something for nothing.  We want to be able to claim some sort of accomplishment, moral validation, status or belonging by claiming association with some positively viewed buzzword, and maybe taking part in a token activity like going to a Farmer’s Market.  But, to really live healthy takes a much bigger commitment.  And there is more to having a “healthy community” than a video montage showing people like me bicycling to Farmer’s Markets.

What we do every day can be healthy, or it can be not.  For most of us, it is both, depending on the situation.  The intellectual rigor we need to truly evaluate our lives, the journey we are on and the communities we live in, involves respecting the complexity that is ourselves, our surroundings, and even places with divergent outcomes like the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market.  It is at that point, with the understanding of places, activities and concepts beyond buzzwords and vague terms, we complete this transition, elevating our level of intellectual discourse and giving ourselves the tools we need to make the best of our lives and communities.

 

Festival Season

Several years back, I spent a considerable amount of time fascinated with the question; What makes someone an “interesting person”?  I guess it was just the time we were living in (around 2010- but it’s still true now).  People had become exponentially more distracted by social media over the past half a decade.  Every job posting had 200 applications.  To get by in the world suddenly seemed to require the ability to get people’s attention.  It suddenly did not feel like enough to just simply be competent and friendly.  The most precious resource had suddenly become attention, and the amount of time one had to make an impression on people was ever shrinking.

So I took stock of the people in my life, the people I saw, the people I knew, and even people I had just heard about.  I knew that there were some people I found interesting for some reason.  I really tried to determine why that was.  What was it about some people that made their names come up in conversation more frequently?  I went through this quandary in my head about the delicate balance between being “too normal” and not having anything distinct about yourself and being “too weird” and not being able to relate to people.

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In true extrovert fashion, I did not really figure out what it was about until I started asking other people about it.  I asked my friends what people they found interesting and why.  And, I realized what is true for me, as well as everybody else on this planet.  Some people find me interesting, and some people don’t, the same way I find some people interesting and others not.  I even realized that there are people in my life that I had not necessarily found interesting, but could see how they could be interesting to other, different kinds of people.  I actually thought about those people that write those celebrity fashion blogs and report live from award shows.  I seriously still can’t think of anything I care less about than who wins the Oscars.  But, some people love it, and a lot of people love those blogs.

Nobody bores every single person they meet.  Also, nobody captivates everyone they meet.  But, some people do manage to find a way to relate to a larger proportion of the population than others.  We all know that one person that is always talking about the same things, and doing the same things.  And, when we get together with them we know it is going to be the same old same old.

Maybe all they do is work…

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Or maybe they’ve got some cause they just won’t ever shut up about….

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Or, they just really only have one interest.  When that happens, well, you can only relate to people who happen to share that interest.  When one cultivates a variety of interests, they are able to relate to a greater subset of the population.  Not only are more people going to find them interesting, but they are going to find a way to show genuine interest in the lives of more people.

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So, while I love to travel, I realize that it is not for everybody.  The average American works 47 hours a week.  And the average commute is approaching half an hour each way.  Many spend much more than that standard five hours a week in their cars as it is.  So, I completely understand why, for many people, the idea of hoping in a car Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, spending several hours in it, and doing the same on Sunday, just simply does not sound appealing.  I will always find the allure of new places, different experiences, and different cultures worth the effort, but many want to find activities closer to home.

This does not mean they are not interesting people, and this does not mean that I cannot find them interesting.  Last weekend, right here in Denver, I was able to attend three festivals; all within 4 miles of home.

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At the Denver Brew Festival, with over 50 different participating breweries, and unlimited drinks for $35, one is pretty much guaranteed to be trying beer they have yet to try before.

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At the Underground Music Showcase, countless people get exposed to bands, and even musical stylings that they have never been exposed to before.

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And, it is hard to top a free concert downtown with Aloe Blacc and Capital Cities!

But one does not need to even go to crazy festivals to be interesting and open to new experiences.  At the end of the weekend, I came to the realization that everything I had done this weekend, everything that seemed new and exciting, is something that I can really do whenever I want.  And, I live in a medium-sized city, not New York.

If I want to try a new kind of beer, I can go to a microbrewery I have not been to.  I think there is a new one opening up every weekend somewhere in Metro Denver.

Most cities have some sort of a local music scene, with local bands playing at a bar for a $5 or $10 cover.  In fact, I have had some amazing nights out going to some of these shows!

