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Writing on Old U.S. Route 40
A Denver Writing Spot: Sunday, April, 3 2022
© 2022 James LaFond
Pulling into Denver by night I hated it: PIGs everywhere, tall young Bantus checking me for a drug sale and big young meth heads looking at me as a possible homeless heist. Offset by the postmodern architecture, I felt like I was in a Phillip K. Dick novel that had not been redeemed by Stanley Kubrick, but rendered as a bland TV movie…
Zeer’s apartment though, a neat basement bachelor pad at the corner of Valentia and Colfax, if not for the two cats, which I am allergic to, would be perfect. He’s a good young man who I trained in Baltimore and who moved to this idyllic land on the eve of the roof of the western world. I write here at his kitchen table. His place was cleaner than any single man’s abode I had been to save, Phil in Greshem Oregon. On Friday night we stayed up drinking coffee and whiskey in the kitchen while we played the bean bag game corn hole, on miniature boards that make for a kind of indoors horseshoes.
He went out to play handball today and I rook a walk to do my texts and phone calls. I am told that this basement is one of the many dead zones in Denver, even for some smart phones, let alone my special ed phone.
Colfax is U.S. Route 40, which goes from Philly down to east Baltimore, where it is named Pulaski Highway. I have been on this road in Ellicott City, Maryland, Uniontown Pennsylvania and wheeling West Virginia, and last year in Heber Utah. Back in Baltimore it is known for liquor stores, pawn shops, cheap motels and dive bars—working class ghosts on the side streets and indigent darkling gods standing sentinel on the main drag. It is the same here, even looking like it has the same low concrete medians and built by the same engineer.
As with East Baltimore, the Latinos have moved in and set up their own bars and eateries even as the low end Caucasoids eat at a diner, and buy beer and liquor from a middle eastern man—a man very glad to see this yeti patronizing his establishment, “Oh thank you much sir—and a happy day to you!” as he snarls at the local Mexican alcoholic with the backpack. Many of the local houses are barred—a sign mostly that drug-related burglary is a chief concern.
The Orlando Apartments, at Colfax and 1500 Valentia is a double decker U-shaped drive in motel with security gates that advertises cigarettes for sale 24 hours. Hillbilly types grill on the parking lot with their fat women.
The Shepherds Hotel behind the Sinclair gas station across Colfax and the Regis Motel across Valentia on Colfax, dominate my new setting—and I feel at home. The liquor store at the end of the block towards downtown is attached to a boarded up grocery and a screened out Pleasure Club.
The men of ebony and ivory are all tall. The black guys tend to be older and behave like those I ran into in Baltimore in 1981, lazy, easy going wastrels not looking for violence. They speak and walk like Chicago-Milwaukie Bantus I have met on the trains. One drives an ancient El Camino, another a 1968 Impala! Most are drunk, or high, or stoned or diabetic in a wheelchair.
Three spry Bantu Yutes walk towards me on the side walk. I’m curb side. The muscle guy on the curb side decides to make me walk in the gutter rather than lose face with his mates. I keep on course, and at the moment of contact I turn my left shoulder in to bump him and he pulls his shoulder back, saving only half his face. In Baltimore I would have had to turn my shoulder into his chest, not his shoulder. That would have been a clutch situation with horrible possibilities. These Bantus are a less feral breed.
I eat at the western-themed diner, a place so down to earth that all of the three waitresses of three generations seem like uglied up versions of the Nordic Norns, but sweet to the ear and good with the coffee pot. Patrons included retired Caucasoids, Latino families, a lone young homeless man—perhaps the one that wrote “homeless lives matter”—on the liquor store front in black marker. An older black couple, dressed from church, sit down in quiet dignity unknown to their ilk back east since 2008. A yeti family is discussing outreach work through three catholic churches...this feels so much like Baltimore.
I leave to photo the marquee and send it to Denver Matt who wants me to sign some books over dinner tomorrow night—a nice place to meet.
“How are you sir?” speaks a Bantu voice with a Chicongo drawl.
I look up from Flip the Hero Phone into his long, lean grifting face, coated in a matted beard under nappy braids and note he is dressed for winter as he should be on this cold spring day.
“Good,” I say, nodding to him as we make eye contact and he shies away easily, kicking a deflated volley ball across Syracuse.
Another voice says from my same blind side again, “How are you today, sir!?”
I look slightly left into the round, brown, smiling face of a round-headed idiot in knit cap, speaking in a rural draw from somewhere further south than Chicongo, “Fine.”
He maintains eye contact in a watery way, as if hoping and then losing all hope that I were his long lost daddy and says through broken and spaced teeth of small size, “Glad to here, sir.”
They go on their way, playing soccer in the gutter, seemingly 15 years of mind, 35 years in body and 65 years of broken soul, obviously homeless. They turn right for the liquor store, where they had probably been hoping I’d make a donation to their Steel Reserve fund.
Who would have thought that negro wrangling would come in so handy on the very top door step to The Rocky Mountains.
Zeer was horrified to discover that I have not walked right into the nice upscale zone and that I am “ratchet slumming” on the left in lowly Colfax. But I like Denver now, this part of it, with its extensive [1] alleys and senselessly named streets—the same streets as every other brain dead American city. For Colfax is like Baltimore before the Feds declared the Drug War and turned it into a now 38-year-old war zone. I now have a glimpse, after Pittsburgh, Oakland, Southeast Portland and especially Denver of how level my life might have been had the American Government not declared war on my ethno-class in my home town, first as the yeti extinction clinic.
Thanks, Zeer.
-1. This place is unbelievably clean. The same type of area in Baltimore would have alleys choked with trash. They even have a street sweeping schedule here on the side streets!
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Barry Bliss     Aug 24, 2022


Here in the south Bronx people drop off old tires and furniture and rotted mangoes at night. All up and down the street near mine. The city sends out a crew regularly to shovel it all up. The cops, to my knowledge, never bother to do a sting operation to catch the dumpers.

On my street, they do not pick up the trash regularly. I'ev given up, and i walk my trash a few blocks away and drop it in a city trashcan where they say don't drop your house trash. I do though. When it's left out for pick up and not picked up, people rip it open and trash blows around.

No grass here. Not for blocks.
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