Originally from Northern Virginia, Sam Faktorow is now proud to call Denver home after moving to the Mile High City last summer after graduating with a degree in English from Colorado College. He lives just east of Broadway in Wash Park West, about 3 miles south of downtown, and works for TEDxMileHigh, the Denver-based TEDx organization. You can usually find him eating green chili, drinking beer on Colfax, or pretending to be flexible enough for yoga.
I'll admit, I'm the new kid on the block. I spent my childhood in a suburb of Washington, D.C., though my parents fled every year to the Rocky Mountains to ski. I remember flying into Denver and seeing the skyline rise out of the Plains like watch towers that held the gates to the Front Range and beyond. Circumstance landed both of my siblings out here for college at CU and DU, and I more than willingly followed suit and ended up 70 miles south in Colorado Springs at Colorado College. I knew, though, the Mile High City was where I wanted to be following graduation, and through sheer luck, determination, and a pioneering spirit, I made it last summer.
Denver, I love you. I really do. Not a cheap, tawdry kind of love, either; mine is a passionate love affair that takes place on the gritty corners of East Colfax, in Wash Park on a sunny day, underneath the shady trees along Speer Boulevard and 6th Avenue, above the streets of LoDo on a rooftop bar, and inside of a taquería on Federal between Alameda and 32nd. You see, Denver, while you may not be the biggest city, you make up for it with culture, community, history, and a delightful splash of spunk and quirkiness.
I love your commitment to preserving your past, Denver. Everywhere I go, I see a city sign that reminds me of our colorful history. Not to mention the brick buildings of downtown. I swear sometimes I feel like I could run into Molly Brown, Jack Kerouac, or John Evans when I am taking a stroll down a street in Capitol Hill or The Highlands past the ornate Victorians and brick bungalows. You still embrace the future, though, Denver. Google is opening a new campus in Golden Triangle, you continue to expand RTD (all the way to DIA!), and Oh Heck Yeah is trying to turn part of 16th Street Mall into a video game this summer. Take that, Silicon Valley!
I love the neighborhoods you have carved out and nourished, Denver. I live in Wash Park West and it's a great place for me; it's quiet when I need it to be, but offers a smattering of fun restaurants and bars in its own right and is close enough to the hustle and bustle of Cap Hill, Broadway, and DU that I don't feel disconnected completely. Plus, living only a few blocks from the park doesn't hurt. But really, I could be happy anywhere in just about any part of town: a swanky loft in LoDo, a studio in Five Points or artsy RiNo, a beautiful home in Congress Park, any of these and more seem idyllic to me.
Socially speaking, Denver, you have a pretty poppin' nightlife. I can get into a bar or club with little to no wait time and casually chat up the bartender while also finding time to wet my whistle and dance the night away. Our forefathers loved to drink during the Gold Rush and Prohibition days, and that mentality hasn't gone anywhere.
I could write 50 love letters to the infamous "longest, wickedest street in America" that is Colfax Avenue, but I won't. Instead, I'm going to tell you to experience it yourself. Drive, walk, bike, or take the 15 or 16 bus and you will experience it differently every time. It is a road that defies all standard conventions and rules, and I love it for that. And I love Denver for developing it in such a way that it still feels as rough-and-tumble as it used to.
I love your proximity to the mountains, Denver. Under an hour to get to some of the world's best skiing and hiking and backpacking and snowshoeing and more? Who else can claim that on the same scale as Denver? I also love, however, that if you don't want to get out of the city, there's so much to do here, too. First Fridays Art Walk every month, a festival almost every weekend during the summer, brewery tours galore, art galleries and museums, all four major sports, an amazing music scene (don't get me started on Red Rocks), gardens and parks throughout the city, and, perhaps most importantly, undeniably friendly people everywhere.Not to sound arrogant, but I love that people are talking about us. Denver, you are something big, and people are realizing that. Look at downtown. There are cranes everywhere. We're growing here, and we have no plans of stopping, so everywhere else better be able to keep up with Denver. We're the Napa Valley of beer and cannabis production, we passed same-sex civil unions, and we're consistently ranked as some of the happiest, healthiest, and fittest people in the country. 300+ days of sunshine and generally mild weather is just the icing on the cake.
Most of all, Denver, I love your resilience. You pulled through the Gold Rush crashing, Prohibition, and bureaucratic growth stagnation in the mid 20th century. And lest we forget that on April 20th, 1999 and July 20th, 2012, you pulled through two of the worst public shootings to ever take place. They were each so traumatizing that the words "Columbine" and "Aurora" have entered into the general public's lexicon. You've survived draughts, wild fires, and flooding, including one that totally devastated our neighbors to the north in Boulder. But every time, Denver, you come back bigger, better, and stronger. Denver won't let anything stop it. And I love the Mile High City for that. Thank you for accepting yourself for what you are and being able to live and let live. Thank you for accepting art, beauty, culture, beer, LGBTQ people, racial minorities, and so much more into your little pocket of Rocky Mountain progressivism. Thank you for the sunshine and the mountains. And thank you, of course, for letting me find a place here.
This post originally appeared on tedxmilehigh.com and was reprinted with Sam's permission.