At last, in the air to Neal Casadyland. Promised thundershowers replaced with vast sunlight. In the ride into city, it looks as flat like my native Saskatchewan. Where are the famous mountains? I saw them not. In North Vancouver, that’s impossible to do. After a pleasant and praries-evoking ride, we are at my hotel. I was expecting a hotel. This was minor motel-land. Construction on my floor, but I didn’t come here for accommodation. According to the Hornsby website, The Highlands wine and liquor store in some distant place had Hornsby Amber Cidre. When I got there, they were surprised. No Hornsby there, but some fine cidres to come. I should have called them before the long, futile Lyft ride. First off, Death, where is your sting? No, where is your address. Apparently I had typed E. 27 when I wanted just 27. we quickly exited our dark nowhere and drove to a place identified as Death. Had to walk up to the door to read it. Part of a hotel. The Lyft driver leaves. I enter. It looks like a living room. Vast soft chairs abound, but alas, all are full. The bar is not. Famous for its cocktails, eh? I order the drink to help the victims of the Maui fire. For dinner, the mushroom enraptured polenta.
creamy Parmesan polenta, tender stems
gluten free, vegetarian
I have vague memories of encounters with polenta in Italy but that would have been more than 20 years ago and it’s not that memorable a starch. But with these mushrooms it did sing. I wrote down the ingredients for the Maui drink, and when it concluded, I ordered a less cause-tied cocktail. Wrote down its ingredients. It was a disaster in itself. Trying feebly to write down my observations with unskillfully-used new cellphone, two nearby women offered to help. As Blanche Dubois depended on the kindness of strangers, at some point in our increasing lives, we old people will depend on the kindness of the young. I also relied on the kindness of the bar tender to replace the drink. That he did, something off menu, he went on about the origins of the drink but I was to much in hurry to get it to pay sufficient attention. Continued conversation with the helpful women. One of them, Janine, is a bartender and invents perfumes. https://blackearthnyc.bigcartel.com/ A good combination, as the sense of smell is closely related to the sense of taste. I’ll get back to that when I get to Meow Wolf on Tuesday. Janine was waiting for her plane back to NYC, her friend Bee was a local. It’s still early, Pacific Time. I go over to the Meridian Hotel. I hear they have a great view. But it’s closed. At 10:30? Website says open to Midnight. Not tonight. Nice building though. I retire. Looking back from, OK, yesterday, I’m reminded of Neal and his barber dad in a rented room in Denver in the 1930s. My hotel seems to have been updated by the dumber Jetsons. I too am cold in this unheatable room, but not 1930s Cassady family cold. The room is sufficient into itself. I arise and walk some distance to a just opened restaurant called Jelly. Closer on Google than on feet, over some very challenging sidewalks. Had an earthquake occurred recently? Yet as I tilt and walk, I am delighted with the variety of architecture. Vancouver could learn much here. When I return to North Van, I find the sidewalks on Lonsdale, our main street, just as tilted and hard to navigate. The bartender told me this was a scary area and I heard some long moans from the moon’s lunatics outside and what could have been police sirens, but tired enough to survive their annoyance. The eggs at Jelly could have fed several me’s. And there are potatoes, with sour cream? What am I, the Ukrainian army? Although I ate sprightly last night and walked a considerable distance, I had no defense at this caloric onslaught. It is a 50’s? maybe earlier mode of American (only?) diner type places. Big meals for big people. I am big only in ideas.
Heavier I have become in the trod back to the hotelly thing. Then, off to Meow Wolf 2: the Denver experience. As the Lyft cavorts around Denver road lines, I notice Curtis street flash by. That’s a line from a beloved (by me) play called Neal Amid, a little bit of it has him here in Denver and here I am. Outside the Lyft ride windows I see buildings that Neal would have seen.I like what I see. Great mixture of old and new and reverently preserved, as deserves a capital city. Early at MW but I like that. Everyone else in line seems to have bought their clothes, like me, at Value Village. I fit right in. Some have kids. I see a lot of quite young kids in the place. Can’t see much at that level but an attempt is made by MW. The entrance is a very different experience than Omega Mart, very low budget SF movies from a forgettable era. I go in. It’s C Street. It’s Disneyland’s Main Street only dark and alienish.
