Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Conquering Red Rocks

I attended a recent comedy show here in Denver where the touring headliner made a joke about how people don't like to walk anymore. Dead silence. Crickets chirped. He looked puzzled and did not understand why the joke fell flat.

He'd failed to grasp a basic Colorado philosophy: All forms of outside movement are taken very seriously. Not only do we walk with great zeal, we hike, run, cycle, ski, board and climb. For this, I am forever grateful to the Centennial State because without significant peer pressure, I am quite the lazy ass.

The above photo was taken last Sunday from an entrance ramp at Red Rocks Amphitheater - THE best place to see a concert on the planet, or even a classic film. It also happens to be the very same place where folks go hiking and conduct grueling exercise regimes.

Although one can certainly park at the top and walk down, the great majority of locals tend to park at the bottom and hoof it up. I once heard a KBCO DJ scoff when he'd heard a visitor complain: "Hey, if you can't make it, you don't deserve to be at Red Rocks." They are not kidding. (Seriously, they have suggested exercise routines posted on their website.)

So, when guests visit, we inevitably end up at RR, where they 'oooh' and 'aaaah' and point to the tiny Denver prairie-opolis in the distance. It's not just the intense reds and pinks of the rocks, it's the entire natural grandeur of the place. (We think the rocks resemble melted Neopolitan ice cream or super stripey bacon.)

Even performers gush. When Tom Petty launched his Mojo tour last summer, he chose Red Rocks and thankfully, we were there too. Lyle Lovett makes no bones about RR being his favorite venue and plays every summer. Then there's Steve Martin during his comedy tour, who, after coming out on stage, looked around and deadpanned: "What a shithole. I'm gonna have to fire my manager."

And I don't think I need to even mention U2. (After Pollstar magazine awarded Red Rocks Best Small Outdoor Venue for the 11th time, they finally just gave up and renamed it The Red Rocks Award while permanently removing RR from the running.)

Anyhoo, when my dad visited in August, we took him to Red Rocks and we watched people work out there - running the bleachers, upside down push ups, stair climbing - you name it. It all looked painful to me until I saw a woman jogging back and forth, working up the venue, one row at a time. 'Hey,' I thought, 'I could probably pull that off sometime.'

So, this past weekend, I did! Took me about 40 minutes but I heard Rocky music at the end, even though I forgot my headphones. This ended up being a blessing as I would have missed a beautiful song by some girl down on the stage in a cowboy hat and jeans. Her voice was angelic and the acoustics were perfect. Less angelic but equally adorable was the old guy who followed with a crusty rendition of 'King of the Road.'

From the ground, post-run.
Meanwhile, every time I passed someone sitting on the bench, I'd ask, "Encouraging words?" This elicited some funny responses, such as:

"Um...It's nice and cool at the top!"
"Only 90 more rows to go!" 
"Whoever is chasing you, you've lost them."
"If you stop, you'll have to do my homework." 
"Great job! Way to go!"

SweaterGod, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest so many times but once I got the rhythym, I knew I would not be stopping for anything. Eventually, I conquered 69 really long rows at 6,400-ft. elevation and I felt like a Colorado milestone had been reached.

(No matter that Kirk flew up and down the venue three times - two stairs at a time - with enough leftover time to take a fucking nap - he's a freak of nature, so it does not count.)

  I can't wait to do it again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tragedy Hits Home

Photo: Brian Wilkins via Flickr.
So, what's another random shooting from yet another armed enraged man, right? Mass killings such as the one that happened yesterday in Seal Beach, California, have become much too common but this one, this one hit much too close.

When Kirk told me about a shooting in Seal Beach, it made me nervous. I grew up in the very next town, Long Beach, and Seal Beach was one of our many beachy teenage hangouts. My memories there are endless - getting ice cream from Grandma's on the corner, flirting with the lifeguards, bikini shopping along Main Street and happy hours too numerous to count.

Seal Beach Pier
Seal Beach always felt like an old-fashioned, gen-u-ine small town squished between the insanity of LA and shallowness of The OC. A place where flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts were always in fashion, year-round. It was a place where you could always find fish tacos, Irish beer and beach shells for sale. It was one of the few beaches along PCH that had a playground on the sand. People that are from there, stay there, and people that move there....well, they're just plain lucky.

The population count from the 2000 census was 24,157. In 2010, it was 24,168 - 11 more people. And I'm pretty sure I know at least three of those. Not a lot of big changes happen there, which is the crux of the Seal Beach charm. It's nickname? "Mayberry by the Sea."

Sadly, thanks to an angry, deranged ex-husband, Seal Beach became a place of mass murder when Scott Dekraai busted in to a hair salon and killed eight people, including his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier - a girl I knew from high school. It's a sign of modern times that my high school annuals, once kept purely for nostalgia, have now become a reference tool for Facebook invitations and shooting victims.

Michelle Fournier, pictured at left, with Christy Wilson.
But it gets worse. I quickly discovered that Christy Wilson also perished in this horrible event. I didn't know Christy personally but heard so much about her through my close friend, Debbie, who shared many memories with her. Debbie's daughter, Hannah, was also quite fond of Christy and posted this photo of she and Christy together on her Facebook, taken when Hannah was much younger:

Shortly after this, I get an email from my friend, Susie, who informed me that her friend, Laura Webb, also died in the shooting. Laura's mother, Hattie Stretz, was the lone survivor and is currently in the hospital. Hattie was in a chair, getting her hair done while visiting her daughter, when the shooting took place.

There is a candlelight vigil tonight and I so wish I could be there to honor the dead, including the innocence lost in this tiny seaside town. The OC Register is publishing the entire victim list tomorrow and it makes me nervous. As Susie wisely observed in her email today:
"We may have moved away but we come from a village."
I'm keeping so many people in my heart and prayers tonight and in the days going forward, including every single citizen of Seal Beach, California. But mostly, for Michelle's 7-year-old son. Evidently, this gruesome insanity was sparked by a custody battle and the irony is, now that little boy has no parents at all.