I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still-verdictless life

Last night, I think I dreamt of Denver.

I’m not sure it was Denver, as I’ve never been to Denver, but I think it was my mental approximation.

The situation was this:

A coffeeshop/bar/deli. Not sure which, as I didn’t order anything. Could have been all of the above, in fact, for all I knew. And there was a person (I think a woman) at a table outside. And I spoke to her, and then she referred me to a ledger inside the shop itself. The ledger enumerated points of my life, mainly to do with graduate school, with commentary beside each one. Like, for example, the note under “Went to USC” was along the lines of “Dusting off the old diploma to . . .” etc. (the actual details of the dream, are, as is so often the case, lost to the kind of morning that will last all afternoon). But I woke up thinking about that ledger, and feeling judged. Feeling as though I came before a jury and was found wanting.

Which seemed as good a prompt as any to talk about Denver. Shows how much I want to go, I think. For various reasons.

Los Angeles has not agreed with me. I usually take pretty well to new places, and I dug LA for a while; I’m not sure when it lost its luster, but it since has. Which isn’t to say it’s been a terrible experience, and saying that I hate LA would probably overstate the case, but I really can’t wait to get the hell out of here. I was talking to my advisor and his wife about it on Friday night, and I think they got it; his wife mentioned the “hermetically sealed confines of people in their cars compartmentalizing their destinations” (pretty much verbatim), which may be partly it. Some of my friends have called me a city boy, which may be true, but calling Los Angeles a “city” stretches the word across too many miles to really have any meaning anymore. It’s a giant, smoggy sprawl full of vanity and car exhaust, and though I’ve made some wonderful friends, I’ve never considered friendship a function of geography, and more than I’ve thought writing might be.

So, Denver. First, the PhD. I realized I wanted to pursue one, because I definitely want to continue being a professor. I love teaching, and on a college level . . . yes, please. There aren’t many PhD programs; USC, UNLV, a couple places in the midwest, and Chicago, are the ones that stick out. And really; I’m done with LA, don’t want to do either Chicago or Las Vegas for the next five years, and the midwest doesn’t sound all that terrific. Denver has some really cool professors, namely Brian Kitely and Laird Hunt; the former is interested in story and its origin, while the latter has written some experimental noir books.

Story and noir? Um, yes. I want to found a new theory of literary criticism, in fact, and who doesn’t like good noir?

I had the same reaction to their names and concentrations as I had when I read that Marc Norman and Janet Fitch taught at USC. And that was enough for me.

Also, I think Denver will be a good balance between the urban life I love to immerse myself in and the natural life I continually seek. It was one of my favorite things about Jersey; smack between New York and Philadelphia, with millions of acres of the pine barrens in between. Between the tight-pack of Denver’s thriving downtown and its proximity to both the Rockies and Red Rocks, I think it will feel like a different version of home, which is pretty much what I’ve sought all my life; where I’m from, but a little different. As dynamic as New York but smaller, and without the brusk hustle.

Getting into DU, I’ll be a teaching assistant (awesome), which is actually a step down from what I’m doing now, technically, but that’s all right by me. And if I don’t get in; it’s not like I’m not qualified to do just about anything. I’m going to retake my personal training test this summer, maybe get into subbing again, and query some freelance stuff.

And then I’ll just reapply next year.

That’s always been the deciding point for me; is it something I’d want to do even if I didn’t have to? If I’d gotten a book deal two years ago, would I have finished my Master’s? I didn’t decide to go to USC until I realized the answer to that was an emphatic yes. And if I’d sold my novel last week, I would’ve used it to rent a house in Denver without a second thought.

So I’m a bit scared, but it’s nice to know that feeling comes from the fear that I won’t get into DU. That it won’t work out the way I want it to.

One thing I’ve learned so far, though, is that even when it doesn’t, it works out the way you need it to, and that’s all right by me.

2 thoughts on “I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still-verdictless life

  1. ALMA

    As you know, I’m from Denver–and I thought about leaving it for LA last year. That really awful weekend last May totally changed my life. I dunno…something about LA just irked me. Everyone I met was exceedingly friendly. I was in love with the hills (what I saw of them). But the whole disparity between who people were in person and who they were behind the wheel killed it for me. I was also really perturbed that the mountains weren’t to the west like in Denver. It freaked me the Hell out. It’s amazing how a place gets inside you.

    I remember when I was thinking about leaving, everyone looked at me cross-eyed: “You’re leaving *Denver* for LA”…like it was some ludicrous talk of a mental patient. Because Denver really is the best of all worlds. Yea…it can be sleepy and slow. Yea…there are some crazy Christians/conservatives lurking around. Some of the schools here suck. But, all in all, it’s the best place I’ve ever been–and I’ve been everywhere.

    DU’s a nice school. I think you’ll be a shoo-in. 🙂

  2. SARAH

    I second that. Denver is a good place to live. The sprawl is pretty bad, and getting worse fast, but if you can live with that (I can’t) it is a nice combination: a hip, young urban community, with easy access to some seriously beautiful country.

    But perhaps you should go visit first, goofball.


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