Cities are lovers. Some good lovers, some bad lovers. Some I want to see again and again and bask in their magnificence, to smoke cigarettes after making love all night and to sit back and talk the rest of the night through over whiskey and pipe smoke. Some, the nights end awkward and with head down, preferring to finish it off with a walk home, unsure of what just happened and if I wanted to repeat it - but in any case, even a bad lover is a good thing to have. Yes, cities are lovers. Denver was a good lover. I spent many a good year there, many a drunken night, many a fun party, many a rant, a rage, a celebration. I had bad nights yes - anyone of my nature has bad nights - but for the most part, it was a good experience, and I can remember her with fond thoughts, with thoughts of my head nuzzling against her breast as she strokes my hair. Even though we are estranged, even though maybe I have no right to take her again, I still feel that we are friends. The kind of lover I can meet again, and though she is now with other loves, I can still reminiscence and breath in the essence of our memories together and explore how each of us has changed.
I primarily come to Denver to visit Joseph and Raven, though I have a great deal of other friends here that I do wish to reunite with and spend time, but I've kept in best touch with those two. They work, of course, and on my first night back I was going to hang out with Raven at Williams Tavern on 17th in Uptown. I arrived a bit early on a Friday, still when people were at work – people working regular hours so long alien to me in my new life, I have vague memories of regular hours and the constraints they hold. I decided to walk along the 16th Street Mall for a bit, the mile long tourist pedestrian avenue of Denver. Most of the people walking around looked a bit misplaced, either tourists who stopped in Denver before they continued on for skiing – evident from their brightly colored ski jackets and ski hats – or kids from the suburbs strutting around trying at act tough. This was the 16th Street Mall I remembered, though many different store fronts lined the street, and many new coffee shops and bars sprang up in otherwise empty places. It was clear to me that even despite the economic slowdown of the rest of the country, Denver seemed fairly untouched.
Also new were the random upright pianos that were placed on nearly every block. Each piano was painted in bright colors, and tourists and locals could come up and play the piano as they wished. This often led to a cacophony of sound, where some people who knew how to piano would play creating a static with the bars that pumped out their own Top 40s soundtrack, or just some random people who would pound on keys trying to sound melodic but coming out more like a grandmother hacking away from emphysema.
I finally made my way to Uptown as happy hour approached. Uptown was the neighborhood in the direct shadow of Denver's downtown, and one of the only areas without a clear view of the mountains, since the skyscrapers of downtown block them all out. It's a neighborhood of half parking lots and half new apartment blocks and town homes, one of the only inner city neighborhoods still trying to find a place for itself. It's in a great position though as it's squeezed in-between the always entertaining cesspool of ironic degradation that is Colfax and the quickly gentrifying “diverse” neighborhood of Five Points.
Williams Tavern is an old mainstay on 17th in Uptown. It was one of the first neighborhood bars that I had visited upon moving to Denver, as it was almost catercorner from my first apartment – almost catercorner, since directly so was a gay bar called the Wrangler, known for its loud 80s pop music blasting out for their Sunday brunches. There I met with my old friend Raven and hung out with her friends through happy hour. By nine o'clock - or at some point after dark, by the way of the drunk clock - a group of Christmas bar crawlers came in, wearing Santa and elf hats. I got to talking to a few of them, and the next thing I knew I was wearing an elf hat on my way to One Up Bar, a bar filled with old arcade and pinball games. Then we went off to another bar and people kept giving me shots and drinks and I kept accepting them, trying to return the favor as we went along, but by the time I left them, I was aware of many favors still owed. I stumbled out of some bar on some street and got a call from my friend Joseph, who I then followed on to his house, later receiving a text from Raven, "I'm home, where are you?" I have a talent, that no matter how drunk I am, I can always get things in gear and make it somewhere safe. I just shift into auto-pilot and wake up warm and cozy.