I had an entertaining first 24 hours in Denver while waiting for RIMS 2014 to officially kick off. My wife and I arrived in the mile high city around noon on Saturday, and after settling in to our hotel, took a walk along the 16th Street Mall. For those unaware, the mall is a mile long street converted to a pedestrian shopping district. It houses many stores, restaurants and bars. It also plays host to a grungy assortment of beggars and street artists, as well as an earthy blend of body odor tinged with the fragrant smell of marijuana. 

Check the red banner on the front page of Bob’s Sunday Denver Post – “thecannabist.co”

As we strolled the avenue, we passed a street performer who was attempting to play the guitar and sing. I kindly observed that she was apparently still looking to find her sound, because the one she was using could not possibly be the correct one. I’ve heard midnight cat fights that were more soothing. I also noted the presence of several people in an alleyway just off the road (about 2 feet off) “lighting up”. The associated pot odor was a strong validation of what I thought I had just seen. And while I have met honest beggars before who told me they just wanted my money for beer, this was the first time I’ve ever heard a street swiller say they needed money “for marijuana, man”. 


That evening, I headed out to meet a group of people for a pub crawl, or as we like to refer to it, a “Safety Audit of Denver Micro-Breweries”. It was coordinated for members of the LinkedIn Work Comp Analysis Group. The tour director was Ray Sibley, Director of Risk for the City of Denver (That’s perfect, when you think about it. Any micro-brewery safety audit should have the Director of Risk for that particular city). I met Mark Walls, founder of the WCAG in our hotel lobby, and the two of us grabbed a cab to head to our first destination.

It wasn’t long before I determined our driver was likely a member of Colorado’s newest mail order service, “Aunt Mary of the Month Club”. The brewery we were trying to reach was on Blake Street, an old, established road in Denver. Despite it being in the heart of Micro-Brewery row, and also being the road Coors Field is on (where the Colorado Rockies play; it was 4 blocks from our destination), our cabby seemed to not have a clue as to where it was. He turned to his trusty Garmin, and that is when things got interesting. 

The man could not spell “Blake” to save his life. 

When Walls told him the address on Blake Street, he asked how to spell it. Mark obliged simply by saying B-L-A-K-E. We both sat in the back seat of our Prius cab (because this city not only smokes green, it lives it) and watched him type in BKELL, or some such nonsense. We stopped him, and Walls once again started spelling out the name for him. This time we got BQBLE. Now we both were trying to spell out Blake for this guy, and for the next 3 minutes we watched failed attempt after failed attempt. We got BKB. BLLKAE. BQLAB. And so on and so forth. At one point I think he successfully mapped a route to a hotel in his native city of Mogadishu – approximate cab fare of $39,345 (plus tip). He just was not able to do this it seemed.

Finally, Walls just handed him his phone, so he could visually see how the street was spelled.  That did the trick, and we were off. The two of us at this point were just desperately trying not to laugh out loud.

At the destination he dropped us off about a block beyond where we were supposed to be. The restaurant we were in front of was not the one we were looking for. As we stood outside looking dazed and confused, the cabbie rolled down the passenger window and yelled “it’s in the back”. And with that, the whiny electric gears of his environment saving Prius wound up, and he was gone. Mark and I appreciated his helpful direction, and wandered around the back of the building. There we found nothing but the back of the same restaurant we had seen at the front.  

I regret tipping that stupid bastard. 

The rest of the evening was uneventful, and we had a terrific time enjoying a variety of brews produced in the city. People were friendly and the beer was excellent. One thing we did note however, was the ample presence of marijuana shops popping up around the city.

Just one of the shops seen on the tour – Photo Courtesy of Mark Walls

It was a stark reminder that life here has changed. The State of Colorado and its employers are really in uncharted territory. With the unavoidable growth of legalized marijuana across the country (keep your eyes on Florida), the state is a case study for us all. 

The theme for this years RIMS conference is “Elevate”, and it appears that is not going to be an issue here in Colorado. A good number of their citizens seem to have already “gotten elevated” in preparation for our arrival. It could ultimately work out quite well. RIMS is always a solid conference with a plethora of information. But it's nice to know if things at the conference are moving slow, we can always blow it off and go get elevated.

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