From a Colorado native to a transplant: Your altitude problem is my attitude problem

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I was complaining via that modern adult whiny message board known as Twitter recently that the only people who like John Denver are non-natives. I also blame those same anonymous people for Denver's traffic, gentrification, the popularity of days-long dubstep shows at Red Rocks (and the sickening popularity of any band qualified as "hippie shit" that books and sells out several dates in a row at that venue) and the influx of cruiser bike riders (which I should acknowledge we are both for and against here at Westword).

Maybe some people born in Colorado do like John Denver, but I'm sticking to my blanket statement that we really don't. I mean, he's not even from here (though neither is John Hickenlooper, and I love that guy), and people who aren't from here don't really know Denver -- as a city, anyway. They know it as a place that's "finally getting a Trader Joe's!", not the first city where Target opened stores outside of its Minneapolis headquarters in 1966.

See also: - Video: Sh*t people from Denver say - Historic Elitch Gardens Theatre: a peek inside the 121-year-old building - Slideshow: Casa Bonita: It's real and it's spectacular - Smoking at Paramount Cafe and 86'd from Coyote Ugly: Happy birthday, 16th Street Mall

I'm not sure why I feel like I have the authority to be snotty to someone because they may or may not have moved here from Texas/California/Vermont for incentives like beautiful weather and a reasonable housing market. But I find myself saying things like "

I get angry when I see a gorgeous mid-century building turned into a Pilates studio or, God forbid, a dull but well-constructed box structure in Capitol Hill become another Boutique Apartments project. To me, there is no kitschy attraction to painting an apartment complex toilet-bowl blue and grafting a giant, novelty water spout to the side of it and calling it the "H2O." It looks like the design equivalent of an STD. But that's progress, I suppose.

It's not so much that I dislike people not from here -- obviously a large percentage of my friends, co-workers and even family weren't born in my fair-square state -- but sometimes, my pride just gets in the way. If someone blames the altitude for the reason they feel sick, I laugh at them. Altitude sickness isn't real -- those of us born and raised here know that. As I was standing in line at the credit union yesterday afternoon, I was reminded that my home town is still a relatively small place -- if I want it to be. As I waited to cash my check, I overhead the woman in front of me say to the teller*, "You know, I could have made it to the grocery store today, but I didn't have the time or energy to go up the hill." (*The teller, Joyce, has been doing my banking since my mom opened up my account in 1980, when I was born. I don't even bring my ID in -- Joyce knows every single one of her clients by name.)

What stuck out to me was the "up the hill" portion of this meaningless exchange, because my mother (also a native) says things like this -- referring to I-25 as "the Valley Highway," shopping at "U-Hills" (University Hills) and Garts (now Sports Authority) -- all the time. Things that seem to suggest that Denver is a tiny place at the bottom of a mountain, a place with one traffic light and a creamery where everyone in town hangs out. A place still inhabited by people like her -- true Colorado/Denver natives.

I often refer to a place that no longer exists or catch myself giving directions that involve "the old Cinderella City," as if that means anything to anyone who's moved here since 1990. But just because I am from here and know everything there ever was to know about the last thirty years of Denver's lore/life doesn't mean I should hate the transplant population -- which, in 2012, makes up much of Colorado. Denver's getting big, and that's cool, right?

Maybe it's time for me to move to Los Angeles. And become the person I think I hate.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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