A Run for the Border

We spend a day on Denver's dividing line: Sheridan Boulevard.

The joint is well lit, well kept and welcoming. There's a pool table off to the side. Across from that sits a bar, which takes up a good portion of the west wall. A handful of people nurse their drinks, chatting up each other and the scantily-clad blond bombshell of a bartender while a brave soul in a Broncos cap clutches a mike and stares intently at a small television screen.

Bookended by two glowing Budweiser Select signs, he's by himself on the stage, earnestly offering up a karaoke version of Coldplay's "Clocks" that is so tuneless, all the ProTools tinkering in the world couldn't salvage it.

Hardly anyone pays attention, and those who do seem mostly nonplussed. He won't be the worst singer tonight. That distinction belongs to a bespectacled gent named Bill, who, after completely butchering "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to the point where it's distinguishable only to himself, informs everyone that this is only his third time singing the song — which is three times too many. Even the life-sized Elvis statue at the side of the stage looks exasperated.

Shoenberg Farm preserves a part of Sheridan's past.
Anthony Camera
Shoenberg Farm preserves a part of Sheridan's past.
Berkeley Park is a popular spot for canines to meet and play.
Anthony Camera
Berkeley Park is a popular spot for canines to meet and play.

Mercifully, Jan, the night's benevolent karaoke master, intersperses the tone-deaf with folks who come a hell of a lot closer to carrying a tune — folks like Steve, a distinguished-looking guy with a shaved head, clad in a freshly pressed, short-sleeved button-up, khaki shorts and leather deck shoes. Steve tries his hand at Tim McGraw's "My Best Friend," to more favorable results.

He's followed a few songs later by a "new singer in the rotation," Jan announces from her perch in the elevated DJ booth. Taking the stage much to his significant other's chagrin, the new guy belts out a serviceable rendition of "I'll Be," by Edwin McCain, despite playing to a backing track that sounds like it was composed by Muppets, two keys lower than it's supposed to be. As the song dies down, Steve and a few other customers offer up hoots of approval from their seats at the bar. It's easy to see why Hicc Ups has attracted so many customers on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday evening. The joint is as warm and welcoming as it looks.

Outside on the patio, smokers huddle over their drinks and trade tales, looking on as some sort of conflict brews in the parking lot. Spearheading the skirmish is a lad who's clearly done a few too many shots of testosterone. Girded by liquid courage, he repeatedly attempts to engage another customer, who's standing behind Cowboy, one of the bar's security ambassadors. It takes Hothead's friends several attempts before they're able to successfully pour him into a car and drive off down Sheridan.

Shortly after things calm down, a dude in a Deftones shirt named Mike approaches and asks for a light. Mike loves the Deftones, he says, but not as much as Korn, his all-time favorite band, whose logo he has tattooed on the small of his back. Lifting up his shirt to show off the insignia, Mike recounts a time when he was kicked out of a Deftones show at Coors Amphitheatre. Apparently, Mike had seats on the green and was mistakenly identified as part of a group of hooligans who were hucking chunks of sod. A security guy subsequently showed him the door. He missed the Deftones but made it back inside in time for Korn.

If Mike had the money, he says, he'd buy land in a big field and set up a stage.

"It would be freedom. People could walk around."

"Yeah, but it's nothing like Amsterdam," his friend Justin says, interjecting himself into the conversation. Turns out Justin's a DJ who goes by the name DJ Unique and apparently attended a rave overseas that blew his mind. Back here at home, though, he prefers to play mostly local parties. "I'm so underground," he declares, "that nobody knows who I am."

A few minutes later, the subject shifts to Hicc Ups. And just before last call, Justin turns to Mike and declares, "This is my favorite bar!"

"You don't get out much, do you?" Mike counters with a laugh. — Dave Herrera

9499 Sheridan, Westminster
4 a.m.

What surprises me isn't that the Wal-Mart is open — that, should I have the need, I can get baby formula, a box of Remington twelve-gauge shells, frozen crab legs and a copy of the tenth season of The Simpsons on DVD at this hour — but that I'm not the only one here. There are more than a few customers stalking the aisles, slumped over the tall tables at the McDonald's just inside the front door, trying on shoes. It's strange, and I can't help wondering what in the hell they're all doing up.

I end up buying a twelve-pack of paper towels, a box of large trash bags and a screwdriver, then briefly fall asleep while sitting in the parking lot smoking a cigarette. I wake up when my fingers start to burn, start the car and make my way south again, past dark strip malls, empty bars and quiet housing developments.

Rolling up and down the almost muscular swelling of the land, I see the first signs of a new day starting as I finally pass the Sunrise Cafe at 4390 Sheridan and see one sleepy cook, his balding head gleaming under the galley lights, hunched over the counter at the back of the darkened dining room, prepping for his day. The Sunrise opens at 5:30 a.m., but I can't wait that long. It's been a long night, and as Sheridan Boulevard wakes for another day, I know it's time for me to go home. — Sheehan

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