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Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 10:06 am

Grace about town 9-23-04

On the move

The last time I was in Denver, I helped with my friend Kelly's wedding. She was a week away from marrying a great guy named Rob, and they were frantically trying to pull this wedding off by themselves. Their families showed up during the week, but then it seemed like more work, keeping the family occupied. One afternoon everybody was heavily engrossed in putting chocolates into little tulle bags, which involved far more work and discussion than the project merited.

My place in all of this was to be supportive. The week was full of decisions, millions of them, and Kelly and Rob were frazzled by the minutiae. I'd never been involved in this kind of planning before, but because there was no pressure on me, it was fun. Rob and Kelly and I went to a flower shop, and although they'd picked out flowers long ago, they grabbed at different flowers and waved them around. "Is this one prettier?" Kelly would ask, a wild look in her eyes. "I dunno, how about this?" asked Rob, swinging a flower over his head.

"That looks nice," I'd say, pointing at one. "Great!" they'd say in unison, and then they'd be calm for at least eight minutes or so, until the next critical life-altering decision had to be made.

It was a summer wedding, and Denver sure looked pretty. I didn't have much free time to look around, but I liked what I saw. Kelly lived close to a wonderful park called Washington Park -- maybe only the finest parks get to be named Washington. There were lots of good restaurants, too, and plenty of people out in the sunshine.

The wedding went well, except I wore a pair of outrageous black stockings to the service, along with a little black dress and long black-red fingernails. I know, it sounds kind of goth, and I don't know what I was thinking. It was an afternoon wedding, and all the other women wore pastel flowered dresses. I was the usher, so everyone got a good look at my inappropriate outfit as I stood at the front of the humongous church, ushering.

Rob and Kelly were so happy that everything went smoothly that I could have ushered people to their seats in my bathing suit and the couple wouldn't have cared.

I went back to Denver last week. This time I helped my best friend, Christine, move into a new place. I had a little more time to explore the city, and I liked it even more. I went running one morning in Washington Park (Christine lives close to where Kelly used to live) and bumped into an enormous crowd getting ready for a race. Lots of people have big dogs in Denver, and the place has an overall feel of fitness and outdoorsiness.

It's funny that Christine lives there now, because her idea of exercise is walking half a block to the coffee shop. I'd like to hike when I go back to visit, but our friendship was almost ruined by an unfortunate hiking incident in Los Angeles. I was mad that she hated the hike we were on, and she was mad that she was there. It wasn't pretty. We've established a no-hiking pact since then, so I told her that she needs to make friends who will hike with me. Or she can drive me to a trailhead and sit in the car and read a book while I hike -- she thought that this was a fine idea.

Moving was fun, despite the fact that Christine rented a moving truck at 7 a.m. on Saturday. Her strong and cheerful brother-in-law did most of the heavy lifting, hauling around big dressers and chairs as if they were light as a feather.

After the 17,000 boxes were unloaded into Christine's apartment, we spent hours and hours unpacking, cleaning, and doing all of that moving-type stuff. Christine was happy I was there to help her, and I was glad for the change of scenery. It was cathartic, washing hundreds of dishes and thousands of pieces of silverware (this despite the fact that Christine doesn't really cook, living almost exclusively on Brie and French bread).

To celebrate the move, we went out for sushi, one of my favorite foods. There are lots of sushi places in Denver, and the one we tried was top-notch. There was a special on the menu called a volcano, which the waitress described as a volcano-looking pile of deep-fried sushi. Christine's eyes lit up. She's from Texas, and, as her sister Beth says, you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl. Christine adores anything fried, so we ordered the volcano.

Let me just say it was marginally better than fried cheese curds but that I'm sure it was my first and last encounter with fried sushi.

Travel is broadening. Get out once in a while. Or, as I read on a packet of sugar in a restaurant one time, "Enjoy life. Eat out more often." Do something different; try new things.


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