A kid's world stretched as far as you could safely pedal your Schwinn when I was growing up in southeast Denver. Within my own constellation was the Virginia Village Creamery, where all the neighborhood kids went in gaggles to stock up on penny candy, choosing from open jars of jawbreakers, tart Pixie Stix, little boxes of pink candy cigarettes, bubble-gum cigars, Necco wafers and those miniature wax bottles filled with syrup. It was one of those memorable rituals that stay with you throughout your life, reinventing itself, sadly, at makeup counters, shoe stores and cigar emporiums. There is simply nothing like a package of SweeTarts and the open road on a summer afternoon.
Amazingly enough, there's now a better way to recapture that high, at least if you're a grown-up girl in Denver. At Kristi Howard's snug little Starlet, tucked away at 3450 West 32nd Avenue, you can pick up retro-inspired trinkets and indulgences for a song. That would include a selection of sugary body-whips that Howard keeps in the glass counter. They may recall the beloved penny candy from another time -- especially the six fruity flavors -- but body-whips are actually whipped soaps scooped out of tubs and put into little cups like ice cream. Scattered about the store are a wealth of party-favor-worthy items: notepads shaped like purses and paper-doll clothes, vintage-design checkbook covers and contact-lens cases, and matchbox clocks or fridge magnets faced with genuine tin advertisements for everything from Victory Chicken ("It's chicken time!") to the Roller-Rink Luncheonette -- or, as Howard notes, "anything with Paris on it."
On weekends, Howard, who left the Bay Area to join her fiancé in Denver, visits estate sales and thrift stores looking for flea-market-style finds for the store, including classic train cases (and new packages of retro-look luggage labels to go with them), cake tins, aprons, clocks, breadboxes, radios -- even the very '50s-era tables on which her merchandise perches.
Those things, along with handmade items created by Howard and a select few handy friends -- soaps with embedded rosebuds, feather-soft flannel baby blankets in cowboy prints, Tooth Fairy pillows that you hang on a doorknob -- make Starlet look more like a full-blown star.
Hop on your bike and visit sometime. For more information, call 303-433-7827. -- Susan Froyd
Thomas L. Friedman means business
People who grumble about globalization won't be thrilled by The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman. In the weighty tome, which he promotes today at the Cherry Creek Tattered Cover, Friedman rejects the theory that controversial approaches such as outsourcing are a form of financial imperialism that harm U.S. workers and exploit cheap labor in other countries. Rather, he sees such developments as a potential boon for virtually every man, woman and child on the planet, not to mention America's best weapon against the isolationist mindset epitomized by Osama bin Laden.
In Friedman's view, technological advances have leveled the economic playing field to a degree that individuals everywhere have an opportunity to compete on equal footing. Hence his breathless declaration that today's world is flat, which he repeats literally hundreds of times. To support the argument, Friedman travels from rapidly expanding businesses in India to Bentonville, Arkansas, where he heaps praise on Wal-Mart for its forward-looking way of controlling inventory -- an advance that he seems to find far more interesting than any of the negative reasons for which the company usually gets press. Somewhere, Sam Walton is smiling.
Friedman is working the early shift at the Tattered Cover, 2955 East First Avenue; his free book signing is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. Call 303-322-7727 to learn more. -- Michael Roberts
The Ode Folks
Contrary to popular belief, poetry isn't just for depressed, ink-stained recluses. Nope, poetry is for the masses, thanks to the 2005 Denver Poetry Festival, which runs through the end of April -- national poetry month. Catch Jake Adam York, professor of English at the University of Colorado at Denver, tonight at 9:30 p.m. at the Red Room, 320 East Colfax Avenue, for a reading from his poetry anthology, Map of Denver. "All of the poems are about places in Denver or the different aspects of Denver," York says of his compilation, which is, in fact, folded like a map. After the reading, DJ 6d8 will spin mod, R&B, pop, punk and lounge music.
The festival continues on April 18 at the downtown Tattered Cover, 1628 16th Street, with a "Favorite Poem Reading" by favorite Denverites Helen Thorpe, her husband, Mayor John Hickenlooper, and UCD history professor Tom Noel. Be sure to arrive well before the 7:30 p.m. start time to score a front-row seat -- perfect for heckling Hizzoner.
All events are free; for more information and a complete schedule, visit www.denverpoetry.org/dpf.
Black beret optional. -- Corey Helland
Licks and Flicks
Good cones and good cinema make a tasty spring treat.
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I scream, you scream, we all scream for the big screen! Find it at the Independent Film Society's movie meet-up every other Wednesday night at Blackberries Ice Cream and Coffee Lounge, 710 East 26th Avenue.
"Good film is an art form, but it seems like really bad movies make all of the money and get all of the credit," says IFS founder Tara Dixon. "It's a complete injustice."
Growing up in the Deep South, Dixon remembers that she didn't see a "non-black" person except in the movies until she was nearly seven years old. So she started the society and ice-cream social to make sure that a hearty scoop of diversity is served up alongside her double dip. "I remember when Denver was a one-cowpoke town," she says. "The city is expanding its cultural horizons, and we need to ensure that our community remains culturally and economically diverse. Film is a great way to visually communicate that idea."
The IFS will screen Roberto Benigni's 1997 Life Is Beautiful tonight at 6:30 p.m.; admission is free. For more information, call Blackberries at 303-830-3156. -- Kity Ironton