things to do in Denver when you’re dead tired

denver 2
denver 2 by Tim Caynes

after 4 days in Broomfield after 1 day on a plane after 1 night in a hotel with half of the population Lagos after 4 hours on a national express coach with mr cheerful after half a day in the rain I was planning to take a day up in the rockies, seeing how far past estes park I could get in november in the rental ford fucos without any chains and as it had been in the low 70s all week and glorious sunshine when I dribbled out of the bed in the 6th floor executive suite, I figured friday would be splendid and I’d crack on after packing and be in the foothills by breakfast sharing bagels with a yeti and jibbering about software service plans and globalized ecommerce venues until the sun went down and the 777 lifted off from DIA with my ransacked (thanks Transport Security Administration) suitcase lurching around in the hold and me switching my sim cards between triband and dualband handsets which I can’t use

as it turned out, as I pulled back the curtians on a stick and looked over the flatiron crossing and the hills, the hills were nowhere to be seen, as thick grey clouds were just looming over everything like some hideous portent of doom, just kind of laughing in my face because they’d ruined my day already and might even drop some snow later to really get everyone thoroughly pissed. it took me an hour to pack everything extraordinarily carefully, making sure the talin was all wrapped up in a fluffy white renaissance towel I’ve just borrowed in between the jacket I got to wear once and the shoes I forgot I had and the tshirt with the uncomfortable neck I should never have bought anyway (all of which would be taken out, thrown into the air and caught like a stretched sheet at the bottom of the empire state and flung into the suitcase again before returning home anyway – thanks Transport Security Administration), and then I found some breakfast in the corner, turned the gas off, checked the back door, etc., and headed for reception to check out, by which time the clouds has moved into the foyer, like in The Fog, and crusty old seamen were rattling chains at me and asking for their money back.

I decided to go to Denver

I’d driven around it a couple of times, thinking that’s what you do with Denver, just kind of drive around it, trying to judge the distances between the refineries and opening and closing the window appropriately, but I’d never been closer than the highway, so maybe I’d just kill a couple of hours there before driving to the airport 6 hours early because I’ve run out of ideas and I can’t possibly do any work on a friday. so I made a mental note of cherry creek mall where I thought I’d buy some stuff that said ‘Denver’ or ‘Colorado’ on it and headed out of the car park in the fucos and turned left. no, right. hang on. I hate the roads in Broomfield.

it was midday by the time I’d managed to get the fucos pointed south and headed down 36, or 25, or whatever it was to the 70, or 25, or 275, or whatever it was. I knw I wanted to by south of the city, so I took to road that goes in that direction and passed every single intersection and turning until I could no longer see Denver out of my driver’s window and figured I must have ended up in Mexico or something. quick, take the next turn, whatever it is. ooh, there’s coors field. right, this is, um, University. right, and there’s the university. so. hang on. lets take a look at the Avis Denver street map from 1974 and see what gives. screeeeeeech! cherry creek. right there. sorry everyone. I’m a tourist, look! I got a rental fucos and a mad confused look on my face! I managed to negotiate a right turn into the car park, which isn’t as simple as it sounds when you’re used to street names being on the side of the street and not across the street so you’re always thinking you’re on the street you want to be on and not just driving over it and leaving it behind in the rearview mirror. again.

I kind of knew the moment I stepped into the mall that I’d made one those mistakes I make when I can’t really be bothered to think about things and I just drift into a mistake. it was like every other mall I’d been into, except it had a saks fifth avenue in it. there was about 5 people, barely audible elevator music, the smell of cookies and a water fountain going off in the corner that the security guard was just kind of looking at sideways. still, once you’re in, you have to walk up one side of the downstairs, take the elevator at the other end, and walk back down the length of the upstairs, occaisionally crossing the way to check out amazing instant sleep pillows in brookstone or ipods in the apple store. then there’s always that moment where you get stuck in mid-crossing and spy that victoria’s secret is on the other side and you’re not sure whether it looks like you’re deliberately crossing to check it out, so you stop and look at your watch or something and try to turn back, pretending that actually, you have forgotten something in gymboree, but realizing halfway that that’s just more stupid, so you head back across toward victoria’s secret anyway, but stare straight ahead with a look on you face that’s trying to say you’re not actually looking at bras but you’re really keen to get to the sony center. but it doesn’t work, and you realize your hands are deep in your pockets as you walk past the pandoras box of lingerie and you try and pull them out quick and look casual, but you’ve just thrown all your change over the marble floor again like you did in the flatiron, you idiot. don’t stop and pick it up. it’s american money, you can’t use it when you get back. just walk away. they’re not staring at you, its the security guard by the water fountain that’s now gushing all over the floor and cascading over the edge of the walkway they’re interested in. honest.

