36 Reasons for my 50th Post.

City Park sunset

Happy 50th, beautiful!

Cue the confetti…this is the 50th post I’ve written for Rocky Mountain Hi!  What started as a way for me to keep a few friends updated has turned into a journal of sorts – a year in, it’s become the place I turn when I’m excited to share another adventure, or when I need to shake off feeling discouraged, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to those of you who follow along.

Today, a friend forwarded a link to an article on Buzzfeed entitled “36 Things You Will Naturally Understand If You’re From Colorado.”  I realized that while there are a few things on the list I haven’t encountered (that Big Sur waterbed commercial might give me nightmares), I’ve already enjoyed so many of these experiences!  The mountains ARE always west, and I learned to orient myself for the first time anywhere, ever!  I have totally seen those Rocky’s commercials!  I was here when Hickenlooper made the awesome comment about stoners eating cheetos!  The weather is, in fact, nuts!  I got Vinny Castilla’s autograph on Cinco de Mayo!  I have a well-documented obsession with Colorado sunsets!!!

The friend who sent the article – “Bruce,” let’s call him – was one of the first people I met after moving to Denver, and he quickly became one of my Colorado gurus.  He shared favorite local restaurants, urged me to visit Red Rocks, and was even instrumental in my job search, so it’s fitting that he sent this article – tangible evidence that I’m actually building a life here.

People are drawn to different places for different reasons – my dear friend from the Bronx frequently laughed at me and called me a “herb” for not always understanding the NYC lifestyle, but I chose New York for the inherent challenge: if I could make it there, I could make it anywhere.  And after proving to myself that I could, I now get to live in a city populated by people who want to have the chance to be awed by a sunset over the mountains every single day.  It’s a long and lonely process to get settled in a new city, but I’m thankful to have met so many people like Bruce, who are just so damn happy to be here they can’t wait to share it with a newbie like me.

Here’s to another 50 adventures in Colorful Colorado!

Happy Birthday.

Well, friends, I had a birthday.  It was lovely!  So many people came out to the Horseshoe Lounge to celebrate, and one of my darling friends brought cupcakes and a birthday tiara, which I wore while walking around shouting “It’s my birthday and I demand attention!”  I’m sure everyone found that charming…but I think (/hope) that your birthday is a blanket get out of jail free card.

I felt so happy looking around at all my friends – people I went to college with, new Denver friends, an old camp counselor buddy, and even a girl I grew up with.  While I miss my Indiana/NYC loves, being surrounded by this awesome group of people reminded me that I made the right choice moving to Colorado.

One of my Colorado cousins also had a birthday this week, so a bunch of us went to dinner and then to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill last night…which was an experience.  There’s a mechanical bull!  I’m not sure what possesses people to get on that thing, but I’m glad they do.

Even though I have now officially entered the last year of my 20s, I still don’t really feel grown up (and I’m not sure when that happens), but I started it off right: hung out with friends and family, played “Family Tradition” on a jukebox, embarrassed myself on a weepy phone call, ate some BBQ, and learned to two-step.  I’m excited to see what adventures 29 brings!

Birthday cupcakes

Happy happy.

Coney.

Any of you who know me know that I love Coney Island somethin’ fierce.  It’s dirty, seedy, and hardscrabble – everything I’ve never been and am totally fascinated by.  Most of my friends don’t understand why I like to spend summer afternoons packed into bleacher seats watching a tattooed girl eat fire, but then I don’t understand what’s so interesting about golf, so I say we just call it even.

My awesome friend Allison and I quickly became obsessed with Coney our first summer in NYC, due to the siren call of the Mermaid Parade, and of course, the 4th of July hot dog eating contest.  (I went a couple times.  It’s actually pretty gross.  They dunk the hot dogs into water to make them easier to eat, and what is worse than a soggy bun?  Lots of things, but let’s not nitpick.)

I used to head out to Coney on random summer Saturdays, just to enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk or lay out on the beach, and one of my favorite birthday outings began at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and ended with the fireworks show after the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled off highway 285 this weekend to snap a photo of the river and found THIS:

Coney Island restaurant

Confusion/Excitement/Sadness

I was sad to be so far away from actual Coney, but I was happy that Colorado delivered a taste of familiarity.  Unfortunately, there were no women in Puerto Rican flag bikinis, but you can’t have everything in life.

