Denver Puts Up Its Daisy Dukes
Looking out my back window, I can see the Pepsi Center, where all the Dippin' Dots carts and pretzel stands and private suites have been banished while the facility is transformed into the site of next month's Democratic National Convention — or at least the three days leading up to August 28, when the action will move to Invesco Field at Mile High, which I can also see out my back window. This is where Barack Obama will stand on the fifty-yard line to deliver his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination before 80,000 people on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech." Looking out my back window, I imagine what this city will be like four weeks from now.
And then I look at the empty flower pot sitting on my deck, midway between the Pepsi Center and Mile High, where my Denver daisy is pushing up daisies.
Don't fuss about trifles. That's from "Dale Carnegie's Golden Book," a pamphlet handed out to the thousands of people who attended Saturday's training session for Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee volunteers.
With any luck, committee members kept a few copies in their office and were able to look to Dale Carnegie for consolation after they read a snarky story on Denver in the July 28 Los Angeles Times, which included this: "But the convention is raising questions about whether this perennial booster town has bitten off more than it can chew. The host committee is as much as $10 million short in fundraising, and financial difficulties have forced it to cancel two dozen parties for delegates...Even special daisies that the city bred partly to show off for the convention are failing to sprout."
Expect ingratitude, Dale might tell them.
And definitely expect mockery — particularly from the national media that's still a little steamed over the second walk-through of the Pepsi Center being postponed, and then discovering that they'll have to leave their cushy tents for the trek over to Mile High. But Don't worry about the past, Dale would say, particularly since that same media will keep hauling out Denver's past blunders ad nauseam over the next few weeks. Instead, Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.
After volunteers walked into their training session to the tune of "Rocky Mountain High," before the Dale Carnegie trainer hit the stage to offer forty minutes on how to provide "world-class customer service," a woman walked out to sing the National Anthem — and actually sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." Was it just a month ago that Rene Marie surprised Mayor John Hickenlooper, and hundreds of onlookers, by singing the words of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" — the Black National Anthem — to the tune of the "The Star-Spangled Banner"?
That wasn't the first debacle to land Denver on FoxNews — and it won't be the last. After all, we've already survived:
• Lean 'n' Green...and Mean: When the recommended catering guidelines from the host committee hit my desk in early June, I was heading to a convention myself, where I planned to eat and drink many bad things. So I had to wonder how many DNC delegates would be thrilled by plates that followed these dictates: "Half of the meal (or 50 percent of the plate) is made up of fruits and/or vegetables...A colorful meal — include at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white (garnishes not included)...No items are to be fried." A side of Skittles could solve some of that — but how would our visitors enjoy Rocky Mountain oysters, which the state tourism office pushes as though they were the official dish of Colorado? No one wants to eat bull's balls carpaccio. The committee tried to settle critics down with a humorous press release — "defending its much-mocked catering guidelines," the LA Times said — but that just threw fat in the fryer.
• A Losing Lottery: The city spent weeks coming up with a lottery system that would give groups a fair shake at getting permits to hold events in Denver's parks. But then some of those groups found a loophole: More than one member could apply for the same permit, upping the odds of securing it — and of the city securing scathing headlines. Then, on the day of the lottery, several people discovered that their applications had disappeared altogether, delaying the lottery a few more days for a fix. And how: an employee of the host committee wound up getting the coveted August 24 slot at Civic Center Park.
• The Gas Explosion: At a Denver City Council meeting two weeks ago, a Public Works employee casually mentioned that the city would soon finalize the contract for those DNC cars refueling at the city gas pumps. This revelation blew up fast, propelled by the disclosure that the city hadn't planned to charge state and federal gas taxes.
• Hiding the Homeless. No, there's no plan to ship the homeless out of state — or even to Aurora — when the convention comes to town. But Denver's Road Home and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless are working together to hand out free passes, so that the homeless can go to the zoo or the movies — and get off the street. Don't save me a seat at The Rocker.
• The Lazy Daisy. The plant selected to commemorate this city's 150th birthday and fill it with color by late August may not grow well in Denver — but its legend keeps growing across the country.
Remember that unjust criticism is often a disguised compliment, Dale advises.
Walking out on my back deck, I retrieve the empty flower pot.
No matter what, the DNC is going to be a hell of a party. Pray.
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