Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dorothy Parker Slept Here

One of the more interesting things about where I live is that once upon a time, Dorothy Parker ran off from New York with a man 11 years her junior, an actor names Alan Campbell and came to Denver, to our neighborhood. He was actually cast in a summer stock production here, which is across the street from my house. "Dottie" and her "husband" (they actually ran off and got married in New Mexico later) lived here, a short walk from both the Elitch Theater and where our house currently stands. She loved it here, playing housewife and digging in the dirt--or at least she said she did.

Elitch Gardens was initially started by John and Mary Elitch in 1890 as a vaudeville venue, eventually growing to include an actual garden and a zoo, one of the first west of Chicago, with the centerpiece being the theater, which hosted many famous actors including Grace Kelly before she became the Princess of Monaco. Elitch Gardens also was famous for the Trocodero Ballroom, which hosted big bands such as The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Benny Goodman. The "Troc" was torn down in 1975 due to ballroom dancing's decline in popularity.

Mostly what we knew Elitch's to be growing up was the only amusement park (except for the death trap that remains Lakeside--even the website is kinda scary) within several states. I can tell if someone is a native to Colorado based on their age if they know where "Elitch's used to be." In 1995, Elitch became a Six Flags Park and moved to their current location, which is a hot, tarry asphalt jungle. I went once and mourned what Elitch's of my youth had been.

But I am lucky enough to live on the grounds of an old amusement park, without the scary "Scooby Doo" eccentric haunting it and shaking his fist at "those meddlesome kids." We live, if you remember Elitch's, somewhere between the skee-ball and the Octopus. We're even kind of famous--check this out.

There are plans to renovate the old theater, which thankfully are costly enough to have taken several years to raise funds for. I say thankfully because I have become hopelessly attached to the family of foxes that lives in the theater. I love spring because it means baby foxes romping on the lawn out front, running around at dusk and pouncing on each other.

Once, a couple of years ago, we went for an early morning walk--about 5:45? and still dark out. Our normal route runs through the park in the center of our neighboorhood, Mary Elitch Park. We got about halfway through when we realized we weren't alone. There was a pair of foxes mating--stuck together, in fact, trying desperately to get away from us and from each other. We tightened Ruby's leash and crossed the street out of the park.

On our first night in our new home, Mr. Bump and I pushed our new bed up against the window, and looked out over across the empty lot to the theater. We weren't married, didn't have a dog, had just bought a house together. It is a memory that is washed in pure possibility. We lay there, looking out the window, thinking about what the future would hold for us, what memories we would make here. It was high July and hot when we moved in, and we had the windows full open. Foxes don't make noises but we smelled them, and we saw them, too. They were playing in the moonlight, rolling and nipping. Right in the middle of the city a block from heavy traffic, they watched and cavorted.

Since then the curtain of an ugly apartment building has been pulled between us and our foxes. (Of course we claim them as our own, as many other people in our neighborhood do.) We have to go for walks to catch glimpses of them, and they are certainly more cagey since there has been so much more activity, new lofts built around the theater, commercial construction now going on a block away. There are no plans to trap them and remove them from the theater. It is understood by both construction contractors and conservationists that the foxes will find somewhere more hospitable and just move on.

I am glad they will not have to be moved, but I am sad they will be moving on. I am happy we will have a renovated Historic Landmark Theatre, but at the same time, I will miss my foxes terribly.

What does any of this have to do with Dorothy Parker, you ask? Nothing. Except she walked here, the same as I have, and the foxes have. I like to humor myself that a bit of her energy floats about the old bones of this place, a bit of that happiness she seemed to enjoy while living in Denver.

I think I'll finish with a thought of hers (epanalepsis, for those of you in Max Byrd's class), since the sun is shining at the moment here in Denver:

Thought For a Sunshiny Morning

It costs me never a stab nor squirm
To tread by chance upon a worm.
"Aha, my little dear," I say,
"Your clan will pay me back one day."

Dorothy Parker

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