A Puzzling Problem – The Move Day 5

Even though one of the main reasons that we came back to the United States this time around is because we are homeless, and this is a great place to be while we wait to move into our new place. Though that may be one of the reasons that we are back, the real reason is to visit family and friends, and the summertime is the best time to do that. We had just landed in Denver, and were ready to spend time with my side of the family for a couple of weeks. The first stop here was at my sister’s place and she had invited my parents over for a bar-b-q and we sat in the back yard on a cold Colorado summer night to catch up. It was fun, but the night that really brought everybody together was when we walked by a recent puzzle that was laid out to be put together.

It started off simple with none of the pieces put together yet, but the edges had already been separated from the rest of the puzzle. I made a little joke that it wasn’t too difficult and I would be the first one to put two of the pieces together. I quickly found two of the obvious ones and connected them. Christine dismissed that as being too easy and that the real challenge was getting the pieces that looked similar together. Of course, I couldn’t let that challenge be dismissed without finding another piece to put in the puzzle, and quickly found another one. This is when my sister showed up to see what we were doing. It was only a matter of a short time before other members of the family came over. Like some modern version of a Norman Rockwell painting, we had all gathered around the table, and the puzzle started to pull itself together into the image that we saw on the box.

This simple pass time had this incredible power of bringing everybody together. Before I started to put together two pieces, family members were all over the place, inside and outside of the house. Some were watching videos on their tablets; others were looking at problems that were happening with this outdoor fire pit; while others were cleaning up the meal that we had just enjoyed. There was unity among the various pieces of the family, but the bigger picture wasn’t together yet. It wasn’t until two of the family members started to gather around the borders of the puzzle that others started to gather there as well. It was a slow process. Some connected with the building of the puzzle quickly while some of the others stood on the periphery, not willing to make the commitment yet. But as the puzzle drew one or more into putting it together, the final holdouts finally gave up denying the temptation and came into play with the rest of the family. Before I knew it, the picture was complete. Everybody had gathered around as one family unit.

As families grow older, the tendency to spread apart becomes more pronounced. Members find their own passions, and move to other corners of the globe. Even though they may not be present, they are a part of the bigger picture. It takes some kind of event to bring them back together in-between the borders of the family. Sometimes, it is something simple like a jigsaw puzzle on a cool summer evening. Other times, it is bigger events like holidays or celebrations. But when all of the pieces finally come together and the picture becomes some that everybody can recognize, family.

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Colorado – The Holidays Day 15

While I was growing up in Colorado, there was this idea that Colorado, even in the heart of summer, was always covered in snow. Logic would tell you otherwise, but still when I talked to people from other parts of the United States, they would always ask if I got sick of the snow. I blame Monday Night Football for this perception. It was the only time that the United States collectively turned their attention to this state which at the time had people leaving it in droves because of the economic collapse of the oil market. But for some reason, every time the Broncos played on Monday night, there would be a blizzard. It didn’t matter if this happened in December or September, the game would be a slick and slippery fumble fest. Though these games were fun to watch, they forever cemented in the mind of the public that Coloradoans lived in an icy landscape. And I know for those of you who still believe this to be true that I shouldn’t tell you this because you will instantly want to move to the state and make a place that is becoming slowly overcrowded even more crowded, but this perception is false.

Yes, Colorado gets snow, and at time there are some huge dumps that bring the city to a halt. Yes, the temperature does drop sometimes to frigid levels that threaten frostbite for anybody who ventures outside unprepared. But the reality of the situation is that these moments are not as consistent as Monday Night Football would have the rest of the nation think came about. And yes, the mountain do get a considerable amount more snow than the plains or the front range gets, but keep in mind that Denver is on the front range which is on the fringe of the plains, and it does not get the amount of snow that the ski resorts and the mighty peaks of the Rocky Mountains get. Weather wise, Denver is actually a really great place to live.

There is a saying in Denver, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” Now this might seem like a little bit of an exaggeration, but not as big of one as you would think. There can be fluctuations of temperature on any given day that goes all the way down to nine degrees in the morning to sixty degrees by mid-afternoon. The snow that comes one day will quickly disappear because of this sudden rise in temperature. So even though, it does dump from time to time, it does not stick around long enough to make you hate the fact that there is always snow around. There are more days of sunshine than Los Angeles. In fact, Denver averages 300 days of sunshine in any given year. Yes, sometimes those days of sun are cold, but a lot of the time, they are warm and sunny. Yesterday is a great example of this. Even though, the temperature was frigid as we rung in the New Year, and there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground, I was able to walk around outside without a hat, and my jacket completely unzipped yesterday. If I really wanted to, I could have walked around with only a light jacket on. And it is supposed to be even warmer today. It is this constant change in weather that makes Colorado always an interesting place to live in.

