Big Wide World

I was reminded tonight (Friday) that I’m simply unaware of much of what goes on in the world outside my core interests. The people I usually talk with share many of those interests, so it can be easy to forget that, to many others, what I tend to follow seems alien to day-to-day life. (Even though, obviously, the issues I’m working on at any given time are the most important ones at least in the region.)

A friend of mine introduced me to a number of interesting sources, a couple of which I’ll mention here.

I never read food critics. I just don’t care. If I go to a restaurant — a rare event — usually it’s a chain, and usually it’s a chain that I already know I like. (I make an exception for Ralibertos, which serves good, fast, inexpensive, authentic Mexican food. The place even has real Mexican coke, with sugar instead of corn syrup. I joke that the hardest part was importing the flies.) The very idea of food criticism strikes me as bizarre; do enough people actually read that sort of thing to, you know, pay people to write it? I have started to cook quite a lot, and even experiment with spices and such, so I am more appreciative of good food than I was in my frozen-dinner days, but still. I don’t want to have to read an article to figure out where I should eat dinner.

But then I was introduced to the work of Jason Sheehan, the food critic for Westword. I had been led to believe his column is about a lot more than food, and I was not disappointed. The first article I read had me chuckling:

Because I don’t ski and have no particular love for T-shirt stores or year-round Christmas shops, this was the first time I’d been to Breckenridge. It was like Boulder with all the hippies and college students replaced by day-tripping foreign tourists gabbing away in a dozen languages and sidewalk-stalking yuppies complaining about the crowds…

By the end I actually wanted to eat at the restaurant. Not enough to make a special trip to Breckenridge, but, hey, if I’m ever in the area…

The upshot is that I’ll no longer be able to scan through Westword by the grocery carts or read only the occasional feature. Food. Criticism. Who knew?

Next, Ken Schroeppel writes a blog called DenverInfill, about development projects around the city. The first thing I read tied into the global economic crisis:

I’m just happy a bunch of our big downtown tower projects managed to get their loans and get under construction before the floor dropped out on our financial markets.

I’ve heard recently that a number of infill projects around the downtown area have been shelved: Mestizo 31, the Spanos project in Jefferson Park, 1780 Downing, Old Market Lofts… I’m sure there are many more. The failure of any real estate project to get underway is not unusual. Regardless of how strong the economy is, some projects just don’t make it off the drawing board.

Schroeppel is an urban planner. Well, I’m not exactly “planner” friendly. Yet I am persuaded of two things: first, Schroeppel is truly motivated, not by a desire to control people, but to make the world more beautiful, and, second, much of what such planners do would continue in the sort of political system that I advocate. (I like plans, I just want them to be developed in a system of property rights and voluntary associations.) I’m confident that Schroeppel and I could find many issues on which to disagree. Yet I don’t have to agree with him about everything to appreciate his unique angle on local history.

While I remain happy to be a ‘burb guy, with easy access to both Denver and Boulder without the need to put up with the nonsense of either, I’ll take Schroeppel’s blog as a reminder that cities are complicated things with a life of their own, largely invisible to most. I guess like people.