Saturday, May 27, 2017

The 1up Arcade Bar

It's dark and shadowy despite the cheerful glow of welcoming neon lights. Aisles of adults are hunched over and intensely focused on the screens in front of them. Their arms and fingers twitch, pull, and slam. Friends laugh and shout expletives as they lose and lose again. Pings, shrills, and theme music fill the air like the cries of waking birds in an electronic forest.

Every day, millions of adults leave the fluorescent light and their cubicles behind when the sun reaches that place in the sky that means you have just enough time to catch a glimpse of the outside world before slipping back into the artificial rays of whichever watering hole you choose to patronize. They slip from behind their screens, conference calls, and weekly meetings. They pull on their jackets, grab their bags, and leave their sales pitches and project ideas at the door when they hear their colleague call out, "Who's on for happy hour?"

You choose the most popular place this week with the new appetizers and a fantastic happy hour special. Or that place you saw on Instagram that looks fantastic and is highly photographable. Better yet, your cousin's boyfriend's best friend recommended a different sort of bar and you'd like to try something new.

You're tired of getting a table, ordering drinks, and sitting and listening to the same stories that you heard last week and the week before that. You're tired of listening to yet another complaint from the one co-worker who never manages to be tired of complaining but also never decides to quit. You want to stand up. You want to do something. So you go to an arcade bar where you can channel your inner child and spend a few more hours staring at a screen--but this time you get to yell expletives when something doesn't go your way and get lost in the feeling that the world is a good and safe place where the only enemies you'll find are trapped behind the glass. If you don't get them this time, you can always just put in another quarter and try again.

Our friends introduced us to the 1up Arcade Bar on Colfax and it just so happens to be near our new apartment. Spending time with friends in a new way is always a fantastic idea. We grabbed our drinks and our quarters and went to town with aisles of games to choose from.

Memories of our old Nintendo and playing Donkey Kong on Atari filled my mind. Although I would have had to spend way too many of those precious silver discs to get anywhere with most of the games, I still had fun trying. It was nice to do something different for a change. 

Sometimes we played a two-player game with a friend or we played games next to each other. But mostly we all wandered around finding our own personal favorites and losing to the aliens made of lines of light over and over again. We checked in and chatted during short breaks between games. at the end of the night we played a group Pac-Man game that was quite fun.

If you want to impress a new flame with a quirky date night or if you want to take a trip down memory lane during a fun night with friends, I would highly recommend the 1up Arcade Bar in Denver. If you suggest going to an arcade for happy hour, some of your more refined co-workers might turn their nose up and say that they'd prefer a wine bar with curated platters of cheese and charcuterie, but I reckon that you'll find at least one or two kindred spirits who are willing to fill their pockets with quarters and attack the skee ball with all the ferocity of an Olympian and the glee of a child at their first T-ball game. Now if only they would offer curated platters of cheese and charcuterie with their PBR, that would be an arcade I could fully get behind.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pho Le in Aurora

Sometimes when you go grocery shopping, you just get hungry. Luckily this delicious pho restaurant is on the other side of the parking lot from the H-Mart (the Korean grocery store we like to visit). It has a nice clean and modern vibe, but it somehow still feels cozy. I think it's the lamps.

The broth was flavored just right and the gigantic branch of Thai basil that comes with your meal is an especially good addition. I haven't had a lot of pho so I'm not the best judge, but as far as food goes it was pretty great.

I can safely say that I probably go to restaurants too often, but I just can't resist when I get to eat food like this. However, it is a longstanding goal of mine to learn how to cook this on my own. I get very impatient when I follow a recipe, but I know that with a little organization and preparation, I can make anything that I have the right equipment and ingredients for. I mean, it might not be the best tasting version of whatever it is, but it'll be my version and that's enough for now.

What do you like to cook at home? What do you eat at a restaurant that you would never attempt cooking at home?

If you liked this post, you might also like the Weathervane Cafe, City O' City, or Daegee: A Korean Restaurant in Denver.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chada Thai & City Park West

When we first moved to Denver, we lived in two different houses for one month each. We were desperate to find a more permanent place to call home--a place where we could settle in and really get to know the city.

I was waiting for the bus one day after work when my co-worker rode past on his bike. He stopped to chat. I had apartments constantly on the mind and mentioned our difficulty finding one within our budget. His face lit up and he told me that he was moving from his apartment soon and he could help me get in touch with the landlord before it went on the market. 

