My City Was Gone

I was young once and it doesn’t seem all that long ago. Thirty years ago? I’d say that would be about right. Thirty, thirty-five years ago I lived in Denver, Colorado. I was restless, eager for change, filled with wanderlust. I wanted a bigger world; I wanted a thing I called “exposure.” I wanted to see things. Denver frustrated me. It was ALMOST a city but not really. Not like I’d seen many cities at that point — it was all ahead of me. Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Zürich, Milan, Venice, Munich, Paris (the airport…). I didn’t think anything would ever happen.

Still and all, I loved my city. I loved that it was only a short drive to open space; I loved that I could get in my VW Bug and head up over Loveland Pass and stop at A-Basin and ski all day for 20 bucks and come home in NO traffic. I loved that if I were feeling restless I could take off and drive up Lookout Mountain. I loved that I could walk to the Art Museum (though I wished it had more art). I was as happy as possible for a bird who needed to fledge but was stuck in a nest. Sure I published some stuff and had a one woman show of my paintings, but still. WHERE WAS THE WORLD???

Me in front of my painting, “Secondary Characteristics” Cafe Nepenthes, Denver, March, 1981

I sent out feelers all the time — and when a school in China (South China Teachers University in Guangzhou) invited me to come and teach I went, never expecting that I would miss the mountains. The front range of the Rockies, as seen from Denver, had been my friends all my life. “Look, MAK,” said my dad as he held me up to look west when I was 2 years old, “those are mountains.” Mt. Evans, in particular, was a beauty, the love for which I shared with my precious Aunt Martha. My own favorite was Longs Peak. Once in China, I missed the mountains though there was no disputing that watching water buffalo and teaching English beat everything I’d known so far. I got to experience life in a vastly different language and political system. I loved it. I’d been right about myself, but still, home was home…

I returned, did some great things in Denver not long after I got back, but the marriage (hopeless but still…) catapulted me to California where I’d never wanted to live. And there I stayed for 30 years. More exposure, more cities, loves and work and teaching and small hills that taught me to see, nothing bad about it. I would not have missed it. A couple of visits “home” but…

You can’t go home again. Denver, as I knew it and belonged in it, is gone. It was so clear to me after I dropped off a friend at Denver International Airport last week and then headed down to Colorado Springs.

I drove toward the mountains and toward I-25 (on which I’d learned to drive on freeways) imagining a young woman just getting up, going into her kitchen and making a smoothie she’d then take into the bathroom. She’d shower, dry her hair, drink her smoothie, get ready for her job as a paralegal in a large Denver law firm. I imagined the young woman leaving her apartment, locking the door, and heading out down 13th Street, across the Capital lawn, and down 17th street. The grass would be frosty-crunchy and the sunrise would climb up the faces of Mt. Evans and Longs Peak. I imagined coming out of a side street, walking up to the young woman and saying, “You WILL see things. You will have a lot of adventures — some happy, some not. You’ll love and be loved. You’ll do all the things you’re dreaming of today. Relax in that knowledge, please, and love this moment because you — as you are today — and this city — as it is today — will be gone before you know it.” Then I would give the young woman a hug and vanish.

Not long after I exited the 470E onto I-25, “Mohammed’s Radio” (dba Sirius XM) played The Pretenders’ song “Ohio” and I cried as long as it lasted, for my lost youth and my lost city and in gratitude for fulfilled dreams and for new ones.

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