A Coloradan’s perspective on this week’s Texas shooting

Having enrolled in kindergarten the year of the Columbine High School massacre and graduated high school the year of the Aurora theater shooting, I am no stranger to these tragedies. Here are my thoughts on what happened in Texas.

When I started kindergarten out-of-district at Ralph Moody Elementary School in Littleton, Colorado, it was because my grandfather taught there. It was August or September, 1999.

Moody was fifteen minutes away from Columbine High School.

I have no memory of the massacre that killed twelve students and a teacher, but it took place on my grandmother’s birthday that same year – Tuesday, April 20, 1999. She had to spend her fifty-fifth watching the news for any updates on the lockdown and evacuation at Moody.

Lucky number thirteen years later, she would relive that same anxiety over the Aurora theater shooting. I woke up the morning after the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Sheridan to dozens of missed calls and text messages from her about the news.

Like how the post-September 11 world is… well… “worlds” apart from the pre-September 11 world, Columbine shaped the trajectory of my educational experience, whether I was aware of it or not. For example, I can remember the anti-bullying campaign that visited my class at the turn of the millennium.

I realize now it most likely came to be as a result of Columbine.

Indeed, Littleton rests an hour south of Fort Collins, where Matthew Shepard succumbed to his wounds from the hate crime he suffered in Wyoming, and an hour north of Colorado Springs, where Focus on the Family is headquartered. Since LGBTQIA+ youth are already at greater risk for bullying than their straight, cisgender counterparts, it only makes sense that one of the possibly bisexual shooters would feel isolated and marginalized from the students surrounding him at Columbine, and why that might leave him vulnerable to the other shooter’s psychopathy.

Speaking from personal experience, Littleton is crawling with white, upper-Middle Class evangelicals who hoard their resources and privileges from all “outsiders.” In many ways, it is a typical postwar American suburb, but in some ways, its history is exceptionally sadistic. After all, 2013 saw another school shooting in the area at Arapahoe High, a sister school to my own alma mater, Littleton High, as well as the high school my mother attended before she dropped out, across the street from her family’s house.

My mother’s family will someday see their story told in a memoir all its own. Suffice to say, their communal narcissism and sociopathy embodies the Littleton community.

Now, I attend the University of Denver, whose founder, Governor John Evans, oversaw the Sand Creek massacre in the Colorado Territory that killed upwards of six hundred Cheyenne and Arapaho people at the hands of the United States military – yes, Arapaho; the same nation my home county is named after.

I cannot stress enough that Adolf Hitler studied American racism for sources of inspiration behind the Holocaust.

Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine taught me the killers targeted one of their victims for being Black, and one can’t help but wonder if this week’s first responders in Uvalde, Texas, would have neutralized the suspect with greater urgency if the students at Robb Elementary School were majority-white instead of majority-Latino. Either way, America’s past is uniquely violent for the success with which the European race displaced all other cultures living on this continent, and these tragedies are our reckoning.

Take it from a Coloradan.

For a friend

On Sunday, May 22, I met a former coworker in downtown Denver for dinner and a movie. This is her appreciation post.

I hadn’t visited an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’d never gone to the one on West Colfax before Sunday afternoon. I arrived twenty minutes early so I could find someplace to park in time for the two o’clock showing, which meant by the time I walked to the theater, it was ten ’til.

I waited for someone I hadn’t hung out with since February or March, whenever it was we saw the West Side Story remake together in Highlands Ranch. That was in the early stages of the “endemic,” when the pickings were still slim for Hollywood entertainment. (The “endemic,” of course, turned out to be short-lived, with my campus internship transitioning back from biweekly to weekly COVID tests as of this writing).

No, today, we were seeing Men, which aligned more with our shared taste. I paid this time because she paid last time, and it was to our benefit that I bought the tickets in advance online, because Men proved to be the kind of independently produced A24 horrorshow worthy of attracting a crowd of local hipsters, gentrifying the area, to indulge all the craft brews and “alternative” charm the Alamo has to offer.

By the time my friend found her own parking spot, the previews were almost finished. We met in the lobby and rushed to our seats just in time for the opening credits to roll.

In the end, Men was a surreal, subversive experience only we could appreciate together. After the year I lived, when strangers on the street ganged up on and violated me, it was refreshing to join that many people in watching Rory Kinnear and Paapa Essiedu try (and fail) to horrify unconditional love out of Jessie Buckley. It gave me hope for the future of A24 and their output in the current of a mainstream more preoccupied with selling action figures to eleven-year-old boys than testing the more “creative” waters of the filmmaking form.

And this friend, a fellow “film school” Millennial whose education landed her in retail alongside yours truly, was the right one to lament with over “Royales with Cheese” in BarFly after the movie about George Lucas (and, yes, West Side Story director Steven Spielberg) commercializing the cinematic culture beyond all pretense to the “higher” arts.

More than that, this friend called me two or three times throughout the day on Monday, February 7, when I finally told people about the date-rape and mugging I’d survived the Friday night before. She treated me to dinner that evening. She offered more support than those closest to me.

Our very friendship is a middle finger to the institutionalized oppression that Men critiques. If we still worked together, we would have been fired for “fraternization” by the capitalist leaders who expected “productivity” out of us, rather than “humanity.” We trauma-bonded over our progressive ethics. We encouraged each other through the irreconcilable differences between our own psychiatric disabilities and our employer’s losing war with Jeff Bezos.

I would like to thank this friend for the burger, and reminding me to live for our next movie together in the future.

“Knives Out” and “Marriage Story” to bookend this year’s Denver Film Festival

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The Denver Film Society says the 2018 festival sold $442,701 worth of tickets, compared to $401,000 in 2017; however, attendance dropped to 42,415 in 2018 from 46,912 in 2017. (Image Courtesy: The Know).

From October 30 to November 11, the Forty-Second Denver Film Festival will screen more than two hundred fifty features, documentaries, and shorts at the Sie FilmCenter, UA Pavilions, and the Ellie in between virtual-reality specials at the McNichols Building, according to The Know. Colorado native Rian Johnson, the filmmaker behind Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017), will open the red carpet series with his ensemble murder mystery Knives Out (2019) on Halloween at the Ellie, and Noah Baumbach will close it with his Marriage Story (2019).  Denver Film Society anticipates the same turnout of young people as well as new residents as 2018, which was as successful as the year before that, when Emma Stone and director Damien Chazelle came to town with La La Land (2016).