We agreed to rent the apartment before even seeing it. It is a 300 sq ft attic apartment with a tiny loft for sleeping. Brian went to see the apartment after talking with the manager. Then we went to meet her there to sign the papers. It's a sweet little apartment in an old house in City Park West. It's a bit cramped and I have trouble sleeping in the attic when it's hot, but it's in a great area.

Although I have a 45-minute walk to work, our apartment is close to restaurants and coffee shops. There's a very nice strip of sidewalk with Chada Thai, St. Mark's Coffeehouse, Thin Man, and more. I love the trees in this neighborhood. They're lush and huge. It feels like walking down a magical pathway with a protective canopy.

Chada Thai has very good food and is what I often have for lunch on a day off. When the weather is nice, it's great to sit outside and people watch. And we can also bring Kiki with us! Sitting outside and eating are two of my favorite things to do at the same time. It's just so peaceful and lovely in that neighborhood.

Chada Thai is close to City Park and a little further away from Cheesman Park. If you wanted to have a coffee or dinner at one of the restaurants in that area, it would be nice to take a walk at the park when you're done. Just watch out for the goose poop if you have a dog who likes to eat it!

If I could make a living at something that required me to work at home, I would love to be living in a neighborhood like City Park West where I could stay at home cozy with my dog and then take her on a walk to a cafe where I could get even more work done while also eating or fueling back up on caffeine.

Wouldn't that just be the life? A girl can only dream, right? And work hard on self-imposed goals for the chance at turning a dream into a future possibility.

What's your dream neighborhood? Would you want to be in the thick of it with coffee shops or restaurants? Or would you want to be on a piece of land in the forest? I have to admit that I am a little torn between those two options. 

If you liked this post, you might be interested in my post about City O' City or the Weathervane Cafe.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Korean Grocery Store Near Denver

When you move to a foreign country, you expect to be enamored by the cultural sites, big cities, country retreats, festivals, and language. You might not expect to feel so amused or intrigued while wandering through a grocery store or choosing stationery. But once the initial excitement has worn off, you find yourself getting deeper into daily living and instead of being enamored with that palace or this temple, you might find yourself musing over the selection in the corner store or struggling with what laundry detergent to buy. I specifically remember accidentally buying fabric softener when I wanted laundry detergent, but to be honest, I also did this after moving back the the US.

I lived in South Korea for seven years on-and-off. There are many things I wish I would've done. I wish I would have explored more and learned the language completely. But I lived there. I existed and went about my daily life in Seoul and in the suburbs. That place is very much a part of my life and writing this stirs up those feelings as though I just left yesterday. I lived a good chunk of my adult (after college) life in South Korea and that will never completely go away. I still have this feeling in the pit of my stomach like a string that is connected to a subway car in Seoul and is pulling me back to the city. I want to see it as it was when I was there. I want to walk along the memory of old friends and first experiences. I want to relive what has passed and I want to do it better this time. Without a time machine, this will not be happening.

The longer I spend living back in America, the more the memories of Korea fade. I want to let go of the feeling that I should go back to where my life is and embrace my present and my future. My life isn't there anymore.

As time goes on, I am sure that I will adjust and focus on the here and now. But whenever I need that little hit of nostalgia and a trip straight back to the life of mine that seems so far away, I can always go to a Korean grocery store and take a walk down memory lane--or memory aisle in this case. This is a great testament to the power of packaging and commercialism. Those labels and brands can take me straight back to a different time and place. I can almost feel the pavement under my feet as I walk from my apartment, past that coffee shop with the plush couches that I loved, across the crosswalk, and down to the grocery store to buy coffee, vegetables, rice, noodles, dish soap, toilet paper... It's amazing to me that the most ordinary moments of life in a foreign country can bind my memories together and bring me back as a ghost to a place where I once was real.

In one way it does make sense that a grocery store ends up being such a big part of experiencing normal life in a new place. Food is a huge part of culture and getting to the point where you are making the local food rather than just eating it at a restaurant is a stepping stone into a different level of existence abroad. I was never great at making Korean food, but I did experiment with kimchi stew, Korean pancakes, samgyeopsal, and a few other things. If you find yourself with the privilege of living abroad, please take a cooking class or try more recipes. It is one of my biggest regrets that I didn't take the opportunity to cook more Korean food while I was there. But it's never too late to hop on over to the closest Korean grocery store and make an old favorite or try something new.

While I loved touring palaces and visiting temples, it's the everyday experiences of life in Korea that are the glue holding my memories together. I'm grateful to have just a little bit of that not very far away.

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