Arts and Culture

A Love Letter to Denver, the City I'm Getting to Know

"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," writes Bree Davies in her recent love letter to Denver, "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."

And in response to that, I've decided to write my own love letter to Denver -- from a non-native, a transplant, someone who's found a home she choice. See also: A Love Letter to Denver, the City I Used to Know

Dear Bree:

I'm sorry you think we took over your city. We only did so because it's so great. How long did you genuinely think you could hide the amazing natural wonders here? (Mountains are hard to conceal.) You say you're a member of a "not-so-secret club" of natives, but I have yet to come across anyone with this badge of honor you reference. Are all the natives hiding somewhere far, far away from the ubiquitousness of LoDo (Wrigleyville West, as I like to call it)? Because if so, I would really like to peel back the iron curtain and get to know the real Denver - if you let us, of course.

To your point, though, I'd argue we're a large part of the reason Denver has grown into something so prosperous. All those lists this city is topping? That's partially because of us. We are making this city flush with talent, money and dreams. When I moved here a year ago, no one even knew what RiNo was. The fact that an entire new hip neighborhood seemingly popped up overnight -- we're the ones that made that happen. It took tremendous foresight and city planning, yes, but we're the ones who populated it and brought it to fruition. The dream was yours - the reality, we get to share.

I'm not from here, but I am so proud of this city and wish Chicago would take a cue. Denver is what all big cities should strive to emulate. The way to increase revenue isn't speed cameras, insane taxes and being all-around dicks. I'm from the Midwest, where people supposedly have values, but the only people talking to you on the street are the homeless begging for money and the creeps on the el. Denver's far from perfect (homeless island and a serious lack of public transportation), but it's a hell of a lot closer.

There's rarely a day when someone doesn't say "hi" to you on the street with a smile -- if not everyone we pass. Friendly, approachable, unpretentious. A city that is booming and creative from a hotbed of IT startups and entrepreneurship to a legal drug that everyone has made way too big a fuss about. When I see headlines back home like "72 shot overnight," my heart breaks. When I was leaving, I didn't even feel safe taking the shortcuts in my own neighborhood. What kind of community is that? Colorado gets its crazies, but for the most part the "violence" is broken car windows and rowdy bar patrons. People take their aggression out on the mountains, on the trails and on the range. It's a wholeheartedly healthier place to be -- mind, body and soul.

It's hard to have a bad day when you can look up and see 300 days of blue skies. What is there to stress about? People see the bigger picture and get what really matters. It's a place where work-life balance isn't an urban legend. Even sitting in traffic isn't as bad when you have the mountains to stare at instead of the schmuck in front of you. The descent from Louisville to Boulder still takes my breath away.

It's also 1000 times cleaner. People actually take responsibility to make the place they live look beautiful. If City Park is the "Shitty Park," you guys have it good -- seriously. Sure, there's the occasional bad apple who doesn't pick up after their dog, but OMG: You have apartments that allow dogs. Those are tough to find in other cities without $1,000 deposits -- if you can find them at all. Maybe some of you "natives" should try living some place else for a while so you have a baseline for comparison. For you, Denver may seem outrageously expensive, but to me, $1 parking and free on Sundays is virtually unheard of. After paying upwards of $30/hour in downtown Chicago (and many other cities), this is more than reasonable.

You don't get to pick where or how you grow up, and I should've have to apologize for that. I also can't help that I started a chain reaction: Everyone who visits me wants to move here because once you know, it's impossible to forget.

I'll admit, everything we bring to the table isn't good. I'm sure my Midwesterners played a big part in Colorado no longer being the "skinniest state." It's a full-on lifestyle change, and one I swore to make when I moved here. The creative uses of quinoa and kale never cease to amaze, but we really do need more food diversity than farm-to-table, Mexican and Vietnamese. However, with a record forty new restaurants in July, and diverse backgrounds, tastes and interests pouring in, we'll get there.

It's a blessing in disguise that Denver has so much space to expand -- to grow outward instead of upwards. The sky's the limit in terms of potential. That doesn't just have to mean chains and big boxes (although a few more grocery stores and late-night delivery never hurt anyone). My hood has plenty of character with shops I never would've thought up myself, from a kombucha pour-station to Chocolate Rx. It's all local and started by people who decided to risk it all on their lifelong dream, right here, because Denver gave them the courage to plant their roots.

So let's agree to share Denver -- because we're not going anywhere, and there is plenty of love to go around. It's melding into something even greater than it already was because we're bringing the best parts of our hometowns with us. (You're welcome for all the deep-dish pizza.) It's peaking but nowhere near the pinnacle, so let's embrace how seemingly endless the potential is together.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Monitz manages conent and digital strategy for Travel Mindset and iExplore when she's not eating brunch.
Contact: Lauren Monitz