So if you happen to watch a football game that is being played in Denver, and you see them playing a blizzard, know that this is not always the case, and it is just Colorado’s way of fooling people into believing that it is always cold and snowy.

The Reason I Love Snow – The Holidays Day 14

On the las day of my creative writing class, after my students had turned in their play which was their final, it started to snow. The kids were fascinated by it. Now it does snow in Seoul on a regular basis. During the heart of winter, you get to see at least one snow fall a week. But what made this snow so noteworthy was the fact that big huge fluffy flakes quickly fell to the ground and covered it with its pure whiteness. This type of snow does not happen very often in Korea. Usually it dusts the ground, and after people stomp on it, it turns into a sheet of ice waiting to break the next unsuspecting person’s hip. This lasts for a couple of days before the temperature makes it disappear. So when I saw this snowfall in Seoul that eventually collected about three inches of accumulation, it brought me back to Colorado and the snow falls I used to enjoy there.

Colorado needs this snow during the winter; otherwise, it is a really ugly place. It once was called the Great American Desert for a reason. It is not the desert that comes to mind when most people hear the word desert. There are not rolling sand dunes or tiny ponds that act as oasis. Instead, it is incredible dry with a few trees populated the landscape that can survive in such harsh conditions. During the winter months, these trees lose their leaves, and they look like dead sticks poking out of the brown dead ground. It is a depressing sight to see. Add on to this cold, bitter wind and you get an environment that nobody wants to visit, let alone live in. That is why the snow becomes so important. It covers this ugly, barren landscape and makes it worth looking at. In fact, if I do not have to venture out into it to get things done quickly, it is easily one of my favorite landscapes to look upon.

There is something pure and innocent about a huge field that it covered in untouched snow. It takes away all of the imperfections of the place and turns them into a uniform blanket. Sometimes you will get to see a bird hop around on the sheet or a deer emerge from its hiding place to admire the view, but for the most part, it is left untouched as if nature had never felt the footsteps of man upon it before. The scars that the land bares are covered up, and all that is left is white.

On those days that I get to sit there with a cup of coffee and look out the window on the snow are days where the schedule no longer matters. I can let the agendas of others go away, and just spend the day look at the snow fall, covering the earth in its purity. I look forward to snows, real snow falls, not the inconvenient inch that Seoul experiences on a regular basis. And oddly enough, it is the one thing that I miss the most from my move to South Korea. I feel at home now that I came back to Denver and it welcomed me with a nice snow that I can enjoy. It made returning home like that snow I saw as the semester came to end, and I thought about being back in this icy environment. It is this reason that I, unlike so many other people in the world, love the snow.

Americana in the Nighttime – Around the World Day 31

Last night I took a walk around the neighborhood I was staying at. It was something that I used to do in my younger days all of the time, but then life got busy and I no longer had the time for this. The walks allowed me to relax and reflect on the way things were going on in my life, and I always felt better afterwards, like I had stolen something back from the hectic world that I am forced to live in. It was the same feeling I got as I took my walk last night.

It also allowed me to get closer to the neighborhood. America is definitely a car culture, and we will hop in our vehicles anytime we need to get anywhere. Sometimes it is the only way we can get from one point to the next, but a lot of times, we can get to places just as easily by walking. During my time in Europe on this trip, I was forced to walk to places, and there were many people out using the same mode of transportation to get where they were going. The same thing happens with home in Seoul. But I do not see these same crowds when I walk in the United States.

There is something to be said about being out among those people though. Granted, I never talked to any of them, but I did get a greater sense of community because I was out among them. I wasn’t hiding behind the closed doors of a car, or staying huddled inside some building because I was swiftly swept from one location to another. I was forced to interact with the people on a certain level if I wished to get along. Even though I enjoyed the moment to myself last night as I took my walk, I wished there were more people out there taking a walk with me. It was the perfect night to do it too. The cool night was a great reprieve from the hot weather that Colorado has been experiencing this summer.