And, nothing is stopping us from changing the radio station, finding a new channel on Pandora, or asking those around us to expose us to new music that is already out there.

Every day is the opportunity to experience something new.  Taking advantage of more of these opportunities is no guarantee that the next time you meet an attractive stranger, a fun potential friend with an active social circle, or that person with the job opportunity of a lifetime, that that particular person will find you interesting.  But, it does make the odds much more favorable.

The New Place in Town

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When we think of “travel”, we usually think of the process of someone physically transporting themselves to another location, and, through that travel, experiencing something different from what they typically experience in their home towns.  And, it is that experience that I typically write about on this blog.  But, travel is actually a two way street.  Sometimes, the experiences of another place comes to us in our hometowns.  If it weren’t for this second form of travel, us Americans would not know about many cultural institutions near and dear to us, like burritos, yoga, sushi, or reggae music.

With the level of mobility in and out of, as well as within the United States of America, our culture ends up being in a constant state of flux.  Case in point, I remember when I was 12 years old going out for Thai food for this first time in my life, and thinking it was strange and exotic.  Nowadays, one can find Thai restaurants everywhere.  It’s become just as standard as pizza, another result of experiences of other lands coming to us, in our diet.

I must admit that last year, I had no idea what Detroit Style Pizza was.  In fact, I had no idea that Detroit even had a style of pizza.  To be fair though, having grown up partially in New York and partially in Chicago, two large cities known for their pizza, it had never really occurred to me that any place other than those two had a style of pizza.  By the time I had reached college, I had pretty much, in my head, categorized all pizza into three different categories; New York style thin crust pizza, Chicago’s deep dish pizza, and everything else, with Papa Johns typically taking the title for the least offensive member of this category (in my head).

But, since then, I had learned that Saint Louis, Colorado, and New Haven, Connecticut, all also have their own style of pizza.  So, when my friend told me about his upcoming business venture, opening up a restaurant serving Detroit style pizza, the concept did not sound completely foreign to me.  And, it helped that he did a really good job of describing it to me.  Through some research on my own, I later learned that Detroit style pizza has been around since the 1940s.  Yet, Denver, like everywhere else, appears to have suddenly become aware of this pizza style within the last couple of years.

Blue Pan Pizza opened 10 days ago in the West Highland neighborhood of Denver, one of Denver’s trendier neighborhoods.  It is a growing neighborhood in a growing city, with a lot going on.  It also appears to be a popular place for young families.  Both at Blue Pan, and at other nearby bars, I noticed a lot of babies and small children in the area.  So, I guess it is a good thing that the pizza turned out to be good, thus giving me no reason to swear in front of the children in the restaurant.

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As a general rule, I try the best I can to go “all in” when trying something new, and get the authentic experience.  So, while Blue Pan also offers standard Italian, and thin crust pizzas, I ordered the authentic Detroit style, as recommended by my friend, and restaurant co-owner Giles Flanagin.  One of the pizza styles is actually called “the 313” which appeals to my love of area codes (I celebrate “Area Code Day” every year).  The other pizza I ordered was called the “Brooklyn Bridge”.

I ended up really enjoying the pizza, as did the rest of my party.  Two other places in Denver offer Detroit style pizza.  I have yet to try the other two, so I have no means of direct comparison.  However, Giles had mentioned to me the importance they place on the quality of their ingredients, which I believe is why I ended up enjoying the pizza.

More than having a good meal, and being exposed to a completely new kind of food, I found myself just genuinely feeling happy that evening.  I was happy for my friend.  I was happy for my city.  I was happy for the neighborhood.  Ultimately, I was happy to have seen someone take an idea, something that starts out as just a bunch of words and images inside their head, and turn it into a reality.  It was right there in front of me, and completely real and completely successful.  Wow!

And, amazingly, although I desire more than anything in the world to be able to create an enterprise of my own, I did not even feel any envy.  Everyone is better off, and one person successfully executing an idea does not preclude another from doing so with a different idea.  In fact, seeing that it can be done should provide hope to all Americans who one day hope to have an impact on the world beyond just doing work and keeping a job.

