Best Of :: People & Places
This isn't your father's Conoco station -- unless your father is Jackie Chan. In addition to the usual independent, urban convenience-store hodgepodge of noodle bowls, outdated hair dye, magazines, 3.2 beer, adult diapers and miniature pipes, the sign that greets drivers heading out of downtown on Speer Boulevard promises "souvenirs." And how! Nothing says "I've Been to Denver" more than a jade bracelet, a pair of brass knuckles, an elegantly engraved gutting knife or a throwing star. Okay, maybe a beer-mug magnet, but this Conoco has those, too.
If it's good enough for Colorado's second official state song, "Rocky Mountain High" should work just fine as a slogan for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Not only is it inclusive of the entire region -- and planners are touting this as a convention not just in Denver, not just in newly blue Colorado, but in the pivotal Rocky Mountain West, where the next presidential election could well be decided -- but it would remind people both inside and outside of the convention to relax, mellow out and recall that the Democratic Party is the party of inclusivity. And drugs.
Paul Fiorino didn't win the governor's seat last November -- in fact, the artist/dancer's candidacy registered barely a blip at the polls -- but he hasn't forgotten the little people. He not only feels their pain, but he's experienced it firsthand as a victim of foreclosure. So he composed "The Foreclosure Blues" to express what thousands of people are feeling, and to commemorate Colorado's then-status as foreclosure capital of the country. "I got the Foreclosure Blues, they're gonna take away my house/I got the Foreclosure Blues, I feel like a louse/I couldn't pay my bills/No money to be had/The heater gave me chills/I really had it bad/The blues, the Foreclosure Blues." Can't wait to hear the legislators sing a couple rounds of this one.
Now that the Colorado Legislature has approved "Rocky Mountain High" as the second official state song (joining that ever-hummable ditty "Where the Columbines Grow"), should we upgrade the rest of our slogans and symbols? Starting with the state motto? From Colorado's days as a territory, the Latin phrase Nil Sine Numine has been part of the official seal -- and despite translations that range from "Nothing Without Providence" to "Nothing Without God," it's held on for more than a century. But now it's high time to separate church and state once and for all, which Colorado could do by adopting as its motto one of the last lines in its new state song: "Everybody's High." Legislators should be able to get behind this, since they've already bought into the explanation that John Denver's song was not referring to drugs. As for the old motto, Colorado Springs could be looking for a gently used slogan.
Although it marked the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, 1876 didn't have much going for it besides the Battle of Little Big Horn and the admission of Colorado to the Union -- timing that saddled this state with the dull, dull, dull "Centennial State" nickname. Although boosters responded by promoting Colorado as "The Highest State," in recognition of this state's stunning array of chart-topping fourteeners, that title was retired decades ago by prudey-pants promoters worried about drug connotations. Clearly, the name now can -- and should -- be elevated to its rightful place.
The legislature adopted blue grama grass as the official state grass in 1987, but even though it's native to Colorado, this state has no business endorsing any ground cover. Besides, as Mason Tvert continues his campaign to get the possession of marijuana legalized in Colorado, our state's residents may one day adopt a new kind of grass.
The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, adopted as the official state animal in 1961, is doing just fine without any help from us. A much more endangered species is the Colorado lobbyist, whose very existence -- and legal foraging range -- is threatened with extinction by the passage of Amendment 41.
The lark bunting, named the official state bird in 1931, is a migrant -- and so are many of the executives who flew in and out of Qwest after collecting their stock options. But now they're back in Colorado, and as they've shown in court, these birds can really sing.
In 1994, the greenback cutthroat trout was named the state fish, supplanting the rainbow trout, which had long been considered the unofficial state fish. Still, when was the last time you saw trout on a Denver menu? Meanwhile, there's a sushi joint on just about every corner. Such raw ambition deserves official recognition.
Legislators adopted the square dance as the official state folk dance in 1992, but it's so, well, square -- particularly since Colorado is jam-packed with more jam-band fans per capita than any other state in the union. In honor of this peculiar set of folks, the Go Ger Swing -- that dazed, trancelike step so often seen at Red Rocks and other dreadlockian venues -- should take its rightful place as the state's folk dance.
Governor Dick Lamm made the mighty stegosaurus our state fossil in 1982, 150 million years after it lived in Colorado. Just a few years later, a new dinosaur moved into Colorado when child psychologist James Dobson established his Focus on the Family headquarters just north of Colorado Springs.
The Ailanthus is also known as the Chinese sumac (because it looks like a sumac) and Tree of Heaven -- but there's nothing heavenly about this rapidly growing, unbearably stinky tree that's springing up from sidewalk cracks and patches of dust all over town. Still, it has one decided advantage over the Colorado blue spruce, our official state tree since 1939: No bugs can kill it. In fact, it's impossible to kill.