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2006-08-18 - 3:45 a.m.

Whenever my family checked in at a new hotel, my mom would busily start filing our clothes away, and arranging hair care products trying to approximate some level of home in the room. Or at least getting things just the way she liked them. My Dad would drop his bags, and then give himself his patented pat down. He called it “taking inventory”, and insisted I do the same whenever I make my way out. While I don’t go with the pat down method he generally uses, I find myself tapping my pockets and checking my man purse for the phones and papers its supposed to contain before I reach the door.
With his wares secured, he’d make his way for the door, no more than five minutes after he entered and announce, “Going for a walk. Be right back.”
We never quite knew what he was up to. We just figured it was one of his little peccadilloes, like his practice of wandering off when we did hit the streets as a family, or the odd gravity that pulled him to the kitschiest restaurants he could find.
In later years, when I learned he smoked at work up until I was about fifteen, I started assuming he was taking the walks I take now when I visit the family.
“Just once around the block, real quick.”
I’m still not sure what exactly he was doing, but when he’d come back to the hotel room, and find his wife sitting hands folded on the corner of one bed, and his son clicking rapidly through the channels, in the tussled remains of the second, he’d generally be holding at least three fliers, one for the Billy Dee Williams Museum, another for a ghost tour of all the supernatural hot spots in downtown Tucson, and directions to a near-by restaurant with a jungle theme.

The first thing I see when I get to the Denver airport is a sign for Heidi’s Brooklyn Barbeque. The tag line reads, “Born in Brooklyn, raised in Denver.”
Sometimes it’s hard to shed that feeling that New York is the center of American culture. I know we get pegged for our hubris time and time again, being told how often the Metropolitans are out of touch with the rest of the world. Blue staters versus Red Staters, and beyond. We’re reminded that our country is nearly the cultural patchwork that Europe is, with it’s thirty some odd languages. We just all happen to use the same money.
But when the first thing you see in a foreign city is a cloying attempt to align a business with the Big Apple, well it feeds our smug little smirk.

The second thing I see, is possibly a man who dines rather regularly at Heidi’s. Now, I’m usually loathe to point out someone as being overweight, since that term has spread to mean five pounds over some random doctor’s idea of health, but when you see a man who pulls up in his cab, and releases the driver side door with the sigh of relief usually reserved for a belt loosening after a terrific Thanksgiving dinner, it seems just a tad much. His seat was leaned back all the way to give a more ample staging ground for his expanding southern border. Between the two front chairs, and just underneath…himself, was an extra large thermos containing the same amount of cola I drink in a year.
He was extremely congenial, and made the kind of mild chitchat you expect from a taxi driver or a barber. You could tell this was his cab, and not some kind of random vehicle assigned for the day. He made sure the three local papers were folded neatly into the pocket behind the passenger seat. There was a small stuffed puppy making eyes at me from over the meter.
He’d settled in.

The third thing I see is easily the most promising. At the front desk I make with the standard bits of identification, and out of nowhere, before they’ll hand me the key, a small contract is handed to me.
“What’s this?”
“Well…”
The contract reads, “We here hope you have a wonderful stay at our hotel, as we hope for all our guests. To this end, we must make it clear, that we can allow no more than four people per room, and that any noise past midnight will not be tolerated. Any actions that impede this will result in the forfeiture of your deposit.”
“I don’t understand, what’s all this for?”
“We’ve had a lot of parties end up here.”
“Really? End up?”
There was a hotel in my college town, just by the major bar neighborhood. The front desk stayed fully armed late into the evening, as more than often an inebriated crew would wander in at the wee hours of the evening intent on not letting the night slip away. With one man running to catch the last run of alcohol coming out of the stores, and one desperately trying to garner a room, they’d hastily throw together their own after-hours. Sometimes though, it would just be one guy, and one girl, trying to act sober and professional as they checked in for a room for the night, at two in the morning.
The front desk staff would try not to giggle.
“Interesting…” I smirked at the kid manning the desk, and he smirked back.

A few hours after getting settled in I walk down the 16th street mall, a dastardly ploy by some city planner to maintain some form of life in downtown Denver. Before I return to my hotel room, to a well trussed bed and a view of a near-by parking lot, I’ve found the Contemporary Art Museum, a woman named Laurie who’ll be singing a fifties revue, and a theater where I can see Snakes on a Plane this weekend.
I have a mental map of future plans.
I smoked along the way too.

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