Who knows what the future holds for Blue Pan, and the entire Detroit Style pizza industry.  American culture is in constant flux.  Some new entries to our mainstream culture stick permanently, while others die off.  In the 1990s, the cultural experience of Seattle’s coffee drinking scene traveled to the rest of the country.  It stayed.  A few years later, the southern cultural experience of Krisy Kreme donuts also came to us.  It left.  Will Detroit style pizza stay with us?  Only time will tell.  But, it appears to be off to a good start.

The Future of the West

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Earlier this summer, the new and improved Union Station opened in downtown Denver.  The station was rebuilt in an effort to accommodate several new train lines that are currently being built in the Denver metro area.  By the time this process, known as FasTracks, is complete, the metropolitan area will finally have an extensive rail system connecting many of the major employment, residential, and cultural institutions in the region.

As not only Denver, but the entire region, grows in population, this facility will serve a significant purpose.  Nearly every major city has one or more central transit hubs.  These transit hubs, such as New York’s Penn Station, often serve as a connecting point between multiple transit systems, making transit in and around the region easier.  Although only one of the new FasTracks lines has officially opened, Union Station is already prepared to serve this purpose.

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The most significant aspect of the construction of this facility, was, of course, the building of new train tracks and platforms.  With multiple tracks, and multiple platforms, Denver’s central train station is, for the first time, looking like the types of train stations I am accustomed to seeing in major cities with advanced transit systems.  In fact, seeing the pedestrian bridge with stairways to each platform actually reminded me of the train station in Jamaica, Queens, where several lines of the Long Island Railroad join, I would frequently transfer trains as a kid.

The new train lines in the RTD system, including the all important line to the airport, which will begin operations within the next 24 months, will all board on these tracks.  However, for now, the only train operating on this set is the AMTRAK (the other trains operate on the light rail tracks on another platform a block away).

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Unfortunately AMTRAK operates only one line through Denver, the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to Emeryville (near San Francisco).

I seriously doubt that I will ever ride this train.  There is only one train option in each direction per day.  Each morning, a Westbound train is scheduled to arrive at Denver’s Union Station at 7:15 A.M., and depart at 8:05.  Each evening, an Eastbound train is scheduled to arrive at 6:36 P.M. and depart at 7:10 P.M.

In addition to the lack of additional options, according to the schedule, the trip to Glenwood Springs (on the Western Slope, and a major tourist destination) takes just under 6 hours.  The return trip is scheduled to take over 6 hours!  According to Google Maps, the drive from Denver to Glenwood Springs takes 2.5 hours (without traffic).  Even for those without a vehicle, both Greyhound and Colorado Mountain Express offer bus service to Glenwood Springs in under 4 hours.

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And, of course, AMTRAK’s other issue is its lack of punctuality.  As the day progressed, the station filled with people, not only checking out the new station, but with people arriving to take the Eastbound train scheduled to depart at 7:10.  By quarter after 6, the information board had indicated that the train would arrive at 7:23.  Good thing the schedule builds in that half an hour layover, right?  Well, for AMTRAK, that was not nearly enough.  By 7:30, the train had not arrived yet, with the board now indicating an 8:07 arrival.  That train would eventually arrive at 8:30.

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The backbone of Denver’s transit system remains its buses.  In fact, the Rapid Transit District operates three types of buses; local, express, and regional.  The local buses are primarily for transit in and around the immediate area.  Most of these buses stay at street level.  But the express and regional buses, which connect downtown Denver to places father away, such as Boulder, Evergreen, and Longmont, arrive and depart from an underground bus terminal right below the train tracks that were just built.  In addition to these regional buses, longer distance buses, operated by Greyhound, are now arriving and departing at this bus terminal as well.

 

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And, of course, if there is time between buses or trains, the new Union Station has a terminal with bars, restaurants, a large waiting area, and even an airport-style newsstand shop.

This new centralized transit hub gives Denver something that nearly all significant cities have; a focal point for its transit system.  Currently, the focus is on connectivity within the metropolitan area.  Service to areas outside of this particular urban corridor is limited, and sometimes unreliable.  However, with the tracks in place, and the additional amenities built, it is not hard to imagine a future state where some kind of efficient transit service between Denver and other parts of the West has been established, and functions out of this very location.

Futurists and urbanists often talk about the emergence of “megaregions“.  This is already clearly occurring in the Northeast, with the corridor of cities from Boston to Washington D.C. becoming highly connected and well traveled.  The de-facto capital of this region is New York City.  Other megaregions expected to emerge include one in the Southeast centered around Atlanta (and expected to include Charlotte), and one in the Midwest centered around Chicago (and certain to include Milwaukee and Madison).

