October 5, 2015

Honorary WWOOF 6: Denver

So WWOOFing's been cool and all, but you can only go to so many strangers' farms in a row, especially when stuff like weird rules about Netflix and homemade sawmills and meth come up.  It gets a little exhausting and overwhelming and you kinda just want to be near people you know.

Enter Denver.
At first I was just going to stay there a weekend, crash on a friend's couch for a couple days and go zinging off to another farm, but when no farms made themselves available and a long-time family friend offered to let me stay at her place, I decided to give the overalls a rest and spend a week enjoying Colorado.
My weekend with Murphy was relaxed, we did normal stuff - not touristy stuff, mostly, just normal hanging out stuff with his friends, which was a nice change of pace.  We ate at this place called Avanti, which is like a food court but with food truck-style food instead.  It was clearly a hip spot, very dark and crowded.  Good food, cool atmosphere.  The next day I went exploring with Bix, and we walked all over Denver and went to a thing called the Big Wonderful, which is like a food truck rodeo (are you sensing a theme?) with other stuff for sale - clothes and soap and little balls of moss you could grow in a jar.  Another place I'd recommend checking out.  Oh, and Murphy and I went to the flagship REI, which was huge and featured a rock climbing wall, and that was where I found the stellar bicycle helmet pictured above.  Miss you, watermelon helmet.
Sunday was awesome - a couple of Murphy's friends work at Colorado Adventure Center, so we drove out there for my first ever ziplining experience.  It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect: soaring down a wire in a harness, trying to keep your shorts from riding up too much while also checking out the views.  I got nervous every single time we had to jump off the wooden platforms.  They've got the longest zipline in Colorado, but my favorite was their steepest one.  I had a real interesting sunburn going on for a couple days after that too...