You gotta solve puzzles, but no thanks, I’ll wander. A movie theatre has a spellbinding flick about strawberries. Later I videoed a plant presenting one of the best pieces of video I’ve ever seen. It was like the best World’s Fair exhibits. Disney’s best. And what’s next? There is a shrinking market for nostalgia The idea of different worlds only rarely works. Yeah we get it, this room looks different than that room. How is it more playful? I am thinking Gaudi’s Parc Guell. I’m thinking the whole medieval village come to life at the Czech pavilion at Expo 67, they took from a lot of places and succeeded less than I expected. The laundry product seems right out of Omega Mart,
I salute Meow Wolf for dragging me to Denver. I had never contemplated going to Denver before. No reason. Yet, encountering Meow Wolf in Vegas changed my life. Made me want to join the Meow. Now, the wish is withdrawn. It’s a nice place. If you’re in Denver, check it out. Maybe introducing scents would have helped Convergence Station. I once did an article for Adbusters about a scent doctor who helped stores attract customers with various scents and Vegas casinos mark their identities with scents.
Maybe if each of the 4 converging worlds had different scents. Sounds like a job for a perfumer! As Covid made us all familiar with the loss of our senses, I suspect much will be learned about the importance of our sense of smell. Good aromas can even keep Alzheimer’s away, according to some new research: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/08/230801131700.htm
Speaking of checking, they searched my bag for molecules of cannabis so relentlessly I thought the dogs were on their way, but Neigh! Not Mounties mounted on horses nor drug loving dogs were sicced on me. No hint of intoxicants. They violently screen against intoxicant users at the same time as they present a very intoxicating show.
This is a bit odd, eh? Nonetheless, there is much to enjoy here. On every level. Much art has gone into this. It’s a gallery in a new iteration, Art Gallery 5.0 I was 5 or less when I first saw Disneyland in early 1956. Tech has improved the ride since then, but is MW Denver the future of this? No. The fall off from Omega Mart to Denver is precipitous. I no longer wish to devote my life (OK, I’m really old, eh?) to them. I don’t see any convergence with them. Omega Mart made me want to reach to the stars, Denver is more mud-based,
I walk up some stairs. I take elevators. But I am not being elevated. My 6-year old grandson would probably really enjoy this. It was a mistake to buy 2 tickets. Last day I spent a bit of time with the mystery, but was not enthralled. Omega Mart’s conspiracy trip was better. One room that is supposedly full of clues is full of adolescent boys deeply engaged in solving the mystery. Maybe my 11 year old grandson would enjoy it, but I was 11 years old a long time ago.
Lyft to Ellitch Gardens found me in a deserted site, instead of the place I’d bought a ticket for. Gardener explained it was only open weekends now. Can I get my money back? Stay tuned. Lunch on Larimer Street at a Spanish restaurant called Rioja. A small bowl of artichoke tortellini. It was OK. The area reminded me of Park Royal in West Vancouver. Very upscale. I’m impressed with the use of bricks in this city. Not just old buildings but new ones utilize brick as a design element. I know the bricks are here as insulation for the fierce winters, but here on a warm fall day they are a fine feast for the eyes.
Back at my “hotel” I listen to Marc Maron’s interview with Naomi Klein, one of my favorite people and read Tom Robins’ Fierce Invalids. 2 days later, in Denver airport, I’m still reading this novel when a man walks by and then stops and asks what I’m reading. I show him the book. He seems unfamiliar with Robbins. He says, “ you look like a genius, so I had to know what your were reading.” he learns that and then moves away. Nobody benefits from such labels.
Had reservation at Barolo Grill with low expectations and was blown away. Their mushroom souffle was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.
Soufflé di formaggio
porcini mushroom soufflé, crispy hen-of-the-woods mushroom, parmigiana reggiano, fonduta, 22
balsamic cippolini onion, truffle puree
*Pecorino, La Piuma 2020 Abruzzo
I had looked forward to their halibut, but it swam away, so I went with the pork. I was once again stunned. The number of memorable pork meals I’ve had in north America is close to zero. In Tokyo, I could daily eat Ton Katsu and that is a tribute to pigs.
A server tells me that they are in the verge of getting a Michelin star. They really deserve it. I go back to Death but the bartender from the previous night is gone. I didn’t write down the ingredients of the off -menu drink he made me, alas. The one recipe I needed. When I wasn’t endangering my ankles, I constantly found Denver delightful. Drunks in liquor stores were polite. I could walk by a group of big, drunk men, of various colour late at nite, in an area I’m told is dangerous, and not feel threatened.
