I often get asked how it is that I ended up living in Denver. Typically, the question comes from one of two types of people: my once fellow New Yorkers who say something like, “Denver! How did you end up in Denver?” Like I was traveling to someplace a New Yorker might acknowledge, say San Francisco or Los Angeles, and just happened to run out of cash in let’s say, Denver. Or, the question comes from someone in Denver who maybe picked up on the fact that I still pronounce some words a little funny; “ahr-ange” rather than “orange” or say what sounds like “are” when I’m saying “our.” Thankfully, that’s about the extent of my New York accent. Point being, the question comes up.
I guess the real reason I live in Denver is I just like to experience new things. And one of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to visit or better yet live in different places. Now, I have a great deal of admiration for people who live their entire lives in the place they were born or raised, but that is just not me. I knew that in high school as soon as I started thinking seriously about college. Originally, I was looking at schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I even considered Syracuse, “all-the-way-upstate.” Eventually, I chose Detroit. I can hear the snickering now, “Detroit? Who the heck chooses to go to Detroit?” I did, and I’ll tell you what, I love Detroit; that city has some very special people, a great architectural history, and a culture of making things that I hope will be the basis of its emergence as a future center of creativity and innovation. Fact is, that is already happening now with companies like Shinola. I can’t help but imagine that what’s truly holding Detroit back from its future is actually the automobile industry. Maybe Detroit’s future success lies not in making automobiles but in making things. There is a knowledge and culture of handcrafts and machining in Detroit that is as great as anywhere in the world, but so long as the city only sees its future in the greatness of its past, it will struggle to chart a new direction. But I get it, when the automobile industry is going well…I’ll bet there was a time when Pittsburgh couldn’t imagine itself without steel.
I spent five years in Detroit my first time living there. I would hang out in Greektown, go to Belle Isle, visit the DIA and stumble across the oddly fascinating Creekside neighborhood on the far eastside. Prince and The Time were all over the radio, dinner was chili-cheese fries at the local Coney Island, the Tigers won the World Series and “big block gators” were all the rage. I just dated myself big time right there but that’s okay. Nothing wrong with aging if you do it right! Do folks still wear gators in Detroit?
After graduation I headed back to New York almost as if some sort of homing beacon went off in my brain. Not conscious thought. All I remember is I was happy I had finished school and I didn’t want to do anything that involved thinking for a while. So, I didn’t. That lasted about two months. Right around the time my mom asked if I thought it was time to start sending out resumes, I came to the conclusion that commuting to and from Manhattan on the LIRR everyday wasn’t something I was prepared to do. “Hey, mom, I’m moving to DC,” I said. I was gone in a couple of days.