Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Back from Denver: Family Wedding in Flip Flops, Much Food but Minimal Sightseeing, Church Going, Public Transit and the Cafe Scene

Mile-High Vacation:

I flew to Denver Wednesday and stayed with nephew and his new wife, from Brazil. Her mom was visiting too.  Bottom line:  Great trip to meet my new niece-in-law and see my nephew so happy after so many challenges in his life.  I stayed longer than the American tradition of 3 nights–  but I was able to not only discern that his wife is genuine, sensitive, joyful, caring and strong–but also to fall in love with her myself.  Learning a bit of Portuguese was icing on a very rich cake.

I slept on the narrow sofa in the living room.  Not much room to turn around or roll over.  Had a nice hike one evening on Dinosaur Ridge.  After my brother and his wife arrived, we three guys went for a bike ride downtown, along a creek and up to the Platte river.  Denver has lots of B-Cycle locations for bike sharing, where you put in a credit card and take a red bike for an hour or so, then put it back at another site.

We had great food.  Mark grilled corn and wild coho salmon on their balcony.  And his new mother in law was always cooking.  (His wife doesn’t cook much, but she’s a housekeeper with a strong sense of order and cleanliness.  This has basically revolutionized my nephew’s life.)

Dining Out:

Friday night I tried to pick a restaurant to treat them, one that I would also enjoy and feel good about (farm-to-table sustainability, strong hops in the local beer, etc).   You know that a place is too hip for you when you call at 5 PM for reservations and they ask, “Which evening?”  The place that Yelp (and I) had chosen first had nothing till 10:30, so I tried a sister restaurant.  Their earliest was 9 PM, but they said we could come in and get on the waiting list, or try for the bar.  So, after a lot of time-consuming family grooming, we hopped in the pickup truck and headed out.  Parking it in a residential neighborhood was no easy chore, but he did.

Linger restaurant, in an old brick building, serves “global street food” at big-city American prices.  Locally raised, sustainable, very tasty, with great Colorado beers on the menu.  But the downstairs was packed, and on arriving at 8 PM I realized I should have taken the 9 PM reservation over the phone when I could have.  Now added to the waiting list, we went upstairs to the bar.  Big, crowded, and loud, with crowded big open-air tables overlooking the skyline and full moon.  As I prepared to breach the crowd between us and the bar to order some drinks, I asked a bar manager about how one may grab a booth if it comes open in the bar area–sit down or sign up?  “Like that one!” I said about a booth at window suddenly vacant.

He said, “Take it.”  We were as close as possible to outside, and as far as possible from the middle of the din, and the menu offered the same thing we would have gotten downstairs.  As it was, we ate a lot of small plates and left before our waiting list time would have elapsed.

Saturday night my retired big bro and I treated the gang to Cafe Brazil, a half hour outside the city.  Most of us had seafood and/or chicken.  Very rich food.  Too much!

On my own, I enjoyed many snacks and easy times at Under the Umbrella Cafe, just a walk from their apartment, and next door to the little ice cream shop that makes all three flavors fresh daily:  chocolate, vanilla, and flavor of the day.  I borrowed Mark’s copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, since he said it was about business and consumer culture.  I’ll say.  I’ll blog about it soon.

Church Going:

Sunday morning I walked 2.1 miles, thanks to Google maps, to the lovely tree-lined neighborhood where, at 14th and Lafayette, I found First Unitarian Society of Denver, where a friend who finished seminary when I did and attended extension ministry training with me is the minister.

It was only one of two UU churches in the whole metro area where a minister was preaching, and I’m glad it was the closest too.  It was a beautiful service in many ways:  welcoming and authentic tone, inclusive style, music to listen to and to sing along with, and a great sermon by Mike on the spiritual work of hospitality.  Challenging to his congregation, but also affirming.  And quite moving.

Results?  A number of people DID speak to me afterward.  Not sure if that was because of the sermon itself or because Mike introduced the clergy who were visiting and made us stand.  It was a great surprise to see the District Executive and the Director of Congregational Life from the UUA, and to talk after the service.

August is a big month for church-visiting by those who are thinking of a spiritual home, so it’s good when the minister is present and when the programs, even if lay-led, are well-planned and delivered, so that all who come are fed, whether they are new or long timers.

Wedding-Celebration BBQ:  After I walked back to Mark’s apartment we had a big meal of grazing all afternoon at their apartment, with a number of Mark’s close local friends (and his wife’s new friends), plus family.  Ceviche (Brazil mom), grilled corn, guacamole (Indiana mom), salsa (Mark), grilled and marinated chicken, sausage, Brazilian “mayonesa” salad (potatoes etc.).  All tasty.  I didn’t touch the beer because I was going to do a brief ceremony for the couple.  But everyone else was going through the beer fast, so I got the show on the road by 3.  I had offered this ceremony to the couple and told her mom.  Not sure if his folks expected it, but the other guests didn’t.  (The couple had gotten legally married at the Denver court-house in December, but there were no guests or family present for that occasion.)

To be a little fancy we went inside from the hot balcony and stood in the empty dining nook in the kitchen.  My quickest ceremony. Though I did have on a stole, it was also my first one to do in shorts and a Tommy Bahama shirt and Colorado Rockies flip-flops.  (I started with bare feet, remembering God’s command to Moses to remove you shoes when you are on holy linoleum, but someone thought I looked under-dressed.)

It was also the first ceremony where my voice cracked several times as I tried to get the words out, where I thought I might break down, as I read the words and thought about Mark’s life and our friendship, his loss of his bio mom to cancer when he was 1-year-old, his parents and their 34-year marriage, his career in the Marines, his rock climbing prowess and his year-long series of arduous brain-tumor surgeries and his mid-30s completion of a B.A., just in time for the 2008 melt down.

Definitely I was moved by the friendship.  He lived with us after his bio-mom died I was 12-16 in this period), and he visited me in college and traveled with me to Chicago when I was a young adult, so he’s like a brother.  But now that his Brazilian wife calls me “Ankle,” I am happy to retain that venerable title.

After I got home I realized that while the mom who raised him and his dad stood smiling on the couple at the ceremony in the kitchen, just in the next room was a shelf of photographs, including the happy couple and Mark’s parents and younger brother.  Facing our small gathering also was a framed picture of Mark’s biological mother and his father, in their early 20s, joyfully sharing a sip from the same silver cup, at their wedding reception over 40 years ago.  And smiling down on us.

Going and Returning:  Traveling mid-day meant I could take the YoloBus #42 from downtown to SMF airport for only $2 and take it home.  A quick trip if you catch it at the hourly departure.  But it doesn’t operate at the crack of dawn.  Coming back, I caught a bus near downtown Denver, paid $2.25 and got a transfer.  I got out at a wide, busy, exposed intersection in the hot sun and waited for the Sky Ride bus.  The cost was $9 to get to Denver’s airport LESS the $2.25 I had already paid!  A better deal than Supershuttle, and the only inconvenience was waiting in the warm air.


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