NFL, Beer Fest and strangers oh my!

I was born with a Vagabond soul and restless feet. I’ve never been rooted in anything other than my faith and family. My body literally aches and craves travel the way I imagine an addict battling his or her impulses while withdrawing. My home is gorgeous. My friends are gorgeous. I have no contempt for my location or my blessings. It’s quite the contrary. I have a passion, an infinity and a compassion for all the other unseen and un-sensed experiences hiding around the corner.
This week I escaped to Denver, Colorado. I had lived here as a child and just driving in from the airport flooded my senses with warm memories of my youth. Suddenly I was transported to the top of the New York Life building sharing an orange juice on a date with my Papa. I was almost immediately seated in the ridged pew of that tiny baptist church listening to the melody of fire and brimstone pouring courageously from my daddy. The memories swell, I swoon and my heart is filled with joy.

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Day 1 in Denver is all me and damn do I love my independence! I wandered into downtown with one objective, the Thursday night football game. As I passed a small cigar shop I felt my body pull to the door and my mind talk me out of it. Then the most magical thing happened, cosmic intervention, the wafting smell of a familiar tobacco blend from the days I used to share in a humidor with my (at the time love) JP. In this moment I was certain, I am that I am. I slid in and out of the humidor with a goal and precision. The clerk cut my cigar and kindly pointed me in the direction of a cigar and whiskey bar where I could watch the game. Just moments through the door of the Brown Palace Hotel cigar bar I knew I was in my territory and among my kind. Smoke billowed in and out of the pockets of laughter. Old friends caught up and colleagues brainstormed over far too much whiskey. I was among friends. Of course I’ve never met a stranger in my life. That must be what made me reach out to Michelle for a light. Oh, beautiful Michelle, with a heart of gold and joy for days. Michelle welcomed me so unabashedly into her fold that the waitress was genuinely surprised when she learned that we had just met moments before. Michelle and I began a personal banter that mirrored one another so closely that even our travel plans had mimicked one another this year. Shortly after I met Michelle she introduced me to her close friend, Guy. Guy was a man after my own heart. His gentle demeanor was only trumped by the hilarity of his sarcasm and humor. This was a crew of random interaction that I instantly knew would be in my circle for a long time to come. And as luck would have it Michelle is reasonably local to me! Guy on the other hand is going to have to be burdened by my returns to Denver to paint the town by his side.
Throughout the night we traveled as a pack and met many interesting people. Angel Ariel met Angel Gabriel, another soul warrioring vagabond. We all met the Aussie Steven, only my fellow soldiers and marines will understand when I say he was straight Queensland and amazing company. It’s been too long (months) since I’ve independently perused a city’s night life and reveled in the shared energy of the strangers it has to offer. I laughed so much that the morning would leave me with appreciated rib pain.

The following day was designed for just me and my best friend. We covered what limited local ground I had missed and then hopped in a car to go explore the sights and smells of Boulder, Colorado. As a sidenote, this is one of the most genuinely appreciated days of my entire trip. There’s something about being able to just wander and explore with your best friend that brings an undeniable peace. We ate at a place called Snooze and enjoyed Bloody Mary’s by the name of “Bangkok” that will change my perception and expectation of a Bloody Mary forever.

“Be bolder in Boulder,” was plastered everywhere and I can’t help but think that the world needs this moto for all of us who have been lured into the monotony of life’s predestined routine. As I am pondering this thought we wander into a bookstore where I read the words, “keep Boulder weird.” Those of you that know me know that this phrase confuses me. First of all, is this a secret movement? We’re trying to KEEP; Boulder, Portland AND Austin weird from what I understand. If we must propaganda a life directive then can’t we protest for excellence? Or at least normalcy? Have we really just accepted that this is the new state of regulation? But I digress, it’s already close to 4 PM and we’ve got first call at the Great American Beer Festival this evening.


This is my first beer fest. It’s everything that I anticipated and then some. Try to imagine less of the bar scene and more of a delighted congregation of people with a mutual appreciation for beer. The crowds are the size that you will never purposefully integrate with a second time. Each of them where’s a carbohydrate necklace. Some kind of string adorned with pretzels, protein bars or even doughnuts. My favorite must’ve been the man with a neck full of, bakery size, chocolate chip and bacon cookies. Some sentences you never imagine uttering in your life, “I try not to eat cookies off of strangers necks,” ranks among one of my top. But I definitely ended up using it that night. The beers we’re so phenomenal that I only had to toss out one. My partner in crime and I paced our selves well and by the time last call was collectively counted down we were feeling steady enough to continue on for the evening. What better way to wrap an evening but to head to “Church.”


