By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
They laugh. And when the massive school clock strikes 2:45, the doors bust open and the still, quiet air is punctured by noise. So many of the kids look so young and tiny. Others look like they're in their twenties. The girls appear confident in their chunky high-heeled boots, cute skirts and jeans. The boys are all low-slung pants and attitude.
Once Joy and Danielle leave, Dwon Buskey takes their place on the bench. The senior plans to go home, do some schoolwork, then go to his construction job. Two guys and a girl come up to him, wondering who his benchmate is. A reporter? "Don't you have to have permission to talk to students?" one asks. Responsible, these kids. Me, not so much. I just shrug. "She's smooth," Dwon says. "Looks like one of us just sitting here."
Dwon and his friends start discussing school trends. "We got a group of twins here this year. There go two of them," Dwon says, nodding toward two girls dressed in matching pink velour pants and black quilted jackets. And then there are the "buttons" a lot of the girls are wearing -- including the girl at the bench. They point to her sparkly belly-button ring. "Only Jezebels wear those," says the tallest of the three boys. She asks what a Jezebel is. He doesn't answer, but his mocking laughter tells her it's not good. "These girls are bad. They be having sex right after school," he says. Boys.
Most of the kids do have sex on the brain. Maybe it's the weird weather: Sixty-degree days in January are enough to confuse the birds and bees into thinking it's spring.
Inside East, a broad range of kids mix in the classrooms and in the hallways. But out here, they segregate themselves. Spanish-speaking students flock together; preppie blond girls walk side by side; black boys laugh and mock-fight in one circle; black girls dance and pay the boys no mind; a duo of classic band nerds pass by. All of them talk on cell phones.
Three girls who've taken Dwon's place talk about what the other girls are wearing. When the security guard walks by, they swap stories about him. And when a teacher passes and says hello, they say hi back, all sweet. But as soon as he's out of earshot, they rip on him, too. Girls.
By 3:30, most of the kids have been picked up by parents or gotten rides from friends. Almost as quickly as the noise came, it goes away. All is quiet outside East High. Until tomorrow. -- Julie Jargon
3:15 p.m.: Caribbean Marketplace,
2936 East Colfax
Raymond James was born in Trinidad, a small island at the southern edge of the Caribbean, and he knows most of the Tobagonians, Jamaicans, Bahamians and Bermudans who live in his adopted town of Denver, where he moved nine years ago to train as a professional marathon runner.
"Give me one hand, I can point to them all," says James in a thick patois, gold chains hanging from his dark, slender neck. "Everyone knows everyone. It's very, very small community."
Caribbean Marketplace, his tiny shop next door to the Caribbean Bakery, is one of the few formal enclaves for the community. The store's inventory is small and specific: James sells banners for South American and British cricket teams; incense and oils from Africa; custom-made T-shirts emblazoned with reggae symbols and images of Bob Marley. Soca and dancehall music are always on the stereo, token reminders of a faraway place.
"It does get lonely anytime you're in a place that's far away from your real home," James says. "It's always good to have a big family. That's very important in an island culture. So, that's part of why I have the shop. So other people who are here can have some memories of home, feel some feeling of their family."
James hasn't seen his mother in four years; the trip to Trinidad is so long and expensive, it's impossible to go very often. Instead, he connects to home through reggae.
"In the summer, I leave the door open so people who walk by can hear the music," he says. "The Caucasian people, they hear it and come in, too. Everyone likes it. It's a good vibe. It makes you think of the islands and a happy time." -- Bond
3:45 p.m.: Frontier Club,
18881 East Colfax
The name of the joint implies "country." But a flip through the Frontier's jukebox yields only a handful of classic country songs, buried amid No Doubt, Train and other twang-free CDs.
At the bar, though, the stuff of country songs is flowing freely. "It's my sixtieth birthday, " says Earl, a short, droopy-eyed man. It sounds like a line from a veteran barfly who has perfected the art of scoring free drinks. "I'm drunk," he notes.
Earl says he's also an ex-Navy SEAL, ex-POW, ex-soldier in Vietnam. "I write songs," he says. "Country, old-time rock and roll." How many you got? "A hundred and twelve." He attempts to sing his favorite original, "Golden Years," which paints a bleak picture far removed from the title's usual associations. He stumbles through the song's chorus, blowing the words.