365 days in Denver

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…and I love you back, Denver

Over the past few weeks, I’ve experienced more than a few flashes of déjà vu.

My living room was strewn with U-Haul boxes in various states of packed, my suitcases were full of clothes I had no intention of wearing within the next month, and I’d slipped back in to “cooking will just dirty the kitchenware, get takeout instead” mode.

On top of that, I’ve been constantly updating my resume, and “trawling LinkedIn and Glassdoor” has overtaken “make bad puns and buy sneakers on Twitter” as my idle phone-fiddling activity of choice.

If you’re one of my long-suffering readers, I already know what you’re thinking. “Jesus Christ, he’s picking up and moving already? You just got to Denver and you were saying how you think it’s your forever home!”

Well fear not, long-suffering reader. It’s all good news. I only bring it up because today’s the anniversary of the day I arrived in Denver.

I genuinely cannot believe it’s already April 5, a whole year since I dumped my suitcases at a crappy motel, showered and hit Colfax Ave. at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, looking for a beer and to familiarize myself with my new neighborhood.

I remember it like it was yesterday (and, to be fair, it wasn’t really that long ago) and I still remember how “at-home” I already felt in that moment, and it’s only intensified since then.

As I wrote back in November, and way further back in the fall of 2014, I learned early on in my immigration that changing cities is a largely solitary affair, and it can take a while to find good, genuine friendships.

But things moved a lot more swiftly this time around and, within a matter of just a few weeks in Denver, I quickly found myself launched into a summer of seemingly non-stop social outings, shows and the irresistible lure of “stay for one more beer” on a school night, no matter what time my first alarm was going to ring (spoiler: it rang at 3:45 a.m.).

There have been several occasions where I’ve earnestly described the way the Denver move fell into my lap as “it was meant to be,” from the job offer I couldn’t refuse, to nailing down a perfect apartment before I left Florida, to everything I own arriving in one piece, to becoming “one of the gang” within a couple of months.

Realistically though, I can’t attribute all of that to fate, particularly the last one. I’m no stranger to being social (or, as these inconsistently filled pages can attest, having a few beers), but I’m positive that my social life wouldn’t be what it is at this stage in my Colorado residency if it wasn’t for Alex.

She took a chance on a dork of a bar guest with a penchant for drinking two Coors Banquet tallboys more than he needed on any given opportunity, and let me into her life as well as introducing me to the close-knit group of regulars that inhabit the southern end of the bar at Prohibition.

That relationship — almost a year old itself! — and those friendships have opened the door to a ton of experiences I certainly didn’t expect to have over the past year.

We took a quickfire trip to Vegas in January, inspired by a brief layover at McCarron Airport on the way back from a December in Cincinnati, where I met Alex’s folks and made my acquaintance with Skyline Chili, one of the best drunk foods I’ve ever eaten sober. There was a weekend stay in a lakeside cabin in the mountains, a staycation in a hotel downtown, and a road trip to Santa Fe to check out Meow Wolf, one of the wildest and most indescribable things I’ve seen in a long time.

Returning to a city with pro sports was also a huge bonus. We watched the Rockies’ hot season and sat in a suite at an Avalanche game, and wore orange and black as we witnessed the Bengals beat the Broncos in Denver for the first time in 40 years. The highlight though was a real dream come true: birthday-gift tickets to see LeBron James and the Cavs take on the Nuggets last month. Not gonna lie, I got all choked up.

That’s not to mention there are the countless shows I got to see, from bands I’d never heard of to A Tribe Called Quest, and comedy ranging from open-mic nights at taco joints to Dave Chappelle, Bob Saget and Jeff Dunham (just last night!)

And on top of everything, Alex and I capped off the month of March by joining forces and silverware drawers in a new apartment together a little closer to downtown. It’s only been a week and a half but it’s comfortable and feels like home already. I’m excited for the adventures to come.

Of course, no year is perfect, and there were some ups and downs. As I mentioned earlier, I’m back to combing through job ads and dusting off my resume, because the walls are closing in on the newspaper business and it’s getting more and more difficult to remain employed.

The Denver Post went through 10 newsroom layoffs in November, which was enough to shake my confidence in my long-term prospects there, but then there was a second round announced during the middle of last month with 30 jobs (out of 95) on the chopping block.

While I was lucky enough to survive the cuts, many of my coworkers haven’t, and the place is losing some people who are seriously good at what they do. That was, ultimately, the most discouraging thing of all, and the prod I needed to finally put my foot down and say “it’s time to try something different.”

But in the meantime, I’m fortunate enough to still have a roof over my head and a steady paycheck coming in while I figure that out. I’m also back to bartending (the more things change, the more they stay the same) at a cool neighborhood spot right across the street from my old apartment, alongside three good pals who also work there.

And the festival business is ramping up in a big way in 2018, too. We’re throwing three events this year (hint hint, all my readers in the northeast) — a barbecue blues festival, the eighth annual seafood festival, and a music festival the following weekend, in case I started to miss unloading cases of beer from trucks on September mornings.

So it’s safe to say that 2018 is already on track for some exciting adventures to add to the full life I was able to live here last year. And ideally, when April 5, 2019 rolls around, I won’t have a living room full of boxes and my computer opened to LinkedIn again.

Oh, and stay tuned for the next immigration challenge: citizenship…

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