Off Limits

It's a family affair

Awash in self-doubt, I was not unlike many twenty-year-olds: misanthropic, disheartened and sardonic. Perhaps I was just slightly better read. I was post-Kerouac's Dharma Bums but pre-Bukowski's Ham on Rye when I ambled into Muddy's looking for work. In what I thought divinely inspired spontaneous prose, I filled out the application.

I flew solomente my first night in the kitchen. The cook who was scheduled to train me had been arrested for breaking into a warehouse and throwing what was one of the first raves in Denver. I was assured I could handle it, the menu was not too complicated, and being a Tuesday night, it was notoriously slow. Once a prediction of a slow night is issued aloud in a restaurant, the curse is already at play to pack the place in the most unsynchronistic way. When the show let out from the Mercury Cafe at 2 a.m., I got my ass handed to me.

Somehow I managed to get the food out faster and with less mistakes than previous cooks, so I was welcomed into the underbelly of the Muddy's staff in the summer of 1992. Little did I know that summer I would find my calling, see my future wife and have quantum physics explained by a vampire.

Al Franken, the new face of Amendment 36.
Al Franken, the new face of Amendment 36.

Downtown Denver was being revamped by short-sighted development and uncreative entrepreneurship, leaving Muddy's as a true bastion for the malcontent, the nocturnal, the macabre princesses, the role-playing-game occultist, the opportunistic drug dealers and others who sought refuge from the sporty new look of downtown. Muddy's was the Moulin Rouge of the Queen City. Tables filled with subjective tarot-card readers, maudlin writers and young theater enthusiasts all mixing under a cloud of clove smoke and bopping to the sound of live improv jazz. Being far too pragmatic to purely hang out at Muddy's, I enjoyed the utilitarian purpose of my participation in this underworld. So fulfilling did I find this that I continue doing it today as the owner of WaterCourse Foods.

Denver remained somewhat pure back then. The coastal influences were diluted by distance and open to manipulation by Midwestern boredom. Country music had never sounded more morose, punk rock never played so loud. Early-evening thunderstorms washed the grime from the day down the drains, leaving a cool, fresh start for the evening.

One such summer evening the Rok Tots , an ungodly loud and precise band, played theLion's Lai, a spontaneous and unrefined hero for the local music scene. Unbeknownst to me, the bartender was the lovely Michelle McManus, whom I would marry six years later. Muddy's, the Mercury Cafe, the Lion's Lair and Calvin's made up an incongruous setting for the comings and goings of a small underground scene. Like mourning a cup of coffee that has been consumed, I would be a fool to lament the good old days of Denver. Denver's heyday was many, many years ago, when the grand valley flooded every century. By the 1990s we were well on our way to compromising our independent integrity to be a second-rate "real" city. Muddy's was a last bastion of the independent semi-urban west.

I read the man who is putting in a discotheque where Muddy's once was decided to leave up a few walls for artistic or sentimental value. Bullshit. I am sure there are zoning and permit benefits to leaving them up. The building, as Tim Fink put it, was a piece of shit. That building is just a sarcophagus that entombed a memory of a time in Denver's history when reading, music, poetry and strong-ass coffee were important to our culture. The building is not worth eulogizing, the culture is.

Rest in peace.

Scene and herd: Yes, that was David Kopel, Independence Institute analyst and Channel 12 and Rocky Mountain News pundit, playing himself in Fahrenhype 9/11, which had a showing Monday night at the Westminster Dave & Buster's. From there the film went direct to DVD on Tuesday -- which just happened to be the day that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was also released on DVD. Later this week, Kopel will explain the "59 deceits" of Moore's movie to a TV crew visiting from Sweden. ... Just in time for Friday's second presidential debate parties, those pranksters at Le Bakery Sensual have baked up some political double entendres, with cupcakes bearing the marzipan messages "Beat Dick" and "Lick Bush." Of course, the bakery can create any slogan, says cake-maker John Spotz, "but our clientele is...well, predominantly supports Democrats, I've noticed." What? Marilyn Musgrave's not a big fan of the penis-shaped cakes?

And speaking of Satan, the former church building at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Cedar Avenue just got graffiti-bombed, with the tagger leaving this note: "Satan compels me." Good to know.

What's So Funny?

By Adam Cayton-Holland

Ah, debate season, when a young man's political fancy lightly turns to thoughts of, "Wait, you mean they're not going to show The Apprentice tonight? Fuck!"


After a series of painful campaign ads leading up to the big event, the Men in Suits took their mikes and let loose with ninety minutes of sheer, unadulterated politickin'. My favorite moment came in the final round, when Kerry thought of all the things that Bush could say about him -- how he slept with his girlfriend, how Kerry got beat up by W's crew, how Kerry's boy Cheddar Bob shot himself in the leg, how Kerry still lives in a trailer with his mom -- and then turned around and said all those things about himself first. Then Kerry was all "What now? What are you gonna say about me that I didn't already say, sucka?" And Bush was so tongue-tied that he couldn't even think of a response. So Kerry won the battle and then went back to his job at the plant, hell-bent on finally recording his rap album.

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