Eleven years ago last April, my friend Cammy introduced me to Baja Fresh in Washington, D.C. I'd made the trip to DC for work but also managed to throw in a visit to see Cammy and her new husband, as well as the cherry blossoms, all in person.
Here I was, Miss Mexican Food Lover Extraordinaire, and I'd never heard of Baja Fresh. I had to go all the way across the country to find some of the best Tex Mex food I'd ever tasted. You can darn sure bet I made frequent visits to the Denver version just two blocks from my work upon my return to Colorado.
Apparently I did not make not enough visits.
I last visited Baja Fresh at lunchtime on the fifth consecutive day of frigid snowstorms back in March. I thought the restaurant had run out of EVERYTHING because in the concrete jungle of downtown Denver, working stiffs don't dare get stiffer in cold temperatures. They generally don't venture outside their buildings in bad weather. They eat what's on had right inside the buildings where they work.
Baja Fresh that day was out of guacamole, out of chicken, out of queso, and, by the time my order was being filled, out of chips!!! The staff so kindly offered to give me anything else I'd like off the menu, and it took about six substitutions to find something they actually had. I got back to my office two buildings away, snow in hair but food in bag, and joked about how the storm had kept everyone indoors and caused one of my favorite daytime restaurants to run out of basics.
The next week, my work group had a lunch meeting, and we opted for Baja Fresh, only to find it was closed. Gone. Vanished. No signs. No anything. No one we talked to knew the story. We thought maybe ther had been a plumbing problem or something like that.
The next week, Baja Fresh was still closed. It's still closed now. Headquarters doesn't know if the restaurant will reopen. I tried searching the news and learned only that stores had been closed in other cities in previous years, but nothing about Denver.
One of our staff members who also frequented Baja Fresh has to make trips out into the metro area often. These days, she brings back deli-style chips by the grocery bag and containers of salsa from locales outside the downtown area when she can. Everyone in the office enjoys her spoils of gridlock. There are two more Tex-Mex restaurants downtown, but they aren't as physically close, and although both are awesome, they aren't Baja Fresh, just like Baja Fresh wasn't them.
I hope the entire chain doesn't go away. I really love their unique offerings, particularly the shrimp bowl in the last year. I'd always thought, "Fish??? In Mexican food??? What were they thinking???" After trying it on a dare, I was hooked.
And now it's gone. :(
Other beloved things are gone, too.
I still get occasional offers to help out with Makeover Madness, the rehab facility service project my co-workers and I did at Christmastime for several years, until the transitional unit at the facility was closed due to funding shortages. This was a devastating loss not just for me and my co-workers, but for the high-risk teenage girls serviced by the transitions unit, as well. These girls work six months to three years to overcome addictions and other problems to try to make their way back out into the world as productive and fully functioning citizens, and now, there is no transition back out into real life. They graduate, and out they go. After months of a sheltered and protected environment, they are unleashed back out into all the hardships of reality.
Just recently I learned Quilts at the Capitol has ended, too. This biennial event featured approximately 400 handmade quilts from throughout the state in the glorious copper-domed building. The event was coordinated by the Colorado Quilting Council and had been scheduled to take place beginning in July this year. I had hoped to enter a quilt...
According to CQC president Dawn Mills, the state capitol is aging, and even though the building seems to have been built to house quilts, a new venue must be found if the biennial show is to continue. The demands of hanging treasures in a historic building have taken their toll. Not only was it difficult to find a company to meet all the various security requirements while hanging the quilts, but all show volunteers (and I have been one) would have been required this year to submit to extensive and expensive background checks.
I recall a few years ago when the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival was permanently cancelled. It was during one of my rides to the festival one year I discovered the most beautiful field of wild sunflowers. Each year, I'd make arrangements to be late to work so I could pedal past the sunflowers to the first day of the balloon festival, and I would easily fill a memory card in just 90 minutes. Every year.
The sunflowers were mowed before blooming the same year the balloon festival was cancelled. A few sunflowers fill the field each August now, but it's never grown back to the lush forest of flowers it was before it got prematurely mowed. (And, of course, the thistles the property owners may have been trying to control have thrived in the sunflowers' absence.)
I leave you today with a few favorite images from things I've loved and lost. Treasure every moment you can every day of your life.