My favorite part of my walk was when I got to pass this old house that I have always admired. This house has sat on this huge plot of land as long as I could remember, and nobody ever seemed to live in it. It looked like an old farmhouse that was left over from a day when people worked the land out in this neighborhood. I always liked the place because I could watch it slowly deteriorate over the years, and I would think about buying the place and fixing it up someday. Because I moved away, I wasn’t able to see the house as much, and there would only be a couple days out of the year that I would get to pass it by as I sped down the road that it found itself on. But last night I was able to walk by it, and take a little more time to see it for what it was. While I moved away, somebody had bought the property and had spent the last couple of years of getting it back to its original glory. I don’t think I would have noticed this if I was in a car. It just showed me that sometimes it is important to slow down, so you can really appreciate what it is around you.

Even though cars are great inventions and allow us to get to places quicker, I like to step out of the car from time to time to take a walk. I’m glad I did it last night, and even though it was nothing special, it might have been one of my favorite moments on this trip around the world.

Donor Dash – Around the World Day 29

I have been spending a lot of my time on the trip around the world visiting amazing sites, eating great food, and catching up with family and friends. I have not always made the healthiest choices while on this tour, and I will admit that my exercise has been nothing more than hiking around the towns I have been in or the mountains I have found. It has been a lot of fun, and I have really enjoyed writing about it as I have gone along, but I felt that there should have been an opportunity to give back to the communities that I have been lucky enough to stay in. That is why when I found out about the Donor Dash taking place last Sunday, I decided to get out there and run it. I would be getting some of that much needed exercise, and helping to create awareness to a very important cause.

I do know that there are Donor Dashes in both Wyoming, and Denver, and while doing my research for this post, I discovered that there is another one in Philadelphia. I am sure that if you look hard enough, you will be able to find a Donor Dash near you. It does not cost a lot of money to participate in the event, and they will give you a really cool t-shirt with your entry fee. The Denver race attracted over 6,000 people who participated, and there were many others who were walking around the park at the time, and learning about the message that the promoters were trying to get across. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about the importance of being an organ donor, and to try to get more people to become an organ donor when they renew their state IDs or driver’s licenses.

There are many myths about being an organ donor. The big one is that if you have the fact that you are donor indicated on any identification that EMTs and doctors will let you die so they can have your organs so they can let somebody else to live. The mere fallacy of the logic of that thought is so absurd that it does not make sense. Why would a doctor let one person die on the rare hope that they can help another person live?

The truth about being an organ donor is that you can save somebody’s life. During the event, many people stood up and told their stories of how their lives were saved because of the kindness of a stranger. My niece is one of these people. She received a kidney donation at a very early age in life and because of this, she has been granted many more years of her life, and a better quality of life during that time. I also met another young man who is only fourteen and getting ready to start high school, and he told me about the heart transplant that he received. An event like this really helped me to see how important that awareness grows, so more lives can be saved.

In the state of Colorado alone, there are more than 25,000 people on the waiting list to receive an organ donation that could save their lives. This is why an event like this is so important. But that does not mean that there are not other events that support others causes out there. In fact, I knew that when I was living in the state of Colorado, I was able to find a race every weekend if I felt like I wanted to compete in one. Most of them were designed to either raise money for a cause or at least awareness for that cause. It only took a simple search to find that event. If more people spent time to do this, I do believe that the causes would no longer be causes. The problems of our society would slowly solve themselves. This is the campaigns that actually change the world for the better, and I do think that the Donor Dash is one such cause. I am glad that this is the way that I got to spend my Sunday morning on this super expedition in my life.

The Boys of Summer – Around the World Day 28

The weather has been really hot this summer in Colorado. If you have friends from the area, I am sure you have seen the posts on Facebook about people melting in the street, and how on some days it has been hotter here than it has been in Las Vegas. Denver is turning into a dessert, and when things cool off a day, people look for something to do outside so they can enjoy the Colorado summer while it is available. The best way I have found to do this is to go to Coors Field and watch the boys of summer try to stay in the running for the playoffs in October.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the low 80s with a lot of cloud cover that made for the perfect day to go and see the Rockies play. Coors Field is also a great ballpark. It has been a dream of mine to see a game in all of the ballparks in America, and this has now become really hard to do that I live in a different country, but that does not mean that I can’t enjoy the ballpark that was in my backyard for the last twenty years. When they designed the park, they wanted to give it that classic ballpark feel with a couple modern upgrades. It has a nice open air feel to it, and there is not a bad seat in the house. They do have ivy growing in the right field behind a series of fountains that they will turn on full blast anytime one of the Rockies hits a home run. It does have a bigger outfield than a lot of other parks but that is because balls have a tendency to fly longer in the thin air. And if you are looking for a good beer, there is a craft brewery in the building. A perfect addition for the people of Colorado who love their beers.

