Through a Glass, Darkly

A special soused report

Though the smell of vomit comes with the territory, drivers -- most of them part-time college students -- learn to expect anything. "There was a guy we drove home a couple of weeks ago who was like, 'Damn -- I need you to take my babysitter home,'" Saine recalls. "So we drove the babysitter to her house, too."

Then there's the matter of finding the right house. "If a driver gets lost, I can guide him in or out over a cell phone," Saine says. "We use a combination of satellites and cell-phone towers to triangulate locations. We've been lucky to hire a couple of former cabbies who know Denver like the back of their hand."

"Safety is the highest concern," Grodnik insists. "This is a viable idea. It's a new business that nobody's heard of before. The end product is, somebody gets home and we make a little money. So it's a win-win situation." Even LoDo wins. "I think we add to the safety presence of this intersection," he adds. "We turned a dark corner into a lit corner."

A lit corner full of lit people.

As he stumbles down Market, another red-eyed rowdy in a sports jersey and backward baseball cap pauses in front of NightRiders' dispatch station, then lets out a mad cackle. "I wish I had a designated driver," he shouts. "To take me to another fuckin' bar!"

Drunk TV
To viewers across the country, Colorado is intoxicating.
By Michael Roberts

Until recently, Colorado was best known as the nation's leading supplier of headline-grabbing sexual assaults. But with rape accusations at the Air Force Academy receiving less media attention, the University of Colorado Buffaloes earning ink for losing games rather than for showing potential recruits a lewd time, and Kobe Bryant's criminal trial suffering a case of courtus interruptus, our image is changing. Today, many networks and cable channels have shelved prurience in favor of depicting Colorado as a state of inebriation.

The alcohol-related deaths of college students Samantha Spady and Lynn "Gordie" Bailey in September inspired journalists from coast to coast to make Colorado the focus for pieces on teen booze abuse -- and the stories have had surprising staying power. On October 27, CBS's The Early Show ran a long segment by Channel 4's Rick Sallinger that highlighted Spady, Bailey and Taylor Webster, a Fort Collins youth who died of alcohol poisoning. Sallinger's piece juxtaposed comments from earnest folks who want young people to stop binging with evidence of how hard it is to put the cork back in the bottle. Jessica Webster, Taylor's sister, who co-founded the anti-drinking education program T-DUB.org with her mother, expressed amazement that her brother's friends continued to guzzle even after his demise. But they have a lot in common with one young man Sallinger spoke to at a liquor store. Asked if Spady's death had made fellow collegiates reconsider their drinking habits, he stared blankly for a moment before answering, "No."

The losing battle for temperance was more of a laughing matter on a mid-October episode of The Daily Show, Comedy Central's satiric news program. In a piece dubbed "Party Like It's 1929," correspondent Ed Helms reported on the Prohibition Party, whose perennial presidential candidate, Lakewood septuagenarian Earl Dodge, would like to take America back to those halcyon days when sipping a Manhattan was a criminal offense. At one point, Helms asked Dodge, "What would you say to people out there whose lives are improved by alcohol?" Dodge offered a rambling reply ("Alcohol is a crutch...I think there are other ways you can get support") as Helms coyly swilled from a flask or sucked on a tube attached to a beer helmet. The two subsequently joined their voices in song, delivering a proud paean to futility that Dodge had also crooned on CNN in September: "I'd rather be right than president/I want my conscience clear." Afterward, Dodge conceded, "If I get to the White House, it'll probably be in a publicly guided tour."

The Colorado politician spotlighted on a September episode of The Tonight Show is even less likely to achieve higher office, since he's fictional. In the wake of the Men's Health "Is Your City Sloshed?" survey that rated Denver dead-drunk first, comedian Fred Willard played William J. Fredricks, the state's notably tipsy "Under Assistant Lieutenant Secretary." When Jay Leno mentioned the report declaring Denver to be America's drunkest city, Willard slurred, "That's true, Jay. The numbers, just like the people in Denver, are staggering." Then, after sipping from a convenient martini, he refuted the designation by proclaiming, "But Jay, I'd just like to say that we're not really the drunkest city. We just look that way because we're next to that goody-two-shoes Utah. Utah? More like U-suck!"

Another round, bartender!

Last Call

Given the recent news that Don's Club Tavern, an alcoholic institution on Sixth Avenue for over five decades, could close before month's end, there's no time like the present to celebrate this city's great saloons. Here are ten of the area's best:

Kazmo's, 1381 Kalamath Street

Enough? No such thing. When the bar reopens at 7 a.m. and the DJ pumps up the volume to nuclear-detonation levels, a dozen bold survivors of Saturday night's festivities are primed to re-engage. By 9:15, you can't find a spot at the bar, the pool table is under mass assault, and the blissed-out dreamer who had the dance floor all to herself just a minute ago has been joined by others: singles, trios, entire ad hoc committees. Too strenuous a thought for this tender hour? Then grab another five-buck pitcher of Bud, chill on the couch, and contemplate the music of the spheres.

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