Once upon a time, I lived in a land far, far away. A land of fairy tales populated by peasants and kings, bears and wolves, composers and poets. A land filled with beautiful things: lacquer boxes with miniature paintings, Orenburg shawls, intricate samovars, khokhloma kitchenware, matryoshkas, faberge eggs, and gzhel. In this magical land, I had a magical romance. Or maybe it wasn’t so magical but only felt like it was because I was in my early twenties and still believed love was the most important force in the world and still believed in its power to strike down all adversity and sorrow. But then I became too old for fairy tales and my Russian prince and I and our 12 gzhel statues moved to America where we were commoners with common lives and common problems that love could not vanquish. And then we didn’t have love anymore and so we parted ways. The gzhel cow, the gzhel pig, and all their fragile blue and white friends were relegated to a storage bin, packed away with the other memories of a life gone by, or perhaps a life that never was, to be pulled out and examined once or twice a year when nostalgia for the emotional intensity and naivete of young adulthood grew unbearable. But as time marched on, those ancient images and emotions were no longer strong enough to push through the haze of present day concerns, and the value in toting physical representations of memories from place to place was lost. It was then that the gzhel barnyard animals met their tragic end in a dumpster in a grimy alley in Denver, Colorado, far from their snowy origins. Except one. A rooster. The rooster refused to be tossed aside. He scratched and clung on, crowing for attention, urging my former self to allow one piece of who she was to remain, no matter how far down in the bin he had to be and no matter how much other detritus hid his existence. Just don’t let go. There’s more to come.
During 2012, my official Year of Insane Parties, I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner that has gone down in history as literally the Best Thanksgiving Ever. At the time, I was living in a house that being foreclosed on. I was paying the rent but the landlord, who had moved 1,000 miles away, was not using my rent checks to pay the mortgage. So, the city wanted to foreclose on the house but by Colorado law, they couldn’t do so while the owner was still in bankruptcy proceedings. All of which is to say, I lived there rent free for 13 months before the city was able to kick me out and, as you can imagine, during that time I let the house fall into a state of serious disrepair, largely thanks to the Insane Parties I hosted all year.
Colorado is a state of migrants, which means a lot of people don’t have family to spend Thanksgiving with, so I got a nice crowd over at my place that year. Preparations, and drinking, began around noon. My friend Catia made a beautiful turkey, which I don’t remember eating at all, while a few other friends stuffed a piñata full of nips. Because nothing says Thanksgiving like a booze-filled piñata. And then at some point after we had busted the piñata and enjoyed the prizes, my partner poured Everclear or some other equally undesirable liquor on the fire to get it raging. Continue reading →
50,398 voices rise up in the anticipation of a home run. A generator runs unrelentingly. The city bus wheezes and creaks. Heavy construction machinery emits a steady beep as it moves in reverse. A food service truck engine idles as the workers unload the perishables. A horn honks as a driver grows impatient at the person in front of him who is too busy texting to notice that the light has turned green. High heels click on a sidewalk. Two Chihuahuas yap incessantly each time someone dares pass their door frame. Glasses clink on patio tables. The elevator down the hall dings and dings and dings and dings.
Stop! Continue reading →
My dog finds no end of mysteries and distractions on our morning walks around the parking lot while I’m usually lost in thought. But given our impending and welcome exodus from downtown, I’ve been a little more aware of my surroundings lately. Well, a little (lot) more irritated by them is more accurate to say, but last Sunday morning, the dog’s fascination with the mundane infected me as well. Here’s what we saw.
The west side, between my building and the bushes that border the parking lot.
Beer bottles, not broken for a change, just beer bottles in the gutter. Not a beer worth mentioning. Continue reading →
Ahead is downtown Denver, a lanky hayseed teenager trying hard to be taken seriously while standing knee-deep in amusement parks and stadiums.
Denver. I was wrong about Denver. I came to Denver for graduate school because (brag alert) even though I was accepted by all five grad schools I applied to and the other four were more prestigious than the University of Denver and in much better locations for finding jobs in my field after graduation, DU (no, I don’t understand why their initials are backwards) offered me a great scholarship and the cost of living in Denver was the cheapest. So I came here with the intention of doing my year and a half and then moving right back to the east coast or more likely, back to the Eastern hemisphere.
I had a minor internal crisis at the thought of abandoning the east coast, even temporarily. My whole life I had been sure that as an adult I would never live anywhere in America other than one of the venerable east coast cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or Washington DC. Everything else was vastly inferior in my mind. Oh sure, I could live in any podunk town in South Korea, Russia, or India – those places offered cultural experiences. But if I was going to live in America, it was to be in a real city. An intellectual city. And those just didn’t exist outside the northeast. Continue reading →
In my sophomore year, I went to my first real high school party. You know, the kind you see in the movies when the parents are out of town and the high school football star (my friend’s handsome older brother, in this case) invites everyone in the entire school, even the nerds, to his house and drunk teenagers are vomiting all over the lawn and horny teenagers have locked themselves in bedrooms they were told to stay out of. That kind. I don’t know who had the fake ID to buy it, but there was plenty of beer for the taking. And we were cool kids – we didn’t drink Budweiser or Miller. We drank Labatt. Labatt Blue and Labatt Ice were the high-class beers among underage drinkers in Western New York.
So, I imbibed and I did not like it! The often used analogy of “piss” seemed quite accurate, though I didn’t have experience tasting either. I recall standing on the lawn, Labatt bottle proudly in hand, stupidly flattered by the attention of a stoner who was in the junior class. As we were talking, I was looking for opportunities to surreptitiously pour out some of the beer without ending our very important conversation about Marlboro versus Marlboro Light and losing the potential of being invited to suck some of this undeserving suitor’s cigarette butt breath from his lips. Continue reading →