I almost didn’t do my walkabout on Wednesday. The forecast was gloomy: 70 percent chance of rain. It wouldn’t be any use to go to downtown Denver in such weather, would it?
Such are the musings of a woman spoiled by Denver’s 300 days of sunshine a year. Luckily, I didn’t give in to the urge to stay inside all day: it was fun to walk around in the light rain on Wednesday, even if Robert didn’t agree.
Robert was manning the register at Gallegos Produce, which has been open since April at the corner of Broadway and Larimer. As I took a picture of the exterior, I heard him calling. Maybe he was lonely in there with the eggplant and potatoes from Colorado and the last of the Rocky Ford cantaloupe and the lemons from California. I paused to look for the source of the voice and ended up going inside.
In response to a query about the weather, I told Robert I liked walking in the rain, and he asked me if I had ever been homeless. “No,” I said. He had been homeless for 8 years and said that being outside in the rain was no fun. Snow he didn’t mind, but being wet all day was terrible.
I liked the way Robert delivered his lesson without making me feel stupid.
That conversation was my one and only of the day. I’d started my walkabout on Larimer around 20th Street, where you can find places like pizza joints and pawn shops and the Ginn Mill and Herb’s. At 22nd and Larimer each corner is occupied, by Altitude Peak Fitness and the Whiskey Bar and Colorado Rehearsal Studios and the Hi-Rise Bakery. A block farther is the original location of Snooze, undergoing renovation so as to provide even better brunches, and across Park Avenue is Catholic Charities. Go southeast on Park a ways and you’ll be in the area where homeless men gather at night to wait in line for the shelters at Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Mission.
In other words, once you hit Park Avenue, the neighborhood is “in transition.” (Gallegos Produce is a block or two beyond Park. Robert warned me not to walk around this neighborhood at night, and I wasn’t as irritated by that kind of warning as I usually am. In mid-afternoon, the streets were merely shiny with rain and deserted, but I can imagine them being a little intimidating at night.)
I’m not exactly sure where Five Points starts. I think it would be more accurate to use “Curtis Park” to refer to the area from 22nd and Larimer to 30th and Larimer. But the Gallegos sign mentioned LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver), and you could also make a case that this is the Ballpark neighborhood, since it’s right next to Coors Field. Confused? Go look to my links page, click on Denver Infill, and look at the maps. For now, I’m sticking with Five Points.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church sits between 27th and 28th. I tried the doors, but they were locked. There’s not much else nearby except empty storefronts, 1 bar, the Hot House (open for breakfast, the sign says), and Krav Maga at 29th. A sign on the Strategy Room said it would be opening October 2nd.
This area seems to be moving from industrial to urban residential, with lots of condos. But in the area around 30th and Lawrence, 130-year-old houses sit right next to apartments and condos. The Denver Enterprise Center takes up one corner, although no one seemed to be enterprising behind the fence on the other side of the building.
By the time I reached Mestizo-Curtis Park (the oldest official park in Denver), the rain had stopped.I walked up to 32nd, where I found the offices of the Women’s Bean Project in the old Denver Fire Station No. 10. On my way back down to 31st, I saw one man striding through the park and a woman playing with her dog. Otherwise the park and pool were quiet, waiting for the sun to bring people back.
I moseyed to the light rail station at 30th and Downing, and as I reached the parking lot noticed a stocky, brown-haired white man unscrewing a license plate from a white Tercel. The passenger door was open, and another man sat in the driver’s seat. When the unscrewer finished his job, he deposited the license plate in another vehicle, exchanged some money with the driver (a white man with a shaved head and black goatee). Then both of them drove off.
The things you see in Denver.
I walked down to Mocha Motive to get a drink, but it seems to have gone out of business since the summer.
Later that night, after attending Member-Only Night at the Botanic Gardens, I stopped by the Tattered Cover in downtown Denver to read magazines. On my way back to Market Street Station, I noticed at least 3 homeless people on the long benches. One was already stretched out, covered with a light-colored blanket. I thought of the lows the past couple of nights—in the high 30s—and wondered where Robert was spending the night.