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Going My Way

Meet us on Alameda, where cultures collide. In a good way.

But Buckley's already given Alameda its balls, and isn't that enough? Patricia Calhoun

Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral
4610 East Alameda Avenue
7:06 a.m.

The magnificent gold dome of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Cathedral rises like a vision from the prominent hill east of Colorado Boulevard. Glowing in the morning sun, the dome, which encompasses nearly the entire church, transports a hint of the mystical, a whiff of the Old World, to this stretch of bank buildings and fast-casual restaurants on the border between Denver and Glendale.

If Surplus Tools and Commodities has for it, Rob Haider will help you find it.
If Surplus Tools and Commodities has for it, Rob Haider will help you find it.
Fairmount Cemetery offers monuments to history and some of Colorado's bigger egos.
Fairmount Cemetery offers monuments to history and some of Colorado's bigger egos.

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This is the fifth in our occasional profiles of metro Denver roads. To read the first four a day in the lives of Sheridan, Federal, Colfax and Broadway go to westword.com. For more scenes and photos from Alameda, plus a slide show from the Parade of Homes, click here.

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"Some people call it St. Peter's Basilica of the West," says Eva Andretson, the cathedral's executive secretary ("which means chief dishwasher and bottle cleaner") as she arrives to open the doors at 7 a.m. She kisses an icon near the door inside, gestures the stations of the cross across her chest, then crosses the pink marble floors leading into the center of the cathedral.

On the dome above her soars a kaleidoscope of startling color, a chorus of images that seem to sing out in the stillness. Bible characters and apostles and saints stretch across the deep-blue ceiling, their somber medieval visages enshrouded in golden halos, vibrant-hued robes and lustrous angel wings. It's no surprise that it took five years to paint these icons on individual canvases back in Greece and another year to assemble them here in the 1980s, using "a special type of Elmer's glue," notes Andretson.

Her favorite part is the "Plateitera," the immense painting of Mary above the mosaic-dappled altar. "She's a mother, I'm a mother," says Andretson. "I pray to her quite often. She understands mothers." She won't get too close, though. In the Greek Orthodox Church, the altar is off limits to women, except under special circumstances or with a special prayer — and that restriction is fine with Andretson. "The altar, for me, is just for the priests. I just don't have a feeling I should be in there."

So it's left to Claire Zinis to light the candles behind the altar for the 8 a.m. service; as a widow, she's allowed access. "This is one of the most beautiful churches in the area," Zinis says proudly, her voice tinged with vestiges of her native Corinth. Just yesterday, a different church denomination stopped by to behold its splendor. Zinis holds a loaf of bread she baked for the Holy Communion, its still-warm crust stamped with Greek letters spelling out "Jesus Christ," just like the loaves her Greek Orthodox forebears have baked for the past 2,000 years.

Father Christodoulos Papadeas arrives, his black monastic robes a stark contrast to the riot of color around him. "I was born here," he says, explaining that he's been part of the Denver Greek Orthodox Church for every one of his fifty years.

He remembers the building of this cathedral in the 1970s, when Denver's growing Greek population, which had been drawn to Colorado's mines beginning a century earlier, outgrew Saint Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Greenwood Village. "It was a bit of a miracle" how they came to this spot, he begins. But before he can continue his story, Father Vasileios Flegas arrives and tells Papadeas it's time to start the morning service.

That's okay. Some tales are best left unsaid. You can't have mysticism without a little mystery. Joel Warner

William Frederick Hayden Park
Green Mountain, Lakewood
8:30 a.m.

It's quiet at William Frederick Hayden Park, where the western edge of Alameda Parkway, as it's known here, gives way to the foothills near Red Rocks State Park — but not quiet enough to convince visitors that they're really in the middle of nowhere.

Because the park is also bordered by C-470 and Foothills Drive and in close proximity to I-70, the whir and swish of passing cars is ever-present. Fortunately, though, it's distant enough to be more of a mellow background soundtrack than an in-your-face symphony. As people get ready for the nine-to-five grind elsewhere, a woman walks her dog at a leisurely pace, in no rush to finish and head into her day. A man jogs the myriad trails, his breath panting and sharp, his feet pounding the dirt trails that run alongside Alameda, emitting small puffs of dust each time his toes push off the ground for another step.

The park is large, with more than 2,400 acres to explore; the walking woman and her dog and the jogging man are soon lost from sight. A smattering of wildflowers still dots the grass here and there, vestiges of a long-gone spring, but the sun is quickly rising in the sky, baking sweet scents from the native grasses. Sadly, the commuters can't enjoy the quiet pace of nature just a few yards from the freeway. — Amber Taufen

Alameda East Veterinary Hospital
9770 East Alameda Avenue
9:45 a.m.

Question: How do you neuter a pair of chinchillas?

Answer: Very carefully.

If this sounds like a joke, then you don't know Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, former roadie for the Rolling Stones, former diver at Casa Bonita and leader of Alameda East, the vast veterinarian clinic and hospital on East Alameda. On the other hand, it could be a joke, because in addition to his day job and his TV gigs, Fitz, as most people call him, is also a standup comedian. "Is there anything he hasn't done?" one staffer asks another. If Fitz were a pastor, he'd run a mega-church; if he liked trains, he'd oversee Grand Central Station. But Fitz likes animals, and he's run this operation since 1971. Of course, it didn't always have 36 doctors (including an oncologist and a radiologist), underwater treadmills, an MRI machine, an ICU, a digital X-ray system or a chemotherapy treatment center.

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