Friday, February 3, 2012

Sown and Sewn, Part IV: Denver, 1993

I want to be known as a Denver writer. A Denver writer. I still consider Denver home. Denver serves as a backdrop for so much of my work. I suspect that at least half of my manuscripts thus far are set in Denver, Dysphoric Notions for sure. Mapping Generic Streets and Gun to the Head while not explicitly stating Denver, are the feel and descriptions of her and her environs. Sand and Asbestos, although a fantasy of the nasty world we're headed into, is Denver and the western mountains. And now, The Errors of Fabric, Denver, acutely so with addresses and defunct businesses, is the most Denver yet.
The other novels? Well, they're mostly set here, Portland, Oregon, where I live.

Why do I have this notion of wanting to be a Denver writer when I no longer live there? Why not be a Portland writer? I have no real reasons for this, and no real description for it.
Denver, to me, is a dizzying sight. The weather moves quickly. The zenith of the sky is the brightest blue you've ever seen. The remains of different times are evident all over town. The streets are still populated with anarchist cowboys. It's fierce. It's dry. It's dangerous. There's a feeling in the air that makes a person want to skip.
Portland, to me, is sluggish. Sure, it's green here, fecund, but it's also gray. The streets are filled with distracted people. I feel like the rain is impressive, but it's also oppressive. The providential feel of the place is offset in the dirty density of downtown. The people here, although progressive are not particularly practical.
But this is not a comparison of two cities. This is a writer wanting one city to call home.
Portland is predictable to me, now more than ever. They film movies and TV shows here and this gives a certain level of the Portland experience to audiences all over. There are writers here, Portland and the Pacific Northwest in general. Chuck Palahniuk lives here. Tom Robbins is in Seattle. This is not mention of Pacific Northwest writers like Ken Kesley, Richard Brautigan and Matt Ruff among others. So what, right? I guess I just feel like Portland does have a literary scene that is impressive, large and well deserving of acclaim.
But Denver? What does Denver have? Jack Kerouac wrote a lot about Denver. Stephen King wrote about Boulder, Estes Park. Nature writers like Colorado. John Denver wrote songs. Hunter S. Thompson hailed from the hills around Aspen. So what of it?
At the end of this second week of The Errors of Fabric I have not only tripped though the streets of Denver, I've done it in 1993.
This portion of the novel is all about that terrible year of 1993. For those of you who remember it, it was the year of “the summer of violence.” Gang violence and murder was high. The young man who owned iMi Jimi was shot at the King (queen) Soopers, there were children all over town taking stray bullets, and how can we forget the Chuck E Cheese massacre? A disgruntled young man went into his former place of employment and killed four of his ex-coworkers. There was also the Hanta Virus plaguing much of the state. Then there was the wake of Amendment 2 which socially set Colorado back 40 years with its very gay-unfriendly legislation. Amendment 2 pissed off everyone involved. 1993 was before the recovery of the oil industry and the consequence of the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was before the light rail, before the new airport, before baseball and Coors Field. It was 1993, and for those who remember it, the old Denver was dead and had been for some time and a new Denver had not yet been born. The 1970s-1990s the Denver metro area expanded and new tax nuclei and townships sprung up on old farmland, canyon land, prairie and hillsides. The rush outward left the center, Denver, slightly suspect and mostly rundown. It is in this state of disrepair The Errors of Fabric finds a home.
Personally, I do not miss that time. I do not romanticize about the old Denver or 1993. It was a horrible time. And as I sit down to work, it's the very nature of this awful time of 1993 that makes its way to the pages of this story.
I feel like a farm boy from Kansas, Terry Winchell Watts, could easily lose his mind in 1993 Denver. He could also become homeless and then forgotten and swallowed up in 1993 Denver. Incidentally, I got this character's name from a succession of streets in north Portland: Terry, Winchell, Watts. My friend Leah lives on N Watts St.
Both Denver and 1993 are a major part of this story. It's very time and space centered.
As of 2.3.12 I've worked through about 15,000 words of the second draft.

So why a Denver writer? I don't know. It's sunny there. Nothing is expected, nothing is common. I miss the place terribly. I miss Denver people too. 

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