Church is a local nightclub that is made from exactly what you’d expect, a converted church. I have never had so many mixed emotions. On one hand I was inspired by the beauty of the church and the creativity of the club engineers. On the other hand I was struck with the conviction of the potential blasphemy. Feelings aside I wandered the beautiful theological anomaly with my friend until we were both brave enough to join the random collection of drug induced pleasure on the dance floor. Taking in the people around me I was fascinated. So many with such reckless abandonment and all of it being communicated so differently. We didn’t stay long in our new found eccentric fashions but definitely long enough to enjoy and appreciate the beautifully orchestrated chaos and art. Just a short Uber ride back to our hotel and we would sleep heavier than we have all week in anticipation of more to come tomorrow.

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Morning would find me wandering the streets of Denver to my newest “favorite” coffee shop. There’s something so empowering about the self-expression independent seeking creates. I read a book, enjoyed some people watching and engaged with the incredibly uplifting homeless society that seeks rest in the center of downtown. A dozen coffees and half a dozen breakfast burritos later we were all warmer emotionally as much as physically. I never want to loose this desire to be hands and feet.

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Meeting back up with my travel partner we travel the opposite direction in town to take in some more; bookstores, some shopping, terrific swordfish at an amazing restaurant and some more local greats. The evening was spent with local friends enjoying; college football, tailgate, good local beer and a steak! The local beer came from one of the best sports bar environments I’ve had the opportunity to be in recently. The company was of undeniable character and the love swept over the table as much as it did the home. It was immediately apparent that my hosts viewed friends and family the exact same way I do. I was both honored and humbled that they were so happy to open the doors of their heart and their home to me. Alas, my eyes are barely holding themselves open and our hotel is a half an hour away. Time to head back and rest up so that we will be completely capable of being consumed by the pandemonium that the Broncos/Falcons game brings tomorrow!

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Game day! Where to begin?! Priorities first, my teammate and I both go to our respective corners in order to prepare our fantasy draft lineups. We chase that with a beautiful trail walk and meet up for some coffee with our friend from last night. Watching my partner in crime interact with one of his longtime friends is the cherry on top of all of this. The honesty and genuine experiences can’t help but place both of them in a safe enough space to completely reveal their personalities and their hearts. I am fascinated by the purity of the connection that they share and humbled that they have opened it up to me.

Off to lunch at my friends old stomping ground I have some of the best Mongolian I have ever had. The ingredients are fresh down to the last herb and spice. The sports bar setting is decent and gives us the opportunity to watch the beginning football games associated with our lineups. Hopping into an Uber we part the orange and blue seas as we drive to the stadium. Our seats were nosebleed. The traditional Broncos quarterback, Trevor Simeon, wasn’t playing due to shoulder injury and our rookie was on the field. My cohort has lived in both of these teams states so we are at a win-win football game, that is unless neither team plays well. The excitement of sports events is always so enveloping and adrenaline driven. I love every second of it!

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As the game wrapped we realize tonight is the night for the Second Presidential Debate and we will not be missing it! Watching it in the hotel room is neither one of our speed so we make plans to head back to my cigar bar. Walking in I’m familiar with the bartender, Ibrahim. He recognizes me immediately and his heart felt smile brings me happiness. I make arrangements with him and the two textbook Southerners to change the Sunday night football game to the debates for an hour, definitely a tricky request but it’s amazing what you can do with love and a smile.

After the debates wrapped and as we finished the last of football for the day we both realize that it’s time for sustenance. We head down the street to a pizza place that my partner is familiar with. The food was good but my real exult came from playing football in the streets with him on the way. Downtown Denver, 16th St., is designed for buses and pedestrians. This leaves quite a bit of concrete football field running the center of the street. If I learned nothing else on this trip it’s that I will always carry a mini football for moments just like this.

Back to the hotel for an early call at the airport and I’m already dreading wrapping this trip. Morning came too soon and we sailed effortlessly in and out of the travel rigmarole. The car was returned on time, we were neither too early or too late for our flight and the flight was direct. Touching down in Austin I am certain of one thing, my travel docket is about to be jampacked. The weather here is beautiful and everything just as I left it… For now.

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As always I love hearing from you! I appreciate your feedback. Email me; where you’d like me to go, what you’d like me to eat or what you would like me to see. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you! ariel@searchingnotlost.com

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