Date at a Cuban Restaurant in Denver | March 2002


My recent trip to Denver had curious friends, co-workers and family asking what I was going to do there.

“Skiing?” was what most of my co-workers asked me.

“The Olympics? Are you going on to Salt Lake City to see any of the events?” asked my brother.

I answered, “No.”

At the airport–Miami International–it was “hurry up and wait” as I got there the proscribed two hours before my departure–only to spend half an hour in a Disneyesque anaconda of a line at the ticket counter. Once I was finally able to check in, it was off to the security checkpoint.

Thanks to my fashion style (or lack thereof)–which involves clothes containing enough metal to melt down and make a Yugo–I practically had to undress to get through the metal detector.

Now, if you know anything about me, then you know I’m modest. Well, at least in the sense of my not feeling comfortable getting undressed in front of strangers. But I had no choice.

So it was off with the jacket. Off with the belt. Empty the pockets. Take off the hat. Take off the watch. But for me, the absolute worst, most gut-wrenching part of this experience was when I had to take off my steel-toed boots. You see, I like walking around barefooted or in my socks about as much as a cat likes going for a swim. Or about as much as kids like to receive underwear for Christmas or birthdays.

After coming dangerously close to being threatened with a strip search, I finally made it through security. I resolved to wear metal-free clothing in the future. I had learned that plastic is indeed a suitable substitute for metal.

Finally I made it to my gate with one whole hour to kill before my flight. I thought about twiddling my thumbs but an hour of that was just too much. Contemplating my navel was also out of the question because it would require exposing my belly. I felt it would have been unfair of me to do this because so many of my fellow passengers at the gate were enjoying snacks and I would have made them sick to their stomachs.

So, although I wasn’t really in a mood to read, I pulled a Denver tourist guide out of my carry-on and began to read it. I learned a few interesting facts about the city during my wait:

  • It was named Denver because basically the guy who owned most of the land in the area, General William H. Larimer, wanted to kiss up to the territory’s governor, James Denver. The problem, of course, was that Denver had resigned his post just as Larimer named the city, so by the time Larimer found out it was too late to change the name.
  • Denver has more days of sunshine each year than Miami Beach, about 300 (But we have them beat with more days of snow!).
  • More beer is brewed (and no doubt drunk, “drunk” being the operative word) in Denver than any other U.S. city.
  • A federal study says that Denver has the highest proportion of thin people of any city in the country (The federal government is spending our tax dollars to tell us that? And to think, I thought it was Hollywood, California all this time!)

Finally, boarding began for my flight. Of course, they called just about everyone else first for boarding; I was in the last group to board (passengers traveling in the baggage hold). If that wasn’t enough, I was singled out for extra scrutiny and asked to step out of line (I had been the first in line in my group, but apparently not anymore).

Again, I was made to remove my hat, empty out my pockets, give my blood, sign away my first-born child, etc., etc., etc. They also searched my carry-on. They found nothing, of course, so they graciously indulged me by permitting me the odd privilege of actually boarding the half-empty (I wasn’t feeling too optimistic at this point, otherwise I would’ve said “half-full”) airplane.

Once aboard, the flight attendants were unusually preoccupied about so-called “bistro bags.” As a matter of fact, these “bistro bags” seemed more important to the flight attendants than the usual safety spiel. Curious, I asked for one.

Once I had mine, I looked inside. I was shocked at what I found: food! Well, at least the airline equivalent of food. More than pretzels and peanuts anyway. Turned out “bistro bag” was a fancy way for the airline to say “bag lunch” or dinner in this case.

I enjoyed my “real” food as I watched the in-flight movie. Soon after, I dozed off.

I awoke at the sound of the pilot announcing our approach to Denver. I was excited; I’d never been to Denver before and I love visiting new places. Not to mention that I hadn’t chosen Denver at random, but rather for a specific purpose. And no, it was not to go skiing.

After landing, I grabbed my luggage and rental car, then I drove to my hotel room. It was late at night, cold, and the roads were icy. Fortunately, my drive to the hotel was uneventful.

I checked in, went to my room and went to sleep. The next day, Valentine’s Day, I awoke tired (I hadn’t slept much) but excited to be in Denver. The real reason for my trip was close at hand. I was going to do something so unique to Denver, something I could never, ever do in Miami…

I was going to take a date (a lovely young lady I met on the Internet) to dinner at a Cuban restaurant. Yes, I flew across the country to have dinner with a woman at a Cuban restaurant in Denver.

If my friends, co-workers and family ever find out that’s the real reason behind my trip to Denver, they’ll think I’m crazy (they’ll be right, of course, but for all the wrong reasons). So, I ask all of you reading this, please don’t tell anyone! Thank you.