so after I’d escaped unscathed I hightailed it back to the fucos and burned some rubber out of the parking lot, careened over the central reservation and headed downtown on the wrong side of the road. downtown kind of creeps up on you. one minute you’re cruising past old car lots with piles of tyres outside and free lube offers from 1969 and the next you’re outside the convention center, dodging trams and 30-foot blue bears. I squealed round a couple of blocks and found a $12 all-day parking lot, right next to mcdonalds on the corner of 16th street. of course, I had no idea how the parking lots operated, so I had to ask the guy about 4 times how long I could stay (‘salldayman, allday’), and then gave him a $50 bill cos I is a tourist and he had to go to his stash in the back of his lincoln parked on 14th street or something. I mean, I waited for 5 minutes to get my 38 dollars change and then stuck an insignificant pink slip in the windscreen and said goodbye to my personal belongings that I fully expected never to see again and headed up 16th street mall, dodging the evil silent free buses and passing the shop windows that were closing because it was veteran’s day and I always come to the US on a public holiday and find everything closing around me for some reason.

anyway, I got a bunch of stuff that said either ‘Denver’ or ‘Colorado’ on it and also found myself a couple of john deere tshirts in PacSun (‘my name is kathy and I’ll be your server today so can I help you embarrass yourself into a stupid purchase because you look like a toursit dad who will make a really rash decision if I simply say ‘size’ and smile at you’), and even got some instant chicken stuff in an underground food hall that appeared to be full of extras from that film working girl. after that, I thought I might just cruise around the streets. the sun had come out and all the clouds had buggered off, so it has turned into a blisteringly hot afternoon, so I took a layer off, took it back to the parking lot, changed my regular glasses for my prescription shades, dumped the purchases, strapped on the W1 and went on the search for some shots of glass-fronted buildings I could turn into dektops when I’m bored back in the UK when it’s raining outside and I’m just watching people take their dogs to the toilet. it turns out there’s quite a few of those types of buldings in Denver, so I had a pretty good couple of hours pointing my camera at the sky. except for the embarassing security incident and the over-zealous car-park run

the world trade center and a couple of other glass-fronted tower blocks in denver overlap in a pretty nice way when you get the right angle. I found that angle a couple of times and took a few shots and was feeling pretty pleased with myself in a ‘this’ll look nice on flickr’ kind of way, when as I stepped back on the courtyard of another tower block and checked out the direction of the sun, a couple of fat guys in aviators came up behind me and flashed an official looking badge at me and suggested I accompany them into a dark corner. it goes something like this:

‘I’m sorry, is there a problem? I’m a tourist, you know’
‘what is your purpose here today sir?’
‘I’m a tourist’
‘do you have a reasonable cause to be taking photographs in Denver today sir?’
‘I’m sorry, is that a problem? I’m a tourist’
‘well, sir, we’re not permitted to let you take pictures of these buildings sir’
‘right. ok. well, I was just, you know. I’m a tourist. I like taking pictures of stuff. You have a beautiful city’
‘I’m from Encino. you’re going to have to cease sir and please leave the frontage of the building’
‘oh, right. I see. I’ll just, well, you know. put this away, right?’
‘please leave sir’
‘Encino, is that nice?’
‘please leave now sir or we shall escort you off, or engage with the local authorities’
‘bye then’
(50 yards later)

undeterred, I headed back toward the convention center which looked like the kind of place I could spend an hour of so looking at bits of curved metal cladding and glass archways. I figured I could probably get a really good straight-on shot of some of the office windows (I like those shots) if I went up to the roof of the car park I was just passing on my left, which looked like it had an open roof about 13 floors up. great, let’s duck in here and take the elevator up while the sun’s still out. damn, no elevator. ah well, let’s take the stairs, I’m not that unfit, and they’re pretty small. I’m quite excited by the prospect of getting a couple of my favourite kind of shots, so I bound up the stairs, a couple at a time and before I know it, I’m at the 7th floor. now, I knew that Denver was the mile-high city, and I always get out of breath coming from the Sun car park at broomfield 5 to the lobby, so I should have probably figured that what I was currently doing was a one brick short of a load kind of dumbass stupid thing to contemplate, but hey, I was already at the 7th floor. which is about where I thought I shoud stop and catch my breath. but, of course, in Denver, there isn’t any breath. you can’t catch any. so as I’m gasping away between floors and my heart is leaping out of my rib cage and I’m seeing my life flash before me (mainly images of trying to look like I’m not interested in victoria’s secret), I’m thinking I probably should have taken a more sedate approach. I walk very slowly up 2 more floors and things are still a bit grim. I’ve just remembered a couple of things from my childhood, so I figure I’m about to drop dead, but hey, I still haven’t got the shot I was looking for. ok, concentrate. just 5 more floors. slowly, quietly, long breaths. I think we can make it…

I did make it, and the top floor of the car park was empty so I walked to all four sides, took a few shots of the Denver skyline and folks in office windows calling the authorities about a lunatic on the roof of the 13th street car park who’s pointing a laser gun or something at the president, probably. I figured it was probably then that as I’d escaped some kind of uncomfortable internment by 2 fat blokes and death by altitude, I should probably get back to the car, head for the refineries, drop the fucos and check in with homeland security at DIA, where my fingerprints have probably changed into Reece Witherspoons. probably

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