Have you ever actually studied how the city of Denver came to be? It was an accident. And not like a whoops-daddy-got-mommy-drunk-and-now-I'm-born kind of accident; more like there was really never any reason why people should have been here in the first place. Oopsie.
In 1858, a group of prospectors from Georgia found traces of gold at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the Platte River, an area where Denverites now sip Starbucks and contemplate which pair of spandex rock-climbing britches make their ass look the least fat. The California Gold Rush was almost a decade gone, and word quickly spread among sparsely toothed, bearded folk that there was a fortune to be had at the foot of the Rockies for anyone willing to hitch up the wagon, Oregon Trail style, and get ready to rape the land! Unfortunately for these brave ignorers of earth-consent, the pickings were slim at the confluence, and thus many of them felt stupid for paying Indians to help them ford rivers and for knocking off their grandmothers through dysentery and various other old-timey diseases. Also for killing more buffalo than they could carry, but that's pretty forgivable, because the hunt always was the best part of that game anyway. There was gold to be had in the mountains, though, as well as silver, and so while single-sighted prospectors moved up in elevation, the more entrepreneurial set up shop in what is now Denver, peddling wares and whores and booze to each other. One such Hickenlooper was General William H. Larimer, who claim-jumped the land on the eastern side of the Platte River — where current Denverites attend yoga classes and endure the Cowboy Lounge — and laid out a city, naming it Denver in a blatant kiss-ass move to curry favor with the Kansas territorial governor at the time, James Denver, who had actually already resigned. Oopsie again.
But then all of a sudden, really bad-ass stuff started happening. Another city, Auraria, was set up on the west side of the Platte, and tensions started to boil — people were hanged along Cherry Creek! — and eventually, over a torch-lit meeting, the settlement of log dwellings was officially named Denver and all cantankerousness settled for the price of a barrel of whiskey. A fucking barrel of whiskey! How cool is that? And then shit just kept getting cooler. During the Civil War, a bunch of misinformed Johnny Rebs from Texas stormed the state seeking our gold, only to be fought back by a hastily formed volunteer army that was far smaller in number — the first of many incidences in American history in which Colorado proved far superior to Texas (other CO victories include being less racist and fat). Then there was a giant fire and flood, and then the Indians decided to cut off Denver's food supply and we had to fight for our lives!
Then pretty much nothing happened until John Elway refused to play for the Baltimore Colts.
Why am I telling you this? Because Denver turns 150 in November, and to celebrate our sesquicentennial, the city is seeking 150 exceptional residents to honor in an exhibit at the Colorado History Museum that will be called Denver at 150: Imagine a Great City.
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I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Adam, that's the lamest 150th birthday party I've ever heard of. Have you been downtown on a Saturday night? You'd be hard-pressed to find one cool person, let alone 150. A much better idea would be to make a movie about Denver's bad-ass early history and have Clint Eastwood direct and you star as General Larimer, and you just fight and bang squaws and drink whiskey and stuff, then possibly utter some sweet line like, 'You see, in this world there are two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.'"
And you're right. That would be cooler. But this city doesn't listen to me, never has. So the best I can do is make suggestions. And here is my suggestion to Denver: Nominate some real people. Don't just highlight the do-gooder civic leaders who have been nominated for every award that comes up out of nowhere, the much-lauded pillars of this small community who could build their houses out of the plaques they've already received. Roll up your sleeves and talk about the people who really make this city great. Honor the guy who brings coolers full of burritos to your office in the morning. Talk about Jerry Spinelli, Park Hill's Italian grocer extraordinaire. Commemorate J-Bone, the grandfather of the Denver bike messenger scene, or Stella Cordova, the ancient matriarch of the Chubby's Mexican food empire.
To push this idea even further, I'm opening What's So Funny's doors to suggestions. Let me know who you think should be honored by Denver in this, our sasquatchatennial year. If I like your suggestions, maybe I'll write about them. If I don't, maybe I'll ridicule them; that's a chance you have to take. But it's a chance that our forefathers would want you to take. Because after all, it was chance that brought them to Denver in the first place.
And a barrel of whiskey that kept them here.