I started this blog a little over a month ago, on the first day of the Democratic National Convention and the day after my forty-sixth birthday. So far it’s been exhilarating and scary by turns. I’m so grateful to everyone who has stopped by and commented.

I’ve found other bloggers, like Writer Dad and In Other Words, who have made me feel welcome. I hope to meet many people in the blogosphere who will learn about Denver through my eyes and words.

But sometimes while writing this blog, I’ve felt the way I did today, wandering around the Uptown neighborhood, wondering why 17th Street didn’t have any benches along the street. Where’s a girl supposed to sit down and write?

Uptown (there’s a map at Denver Infill; go to “Center City Districts” and click on the section marked “Uptown”) is my subject for October. I’ll post on other subjects (including MonHaibuns), but Tuesdays and Thursdays will be devoted to this neighborhood, north of Capitol Hill and east of downtown Denver.

Uptown is off the beaten path for tourists, a little gritty, and bounded on its southern side by Colfax, formerly a notorious red light district.*

So while I was perched on a planter today (because of the lack of pedestrian-friendly seating street-side), I was thinking of how much this area reminds me of living in DC after college. (Luckily, Denver’s not the murder capital of the country, as DC was back then.)

The mix of restaurants and shops with residences took me back to living at 70th and Holmes in Kansas City or up Wisconsin Avenue from Georgetown in DC. You could walk a few blocks and find something to do, people to watch. The spectacle of urban living—or at least eating: In Kansas City, as a child, I’d walk to Friedson’s and get a chocolate coke. In DC, I’d walk to the American Café and get cheesecake.

I can do that now, of course, in Broomfield—walk to Starbucks, Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli, Noodles & Company, Massage Envy, Face Logic…yeah, chains. Useful, reliable.

Or, as I like to say, SSE. Same shit everywhere.

Uptown, although in transition, in the process of gentrification, is not SSE. (It has a lot of one-way streets, too. I wonder if there’s a correlation?)

It retains many a parking lot built in the 1970s, when Denver planners decided all these houses dating from the Gilded Age should be torn down to make spaces for the automobile. All over downtown Denver, in a nice bit of poetic justice, those lots are being turned into new housing, but plenty of eyesores are left in other parts of the city.

I tried to find a park where I could sit down in the shade, but there are not many in the western part of Uptown. For refuge I sought out Illegal Grounds, a spacious coffeehouse on 17th Avenue. I entered through a lovely patio and hid in the back, where the voices of other patrons and the jazz were unobtrusive. I called my husband and told him I might not be home for dinner; it depended on whether I could get out of this oh-so-comfortable chair in time to catch the bus.

And I suggested we visit the Uptown Lofts next door and see if we liked the floor plan.

*Saturday night I learned where the term “red light district” comes from. In the nineteenth century, railroad workers carried red lights to signal trains to stop. When they were off duty and felt like visiting a lady for the evening, they would hang their red lanterns outside the brothel door (to avoid starting a fire indoors, I suppose). Thus the houses festooned with red lights became well known as the places for men to go.
Anyway, that’s what Phil Goodstein said. And he’s a famous Denver historian.

Leave A Comment

  1. Todd Bradley October 2, 2008 at 11:07 am - Reply

    That was a nice article. Makes me want to go check out the area, since I haven’t hung out there much in the past.

  2. Beth Partin October 2, 2008 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Yeah, I think it’s underappreciated. It’s got these little eruptions of restaurants and shops among all the residential and services. It’s interesting–I like neighborhoods that feel unfinished.

  3. BernardL October 2, 2008 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Nice uptown tour, Beth. The only times I’ve been in Denver were when it was covered in snow.

  4. Beth Partin October 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    It can be nice then too–if you like snow. Do you?

    Personally, my snow limit is pretty low. Which makes it funny that I live here, except the snow usually melts quickly, and it’s dry, so it doesn’t feel as cold as Kansas City and DC did.

  5. steph October 2, 2008 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    I am always up for a history lesson: that red-light district tidbit is cool! I had no idea.

    I’ve never been to Denver, and I don’t live there now, but your posts do paint a nice image, especially when you’re out and about and writing at the same time.

    I LOVE the first pic you have posted there in the top left of the post! Where is that?

    PS. Hey, thanks for the link, Beth!

  6. steph October 2, 2008 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    One more thing. I don’t think your RSS button is working properly. I just get code when I click on it.

  7. Harmony October 2, 2008 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Yes Beth, I had the same problem with your RSS…
    I was born in Greeley. It’s nice to see Denver highlights.
    Your blog model is really interesting.

  8. Beth Partin October 2, 2008 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Steph, my RSS feed works in Google reader. If you’re using Yahoo, it doesn’t seem to work. You could try typing “bethpartin.com/feed/” into your reader and see if that works. If you’re in Google reader, you can leave the “feed” part off.

    One of these days I will get someone to look at the button and other aspects of this theme.

    That picture at the top is from Illegal Grounds coffeehouse, out in the courtyard. It was really pretty there late in the afternoon.

    Harmony, what do you mean by “my blog model”? The theme? Or what I write about?

  9. Amber's Crazy Bloggin' Canuck October 2, 2008 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Good gracious! You’ve only been around for a month? You sure hide it well! You are the epitome of a seasoned blogger!

  10. Beth Partin October 2, 2008 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Amber, that was nice! I have blogged before, on Blogger, as Price of Silence (which is under Fiction on this site) and Inland, Dreaming. I guess they were my practice runs.

  11. steph October 2, 2008 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Hmmm, I don’t get it. When I click on the button I should get something that allows me to choose Google or whatever and add you to my reader. But all I get is a page of code. And I don’t understand your tip above…

  12. Beth October 4, 2008 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Sorry, Steph, about the button. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. When I add the Meta block to my blog, that RSS feed doesn’t work either. I just meant you could go to reader.google.com and type in my URL and it would add me. Sorry if it was confusing.

  13. saint facetious October 6, 2008 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Uptown’s not gritty. Colfax and south are the grittier parts, and not so much these days. Just the occasional whacked out crackwhore wandering around.

    I’m not sure about the train thing, but the “red light district” is universal throughout the world. In Amsterdam, the red light district is still quite literal. As in, red light’s are still used when a hooker is available.

  14. Beth October 6, 2008 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    True, Colfax and its environs are a lot less gritty than they used to be. Still, Uptown is grittier than, say, Larimer Square or other downtown areas.

    I’ve been to Amsterdam, but I don’t actually remember the red lights, just the women in the windows.