Sometimes it takes a little time apart from a person to make you really notice what's changed about him. If you see someone every day, you're not going to realize that he's gotten taller or that he finally had a voice box installed in place of the festering hole in his neck. Only after time apart are such niceties revealed.
Last week, for example, I went to visit family in Virginia, and on seeing me at the airport, my grandmother remarked in her sweet, Southern accent, "Oh my, Adam's hair has gotten long! Hasn't Adam's hair gotten long?" My parents, who'd made the trip as well, looked at one another blankly, blinked and said nothing. "And such a nice young man," my grandma continued. "Hasn't he turned into a such a nice young man?" At this my mother and father let out enormous belches of laughter, embarrassing shrieks that reverberated across Richmond International Airport, attracting the attention of everyone within a quarter-mile radius.
"Oh, that is too good," my mother said, wiping tears of laughter away from her eyes. "Look, we're going to need to stop at the liquor store before heading back to your place, Mom."
"Oh, most definitely," my father agreed, trembling with laughter.
This boldly decreed truism about time apart works for places as well as people. Someone who's been away from a place for a bit is often better qualified to discuss changes there than is the person who's been around the whole time. The transformations will seem more abrupt to Johnny Recently Returned than they will to Johnny Watched-the-Awful-Mixed-Use-Townhouses-Pop-Up-Like-Fucking-Weeds-and-Despite-Himself-Became-Accustomed-to-Them-Just-Because-of-the- Gradual-Fucking-Nature-of-the-Change.
With this in mind, allow me to introduce Darren, a new What's So Funny correspondent. True fans of Funny -- those who study every word, dedicate entire websites to the column, flash their beautiful breasts as Funny drives down the street -- will remember Darren from past uproarious misadventures. Who can forget the time when Darren and I searched for buried pirate treasure at Cabin Island? Remember how, when we actually found the treasure, it turned out it wasn't pirates' booty at all, but money stolen from the bank vault in town? Then, that night, the thieves returned to the island and tried to murder us, but we outsmarted them and were able to contact the authorities and get the money back to old Mr. Withers, the bank president, just in time for that operation on his narrow urethra?
Wait that was the Hardy Boys.
Regardless, Darren is a good shit. He's been living in China for the past three years, earning no money and learning little Chinese. But he still had a damn good time -- and he defeated SARS. Twice. Now he's back from his sojourn, ready to offer his most auspicious and sage-like observations about the changes in Denver, the city that birthed him.
"First of all, I can't believe that not only did they tear down my elementary school, but they tore down the hospital I was born in," Darren says, referring to the Logan School and Mercy Medical, respectively. And though I don't care about the disappearance of Logan -- anyone who went there is officially "weird" -- I do mourn the loss of Mercy. That abandoned hospital provided plenty of opportunity for a drunk What's So Funny to wander back halls, taunting obese security guards.
"Second of all," Darren continues, "I went to Wahoo's in LoDo and was shocked to see the guy working there had this blond mohawk. When I left here, I was the only one with a mohawk; now everyone is doing it. Plus, he had his collar up all cocky. Just a total prick. So I didn't tip him because I couldn't stand the sight of him. Then I went to Paris on the Platte, and I swear the same dude was working there! If not the same dude, then pretty much identical. Same faux-'hawk, same prissy attitude. So I didn't tip him again. Then, when I was walking home, I'll be goddamned if the same dude didn't almost run me over in a silver Volkswagen bug with a snowboard rack on top! This hipster thing has gotten out of control!"
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And I haven't taken Darren to the hi-dive yet.
But some recent Denver developments did manage to please Darren. For example, he makes no secret of his penchant for Asian women, and he's delighted to see their numbers are on the rise in the Queen City of the Plains. Huzzah! Furthermore, while riding RTD, he's noticed that regular bus riders greet one another cordially along the way, like characters in a Frank Capra film. Darren has even found himself the recipient of such cordialities, although he's still a stranger on the bus. This is the kind of hospitality that he'd forgotten exists in Denver, one totally absent from those mammoth cities where he's lived. And while Darren laments the townhouses, the sprawl, the hipsters and the demolition that have hit this town, all in all he's happy to be back.
"People are just nicer here," he says. "They treat each other better. Still, I'm going to chain myself to Celebrity Sports Center just to be safe. There's no way they're taking that away from me."
I didn't have the heart to tell him.