Big Kid Pants

Union Station

Union Station at night

I worked in downtown Denver for 20 years. Actually, I started out working on Capitol Hill, which is just a short distance east of downtown. A couple of years after I started working for that company, it picked up and moved to what was then called lower downtown – or the Skids.

It seriously was quite depressing. Female employees were walked to their cars on dark winter evenings. We witnessed homeless couples making whoopee by the dumpsters outside our windows. There wasn’t a restaurant to be found within a reasonable walking distance. Our executive director told us we were being “trailblazers.”

Well, he was right. Several years after we moved, the Colorado Rockies organization built Coors Field literally across the street from our office, and the rest is history.

When I left, Lodo was thriving, though there were still undeveloped areas. Light rail had begun, but there weren’t many lines. Condos were being built, but they were few and far between, and terribly expensive.

I get downtown on occasion since I retire when I have lunch with some of my old friends. Each time I exit the light rail train and head towards my old office, I tell myself I HAVE to bring Bill downtown as he will simply NOT believe the difference.

Well, tonight we pulled on our big boy and girl pants (as my sister Bec would say), boarded the light rail train, and headed downtown.

Our first stop was a reception at a hotel steps away from Sports Authority at Mile High. We got off the train at the Mile High station and began heading towards the stadium.

Have you ever walked the Strip in Las Vegas from one end to the other? You know how the Stratosphere looks like it’s on the next block, but when you start walking, it gets further and further away? That’s sort of the way we felt as we walked toward the stadium. It just kept inching away from us. When we finally reached the stadium, the hotel still looked a mile away. Bill looked it up later to learn it is 1.3 miles from the rail stop to the hotel.

The reception was for members of Bill’s Parkinson’s Support Group. It ended up being less of a social reception and more of a meeting/discussion about doctors, medications, tips on living productive lives after being diagnosed. They are nice folks and we got some good information, but I can’t say I was sad to say goodbye. We were, after all, on a mission of fun!

The group’s organizer suggested we ask the staff at the front desk if they had a van or could they call us a taxi that could take us to Union Station, where we wanted to begin our evening. Sure thing, I said, knowing full well that Bill McLain doesn’t do taxis or hotel vans. Not when he has two good legs with which to walk. I’ve traveled Europe with this man. I know how he rolls.

And so we set off. We headed towards Lodo, and reached it without any trouble at all. (Bill looked it up later. We walked another 1.2 miles.) It was so much fun to see how much the downtown area has changed even since last fall when I was there last. Denver really has moved from being a total cow town to putting on its own big kid pants and being a genuine grown-up city. And really, you can see so much more on foot than you can riding in a cab. I have to grudgingly admit that.

Proto pizzaWe had dinner at Proto’s Pizzeria Napoletano, a Italian-style pizza restaurant that has been there for some time, and serves delicious food. We enjoyed our pizza and wine, and had an interesting conversation with the manager about eating pizza in Italy. Comes to you uncut. You eat it with a knife Two Protos Pizzasand fork.

Since I was downtown last, the powers that be (The City? The Regional Transportation District?) have completed construction of Union Station. Well, I should actually say the reconstruction as Union Station has been there as a train station since the 1800s. Now it is the downtown hub for light rail and buses coming downtown, and will also be the hub for the train that will go to the airport when it is completed in 2016. Seems like forever. Anyway, it is a futuristic looking addition – really beautiful and magical when it is lighted at night.

In fact, our whole evening was magical. As we waited for our train to take us back to our dull house just inches from the dull suburbs, we contemplated all of the new residential units that have been built. We watched bicyclists and joggers and people walking their dogs enjoying the chilly but clear evening. My favorite was a condo directly across from the train station that was glass windows from top to bottom. The lights were on so we could voyeuristically look right inside. There was scarcely any furniture except for a red sofa and a shiny black grand piano. Magnificent.

All the way home, Bill and I kept saying how much fun we had. We were kind of like kids with their big boy and girl pants. We must do it again soon.


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