I’ve heard there are mountains around here, so I looked for them. They’re there, against one side of the horizon. Maybe they’re more impressive up close. Everybody talks about those mountains, but I just see flatness. It’s a marvelously clear day with barely any clouds, but I couldn’t see anything but sky in the other three cardinal directions. It was so strange to me that I figured it must be really foggy. But it’s not foggy at all. It turns out that when the sky meets the ground for an incredibly long distance, it looks blurry and kind of like fog.
I’m from West Virginia. We have mountains there, too, and they’re old. Like, they’re really old. They’re older than the Rockies, which are the mountains they have in Denver. You might think that’s silly because you’re a human person and you measure the age of something by how big it is, which is an acceptable first assumption. The Appalachian mountains used to be that big, but they were worn down by erosion so all we have left are what people from a place like Denver might call “hills.” But West Virginia doesn’t have hills, it has mountains.
People from West Virginia like to talk about how disconcerting it is to go to a place like Denver because the mountains make us feel comfortable and safe. I bet people from Denver who go to West Virginia feel claustrophobic because those mountains are supposed to be far away, not right up against your house.
That’s a lot to say about geography, because it’s something I can observe and make conclusions from quickly, which is why I’m not saying anything about the culture of Denver, because I haven’t really seen any.
My hotel is in the middle of Denver’s Uptown, which is supposed to be their hip, young, artsy place. I went to a little burger bar called Park & Co., which was full of hip young people but they were just like all the hip young people I see in Pittsburgh, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe hip young people are the same everywhere in America.
I remember reading a quote somewhere once about how going to other places make you think more deeply about your own place. There’s a glue that holds Pittsburgh together that I don’t see in Denver and it’s a glue called the Steelers.
I don’t like football at all and I’ve never understood football fandom. I’m also an atheist and don’t understand religious devotion, so maybe they’re related somehow. I know lots of very smart people who are religious and I know lots of very smart people who love the Steelers, so I don’t feel superior or anything. I’m sure lots of those people don’t understand how someone could enjoy the taste of black coffee. We’re all snobs about something, but we’re all also barbarians about some things, too.
I say all of that last bit to illustrate that I’m not judging either Denver or Pittsburgh based on how much they like their football teams, but it is a difference I’ve noticed. Pittsburgh is as unified in its worship of the Steelers as much as Vatican City is unified in its Catholicism. I don’t see that kind of cultural unity in Denver, and I doubt I’ll see it anywhere else.