Sunday, September 29, 2019

36 hours

I drove to Denver for the weekend. It’s become a regular event that started in the summer of 2017. It happens when I’m gripped by cabin fever and have to get off the island. Each time it’s been a 36 hours door to door adventure in which I soak up some urban energy, do a little street photography, ferret out a good dinner and go for a longish run on one of downtown Denver’s trails. The city has quite the trail system and I’m lifted by the community of runners, cyclists and walkers that share them. 

This time I stayed on the west side of El Centro for financial reasons. I've always stayed on the Capitol Hill side of city center but this time chose hotel on the wrong side of I-25 for a savings that approached $100 if you include parking. I was a little anxious about the hotel’s location on congested Speer Boulevard but found that I preferred my newly discovered 28th Avenue neighborhood by a mile. To get downtown I could avoid Speer completely by heading west on 28th, taking a right on 15th Street and a direct shot to Union Station, Larimer Square and the rest of Denver’s bounty.

As usual my scheme was to arrive at the hotel precisely at its 3pm check-in time, unpack and wander aimlessly downtown. So, by 3:30 I was strolling to the Denver Museum of Modern Art and on to Union Station which I had never visited. Along the way and on my return to the hotel I did smattering of street photography all the while scoping out restaurant possibilities for the evening. I considered going back to Union Station which, like San Francisco’s Ferry Building, has a host of choices including a raw bar. I've loved raw bars since our earliest days in Boston at the Union Oyster House. Then three blocks shy of my digs I saw a promising establishment called The Truffle Table at the corner of 15th and 29th. It was an airy tapas place with a welcoming neighborhood vibe. Since I’m devoted to both I decided to give to a shot. If I could get a seat at the bar I’d be all set. And I could crawl home if need be. No, wait. That was forty years ago.

The 28th Avenue Historic Neighborhood was a charmer replete with late 19th century brick houses on leafy streets and that boasted a hillside view of downtown. Along with The Truffle House was a nifty café for breakfast, a strip of saloons just down the hill and an REI flagship overlooking the confluence of the South Platte River and the Cherry Creek Trails. Everything a boy could want. I felt a rush like the one I felt on my first weekend in Boulder with a memorable run along the Boulder Creek Path. That was 1995 five or take.The combination of youth, health and hipness is a tonic. No wonder I need it every year. Or more.

I strolled through a shallow canyon of new condos flecked with renovated buildings from the Industrial revolution. And since Denver like the rest of the west was built by the railroad 15th Street was severed by tracks leading to Union Station. So, the street dipped below the tracks before ascending toward Wynkoop Street. There I turned left 1-1/2 blocks to the handsome edifice that houses Amtrak, the stylish Crawford Hotel and a bevy of restaurants, bars and cafés for every whim. Union Station, I acknowledge, is a thoroughly commercial endeavor geared to tourists but was still a treat to this country mouse.

I bought a latte and sat in the lobby and watched the world pass by. Drinkers drank at the high-top tables in the Terminal Bar while others lounged in overstuffed sofas and armchairs with beer, coffee or ice cream. Travelers pulling rollers exited trains to the rear of the building and walked briskly through the terminal to ground transportation in out front.

The full length of the station was a delightful water feature with dozens of spewing fountains. Children frolicked in the shallow pool on a perfect early autumn afternoon.

Later, after changing into appropriate attire namely jeans, sneakers and a zip tee I walked to The Truffle Table. I found a seat at the bar just as I had hoped. I saw nothing resembling a truffle on the menu. There was, however, a myriad of cheese and cured meat selections and a massive wine by the glass list that ranged from $9.00 per to $55.00 per. Yes, I do mean by the glass. That stratosphere is beyond my reach, but I encroached on the limits of my wallet with a $15 cava and a $16 tempranillo. Funny how a $55 glass of wine alters your perspective. The cava was excellent. The tempranillo was serviceable. I ordered five cheeses and five meats and a dish of warm, citrus infused olives for $40. Bread included. I’d get that spread at Parcht in Taos for $27. The final tally was $81 including tip. It'd be $51 in Taos and two of us could have shared it. Score one for the burg in the desert.

Worth noting was my visit to the Modern Art Museum on 15th. It featured a show of the photographs of Francesca Woodman who died at her own hand at 22. She’s has received much acclaim for her disturbing black and white self-portraits that were obviously posed yet offhand. Long exposures and motion blur brought an ethereal melancholy to the work. Woodman exposed herself graphically and symbolically. Many were nudes. The mood of her images is dark and seemed to reflect a preoccupation with death, a foretelling. She was active for just nine years from ages 13 to 22. In that period she produced some 10,000 negatives and 800 prints. She died in New York City in 1981.

Denver’s a boom town that to me was a backwater thirty-five years ago when I opened a restaurant in the burbs. It’s had a high-tech infusion and up and comers from Brooklyn or San Francisco can call it home for a fraction of the tariff.


j. Madison Rink said...

Terrific! Lots of great stuff! Hope you are doing well and flourishing! You sound good!

Blacks Crossing said...

Your narrative of your 36 hour road trip to relieve your cabin fever is sublime. Easy, friendly, from the heart and reflective of your spirit. We lived in a Denver suburb for a year and the city was nothing like it is now. Makes me want to hop in the car and go. Glad you were able to see the Francesca Woodman exhibit at the Modern Art Museum. What a story hers is, and apparently, hers is quite the photographic legacy. The first as well as the final cityscapes are lovely, and the photograph of the female runner is wonderful. Cities definitely inspire you and I am glad you continue to share that inspiration with us! Nicely done, Steve!

Steve Immel said...

Thanks to both of you. I do love cities or at least villages within them.