The night is like poetry. Smooth, connected and alluring in its simplicity. I’m biking back to my apartment from downtown Denver. Specifically, the Star Bar, or, Bad Decision Central as I refer to it. I can only sum up tonight as a night my mom would be proud of. Moderation was the theme, and I somehow managed to stick to it for a rare change. I did have three and a half strong fucking beers at Star Bar, but that’s actually showing restraint in comparison to past evenings.
Star Bar is a beautifully dive-ish bar in Denver’s LoDo neighborhood. The lighting sucks, the bathroom stinks and the beers are fucking awesome. Pricey, but you get what you pay for. They have skee ball, a porch, darts and plenty of shit to keep you entertained. On a Thursday night, you can wail karaoke until your voice is hoarse. This particular night is a quiet, rainy Wednesday. While I showed next level constraint on my drinking, I’m sure mom would disapprove of me staying up until nearly 2am on a work night. Yet, here I am.
Now I’m on my transportation of choice: bicycle. The night air is crisp and surprisingly damp for Denver. My eyes can’t help but draw to the reflection of lights in the still damp road. I’m buzzed. Comfortably buzzed. As I dart up and down the streets, I reflect on the night’s new single serving friends. The baseball historian. The soccer player. Their names are already a faded jumble of letters, but each were brief encounters that held my interest for double digit minutes. Genuinely held my interest too. But now I’m back on the bike.
I’m one with the road. One with the night. One with my buzz. My stomach is a cocktail of Dragon’s Milk, Enjoy By IPA, Hibiscus Gose and Death By Coconut. I keep checking over my shoulder for approaching traffic. On this particular night, I decide to mildly obey the laws and bike on the road with the appropriate traffic. No need to have a police officer shout at me for riding on the sidewalk at 1am again. But I did say mildly. Stop lights closer represent Yield signs, and every so often I dive into an empty oncoming lane to avoid a stopped car and make my next turn.
There are no stars. The clouds are curtains to what little night sky the light pollution of the City allows through. Gear shift. I’m cruising along well enough, but along Park avenue, I am going uphill. Even at the slight incline, I start to suck wind like a broken vacuum. Lactic acid begins building up in my legs, and my heart rate jumps, pumping the diluted cocktail of blood and alcohol to my brain faster. The buzz from the beers is strong enough to make me keep going. Or maybe it’s my stubbornness. A car passes me only to stop at a stop light. I dip into the oncoming traffic lane to pass. Their window is down.
“Hey! You can’t do that, idiot. You have to follow the laws just like cars!”
I drop them the Double Freedom Salute, almost crashing my bike and inform them as eloquently as possible with my buzz, “No Cop, no stop, Fuckboi.” Probably not the smartest response, but I think the Doppler effect saved my ass by fading out the last part. In a battle of vehicles, their Toyota Celica would easily beat my 1990’s Trek POS.
I’m suddenly painfully aware of what a piece of shit my bike is. The front wheel is making clicking noises, the brakes barely function and my handlebars are loose, so I have to keep pushing forward on them to keep the brake handles from rotating to a 90 degree vertical angle. Not ideal for bike riding with a buzz, even in zero traffic. I wonder aloud how long this bike will actually hold up. Then I wonder aloud why I had to wonder that last bit aloud. Was I really bored? Alone? Yes I was most definitely alone, but the fact that I was gulping air should have been enough to keep me from holding a one sided conversation.
I’m trying to be better. Less drinking on weeknights. Trying to lose weight, which as a drinker can be hard. Food always sounds so awesome after a night of drinking, especially when you have a fucking salad for dinner. I breeze by The District, a bar with an awesome late night food menu. Every ounce of my body screams to stop and have chicken wings. Nope. New Sam doesn’t do that shit. Next I start to approach my favorite 17th street Seven-11. Candy sounds good. Goddamn good, in fact. Doritos sound even better. You don’t need that. Carry on. Then I get to a street I can turn down to head right to Pete’s Kitchen, an amazing 24-hour diner that makes awesome breakfast food. No. Fuck your stomach, bitch. So, I continue.
Strangely introspective, yet mind numbingly bland, this ride is taking a page from the book of other late night rides and slowly becoming a culmination of self therapy and meditation. Oh, and leg crippling lactic acid build up. I stand up on the pedals to try and relieve the burning in my legs but it provides little relief. I’m still sucking wind. A casualty of being several broken pieces stitched back into one cohesive, albeit less efficient, construction. But in my mind, stopping is an inadequate response, so I push on.
Coming upon the last leg of my journey, I marvel at the quietness of the city. I literally just biked almost three miles without any major interruption from traffic, and zero near-death moments. Only the sounds of my wheezing and gasping breaths. Denver is a gem. People know this. Thousands move here every month searching for whatever the fuck it is they’re looking for. Apparently all those people have earlier bedtimes than me on a Wednesday night because the streets and sidewalks are bare.
I’ve already found what I was looking for. This. This night. The Star Bar. The beers I dismantled with savvy. This was it. This buzz? That might be more of an effect than a cause, but no matter what the search might have been for, I felt content in knowing that I was content in the moment. Contentedness. Maybe that is what I was really looking for. Something I had never found in Michigan. Or maybe it was just the buzz speaking through me again. Wait, did I just say that aloud? Fuck it. Time to crush some snacks.