A Run for the Border

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

I enter E-Z Pawn and head straight for the musical instruments. Sure enough, hanging on the wall in the back are a dozen or so Squire versions of the Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster, and the shelves to either side are stocked with turntables you could find on eBay for less. Elsewhere in the store, not much is out of the ordinary: A horse saddle and a collection of state flags priced at ten dollars each are the only interesting things I find. But just as I'm ready to conclude that E-Z Pawn has ruined the fun of pawnshops, a male clerk walks by in a woman's fur coat. It's a cheap one, dyed red, probably rabbit, and the sleeves end just above his wrists.

"Nice jacket. You gonna take that one home with you?" I ask.

"Nah. Sometimes I just put stuff on in the store. You'd be surprised at what I've sold right off my back," he says. One morning, he tells me, at the store where he worked previously, a biker came in and sold his beloved leather vest. The clerk put it on, wore it around work, and sold it by 3 p.m. that day.

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.

"I also sold a walker once," he tells me. "You know, like an old-lady walker, with the tennis balls on the legs and everything." He pauses contemplatively. "I just wonder how that old lady got out of the store." For the record, the clerk says, he wouldn't give a customer more than $5 for a walker.

In fact, the corporate overlords at E-Z Pawn are pretty strict about what they allow their clerks to buy, he informs me. No porn DVDs anymore; those days are over. And no digital scales. "That's considered paraphernalia," he says. "They won't even let us buy triple-beam scales. I don't know any drug dealers who use triple-beams anymore. Not that I know a whole lot of drug dealers." He pauses again and looks around the store. "Although I probably talked to at least three of them by noon today." — Sean Cronin

Inspiration Point Park
50th Avenue and Sheridan
4:30 p.m.

Guys in T-shirts sit in their utility trucks in the parking lot, chatting on their cells or just killing time until the next maintenance call. A man in a painter's uniform slouches in some shade, working his way through a pack of smokes. What is it about Inspiration Point that draws the slackers, the refugees of routine, the city's idlers and break-stretchers?

Got to be the view. Tucked into the northwest corner of Denver proper, across the street from the city's finest public golf course, Inspiration offers a panorama unlike any other in the metro area: a decent frame of the city skyline to the east, 200 miles of Rocky Mountain scenery to the west. The park itself extends like a giant finger pointing to the Continental Divide. Years ago, the retaining wall had helpful markers pointing out notable peaks, but no more.

The place is a magnet for makeout artists at night. During the day it attracts loners, including an unusual number of people who like to smoke in their cars with the windows up, perhaps to shut out the roar of I-70 and I-76, which pincer the point on its southern and northern flanks. It's the perfect park, if you're inspired to ditch work. Or if you just want to work on a haiku:

Respite above all

Park juts, prow-like, to Front Range

Loud freeway below.

— Alan Prendergast

Motel Mexico
185 Sheridan, Lakewood
5:30 p.m.

Aside from rush-hour traffic just a few feet away, it's quiet at Motel Mexico. Almost too quiet. But that's how the owner likes it. "I will sell it to you," owner Dalia pleads with anyone who will listen. "Below estimate."

Dalia has been in the United States since 1964, four years after Motel Mexico was built. Her English is still coated with a thick Mexican accent, partly because she spends most of her time with her family and the Mexican migrants who work in the eastern Colorado town of Rocky Ford, "where the cantaloupes grow," she says.

But twice a week, Dalia makes the three-hour trip to Motel Mexico, a collection of three little green buildings with eighteen rooms, a few of which she isn't renting out because she doesn't want to pay for the repairs that are needed. Most of her residents are single; no kids play on the busted asphalt that surrounds the motel, even though a single child's toy vehicle appears to have been sitting around for at least a decade.

Dalia bought the place twelve years ago because she had to, not because she wanted to. At the time, she was after an old two-story house that stood beside it. But the owner would only sell her the house if she bought the motel, too. As the paperwork was being filed, Dalia says, the house was condemned and she got stuck with Motel Mexico.

Residents pay about $125 a week to stay here. No rooms are rented by the day, none leased out by the hour. One man has lived here more than two years, the newest arrival just four months. On the days that she's at the motel, Dalia spends rush hour watching the cars go up and down "Cher-e-dahn," chatting with a handyman who works in the area.

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