Arts and Culture

A Love Letter to Denver, the City I Used to Know

I was born in Denver in 1980. These days, I wear my Colorado nativeness like some entitled badge of honor -- and I've noticed others do, too. I was at a public gathering last week and when a native took the mic to speak, they made sure to mention that they were from here and where they went to high school, as if to send a signal to the rest of us in this not-so-secret club.

Maybe we have always been proud of our roots; maybe everyone who is from somewhere is proud of their roots, too. But lately, as we watch our Queen City of the Plains explode with new people, new businesses and a new cultural identity we aren't familiar with, I feel a shared level of discomfort at the way our visual history is being erased.

In response, I've decided to write a letter to the city I love and the place she used to be. I know that growth and change are inevitable, but sometimes it is also okay to acknowledge that it is happening and to talk about how it feels. This is not a "top ten ways you know you're a Denver native" list; it is just a letter to say thank you and I miss you to the uncool cowtown we used to be.

See also: FashioNation Leaves 13th Avenue After 27 Years But Will Live on at a New Denver Location

Dear Denver,

I remember you. I remember when I could rent a really nice two-bedroom apartment in Cap Hill for $700, because it wasn't the most desirable spot in town. That apartment would come with a parking spot (sometimes there was a guy rolled up in a carpet sleeping in said parking spot, so I always made sure to check before I pulled in) and the landlord was a real person I might see at the Queen Soopers. (You never rented from Triton Properties or any other company -- the best Cap Hill landlords were and still are leather daddies and cool, weird old ladies.)

That apartment would be just down the street from Gabor's, the first place I drank in public, legally and regularly. A gin and tonic would do; it's what my first boyfriend drank, so I drank it, too (and didn't really know what grown-ups were supposed to drink, anyway). No more buying Sun Peak Peach Boone's Farm from Paul's Liquors with a fake ID. No, at Gabor's it was all class -- stiff drinks, cheap pool, sticky red booths, cheese sticks from a Golden Age of Hollywood-themed menu and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream in full on the jukebox.

And speaking of Queen Soopers, how lucky we are that you are still here after all of these years? Whole Foods may have infiltrated and Trader Joe's is well on its way to creating a fancy traffic clusterfuck in the Governor's Park area, but you have stood strong. If you grew up here, you know where Queen Soopers is and respect that it is called Queen Soopers and know why it is called Queen Soopers -- because you could (and probably still can) shop alongside neighborhood royalty. Like all eventually "desirable" neighborhoods, Cap Hill and Cheesman Park were where the gays moved in first because they know what's up. Anyone living all high and bougie in these parts now, thank the gays. They made it comfortable for you.

Denver, I miss your strip of Colfax. I know, it's still there. But Smiley's Laundomat isn't. What good is doing your laundry in public if you can't do it while watching a most-likely illegal transaction go down in broad daylight in front of Smiley's soaring, dirty windows while getting hit on by a guy with Kentucky Gentleman breath?

I wish I could still sit in the hard wooden booths at Goodfriends and get a big salad and a cup of coffee from an extra-sassy waiter. I wish I could go to Mammoth Gardens for a show, when that concert hall was still shady and a little bit gross on the inside. But I should be thankful that Colfax hasn't been totally swallowed up and spit out as a one-named bar with 400 craft beers on tap; it means Colfax still has a chance at staying true to its sketchy heart.

I often dream of being able to go back in time to visit the places on Colfax I never knew -- stop by Sid King's Crazy Horse Bar for a Shirley Temple or see the Aladdin Theatre before it became a Walgreens.
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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies

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