Just the 'Fax, man

Thirty miles of developments, drunks and dreams -- the ultimate road trip.

Debbie's blue sweatshirt is emblazoned with the image of Tinkerbell and the words "Find magic in every moment." In a way, she has. For the past five years, Debbie and her husband, Robbie, have operated this twelve-lane alley, built in booming, post-war 1946. The rapture may be a slog at times, and "the hours" are the toughest thing, Debbie says, since Lakewood Lanes is open from 9 a.m. to about 11 p.m. daily, seven days a week. Yet even though business is down a bit from last year, she's not complaining. After all, she used to work in a bowling alley -- and her husband rolled a 300 game not long ago.

Crashkolatiatlash.

The noise? "I don't even notice it," she says. What does get her attention is something odd, like the sound of the vintage pinsetter sputtering when it doesn't return some wooden soldiers correctly. But, knock wood, the same mechanic who helped install those automatic pinsetters in the '50s will drop by to keep the machinery moving, so the enterprise rolls on.

Taken for a ride: Heritage Square is quiet in the 
off-off-season.
Anthony Camera
Taken for a ride: Heritage Square is quiet in the off-off-season.
How sweet it is: At Dulcería El Pachangón, the 
offerings include custom piñatas.
Anthony Camera
How sweet it is: At Dulcería El Pachangón, the offerings include custom piñatas.

It's a comfy fit. A few dozen regulars are here for the weekly senior open bowl, a friendly session that begins the day and lasts until everyone has bowled three games at the bargain rate of $1.50 a game. The bond of amateur sport isn't the only incentive. A box of quarters rests on the counter, the reward for special feats, such as getting a strike with a green or gold headpin. There's steady traffic to the silvery treasure chest, where winners -- Skeeter, Elmer, Roy -- sign in sometimes shaky script, then take their winnings. With ready cash, a pro might want to pick up something at the counter: grip tape, or some Easy Slide professional sole conditioner. Most pocket the coins.

"They're all looking for one of those new quarters," Debbie says.

Jerry Writebol, a seventy-year-old retired pipefitter, takes a break from the thrum and pours himself another cup of brew. Coffee and three boxes of brightly iced Winchell's donuts fuel the event. As a courtesy, smoking -- if done at all -- is by the door, since some of the kegglers are on oxygen.

"It's a good place to be for the fellowship," Jerry says. He's met plenty of friends here but enjoys one special bond, he says, nodding at a lanky man in a dark shirt. "That's my son, Lance," he explains. "He has a prosthetic."

Krambamkattle.

The younger Writebol, an out-of-work network administrator, stands and adjusts his posture, takes a few short steps, then delivers a solid roll that scatters seven pins. After his ball returns, he lines up again and releases, missing a spare by a hair. He smiles. "My left leg was amputated last May," he says. It didn't stop him from bowling, even though his artificial limb fits differently every week. "My main goal is to have all three games above 100," he adds. And spend time with his dad.

Debbie fills a carafe at the tap and pours the water into the coffeemaker behind the counter. Despite what appears to be a bullet hole in the front door -- "some kids with an airgun a few months ago went down the street," she says -- she thinks Colfax is a good place.

"We've never been robbed. Never had any trouble," she says, rapping the countertop for luck. Knocking on wood.

Crashlackichhhhs. -- Ernie Tucker

10 a.m.: Herbs & Arts
2015 East Colfax

Colfax is often considered Denver's hard-luck street, a place where dreams can die or just fade away.

But there's a secret side to Colfax, a magic that floats just above the asphalt and even perfumes the air. However sad your story, however bad things might seem, Colfax offers a solution.

You can cast a spell.

The scent emanating from Herbs & Arts -- the scent of hundreds of sacred herbs and charmed oils -- will either draw you into the store or send you fleeing down Colfax.

"A lot of people come in here because they like the smell coming off the street," says John Kulsar, who bought the store with his wife, Kaewyn, three years ago. "Others walk ten feet inside and turn around and leave."

Herbs & Arts is one of a handful of establishments clustered along this stretch of Colfax that cater to those interested in paganism, shamanism, Wicca and a half-dozen other ancient spiritual practices. Paganism, the pre-Christian religion of Europe, emphasizes connections to the natural world, marking time by the phases of the moon and worshiping a pantheon of gods and goddesses. Wicca is a pagan practice that emphasizes goddess worship and has been adopted by many women tired of patriarchal religions. The magazine rack near the cash register reminds you that this is no 7-Eleven: The feature story in the current New Witch magazine is titled "Find the Perfect Coven."

But while his store is full of books on witchcraft, Kulsar is quick to point out that most practitioners are kind people with good intentions. Paganism's bad reputation is the result of centuries of Christian persecution, he says, as those who followed the ancient arts were singled out for daring to continue mixing herbs and potions. "People in rural areas would go to the old lady in the forest who knew about herbs," he explains. "They were the healers. Most of the people they burned as witches were women."

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