Prospectors, Explorers, and Men of Chance

Today’s a big day. We’re taking possession of our new home, just a stone’s throw off East Colfax Avenue. Very exciting!

So today I’m geeking out on Colfax, shown below in all its 1970s neon glory. A more detailed history of Denver’s iconic Avenue of Sin can be found here, but here are the Cliffs Notes.

Colfax in the 1970s

• Colfax was originally called “The Golden Road” because back in 1850 or so, it’s how miners got from Denver to the mountains in their rush for the motherlode.
• Colfax was also called Grand Avenue and The Gateway to the Rockies.
• Colfax is 26.5 miles long and extends from the plains to the mountains.
• Colfax is referenced several times in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 Beat Generation novel On the Road.

On the Road
Boring. You probably already know all that already, right? Blah, blah, blah. So let’s get to the good stuff.

Colfax is named for Schuyler Colfax (an Indiana Congressman, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Vice President of the United States under Ulysses S. Grant), who back in the day had this vision for his namesake:

And that thoroughfare, born beneath the mountainous mountains of rocky peaks so high, seeing as it shall victual to prospectors, explorers, and men of chance, and whereas said men, in their sparse moments of recess and requiescence, require relief of an immediate and carnal conformation, let Colfax Way be a den of avarice, a cauldron of covetousness, a peccadillo wharf in a sea-storm of morality. Let not a man walk Colfax Way and wonder, ‘Where shall I deposit my virility this eve, where may I encounter mine intoxicant?’ for he shall find all he seeks on Colfax.

And here he is. Schuyler Colfax himself. He looks like a friendly storytelling grandpa with nothing more in his pocket than lollipops and bubblegum.

Which just goes to show you can’t judge a dirty politician sin monger by his bust.

Schuyler Colfax

Other things Colfax is known for: The Satire Lounge…

The Satire Lounge…where Bob Dylan, back when he was still Robert Zimmerman and covering Woodie Guthrie songs, got hissed off stage. This is also where the Smothers Brothers were discovered. They lived in the apartment above the lounge and were downstairs clowning around at the pool tables when a talent scout approached them and said they could make it big in entertainment. So they did.

And here’s another fun tidbit. This was the Bugs Bunny Motel…

Bugs Bunny Motel…which is now, due to copyright and all that, the Big Bunny Motel. Actress Sue Lyon, who played the titular character in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film Lolita…

Lolita…lived here back in the early 70s. She met and fell in love with some dude incarcerated at the Colorado State Pen in Canon City for murder and robbery. Yep. She even married the guy and became a conjugal-rights advocate…

Sue Lyon Jail Bride…although she divorced him less than a year later because he broke out an committed another robbery. Anyway, needless to say, Sue fell on some hard times. Both, uh, financially and mentally. She started waitressing in Denver and moved into the Bugs Bunny. One day, she had an argument with someone there and threatened to throw herself out a motel window.

Had she followed through, this would not have had quite the dramatic effect I’m sure she’d hoped for. The motel being a one-story building and all, she might have ended up with a few scratches, maybe a bruised knee, perhaps some shrubbery in her hair.

I wonder what Sue is up to these days.

And although I’ll be living near East Colfax, I have to pay at least some small homage to our distant and less storied cousin, West Colfax.

Casa Bonita
Enough said.


Fists and FroYo: Friday on the ‘Fax

I just witnessed an assault on East Colfax.

OK, I’m not sure what you imagined when you read that, but I’ve got to be honest: If I had just read those words on someone else’s blog, I’d have made some snap assumptions about the people involved in the assault. And I’d have been dead wrong.

Here’s what happened.

We were at Red Mango Frozen Yogurt over by Tattered Cover, about three blocks away from our new house. (The location of which, by the way, prompted my sister to say, “But do you really want to live so close to Colfax?” Heh.)

Red Mango

In comes an older couple. Mid-sixties, maybe. White as white. They look like church-going, golf-playing country clubbers.

In walks another older couple. Also mid-sixties. Also white as white. Also sporting the bridge-club, retired-from-a-long-career-in-banking look. Only this couple has their three young grandchildren in tow. The kids are maybe between the ages of five and eight.

