“So, how did I get here?” I type that question sitting at a wide, messy desk in a haven of a horder-ish office in a 1910 bungalow. B and I named our brick home Etta (after my mom’s mom) and she stands sturdy in a Denver neighborhood called Highlands.
I considered a version of that question when I arrived in Denver in 2003. I was in town for a round of interviews for a movie reviewing gig at the Denver Post. I got the job and was for more than a decade the paper’s film critic and then its film and theater critic. But back in 2003, I was walking in the city I’d grown up in but hadn’t visited in 17 years.
I was strolling east on 17th Avenue, a tree-lined thoroughfare I once drove in my folk’s muscular Chrysler 300. I felt like an amnesiac in a soap opera. Everything I know about traumatic memory loss, I learned from daytime soaps. “Days of Our Lives” in particular. Here I was Mickey Horton/Marty Hanson returning to Salem. A couple years into my new-ish life in Denver, I would land my own Maggie: my mate, Beck.
When I got to the intersection where City Park begins on the north side of 17th and the grounds for East High School on the south, I looked toward that elegant structure’s clock tower. I had a vague sense of walking the school’s halls, of having a slightly elevated place amid its student body. But there weren’t waves of nostalgia.
As for the city, I recognized the lay of the land enough to get from points A to B. But the people who made Denver home were long gone. My parents had retired to Arizona in ‘86. My brother had died in New York City in ’91. My two closest high school friends had gone east for college, like I had.
In the time I’d been away, I’d come of age. As a college kid studying women’s studies and philosophy in New Haven and later as a journalist in New York City, I’d tussled — in earnest, in agony, with pleasure — with race and gender and sexuality. Now I was back in a place I didn’t exactly flee but needed to leave in order to ask a tougher set of questions about the world and my place in it.
How did I get here, indeed.