5:30 a.m. July 20, 2012

Really, Folks, Denver Is A Fantastic Place To Live

Denver is a killer city.

If only it weren’t so. Most cities with penchants for murder at least have the decency to indulge in that bloodlust in a systematic, incremental way. You know, a homeless guy here, an unfaithful girlfriend there.

Denver binges.

This morning at 12:39, a man dressed in black and wearing a gasmask entered a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." He threw canisters that began to smoke, which some eyewitnesses say they thought was a joke or a publicity stunt.

But it wasn’t a joke, or a Joker. It was sick craven worthless fuck who pulled out a gun and started shooting into the audience.

As of this writing, 12 are confirmed dead. Dozens more have been injured. Seeing as how the film just opened, the theater was packed. There were children in attendance. Some of them dressed as Batman.

You know. Batman. The guy who, as a boy, sees his parents shot and killed in front of him.

It’s safe to assume that any kids who may have witnessed their parent’s death this morning will not grow up to be superheroes. They will not deal with their trauma by putting on a mask and living in a cave.

Or maybe, in their own way, they will.

"The Dark Knight Rises" — indeed, all of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy — is about a city living in fear. What does fear do to us? What does it engender? How is it personified? That city is supposed to be Gotham.

Now it is Denver.

Again.

Denver has been here before. Thirteen years ago, two students at Columbine High School in the nearby suburb of Littleton performed a similar act of sick-craven-worthless-fuck-ism. This morning, I watched Denver’s TV news crews attempt to gather information and make sense of the aftermath. Distraught and exhausted, they did (and are doing) a valiant job. After all, they have experience at this sort of thing.

I make fun of these news crews all the time. Hell, I make fun of Denver all the time. I’ve lived here for almost 30 years, yet I sometimes feel like an outsider. As the product of bitter, cynical, blue-collar New England stock, this sunny, cheery, prosperous mountain town makes me itch.

But I stay here, for a reason. Honestly, it’s a beautiful city. Denverites are among the warmest, most generous, and least pretentious you will ever meet. Believe it or not, it even has a relatively low murder rate.

Every few years, though, the city gets an infection. And then it erupts. If that sounds like the tag line of a superhero movie, you’ll have to pardon me. The debate about the role of "The Dark Knight Rises" in this morning’s shooting is sure to spark up soon enough, and I for one dread it.

Again, we’ve been this way before. After Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were discovered to have been Marilyn Manson fans, Marilyn Manson was chosen as the pop-culture scapegoat.

Imagine if Harris and Klebold had carried out their massacre at a Marilyn Manson concert.

Nolan will likely be facing that kind of situation before too long. This morning’s as-yet-unnamed killer — who was captured by Denver police — was mimicking the villain Bane from "The Dark Knight Rises," right down to his “Bane-style gasmask,” as The Huffington Post has already started reporting it.

I’m not too worried about Nolan, though. He’s rich and lawyered up. Not to mention the fact that pop culture, even the most violent kind, has survived this kind of uproar many times before. Who hasn’t survived, though, are 12 Denverites. They had no idea what came with that movie ticket they were buying. They probably believed, as I did before this morning, that Columbine was something that would only happen to Denver once.

Really, everyone, Denver is a great place to live.

No, really.