With Colorado’s rapid growth, it is not hard to imagine a megaregion centered around Denver, with frequent travel to Boulder, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and possibly even places in the mountains (a train to Vail would be great).  With the building of the new Union Station, with more track, more platforms, a sizable waiting area, restaurants, bars, and many other transit-oriented services, Denver is preparing itself for its role as the de-facto capital of the “New West”.

 

Denver: The Good, the Bad, and the Surprising

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Tomorrow, July 1st, marks the one year anniversary of my move from Chicago to Denver.  And, well, since I have not really been traveling ever since returning home from my back-to-back-to-back trips on the 16th, I figured I would write up a little something about Denver itself.  Or, at least my impression of it after a year of living here.

Keep in mind the background that I come from.  I was born in New York, on Long Island, but fairly close to Queens Borough, and New York City.   Most recently, I lived in Chicago, more accurately Logan Square.  So, I come into Denver from a pretty urban point of view.  A lot of my impressions of the city of Denver, and living here, may be quite different than someone who may have moved here from a more rural environment.  Still, I came into this without unrealistic expectations.  I knew Denver would not be another Chicago or another New York.  So, I am not about to chide downtown Denver for not having the energy level of Midtown Manhattan or Chicago’s north side.

I titled this blog “The Good, the Bad, and the Surprising”.  It is traditional to title something of the nature “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, but that title would imply that the writing would be 2/3 negative, as ugly is pretty universally a negative word.  I want to make this blog entry a roughly even mix of positive and negative.  So, I decided to label it as such, as there are things I find good, bad, and surprising about Denver and living here.  The surprising stuff in this blog could be good, bad, or neutral, but on the balance this entry should be an even balance of what I have liked and not liked about living in Denver so far.

Activities:

The Good:

All of the outdoor activities nearby

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In both summer and winter there is plenty to do in the vicinity of Denver.  This is one area where Chicago is pretty lacking.  The mountains to the West in particular provide anyone living in Denver, or anywhere in Colorado (except maybe some of the areas in the far east discussed in some of the storm chase entries in this blog), with a plethora of fun outdoor activities to enjoy, from skiing/boarding, snowshoeing, and sledding in winter to hiking, biking, rafting, climbing, and other river activities in summer.  In fact, I am overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities in the great outdoors here in Colorado.

The Bad:

The traffic on I-70

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It is surprisingly bad.  Worse than anything I could imagine happening in Colorado.  Denver is 1/5 the size of Chicago.  So, where are all of these cars coming from?  Every Sunday afternoon, regardless of season, traffic coming back into town from the mountains on I-70 will delay you roughly an hour, possibly more.  During ski season, Saturday and Sunday mornings will delay you unless you leave prior to 6:30 A.M.

The Surprising:

The frequency I have needed to wake up before 7 A.M. on weekends.

Okay, maybe I should not have been too surprised by this one.  But, in Chicago, it was quite rare to ever really need to be up early on weekends.  This is probably why 4 A.M. nights were so common.  Here in Colorado, I have woken up earlier than 7 A.M. for a variety of reasons, including beating the aforementioned I-70 traffic to the ski resorts, but also to get in bike rides and hike in the morning before the wind, and thunderstorm chances pick up.  Getting on the mountain as early as possible is like an unwritten law of hiking 14ers (peaks >14,000 ft.)

Going Out:

The Good:

Happy Hours!

Holy shit!  I mean, the amount of bars that have happy hours, and the amount of happy hours they have has made drinking a heck of a lot cheaper in Denver than in so many other places.  I have seen places have happy hour from 3-6 and then again from 10-1.  And, on a Friday.  Having become used to nights out that involve consistently paying $6-8 (or more) per drink and being out nearly $100 by the night’s end, this has been a pleasant surprise.

The Bad:

1:30 Last call!

Sorry Coloradans, but that is not baller.  That is all I will say about that.

The Surprising:

The energy!

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And, I mean this in a good way.  Denver is 1/5 the size of Chicago, but it has three areas where the energy on a Friday or Saturday night will consistently be there; Downtown, East Colfax, and South Broadway (my neighborhood).  This includes some great bars and clubs, rooftop patios, and unique events like the Denver Cruisers (right picture).