But they have since added some other features. There is a huge scoreboard in left field that highlights many part of the game on its high definition screen. There is a series of bars on the top level that are always full even if the Rockies are doing poorly because it is a great place to be seen on the Denver scene. Many people were angry at that addition when it first came out because it seemed like a waste of money for a team that could have used a better bullpen, but ever since it has shown up, the Rockies have been contenders more than they have been in the past. It does clear out the stands though because everybody wants to hang out there instead of in their seats.

No matter what you think about the addition, it is still a great place to see a game, and I was surprised at the crowd that had shown up in the middle of the day on a Thursday. The announcement that they make every game stated that there were 41,000 people in attendance, and this is pretty amazing considering that there are only 50,000 seats in the place. A lot could have contributed to this. The Rockies have won 12 out of their last 16 games, making them only three and a half games out of first. They were also playing the team that was in first so this would give them an opportunity to catch up a game. And it apparently was kid’s club day. There were groups of kids screaming in the upper level and they did not necessarily know what they were screaming at, but they were having a good time. They also had to leave early so they would be back at their kid’s club location so their parents could pick them up, but it all added to the atmosphere.

It was a great game. The Rockies came back in the sixth inning to win the game five to one and the bullpen did a great job not losing the game in the final inning. It was the perfect way to spend a warm Thursday afternoon, and it will keep me interested in what is happening with the Rockies as they make the push to the end of the season. I just wish that it did not take so long in-between times that I got to visit the place because it is easily one of my favorite ballparks in the nation.

On the Rocks – Around the World Day 24

I was very fortunate growing up. I live within driving distance to what I consider the greatest concert venue ever built, Red Rock Amphitheater. Every summer, I would pull out the concert schedule and pick one or two shows that I would go see in this iconic place. I have seen some of the greatest artists perform here, bands from Radiohead to the Grateful Dead, and artists from Ben Harper and Beck. If I consider all of the moments I have at this place, a few of my fondest come while I was here.

But I would not only come up here while there was a concert. I would come up during cross country practice in high school so we could run up the hill that is used as a load in station for bands, and though some of my students who run for me right now might disagree, it was the most difficult hill to run up. We snuck in a couple times on weekends during the fall to hang out with friends on the stage. I did a report on the place during my seventh grade, and I remember coming up during the winter months and watching the snow gently fall down on the empty seats and breathe in the silence. When I think of Denver, I instantly think of Red Rocks, and if I can share the same joy that bubbles up inside of me when I think of it, I want to do so.

If you have never been there, it is a natural amphitheater built during the 1930s as one of FDR’s ABC projects to get people back to work during the Great Depression. Two huge red rocks stand on either side of the seats creating perfect acoustics for the bands who play there. The venue cannot seat that many people as there are just under 10,000 seats, but even if you find yourself in the back of the theater, you still can enjoy the sound because there really is not a bad seat in the place. It is the Mecca for many bands, and if they get to play there that means that they have made it. During my disc jockey days, I actually got to perform a wedding in the restaurant that is situated in the back of the amphitheater, so when I talk to my musician friends about the fact that I had the chance to do this, they always get really jealous. To get there you need to drive through the quaint little town of Morrison that only get busy when an event is taking place at the venue, and when you are there you can look out over the plains as the light of Denver start to wake up for the evening. Many iconic bands have recorded live albums at the place including U2, O.A.R., Moody Blues, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band (too separate concerts are available from him). And it has even hosted the likes of the Beatles and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. How can this not be the best venue in the world?

I still think about the place when I come home every summer. Around March I start to look at what bands have been scheduled to play there as I try to find one that I might enjoy, but all the good ones seem to be coming either before or after I am there, and if there is a band that I might be remotely interested in seeing, they are charging way too much to see their show that I wait until something better comes along. This is why Movies on the Rocks was a better option this time around.

Movies on the Rocks is a series of events that is put on by the local radio station, KBCO. They find six or seven cult favorite movies to show under the stars, but the party starts a little earlier than that. They also book two bands, and last night when I went to the event, they also brought out local favorite, and winner of the Last Comic Standing, Josh Blue. After all of this, they played one of my favorite Coen Brothers’ movies, The Big Lebowski. It might not have been one of the amazing concerts that I was able to catch in my past, but it was still a fun time. People came dressed up as some of the characters, and they served white Russians so people could feel like they were part of the story. It is a great way to get into the venue if you find yourself here for a short time, and there are not any bands that really appeals to you. It was one of my favorite nights so far on this trip because it was reminiscent of times that I used to have here. It will always be one of my favorite places.