Through a Glass, Darkly

A special soused report

"Tulagi had a lot of good music through the years," says Rockrimmon's Zane Blackmer. "It also had drunken brawls. We need some nicer quality stores and restaurants up here, because it's not just the students who live in Boulder."

This may be the one point on which everyone agrees. Boulder has spent tens of thousands of dollars on marketing studies which concluded that nine pizza and sub-sandwich shops within a two-block stretch don't make for the most economically diverse district. Blackmer was looking for an investor with a high-end concept that would bring a different demographic to 13th Street rather than the usual shot-gulping frat boys. That's what he thought he had with Turner, who'd signed a ten-year lease for the building.

But the neighborhood group was skeptical, as was Boulder's planning board, which was eyeballing a September 28 letter from University of Colorado chancellor Richard Byyny to the city's Beverages Licensing Authority, urging a moratorium on any new liquor licenses near campus. According to David Miller, who sits on the executive board of the neighborhood group, residents were concerned that this latest proposal for Tulagi would create additional parking, crime, noise and drunkenness. And the city agreed, turning down Turner's proposal.

Toast of the town: Modern Drunkard's Frank 
Rich is on the job...always.
Mark Manger
Toast of the town: Modern Drunkard's Frank Rich is on the job...always.

"We wholeheartedly support new businesses coming into the Hill that want to play by the rules," Miller says. "The trend of ignoring the neighbors, ignoring the zoning rules and turning this area into a mini-Bourbon Street has been stopped for the moment, and hopefully in due time will be reversed."

With the high-end-restaurant route blocked, Blackmer says he's running out of options. "I'm sick of talking about it," he admits. Still, he knows he's going to have to lease the vacant building eventually. "We'll sell some trinkets or T-shirts," he says scornfully. "We'll give in to a tattoo parlor that wants to go there, or we'll sell some sub sandwiches."

Hey, toasted undergrads have to eat, too.

Class Crash
The star of a drunk-driving film gets a lesson in reality.
By Michael Roberts

For generations, well-intended documentaries warning students not to drink and drive may actually have had the opposite effect, and no wonder. Watching grainy footage of crumpled-up autos as narrated by a stentorian state trooper wearing a Smokey-the-Bear hat, who wouldn't work up a powerful thirst?

Isaac Vigil, a student at West High, is among those who have experienced such pain. "I remember seeing those kinds of films in middle school, and kids wouldn't pay attention to them that much, because they were boring," he says. "After they were over, people would, like, laugh at them and call them stupid."

Sue Matzick, a paramedic who also serves as injury-prevention coordinator at Denver Health, saw this problem from the other side of the desk. Earlier in her career, she worked as a health teacher at a middle school in Iowa City, Iowa, and she discovered that her lessons had greater impact when she brought in young guests to talk about "the consequences they faced: drunk drivers, pregnant teenage moms, someone who'd been in an accident and couldn't walk anymore. It was teens teaching teens."

That's the idea behind Too Fast, Too Furious, Too Deadly, a video overseen by Matzick that's already been sent to some local high schools and middle schools, and will probably wind up in many more sometime soon; this week, Denver Health is sending out letters offering it to principals at age-appropriate facilities across the state. The nineteen-minute production was assembled by members of the University of Colorado's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and features a gaggle of area police officers, firefighters and Denver Health staffers. But the spotlight shines brightest on Vigil, who plays a drunk driver, and other members of West's student council, portraying victims of a collision near the school following a football game.

The enthusiastic tone of Too Fast's opening scenes, in which one student is eager to get to a keg party because "my buzz is starting to fade off," contrasts sharply with footage of the incident's aftermath. There's no hectoring dialogue pointing out how the impairment of one driver and the inattentiveness of another, who's seen fiddling with her cell phone right before impact, led to disaster. Instead, Too Fast simply shows what happens in the wake of a real accident: kids screaming, crying and bleeding, emergency personnel starting IVs and strapping patients to stretchers, a doctor informing a mother that her son is dead. As for Vigil, he is seen taking and failing a series of sobriety tests before being cuffed and loaded into a police vehicle. "That was pretty crazy, and weird, too," he says. "That car didn't have much room in the back..."

The video, which also includes accident survivors treated at Denver Health talking about their horrendous injuries and deceased friends, will be accompanied by a curriculum that Matzick and her helpers are now putting together. This guide should help teachers expand on the material in the video "instead of just popping it in when a substitute's there," Matzick notes. "We talk about myths, like how people say you can drink coffee to sober up, when only time can do that, and the idea that if you wear a seat belt, it'll lock you in and you'll go up in a fiery blaze, when they really save lives."

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