First off, to all my Canadian brethren and sistren, happy Canada Day. I’m still not 100% sure what you’re celebrating, but I’m glad that our Civil War scared you into confederation. Sorry if you thought we were gunning for you after that whole “54º40′ or fight” business.
Anyway . . . We’re only two days into our trip and already having a great time. We just returned from an evening of baseball at Coors Field.
It’s been a while since I saw a really good game. Lisa and I prefer well-pitched games with good defense and a bit of drama. So we were very happy when the Rockies’ Aaron Cook pitched a beautiful, complete-game shutout with just 79 pitches in a shade less than two hours. It’s not like the Padres played poorly either. They had some great defensive plays. The losing pitcher just had a bad fifth inning: four runs on three hits, a fielder’s choice, an errant throw by the shortstop and three stolen bases.
The Colorado Rockies’ park is very nice, and Lisa found us great seats. The weather this evening accommodated us, too. It’s too bad there wasn’t a bigger crowd in the house.
Tomorrow we’re heading to Rocky Mountain National Park. Despite living in Wyoming for several years, I’ve never been there. It looks very pretty from the pictures I’ve seen. We’ll need a little respite after the eventful day we’ve had.
Yes, it was a very busy, hectic day. Let’s see. On account of a small bit of jet lag we got up a bit earlier than expected and had to stand in line with the young urban hipsters at Starbucks on their way to work. (No one here really understands how to pair shoes with an outfit.) Instead of going to the office we toured the Colorado Capitol. It’s kind of quaint. Government was not in session, so the building had the feel of a ghost town. I think we saw a tumbleweed blow through the rotunda. Everything is gilded, but they don’t have a bronze cod hanging from in the assembly chamber; so chalk another one up for the Mass State House.
Just outside, we saw the “Closing of an Era” statue. If you believe the symbolism in the statuary, you might think that Native Americans killed the last bison and thus hastened their own doom. Compare and contrast that with the heroic pioneer woman holding a rifle and raising a child. (Your 2000 word essay is due by the end of the week.)
We continued our Western art historical adventure a few blocks away at the Denver Art Museum, which has a nice collection of Western American art. The rest of the collection befits a city of its size, but it feels a bit hodgepodge in places. Of course, we’re spoiled by the Boston arts environment, which is significant but very little compared to New York.
I have mixed feelings about Western American art. Much of it is backward-looking, sentimental and overly romanticized; yet there are strains within “traditional” Western art that provide wonderful insight into how we experience and imagine the West. Plus there’s a lot of technical and artistic virtuosity in the genre as well. And I really love the landscape art of the West, especially the pieces by artists who show the West as it actually was in their time. I like the re-castings, re-imaginings, and re-examinations of the mythic place. After all, I do believe in the West and the Plains as places distinct from the much of the rest of the country. There’s something in the soil, the rocks and the sky and in the way we came about taking possession of it and struggle to hold onto it . . . or even know it.
Those who know us probably won’t be surprised that after some lunch we took a walk north from downtown, past an invisible red line, to take in the Black American West Museum. I had read a little bit about the “Exodusters” in Nell Irvin Painter’s fantastic Standing and Armageddon, but I really didn’t understand just how much the experience of African Americans in the West mirrored the experiences of almost every other non-indigenous group that emigrated in the 19th and 20th centuries. Doctors, miners, farmers, cowpokes, rodeo cowboys, soldiers, homesteaders, inventors, business owners — not to mention the obvious: fathers, mothers, children, laborers, strugglers — this museum presented a wealth of photographs, documents, and artifacts that showed African Americans chasing and creating the same American Dream that shows up in whitewashed histories and entertainment. It also played down overt racism and suggested that the West was much more egalitarian that those same mainstream sources suggest.
So if you’re in Denver for the Democratic convention or just passing through like us, take a walk up California Street or a short trolly ride to the museum. It’s worth it.