Off Limits

Take a good look, Democrats: This is your promised land.

The Grand Junction Convention and Visitors Bureau may not know it yet, but 2.33 million Democrats could be headed their way.

"After poring over voting tallies from every county in every state, I found 2.33 million marginalized Democrats in need of rescuing," writes Amy Jenniges in the Stranger, the Seattle weekly edited by Dan Savage, sex-advice god. "That's the number of people who voted for Kerry in counties that overwhelmingly -- by 70 percent or more -- picked Bush. We need the Kerry voters trapped in rural red counties to move to Grand Junction by 2008. Rent a U-Haul and get going. Concentrating marginalized Democrats, and creating just one more urban hub in our country -- Grand Junction! -- will create one more solid blue state."

Having grown up in Grand Junction, we here at Off Limits have just one question: What the fuck? Why would anyone choose to move to a place that during the summer more closely resembles a lunar landscape than colorful Colorado? Legend has it that the Utes considered the Grand Valley, of which GJ is the epicenter, so cursed they wouldn't even walk through it. Not one step.

No good reason, admits Jenniges. She's never even visited the retiree haven at the intersection of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers that's proud to boast two Wal-Marts for a population of 45,000 (or a whopping 122,000, if you count all of Mesa County). "Choosing Grand Junction was kind of random. I wanted something in Colorado, since it's literally in the middle of the U.S., it's a swing state, and it's a good mix of Dem and Republican," Jenniges says. "I couldn't put all of those stranded Democrats in Texas -- that would be mean! As for the specific town, I liked the name, it's on a major interstate, it's not too close to other towns -- so there's room to grow -- and it's relatively unknown. Their tourism website cinched it: It looks like a beautiful place people would like to live in, myself included."

Despite the liberal come-hither photos, Grand Junction might not be so welcoming in reality. "If all those Democrats came here, I would feel that this area would be getting way too big too fast, and I'd have to find me a smaller place to live," says Barbara Brewer, Mesa County public trustee and chairwoman of the county Republican Party. "I think someone in Seattle has way too much time on her hands. And the fact this is coming from Seattle -- need we say more?"

Just this: It's a good thing the valley is now covered with vineyards instead of fruit orchards. Them 2.33 million Democrats are going to need more than a few glasses of shiraz during the occupation attempt.

The party's over: For the past three years, Michelle Barnes's friends have known exactly where to find her on Tuesday nights: the Funky Buddha Lounge.

In 2001, the obscenely energetic artist began hosting Exhibition Tuesday, a marriage of high art and bar culture that took over the candlelit interior of the Funky Buddha on Lincoln Street one night a week. Nearly 300 painters, designers and illustrators, most of them local, have since had their moment on the venue's walls, and some evenings drew hundreds of fans.

"Originally the idea was to get some like-minded people together, even if it was just four or five, and eventually grow the circle," Barnes says. "But it's grown to the point where I'm hearing from people who've just arrived from New York or L.A. or Europe, and they heard it about it there."

Figuring three years is a pretty good run for any party, Barnes had planned to discontinue the night at the end of December; all of the hosting and hanging of paintings was cutting into her own career as an illustrator and educator. (Barnes's work is featured in a retrospective of illustrations from the New York Times now showing at a Manhattan gallery.) But last week, Funky Buddha owner Regas Christou, who'd sponsored the weekly exhibition and supplied its patrons with free champagne, beat her to it, telling Barnes that the expenses were outweighing the value of the event and that the party was over at the end of November. And so Barnes hosted her last gathering this past Tuesday.

"Regas is a businessman, and I respect that, and he had to make a decision based on what made sense from a business point of view," says Barnes. "The bar venue was very unique in a lot of ways, because it was a social thing, and people could come in and sit down and really look at the art -- unlike a gallery, where you kind of wander in and out in fifteen minutes. But it's a different world from the academic or the gallery world. It can change on you."  

Her e-mail box is flooded with panicked messages from art lovers who want to know what's next, Barnes says. She may launch a monthly artists' salon and will continue hyping interesting events through Artvite, her newsletter of goings-on in the Denver art world. But she's ready to hand the hostess role to someone else.

"It was a great time and a great resource," she says, "but I can't hold up the whole city."