Cityscape:

The Good:

Bicycle Trails

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Denver and the surrounding areas have a lot of great bike trails, including the Platte River Trail, the Cherry Creek Trail, Clear Creek Trail, and Bear Creek Trail that provide a fairly easy bike route between places around the area.  These trails generally bypass all traffic lights, which has been phenomenal!

The Bad:

Uninteresting suburbs and highway traffic

The traffic is not as bad as it is in Chicago, but I expected it to be much better.  I-25 in particular gets pretty jammed up from downtown to the tech center at every single rush hour.  Likewise, highway 36 to Boulder has it’s share of problems that are not bad when compared to New York and Chicago, but seem bad when compared to similar sized cities I know better; namely Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis.

Also, some of the suburbs are just plain uninteresting.  Englewood is fine, and I like saying I am in Englewood to people who are not familiar with Colorado, as, given the nature of every other Englewood in the country, I can get free street cred that way.  And, Littleton is alright.  But they do pale in comparison with places like Arlington Heights, IL which has it’s own comedy club and racetrack and a hopping downtown.

The Surprising:

The airport

It’s too far away.  Remember that line from the classic film “Dumb and Dumber”?  After five hours of driving in the wrong direction, Harry wakes up thinking he is in Central Colorado as opposed to Central Nebraska, and states “I expected the Rockies to be a bit rockier than this”.  And Lloyd, still unaware of his own mistake despite being awake and driving the whole time says, “Yeah, I was thinking, that John Denver is full of shit!”  Well, every time I go to that airport, I think of that line, as it is quite a ways East of downtown.  The one time I had to take a taxi home from the airport it ran me about $90.

Weather:

The Good:

Milder Winters:

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There I am, last December mimicking the standard Bigfoot pose.  A practice I like to call “Bigfooting”, which I started doing two years ago when everyone and their dog was making up a new internet photo pose in response to planking.  I think I came up with a good one, but that is all said and done.  Anyways, this was Christmastime, and I was out in a light jacket- at night!  And, the great thing about it was that this happened quite frequently.  Days where the temperatures would reach the 50s and even 60s occurred way more frequently in Denver than it would in Chicago or even New York.  I very much enjoyed this.  What I found depressing about Chicago’s winters was the consistent cold, the  times where it would be mid-January and you would look at the long-range forecast and see nothing above 30 in sight.  Oh, and I despise sub-0.  In Denver, we do have winter, and it does get cold, but there is a steady stream of periodic breaks, which helped me tremendously get through the winter.

The Bad:

Snow in April

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Seriously.. by about March 15th I am over this.  But, in Denver, it happened like five times this year.  I think the last one was actually technically on May 1st.  All I can say is that I should try to spend next April traveling elsewhere.  It ended up being the dullest month to be in Colorado.

The Surprising:

Slow storm movement

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This storm never even got into town.  The day I took this photo, no rain occurred in Denver!  In the Midwest, seeing a storm pop up in the sky, if it is to the West or Southwest, means get inside.  This storm will come to your location, probably within an hour or two (or even less in some circumstance).  In Denver, this has been significantly different.  On many days, a storm will form that never makes it into town, but can be seen from the horizon for the entire day.  It has taken some adjustment to see a storm in the horizon and not be instantly alarmed by it the way I would need to be in the Midwest in general.

Social:

The Good:

Friendly with a lot of other “transplants”

Unlike in New York or Chicago, people here will say hi to you walking down the street or passing by.  Usually, if you smile at a stranger they will return the gesture.  Particularly women and particularly while I am walking my amazing Siberian Husky, but I have had a lot of great friendly interchanges with people just walking around town.  This also applies to people who help you at restaurants, people who cut your hair, and other random things you typically do around town.

There are also a lot of transplants here.  Colorado has become a common place for people to move to in search of many of the aforementioned outdoor activities and a new life.  I have met a ton of people from elsewhere, particularly the Midwest.  In fact, I rarely go an entire week (that I am in town) without meeting someone that is also from the Midwest.  I can watch all Cubs and Bears games at a bar called Hayters downtown with other Chicago fans.  And, being a Badger, I can chose from Swankys downtown, and Badgers in my neighborhood for their games.

