Park Hill Street Blues

My parents are out of town right now, which means I'm over in Park Hill a lot more, letting out the dogs when the housesitter has something come up. But I don't mind. I love my dogs and it's always a pleasure going over to Park Hill, the neighborhood that belched me out of her tree-filled loins in a deafening sonic boom back in June 1980. Like Athena sprung from the head of Zeus -- but manlier. The neighborhood's certainly changed since then. I remember a time when abandoned houses dotted every other block, full of windows ripe for the smashing. Now those houses have been renovated, lived in, ripped down, the lot split in half; then two shittier, more generic houses shot up like weeds, and assholes moved into each for a cool mil. And the strips of commerce in Park Hill have gone the way of the yuppie as well. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. Sure, I miss buying Garbage Pail Kids from foreign clerks who funneled my $.75 directly to Al Qaeda, but I do loves me some wine and cheese.

After letting out the dogs last week, I retreated to the Kearney Street shops between 23rd and 22nd avenues, a place where one used to be able to buy crack for a song. A pornographic song, but a song nonetheless. Ah, push it, push it, push it. Not so anymore. I was waiting for my designer sandwich to be prepared at Tables, had dropped off my dry-cleaning across the street, and was sipping on a delicious mocha from the Perk Hill coffee shop on the corner when I was struck by just how yuppie this stretch had become, how transformed it was. There's an art gallery now, a pet shop with the fancy food - not the bovine intestines - a wine shop where the concept of a 40 is entirely foreign, and a community supper store, next to the unshakable Dardano's School of Gymnastics. I couldn't believe how much the block had changed. But suddenly, I noticed something. There, across the street, scratched into the plastic panes of three newspaper kiosks in a row, were the words: "I Hate You." Only problem was, the disgruntled youth had misspelled his vitriol, scratching, "I Hat You," on the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post and Denver Daily News boxes.

I smiled. I smiled not because of the error, although it was pretty funny. I smiled because I knew right then that despite the new yuppie surroundings in which I found myself, they can never really change Park Hill. Park Hill will always be Park Hill because our schools are phenomenally shitty. It's what makes us us. You can pump the blue blood into Park Hill all you want, but you'll never take the ineptitude out of our classrooms. And that will ensure the diversity that we have all come to expect out of the hood, at least intellectually.

And while there are some who may be upset over this random child's hate and his need to publicize it, indeed some who might feel the need to notify school officials, I took it all in stride. That child, like so many children I knew, lacked the smarts to carry off any sort of real school havoc.

It felt good to be back in Park Hill. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts