Nick Lucchesi makes friends with the Mile High City

Did they give you a North Face jacket in your Denver welcome kit?

 I never intended to end up in Denver. Not once did I give this city, state or region more thought than the occasional trip to visit my aunt here during the summer. But a move to the Mile High City was the situation I faced last summer, on my first day back at work in St. Louis after a five-day bender at a punk festival in Texas.

My boss, Bill Jensen, had called and told me there was going to be a job opening — and he wanted me to take it. "Shit, what did he just say?" I thought to myself before blurting out that of course I was interested, "and thank you for the opportunity." Of course, I added, I'd need a day or two think about it.

 Are you going to get a medical marijuana card?

 To be honest, I couldn't quite process the request at the time; I was just trying to play catch-up with the pile of work that had stacked up on my desk. After giving it some thought and talking it over, I realized this was the opposite of any of a number of five-year plans I'd informally devised while sitting on a bar stool a few miles from the Mississippi River. Chicago, the East Coast or maybe California. Denver had never been in the hypothetical cards. To me, Denver was an early-'70s John Denver, with a bowl cut and round glasses — not good or bad, just overlooked, a guy at a party whom no one remembers actually being there. It just wasn't on my radar. And my friends, who had a lot questions for me, felt the same way. Sorry, Denver.

Yet here I am, nine months later, the newbie gestation period at full-term, and much about this city has its hooks in me. Coming from the Midwest, Denver seems to represent hope and opportunity to new arrivals, myself included. Not to mention good weather, a relatively low crime rate, those consistently breathtaking mountains, dozens of breweries and the intangible prospect of opportunity.

 Do you get headaches because of the altitude?

 But as you'll see in this Best of Denver issue, the character of the metro area — growing at an insanely fast rate (take that, Rust Belt) — is even more developed than starry-eyed columnists opined during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. At least that's what I discovered. Working at an alternative weekly newspaper is akin to local-culture boot camp. I'm surrounded by experts on local music, arts, restaurants, politics, crime, bars and, here, marijuana dispensaries. Even if I knew little more than the names of the pro sports teams and a few local bands when I started, I now know the correct spellings for dozens of art galleries and sous chefs and lawmakers. This put me at an advantage over others, I thought when I first moved here, but just reading is no match for firsthand experience.

I've learned that everyone here is a Rockies fan (or at least owns a Rockies hat), that everyone praises the mountains (but they don't go up as often as they should, sort of like church), that there's a likable governor, and that electronic dance music reigns over twenty-somethings as Lord Dubstep.

"I'll stay in Denver until something else comes along," I thought last summer. But after my first (and relatively mild, did anyone else notice that?) Colorado winter behind me, and with the promise of "300 days of fucking sunshine!" as a bartender told me when I first arrived, ahead of me, I've mentally tossed away any five-year plan I had. Instead, I'm getting friendly with Denver, from the daily clusterfuck on I-25 to the can-do attitude that most residents seem to attain upon arrival.

So while I never meant to land in Denver — unlike so many who have made this city their destination — I've never enjoyed more having my perceptions being proved wrong daily.

By Nick Lucchesi

 
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