Denver, where the living’s easy

rap lyrics on street art? yeah, I’m home

For a guy whose favorite refrain for the past 15 years has been, “the only reason I got into journalism because I’m terrible at doing math,” I sure do think about numbers a whole lot.

To be more specific, dates are frequently on my mind. Not the dried fruit, mind you, but the ones on the calendar. I’ll never forget the date upon which I pessimistically but dutifully checked my green card application to find I’d won (May 2, 2013), or the day of my interview at the U.S. consulate in Sydney (Nov. 12, 2013), the day I finally set foot on U.S. soil as a permanent resident (Nov. 24, 2013) or the day I started my first job in central Maine (Dec. 16, 2013.)

So it stands to reason that, amid the ups and downs of the past three and a half years (holy shit, right?), it wouldn’t be difficult to keep track of the date of my most recent move and the one that’s brought me so much joy in such a short space of time.

That’d be Wednesday, April 5, when I arrived back in Denver, two months ago to the day.

The past two months, needless to say, has gone incredibly smoothly. So smoothly, in fact, as I’ve said to approximately nine million people since I arrived here, that it 100 percent feels like this move was meant to be.

The job is working out well, and I’m thrilled to return to a larger operation (tough early morning hours notwithstanding), my team and the broader newsroom have been unfathomably welcoming, and I feel like my experience and presence is valued.

I secured a great apartment before I even left Florida, all of my shit made it here without damage, save for a couple of pint glasses (R.I.P.), and I’ve even been able to balance my fiercely independent streak with spending time with new friends. Baby steps, though. And speaking of steps, I’ve been taking so many since I sold my car that I’ve managed acclimatize to the altitude and lose 15 of the 30-odd pounds I put on in Florida. That’s a hell of a victory right there.

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When I’m telling my longwinded and ultimately barely interesting story to the latest person who’s feigning interest, a common question I get in return is, “what’s Maine like?” More often than not my response is, “Colorado’s like Maine on steroids.” You’ve got the same natural beauty, friendly people, excellent beer, and the lingering possibility of seeing moose along the interstate.

But as this insignificant anniversary rolled around, it got me thinking a lot about the parallels between my first months in Vacationland and my spring in the Centennial State. Such as:

Walking

This one is obvious. I wrote at length about my early months in Maine where, as a brand-new immigrant wanting to drive, I had to jump through the bureaucratic hoops that a 16-year-old kid would: a written test to get my permit, then a couple driving lessons, and finally a nerve-wracking test behind the wheel.

During the long, cold two months before I bought my trusty Subaru, my options were “rely on the kindness of coworkers to get me to the office,” awful Augusta cabs, and walking. I managed to secure an apartment a mile from the gym and grocery store in one direction and a mile from the bars in another. The conditions were sometimes brutal, but I made the best of it.

By comparison, the weather in my first couple months here have been more favorable (mostly), so going places on foot has been much less of an imposition or adventure. Obviously there are downsides to having sold my car — heavy grocery store lifting, for one, and having to rent wheels if I want to get out of town — but being in a big city gives me more options. Which brings me to…

Convenience

I wrote in January of 2014 about how, even without a car, I managed to mostly furnish my first apartment and equip myself for the winter outside my door without having to leave the house to shop. God bless the internet.

The same thing certainly applies now, three and a half years later, where I still do the bulk of my shopping online. But thanks to the combination of living in a larger urban center and technological advancements, there’s a lot more I can do without having to lift much more than my thumb to the phone screen.

I’ve got apps to have practically anything under the sun delivered. Even the local grocery store — a gentle six-block walk away — will bring me my necessities if I can’t get there for some reason (hangover.) Another app, goPuff, has such a ridiculous range of stuff that I had a pint of ice cream, a deck of playing cards and some cat treats (quite a mixed bag) brought to a new friend’s apartment a couple weeks ago. My king-sized mattress was delivered in a box no bigger than a recycling bin. I subscribe to a meal kit service that sends me ingredients for three two-serving dinners per week. Convenience is next to godliness.

Understanding, and being understood

Denver is obviously a larger city, and with that comes a more diverse population and flow of tourists, so my long-held and weird concern about my accent being difficult for people to understand is almost completely moot here.

But in saying that, I still carry the mild anxiety about having to repeat myself, so more often than not when I’m talking to people who aren’t expecting the accent, I still dial it right back and do my “adapt or perish” trick, making myself sound even somewhat local.

Of course, that only lasts until the person at the other end of the conversation asks me where I grew up (because Denver is becoming more and more populated by folks not from Colorado), and then the jig is up and I gradually let the accent come back out. A couple of new friends I’ve made have occasionally said they feel bad always asking me about stereotypical Australian things, because I “must get it all the time” and “that’s not your whole identity, you’re not defined by where you’re from.” That feels good.

Big city livin’

Two of the things I found myself missing most when I first landed in central Maine were sidewalks and sushi. Hey, it was the middle of winter. It makes sense. But after my first trip to Boston, I had the realization that I wasn’t quite ready to move on from small-town living just yet. I was immersed in the community spirit and the familiarity of seeing the same people, day in day out, in your daily routine.

If you hadn’t already guessed, Denver has plenty of both (including a sushi train-type joint!), but the sentiment was about more than that. I don’t necessarily think familiarity breeds contempt, and I’m a huge creature of habit in the places I frequent and things I like to do, but it’s obviously nice to have a broader range of options, be it for entertainment, activities, watering holes or just getting around. In my first two months I’ve been to a Nuggets basketball game, two Rockies baseball games, a Pitbull (!) concert, the top of a mountain, two of Denver’s million breweries, great restaurants and divey bars in the same weekend.

Variety is the spice of life, and I’m 100 percent ready for it.

The attitude adjustment

This is something I came across the first time I lived in Denver, back in August of 2013 and before I secured my green card. To cut a long story short — something I’ve never been good at — I realized my default setting of being guarded and closed-off to friendly interaction in daily life was a waste of time and energy. This served me well in Maine, where I was welcomed very quickly as a member of the community, but I lost my step in that regard when I moved to Florida. People, and life in general, were very different down there, for a number of reasons.

But even from the first night I got to Denver, sharing an Uber Pool ride from the airport with a drunk couple who’d won a cupcake with a frosted penis on it (!) at adult bingo (!!) that night, I’ve been firmly back in my mindset of trying to be open to any and every interaction I find myself in, from cashiers and people at the gym to the guy I see at 4:45 a.m. every morning on his way to the bus stop while I’m walking to work.


As is so often the case with these obnoxiously long missives, I have no clear way of wrapping it up. But let’s do it this way: when I first immigrated to the U.S., in November of 2013, I didn’t have a “plan” for where I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do, or whether I even wanted to settle in one place.

But from the moment I stepped out of my shitty hotel on Colfax Avenue, two months ago tonight, to head out for my first beer as a Colorado resident, I felt it in my heart and head: this is probably my forever home.

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4 thoughts on “Denver, where the living’s easy

  1. Hi there!! I’m a Mainer who moved to Fort Collins Colorado in February, 2013. After 3 years, it was time to come home. I felt constantly dehydrated. Hahah. I need to be close to water. I think you did a great job of depicting Maine! I hope you enjoy Colorado and all it has to offer!!

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