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Things to do in Denver when the skies are dead

Toxic Schizophrenia (Hyper Version)

Toxic Schizophrenia (Hyper Version)

Wonder where everybody is. Downtown skyscrapers grow like knotweed, their universally rectilinear mirrored forms reflecting each other in mashed-potato parodies, but the people are elsewhere. The 16th Street Mall has a free bus running from the Capitol to Union Station, a few panhandlers and vendors of the local homeless magazine. There are no crowds, there is no teeming city population.

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Their photography policy is no flash, for personal use only. Does that include flickr? Yeah, people seem to be doing that. Their building is designed by David Adjaye and their show ‘imagines human beings apart from their everyday guise’. Highlights are Billie Whitelaw’s 1973 performance of Beckett’s Not I on a tiny monitor in a dark room, and A.G. Rizzoli’s extraordinary portraits of people in the form of architecture.

Ride the bus out to the inner suburbs. There is a route 0. Observe your fellow passengers holding buckets of soft drink, half-smoked cigarettes dangling from their lips, talking about weed and pussy. People use the bus to transport things, and don’t move them out of the aisle to let you pass.

Visit the Denver Art Museum. Their photography policy is tag it, submit it to the group, and they’ll display it on a large screen in the building. The newer half, the first public building by Daniel Libeskind in North America, houses contemporary art and interventions, including Charles Sandison’s Chamber. The older half has a more traditional collection with additions:  art of the American West interspersed with contemporary questionings; a largely ethnographic Indian display includes work by and a film about Fritz Scholder, painter of drunk and mad Indians.

Take in an afternoon movie at the Mayan Theater, a 1930 Art Deco cinema built in the Mayan style inside and out, with zig-zag edging and decorative heads that have survived even its splitting into 3 screens. Watch a Korean movie, a dark tale of a developmentally arrested boy and his mother, of murder, revenge and immorality. Note that the dozen or so people also watching the film seem to be either senior citizens or posses weight-related mobility problems.

Visit the Denver Museum of Science and Nature (museums are, after all, why you’re here). Their photography policy is anywhere but Body Worlds. Note the number of apparent volunteer staff on the information desk and in the galleries,  older men in the space display dressed in tabards that are a cross between Star Trek and hospital orderly. Marvel at the way the galleries are split between hands-on activity spaces and nature displays: taxidermous dioramas, the dead zoo.

Go to the Tattered Covered bookshop, it’s indie++. Browse the magazines, buy Harpers, the Boston Review, Zoetrope All Story and Lapham’s Quarterly. Pick up a book about achieving happiness by a white woman called Gretchen, pick up a book about how white people try to achieve white happiness by a black man called Rich.

Check your bank account, take more dollars from an ATM, fill your wallet with receipts for everything you eat, buy a mountain of candy with funny names for your colleagues and some antacid for yourself, buy something for your wife, ponder what you could possibly buy that might be distinctly identified with Denver alone rather than Colorado, the Southwest or America.

Wonder what’s going on. Walk down the street, walk into cafes looking for free wifi, soak your stomach lining in gallons of coffee using the free wifi. Check twitter, check facebook, check personal email, check work email, check twitter again, check each and every hashtag that could apply to your situation. Check the BBC, check the Guardian. Read news timestamped EDT, BST and GMT, add seven hours to your departure time, subtract seven hours from the next NATS scheduled update, add nine hours’ flight time. Click your heels together three times.