up cherry creek
On Wednesday I noticed that I was sunburned; this was only after another long walk that topped up Tuesday’s UV exposure to overflowing, and had the hotel receptionist laughing at me. I followed the Cherry Creek path most of the way, which runs alongside Speer Boulevard to the south east. The creek (but not the path) runs through the exclusive Denver Country Club, where I imagined Dynasty’s Blake Carrington with a 9-iron in mid-swing… how eighties is that?
Then the Cherry Creek Mall, mostly posh fashion emporia, and a food court where a Japanese-owned Greek fast food outlet sold me a Gyros. It sounded glamorous until I realized that it was just another name for a Souvlaki, a Shawarma, or a Doner Kebab; pressed meat, broiled on a rotisserie, shaved in to pita bread, with salad and dressings. I came 5,000 miles for this? Still, it was nice enough, and gave me a chance to read the Denver Post I had been schlepping around all morning.
The walk down Colorado Boulevard took my day’s shoe wear up to about seven miles, most of it in thin air and bright sunshine. I had sunscreen on, but not enough, it seems. On the way back to the hotel I stopped by the Pepsi Center, wondering whether there were any seats for the hockey game. The scene was familiar to me from rock concerts; many scalpers outside, with signs and shouts of “any tickets?”, while people walk past them to the box office, to buy tickets at face value. Expensive, but $66 got me a center balcony seat, and I headed back there after an hour at the hotel, writing the previous post.
The game was fun: the draft Coors was actually pretty good, not expensive by Irish standards, and the place was nearly full for one of the NHL season highlights; the Calgary Flames visiting the Colorado Avalanche. The ESPN summary of the game can be found here. My seat gave me a good view of the whole of the ice, except for the head in front of me during the first period. It got cold, as expected, which suited my red neck just fine.
The first surprise for me was the absence of any show of impartiality by the hosts; each Colorado team member was given the star treatment, with a video introduction, while Calgary came on unannounced. Between shots the announcer revved up the partisan crowd, helped by big-screen slogans and chants.
The game wasn’t hard to follow, though it took me a little while to figure out what a Power Play was: a penalized player in the “sin bin” for two minutes, giving the other team an advantage. Power Plays gave Calgary a 2-1 lead in the first period, but the Avs regrouped, scoring a goal in the second, and a third goal at the start of the third period, leaving the fans happy with a 3-2 home win. There was even a fight on the ice, cheered on by the 14,000-strong crowd.
Each 20-minute period took over 40-minutes to play, and was followed by an intermission meaning that each period started on the hour. Family-friendly, there were plenty of kids around, and not just in the audience; two junior teams took to the ice in the intermissions, first for standard play, then a shoot-off. Plenty of audience participation, with WW2 veterans taking a bow, remote-controlled balloons dropping coupons for food and newspapers, dance contests for the arena camera, and free t-shirts flying around, though I was too far up in the nosebleed section to partake in any of the bounty.
I was back in downtown Denver well before 11PM, looking for supper on 16th Street, yet nearly everything was closed, except for a McDonalds – no thanks – and a Taco Bell, which sold me a boring burrito. I know it was a weekday night, but the street was hardly deserted, after a big hockey game.
In general, I was very disappointed with nearly all the food I had in the USA. Quality was always overruled by quantity; sandwiches have plenty of meat with little flavour of its own; chicken didn’t taste like anything, not even chicken. If I lived there I would be doing a lot more cooking of my own, I suspect, once I figured out where to get the ingredients. I don’t know if I would gain weight, from becoming acclimatised to the blandness, or lose weight in reaction to chronic culinary disappointment. As for the coffee; Starbucks was the best, which is really not saying much at all, at the prices they charge.