1. You fly in and don’t recognize the skyline.
It’ll be hard to call Denver a Cowtown once that 1,000-ft skyscraper is completed. The city is growing up, and as much as we natives may yearn for the old days, they aren’t coming back. That said, the qualities that make this city great haven’t left — people still laugh at those jokers driving around with giant Raiders decals on their 4Runners, you can still wear flannel into a fine dining establishment and pass the “collared shirt” policy, and the city still charges full-steam ahead no matter how much it snows. If after landing you doubt Denver’s awesomeness, take the A-Line into Union Station.
2. Or the roads and neighborhoods.
It’s apropos to refer to any neighborhood without using its shortened, more readily marketable name. The more high-rise apartment buildings and breweries in the area, the more likely the name will end in the letter ‘O’, as in LoDo, RiNo, SoBro, etc. Even if you don’t recognize your former stomping ground, just stop in for a beer and casually eavesdrop on conversations. You’ll pick it up soon enough.
3. You catch yourself telling someone that the weekend ski traffic isn’t as bad as they’ve heard.
Clearly, it’s been awhile since you headed back from Vail on Sunday afternoon. At some point, something’s gotta give — and it’s not going to start by encouraging any more solo weekend skiers to get a late start.
4. You go to a bar and order Bud Light.
The problem here isn’t necessarily the drinking of a watered down domestic beer — as we all know, there’s plenty of that right up the street in Golden. The issue starts when you take that beer, grab a seat, and realize you’re wholly unable to pick up the various fruits, spices, and nuts used in the brewing process, and therefore can’t boastfully pronounce to any within earshot, “I really like the way those sour raspberries bring out the caramel in the aftertaste! It took a few sips to pick up, but wow do those hazelnuts ever pack a PUNCH!” What are you going to talk to the person sitting next to you about now? Politics?
5. You take a hit of mediocre weed and think “That’ll do!”
There’s no reason to even look at anything below high-grade Cannabis. Especially if you paid over $25 for an 1/8th. High school is over — we adults consume only the best and flat-out refuse to pay anything slightly resembling a premium for it.
6. You can actually count on two hands the number of people you know who fit all three of these categories:
- Drive a Subaru
- Have at least two dogs
- Camp and/or ski at least 50 days per year
7. You can’t name the Broncos quarterback.
Actually, take a pass this time, because no one in Denver can do that right now. But generally speaking, if you can’t hold your own talking all things Donkeys, it’s time to get back home and freshen up.
8. You almost love another city enough to call it home. Almost.
While you’re gone, Denver will keep beating to its own drum and evolving into its place as a first-rate international city. The city is growing rapidly but its cultural identity as a gateway to the Rocky Mountains and a place where you can still get a plate of cow balls and a ham, pepper, and onion omelet isn’t going anywhere. There’s a lot of transplants here these days, but Denver will never be New York. It’s increasingly expensive to live here, but it’ll never be Singapore or San Francisco. In the end, that’s what makes it home.