The Bad:

Slower pace of living and less reliable plans

The flip-side of this, at least from my point of view is that the pace of life here is definitely slower than what I am used to.  People here tend to have what New Yorkers like me stereotype as a California type influence, where everything is more relaxed and chill.  Like many New Yorkers (and Chciagoans), I like to always be in a rush.  In fact, at the wedding I recently attended in Northern Wisconsin, I had a conversation with one of the other attendees, who happened to also be from New York, about the desire to basically run on all cylinders and not slow down unless it is time to sleep.  Spending a significant amount of time around people who don’t enjoy packing plans together tightly, and make a lot more plans loosely or tentatively has definitely been a test of my desire to always be moving at something akin to my top speed from one interesting activity to another.

The Surprising:

Slow speed relationships

This has perhaps been my biggest challenge since moving to Denver.  And, this is possibly because I was not necessarily expecting it.  But, it feels that although people here are quite friendly in general, and will gladly be inclusive with people they barely know, they seem generally on guard about establishing good friendships, and establishing tight circles the way we all did in the Midwest.  I will go out and meet people and such, but haven’t gotten to the point I was at in Chicago where I was constantly getting invited to take part in social engagements.  This may be partially cultural, as many of the outdoor activities people like to do in Colorado are best done in groups of roughly four people.  It may also be partially due to my circumstance, and what people expect from someone like me vs. what they get.

City Living:

The Good:

The Mountain Scenery

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This picture was taken along the Peak-to-Peak highway, but from the city of Denver you can see a lot of great mountain scenery.  It looks particularly good in the morning, as the sun rises, before any clouds and dust have developed.  In Colorado, you can see frequently see much farther than you can in the Midwest.

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The views of the foothills are really nice from the higher points around town, such as the Chattfield Reseviour, Cherry Creek Reseviour, and near McCaslin Blvd. on the way to Boulder.

The Bad: 

Apartment availability

The rental market is crazy right now, but particularly so in Colorado.  You see, a lot of younger people desire a more urban lifestyle and setting than their parents did.  And, a lot of people are moving to Colorado.  But, Colorado does not offer too much urban residential property.  Other than the central parts of Denver, and maybe central Boulder and Fort Collins, most other places in Colorado are quite suburban in nature.  They range from places like Littleton and Lakewood, that look more like traditional suburbs, to the hyper-sprawled Highlands Ranch/Lone Tree, to places like Lafayette and Brighton that look like suburbs that are interrupted by large segments of cow fields.  So, those that want urban living in Colorado have little to choose from, creating a run on places like Capital Hill, Cheeseman Park, and Highland.

The Surprising:

The amount of park space

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I am simply blown away by how many city parks Denver has!  City Park, of course, is the largest, but without trying to name them all, there are a lot, and a lot of large ones.  As an added bonus, many of them have events like the one pictured above, and people do commonly have picnics and play games like drop-in volleyball in these parks.  Washington Park in particular is one of my favorites.

Food:

The Good:

Local Chains

Food is less important to Denverites than it is to Chicagoans and New Yorkers, and with good reason, as there are a plethora of great non food related activities.  However, there are several local area chains that I have really enjoyed.  This includes Tokyo Joe’s, Garbanzo, Swing Thai, and Wahoo’s Tacos.  Okay, Wahoo’s is actually from Southern California, but outside SoCal and Denver they are very rare to non-existant.  I have never heard of them until moving here.  Also, with the number of ex-Chicagoans here in Denver, I have really enjoyed going to the Mile High Vienna Beef Stand, which makes a lot of the traditional Chicago food here in Denver pretty much exactly how I remember it.

The Bad:

Some food is harder to find

This was kind of expected.  But, I do love New York style pizza, and some of the places here that advertize New York style pizza are really no good (sorry).  I did find a place in Broomfield I like.  Some other specialty food types are also harder to find.  In particular, as expected, it is tough to find good seafood.  We are not near the ocean.  Denver is a middle American city that seems kind of pre-occupied with burgers and beer.   I do like that stuff, but sometimes I want scallops and rum-and-coke too.

The Surprising:

Numerous 711s

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Woo Hoo!  Is all I can say!  I love slurpees.  There is nothing like the slurpee to pick me up.  For a few years I lived in Wisconsin, where 711s don’t exist.  I do not know if I could ever do that again.  That weekend (Memorial Day weekend when slurpees were 49 cents), I had six.