Off Limits

I Am Curious, Yellow

All signs these days point to Colfax Avenue, where Brian House has posted nearly 150 palm-sized yellow arrows on signs, doors and alleys. The effort isn't part of the city administration's upscaling of America's Main Street, though; House is just a hometown boy bringing public awareness to a worldwide scavenger hunt, or MAAP -- Massively Authored Artistic Project -- that he helped design.

House grew up just off East Colfax and headed for Columbia University in 1998. There he and Boulderite Jesse Shapins met classmate Chris Allen and, with the help of Michael Count of Counts Media, came up with the idea of placing arrows around the globe. But their effort isn't all about artistic graffiti; there's a message. Lots of messages. Each of the arrows bears an alphanumeric code. Anyone can buy one at for fifty cents apiece, hide the arrow, then send a text message to the code number, recording a thought about the place where the sticker was left. People who subsequently come upon the arrow can text in its code and get the story over the phone.

"The world becomes a gallery," House explains. "That's what's interesting about the arrow. It's physical, it's a sticker, you're putting it in a real environment -- but by adding a message, you're putting it into a context you couldn't have otherwise. There's a lot of collective knowledge about intimate experiences you have with the city, and I think there's a lot of value in combining that together."

Want the real story? Find the yellow arrow.
Want the real story? Find the yellow arrow.
Jackie Tancredo
Jackie Tancredo

Here's a sampling of the intimate experiences he's posted along Colfax:

At Niagara Street, by a doughnut sign draped with white cloth because the shop is now closed: "His name was Dutch Boy. I remember him well, and I know what the secret ingredient was."

At Jasmine, by Hub Cap Annie's: "Annie has the one store on East Colfax that doesn't change. She gave me $5 for a summer's worth of scavenging, but it was a fortune anyway."

At Ivanhoe, by the Isis Metaphysical Center: "Long ago, I walked in and the guy looked up and said, 'Sticky fingers is bad karma.' I rubbed them together, but they seemed fine to me."

At Fairfax, by the black-and-white mural of a man playing a trumpet: "P-Funk once recorded here. So did our own Chuck da Fonk."

At Madison, outside Bastien's: "There is a man inside right now who has eaten a steak from Bastien's every week for 40 years."

And with any luck, he'll be eating one every week for the next forty.

More text messaging: It was under less-than-friendly circumstances that six-year director Chris Citron parted ways with the Colorado Center for the Book last December, just before the official announcement came down that the nonprofit was merging with the Colorado Center for the Humanities. But Citron's love affair with literature continues: She's started the Colorado Center for Literature and Art.

"At this point it's pretty small, a grassroots non-profit organization promoting literary and literacy goals, to encourage love of reading and love of books," she says. "I'm particularly interested in Colorado literary history and literary endeavors. We're organizing literary events and bringing readers and authors together and just encouraging interest in books."

At the same time she's taking on her former employer, right? "We're just a complementary group," she says. "There are a lot of different organizations. I think we'll be trying to do smaller events, really focusing on bringing people together for conversation rather than grand, big-scale events. I expect to continue to do the same kinds of things I've done for years, and I think it's very exciting to bring people together and see the sparks of when people are turned on from an author talking."

Scene and herd: That hated blue Qwest sign -- dimmed from its most garish glow, but still dominating downtown -- has been joined by another bolt from the blue, with the Downtown Aquarium adding its own overdose of azure neon to the skyline. That's one way to let people know there's a new squid in town.

On the Record

We here at Off Limits often scratch our heads and marvel that Jackie Tancredo is married to Colorado's controversy-prone congressman from the Sixth District. She always seemed so normal, so not prone to controversy when she was our junior high French teacher. Since she was also the teacher who made a difference in our lives, we raised our hands and asked the longtime Jefferson County educator what kind of difference Tom Tancredo has made in hers.

Q: How did you and Tom meet?

A: We were both teachers at Drake Junior High. I had teaching and a small, nice comfortable life in Arvada that I enjoyed incredibly.

Q: Has he always been so outrageous, or has this just come on over time?

A: When I met Tom, he was teaching political science, so he's always been interested, but not heavily involved. But by the time I married him in 1977, he was running for the Statehouse, so he always says, "You knew." So part of it has to be my own fault. You fall in love with who you fall in love with. It's been an interesting life since. I am a very private person, and I like a lot of stability, and all of a sudden I'm taken out of my comfort zone constantly, through our whole marriage. In the Statehouse, I always went, "Well, do you have to do this?" When he went to work for the Reagan administration, I said, "Good, you're out of the eye of the storm." Not true. Pat Schroeder called for his resignation umpteen times. When he went to the Independence Institute, I said, "Oh, thank heaven, we're out of public life." But I've figured out that it's not the position that gets Tom in trouble; it's Tom. He is a non-politician politician. He says exactly what he thinks. He does not couch his words, and that gets him in trouble.

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