By Dan Landes
I walked in the room
She said I reeked of death
I said “I’m an American what the fuck you expect?
I owe 40 million dead Indians for all my success.”
The last thing I wrote for Suspect Press, the magazine I launched with Brian Polk over four years ago, was a letter from the editor. The letter expressed my need to shut my mouth, and take a hard look at myself. Despite my successes as a restaurateur (City, O’ City, Watercourse), I was becoming disenfranchised and lost within a changing city and couldn’t find the strength to admit it. I hid the fact that I felt lost like a tourist trying to not look at a map. I strolled along with aimless confidence portraying a false image of what success looks like.
Since writing that letter from the editor I’ve followed through and shut my mouth. This process led me to shutting many other things. I shut down my social media accounts. I sold my businesses and my sweet little Cap Hill home. I ditched my smartphone and replaced it with a flip phone (not sure how long this will last—texting is a bitch on a numeric keyboard). I closed my Spotify, Netflix and Hulu accounts. I turned off the news. I quit drinking. I hardly write anymore, but I read a lot. While I’ve become bored with my own thoughts, I am devouring the thoughts of others. I am grateful that Suspect Press exists for this reason.
Shutting my mouth adversely affected my worth as a conversationalist. I don’t really care about opinions—yours or mine. I don’t trust any sources of information unless divine. Divine to me, anyway.
Those without faith
Are limited to logic
I had reached the limits of what Western thought could show me. Deducing, categorizing, rationalizing and quantifying were not going to help me find my way. The scientific method killed the magic that I so much need in my life.
My father taught me
How to not dance
Lost and quiet I’ve been trying to locate myself. Where am I? Literally. Where am I on earth? Denver.
The buildings make the city
The land makes it stand
Denver’s footprint leans against the Eastern slope of the Rockies facing the Great Plains and stretches up and down the Front Range. The South Platte River confluences with the Cherry Creek in the energetic center of Denver and then continues northeast to eventually deposit into the Gulf of Mexico. For millennia, the confluence was an important landmark for migratory hunters (today it hosts REI—the Fascinations for outdoor fetishists). Cold air, blowing east over the Rockies, pools in the valley as the warm air from the Plains settles over it creating a thermal inversion trapping the cold air and all its accompanying pollutants.
The migratory people never camped near the confluence. The smoke from their fire would be trapped under the inversion, signaling their exact location to others. Fast-forward a thousand years, and on cold days the stench of the Greeley slaughterhouses hovers above Denver city like rancid breath.
I enjoyed being locked in this room with you
If I knew the key was hidden beneath the welcome mat
I would have left much earlier
Denver is becoming massive. All the new asphalt, buildings and people have created a thermal mass that soaks up the heat during the day like a cast iron skillet and emits the heat back slowly into the cool night. I like to look at Denver from the foothills at 9000 feet. I go there to figure out where I am. From that vantage point the confluence looks like the center of a vortex sucking in the surrounding counties.
From the mountaintop I spin a slow 360 degrees. Where am I? To the North the spine of the Rockies divides the watershed. My mind reaches West toward the California shoreline, where 20 million people, guided by wanderlust and the desire for a better life, now wonder where the fuck to go. I turn to the East Coast, where a man lives in a white house built by people who were beat into servitude; he seems to enjoy smearing his feces over everyone. Finally down South to the Mexico border where Americans do as they’re told, upholding the law, and separating parents from their children.
Where am I? I close my eyes and meditate on the Four Directions. The morning sun of the East. The abundance of the South. The cold North and the promise of the West. Here I am. Always and forever in the middle. Wherever I go I am always and forever in the middle.
Aho mitakuye oyasin; all my relations.
The people who migrated across this land believed that they were related to all things. I don’t. I understand the concept that everything is made from stardust—but I can’t help feeling separate. Rocks are rocks, trees are trees, stars are stars and I am in awe of them. Separate and in awe, like an alien observing a foreign land. Perhaps I am an alien. I don’t feel related to all things but I am aware that I can find myself in relation to all things by the Four Directions.
Writing this for Suspect Press has been difficult. I used to love sharing my thoughts and stories, and perhaps I will again. For now I am systematically dismantling a scientific view of my existence. I am letting go. A sail pulled by unpredictable winds. There is no apology here. No regrets. Those sentiments only serve to placate me. I desire to get right with my god, to acknowledge my privilege and what it took for me to get here. Who was oppressed and eliminated to put me in a position of authority? I know the answers and it ain’t pretty.
We can only make amends for the atrocities of our ancestors
When we stop reaping the benefits of their crimes
I look up:
What the blue sky above Denver City told me:
‘On this desert lies hope.
You are not on this desert.
You are on the one below it.’
I no longer act like I know what I’m doing. It’s better to be honestly lost than falsely found.