Before I get into the meat of this project I need to come clean about something. The reason we are only addressing a single part of this at the moment is because, well, my feet hurt. It is not because of page count or other editorial decisions. It is the result of blisters.
“The longest, wickedest street in America.” I’ve heard this line mangled, contorted and paraphrased. It is pulled from an old issue of Playboy Magzine, describing Colfax Avenue. It fits what a lot of people think about the street, at least in part. I know that growing up in the south suburbs I learned I should be wary of Colfax, long before I could even drive. As I grew up and the city shrank and became less intimidating, my perception changed. Even still, I would see enough strange ladies and arrests that part of that perception persisted.
When you start to consider the street and its context, though, its ability to intimidate does fall apart a little bit. It is nearly 30 miles long, and spans pretty much the entire metro area. Not now, not ever, did Denver have enough wickedness to populate this street. Playboy Magazine would want us to think that this road was wall to wall rumpus. I took a walk and discovered this just isn’t the case.
I decided to hoof it across its entire length. It seemed like a good way to get a feel for the street, to engage the city in a new way. I planned to walk from Heritage Square to Colorado and Colfax, about 15 miles, the first day. On the second I would walk the rest of the way and quit at Gun Club Road. I imagined that I would gain a rare perspective, as I took in the width of our town.
It was surprisingly boring. Which—really— is interesting.
As I walked that first 15 miles the sun came and went. Even its occasional company was more consistent than the pedestrians. Throughout the entire walk, even with effort, I spoke to very few people—some at bus stops along the way, and since I hit downtown at quitting time there were a few people heading to their cars. My interactions with this street were mostly limited to the quiet, absent moments that I inevitably find everywhere.
Walking, or even driving, a thoroughfare is a strange proposition regardless of any supposed sordid past. It is, in a sense, the very definition of scratching the surface. It may or may not describe what lies just a block in either perpendicular direction. Even worse is when you don’t give yourself more than just a few minutes to absorb what is there. So, these photos represent scratching the surface of a surface.
I should point out I’ve only done the first half of the walk so far, as I alluded to earlier. Maybe things change dramatically east of Colorado Blvd. My blisters have healed and I’ll be following up shortly. I plan to— after I finish the 2nd half—return (by car) to the most interesting blocks along the whole stretch and dredge up some actual wickedness.