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The International Writers Magazine: Denver

Staying Warm, Without Staying Dry in Denver
• Bobby Bingle
I didn’t know where I should go or what I should do. I had just checked into an inexpensive hotel a block south of the 16th street mall in Denver. I threw my things down and slept for three hours. Dehydration, a general lack of sleep, and drowsy medication will do that.

El Chap

An afternoon and night in Denver turned into a night in Denver. However, the sleep was the best I’d had in days; an uncertain future and thin plans two months from twenty-five years old had heightened already pressing sleep issues. At any rate, a fresh night in Denver seemed more promising than a half-sedated afternoon.

I was hungry and thirsty. A TV in the hotel lobby showed the Rockies playing the Cubs at home. A hotel bartender told me the field was about 10 blocks away. I had no interest in the irrelevant game, but figured there would be energy and people near the field. I headed east on 16th street toward Coors Field.
It was drizzling outside. “It’s funny, it’s been beautiful for weeks. Today is the first day it’s been cold,” a bus driver had said earlier. I had a feeling the rain would pick up in intensity, stop, or remain drizzling. Whatever the sky’s decision, it was imperative that I got inside a bar soon.

I power-walked past Western-themed restaurants, zany souvenir shops, three Starbucks, and other tourist traps lining the central street. At the intersection of 16th and Blake St., I saw the lights of Coors Field several blocks north.

The foreplay of light rain quickly shifted into the real show; the precipitation surged. To my left, I saw the comforting neon light of an establishment with taps. I darted into Freshcraft. A classic, dark wooden bar with chalkboards listing draught beers welcomed me.

The bar had potential to be a well-worn drinking hole in a decade or two. That night, it felt new and clean, but cozy. A local explained that Freshcraft was situated in an area of the city called the LoDo, or Lower Downtown, district. It was comprised of bars and restaurants converted from old warehouses that had a steady, at times pounding pulse.

I ordered a 10 oz. Colorado Mercenary IPA from a list of about twenty draught beers. I followed it with an Avery Oktoberfest and a half turkey sandwich. Over my shoulder, large windows reflected a neon-fuzz from the classic beer signs that had pulled me in; the rain on the other side accentuated the place’s warmth.
Feeling more awake from the sustenance, I decided to brave the wet and walk closer to the stadium. Lightly jogging from one awning to another, I stopped into the Sports Column. Despite the opaque name, it turned out to be a typical but nice sports bar with floor space, pitchers, darts, and billiards.

I sat at the bar and ordered the $3 Breckenridge Avalanche special. The Rockies game played on two large screen TVs ahead of me. Beyond the pointlessness to the game, it was nice to have somewhere to place my eyes while drinking alone at a bar. Eventually, I struck up a conversation with some people from San Diego en route to Kansas City to see the Chiefs play the Chargers.

With confidence from the social interaction, I felt it time to make my way to a new place. When I reached the entrance to the stadium, I heard live drums about two blocks away. Naturally, I moved toward the sound.

Just east of Coors Field, the walls of a small, brick building with blues murals seemed to shake almost. I walked into El Chapultepec and found myself in a narrow, 50’s diner setting. Taps and bottles of liquor substituted for butter-drenched toast and greasy eggs. A three-piece band and a lady vocalist replaced the jukebox. The band grooved and the woman vocally shredded. I ordered two bud lights and settled in.
The energy of the place was wonderful. At the least, everyone tapped a few fingers or shifted a shoulder. At the most, a tall blonde woman in white leggings dry humped the singer.

I stayed for several songs until the band took a break in their set around 12:30. I nodded to them as an appreciative, knowledgeable fan (they didn’t see me and I’m not knowledgeable).
I walked down Larimer Street just east of the Lo-Do district. On the sidewalk, a man offered me a pair of clippers for $7. I didn’t need clippers and I only had a twenty, which I didn’t want to part with.
“You could go in there and get change,” he said, pointing to what appeared to be a dive bar. The plan seemed splendid. I walked in.

Directly inside, a hammered middle-aged man sang an atrocious rendition of “Take on Me” next to a karaoke DJ. Of course, I had to stay for a bit. I ordered a beer and walked some of the change out to the man, then returned to finish my drink and enjoy the live set.

Though awful, I thoroughly enjoyed the singing and always appreciate someone willing to do it. I didn’t possess the same gumption myself, though I did spot a few Bob Seger songs in the karaoke book that I was tempted to unleash.
It proved an excellent late night stop off. After a man slurred through Sinead O’Connor’s version of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” I opted to leave on a good note and made for my hotel.

Beer and Cheese The rain had stopped and a walk in the clean air forced me to confront a hazy purpose for my near future. The arrival in a new city or the alcohol -maybe both-flooded me with a desire to feel momentum. I wanted to feel as though I was on the verge of something. That one of the half-promising, informational interviews might lead to something. That I would elude stagnation. That I wasn’t lost. That Colorado was a place I could amount to something.

In reality, the only thing I was on the verge of was a nightcap of warm beer and white cheddar popcorn back in my room. Though my future and movements were unsteady at best, I held a semblance of certainty about something: for a rainy Tuesday night in Denver, I had done all right. I called it a night and did my best to sleep with raw, shaking blues and wonderfully off Sinead O’Connor rolling around my head.
© Bobby Bingle November 2012

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