Off Limits

Anyone who's anyone is headed to Aspen this weekend for a final farewell to Hunter S. Thompson -- whether or not they have an invitation to rub elbows and ashes with Johnny Depp at the official blow-him-up-real-good festivities on August 20.

Rick McKinney is walking the 900 miles from his home town of Idyllwild, California, to Woody Creek in hopes of a sneak peek at the private memorial service. McKinney's not your average voyeur, though. "I'm walking toward Hunter's funeral to raise awareness of depression and the high rate of suicide in the United States," he explains from a pay phone in "the middle of the forest" forty miles south of Grand Lake.

And this isn't just one man's lonely crusade. Somehow, the former journalist (who suffers from depression) convinced Backpacker magazine and Merrell shoes, among others, to sponsor his pilgrimage. To get ready, he spent a month in Leadville training at high altitude -- and he also left a car there so that he could drive, rather than walk, back home when the deed is done. But McKinney sprained his ankle last week, and now that he's only covering about ten miles a day, he's worried he might not make it to Aspen on time.

Not to worry: The good doctor never hit a deadline, either.

Let there be write: Unlike Thompson, the Colorado Center for the Book is showing some vital signs. Last week, more than forty finalists for the 2005 Colorado Book Awards were announced. Children's author Avi was a lock again this year, and Janis Hallowell made her debut on the list, landing a slot in the fiction category for The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn. In the biography/memoir class, New York food writer Eugenia Bone is a favorite for her tale of Western life in At Mesa's Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado's North Fork Valley. The winners will be announced October 6.

In the meantime, the Center continues to reorganize since ousting its director, Chris Citron, late last year and merging with the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities. Citron has formed a rival organization, the Colorado Center for Literature and Art -- although it has yet to register on the radar of Margaret A. Coval, executive director of the CEH, who's busy plotting the CCB's future. "We have kept all of the programs except the Book Festival," says Coval, who also decided to keep CCB interim coordinator Sara Whelan through the end of the year.

They're also not keeping the CCB's offices in the gracious Victorian at 2123 Downing Street that was once home to Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Colorado's poet laureate. Although the CCB will still own the building -- a National Literary Landmark that's on the National Register of Historic Places -- the group recently moved out and consolidated in the CEH offices, at 1490 Lafayette Street . "We had considered moving to the Ferril house, but we couldn't fit," Coval says. "We are still doing programs in the Ferril House, and we have just agreed to rent it to the Lighthouse writers' group. It's going to get even more use than we were able to put it to."

On the Record

Former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky has been lying low these days, primarily working on appeals cases. But from 1993 to 1996, she became a household name as the country watched her argue against Amendment 2 all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and win. One of her advisors on that case was Washington lawyer John Roberts . With Roberts now under fire from certain conservatives for his work on Amendment 2, Off Limits asked Dubofsky what she thinks of the man who helped engineer her success before the Supreme Court, where he may soon be seated.

Q: How did you select John Roberts to assist you with the Amendment 2 case?

A: I went to Washington after the Supreme Court granted cert and met with a lot of people, primarily in the Justice Department, about what I needed to do to get ready for the argument. I wanted to meet with people who frequently argued before the court, and they all said, "You must meet with John Roberts."

Q : Did Roberts seem supportive of the cause or just available to offer potential legal arguments?

A: I really didn't spend very much time with him. I met with him once after the Supreme Court granted cert and talked with him in general about what to expect from the court. The other time, he was one of seven people who were part of a moot court for me, and that was about a week or two before the argument. I don't remember who all was on that court, but I think he was the one who was most highly regarded because of his Supreme Court experience. He's probably the most knowledgeable with respect to making arguments before the Supreme Court, because he's made more than anyone else. He is very articulate and makes issues seem very straightforward and clear, and that takes a lot of work. He's a very pleasant person, very unassuming.

Q: If you were in the Senate, would you approve his nomination?

A: I think he is supremely qualified to be on the court. Unfortunately, the court has a lot of political decisions it makes, and I would want to know what his views are on several issues. I think I would support him, but there are some issues I worry about, primarily civil rights and affirmative action. I think he'll be very similar to Chief Justice Rehnquist in terms of his views.

Q: Do you think that his work with you will sink his nomination?

A: No. If anything, it'll help him.

Q: What about the conservative group Public Advocate of the United States pulling its support?

A: They don't have anywhere to go but him. But the votes Roberts needs are from moderates and liberals. So I would think his helping is one thing that would help him rather than hurt him. Several people I've talked to even say it might have been the White House that leaked that story because they needed support from groups other than conservatives.


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