View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, July 03, 2003

Everyone complains about urban sprawl, but nobody does anything about it. Well, sure, as long as we all want our lawns and ur privacy, and not to live on top of each other, and have our walls peel paint everytime the kid downstairs gets a drumset for his birthday, we're going to have to drive. And as long as companies want to be able to move offices, and people want not to be indentured servants, we can't guarantee that we'll live near our jobs. Home Depot may be the size of Coors Field, but as long as they only have 3 registers open at a time, we'll all have to live within a mile of one if we don't want to order take-out. I honestly have no idea what the solution is. It may be one of those great Unsolvable Problems, some Godel-esque question we'll still be running simulations of on our laptops in our cars as we wait for the relief helicopters to arrive.

Another great imponderable is Dell Customer Service. They can't give you a price if you want on-site service, they send you through a voice-mail maze that Theseus and Ariadne couldn't find their way out of. But once that puppy hits the mail, watch out! I went down to Airborne to mail the thing out on Monday. It was back on Wednesday. They received, fixed, and returned the package in a few hours.

What do the two have to do with each other? Well, driving out to Airborne took me through old, original Aurora. Old, original Aurora wasn't much, but it was built for people, not cars, had a little character, and a few of the old art deco buildings that are so warm and friendly. Now, along with original Englewood, original Arvada, and original Broomfield, it's been buried by sprawl, strip malls, and 6-lane surface streets, and done what all buried living things do, decayed and deteriorated.

Roads can be streams, or they can be sewers, and Aurora had the misfortune to lie on one of the great flowing cesspools of urban America, Colfax Avenue. Poor Colfax was Speaker of the US House back in the late 1800s during the great expansion, and God only knows what he did to deserve having this named after him. Colfax is one of the streets where the decent, 1940s and 1950s hotels got crowded out by the cheap rent-by-the-hour joints and went to seed along with the liquor stores. I got out of the car to take a picture of a McDonald's that has to be 40 years old. The car driving by me into the lot slowed down, and the driver gave me a look like I was collecting evidence from a crime scene he was a suspect at.

These places can be saved, if anyone cares. Rosslyn, across the river from Georgetown, is a heartless, soulless auto-oriented suburbs, better than the used car lots and pawn shops it replaced, but only because office buildings don't attract rats and gunplay. If you have to live in an apartment before you move out to the burbs, there's no reason the neighborhood can't have coffee shops and bookstores worth walking to, and safe to walk to.

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