Over the course of the last two months, including a trip to Montrose and back, I probably spent 12 cumulative hours in cars. Until Friday, when over the course of three days I logged 16 hours in vehicle seats. This is just not how I live my life.
I tried to intersperse this drive time with strolls along city blocks (okay, we walked with great purpose) and dog walks. On one of these walks with the tentative but whip-smart Loki, my brother-in-law Michael said he is starting to realize how much of his day is used up in commuting.
My two sisters and my mom are three of the endless (and still growing) households in formerly bucolic Arvada, northeast of downtown Denver. The estimate I was given is that they are 14-16 miles from downtown, but it seems farther: on a Sunday with limited (ha) traffic, it still took at least 35 minutes to get me to the bus terminal.
The killer was not really the trip to and from Denver (although I didn’t think the bus would ever make it to Gunnison last night, even if we arrived early), nor the connecting trips to and from Arvada: it was Saturday that about did the entire family in.
I went to Denver for two events, both on Saturday. One was good: my nephew was singing in the All-State Choir. The other was bad: five days after the memorial service for her son, my aunt died. Her service was Saturday morning.
Where my family lives at the north end of the Greater Denver Metro Area, my aunt’s family has always lived at the south end. So Saturday morning we drove one hour and 15 minutes south for the service. As someone noted that morning, my aunt — who loved family gatherings her entire life — would have been pleased by how many family members came to remember her.
It was a nice tribute to her life of family and service (she spent decades on HOA boards), and it allowed me to connect with my uncles and several cousins. I don’t know when we all started sporting gray in our hair, but it’s there. And my stepdad’s cousins assured my mother and me that we look alike and share mannerisms.
But we couldn’t linger, because there was driving to do. More driving. It probably wasn’t our best plan, but it’s the one we followed: we went back to Arvada to “rest” before the All-State concert. And in true city fashion, driving miles out of our way turns out to be the fastest route home. So we went south to get onto C470 to head west of our final destination.
And “rest” consisted of power-cramming sandwiches (my first visit to a Firehouse Sub shop — you can’t tell me this wasn’t an exotic trip), before heading back south to downtown Denver.
Here’s big-city life for you: while Michael was driving, Terri searched her phone for and reserved parking at a garage downtown. In what sounded like a great plan, Michael and I dropped everyone else near the door of the Buell Theatre, then went to the parking garage. Or, more correctly, went looking for the parking garage.
Most of the streets in downtown Denver are one-way, and Michael made a wrong guess as to which way Lawrence ran, and you can’t just go around one block due to things like the 16th Street pedestrian mall, so we had to make one giant loop for that. And then no one downtown feels the need to put numbers on their buildings, so we couldn’t even figure out which side of the street was odd or even, so there was another loop.
Then we were looking for Bridgeport Plaza at 1546 Lawrence, but the only sign for parking we saw said 1551 Arapahoe. We finally, on our third (or was it our fourth?) pass, decided that had to be the garage. Michael thought it looked like the picture on his phone; I didn’t see it myself, but when we finally pulled out of traffic and up to the unmanned kiosk, it recognized the QR code, so we were in the right place.
Here is how it works: on the 16th Street side (where no cars are allowed), there’s a big sign that says Bridgeport Plaza. And when you leave the parking garage, you exit into the middle of the 1500 block of Arapahoe. But why the sign on Lawrence couldn’t say “Bridgeport Plaza, 1546 Lawrence Street” I don’t know. I guess I’m asking too much.
Then we walked past a large statue of a miner holding the biggest gold nugget that could ever have been pulled out of the Colorado foothills, and I saw a seven-story pencil (my phone was conveniently forgotten back at my sister’s, so no photojournalistic evidence), and among all the ads for shows at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts was also an ad taking Colorado Senator Cory Gardner to task for voting to destroy the Arctic — I thought that was a little weird, the juxtaposition of politics with Anna Karenina.
The Buell Theatre bottlenecks its visitors with its security (a sad commentary on the state of the union) that includes metal detectors. Despite the sign warning that no weapons would be allowed, I was able to keep the pocketknife I’ve had since I was 9, along with my second pocketknife that actually cuts things — I was armed to the teeth.
But finally we were in, and we sat through a rather dry presentation by the Mixed Choir (the conductor had unfortunately selected a series of songs that sounded dirgishly alike, including, in an overly self-indulgent moment, one he wrote himself), to get to the “Tenor-Bass Choir” (read: Men’s) that my nephew was in. First we misidentified which boy was him, then, after they got to the stage, he got tucked behind a taller boy. Fortunately, this conductor, whose offerings were a bit more lively, moved the young men around, so Justin ended up on the end in the front row where it was easy to see him.
The men were good, but the women (Treble Choir) who ended the show were the ones who stole it. Their conductor, who came from Russia, put together an eclectic mix of music, from Rachmaninoff (who turns out to have written “popular” songs when he needed money) to American spirituals and gospel. This conductor asked for, and got, a ton of musicality out of these young women.
By now it was after 6, and Michael and I plowed through a milling mass of humanity to retrieve the car. Bridgeport Plaza is a weird place with an empty hallway that must be 25 feet wide; a man sits at a desk without much to do that I could see, other than ask you to surrender your driver’s license in order to receive a key to the restroom, which was simply a restroom and nothing elegant like a key would suggest — but there are a large number of homeless people in the vicinity, and I guess it’s better that they go in the street than your bathroom.
Back to Arvada for a family dinner at one of the very few restaurants that exists to serve this huge number of houses that grows by the day, so food didn’t arrive for well over an hour. It was a pleasant enough dinner, but everyone was so tired it lacked some of its usual luster.
Then there was the drive home, followed yesterday by the drives to and from breakfast and yet one more trip to downtown, with five minutes to spare before the bus pulled out. And now I am home, and here to stay. I think I will walk to work this morning. Just because I can.
Sorry about the photo quality. First I forgot to post it, and then that was all I had.