P.S. I know there are larger issues about Coney Island being a rough neighborhood that’s now being gentrified…it’s complicated and very difficult for a lot of people, and I don’t mean to trivialize it!

 

Independence.

Hello, lovelies!  How was your holiday weekend?  I hope you celebrated the USA’s birthday in style.

I went up to a fireworks show northeast of Denver with my fun friends, who had heard this particular show was the best.  There were food trucks, live bands, a beer garden, and the fireworks did not disappoint.  I also got a thrill remembering it was July 4th last year when I told all my Brooklyn friends I had decided to move…and here I was, watching fireworks in Denver!

fireworks

O beautiful for spacious skies…

On Saturday I decided to celebrate a different kind of independence.  After a couple of very busy weeks, I was on the verge of blossoming into a full-blown bitch.  I hate feeling cooped up, and my fuse was shorter than a July 4th sparkler.  To protect the innocent bystanders, I set off on a solo trip into the mountains – specifically, to Bailey, Colorado.

Even though I’ve lived here over eight months (holy crap, by the way…when did that happen?), I’ve only been in the mountains a handful of times, and that moment when you cross into the Rockies still feels so symbolically important.  If you’ve been to the area, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but the whole area leading up to the mountains is flat, flat, flat.  So there is a marked delineation that makes this passage feel not just like you’re driving west on the highway…you’re going on an adventure.

As I tooled down 285, the landscape changed as the altitude climbed.  The towns got smaller and the evergreen trees grew closer together.  I stopped at a country store “strip mall” in Pine Junction – a tiny bead store caught my eye.  I walked in, and in addition to colorful strings of beads, the toothless old hippie and his two dogs also sold incense, tie-dyed shirts, and stones with mystical powers.  Some promised to balance your chakras, others to protect you from harm.  I thought about buying a couple until I realized a.) I didn’t want to be the weirdo with rocks clanking around in her pockets and b.) I had a flashback to Spencer from The Hills and his obsession with crystals.  Anybody else remember that?  No?  Just me?  Cool.

protective stones

Getting stoned Colorado style…

Instead, I just said thank you and went to leave.  My hand already pushing open the door, the store owner called out, “Don’t you want to pick a card?”  He pointed to a deck of what looked like tarot cards.

“Absolutely,” I said, approaching the counter.  He told me to shuffle the deck and pick one card, which would give me a message for the day.  I cut the deck a few times until a card with a white scratch appeared on top.  “This one,” I said, as I slowly flipped it over.  It was a green stone labeled “Forgiveness.”

“Well, you picked my most expensive stone!” he said.  He flipped through a book until he reached the page he was looking for, pointed to the text a few times, shoved the book into my hands and said, “this is your message.  Read it.”

It told me that I’d been holding onto something and needed to forgive this person so I didn’t get stuck in the same old negative patterns.  I was to envision cutting my karmic string connecting me to this person while saying “I release you from playing this role in my life.  Go in peace.”  It was just what I needed to hear, and I envisioned cutting a string or two.

After a lunch of green chili in a biker bar, I continued through Bailey and drove around Pike National Forest.  It was so quiet and beautiful, and there were more pine trees than you could ever count.

Pike National Forest

This land is my land, this land is your land.

I returned to Bailey, where I found this little scene:

Platte River

I mean…come on.

Just to add to the charm, you had to cross this bridge to enjoy that view:

Bridge

Bridge to somewhere…

After wandering along the river for a few minutes, I followed a sign that promised live music.  It turned out to be a winery, where I enjoyed a wine tasting flight and listening to three middle-aged hippies cover Green Day.  Feeling refreshed in my soul, I headed back home to Denver.

To top it all off, I went to Jazz in the Park in Denver’s City Park on Sunday night.  Three of us packed a picnic and enjoyed some great music in the last few hours of sunlight.  Sometimes I just have to pinch myself.

City Park sunset

City Park sunset