Picture – 1. Above – The Denver Capitol in Colorado
Picture 2 – Below – A statue of a cow with graffiti also on 16th Street
As I approached the Colorado Capitol, one thought that kept bugging my mind is how easy it is for the people to connect with their leaders and the institutions that runs things in America.this is the equivalence of any Government House in any state capital in Nigeria. Yet, until recently when it moved out the state Supreme Court from this building, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary where quartered in this building. They had been for a hundred years plus.
Once I’d passed the doors, a stocky black man in black pants and ash-coloured shirt greeted me warmly and asked me to empty my pockets of any metal, including any ‘jackknife’ I might be carrying into a tray and then walk pass the metal detectors. A smile creased my face at the thought of carrying any weapon at all here.
‘Which part of Africa is that accent from’, I asked.
‘Ghana’, he enthused proudly asking, ‘and you?’
‘Nigeria’, I responded trying to hide my shame at the rut in my own land.
Minutes after the screening, I was standing with a group of eight or so pensioners ready for a free tour of the seat of government. The tour begins at the office of the Governor, currently occupied by the former Mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, who apparently was outside the building addressing the press. It is just past ten.
This imposing building, built over a hundred years ago retains not just its architectural beauty. It’s exteriors are made of granite, the pink stone is made of rose onyx found only in Beulah, Colorado and nowhere else in the world. It has been chiseled to show Abraham Washington on one side of the wall. The grand staircase on the first rotunda is carved in oak leaves and acorns cast in pure glittering brass. There are eight murals on the first floor depicting the history of Colorado (Spanish for red earth) and it’s quest for water, after all, this town with all its green grass was built almost on arid land.
Most of the windows are adorned in stain glass, with the drawings of the people that made marks. On that ground floor is the handwoven Women’s Gold which reminds citizens of the role that women played in building this city in its first centennial. It took 3,500 people stitching to complete and was made in two years.
Gabby, our svelte guide explains that the renovation of the dome is a 30-year ritual, asking ‘don’t you guys return here in 30 years because there will be another renovation going on’. The simple joke explains the planning that goes into maintenance which is taken seriously anywhere in North America. The top of the dome is draped in 200 ounces of pure gold mined from Colorado and donated by citizens. The visible coating is thinner than toilet rolls.
From the Capitol, you can see the City and County Building as well as the Mint which prints part of the American dollar coins and leaves an innocuous letter D for any inquisitive person – so next time you get an American coin, check it properly.
The 45 minutes tour over, it was time to check out what else was the city of Denver has to offer. So, I walked up the street to check out the imposing Catholic Church building with the statue of Pope John Paul now adorning its side. A few metres away are junkies and homeless camped together and smoking away the rest of their misery and maybe their lives too. I took a few shots and moved towards downtown Denver. But the red earth building of the Presbyterian Church attracted my lens and the building a few metres away with giant domes almost like a mosque dome.
Downtown Denver is like any other. Architects, like sculptors have engaged themselves in a war to show who is the best. The results are picturesque giving the stuff you want to use as screen cover. The buildings are imposing and glittering in the searing heat. The cars whine pass them as if to mock their imposing motionlessness – follow me if you dare!
I can spend the entire day admiring the glass buildings and it’s competition with the clear blue skies, or is it the snow-capped mountains? But I can’t resist the allure of 16th Street. Neither can the city of Denver, for they have provided free bus rides from the Union Station down to the very end. A pamphlet here describes the street as ‘buzzing with activity’, but it’s an understatement. On this sunny afternoon, the street is a beehive. Workers are on break, their Creasy shirts, sharp pants and trendy shoes pounding the earth and colouring the atmosphere with buzzing tourists.
This street invites you to play one of the many pianos colourfully painted and strewn across its length. Yes, and artists and musicians have take up the challenge adding music to the buzz of the city. There are various performing arts and the array of restaurants and bars take no notice of the labour unions shaming every part of the glitter – from the banks to CEO of companies with which it has beef. There are stores catering to the greed of tourists with memes on plaques, sculpting and of course T-shirts. One even offers Colorado Gold in an encasement.
It is difficult not to be entranced by it all. So, I find a spot in a Japanese eatery serving a combination of teriyaki meat meals,brown rice, sushi and side salad. I also order a strawberry/mango drink and sat down to soak in the atmosphere. Remembering that I had not really perfected my use of chopsticks (perhaps never will), and eager not to spoil other people’s appetite, I lied. Yes, I confess I lied to the waitress and asked her to please pack my meal as takeaway instead, feigning an important message.
Minutes later, I was taking the free bus ride provided by the city to take me back to the Union Station and back to Colorado Station. I could hardly wait for the meal as my stomach was now grumbling. Sorry, did I say that a Denvan actually paid for my first train ride as he saw me fuzzing over the ticket vending machine at Colorado Station earlier? Oh gosh, there I go, giving away my dirty little secrets.