Now, W and I are sitting at the first table by the door. Apparently, both aforementioned sets are trying to walk out said door at the same time. WG1 accuses WG2 of bumping into his wife. Next thing we know, WG2 has been knocked to the ground, WG1 is on top of him, straddling him, throwing some pretty serious punches. The wives are shouting. The grandkids are crying. The sidewalk is a yogurt-strewn battlefield littered with candy sprinkles and red plastic spoons.

Everyone inside runs outside. Us included.

Two of Red Mango’s teenage employees immediately take control and handle the whole situation with amazing cool-headed efficiency. One physically removes WG1 from WG2 and stands between them, even startes down a wild-eyed WG1, who clearly isn’t done with the fist-fight portion of his evening. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen such raw hate and anger in a man’s eyes–not in real life, anyway, and never that up close and personal. And it escalated so quickly! I have no doubt that if WG1 had had a gun, he’d have shot WG2 on the spot.) The other employee chases WG1 and his wife down and gets their license plate number as they flee the scene. Meanwhile, the first employee makes sure everyone is OK, calmly cleans up the sidewalk, confirms that the cops are on the way, apologizes to all the bystanders, and offers everyone who’d gathered around free yogurt or coupons for their next visits to Red Mango.

Adults behaving badly. Teenagers saving the day with calm heroics and common sense. Is there a moral to the story? Sure. Books and their covers and all that. The lesson is obvious. Indeed, this was a strange and unexpected night in my new neighborhood.

But the bottom line? I think I’m going to like it here.

Wil Wheaton Sighting

Spent much of the weekend downtown, battling the crowds. Rockies games both Saturday and Sunday; Denver Chalk Art Festival both Saturday and Sunday (which was very awesome, if the pieces we actually got close enough to see were any indication of the show as a whole–I totally want to do this next year); some sort of race on Saturday morning that no one seemed to be in any hurry to finish but that closed off lots of downtown streets anyway; a farmer’s market; some other Sunday festival that had Colfax closed off and required us to take a detour; and, of course, Denver Comic Con.

Warren had one more panel today (topic: the future of space opera) with the lovely and talented Betsy Dornbusch, et al, so I did get in to walk the exhibit floor for about thirty minutes beforehand. Which was more than enough to catch the drift of the DCC experience. And I do mean “drift.” By Sunday night, cons begin to smell a bit like upset stomachs and unwashed hair. People are tired. Their costumes are droopy. Their body paint is rubbing off. It’s time to go home.

Highlights of the weekend included (a) lunch at the Rio with Warren, Mario Acevedo, Bonnie Biafore, Jason Heller, Daniel Abraham, and Jesse Bullington–accomplished writers all, (b) getting lots of my own writing done, and (c) walking right past Wil Wheaton at 17th and Blake. (What were he and his entourage doing over there after dark anyway? Jax? McCormick’s? Curious.)

Now, I’m not a trekkie. Never have been. So the Wil Wheaton of my childhood is this guy:

Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton in STAND BY ME

But I love that he’s become a beacon for the Geek and Proud Crowd and that he seemed to be enjoying Denver. At least, he looked like he was enjoying Denver. The day he flew in, he had this to say:

Wil Wheaton TweetAnd then he linked to this. Which is awesome. I live here, and I didn’t know this stuff.

Denver Chalk Art Festival

Today, I’m geeking out at the Denver Chalk Art Festival, where my friend Mario Acevedo is hard at work. Go, Mario, go! I took this picture and texted it to him, then walked away. He never even knew I was there. Me so sneaky.

In other geek news, Denver Comic Con is in full swing this weekend. Warren has a couple panels there this weekend, and when I dropped him off at the convention center this morning, I saw, I don’t know, maybe a thousand people waiting in line to get in. Lots of capes and slut boots and Marvel tee shirts. Good times. I won’t even try to get in. Instead, I’ve skulked off to Starbucks to get a little writing done.

Mario Acevedo

Mario Acevedo working on his contribution to the 2013 Denver Chalk Art Festival