A little more than a year ago, I wrote that nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Of course, I’m as guilty of languishing in it as anybody is.
Back in February I went digging back through my Gmail inbox to find some obscure in-joke from years ago, and found myself stumbling across a trove of Google Talk chat logs from 2010 when I was working evening shifts in Brisbane.
Thanks to time differences, my work schedule generally coincided with my friend Johal, who lived in Sweden for six or so years before making a similar move to the U.S. in 2014. We both worked jobs with intense busy periods and corresponding stretches of doing absolutely nothing, so we spent a lot of our time bullshitting about life, the universe and everything.
My current job is also a rollercoaster of busy periods and downtime, so what started as a simple search for an email turned into me falling down a rabbit hole of memories from seemingly another life.
Throughout the course of reading what amounts to a day-by-day autobiography of my life from 24 to 29, Johal and I mapped out two vacations to the U.S. and recounted individual trips to each other ad nauseum.
During the planning phase of our 2010 trip, I mentioned I had a few days to spare between a stop in San Francisco and my flight back to Australia, but there were criteria for whatever city I went to.
It had to be a destination with an NBA team, it had to have hostel options for me to stay in, and I hoped it would have a good beer scene as well. I eventually narrowed it down to two: Portland and Denver. And that was the first time I looked closely at the Mile High City.
I can clearly remember looking at the Google map for Denver, pinpointing the Hostelling International accommodations, and then looking for Pepsi Center to see how far I’d have to roam to catch a couple Nuggets games.
Not knowing the city, it looked like a hell of a trek, and eventually I settled on heading to Oregon. The decision was made more simple by the short-hop flight from San Francisco to Portland, and that was that.
The text-based memories from the chat logs were lit up in bright neon when, a few months ago, I was wandering around a few blocks from where our new apartment is when a sign on an abandoned brick mansion caught my eye.
“Denver International Youth Hostel” read the banner above the door. “DANGER, KEEP OUT” warned another.
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, having discovered the place I had intended to stay seven years earlier (when, I presume, it was in better shape) and realizing just how accessible everything in downtown Denver was from this spot.
I wouldn’t blame Alex if she was tired of the story by now, given that I mention it in some way, shape or form every time we walk by the old building, but I still marvel at this ghost from my past that’s now evident right around the corner from where I live.
A similar reminder cropped up back in March.
Ever since I moved back to Denver last year, I’ve been thinking about this bar and restaurant I’d been to one time with my one-time Denver friends back in the summer of 2013.
My friend Summer said we should meet her husband at a place by his office for lunch one day, so we drove downtown, found a spot and sat at a long high-top table in the back.
There was nothing particularly memorable about the meal, or the two beers I had on a weekday afternoon (hooray for funemployment!), but the space itself stuck in my head, and throughout my considerable bar travels in this city in the past year, I’d never stumbled across it again and always wondered where it was. I had no bearing about where it might have been, just that it was right by his office.
when Johal and some other pals came to visit for a weekend. We’d arranged to meet up with some other friends in a bar down the street from Alex’s and my new place, but at the agreed-upon time we found that it was closed for a private party.
We picked a new venue on the fly, and the moment I walked in the front door I realized: This is the place I’ve been wondering about, and it’s about 300 yards from my front door.
I’ve definitely written before about how quickly cities can change from the way they look in your memories, and how quickly “home” can become unfamiliar once you leave.
But the opposite side of things — stumbling across small relics of my first experiences in a city that’s grown and changed immensely in the past five years — is an entirely different sensation, and one I wasn’t totally prepared for.
And that’s funny in its own right, because my excuse for the waning production on this very blog is generally “well, I’m not brand-new anymore, so there are far fewer surprises in ‘immigrant life’ these days.”
Joke’s on me!