Average Joe: Even in a city overflowing with coffeehouses, news that the St. Francis Center will now be open from 9 p.m. to 4 p.m. comes as reason to pour another cup of kindness.

"The extended hours will be a coffeehouse format to offer an indoor location for the homeless working second and third shifts and for those who were not able to obtain beds or admission to the other shelters in town," explains Mark Trast, a homeless man who's been active with Mayor John Hickenlooper's Commission to End Homelessness.

No, St. Francis director Tom Luehrs won't be serving Starbucks, but the center will have coffee and tea available for anyone who comes through the door.

What's So Funny?

By Adam Cayton-Holland

When the smoke cleared at the Nebraska-Colorado match-up -- a classic rivalry between the team that uses sex to recruit and the team that uses sex to recruit and got caught -- the mighty Buffs had roamed to victory, defeating the crumbling Cornhuskers 26-20. Meanwhile, here at What's So Funny, nobody gave a shit. We were busy frantically driving from movie theater to movie theater, trying to score tickets to an opening-night showing of Christmas With the Kranks. Because that Tim Allen just about kills us, he really does. Besides, if you ask us, there were really two winners of that football game on Friday: A.J. Anderson and Paul Creighton. True, 5'11", 175-pound cornerback Anderson may not have seen too much playing time in the game -- he is the University of Colorado's third-string CB, after all -- and Creighton, the 6'5", 245-pound running back, may have not had a carry, but they both came out tops in our book. Because Anderson and Creighton, the only CU players on the roster from the state of Nebraska, resisted the hypnotic allure of sister-fuckin' and prairie-starin' afforded by their home state and opted to stick around in Colorado instead.

Way to go, fellas: Sorority girls all around!

You see, before we sent the supercharged Black and Gold to Nebraska last week, an equally zealous Nebraska convoy had made its way to Denver. Members of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, an agency whose earlier economy-boosting efforts included selling corn on the side of the road and waiting patiently for their teeth to fall out in order to collect Tooth Fairy money, stormed into town like crazed Amway salesmen here to hawk their far-inferior product -- in this case, themselves. Disenfranchised by the mass exodus of young people over the years -- many of them drawn to Colorado in record numbers in the 1990s, thanks to our booming economy and indoor plumbing -- Nebraska has decided it's high time to call those people home. "We only gots a 3.7 percent unemployment rate now," they say. "That means jobs, you sons of bitches! Plus, our property's cheaper than Colorad-y's -- and we got two movin'-picture houses now, one in color!"

Billed as a Nebraska Alumni Celebration -- apparently GED recipients are allowed to hold class reunions, too -- the gathering on November 20 was a huge success, drawing around 250 curious attendees to listen as 75 Nebraska employers discussed everything from school districts to critter removal, hyping the state for the mostly young crowd.

"I simply love the Nebraska people, the lifestyle there and their politics," gushed one Celebration attendee to the Omaha World-Herald. "Mom finally said for me to go find out what's there or to quit talking about it." You know how girls can be when they get to gabbing about Nebraska.

Joe Zelasney, a man born in North Platte, Nebraska, who moved to Denver when he was three and is a longtime friend of the entire staff of What's So Funny -- Joe and What's So Funny once almost got stabbed together in Guanajuato, Mexico -- does not share such zeal. "As far as moving back to what is arguably the nation's most backward state," he said, "I'd sooner drink turpentine and piss on a bonfire."

Indeed. But then, Joe did not attend the conference and thus did not hear all the new information available. A few of the lesser-known benefits of moving back to Nebraska:  

"Incest" now accredited major at over 70 percent of in-state universities.

Abundance of wide-open spaces provides near-limitless area to bury crop of bodies just rotting in basement.

Part-time stock boy at Walgreen's in Pueblo? Try assistant manager at Walgreen's in Lincoln.

As one of two states with a split electoral-college system, more likely to have vote for Democratic candidate actually count. Talk about a mindfuck.

No longer have to fake interest in outdoor sports.

Mayor of Arthur, Nebraska, population 145, will personally fellate anyone who moves to town within next ninety days.

No minorities in Nebraska.

Healthy dose of Midwestern ennui could really help the tone of that screenplay you've been working on.

If you kill a hooker in Omaha and just keep quiet about it, nobody really seems to mind.

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