Knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for the sweeping change in attitude embodied by John Hickenlooper's administration. While I wholly approve of reversing parking rates to a level that does not require a second mortgage or a successful second career in narcotics trafficking, I expected a more tolerant attitude to sweep over the city. But that wave did not reach the Cherry Cricket (2641 East Second Avenue), one of Mr. Mayor's bars.
Recently, two Air Force Academy buddies and I started a night of catching up and questionable behavior with a couple of beers at the Cricket. (Fortunately, no congressional investigators were present to catch the inevitable -- for an academy graduate-- acts of sexual impropriety; we ended the evening by paying several hundred of our well-earned dollars to "harass" the dancers at Shotgun Willie's.) The volume at the Cricket reached near-Who-concert levels during the course of our reminiscing, and I think some of the people there (and by "some" I mean "all of the women") took issue with our loud behavior, because they shot looks our way that would have knocked any mere mortal off his bar stool. Honestly, I'm not sure what the problem was; you'd think they'd never heard a locker-room conversation outside of a locker room.
Guys use volume to ensure that their stories make an impression, and profanity is another handy tool. Military guys excel at profanity. It is not gratuitous; rather, it is an intricate woven tapestry of blue language that makes a story even more memorable, no matter its subject. And apparently profanity is catching, because when we finally made our subdued exit after about eight beers (each), we were shrouded in a haze of muttered vulgarity. Henpecked by his mother or girlfriend, one "man" even punctuated our profane farewells by yelling "and STAY out!" -- at which point we were half a block away. We considered provoking such a reaction one of our greatest accomplishments, ever.
2641 East Second Avenue
The other day, desperately in need of an impaired level of consciousness, I found myself thinking fondly of the Cricket again. Somehow, I'd been coerced into setting foot in the Cherry Creek Mall (motto: Twice the Shoppers With Half the Space!), where I'd been at the mercy of two women -- one of them my six-year-old daughter.
Shopping with a child on any given day is much like passing a kidney stone, only more painful. It's worse at Christmas, of course. Thanks to the Clinton White House, the powerful toy lobby (based in China) managed to pass legislation requiring parents to spend at least 10 percent of their annual income at Toys "R" Us or face the prospect of their children being placed in a more suitable home situation, such as Neverland Ranch. So today every parent is obligated to throw elbows and sucker punches in the aisles in order to snare the last non-purring "Purring Simba" to go with his child's 10,000 other stuffed animals.
Last week, it seemed like I was shopping with the inmates of a local mental institution on a day pass, because there were so many people accompanied by small children at Toys R "More Powerful Than the Church" Us. All sane parents know that you can't get through the checkout at the grocery store without a child's whining gene expressing itself, and taking a child through a toy store within three weeks of Christmas -- and not buying him anything -- is beyond the endurance of even the most saintly child. Parents who take their kids shopping at this time of year should be forced to listen to Burl Ives sing Christmas carols for 24 hours straight so that they can understand their pain.
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Shopping with a daughter is uniquely problematic, as I'm sure all dads out there know. I thought Cherry Creek would be a safe venue; I figured she wouldn't ask to go to the Build-a-Bear store after being told "no" 73 times during the past year -- I was wrong -- and there's only one toy store in the mall, which is well hidden. But somehow my daughter has gone from age six to age eighteen without my knowledge or permission, so she now asks to go into places with names like "Bebe" and "Age-Inappropriate Clothing for Children of All Ages" (also known as Abercrombie & Fitch). I put my foot down, but apparently parenting is now a democratic process, because I was overruled by my girlfriend, who needed some overpriced clothing, too. I practically had an infarction as I watched them go through racks of skimpy clothes while my daughter commented on the apparel like she was auditioning for a fashion show on E!
I have no problem with these clothes (and even approve of certain people, such as Britney Spears or my girlfriend, wearing them), but my daughter will be allowed to go out in public dressed like that at about the same time she's allowed to date -- age 25, minimum.
There are several ways for guys to minimize the spasms of holiday shopping pain. The one I recommend is damn near foolproof: Leave it to your wife or girlfriend. Just giving her the credit card; paying off the bill, even with the necessary kidney donation to raise money, will be less hurtful than actually going to the malls yourself. (An added bonus: no patronizing look that says, "Nice try, but you're an idiot," when someone opens your gift Christmas morning.) Still, if you must go yourself, take the time to prepare. Make a list, check it twice and, above all, know the location of the nearest bar.
I'll see you at the Cricket.