US vs THEM: The world according to dwellers of the ‘burbs

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In the suburbs, there is space. (Photo by Trevor L Davis/Aurora Sentinel)

It’s not exactly the scarlet letter ‘A’ stamped on the hand of every A-town resident, but you know them when you see them, and those like them in communities ringing the tall parts of the city. They run to work and in the gym, not in the middle of Colfax Avenue. They get pizza delivered, not energy bars and Red Bulls.

They are a different breed, and here are 10 ways you know you might be one:

1. Everything west of Monaco Parkway and north of Hampden Avenue is “Downtown Denver.” That’s despite the fact that Downtown Denver is actually defined by a separate street system in the core city. It includes all the named streets that cross numbered streets, beginning at Fifth Street on the west side of the Auraria Campus and continuing east to 38th Street, in Globeville. The named streets run from Erie in the Denver highlands to Court Place just north of Colfax. The Denver Zoo? Downtown. (Pronounced Dowwwwn Towwwwn) State Capitol? Downtown. National Jewish Hospital? Yup. Downtown.

2. You know how to roller skate. Every kid in Aurora spent years slogging lace-up roller skates with stone wheels and crappy ball bearings listening to a playlist that at one time included “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne, and then morphed into “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, then on to “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Soon after, kids were clacking their skates around the concrete loop to “More Than A Feeling” by Boston. Then Elton and Tears for Fears. Hip hop has taken over the rinks these days. Still sporting arms, legs and teeth too big for their bodies, budding adolescents of the ‘burbs learn about real life on the rinks.

3. You know which curvy, winding streets — all with the variations on the same name, i.e. Cathay Street, Avenue, Road, Way, Court, Place and Promenade — actually go somewhere that you want to go. People from Denver, where the streets run on a grid, are quickly disoriented by Club Cul-de-sac, give up and go home. An Aurora kid wearing a blindfold can tell you how to get to the closest 7-Eleven — in a snowstorm, in the dark.

4. You never walked anywhere. Whether it was a bike trip to the vacant lot where you collected grasshoppers, your friend’s house two-doors down, for marathon cartoons, or as far away as the gas station for the newest Garbage Pail Kids bubble-gum cards, you climbed into a car or on your bike or a scooter. Most neighborhoods had some kind of sidewalks in front of the houses, but they were just for shoveling during the winter.

5. You grew up in a house that had many rooms, and almost none of them were used. You could almost give a tour of rooms in your suburban house that had furniture in it that never wore out because no one but the cat actually used it. There was the foyer, which you were forbidden to drop coats and shoes in. Then the living room, where no living ever occurred. It had sofas and chairs no one sat on and coffee table books that no ever read. This room was often adjacent to the dining room, where no one dined, except for maybe on holidays that involved seriously closed restaurants. There was often a mud room off the back patio or garage that was a storage room, the guest room that was way off limits to anyone under 30, and the family room, which was a place to hang family pictures. No one actually goes in there because everyone stays in the kitchen, the basement or their own room. And the biggest room in every suburban home that isn’t made for people? The garage.

6. You didn’t know you could go to a park anytime you wanted. There was little need to, since most suburban backyards are larger than urban neighborhood parks. If you went to one, it was to clean it up on a rainy, miserable spring morning as part of a Scout or school project. Suburbanites are amazed at the level of activity and people in Denver parks. Joggers, hugely dangerous playgrounds, festivals, nude beaches and water make urban parks a marvel. While suburban parks are a nice place to be pretty much alone.

7. Parking is never an issue. Oh, sure, you’ve clenched your fists as your dad drove around the Montgomery Ward parking lot 15 times looking for a parking spot just a few stalls closer. No, closer. But parking meters, and the elusive skill of parallel parking were novelties and myths originated by Downtown Denver dwellers. Paid parking? Oh, please. There was room enough on your own driveway and garage for more cars than your family could ever afford. Second cousins, twice removed and the mailman were the only ones who parked on the street. And even during holidays and family reunions, you just drove a few more feet to park unencumbered. The only people who tried to parallel park on your block were practicing for the driver’s test.

8. You’re not from here. If you’re in another city in another part of the country, or the world, and you order a “pop” with your dinner or furrow your brow when they ask if you want your coffee regular, folks will start asking where you’re from. “Denver,” you say, no matter what suburb you live in. And if someone in the metro area asks you where you live? You tell them which neighborhood: Dam East, Village East, Southlands. King’s Point. Nobody is actually from Aurora.

9. You have no idea who runs the city, or even where it’s actually run. Everyone knows who runs Denver, except for the new guy who hasn’t made enough trouble to get his name out yet. But here in Aurora and across the metro area, if it doesn’t happen at the school or the mall, it’s pretty much magic. The streets get plowed. The cops came the time you had to call them when a car drove around your cul-de-sac 15 times. But it turns out it was your neighbor’s daughter’s prom date who was too nervous to get out of the car and meet “The Dad.” The mayor of Aurora? Mike Coffman. And the man who actually runs the show? City Manager Jim Twombly. Now you know.

10. You know what pho is, how to order it, and you would never order it large. Denverites and dwellers from southern and western burbs are mystified by “Foe” signs and restaurants all over Aurora’s western edge. If they brave a trip inside, they immediately supersize their order, getting a bowl of broth and noodles the size of a wash tub. Aurora dwellers play their favorites on Havana, go easy on the Sriracha and know how to hold the bowl.

Yup. It’s pho, from one of Aurora’s Havana Street favorites, Pho 75. If you’re from Aurora, you can say it and you know what to do with the stuff they bring on the side.