By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Because if they didn't, there'd be nothing else to do.
But there is the Village Inn. Until midnight, it is an oasis of warm, yellow light on Broadway. Not a particularly well-populated one, but better than sitting in the parking lot of the Conoco station watching the traffic rolling down Broadway thin, grow anemic, finally just stop. Here, anyway, there are signs of life. There's the Professor with the gray beard and natty tweeds poking distractedly at his graphing calculator, scratching notes in a grease-stained binder, no doubt making plans for a bomb. Across from him, two buffed and polished Gingers loudly discuss the sexual failings of their various husbands; behind them, an elderly couple of Howells shake their heads. The manager's pants rattle from the Tic-Tacs in his pocket as he brings the coffeepot around, topping off the late-shift castaways. Then he goes to the other side of the room, where the youth of America -- twenty-odd grass-fed and apple-cheeked suburban snowflakes -- pose, smoke their cigarettes, try to make up their collective mind about where they're going to go get drunk tonight. When they're done with that, they talk about Jesus and their hair. And when they're done with that, they leave; sweeping out en masse, going anywhere but home.
It's amazing that with so many lights, so many signs, so many little boxes lined up side by side by side along Broadway, there's so little to do once the day is done. Locksmiths. Gas stations. Dentist's offices and stereo shops. Even the pawnshops are dark. When, at the intersection of Broadway and some car-lot access road, there's a totally random accident -- the only two vehicles on the road somehow managing to find each other and collide like they'd fallen suddenly and passionately in love -- the police arrive within seconds. Any action is better than none.
Dubb's Pub, the Full House, Tonda's Tavern -- come closing time, pickings are slim. At Arap's Old Gun Shop (now Arap's Eatin' Drinkin' and Darts, according to the sign), there's a load of credits in the juke and Billy Joel playing for the handful of hard-timers and friends of the house still propping up the long oak. They're the ones who outlasted the casual rummies in for the Thursday-night stop of the Denver Poker Tour -- no-limit hold 'em being played everywhere these days, mostly for kicks, never for cash. The bartender rubs her hands with Vaseline, pops a light for her Marlboro, starts settling tabs. Under the dim light and pall of smoke, she collects crumpled fives and tens from her customers, passes a birthday card across the bar to one of her regulars, signed by all the others. She rubs her hands again, pours a tall round of peppermint schnapps for the bar. The jukebox switches up. It's last call, and everyone still standing sees more than one reflection of themselves in the smoky mirror on the other side of the bar. It makes the place seem busier than it really is.
Outside, Broadway is close to deserted. Take it back south, past the now-closed Village Inn, past the point where Broadway suddenly turns into a divided parkway. Go south until there's nowhere else to go, to the T-bone intersection with Wildcat Reserve Parkway, where Broadway ends in a hill marked by the sign "Development Site Residential."
At 5 a.m., you can lie down in this intersection on your back and see nothing but stars. You can lie here undisturbed, waiting for the world to wake up. You can hear the first cars of morning coming from a long way off, long before you see the lights bearing down on you. It's a little like playing chicken with the sunrise, or with the entire weight of the eventual morning commute.
This far out, and at this hour, there just isn't anything else to do. -- Jason Sheehan