Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Mile High City's Notorious Avenue: East Colfax

Denver, Colorado: August 25-28, 2008

A key component of transcontinental US Highway 40, East Colfax Avenue was the main thoroughfare into urban Denver and suburban Aurora from the east until supplanted by parallel Interstate 70 four decades ago. Once bypassed, this historic avenue declined precipitously, earned a sordid reputation, and fell victim to years of unchecked urban decay. Concerted renewal efforts on East Colfax in recent years have been mildly effective, yet crime lingers and the avenue finds it difficult to shed its rough-and-tumble status. Traces of prostitution, the drug trade, homelessness, vandalism, and theft are blatant enough to grab the attention of the casual observer.

What stands astride the avenue today provides an intriguing dichotomy. Timeless greasy spoon diners and dive bars coexist side by side with their newer haute and trendy counterparts. Generations-old mom-and-pop stores and motels labor on, sometimes under different ownership. Aged neon signs buzz overhead, cast colorful swaths, and hold steadfast as reminders of a halcyon era.

Below, photographic tribute is paid a handful of the iconic East Colfax hold-outs and throwbacks, still catering to the public, much as they have in one way or another for time immemorial.

Complete with cheap beer, sticky floors, dim lighting, timeworn barstool upholstery, and Mexican fare, the Satire Lounge embodies the quintessential East Colfax speakeasy. Address: 1920 East Colfax, Denver.

Reminiscent of a small-town shop and known for its Schwinn affinity, family-owned and operated Collins’ Bicycles has served Denver since 1934. Address: 3217 East Colfax, Denver.

A community institution since 1942 and a popular destination for chow after the bars close, Pete’s Kitchen serves up three squares, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Owner Pete Contos operates four other restaurants on the avenue. Address: 1962 East Colfax, Denver.

Opened as the Thompson in 1913 and renamed the Bluebird in 1922, this landmark theater is a vintage movie house turned popular concert venue. Address: 3317 East Colfax Avenue, Denver.

The Carriage Motor Inn appears to be the typical motel of old, save for one glaring difference: The presence of a high security fence separating the property from the street. Address: 9201 East Colfax, Aurora.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Far from the Border: A Few Hours with the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps in Colorado

Denver, Colorado: August 25, 2008

"It is the mission of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to see the borders and coastal boundaries of the United States secured against the unlawful and unauthorized entry of all individuals, contraband, and foreign military. We will employ all means of civil protest, demonstration, and political lobbying to accomplish this goal."

-Minutemen Civil Defense Corps mission statement

Coinciding with the Democratic National Convention’s first day, the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, Colorado Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, and assembled for a day-long rally in Denver’s Congress Park on August 25 to garner support for policy reform and to call on presidential candidates to address the issue of illegal immigration. Including the media and representatives of the Denver Police and MCDC’s private security force, the event attracted approximately 75 people at any given moment between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Folding chairs, bottled water, literature, and a bit of shade were provided free of charge in front of a portable stage.

Peoria, Arizona-based MCDC coins itself “a citizen’s civil defense, political activist organization monitoring the U.S. border, coasts, and our government officials.” Since 2002, the organization has called for orderly immigration policy, an end to automatic birthright citizenship, curbing of amnesty, and, as President Chris Simcox explains on the MCDC web site, “protection from people who wish to take advantage of a free society.” Its volunteer workforce monitors and reports illegal immigration activity to law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Opposition at the Minutemen rally was minimal; however, one articulate soul countered Chris Simcox’s ideology.

“There is so much hypocrisy … borders aren’t closed to corporations,” 19-year-old Ohio State University student Ian Bowman-Henderson said. “And immigrants pay taxes.”

As seen through a Congress Park baseball diamond fence, rally attendees cluster under a tent to escape the sun and watch an immigration video.

After giving a short speech, Chris Simcox is barraged by the media. The crux of his message: “No human is illegal, but actions and behaviors can be.”

Curiously, the Minutemen banner at right was attached to a Denver Parks and Recreation vehicle.

Espousing an anti-immigration platform, Republican, Colorado Representative, and former 2008 presidential candidate Tom Tancredo takes his turn at the podium.

Mirroring MCDC’s stance, Tancredo said: “It’s idiotic to talk about amnesty.” Defending his position regarding the influx of illegal immigrants: “It’s not xenophobia … it’s a desire to make sure America is here.”

With all the gusto of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, Alan Keyes captivates an attentive crowd, receives a standing ovation, and entertains individual questions afterwards.

This political activist, one-time Republican, and former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs under President Ronald Reagan is running for the presidency on the America’s Independent Party ticket.

Aaron Rock of the Colorado Film School interviews Tom Tancredo for a documentary project. The Minutemen rally attracted a cadre of journalism students and bloggers from across the country.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Half-Dozen Random Scenes from the Democratic National Convention

Denver, Colorado: August 24-26, 2008

Constructed for Denver’s 1908 Democratic National Convention at the behest of then-Mayor Robert W. Speer, the long-fallow Prismatic Electric Fountain in City Park was rebuilt and returned to operation for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The fountain discharges water approximately 100 feet above Ferril Lake at dusk on August 24.

An Obama poster is plastered to The Ethiopian Restaurant at 2816 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, on August 26.

Four miles from the convention hubbub at Denver’s Pepsi Center, Michael Sykes watches Hillary Clinton’s speech from the comfort of his Cook Street home on August 26. Clinton’s support of presumptive nominee Barack Obama is viewed as crucial to the unification of the Democratic Party.

Several organizations held free concerts throughout Denver during convention week. Hosted by Recreate 68, M1 and of Dead Prez present politically charged hip hop from the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol on August 24.

A sign within earshot of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps rally in Denver’s Congress Park on August 25.

Encountered in Denver’s Civic Center Park on August 25, the Make Love, Not War slogan of the 1960s has morphed into Make Out, Not War.