Midnight Pub

The Psychological Core Of Denver


I think certain places carry with them a certain feeling. Not for everyone, certainly, although everyone does set up certain psychological triggers when they're young as to how they should feel when they're near a certain location. If, for instance, you're eating a delicious ice cream cone on one street in your childhood, you're more likely to associate that street with ice cream for years. These are common associations our minds make, certain biases. By the same token, if you witness a head-on collision at a certain intersection where both cars erupt into flame, you'll probably avoid that intersection for a long while. And so on.

I've always been captivated by these location-oriented preferences and sensibilities. They have almost nothing to do with the physical world as we perceive it, and more to do with the subconscious realm of qualia. Qualia, I've found, is one of those concepts that can take up an entire day if you think about it hard enough, so I'll refrain from doing so here. But it is worth considering, these little subconscious tags you assign to various areas.

For a long while now I've been thinking about the psychiatric implications of living in a city like Denver, and having known few other cities. The landscapes here are exquisite, the scenery is decent, and the mountains off to the West really provide a contrast to the urban sprawl which surrounds me. These behemoths are a reminder of the Earth's constant dominance, its looming domain over we puny termites. I often consider how surreal and disorienting it would be to live in a flat state like Kansas or Missouri, without the presence of the mountains to serve as a constant orientation device. I would be left with only the sun, the moon, and the stars to guide me, with no terrestrial landmarks to speak of.

The mountains give way to the high plains, the environment upon which the city is built, which has for the most part been obscured by ribbons of hot asphalt and botanically introduced invasive species. There are still certain small areas of the city which give an insight into how it would have been three hundred years ago prior to westward expansion. I imagine rolling hills of archaic wheat, wheat with no real agricultural value. Snakes slithering around, tiny rodents scampering into burrows, and of course the occasional rainstorm punctuating the long dry summers. This protohistoric landscape captivates me in that it would be a world where no Denver existed.

The contemporary landscape is comprised of several recognizable features- a low haze, bluish, which surrounds every object, a warped perspective from the various levels of houses in the far west, and thatched-fence suburbs which, though somewhat tacky, do lend a unique flavor to the outskirts. In my quest to capture the quintessential Denver essence I take all these factors into account.

I believe I've found the ideological center of all that is Denver, a location which carries so much Denver essence it fulfills Plato's concept of forms. It's located off South Broadway at the intersection of Mississippi, and it's a large dirt construction site. It's been this way for as long as I can remember, gated off and locked, one entire enormous block of nothing but vacant emptiness. behind it is a train line, emblematic of the freight industry which brought Denver into national prominence throughout the early 20th Century. A block past that the great South Platte winds its way through a garbage-strewn ravine, and nearby is the Breakfast King, one of the most rundown Denver landmarks which still retains everything there is to know about Denver.

I imagine this dirt field exists in a sort of timeless limbo. It looks like something from the 90s or earlier, in fact the whole area for a one-block radius looks as if it hasn't changed in decades. To the south, next to the highway, there's a train line which clangs along, soaring upon a great concrete hill. The underpass of the highway is vast and it echoes as if it were a man-made cave, while past that the low Mod-style facades of South Broadway with their broken windows and tan exteriors sit baking in the noontime droll.

The dirt field is emblematic of Denver's simultaneous resistance to change and its continuous change, in that a construction site is symbolically utilized as an agent of progress and transformation, yet this one lies dormant and whoever owns it does absolutely nothing with it. In this regard I would argue it matches Denver's ideological sensibilities to a T. It really is a fantastic allegory, and I visit if often to remind myself of just what I love about Denver's sprawling eccentricity.


Your writing evokes vivid imagery in the mind! As someone who struggles with visuospatial reasoning (prob mild aphantasia honestly) you painted a very clear picture.

I live in DFW which is flat as hell and full of morons :(



Damned nice textural tribute to a place!



That's beautiful, that you can capture the essence of an entire place in a single field.

This will sound a bit crass, but one of my favourite places ever in the world is a 24hr McDonald's on the corner of a busy intersection where I grew up. Specifically being there at 2am. There you would find all people from all walks of life, eating the same meal at the same time across shared tables as they all co-exist in a moment where they are all the same. That McDonalds is a snapshot of the area in that time when it was still undergoing a a somewhat slow gentrification.