So. Not being threatened is good. I’m Mr Tourist. I’m here to get the touristy best of the city, from an art-centric stance, eh? From the hired ride, it is a delightful city. Just as I discovered Chicago with cousin Elicia in 2007, this was a wonderful American city to discover, at least at this point in time. I’m told I magically experienced a spell of good weather. Is the politeness I experienced from the citizens, and even visitors to Denver, part of what you need to be to each other to survive the extremes of nasty Denver climate? Thanks, Denver, for showing me how a city can shine. Thanks Meow Wolf for introducing me to Denver.
Wednesday was devoted to art. Meow Wolf good prep for that. After the massive scrambled egg dish at Jelly, this time with fruit instead of potatoes (I tell my server Denver reminds me of Vancouver. He says another customer, also from Vancouver, had told him that recently) It’s now time to head over to the Denver Art Gallery, in a fine collection of architecture called the art complex. The building is much bigger than the collections inside, which are smaller and intimate. A section devoted to African art reminds me of all the African art I encountered on my last trip to Paris in 2017.
There was an exhibit about Low Riders. Despite growing up in LA, I knew them only from the song by WAR.
There is an area where kids could make their own paper cars and a little table where they could race them. Reminds me of a scene in the Tom Robbins novel I’m now reading. The main character, Switters, makes paper boats and races them against the boats made by some art students at Pike Place Market. Always a good idea to give kids something to do at a museum. The skateboards adorned with First Nations art reminds me skateboards similarly arted up in Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology. When you’ve been to a LOT of museums and art galleries over the years, you tend to encounter similar art.
After wolfing down the art statement that is Convergence Station yesterday, I am in serious Art mode today. And there’s a ton of fine images to dive into here.
Lunch at Ponti, the restaurant at the art gallery. The scallops looked so good on the website menu but were rather disappointing in real life. Served on a bed of vegetables that detracted rather than enhanced the scallops. Then it was off to the Botanic Gardens. Other cities have Botanical Gardens, Denver is just Botanic. French influence? I buy my ticket and head for the art galleries within the gardens. Ah, More art!
Then as I prepare to enter the gardens themselves, I look for my hat and shades. They’re not in my bag! I tell a worker and she tells me to check the Lost and Found. Should have done that, but couldn’t recall where I left them. I call the restaurant but they’re not there. If I’d left them in the Lyft, they have my phone number, they would have called, surely. I go back to my hotel to avoid the sun. Later, dinner at Ronin.
The agedashi tofu isn’t bad; the Gyoza is far inferior to my wife’s Gyoza. Then it’s back to Barolo Grill. Will their mushroom souffle be as good as it was yesterday? Even though the grill didn’t get its hoped for Michelin star today, it’s still worth going to Denver for.
Thursday it’s back to Meow Wolf. This time I pay $3.00 for Qpass card. By “booping” various stations around Convergence Station, I’m supposed to unravel a mystery about the missing founders of the Station. The mystery at the centre of Omega Mart was much more involving, and overall OM was just more interesting. I found some areas in CS I hadn’t seen on Tuesday but was none the better for it. I contemplated taking the train to the airport. I’d heard the Union Station was quite a spectacular bit or architecture. It was OK. I couldn’t find the place to buy tickets for the airport and then gave up on the idea of the train. Lyft ride to the airport quite reasonable. I have lots of time before my 6:00 flight (which ends up not departing til 7:15). Vino Vollo, the wine bar I’d discovered at YVR also has an outlet in the Denver airport. While I sampled a flight of bubblies in Vancouver, I went with a cidre in Denver. The chicken pesto flat bread, like many a meal in this country, it just too much food, but the cidre is delicious. Unlike Washington State, where I have never had a drinkable cidre, every cidre in Denver has been excellent.
Denver also reminds me of Washington in the sheer number of freaks. It’s always pleasant to be among peers. Not at all surprising that Colorado and Washington were the first 2 states to legalize cannabis. I’ll admit I knew next to nothing about Colorado or Denver but I liked what I saw (and ate). Back in Vancouver, I called the Lost and Found at the Botanic Gardens. They did indeed have my hat and shades but were not about to send them back to me, alas! One pleasant effect of travel to new places is they shine a light on where you live when you return. There’s never enough light.