The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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John Denver’s Denver

When I visited Denver a decade ago, I walked from one end of the mall to the other. At every corner I encountered homeless men with beards and bloodshot eyes, looking as if they had just come down from the Rockies, who importuned me for spare change. They were very much at home in what I assumed was a typically run-down American city.

Theater Goer

A decade later, I cannot believe the changes I see here in Denver. A series of modern buses traverse the mall from one end to the other. They’re free and intersect with the new light rail lines that take passengers to and from the suburbs. The downtown businesses are thriving. New buildings are going up. There’s a new university center. Even the River Platte has been developed into miles of trails and parks for running, biking, and walking. There’s a new convention center, a Six Flags amusement park, and a theater district enclosed like a Milan gallery. It’s all safe, clean, and modern. And there’s narry a panhandler, though I do miss them in a way. I almost stopped and chatted with an old man with spittle hanging down his lip, wheeling his grocery cart full of possessions, though I thought better of it when I realized he barely had enough mind and strength left to walk without the aid of his cart. He needed to be in a home somewhere.

John Denver would be proud of the city he choose for his name, though it’s not the city he knew, but a new, modern one. Perhaps he’d even write a song about it if he were still alive to do so. The changes are inspiring and give me hope. If Denver can turn itself into convenient, livable place, then any American city can.