On Snow, Streets, and Sidewalks Part 2: Dear Westword

I normally try to steer clear of directly criticizing articles from other publications, but after reading this doozy from Westword, I knew it was time to use my platform to speak out.

Ever since I have lived in Denver proper, I have been car free. What this entails is that, when I want to go somewhere, I either need the ability to walk, ride (the bus or train), or bike there in what I would consider to be a reasonable amount of time. As of recent, I have shied away from riding my bike due to the slickness in a lot of the bike lanes being a deterrent logistically. Because of this, I have one of two options: ride a bus or train to my destination, or walk. When a sidewalk is not shoveled or is haphazardly maintained after a storm, I become an amateur figure skater that is unable to afford a good set of skis, and have fallen as a result of under-shoveled or unshoveled sidewalks. If I cannot walk, bike, or walk to a bus stop (which is also a risk), I would have to throw my hands up in the air and call an Uber or Lyft to get to wherever I need to go.

While drivers have plows that come fairly frequently on main roads to plow after storms, pedestrians have to rely solely on the property owners to follow the rules when it comes to shoveling snow on sidewalks. If a property owner does not shovel or de-ice well enough, it can make a sidewalk inoperable for the elderly, people with disabilities, and mail carriers. The fine, while imperfect compared to an ideal and incredibly costly solution where the city takes up the process of clearing sidewalks, is the stick needed to encourage businesses and individual residents to do what is right. So, I am encouraging city sidewalk inspectors to do what is right and enforce the fines so that Denver can be a city where everyone can get around, regardless of ability. And please shovel your snow.

Love,

The Mile High Guy

Featured image is a patch of unshoveled snow relatively close to the author’s residence

On Snow, Streets, and Sidewalks: How Winter Storms Punish Pedestrians

I am one of the lucky Denverites that lives close enough that I am confidently able to walk to work most of the year from my apartment in Lincoln Park. While roughly 90% of the time I have not had many issues with the sidewalks themselves, the 10% of the time can be particularly brutal depending on the circumstances, mostly related to water. Sprinklers, large puddles, and, most notoriously, ice and snow, are some of the biggest threats to my wellbeing when I walk anywhere in the city.

Like a lot of other things in Denver, roads get prioritized much heavier than sidewalks do after a snowstorm. While residences have to clear sidewalks within the next day after snow starts to fall and businesses have to clear snow immediately after the storm or potentially face a $150 fine, that often isn’t the case. Even when residences and businesses follow city code and shovel their sidewalks, their efforts are often negated by snowplows that send snow towards the sidewalk, or subsequent snow that gets overlooked due to the icy snow underneath keeping it from being shoveled. This often causes entire neighborhoods and areas to become virtual slip and slides for residents, including myself, who want to try and walk without having to constantly be watching the sidewalks to make sure there isn’t an icy patch.

In contrast, high priority roads are taken care of fairly quickly after the storm by snowplows, both at the state and city level. The one to two particularly bad days of driving that a snowstorm causes are quickly negating by the high level of maintenance that roads are given, while sidewalks can be left snowy for weeks, dis-proportionally affecting people with disabilities, the elderly, and children trying to merely walk to where they want to be.

There are a couple of ideas that may help remedy the problem of having practically unwalkable sidewalks. While Denver already has the snow angels program to help those that cannot necessarily shovel due to whatever circumstance, perhaps adding some sort of incentive to join the program (volunteer recognition, money, etc.) would be a way to get more volunteers to take part in it. Additionally, the city needs to be more proactive in making sure businesses that do not shovel in front of their sidewalks are fined, perhaps increasing the fine to encourage shoveling sooner than later. Regardless, more should be done to make sure that pedestrians are not punished by simple acts of nature while drivers are able to feel more safe knowing the roads will always be plowed consistently.

Featured Image is of an unshoveled sidewalk on 6th and Kalamath next to a completely paved road.

Walking in the Snow: A Year in Review and How I Rise Again

Perhaps it is a little weird to write a retrospective piece while there is still a little over 30 days of the year left. Perhaps I am stretching it when it comes to how personal this writing is when this is a Denver-centric blog. Regardless of these reservations that I have, I am going to continue writing this piece, if anything to learn from the missteps and the mistakes of the past year.

For me, the entire dynamic of the year shifted in Mid-April when I found a place to live near Downtown with an old high school friend. I absolutely love the area and the community that I live now, and it is walk-able to anywhere that I would want to be. I have seldom had any issues with my roommate, and the apartment has never had too many issues since I have lived here. At the time, I was still working at the museum, and having the ability to walk there was something that I valued extremely.

One thing that I also noticed in restrospect was the manic levels of energy that I seemed to have. I rode that mania as often as I would ride my bike to work, and ride my bike everywhere else as well. The tipping point of this mania seemed to occur roughly a month after I got a new job working at a company that provided a software for futures traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I started feeling significantly less energetic when it came to riding anywhere but home, my extraversion seemed to slowly disappear and fade to nearly nothingness as the summer dragged on, and I felt like I was going back to some of the old thought patterns that I had been in when I wanted to cause myself physical harm in my late teens. Getting out of the role seemed like the best thing to do, and I left in mid August.

By this time, due to a mix of this and a lot of inactivity on my part, I had wiped away a lot of the weight loss that I had accomplished over 2018. I creeped up to about 195 pounds, and broke 200 after a trip back to California in Late August/Early September to see family members and nurse my wounds to an extent. Thankfully, I was able to get a job after about a month of searching, but it didn’t turn out to be the right fit and I went back to my comfort zone at the museum.

