The steps of the State Capitol are getting a real workout these days, as politician after would-be politician climbs to that point at exactly 5,280 feet -- the ideal spot for pushing a cause or proclaiming a candidacy. The most recent stairmaster: Peter Coors, who announced his run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from that platform on Tuesday, just six days after previously declared Republican candidate Bob Schaffer held his party "Unity Rally" on the same steps -- even as Governor Bill Owens was spilling the beans about Coors's candidacy just inside the Capitol.
And Schaffer had his supporters in Tuesday's crowd, more conservative types who found the beer baron's candidacy -- and Coors's more risqué commercials -- hard to swallow. "Debauchery is not a pro-family value," said Kendal Unruh, a Castle Rock woman who described herself as a staunch Republican. "Orgies are not part of the Republican Party platform."
Unruh, her friend Laura Teal and their children had come to the Capitol to protest the Coors candidacy. And they'd brought with them more than a half-dozen anti-Coors messages printed on neon construction paper. "Twins: The Perfect Toxic Dump Diversion," read one. "Porn Fantasy Sells Beer, Not Politics," said another. And finally, "Incestuous Threesomes -- Time to Roll Over Lincoln!"
Roll over, maybe -- but not onto those buxom blondes, Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, popular stars of the Coors Light commercials. "Using the possibility of a threesome might be able to sell beer, but it's not going to work in Colorado politics," said Unruh. "The promise of possibly winning with money is clouding this party's pro-family values."
Maybe. But if the Twins join the campaign, what a grand old party it could be!
Class dismissed: At noon last Thursday, those west steps drew an even bigger crowd of party-poopers, when the Christian Home Educators of Colorado hosted their annual "Homeschool Day at the Capitol." As state representative Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs testified in his opening prayer before a flock of 3,000 fundamentalist-Christian, home-schooling parents, "We are building an army, creating warriors to transform America."
Attention, secularists: Prepare to be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
On the sidewalk below the Capitol, a handful of counter-demonstrators had gathered, holding signs with messages like, "Christian Education Is No Education" and "Too Bad People With Closed Minds Don't Come With Closed Mouths."
The most eagerly anticipated open mouth at the CHEC rally belonged to celebrity martyr Roy Moore, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Last November, Moore's fellow justices voted unanimously to strip him of his black robes after he refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he'd installed in the rotunda of Alabama's state judicial building. Since then, Moore has been touring like a rock star. In the two weeks before his Denver gig, he addressed a crowd of 5,000 at the Ten Commandments Texas Rally in Dallas, as well as at congregations in Fort Smith, Arkansas; Birmingham, Alabama; Branson, Missouri; Ashland, Ohio; and Greenville, South Carolina, where the city council proclaimed March 22 "Judge Roy Moore Day."
While the Denver City Council failed to pay similar tribute, Governor Bill Owens issued an official proclamation of welcome to the CHEC -- a gold-sealed token that, on the same day, he publicly refused to bestow upon the Atheists Alliance, a national organization that held its annual conference in Colorado Springs over Easter weekend.
After relaying a somewhat loose interpretation of the Sixth Commandment by calling upon judges to hand down more death penalties, Moore offered a free-floating indictment of American culture, predictably invoking the Columbine massacre as the unavoidable tragic result of separating church and state. "Land of the pilgrims' pride," he said with a sigh. "Well, it's a good thing the pilgrims aren't here today to see what a moral slum this land's become."
After Moore finished, the Colorado Capitol Day Homeschool Choir sang "You're a Grand Old Flag," while a dozen young girls in Little House on the Prairie dresses rolled down the grass hill on the Capitol's south side, laughing and making themselves dizzy, behaving less like foot soldiers in a vengeful God's army than children on a sunny day.
The crowd dispersed peacefully after a closing prayer and an "Amen." As they left the Capitol and walked to the nearby Pillar of Fire Church for a workshop on "How to Be a Citizen Lobbyist," the home-schooling parents passed several panhandlers who, having learned the nature of the rally, spouted "God bless you"s with every request for spare change. But the Christians were pretty tight with their cash. The great majority of them, just like the great majority of non-believers, either ignored the beggars or brushed past them with a quick "No, sorry."
But, hey, what would Jesus do?
He might have joined in that afternoon's trip to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where hundreds of Christian home-schooled children in town for the CHEC events were herded around in tours led by men in white coats. They stopped outside the glass-enclosed Paleontology Laboratory, where lab workers inside were painstakingly cleaning recently unearthed dinosaur fossils. The unofficial tour guides informed their young charges that the men and women laboring with tiny brushes and picks were doing the Devil's work, by constructing fake fossils that they would then bury and direct scientists to falsely discover in order to perpetuate the myth of evolution.
Or, as Bob Schaffer (yes, him again) had told the CHEC gathering at the Capitol just a few hours before: "You cannot separate the spiritual well-being of a child from the academic group of a young mind.'On November 2, Election Day, we will be victorious, and we'll take a pro-home-school message to Washington."
Their passion was in tents: Early cost estimates for Denver's proposed tent city (see "Pitching Tents," page 30) run about $100,000 for an encampment that could house up to 200 homeless. That's $500 a person, which, if spent wisely at REI, should be more than enough to let anyone camp in style.
John, who works on the first floor of REI's flagship store on Platte Street, recommends the $290 Sierra Designs two-person Omega three/four-season tent, designed for backpacking and winter mountaineering. Doubling up on housing is not only economical, but sharing body heat could help make that critical fourth season more cozy. Displayed prominently at the store's front entrance, this sleek, aerodynamic, seven-pound, nine-ounce portable home has a stylish design and enough logos to satisfy even the most status-conscious outdoorsman -- although the 93"-x-59" floor dimensions could make quarters tight. But at $145 per person, there's cash to spare.
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A Coleman portable catalytic space heater with a lifetime warranty adds $64.95 to the tab, but the additional purchase of a $52.95, eleven-pound refillable propane tank should ensure that the heater continues to generate warming trends for months to come.
Any Coloradan -- homeless or not -- needs a Nalgene water bottle to feel emotionally and spiritually complete. A 32-ounce wide-mouth loop-top is a good buy at $7.95, and the purchase of three bottles of Potable Aqua Emergency Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets at $4.95 apiece should enable a tent-city resident to drink anything from Platte River water to snow melting off highway overpasses without fear of catching giardia.
No self-respecting Colorado campsite would be complete without North Face gear. So John recommends the $179 North Face Goliath 3D sleeping bag to really tie the tent city together. The sarcophagus-shaped bag is built for large adults and made of warm, Polarguard 3D synthetic fill that continues to insulate even when wet. Add a $29.95 Thermorest all-purpose backcountry mattress to the setup and you've got the makings of a cozy night's sleep.
And that leaves five bucks -- just enough for each resident to have a carabiner keychain, on the off chance that he ever acquires keys.