After ziplining, Murphy and I drove up up up a mountain to see St. Mary's Glacier.  It was a rocky .75-mile hike straight up at 10,000 feet elevation, and 100% worth every step.  I took my boots off and waded in as soon as we got to the top and the water was freezing and felt incredible.  A few kids were fishing, I could hear a mom reading to her daughter on the bank, and every so often you'd hear a far off splash, which was people jumping in off the side of a low cliff across the lake.  We hiked up a little more to where the actual glacier was, and I drank from the stream, which tasted like snow.  The view was amazing.
And then, that evening, I moved over to Lesley's house!  She was an incredibly welcoming host, and so were her husband and daughter and their dog Zoe.  I was in Denver for an entire week with absolutely nothing planned, so I decided to take a bartending course, because a) I've decided I want to be a bartender and b) if there's a nerdy way to do something, I'm obviously going to do it that way.  Three of us stood behind a bar and poured colored water into cocktail glasses for hours three days in a row, and on the fourth day we took a test.  We learned pour counts and garnishes and the teacher would write different drinks on the board and then run us through speed tests, and it felt an awful lot like playing kitchen as a kid.  "HERE'S YOUR MUD PIE WITH EXTRA WORMS."  "HERE'S YOUR PERFECT MANHATTAN WITH A LEMON TWIST."  You can't actually eat either one.  I do feel like I learned a lot though (???) and now I've got a silly little certificate with my name on it saying I aced the Denver Bartending School.
Murphy and I met up again on Wednesday, when I happened to be in an absolutely incredible mood for no apparent reason.  We walked a million miles, including past the skatepark and the cranes.  The skatepark is incredible.  There are all these dudes, mostly in their twenties probably, but some a little older and some kids too, and they're all just having a good time in this park.  It's huge and clean and void of graffiti - this is something the city of Denver deliberately built for people to use for free, because hey! skateboards!  I beamed at the park and at the people, and some of them smiled back at me, probably wondering what a girl wearing a twirly dress and cowboy boots and grinning her face off was doing at a skatepark.  And the cranes!  Since it's a city, Denver's got a lot of construction going on, and there are lots of cranes poking their necks up around the skyscrapers.  I don't know who decided this, but they've got lights on them at night: purple, green, red white and blue, and it makes me want to give Denver a high five.
The point of all this walking was to go see the Rockies play.  I really enjoy baseball games, love the lights and the noise and eating expensive veggie dogs (they had veggie dogs!), but baseball itself just doesn't interest me.  We got food and drinks and poked around the gift store where I bought a cozy purple hat with a tassle, and then found our seats (which were pretty fab) just in time for the seventh inning stretch - the best part of the game because heyo! interactive ritual.  After the Pittsburgh Pirates got three runs out of one hit, we peaced out pretty quickly.  Baseball!
And then there's Bixby.  Bix had kind of a rough week in Denver.  The first thing he did was get so excited that he could go both inside and outside at Murphy's house that he ran smack into the coffee table and cried like babies do when it takes them a second to realize something hurts.  He wound up with a cut right over his eye and a smaller one just under, and then his eyeball got all bloodshot and pathetic.  Murphy called him Bruiser the rest of the weekend, and the cut scabbed over into a little mark that you could pretend was an inquisitive little eyebrow.  And then as soon as we moved over to Lesley's house, he tore his dewclaw, that weird thumby claw lots of dogs have removed.  It bled and it hurt and he kept licking at it, so I put a bandage on him and hoped it would get better on its own.  It did, mostly, and he didn't cry anymore when I poked at it, but I took him to the vet just in case.  (Pleased to say he's down to his goal weight of 60 pounds, less pleased to say that he peed on the floor when we got there.  I swear he's housebroken.) 
Oh, and of course I did the touristy stuff.  Lesley brought me into her work at CBS one day, and I toured the studio and then set off to explore downtown Denver.  I spent a lot of time at a coffee shop called Drip, and then I went on a tour of the capitol building.  Our guide was a spunky little college student named Leo who said "actually" about a million times.  He was the cutest.  I saw 16th Street Mall, which was all outdoors, and I went into Barnes and Noble and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and a little store where I found my Colorado bumper sticker.  There were pianos, three that I saw, on the sidewalks, beautifully painted and available for anyone to play.  I sat around a while, listening to a guy play one with cactuses painted on it, loving it.  I finished the day by going to the Denver Art Museum.  I only did one of the buildings, it was enormous.  They had a whole exhibit on flowers, divided up by style; a bunch of sketches by Castiglione, who I hadn't heard of but could do incredible things with pen and ink; an interactive exhibit on voting every day (everybody does it! be informed!); and then different sections divided up by region: western American, Oceanic, African, etc.  I overheard one of the museum employees complaining about an exhibit, this complicated pretentious thing where the guy had recorded himself speaking and walking backwards, and then played it backwards, so it seemed like he was speaking and walking forwards, so the two of us laughed about how over the top and dumb it was.  Ohhh, art.  Ohhh, employees who are honest about their workplaces.
On one of my very last nights there, Lesley took me and a couple of her friends to see a play called Lookingglass Alice.  It's a variation, as they all seem to be.  Playwrights pick and choose the scenes they want and reorganize them and choreograph them differently and bring different characters to the forefront and make up different morals of the story, but Alice always shines through.  In this version, there are only about six cast members, each of them frantically changing costumes backstage (except for Alice, she's on stage the entire time).  The three people who make up the caterpillar turn into the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse turn into Humpty Dumpty, the Cheshire Cat, and the Walrus turn into a hedgehog, a wicket, and the Red Queen and so on.  And they do acrobatics: flips and cartwheels and handstands, human pyramids, unicycle riding.  Alice does a lot of aerial work.  It was absolutely fantastic.  I adore theatre, and every time I see a show I feel so strongly that I want to be doing that too again.

But get this.  I'm going to be entirely ego-centric for a moment, and then I'll stop.  I've seen two plays during this big adventure of mine, and both of them have been Alice.  They were incredibly different plays; Indiana's was student-run and a little stunted and so wonderful in that awkward, earnest, embarrassed teenager way, and then this one was almost a circus, a highly polished production.  But - both Alice.  Both wonderland.  On top of that, I watched the Tim Burton movie version of Alice in Wonderland in the Motel 6 after I stopped hiking because it was the only thing on.  It didn't strike me until the end of the the Denver play that this could be the universe telling me, "Listen up!  You're Alice, and this adventure is your wonderland.  Get to know your Mad Hatters and Red Queens and Cheshire Cats, figure out the moral of your story, and get yourself home in time for tea."  You know?  Spread the people I've met out like a deck of cards and spread the Alice characters next to them.  Therese can be the fickle Duchess in her kitchen, Aaron gets the Caterpillar talking in circles, the Tinderboys are my grinning Cheshire Cat guides.  And here I am, feeling bigger and smaller, plucky and hapless, working my way across the chessboard of America.  I am down the rabbit hole, and we are all mad.  Anna in Wonderland.
Alright, I'm done.