At this point in my life, I weigh 205 pounds, roughly 10 pounds overweight for someone my age and height. I try to remain active, but with the recent snows and my recent aversion to eating unhealthy, it has admittedly been very tough. I have thankfully been able to carve out more time for writing, and am trying to get out and be social again. Medication management is something I am taking seriously for the first time in awhile, and I am starting to be more mindful and take a step back to recognize when I get into bad thought patterns. The role of alcohol in my life is also something I have called into question for the first time, particularly as I have raised my use of mind altering medications in my life.

November and December have always been introspective months for me. From when the turkey hits the table at Thanksgiving to thinking about and re-assessing some of the long-term goals in my life closer to late December, I try and carve out time to be thoughtful of what I have achieved, and think about what I can achieve going forward.

As I stand at the precipice of a new job at an old workplace, I am reminded of a sight that I witnessed earlier today. As I was walking towards the light rail station to meet up with some friends in South Denver, I noticed some people walking in the middle of the road, as the sidewalks had not been shoveled quite yet. This adaptation to the new in the face of adversity is a lesson that I am taking to heart in the new year. 2020 will be the year I rise again.

Three Long Years: 2016 and What has happened since then

November 8th, 2016, to be blunt, was one of the roughest nights of my life. While hindsight is indeed 20/20, there is a good possibility that the results of Election Night 2020 hindered me for a brief period in my life.

The night started for me at Union Station, with a friend that had just moved to the Denver area and I watching early returns on my laptop. Nothing could really be determined at that point, other than the fact I and most of my colleagues at my recently acquired position at the Denver Art Museum thought the election was decided the day that Donald Trump won the nomination. We thought that, despite the tough primary between Hillary and Bernie, Democrats would come together to fight the existential threat that Trump posed to the country.

We were wrong.

My night ended at the Colorado Democratic Party’s state watch party. I distinctly remember the turning point for the evening there when Florida came in for Trump. When the “Midwest Firewall” began to collapse, I left on the train going home.

The ride home was one of the most difficult rides of my life. Hillary conceding and the future of the free world going to a man that had had zero political experience in the past was something that haunted me throughout the week, but later solidified the importance of not being neutral in the face of vast political changes.

Reflecting over 3 years later, I feel like my emotions were and are justified. The first presidential transition that I had experienced in my adult life would be from a fairly competent Democrat to someone that was initially laughed at as a candidate at the first debate. How things will go a year from now is yet to be seen.

Featured Photo is from Denverite’s 2020 election party. Photo Credit to Kevin J. Beaty

Concert Review: Itchy-O Hallowmass Night 2

I almost didn’t go to this show, and I am glad I made it out.

The night was the tail end of a freak October storm, with ice still on the side of the roads as we walked up to Summit Hall. About half of the attendees still had costumes on, from simple animal onesies to an elaborate Mugatu costume. On the left side of the stage there was an alter for the Dia de los Muertos holiday, attendees used to honor their passed relatives and friends. Around 9:00, the show started.

The first band, PPL MVR, positioned themselves as a strange group of yeti/aliens that came and played a mix of originals and covers. The highlights of their performance was both their covers of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, the times that the lead singer came out into the audience, and the final song, a cover of Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind”. It was a great opener that only got me more hyped for the main act.

Itchy-O began as people wearing full body suits started setting up speakers and the band’s logo in the middle of a sea of people. After the setup, during which a long sustained bit of white noise was playing, a member of the band began a semi-intelligible speech, and the band began to play.

While the sound of the band could be considered to be orchestral, saying that would underplay the weirdness of the whole experience. Members of the 57 member troupe would randomly come into the audience and band cymbals, streamers and confetti would drop from the ceiling, and various inflatables, including two giant insect looking inflatable and a gnarled looking tree were elements in the show. Along with that, there were several points where a rope was passed above the audience, with the audience playing a game of tug of war throughout the show. At the end of the show, they played one of their most well known hits “An Eagle Brought Me Honey” to end out the show, leaving on a pretty big high note.

One of the unique inflatables

The uniqueness of the show cannot be overstated. While the music when listened to in isolation is fairly decent, the theatrics of the show make it even better. Out of all of the shows I have been to, I would give it a rating of 9/10

On Seasons

Fall in the Mile High City

As I write this, it is snowing outside. It has been snowing outside for the past 12 hours, and there does not seem to be an end in sight.

Now, if this were any other place in the world, you would presume that this is because it is the middle of winter. However, it is October 27th, and It looks like it will be snowing straight until Halloween morning.

Fall is a finicky season along the Front Range. It seems like there are always roughly 2 weeks in late September/early October that have a distinctive fall “feel”, and then winter slowly transitions that feeling away. To a degree, however, fall itself is a season of transition. Students transition from the hot and oppressive days of summer to the crisp and dreadful dullness of school, leaves transition from green and blooming to yellow, red, and eventually dead, and wardrobes transition from beach wear and minimal clothing to many, many layers. I moved to Denver in late summer, which was a major life transition myself.

In the spirit of transition that fall brings, I am also transitioning away from the blog “gradwithatat”. The name may have represented who I was and how I represented myself in 2016, but in 2019, I consider myself a completely different person. Posting on this blog will still remain relatively personal, with a slight flair and insight into the world of Colorado and the Front Range in particular. As I transition from my previous blog, bear with me when it comes to building up my posting schedule again.

Cheers,

Loren Hansen

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