In Denver, over the course of a year, I made new friends and rediscovered the joy of using a large public library, browsing a bookstore, playing a game of pick-up basketball at a public court, watching a first-run movie. I enjoyed the company of my sister, who left the mountains for the city about the time of my departure.
And I stepped into the classic Southwest for the first time, visiting New Mexico. My sister, her friend, and I drove to Santa Fe and lodged in a motel there. We visited the city’s historic plaza. We ate Mexican food at its restaurants. What struck me most about the city was its large Latino population and preponderance of earth-toned “pueblo-revival” architecture, although at the time I was utterly unaware of New Mexico’s various Pueblo Indian tribes that for generations had inspired such architecture. I vividly remember playing word games in the car while returning to Colorado on I-25 in the high-plains northeastern New Mexico twilight. I left northern New Mexico with no great desire to return anytime soon. Denver was still novel and exciting, and thus I was set on establishing a life there.
Unfortunately, this meant enduring a succession of dull, unchallenging, low-paying jobs. I settled in Denver with absolutely no career ambitions, no interest in how my bachelor’s degree in English would favor or disfavor me in the Denver job market. Initially, what I did for a living in Denver did not matter as long as it put a roof over my head. My interest was in eating, going to bars, smoking the occasional joint, reading, fantasizing about the book I would write, gazing at the mountains, and finding a steady girlfriend for the first time in my life. After all, though blessed with a partial Ivy League education, Jack Kerouac wasn’t looking for the bottom rung of the corporate ladder when he first landed in Denver; he was content to do heavy lifting in the city’s Denargo Market district during the day and partying and dreaming romantic dreams in the historic mountain town of Central City at night.
But I found myself discontented with working as a shipping clerk, forklift driver, shag boy for an RV and speed boat dealership, and ditch digger. I was insulted by the pay these jobs provided. Yet I had no desire to return to college, get certification as a teacher, and teach the English I presumably loved in a Denver public school. I had no desire to return to college to get an advanced degree in English or begin the study of law, engineering, or business administration. I could not sell myself as a humble carpenter, for I’d learned no carpentry skills while working in Breckenridge. And I was certainly above learning a trade such as plumbing or car repair. Meanwhile, I was still without a girlfriend. Now, I simply wanted to make more money with the knowledge and physical strength I possessed, and one day in 1975 I was offered that opportunity.