Saturday, April 27, 2013

Urban City Snapshot

I have locked myself out of the car. I borrowed my husband’s ignition key for the weekend — since I left my keys at work Friday afternoon — but was ignorant of the need for a separate door key. While I wait for my knight in shining armor to come, I watch the world go by.

I face what once was Denver’s main street. As in most cities the main drag was long since bypassed by the interstate and the need to rush around the city. Further east there are blocks of dilapidated Motor Hotels with quaint western themes; they are a glimpse into a bygone era when a road trip was a family adventure rather than a trial of togetherness. This far west I’m in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, an eclectic mix of grand old homes, dive bars, and newly fashionable restaurants, all with a fantastic view of snow clad mountains rising above downtown.

Last week’s snow has cleansed the city, leaving an empty sky and emerald grass. Trees are reluctant to leaf out just yet so the finches, sparrows, robins, and magpies stand out as they weave fences of song. Squirrels hang upside down on those same trees like diurnal bats. I have little use for them, although I concede their fuzzy cuteness. Gray squirrels were introduced to my city a hundred years ago by a homesick Chicagoan. I loathe them for driving out our native fauna and fear the bubonic plague they carry. Still I chuckle at their antics as a pair chase round the base of a barren elm tree most likely planted before their kind came.

Traffic is leisurely. Roaring engines and impatient acceleration will come later in the day, when the drivers have woken to the urgency of getting somewhere. For now they’re all still sleepy or perhaps enjoying a cup of coffee with the window down and spring blowing in.

Cyclists shrink-wrapped in logo-spattered spandex roll slowly to a red light. Their muscles are drawn long and lean. Green light. Standing above their saddles they thrust forward, a melding of man and machine, ungainly in the first strides but picking up speed across the street. They soon are out of sight.

A fire engine bustles past, impatiently shouting its way through traffic to aid an otherwise forgotten man who has collapsed. I wonder who called for help, cynically imagining the restaurant owner phoning in, desperate to rid himself of the homeless nuisance diverting customers. The sun warms my shoulders and then my heart and I hope instead that passersby offered assistance to a fellow just a little down on his luck.

Before me rises a modernist apartment cube. The building is clad in large rectangles of matte blue gray aluminum, lending it an air of space-tech. There are balconies for each residence. I watch as two men, most likely strangers despite their proximity, mirror exactly each other’s movements. Mr. Seventh Floor South is a stocky, bearded black man in a vest and do rag who is obviously enjoying his coffee. Tenth Floor East is lean and muscular and white and confident enough that he stands in just bicycle shorts. They simultaneously lean on the black iron railing, looking out like satisfied kings surveying their tiny kingdoms. They stretch and sip and turn and lean again in an unscripted ballet that — more than any work of art — speaks of our common humanity.

The grumble of my husband’s truck draws my attention down to the parking lot. I trade him a kiss and a doughnut from the bank for the key and we each drive away.


  1. Good morning's writing, Ilyanna!

  2. Very nice. Felt like I was sitting right there with you.

  3. What lovely descriptions--makes me wish you'd get locked out of all sorts of things all the time, really.

    Oh, and: High Five of Agreement About Squirrels. ICK.

  4. >They stretch and sip and turn and lean again in an unscripted ballet that — more than any work of art — speaks of our common humanity.

    Beautifully put. Quite quite perfect.
    Thanks for this glimpse of Denver's main street, Yanna.
    - Leen -