|Doug is happy.|
"I went back to college in my early thirties to get a degree in Fine Art. I was going to the CU campus downtown. St. Mark's used to be down there on 14th and Market, right across from the campus, so that was my regular hangout. Sometimes twice a day I would go to St. Mark's and have two big lattes. I think I fell in love with St. Mark's back then because it was a place where people hung out. There would be people sitting around, having intellectual conversations, and at the next table would be two mothers talking about children. It was just such an eclectic crowd. I thought that was pretty cool. Now that it is in a different location, I still come here a lot. It's so big city to me. Sometimes I walk in and it's like, "hi Doug! how ya doin'?", and other times they are just rude as hell to me. I like that. I get tired of the fake smile, memorization of your drink as a corporate strategy thing. They keep it real here. We all have good days and bad days and being honest about that is nice."
Doug and I slip into a conversation about art and architecture. We seem to be of like mind on most things art related, and have the same affinity for the quirky but charming environment that the owners of St. Mark's have created.
As we sit and talk the cafe fills up with college students, business men, and young mothers. Doug tells me how he ended up in Denver. Like a lot of us, he was looking to get out of the place he was in, and just ready to try something new. Moving to Denver turned out to be exactly what he needed.
"I moved here in '81 from Reno. I was transferred with a company that moved their operations here. I had never been to Denver and all of a sudden I lived here. I didn't even have a chance to check it out before I came. I was only 21 at the time and I desperately wanted out of Reno. I made a lot of friends here right away. I joined an organization called The Group, which is a gay outdoor group. We did skiiing, biking, and all that sort of stuff, but we also played bridge and poker and other things like that. That is also one of the great things about St. Marks. It is a very eclectic group. Gays, straights, all types of people work here and patronize the cafe."
Though it is technically a city, Mark tells me that Denver has a very small town feel, and that is why he loves St. Mark's. It has been a pivotal part of his Denver experience, and one that has enhanced the city greatly for him and many of his friends.
"I have known St. Mark's the whole time I have been here. I will come in here and run into people that I have not seen for 10 years. I will also run into people that I see on a regular basis. People are always wandering by because there are all sorts of things that are up and down 17th."
I ask Doug about the city itself and how it compares to other places he has lived. Judging from his general appearance and demeanor, he seems settled. He tells me that his quality of life in Denver is better than he thinks it could be in any other place in the U.S. for various reasons.
As we are chatting, two of Doug's close friends come in and they join us. We all talk about Denver, the amazing chocolate chip scones at St. Mark's and the delicious ice cream at Little Man. They tell me what I should do and not do in Las Vegas, and what parts of the city I should I avoid at all costs. Much like Detroit, Las Vegas is a city to be taken very seriously.
After they leave, Doug and I talk more and before I know it, it is time for me to walk over to my next meeting in Denver. I feel very much like I have made a friend in Doug. He and his friends are the epitome the life Doug described; warm, friendly and welcoming. In the following days, whenever I bring up St. Mark's, the people I am talking to respond with oooohs and aaahhs the way they might respond to the mention of a beloved old friend. The cafe is definitely a business that has made a lasting impression on many of the people who have grown up in and moved to Denver. As I walk down 17th toward downtown, I make a mental note to return, if only for another taste of their amazing chocolate chip scones. As I dream into my return a part of me also hopes that I might run into someone I know. I know it is a long shot, but in a magical place like St. Mark's, anything is possible.