Through a Glass, Darkly

A special soused report

Sanders has never read Moby-Dick before. "I think I saw the made-for-TV movie six or seven years ago, and I know the basic arc of the story, but I'm not reading ahead," he says. "This is all totally and ridiculously unrehearsed." He's tackling the work in chapter-long single takes. Background noise like rumbling freight trains and howling catfights in the alley outside the studio is preserved, as are Sanders's racking coughs, maniacal cackles and besotted asides.

At one point in that night's reading, he came upon the passage in Chapter 22 where Captain Peleg exhorts his crew to ready the ship. Sanders delivered Peleg's orders with a swashbuckling, slurry snarl. "Spring, thou sheep head! Spring, and break thy backbone! Why don't ye spring, I say, all of ye -- spring! Spring, thou chap with the red whiskers! Spring there, Scotch Cap! Spring, thou green pants! Spring, I say, all of ye, and spring your eyes out!"

Sanders then quieted his voice, like a squall subsiding to a breeze, and returned to the narrative.

"And so saying, he moved along the windlass, while imperturbable Bildad kept leading off with his..." he paused, swaying in his chair, puzzling out the next word. "Psal...Psal... Psalmody." Then he read the next line and burst out. "Oh, shit," he said. "Oh, shit."

Sanders sputtered the line -- "Thinks I, 'Captain Peleg must have been drinking something today.'" -- through his laughter, added "Yeah, like a pint of tequila," and then finished off the passage, which ends, "At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a short, cold Christmas."

Then he made a "cut" gesture; he wanted a break. "Jesus Christ, at least we're finally getting out of Nantucket," he sighed. One hundred pages into the novel, the crew is just setting sail. "I'm going to need that whiskey now," Sanders said. "I'm almost finished with the tequila, and we got a few chapters to go. I woke up drunk, and I'm passing out that way."

Reclining against an amplifier ten feet away, Loeppky watched his buddy chase tequila with beer. "I have a feeling this is just going to keep getting more and more out of hand," he said.

Loeppky and Sanders work together at the Tattered Cover in LoDo. They say the inspiration for "The Moby-Dick Sessions" struck one slow night in September, when they both went on break and Sanders happened to grab a store copy of Moby-Dick, flipped through the pages at random, then gave a dramatic reading of a passage in which Mr. Stubb harpoons and fights a whale while smoking a pipe.

"He's struggling with this whale," Sanders remembers, "and the whole time, he's puffing away, and just when the whale blows this fountain of blood from its blowhole, Stubb says, 'This pipe whale shall be thy last!' I read that, and Kris and I were both just like, 'Whoa, this guy's on fire. We have to do something with this book.'"

The two enlisted their manager, Tripp Wallin, for a brainstorming session at the Carioca Cafe, aka "The Bar Bar." At the downtown dive, their idea took shape. Wallin agreed to act as sound engineer and tapped local videographer Euell Thomas to film the sessions, so that in addition to audio recordings, the project will be documented on video -- as are the more spontaneous readings at weekly after-parties. Every Sunday, Sanders reads from roughly 5 to 9 p.m.; the crew of "The Moby-Dick Sessions" then retires to the Carioca, whose manager recently told a guest bartender, "If anyone comes through the door drunk, you can't serve them -- unless it's the Moby Dick guys. They're okay." Sanders always entertains the Carioca regulars with his favorite passages from that night's session, generating whoops and applause.

Once Sanders has read the entire book on tape, the crew will edit the footage of him reading down to a highlight reel, splicing in footage of the impromptu Carioca performances. They intend to submit the film to the Nantucket Film Festival next spring. The projected completion date for the audio recording is mid-January; Sanders estimates he'll have between seventy and ninety hours on tape by then. The Tattered Cover has already pre-ordered ten copies for each of the store's two locations; a marketing scheme for the rest of the copies has yet to be devised.

But plans for a launch party are already under way. "We're going to have a bunch of local bands perform covers of old sea chanties," says Sanders. "That's if I make it. But I have to make it. I owe it to Melville. I mean, what a wingnut that guy was! Who the hell writes a 600-page novel about hunting whales, for Christ's sake? But if he wrote it, I can read it. So there's nothing I can do at this point but just keep plowing through."

And keep getting plowed.

The War on Drunks
Partying is hell on the Hill.
By Laura Bond

There are 225 places to buy alcohol within a one-mile radius of the University of Colorado at Boulder. From the school's northeastern border on College Avenue, it's approximately 150 steps to one of the busiest, oldest and most notorious of those places: the Sink, a cavernous beer-and-pizza joint with uneven floors and psychedelic, mural-splashed walls that have entertained buzzed coeds since the '70s. At 5 p.m. on Friday, the peak of happy hour on Halloween weekend, every spot at the Sink's bar is taken, and most of the tables and booths are getting there. Servers bus trays of food and booze -- microbrews and Jägermeister, Coronas and Purple Hooters -- and the place hums with the spirited, elevated chatter of the soon-to-be hammered.

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