Monday, November 05, 2012

Colorado Love

Elk doe at Red Rocks
FACT: I would have NOT have accomplished much of anything in North Dakota without my time as a Colorado citizen.

A move straight from sexy, swinging San Francisco to the slow, flat plains would have surely caused some sort of cultural aneurism, not to mention a harsh wake-up call to my body. A buffer location was necessary, a stepping stone to the reality, and Colorado was the ideal state for the job.

My six years in the Centennial State put me in the dirt (I'd never grown anything before), taught me musical instruments, got my ass to a church and pushed me outdoors, where I hiked, paddled, pedaled, skied and ran. Colorado toughened me up physically while making me nicer - both great prep programs for the rugged, polite plains.

(Unfortunately, Colorado also spoiled me in many ways. One can get quite used to see the Rocky Mountains every day and when they're gone, there is a ghastly hole....)

After driving two days, I'd arrived at my former home, Hearthstone, the co-housing community where Kirk and lived together. They have a glorious basement guest room and they kindly let me bunk there for a week. After an interesting couchsurfing experience in South Dakota (lovely host, frightening home - a story better told in person), I was so happy to see the Common House, it felt like a homey version of the The Ritz.

Nearly cried when I saw this
Once there, I got immediately swept up in the Halloween Party prep - hanging lights, decorating and rehearsing my screeching and groaning for the haunted house. (I was the crazy lady in the closet, holding a doll with a bloody fork in its head, natch.) From what I'm told, it may have been the performance of my career; my throat hurt for two days.

Peter, Brent, Adam and Tracy

After the party, a few of us H-Stoners walked to Ziggy's, probably the best live music bar in Denver. (When bigger name bands come to town, this is where they jam on their night off.) After a hilarious costume contest, drinking (I had two shots of something called a "Vampire Bite") and dancing up a storm, we closed the place down. Ah, it was good to be back!
Honey, Tracy, me and Jim

The rest of the week was spent trying to hit some of my favorite Colorado spots and grabbing time with some quality Colorado folks. Here are some of my choice places:

Swallow Hill
I can’t think of a more blessed place; half-music school-half-concert venue, this 70s-era church building is truly a sanctuary of learning and enjoyment. Here, I learned  guitar, ukulele, singing and storytelling. I heard enough banjo jokes to last a lifetime and I got to hang backstage with one of my music heroes, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. I was a member, a continuous student and a dedicated volunteer.

Last Saturday, I enjoyed a performance by Jim Kweskin (of "Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band") - the father of my adorable friend, Bellina. Jim and his fellow musicians were amazing and we all went to dinner after the show, along with the Godfather of the Denver Folk Scene, Harry Tuft.
Jim, his wife, Sophie, me and Harry

Mile-Hi Church
A place I lovingly refer to as The Pod, this is my spiritual home after a long, long quest. Science of Mind incorporates the tenants of all the major world religions into one message of love and acceptance. For me, this is all that makes sense.

Red Rocks
Another sanctuary, this time of rusty pink tilting monoliths under a clear blue sky and accented with apple-green trees. On summer nights, it’s a world-renowned concert venue but daytime – especially weekends – it turned into the world’s most spectacular gym. Surrounded mostly by classic, sturdy bad-ass Coloradoans who are happy to show you that tricep pump off the bench. Working out in the same exact place where you saw Tom Petty, Lyle Lovett, kd lang, David Byrne - ain't nothing better.

The Most Beautiful Gym in the World
Country Road Cafe
Just off Hwy 74 in Kittridge (just before Evergreen), this little restaurant has given me such joy over the years, it's ridiculous. Sure, they have the most amazing breakfast menu I have ever seen ("Smashed Mashed" anyone?) but it's more than that. It's the consistently friendly service, the clunky log furniture, the corny signs everywhere and the best pancakes I've ever eaten. Just before I moved, I happened to meet the owner. I must have gushed a bit because he looked at me and said, "I think I'm gonna cry."

Little Man Ice Cream
Starting with the giant milk can, the incredible view of Denver, the festive lights and the happiest long line I've ever seen, this place always produces powerfully delicious ice cream - and this statement comes from a woman who prefers to make her own. Little Man is the exception.

There were loads of other Favorite Places I didn't get to this trip (Wash Park, Cherry Creek Bike Path, Rockmount, Denver Botanic Gardens, Kirkland Museum, Lakeside Amusement Park, Tattered Cover), but I know they are there waiting for me.

Other highlights:

My friend, Gwen, cutting my hair for the payment of a squash.

Visiting Angela who handed over six incredible CD compilations she'd put together - on the eve of her own birthday. Man, those CDs are saving me on this long drive to LA....

Quality time with Kirk and his lovely offspring, J & M.

Attending the opening of the 35th Denver Film Festival to see "The Late Quartet"

Celebrating the 17th anniversary of Tami's 21st birthday and nerding out with my comedy pals on random pop culture, something I have been rabidly craving in NoDak.

Howard, Tami, Leslie and Matt
Receiving a fascinating tarot card reading from my pal, Cameron. I haven't had one in a while but I wanted to hear what the Universe thought of my recent life changes. Take-away: 'You are on the right path though it may be a lonely one filled with strife. But hey, at least you'll be really interesting.'

Touring a dairy farm in Erie and realizing, along with J, how much I miss the dirt. And speaking of dirt, I had to go check my former square of dirt and - I gotta be honest - I could not believe how small it looks to me now:

That's my foot at the bottom.
I don't think a wee space like this could hold me any longer but I'm sure grateful for the path it led to.

God Bless Colorado!


A Clarification
Over the winter, I won't be posting much here unless it specifically has to do with farming, agriculture and Second Chance Ranch. I'd like to keep this blog focused on food and ag issues, whether I am in North Dakota or not. I still plan to write on Scranch-related issues (Prop. 37 comes to mind) but wanted to make this intention super clear.

Over winter, I will be traipsing around LA, Santa Barbara and Mississippi, visiting family and friends; accounts of those silly adventures will be featured on my other blog, ClizBiz.


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