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Tree hugs and kisses

What won't be there much longer is his Avenue Theater, which will lose its home (for the past fifteen years!) on 17th Avenue at the end of June. Ashton's having a devil of a time locating a new space, but he still has hopes that he'll "find some very generous landlord."

Our last sighting comes from Salt Lake City itself, where President George Dubya Bush may hopscotch around in Air Force One, but the regular people travel by bus -- RTD bus, that is. As part of a Utah Transit Authority (UTA) effort called Drive for the Gold, which recruited buses and drivers from around the country to shuttle athletes and fans to and from the different sports venues at the Games, RTD has lent thirty brand-new forty-footers to Olympic organizers.

"The nation's public transportation systems from across the country are showing support by proudly donating 905 buses and providing 1,000 operators from 43 states to Salt Lake City," reads an announcement issued by the American Public Transportation Association, which is helping the UTA. But only the RTD buses received prime-time exposure in a February 10 NBC story about how fans get to the top of Park City's steep slopes to watch skiing events; the network aired footage of a convoy of RTD buses motoring up the hill, the word Denver blinking on each one.

Aside from publicity, though, not much is free in this deal. The drivers had to use their own vacation time to achieve Olympic busing glory, although they are being paid a stipend by the UTA. "This was done at absolutely no cost to RTD," says district spokesman Scott Reed, who notes that RTD lent about a dozen buses to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Games. "The Olympic host committee and the host city pay all of the transportation costs, all the costs of maintenance and operations, and they are responsible for bringing the buses back up to their original condition.

"Hopefully, the hockey team doesn't get ahold of them," he adds.

That's right: Denver's taxpaying, fare-subsidizing, gum-chewing bus riders -- who will get to see the new buses only after they've done their Olympic best -- deserve the right to trash those vehicles themselves.

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