Off Limits

As a public service, Off Limits is pleased to present the "Doonesbury" cartoon that did not appear in the September 7, 2003 Denver Post. The city's arbiter of all things tasteful decided "the strip was in poor taste and was particularly inappropriate to run in a section where children were more likely to read it," explains Jeanette Chavez, the Post's managing editor/administration.

We, of course, have no such qualms. We only wish the offending cartoon had truly been in poor taste instead of simply dull. Still, we commend cartoonist Garry Trudeau for telling the public what it has a right to know: According to a recent report in New Scientist magazine, twenty-somethings who masturbate have a 30 percent higher chance of staving off prostate cancer.

Ah, that's the rub.

Fit for a king: Within the drab environs of downtown's Greyhound Bus Terminal, where the late-night and early-morning soundtrack is one of squalling babes, snoring elders and the incessant babble of coin-operated televisions, there's a suspiciously cheerful plastic "Denver Info Center" display.

It contains no data on major cultural attractions, ski packages or historic walking tours -- just a direct-dial telephone so that red-eyed passengers who have arrived on, say, the 6:25 a.m. from Salt Lake City can make toll-free, one-touch calls to the front desks of six of Denver's cheapest hotels. To help guests choose their accommodations, there's a mosaic of placards encased in Plexiglas on the wall above the phone's keypad.

The listing for the 11th Avenue Hotel is typical. Unadorned type spells out the price -- $25 a night plus a $5 key deposit -- as well as the amenities: "Soup line two blocks away" and "Every day, early in the morning, several day labor agencies have vans to pick up people who want to work." The rest of the lodging offerings are similarly stripped down, except for one: the Regency. The name alone implies a certain elegance that's seemingly confirmed by the ad, which superimposes the former luxury hotel's landmark tower over the downtown Denver skyline, with a shot in the lower right-hand corner of a tuxedoed waiter serving seafood to a fancily dressed couple seated at a table shrouded in white linen.

Reality check: These days, fruit of the sea consumed by Regency guests is more likely to be tuna from a can than lobster on a silver platter. Elvis Presley's onetime hotel of choice in Denver has since fallen on hard times ("Motel Hell," March 13), and the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is currently negotiating its purchase, with the intention of converting the Regency into housing for the formerly homeless.

A call from the Info Center to the Regency was answered by a pleasant-voiced woman who confirmed that the hotel's rate for Greyhound passengers -- $35 a night, $135 a week -- is the same as advertised under "Low Weekly Rates" in Sunday's classifieds.

Lobster, she said, is no longer on the menu.

The song remains the same: When Warren Zevon passed away this week, he left behind such hits as "Lawyers, Guns and Money," "Werewolves of London" and the hometown favorite, "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead."

Zevon knew of what he sang, having spent considerable time in Colorado; resident Hunter S.Thompson is one of his fans. For his September 1994 show at the Ogden, Zevon included a notorious contract rider that he would not play if the sound mixer cried. But you can be forgiven if you shed a tear or two for Zevon as you read these lyrics from "Things to Do" (another public service from the sensitive Off Limits staff):

I called up my friend LeRoy on the phone
I said, Buddy, I'm afraid to be alone
I got some weird ideas in my head
About things to do in Denver when you're dead

I was working on a steak the other day
I saw Waddy in the Rattlesnake Cafe
Dressed in black, tossing back a shot of rye
Finding things to do in Denver when you die

You won't need a cab to find a priest
Maybe you should find a place to stay
Some place where they never change the sheets
And you just roll around Denver all day

LeRoy says there's something you should know
Not everybody has a place to go
And home is just a place to hang your head
And dream up things to do in Denver when you're dead

You won't need a cap to find a priest
Maybe you should find a place to stay
Some place where they never change the sheets
And you just roll around Denver all day

You just roll around Denver all day

Lofty ambitions: "It was a Denver night, all I did was die." Forty years before Zevon wrote his song, Jack Kerouac penned those words in On the Road.

And these: "I went through rickety streets in the Denver night...The air was soft, the stars so fine...I thought I was in a dream."

Kerouac first visited Denver in 1947, when he hitchhiked out to meet up with Neal Cassady; he returned in May 1949 with his mother and got a job in the Denargo Market. On Saturday, just steps away from where the icon of the Beat Generation unloaded produce (and lost his job for drinking), pre-sales will start on the Jack Kerouac Lofts, a project developed by the mother-and-son team of Dana and Jack Crawford, who leased the Kerouac name from the writer's estate.

Dana Crawford's first, and now legendary, project was turning a run-down stretch of Larimer -- the street Kerouac had walked along not two decades before -- into Larimer Square. Although a little young to be an active partner in that one, Jack Crawford remembers it well (although his mother might dispute some of his recollections). "She loaded up the four boys into the back of the Country Squire sedan" one day in 1965, he says, then drove from their home off Seventh Avenue to 14th Street and turned up the alley behind Lafitte's, the oyster bar on the corner of an otherwise very disreputable block -- and ran smack into a group of bums around the dumpsters. "They surrounded the car, one licked the windshield, and another started lifting the car up and down. Dana added a little gas, and we moved up the alley," Jack remembers. "Then she turned around and said, 'Well, boys, I'm going to be spending a lot of time down here in the next few years...'"

Over the next forty years, she rehabbed her way through Larimer Square, through lower downtown, and out into the Platte Valley. Having run out of buildings to renovate, the Crawfords are now building lofts from scratch -- which seems a little counter to the original loft concept, but what are you going to do? And while developers and realtors are tacking the trendy "loft" label onto just about any vacant space, the Kerouac project qualifies, Jack says. It's like the Supreme Court's definition of obscenity: "You know it when you see it."

And talk about obscene: Having seen the "Lincoln Square Lofts" sign in the real estate section this past weekend, we're predicting that project will stretch the definition of lofts -- which most people consider the ultimate urban dwellings -- beyond all reasonable boundaries. Lincoln Square will stand in a completely vacant stretch of Lone Tree, deep in the heart of Park Meadows territory.


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